Monday, December 22, 2014

The Cheermeister Who Stole Christmas

Just before Thanksgiving, something in my brain snapped and I was determined to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. I don't know what exactly cued this Christmas Crazy in me. It could have been the fact that it's been two years since we've been able to bring out our Christmas decorations (we've been moving the last two Christmas seasons), or that it was Maverik's first Christmas, or our first Christmas in our first home, or that the twins' are old enough now to participate in the merriment. Whatever it was, THIS YEAR (I decided), would be perfect and darling and permanently determine all of our family Christmas traditions for the rest of eternity. There would be crafts! And baked goods! And Christmas-themed activities! Santa pictures! Christmas lights! Christmas movies! Advent Calendars! Homemade hot chocolate!

I got the idea (albeit a less psychotic version) from a blog post my friend Jo wrote called Finding Christmas. Her plan was to avoid some of the material focus of Christmas and the ensuing let-down after all the presents were opened, by planning something fun and Christmasy for every day in December leading up to Christmas (an advent of sorts). This way, her family could enjoy Christmas longer, without it being all about the gifts. I loved this. We've always tried to keep the material side of Christmas to a minimum, but I loved Jo's idea of filling the space leftover from removing consumerism with fun memories and loving actions. Somehow though, I hijacked Jo's perfectly charming idea and went way, way overboard.

My downfall was two-fold.

1) I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. Which means I over-plan, over-schedule, and over-commit, completely forgetting that activity and being with people sometimes just plain wears me out and I need some secluded time alone (preferable with a good book) to recharge. Really, an uninterrupted potty break would suffice some days. (What can I say? I have two toddlers and going to the bathroom uninterrupted now constitutes as leisure time.)

2) Then, when the wiped-out-from-mothering and/or over-scheduling side of me would become a bit lackadaisical about my list of daily Christmas activities, the over-achieving, perfectionist side of me would start to twitch. Like a Yuletide dictator, I would force myself to play catch up and shove three-to-four activities into one afternoon. As you might imagine, this did not usher in the holiday cheer.

While operating under the duress of these personality "quirks", I tried to figure out what our family's Christmas traditions should be. Clearly this meant I needed to try and do every single blessed one of them. All in the same year. With twin toddlers, a five-month-old, and a new (but old and in need of some love) house.

Good plan, Jen.

There were some really good memories made in the process (despite my tomfoolery). And there were other days that my cheermeister attempts resulted in tantrums and timeouts for the twins and a new set of frown lines for me. I'd start out the day with the cheery aspirations of Mrs. Claus and finish the flurry of festivities feeling like my heart was two sizes too small.

Like when I wanted to bake sugar cookies with the twins. I pictured a Norman Rockwell-eque scene where we would create memories and bond through an over indulgence of Christmas music and cookie dough.

It started out like this:
(because obviously one needs protective goggles when baking)

This adorable moment lasted all of two-and-one-forth minutes. Turns out that expectations minus reality, times three-year-old twins, divided by one unusually fussy baby, equals a stressed out Mama who just about HAD IT with this "best Christmas ever" nonsense. I finally sent the twins outside to run off some energy and finished the darn cookies by myself.

As I mentioned, not all my attempts have been fraught with stress. One of the traditions that everyone actually enjoyed was making Christmas gifts for the homeless. This is something I did once when I was single, but it was even more fun as a family. It created great opportunities to talk with the twins about giving, abundance, and loving others as we made cards and filled gift bags with goodies. THIS was the kind of Christmas magic I had pictured.

It should come as no surprise that we felt the heart of the season most when our attitude turned towards serving others. It also helped that I didn't try to do the shopping, card making, packing, and delivering of the bags all in one day. The project lasted almost two weeks, which ended up giving us extra opportunities for teachable moments with the twins.

Okay fine. I also felt the magic whenever we went to view Christmas lights. And anytime I heard Michael Bublé sing Jingle Bells. Because honestly, how could you not?

Now, I've got less than seventy-two hours until Christmas Day. Instead of trying to figure out which holiday traditions I'll squeeze into the last glimmers of the Christmas season, I think I'll just sit back and enjoy the sparkle of Christmas lights reflected in my sons' eyes. I'll sing along to the carols on the radio and cuddle up on the couch when one of the twins ask me for the fifteenth bazillion time to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I'll remember that this is meant to be a season of joy and giving and love and grace (extra thankful for that last one this year). And those things are hard to find amidst the over-scheduled hustle bustle of stress and busyness.

