on facing fear

We often think calling comes from following our bliss, but it actually comes from following our greatest fear.” (Bobbette Buster, consultant to industry leaders in Pixar, Sony, and Disney)

Most of us know what we enjoy. If given the opportunity to be independently wealthy and able to do whatever sort of life work you wanted, we can each think of things that we think would be blissful. Some have the opportunity to do this and find that they still feel empty and lacking purpose, ironically.

In her book Freefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons chronicles her journey into realizing her greatest fears. “My bliss had been a distraction from my fear. Facing our fears opens the way forward.”

Think about it. What is holding you back? If you face it head on, it can’t hold you back anymore.

“If you live {in the Upper Midwest} long, you learn that a daily walk into the winter world will fortify the spirit by taking you boldly to the very heart of the season you fear.

Until we enter boldly into the fears we most want to avoid, those fears will dominate our lives. But when we walk directly into them- protected from frostbite by the warm garb of friendship or inner discipline or spiritual guidance- we can learn what they have to teach us.” (Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer… a chapter on seasons)

So, in all of this searching, crying, feeling flipped upside down, I began to wonder what my fear was. I will call your attention to the words at the top of this page: Fearless Mother. There’s not a lot of stuff that makes me cower. I don’t like spiders and snakes, but I’m not terrified of them in any crippling sense. I have irrational fears in the night that my babies will stop breathing, like any mother, but I wouldn’t say it’s exactly holding me back in life. In a sense, you could define me in general as “not worried”.

Remember in the beginning of all of this I told you that as we reflect on our life, as we listen to our lives speak, we will find what our greatest fears were? I said that in faith, not actually having realized mine.

When I was sick last May, I had some down time to really reflect on the things I’ve written here recently. I realized my greatest fear is…being afraid.

Isn’t that funny/silly/weird/ironic/etc?

When I wanted to pursue a career in the health care field, my fear of needles held me back. I was shot down and deemed unworthy.  Recently, this calling has been screaming in my brain in a way that would not be silenced.

I need to care for pregnant moms. I need to help them find strength in the vulnerability of birth. I need to protect their right to a sacred and safe beginning with their babies. I have the greatest desire ever to help other mothers be confident, bold, daring, and strong in their roles. I might die if I don’t become a midwife.

But in order to do that, I had to get over this fear of something I knew was not scary. So I started doing some research. And I found out that my Grand Exits were NOT caused by a fear of needles. I was passing out because I was afraid of passing out.

HOW STUPID IS THAT?!?

I found some medical journals, mostly from other continents, that had quite a bit of encouraging information on this condition called vasovagal syncope (a fainting and seizing disorder. In a nutshell…it’s horribly inconvenient) I realized that when I pass out, I am not mentally focused on the pain of the procedure or the needles, I am experiencing anxiety about passing out. Which then causes my heart rate to drop, blood flow to my brain to stop, and then I pass out and usually seize. It’s hereditary. My mom, her dad, and my big brother have it. And it’s almost 100% CURABLE!

I learned about a therapy I could do and immediately began exposing myself to my trigger: needles of all shapes and sizes in all sorts of applications. I started by watching gory wound cleaning and suturing videos on YouTube. And yes, I felt like I was going to pass out, did the therapy, and kept watching until I could watch without being affected. I then moved on to watching videos specifically about tattoo needles, gauges, techniques, etc. I am now pretty much an expert on proper tattoo technique. With this therapy, as you desensitize yourself, you move on to bolder triggers.

So, naturally, I got a big ol tattoo. Tattoo needles are pretty small, but for some shading they can use several at one time. This was a fun place to start.

2014-06-01 16.47.28 The last time this dude tattooed me I passed out hard. So, he was naturally a little bit bummed to have to tattoo me again. And Brent made it his business to go get some fresh ink of his own, leaving me alone in the room with this gentle giant (seriously, he’s seven feet tall). Poor guy. I promised him that I had done some research and was no longer afraid of needles and was there to prove it!

And prove it I did! He jammed away for two hours, outlining, shading in thick lines of color… and I never even got dizzy. Not once. Pretty bad-ay, eh?

RAAAAAWWWWWWRRRRRRR! 

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Of course, I’m going to need to continue my needle therapy. As I can afford it. ;)

Also, I knew that I needed more exposure in a medical type setting. Hospitals make me uncomfortable. I feel hot and like I’m going to pass out most of the time when I visit people there. Part of my journey will be assisting women in labor in the hospital. So, you can see how this might be a problem. I was planning on maybe giving blood or something.

But life God had other plans. So funny, how He just nudges us along out of our comfort zones when we ask Him to increase our faith and our boldness to answer His calling.

My parents offered to take the kids for a night so I could actually sleep and get groceries and stuff, and I willingly obliged them. I was just finishing up my yard work when the chickens got into my garden. I tossed them out and somehow stumbled. The stars aligned perfectly as my shoe slipped off my foot, I knocked over the large pruning sheers, and then came down on them backwards with my foot. I had to pull the giant blade out and immediately said, “Well, CRAP.” I knew this was a big deal.

I left a large blood trail from the garden to the kitchen and held my foot over the sink as blood poured out. I felt pretty confident that my body was responding the the injury, adequately cleaning out dirt and bacteria by gushing a flow of blood. I cleaned the wound, inspected it enough to know it was at least 3/4″ deep and my blood coagulated well.

But I knew I needed a tetanus booster. I was probably 13 the last time I had one and I most certainly passed out and had a seizure, as I did every time I got a vaccination.

I also knew that I was no longer afraid of needles, and after confirming with a genius friend that the risk of the injury outweighed the risk of the vaccine, I called my big brother to accompany me. Just in case.

The Urgent Care place I went to was very clean and they were more than happy to jab me with tetanus. Once again, I proved I had a handle on this fear. Armed with information, I didn’t even get dizzy again!

But then they got nosy about why I wanted a tetanus shot.

Reluctantly, I removed my sandal to show them the blood soaked Spider Man bandaid that I was confident was adequately handling my wound. {That’s sarcasm. I knew I needed to grab some bigger bandaids. Duh.}

The doctor looked at me in disbelief, since I didn’t appear to be concerned. “Have you looked at?!?” I explained that I had dutifully waited for it to stop gushing blood and cleaned the wound with peroxide and q-tips and even topped it off with an antibiotic cream, thankyouverymuch.

It wasn’t hard to talk me into stitches, since I realized that the wound would probably heal faster that way. And fast is good when you’re a mamma that needs to be on your feet.

I braved up in the Procedure Room while they pressure washed my wound. Lord have mercy, people, I told you I bled profusely. Don’t you know that wounds clean themselves pretty dang good that way???  I whispered to the nurse that I was pretty sure that the doctor was bored and that’s why he was doing the stitches. Plus, I was fully aware that the Physician’s Assistant was new and that she was probably about to practice on me.

It took several tries to get my foot numb in the right place and each time this new girl stuck the needle in so.very.slowly. She was so scared of hurting me! I encouraged her to get ‘er duuuuuuun, but when they started poking the needles into the wound, I had to use my therapy to get through it. And I did! But holy hell, that was a different level of pain right there. There is no amount of saying “I have had a child pass through my body, unmedicated, five times” that will help with the fact that someone is sticking a needle into a fresh wound. (Am I grossing you out? Sorry!)

Ironically, the very procedures I had been watching on YouTube were being done to me right then. I’m glad I was prepared. I’m glad my parents had the kids. I’m SUPER GLAD for my big brother who was my hero, escorting me to the doctor, the pharmacy, and a substantial lunch. He wouldn’t leave my house until I was safely in the car on the way to my parent’s house.

I’m pretty much under 24/7 supervision until Brent gets back in town.

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I guess my left leg is turning out to be my “facing fears” leg, huh. Ha. I wound up with five stitches, which I counted today as I cleaned and rebandaged my little wound.

I start Doula training in October and I’ll start midwifery school next Summer, Lord willing. My plan is to be delivering babies by 2019.

Facing your fear is terrifying. But it’s the only way to move forward.

What is your greatest fear?

 

don’t miss the village

A beautiful article circulated the internets this week about missing The Village. I felt the pain in several friends’ status updates as they shared that they too long for this village. Community. Shared burdens.

The first thing I will say is this: The struggle is real. (Hat tip to my sweet friend for introducing me to this phrase.) Moms feel alone. I don’t know if mammas have always felt as alone as mammas do now, but I know that you feel alone, Mamma. I know that you hop on and off of Facebook all day because you feel like you are going to die if you don’t have some sort of interaction with someone. I know that you have moments where you hide in the bathroom and give yourself pep talks just to walk out and make dinner. And all of this sounds silly to anyone that hasn’t been a mom. But that’s okay. The struggle is real.

Here’s what’s not real: the idea presented in that article. Really? Children running out into the tall trees to play all day while their moms sit inside with their friends and bake bread and nurse babies? What? Are there no mosquitos in this universe she writes of? Or snakes?! I’m pretty sure there are snakes in the forest. And I’m also really sure that life is this easy for approximately zero people on the planet.

Kidding aside, it’s a beautiful image that is painted in our minds, and we long for it. Community. Being “a stone’s throw from one another.” Having older generations in the home, teaching us all.the.things and helping raise our broods. We like to have romantic ideas about other, more simple, cultures where three generations live together in one home and the mothers do nothing but breastfeed for two months after they give birth. But do you know that in many of those societies, they live all together like that because they are so poor that they have no choice? And that maybe their mother in law is there really kind of driving them crazy for two months after they have their baby? Have you ever had your mom or mother in law or aunt or anybody in your house for more than five days and not wished they’d just um, go on home? Come on now…keep it real, y’all.

We live the life that these communal living types are pining away for while we pine away for their villages. We don’t have our besties living right next door, and we don’t have the opportunity to knead bread side by side most days, but I’m telling you, your village is here and you better not miss it while you are busy wishing for something perfect.

My village.

Brent is in the throws of a big travel season right now. Mainly, like, for the rest of the year. The struggle is real for me right now. I have so much respect for single moms because I can barely make it three days on my own without wanting to cower under the covers and pray for unicorns and rainbows to jump out and save the day. I’m carrying the load of five kids alone right now, and it’s dang hard.

Of course the dentist appointments that I dutifully scheduled six months ago landed during this time period and I found out two days before my scheduled cleaning. A sweet friend let me drop my kids off at her house and go get my teeth cleaned. It was pretty much like a vacation, and the hygienist even had the travel channel on for me so that I could look at the beach. For reals. Also, no cavities. My girl, “A”, was my village that day. It didn’t look anything like that article described, but I did provide freshly baked muffins for the kids to nosh while I was gone. So, there was flour involved.

A couple days later it was my turn to be the village. Another mamma friend just needed a break as life has been hitting her hard with demands for caring for people and she needed some time to just sit and cry. So she dropped her four off at my house and we played all morning. Kids got hurt and cried, there were definitely mosquitos, and again- this village looked nothing like the dreamy village, but it was perfect and just the way it should have been.

Again, today, more village. I drove an hour, to visit with a new-ish friend and an old friend. We did things in the kitchen side by side while kids swung on the swing set outside, babies napped nearby, and boys built Lego empires upstairs.