I still want to create fun traditions and memories for our little family (and with our extended family), but maybe not quite so many of them all at the same time. Here's hoping that I can remember all of this next year. ;-)

*If you're curious what kinds of goodies our Christmas gift bags included: socks, water bottles, pretzels, mixed nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, candy canes, and a hand-made card. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Maverik's Birth Story {Part Two}

Okay let's see, where were we? Oh, yes - in full-blown labor and on the way to the hospital.... (find part one here)

• • •

We made it to the hospital at 11:40pm, and started attempting to fill out aaaaaaaaallll the required paper work. By this point, I could barely talk between contractions, let alone write anything,  so the registration staff moved me straight to triage. Still trying to complete paperwork (Devin was filling it in now), while at the same time getting hooked up for the standard twenty minute monitoring of the baby's heartbeat, our midwife on call, Laura, arrived. She checked my progress and I was 100% effaced and 9 cm dilated.

"Well," I laughed/gasped between contractions, "guess it's a good thing we came when we did."

The midwife told the triage team to grab my still-unfinished paperwork and move me to delivery. At some point I mentioned wanting to use the labor tub (since it had helped so much with my pain during the twins' birth). Laura assured me that the likelihood of the tub getting set up before I delivered was slim-to-none.

We got to the delivery room, but protocol must be followed - I still had paperwork and a twenty-minute monitoring to finish. The nurses filled out the paperwork, for which Devin gave them the answers. When necessary, I nodded or grunted to assert that the information being scribbled onto my registration forms was correct. The monitoring belt was on me, but I didn't really care and still moved around how I needed to, sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning into Devin with my arms around his neck. After my birth experience with the twins, I was confident and ready to stand up for myself and what I needed to do to get this baby out. Screw the paperwork and monitor. (Really though - thanks to the nurses for filling it out and to Laura for putting the pressure on them to finish up the monitoring as fast a possible.)

Once the busy work was done, it was time to get down to the real business at hand. I needed to use the bathroom, and while there, felt the urge to push. I remember thinking, "Dang it, I don't want to have this kid over a toilet." I made it back to the bed however, and after trying a couple different positions, found that it was most comfortable and productive to be on my hands and knees (with the back of the bed tilted up). This way, I could rest on the pile of pillows on the bed in-between contractions, and push myself up with my arms and bear down when it was time to push.

I was very vocal and remember having this half out-loud mental arguments with myself.

Out-loud voice: "I'm too tired. I can't do this."

Inside-my-head voice: Oh stop it. This is happening and you are going to do it. You've done it before with twins, you can do it again with one

Out-loud voice: "I can't. I can't do it."

Inside-my-head voice: Oh! This is good. You really don't think you can do it, that means you're going through Transition. That means you're almost done!

Out-loud voice: "Ow. Ow. Ow. Arg! This hurts."

Inside-my-head voice: Hey! That's good. It's the "ring of fire" - push through it, it means he's crowning!

I know Devin was there whispering encouragement to me and rubbing my back, and Laura was quietly offering direction to myself and the nursing team, but what I really remember vividly was me mentally reprimanding and prodding myself on. It was kind of a cool experience being confident and aware enough to know exactly what I needed to do. It made the pushing phase so much faster and productive. I could tell exactly when the baby's head was crowning, how much harder I needed to push to get his head delivered, and when I needed to push out his shoulders. (Which was the complete opposite of the twins' birth. I was so stressed and distracted then by all that was going on, I had to have the midwife tell me when I was contracting so I could push.)

At 1:08am, just under one hour and twenty minutes after walking though the doors of the hospital, Maverik James slid out and landed on the bed between my knees. Laura told me, "Look down - there's your baby!" I sat back, saw my little boy, and just started laughing with joy. "He's so cute!" I said as I scooped up his warm, slick body and soaked up the sight of him. He was such a beautiful newborn, I could hardly believe it.

After a moment, I shifted around in bed and held my new little guy skin to skin. He was so warm and soft and it felt so sweet to have him lying on my chest. The nursing staff and Laura were especially wonderful during this time. They kept the lights low, talked in whispers, and gave us a full hour of peace to just enjoy the newest member of our little family. There was very little medical interference during this time. At some point, I delivered the afterbirth and Devin cut Maverik's cord, but otherwise, I just got to hold and snuggle my boy while Devin sat with us in the bed. It was such a sweet, calming time.