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We stayed for like 7 hours and then made the one hour trek home, and it was not nearly as easy as waking up, sending my kids outside into the forest and mingling with my girlfriends, but it was worth the effort of loading all the kids up into the car. And… they were strapped in for an hour each way, and that’s an awesome bonus of quiet time. (And Arwen got a mosquito bite.)

Plus, our host, “L”, is so thoughtful, she had found some thrifted treasures for me.

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Get out of town! I’m so excited about my vintage owl goodies!!!!!!!!!

I don’t live in a magical universe, but I do have a village that spans at least two states. And I’ll bet you do too.

How can you find your village and not miss it?

  • First of all, realize that no one owes you anything. One day, when I am much wiser, this will be a blog post all on it’s own. Maybe even an entire book. But this is a lesson that I am still learning. Yes, we are to bear one another’s burdens. Yes, there are supposed to be older women somewhere coming along side the younger. But just like your struggle is real, so is someone else’s. And for most people, relationships like this take a lot of work. It’s a lot more give than it is take.
  • Your car goes fast. Stop waiting for it to be easy to get together with people. You don’t have to mend wagon wheels or saddle up a horse, for crying out loud. If your car goes 80 miles an hour that means you can get really far in less than an hour. 15 miles is not far away. It’s less than a Curious George episode. Do you know of a Mamma who needs some community? An hour is not that bad. You aren’t running there. You are sitting still in your car and pushing a pedal. Am I beating a dead horse now or what???
  • Stop waiting for it to be perfect. If we expect a perfect utopia we are going to be disappointed every time. Relationships are messy. They take work. People rub each other the wrong way. Houses are dirty. We are all short on time. Open your home even though you didn’t have time to clean, befriend that person that has a different world view than you, drive the distance to visit someone, feed your kids pizza so that you can take a home made meal to a Mamma that needs it.
  • Be a friend first. I was the “new girl” a lot growing up because we moved a lot. My mom told me once to just find another kid that looked lonely and be her friend. So, I had a lot of loser friends growing up. (Just kidding.) Can you claw your way up to the surface for just a minute and find someone who is in the same boat as you and toss them a meal or a park date? Do it! Be brave!

I know it’s hard when you have tinies who need naps and little people who need to be in bed early, and the demands never seem to stop. I have lived far from My People while rocking two babies at once, trying to figure out how I was going to put them both to bed so that I could rest my own head for an hour before doing it again. These are very lonely times. But you are not alone. You are connected by deep roots to all the other Mammas out there who are toiling hard in the garden of their little people’s souls with very little rest. The struggle is real.

If you have friends in your village who have kids: I have some advice for you. Do not assume that they don’t answer when you call because they don’t want to talk to you. It’s because they are trying to figure out which task is more important, getting the poop off the carpet or the broken glass up in the bathroom. Seriously. Please don’t leave us with the babies, childless people. Here’s what you can do. (My sister in law is a genius at this.) Show up on Saturday morning around 10 am with donuts and coffee and braid hair and listen to kids talk. Alternately, be willing to come over to your friend’s house after all the kids are in bed for late night dinners, movies, or card games. Don’t expect her to be able to go out ever all the time, but you could pay for child care at Zumba for her. She will return the favor when it’s your turn. ;)

Family Villages: This one is harder to address. Your family is sort of the village you don’t get to pick. I take a lot of meals to new Mammas and about half the time there are family members there eating all their food while the new Mamma is doing all the work. This has to stop. Y’all gotta pitch in a little. It really does take a village to raise a child. And you are the village whether you like it or not. Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents: show up. Take those kids out for ice cream on occasion. Help them be well rounded individuals. Spend some time with a child and you’ll stop to smell the roses and notice that clouds look like dinosaurs. It’s mutually beneficial. (Just go back to your own home when you are done.) (Oh, I kid. I kid.)

We may not live in huts in the rain forest with communal kitchens, but we can have a village. It takes some work. It takes some love. But it’s worth it. Don’t miss your village, Mamma. 

rebuilding contentment

In taking the advice that my friend LL wrote here about rebuilding your insides after all.the.babies… I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled. It’s easier to live life when you are looking for opportunities to see beauty and grace.

Days ago, Charis ordered a bunch of succulent cuttings because this has been a great interest for her, and they were finally delivered tonight! Luckily, Brent also delivered himself back into town tonight, so we were able to take a special Mommy/Daughter trip to Lowe’s for planting supplies. We also picked up a plant to bury Freckles under and drove home in beautiful silence.

After dinner, the girls and I headed outside. The sky was clear, the weather was perfect, and a songbird was singing. While Charis and I planted the succulents, Arwen walked around watering many of our other plants, and I reached zen. Here is a list of the things that made me drunk with happy:

  • Our tank of tadpoles that are growing so big and so much fun to watch!
  • My black eyed Susan plant, which I placed in memory of Terri is in full bloom and it’s massive
  • Our three chickens, left from our first batch of 6 chickens- they lay two eggs a day now that they are getting older
  • Our first tomatoes picked from the vegetable garden tonight!
  • The girls have a little flower garden they maintain around a tree and it’s precious
  • Charis’s excitement and caution as she placed each tiny succulent cutting into the dirt
  • Arwen’s sweet offers to water plants for me
  • A husband who came home happy to see his family

So, I’m stopping there because that hunky husband is home and I have to tell him all the fifty million things I held in while he was gone. And I’m sorry there are no pictures of all these beautiful things, but I was too busy enjoying them in the moment! Use your imagination.

What were your happies today??

don’t feed the {mamma} bear

Now that we are out of the Decade of Survival (as far as we know), where we constantly had to claw our way to the surface to breathe, I’ve been trying to figure out how to recuperate.

I’m working on the inside, much like my good friend LL wrote about this week. If you are a Mamma with a growing brood, you’ll find her words very encouraging.

Ten years of being pregnant and/or breastfeeding means that I’ve essentially been “eating for two” for a decade. Add to that an extremely loving midwife who encouraged me to nourish myself well, and I gained a wee 50 pounds each pregnancy. I did lose some of it in between babies. (It helps that my babies weighed around 8-10 pounds at birth).

Now, I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite when I tell you this next part, but I need an extreme overhaul. I’ve been piddling around for two years, running and exercising when I could, and trying not to eat all the donuts. But not getting anywhere. And mind you, I love my mamma body. I love my child bearing hips that allowed me to carry babies easily past term and birth them well. I do not love a higher risk for cancer and heart disease, joint problems, and broken bones later on in life. Feel me?

Our diets are already pretty clean, but I’ve become accustomed to  eating a lot of good food. So, I’ve drastically reduced my caloric intake. I’m not going to tell you the number that I have reduced it to, because you need to set the pace for yourself if this is something that you feel like you need. This article does a great job explaining how to reduce calories and still nourish yourself, and warns that if you start to feel sluggish, cannot perform well during a workout, or do daily tasks, you have cut too much. Read it if you want to educate yourself on this. Basically, you want to make sure that you aren’t sacrificing muscle mass for weigh loss.

My number was so low that I expected to be dead by the end of this week. I started six days ago, and let me tell you that I feel SO GREAT. I have energy, my work outs are better, and I already see a positive difference in my muscle tone. I’ve had to try really hard to cut out the nonsense stuff and go right for what feeds my body well.

One thing that was really a struggle for me was leaving out the egg yolk. But then we read Rocco Dispirito’s book (which has an UNGODLY amount of recipes requiring Splenda… yuck), and his method of preparing egg whites has made it certain that I will marry him should something ever happen to Brent.

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Most moms struggle to feed themselves breakfast. I usually do okay, because I insist that my kids all eat the one thing that I made for them that day. They have learned to really like oatmeal and eggs cooked however the heck I felt like doing it that day. They’ve also learned how to make both of these things themselves. Once I’ve gotten all of them to the table, I have approximately four minutes to eat before Titus is done, people need supervision for their chores, reminders to do Bible studies, and toilets need plunging. Some days, I just plumb forget that I never ate breakfast.

Breakfast just got a whole lot easier, Mammas. Here’s what you do:

  • In a microwave safe bowl, crack two eggs, using only the whites
  • Add salt
  • Microwave for 1 minute
  • Sprinkle on a teaspoon of shredded cheese (Rocco recommends reduced fat cheese, but I’m trying to stop cussing, so I use real cheese.)
  • Microwave for 1 more minute
  • Add a spoonful of pico de gallo, or chop up a tomato, whatev.
  • Feed thyself.

It takes a full three minutes to make and eat my breakfast now. This is around 100-115 calories, depending on the amount of cheese you use and over 10 grams of protein to get you to a good snack in a few hours.

On the weekends I get to really let my hair down and have it on a spelt biscuit.

2014-07-11 08.46.00 I put a picture of my biscuits, which I make every other day for the kids, on Facebook and some of y’all admitted you don’t know how to make biscuits, two which I must respond:

You must not have a Mamaw. 

For those of you that do not have a Mamaw, here is how to make biscuits. With any kind of flour and any kind of liquid, and a little fat, salt, and baking powder, anyone can make biscuits. Here’s how I do it.

  • Preheat oven to 375 ^F
  • 2 cups Spelt flour, or whatever kind of flour you want
  • 6 T coconut oil (or butter, grate it on your cheese grater. Your welcome.)
  • 1 T Baking Powder
  • 3/4 t Sea Salt
  • 2/3 c of milk, or water if you are waiting on the next paycheck. I’ve even used a little bit of watered down plain greek yogurt.

First you will measure out the flour into a bowl and then add the butter or coconut oil. Just use a fork to mash it all around until it looks like course crumbs in the flour. Do it fast before your toddler adds some egg shells. No time for perfection here.

Then add your baking powder and sea salt and stir it in with your fork.

Add half the milk and stir and then add a little bit more of the rest of the milk at a time until your dough easily forms a stiff ball. It should not be sticky, but if it is, just add more flour until it isn’t. You won’t hurt anything. Sometimes I have to make a hole in the ball and shove some stubborn flour in there because it refuses to incorporate. The point is, you want a dough ball like this:

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Roll that dough ball out until it’s around 3/4 of an inch thick. I use a cheap rolling pin, but you can also use a round drinking glass.

Cut out the biscuits with an empty jelly jar or mason jar or whatever. (Don’t twist the jar around because that breaks the seal that makes them rise just right. Just press it down and bang on the bottom to get the biscuit out.) I usually get around 12 or so biscuits out of this. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Then you can cook your egg whites, add a bit of cheese, fold them up and stick them in a biscuit. If you practice, you’ll get good enough at making these that you’ll do it fast, with whatever you have on hand, and no one will know that you don’t have a Mamaw.

as stupid does

It takes guts to admit when you’ve been as stupid as I’ve been in the last couple of days. There is so much stupid to try to cram into one blog post, but I’m gonna try my best. 

A couple of days ago it seemed so peaceful when we woke up. My alarm actually went off before Titus came in to wake us, Brent wasn’t scurrying off to work, and kids were sleeping in past 7 a.m. I headed downstairs to make coffee and as always, peeked out the window expecting to see the comforting sight of chickens free ranging, hopping in and out of the hen house. Only what I saw was feathers everywhere and a chicken carcass. I got Brent and we went to discover that Freckles finally met a possum she couldn’t beat. We confirmed the identity quickly because this chicken was already missing a couple of toes from a possum attack over a year ago. We have nursed her back to health twice. And now she’s dead because I didn’t lock up the coop for the night. She currently resides in our deep freezer next to all five placentas because we like to keep weird things in the garage.

We struggled through the day with the knowledge that our best, most loved chicken, was in the deep freezer (and partially in the belly of some devil spawned possum). Finally afternoon came and we were all waiting on Brent to come home from work when the door bell rang.

DING DONG!

I open the door, smile, and ask what he wants. The man starts to tell me that he’s with a local cleaning company and they are doing one free carpet cleaning in our neighborhood.

Kids start to trickle out the door. His eyes get wide. “How many kids you got?!?” he asked.

“Five. Talk fast before they start running off,” was my no nonsense response.

Eventually he left a slip of paper with me with the details and I told him I’d think about it when my husband got home. I don’t know why I did this. I usually tell these guys to take a hike before they even open their mouths.

Brent got home late and told me that if I could confirm that it was just one room free and no obligation for further cleanings, I could do it. After confirming that they would clean one room free and if I liked it I could have them come back and do the rest of the house. Seriously, our carpets are filthy, but I’m planning to rip them out in a couple months, so getting the living room cleaned for free seemed like a great score.

{{Side note: Brent and I are checking out this movie, Our Idiot Brother, as I type this. The guy just sold pot to a cop in uniform and acted surprised when he got arrested. I can relate. Not that I sell pot. But I have done some stupid things this week. Also, don’t watch that movie, we didn’t make it past the first five minutes.}}

The guy says he’s right around the corner at my neighbor’s house and to clear out the room and vacuum real good. YES! Free carpet cleaning!

My brain tried to send up some red flags when the guy came in to do the cleaning dressed in a suit and tie, complete with dress shoes. Whatever part of my brain that was supposed to interpret these signals was shut down.

These guys talked fast and put on a really good show, complete with balloons for the kids! Before I knew it, some part of my brain became faintly aware that they were trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner. Only it didn’t look exactly like a vacuum cleaner, so it was a little tricky. It had a filter on it that they were putting these little circle papers in to collect all the dirt and show me how filthy my carpet was. Duh, I already knew that.

About two hours (no, I’m not exaggerating, literally two hours) into this “presentation” that I had unknowingly signed up for, they started to ask me how much I thought this thing cost. Then they vacuumed two mattresses for me. Score! I told them I kinda felt like they should tell me how much the freaking vacuum cost. Doh.

About four hours into the presentation I realized what time it was because my family was eating dinner without me. I was totally fascinated with this whole experience and felt like I was all in and might as well let it play out. I really wanted to see how far they would go. Finally, they quoted me a price, $2,799. Who pays that for a vacuum cleaner?!?!  A.vacuum.cleaner.

I shot that down, dude. No. Did you see that I am feeding five kids here, buddy? So, he made a “call” to the “owner” of the local franchise to see if he could work up a secret deal since I had told him that I thought I saw a K—- in a family member’s house and that made me a “preferred customer”. It sounded kind of like someone answered and just set the phone down and maybe they were at a ball game with their kids. 

A couple of these phone calls occurred over the next hour, and one time he forgot to hang up, so while he was talking to me, this noise continued loudly on his phone, like someone talking that clearly was not talking to him. Seriously.

I talked them down to $1,300 and I’m pretty proud of that. At this point they had begun to finally clean the carpets! It was 8:30 and my kids were waiting to go to bed. Jammied up, these guys were totally holding our entire evening hostage, but I had bubbles all over my carpet and wasn’t about to kick them out. He said it would take ten minutes to do our living room carpet. It took an hour because he kept stopping to try to talk me into committing to buy. I kept telling him that I would need to sleep on it because I don’t make decisions like that without thinking about it first. I’m not an idiot. 

They started to try to guilt me into it, telling me about how this would be the new guy’s first sale, etc. He has ten kids, blah blah blah. Then the kicker: “Sometimes you gotta eat beans instead of steak to be able to afford a healthy environment for your kids.” By this time I was eating my dinner in front of them. I tipped my bowl to show him my feast: BEANS.  “Dude. I’m already eating beans. You don’t go down from that.” He laughed nervously.

Finally he could see that he was getting nowhere with me and that I only smiled at him because he was entertaining and he vacuumed a lot for me. He ripped up the papers with all my special offers on them like it might pressure me into deciding to buy right that minute, packed up his vacuum cleaner and left politely. I felt like that was a win for me.

I sat there wondering what had just happened to me in the last five hours. Seriously. Five hours. Who puts up with that? I sat in stunned silence for a few minutes and Brent talked me into joining him in the basement for a work out. When we went upstairs to get cleaned up I found piles and piles of curls in the trash can in the bathroom. The two of us busted into Evie’s room to confirm our fears: Evie had chopped off half a head of curls.  This is what happens when you are distracted held hostage by vacuum cleaner salesmen for hours.

After I evened out her “hair cut”, I spent the entire next day trying to talk myself out of feeling like a crazy person. I kinda wanted to go in the bathroom and chop off all my hair with embroidery scissors too.

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Fast forward a couple of days and I wake up this morning and realize it’s Fourth of July and my kids are big enough to know that people do fireworks and stuff on this holiday. Brent was leaving for work, and I was bummed out that we were broke with no plans. We quickly decided that we’d look into watching the Stone Mountain fireworks from the Wal-mart parking lot. I looked it up online and confirmed from a couple of websites that this was a thing that people do.

We showed up about 45 minutes ahead of time and found a corner of the lot that wasn’t packed with cars and lawn chairs, ran inside for some ice cream for the kids and proceeded to chill in a random parking lot on a cool summer evening.

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We’re actually really good at this, due to all of our experience chilling on the tail gate of the Suburban at farmers markets for years! I knew that would come in handy some time.

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It got dark and more people started to gather. Great! This is a sign that we are in the right place!

No. No it’s not. It’s a sign that there are a lot of idiots out there. 

I got nervous and hopped on the twitter to find out if there was some kind of delay when the fireworks hadn’t started by 10 pm. I was corralled with five kids in one parking space for crying out loud.

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I did, however, video some people fighting in the parking lot because one family had cussed in front of the other family’s kids. ‘Merica, right?

Also, there were random people setting off fire works right there in the parking lot, so there’s that.

45 minutes after the fire works were supposed to start, we began to see the very tippy top of the grand finale. We quickly popped everyone, including Brent, onto the roof of the Suburban and tried really hard to make it seem like a big deal. But, this was totally pathetic.

And then it was over. Two hours in a parking lot for two minutes of a glimpse of the grand finale. So, let me tell you, internets: NO, YOU CANNOT SEE THE STONE MOUNTAIN FIREWORKS FROM THE WAL-MART PARKING LOT. #nofireworksatwalmartlot #stonemountainfireworksinvisible

And now the traffic. People were mass exiting. Thankfully, it only took about ten minutes to get out of the lot and then a short drive home. Since it was almost 11 pm, the kids were too tired to act disappointed, and I’m hoping that all they remember of this week is that their mom is CRAZY FUN and willing to try new things.

Our family is currently memorizing this verse: “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but the prudent overlooks an insult.” (Prov 12:16) Life has seemed really insulting lately. Down right annoying. And we are really trying to overlook it.

But please, let’s revoke my decision making privileges for a while.

landing softly on grace

After my second baby was born I started making soap. That’s over 8 years ago. I had no idea that there were so many dirty people out there! I never imagined I would have the nerve to go on to have three more babies while running a business, and then homeschool the kids while running a business. Having five babies in a span of only seven years is chaotic enough. Before you’ve quite recovered from the last baby, another is on the way. While I strived really hard to make sure that my family didn’t sacrifice for my own personal gain, and I developed the habit of shutting the door on Cheeky Maiden, putting her out of my mind when it was time for teaching the kids or household duties….eventually we got to the point where the income was necessary.

The kids were always right by my side as I worked and sold soap. It was a great learning experience for all of us! Brent even says that the things that he learned in running our business alongside me have helped him further his own career. Who knew?!

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Arwen got to hold the camera when a news crew came to film our family, live, working in the soap room.

We sold the business last May, and  I have not even wondered what the new owners were doing over there with my precious Cheeky Maiden. (This is partly because I know that they are perfectly cut for the job, and partly because I put together an awesome manual for them and spent weeks training the new Maiden.) Having that “distraction” out of the way has revealed some things. 

I gave myself a rest period to try to figure out what life was supposed to look like now that I’m not “working”. Then it was time to confront the things that had been sliding for eight years, both because the childbearing stage had been relentless and because of my business.

My full attention has been on my kids and my home, and while it’s been super fun to just be mom, it’s also been a little depressing to see where we have dropped the ball in areas that really count. Adding more children to your family requires a lot of growth with each additional child. If it was easy, everyone would be having lots of kids, right? Each baby means more sacrifice, more discipline, less sleep, less personal space, and the need for more personal character of each parent. Each additional child makes a radical difference in the burden you carry in your heart for a whole new soul. Doh! You knew that already.

At some point, Brent and I had stopped growing. Maybe we were just dang tired.

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We, as a couple, are strong. And after much prayer and a long weekend without kids, we landed on grace. When God asks you to jump, you’ll always land on grace. Sometimes you fall hard on grace, finding yourself completely inadequate for the task, requiring God to come all the way and do it for you, like salvation. This usually results in deep repentance, followed by sheer joy.

This time has been more of a sweet, soft landing on grace. Realizing that it isn’t my efforts, but God’s grace that works in my life. I just have to see what He is calling me to, and join Him. I join God in raising my kids. I was a great mom before, when I was busy busy busy. And now I have opportunity to be an even better, more aware, mom. That’s His grace, gently leading me.

There are a couple other areas that Brent and I realized we needed to be more disciplined in, beyond our kids, and we are working all that out, too. We are excited to deepen character, grow as individuals and as a couple, and let all of that be used however God wants to. The Lord chastens those that He loves, but I want to rebel. I want to sleep in and then go in the kitchen and eat all the cookie dough, and skip my work outs and go shopping on credit and then come home and eat ice cream. And that’s on a good day. Instead, the responsibilities that I’ve been given involve everything opposite of what I actually want to do. Just like our children need consistent rules and boundaries, so do we. I’m like that curly haired child of mine that bucks against all of them. ;) God is so faithful and patient with me, and I’m learning through that to be patient with her.

So, if you were wondering what I was doing with “all my spare time”, now you know. I’ve been cleaning the house a lot, and slowing down with the kids, and picked up my love of embroidering again. But otherwise, I’m mostly trying to figure out when I had time before to answer emails, ship orders, make soap, market products, and still feed all these people. Ah, that was all God’s grace too.

#imsocool

So, recently in some conversations with 20-somethings I began to feel like I was, umm, not cool.

Then the other night at a little church concert I got to stand in the back for a moment with some 20-something moms and their brand new babies because Evie was intent on playing with said babies. They were so cool and cute and their hair was fixed and they smelled like patchouli. I was in a t-shirt and jeans and I don’t really know what I smelled like. Maybe pee. And I wanted to squeeze them and beg them to be my friends.

So, I’ve been thinking on this for some weeks now, and I’m here to set the record straight for all of us 30-something moms. We are not cool. We are awesome.  2014-06-15 19.28.31

Me and my dad and this awesome mug I got him  my brother got for him.

We have lived through our rebellious teens, we’ve solved the great mystery of “who will I marry” and “what will I be”. We’ve navigated clumsy first days as parents, and we have yet to be downtrodden by our own teenagers.

We may not be staying out all night on weekends at posh bars and restaurants. We may not be taking exotic vacations where we do things like read books and nap on the beach. We may not be technologically savvy or aware that “bae” is slang for “before anyone else”.… or in some of your cases, unaware that anyone is even saying “bae”. (It’s okay.)

Here is a brief list of reasons why we are awesome:

    1. We can stay up all night with an infant, for nights on end, and still answer questions about life while making lunch and paying bills all at the same time. We don’t sleep in the next day like weaklings.upallnight
    2. We have been humbled to the point of realizing that we don’t know everything, and we don’t have to know everything, and that’s okay.noclue
    3. We get weather updates brought live right to the bathroom door while we are pooping. Regular people have to turn on the news or check their iPhone to know that it looks a bit cloudy and like it might rain at any given moment.bathroom
    4. We aren’t even human. We are super heroes.

5. We’ve still got the heat!

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6. We can afford good tattoos.

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I have no idea who this guy is. I just thought this photo was funny.

7. The activity at our dinner tables rivals any fraternity’s wildest parties and we are totally down with it.

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8. Most importantly, we have a tiny band of people that follow us around all day long and adore us, depend on us for every need, and center their universes around us. mommommom

Hang on to your sense of humor, Mammas, and tell me, what makes you awesome?

It’s Tuesdays that get me

If Tuesday is my Monday, then Mondays are my Flying Unicorn Days.
(For lack of a more awesome title.)

After deep cleaning a part of the house on Saturday, enjoying worship and family on Sundays, I’m just ready to rock the house on Flying Unicorn Day. It doesn’t even matter if a bug jumped on me in the night or that Titus got up at dark thirty.

Magical things happen on Flying Unicorn Day!

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Titus sits on his sister’s lap while I do my Bible study?!

When I tell the kids to do their chores, they respond with a cheerful, “Yes, Ma’am!” ?!

We wrap up last week’s school work and I get all the books and work for the current week all lined up and fairy dust bursts out of them when the kids open them!!

All the beautiful flowers in my garden bloom!

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I eat two eggs and a biscuit at breakfast, go to Zumba Toning (we dance…with weights!) and have 600 calories left at the end of the day in my daily budget!

By far, my favorite part of today was discovering this note that Arwen had made in her free time.

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Turns out, we aren’t screwing our kids up after all.

On top of all this, I found seven pencils and an iPod that had been lost for over six months in our upholstered chair. This is the equivalent of winning the lottery in our home!

Happy Flying Unicorn Day!

Because Tuesday is coming. >

burdens ain’t always bad

Before we go further, let me tell y’all about these books I keep referencing, because you’ve been asking. 

Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning, by Rebekah Lyons. I first heard Rebekah speak at the IF: Gathering on the topic of anxiety. Since I’ve been plagued by it for years, this more than peaked my curiosity. She spoke bold truths that gave me hope that a life in Christ can be free of anxiety, and really…just… free. This book is a good place to start if you feel lost, anxious, or basically messed up and clueless as to why.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer. Rebekah references this book quite a bit in her book, so it was the natural next step as I tried to unravel the mess I had made of my heart and mind. Disclaimer: this book has some misguided truths in it if you are wanting biblically sound writing. I would only recommend it for mature believers that have a solid foundation of biblical worldview. If you have that, read it! It’s pretty easy to see how it just barely misses the mark in a few things, and redirect it for your world view.

When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions, by Sue Monk Kidd. I haven’t read this one yet, but I am really trying to finish up my current book to dive in.

Now, that that business is taken care of, let’s see where we are at in this process of discovering just why God put me (or YOU) on this earth.

I started here, with a very basic plan to find out who God made me to be. I began to remember, good things, hard things, dead dreams. Have you remembered yet? Oh, please do! 

Next, I realized who God did not make me to be. Boy, what.a.relief. I realized this when I read an article suggesting to literally make a list of things I am not going to do.

Then, there was one other step that has gone on in the background for some months now: being burdened. 

Lo, and behold, a couple weeks ago our pastor started a sermon series on Nehemiah and challenged us with this question: Who does God want me to be?

Shut.up. Right now? For real, God? How can He even be so good to me?!? A whole sermon series just for me?! I sat on the edge of my dang seat while he picked through boring historical information that makes the story of Nehemiah what it is. Short story: The people of Israel had been trying to rebuild Jerusalem for forever, but were getting nowhere. Frequent attacks from their enemies had them feeling discouraged, and Nehemiah, who was living in Persian territory, hears of this. He wept and struggled over this news for 16 weeks.

That’s four months. I know how that feels. Because I wept and struggled from January to May this year. I cried every day. Brent would catch me and say, “Are you kidding me? Why are you crying again?!” Bless him, he was beside himself with a weepy wife. I prayed almost constantly. Feeling the terrifying drop of the freefall, not sure who was going to catch me or if I was just going to die, or where I was even going to land.

This is what it feels like when God starts to burden you. What you are currently doing suddenly seems pointless; it doesn’t satisfy you at all. You feel like maybe you are going crazy, and beg God to help you not be crazy. You hear people talking, but you don’t retain what they said because you are really just standing there trying not to cry. Again.

“You will never lighten any load until you feel the pressure in your own soul.” Ravi Zacharias

And, as my pastor said, this burden is not hidden in a box that God just lets you peak in and then says, “That’s all! Guess what it is!”

No. It is undeniable. He doesn’t let you peak at it. He freaking clobbers you with it. It’s everywhere you look, everything you see.

For four months Nehemiah struggled and wept and prayed to God. You can read about it in your Bible in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Maybe that doesn’t sound fun to you. It’s not fun. But life is very short, and you were put here for a purpose and don’t you want to know what for?

Next, Nehemiah had a crisis of faith. The Bible account reports that his face was sad in the presence of the king, which was literally against the law. I get it. You feel a little crazy when you want to abandon everything that is going so well for you to take up a calling that you might actually suck at because maybe you are just crazy and imagining all of this!  

Finally, he blurts it out. To the king of all people. That takes guts. It took me four months before I finally told Brent I wanted to quit soap and go a completely different direction with life. And then it took big guts before I could even tell close friends, and I still can’t bring myself to talk about it here, because it’s just so overwhelming.

But you know what? When God calls you to something, He makes a way. Nehemiah did in 52 days what the Israelites had been trying to do for decades and decades. Similarly, a month after I told Brent that I wanted to quit, our business had sold. It was so easy that I kept waiting for everything to fall apart and the buyers to walk away.

And here is where I am in the journey. I have fears to confront, and I have been, in some fun ways. I have plans to be made. I’m excited!

On the other side of the crying, the brokenness, the searching, is joy. Remembering is a hard task, but it is followed by rest. Letting go is hard, but it is liberating. Being burdened is a deep process, but we find that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

Remember, He’s a good God. He can be trusted. So, just do it. Ask God to burden you. He doesn’t ask everyone to rebuild cities. It might be something small, like giving change to a homeless person. Even if you are totally right where you are supposed to be, God is always working and always beckoning us to join Him in that work, big or small.

“I ask- ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory- to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him-endless energy, boundless strength!” Ephesians 1:17-19, The Message

you should stop faking it

Boy. I had to take a few days after that last post and put my clothes back on and hide out.

And wow. The feedback on that one. Apparently I shouldn’t have waited a year to say all of that! I sang the song of a lot of hearts when I said this:

Looking to others, instead of following Jesus himself- it’s a miserable thing to try to carry other people’s convictions or serve in their giftings, when those giftings are not your own.

Let’s camp out there.

You know the feeling you get when you see someone who appears to have it all together? All those “shoulds” pop up.

“Her husband is an elder. My husband should be an elder. I should be a more behaved woman so that he can be an elder.”

“She works out two hours a day. I should work out more so that I don’t look so frumpy. I’m giving moms everywhere a bad rap.”

“She quit her job so that she could homeschool her kids. I should stay home and homeschool my kids. They are going to go to be ruined if I leave them in public school.”

“That article said that screen time is bad for kids. I should never ever let my kids watch tv again. I will just stop showering.”

She feeds her kids organic food only and never any sugar. I should start making everything from scratch.”

She is the perfect mother to 20 children. I should have as many children as possible. If I don’t, then I must not believe that children are a blessing.”

The list could go on and on and on, couldn’t it?

We see people operating in the gifts that God gave them, we see their “inner self” (read: JESUS) shining through, and we turn it right back around into self-worship every time.

So, let me help you be free of this.

NO, YOU (probably) SHOULDN’T.

You have your own gifts, your own way that Jesus SHOULD BE shining out through your life, and that gets masked when you try to operate in someone else’s giftings.

What SHOULD you do?

  • Love God.
  • Love others

This is authentic, always, for everyone. These two things broadly cover so many areas and leave out the opportunity for sin to go excused and hate to run rampant. I know that it oversimplifies things, but for the purpose of unraveling some really bound up people, let’s go there.

What you need to do next, tired burnt out “I can’t do this life anymore” person, is make a list. Make a list of the things you are NOT going to do. It didn’t occur to me until I read this article today, that I mentally did this, and it was a major step for me.

Here’s a little bit of what my list looks like:

  1. I’m not going to teach my kids a foreign language until high school.
  2. I’m not going to force myself to have all the babies. I am not gifted with nurturing an army.
  3. I’m not going to worry about dirt on my floors.
  4. I’m not ever going to be a shy person. Quietness will never be my defining feature.
  5. I’m not going to fix my girl’s hair fancy. I just don’t know how.
  6. I’m not going to lead a missions trip to a foreign country.
  7. I’m not going to make soap anymore. More importantly, I’m not going to run an inventory-driven business while raising five kids.
  8. I’m not going to ever stop drinking coffee.
  9. I’m not ever going to look good in a tube top.

Get the point?

So, friend, if you’ve been made to bake homemade bread, by all means, bake away.

If you’ve been fashioned to encourage others, speak life.

If you’ve been gifted to sing, fill the earth with music, please.

But whatever you do, don’t try to do it all, or you just might miss the one thing that the world desperately needs you to do.

- See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/why-i-no-longer-cry-over-burnt-bread/#sthash.ZzZI6Hpd.dpuf

Maybe the most important step to figuring out who you are is realizing who you ARE NOT.

“…limitations and liabilities are the flip side of our gifts, how a particular weakness is the inevitable trade-off for a particular strength.” Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer (YES, AGAIN.)

So, make a list! And I’d love it if you’d share some in the comments here. It’s sort of fun.

Happy Weekend!