Once we'd had our time together, Maverik was weighed and measured: 8 pounds, 1 ounce and 20.5 inches. 

I was so pleased with my birth experience with Maverik. Supportive staff, a lovely midwife, no meds, no IV, freedom to move around how I needed, and the knowledge and confidence to have a smooth labor which I felt in control of.  I never once felt panicked (which was a big deal for me after my experience with the twins' birth). It was hard and painful and exhausting, but also wonderful and empowering. Plus, I got an adorable kid out of the deal (who six months later is proving to be the most mellow, sweet, content baby I've ever known).

And yes, the twins heartily approved of their new baby brother.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Maverik's' Birth Story {Part 1}

Since this little guy...
... is now this little guy...

...I figured it was high time I write down his birth story before my mommy-brain fizzles it out of oblivion. I had a few people ask me to post the story on the blog - so here we go!

This summer, after moving back from Colorado, we were finally at a point where we could move out of my (ever so gracious) in-law's house and buy our own place (yay for steady income!!) I was very pregnant when we started house-hunting, which definitely put us in a time-crunch. Fortunately, we had an awesome realtor (Kirk Erickson) who was so incredibly helpful and pretty much at our beck-and-call. We knew next-to-nothing about buying a house and he made the stressful process of finding and buying a home quite fun. (Seriously, look him up if you're need to buy/sell a house anywhere in Phoenix. He's the best. #BaconRealtor)

Fun Fact: Kirk and his wife bought their first house when she was heavy with child, so I think he was extra sympathetic to our delicate deadline. When I say "heavy with child", I literally mean her water broke during their final walk through. I doubt Kirk wanted to have a repeat of that scenario). 

My desperate plea for help via facebook
The week before my due date, we did our final walk through (waddle through for me), signed a mountain of paper work, and got the keys to our house. Keys in hand, we made a mad dash to move the bulk of our belongings into our new place before our littlest man made his big debut. We had some amazing people come to our aid last minute and get the job done.

During our long day of moving, I tried as best I could to stay off my feet, but I failed pretty miserably at that attempt. I didn't lift any boxes, but I was constantly directing where things went, driving around town buying last-minute necessities (like toilet paper and hand soap... and Craigs List finds...), and bringing pizzas, root beer floats, and donuts to our wonderful moving crew (we treat you right when you drop everything on a Saturday to help us move). Throughout the day, I was having some mild Braxton Hicks contractions, but I'd sit down momentarily, drink some water, and they would stop.

Around 5:00pm, we were done moving our stuff into the house and I stopped by Subway to get some sandwiches for the family members who were convening back at my in-law's house for dinner and a swim. The Braxton Hicks were coming regularly now (about ten minutes apart), but I chose to ignore them, because dang gone it, I had things to do and family to hang out with! Plus, I was alone with my little sister and didn't want to alarm her precious twelve-year-old self. I just needed some down time with food and water and then the contractions would stop. Yeah... that's it.

Well...  three hours, lots of food, water, and a trying-to-relax swim later, the contractions were still coming and getting stronger.

Planting myself firmly in denial, I told Devin that I needed to go to bed so that I didn't go into labor while all the family was there. We played the "so tired from the move" card and went to bed. While everyone else hung out down stairs at my in-laws, I lay upstairs trying to convince myself that if I could just go to sleep, the labor would stop. "I am too tried to be in labor," I told Devin matter-of-factly. "This is not happening tonight!"

I tried to sleep, Devin tried to help me relax, but nothing doing. Around 9:30pm (the family had left by now and my in-laws were in bed), I tearfully admitted that this was happening tonight and I suppose we'd better finish packing our hospital bags. Between increasingly intense contractions, I gathered my things, and hobbled my way downstairs (with Devin's help). We called the midwife to see how soon we should get ourselves to the hospital. The conversation went something like this:

Midwife: How far apart are her contractions?

Devin: About four minutes.

Midwife: And this is her second pregnancy?

Devin: Yes.

Midwife: Is she in a lot of pain?

Devin: Well... she's sitting on the kitchen floor moaning right now, so... yes.

Midwife: Okay... how far are you from the hospital?

Devin: About twenty minutes.

Midwife. Um. Yeah - you need to get in the car right now. I'll meet you there.

It took us an additional twenty minutes to get the car loaded, wake up my mother-in-law and put her in charge of the twins, and get my definitely-in-labor self settled in the car. It takes a while to walk to a car when you're having contractions every two minutes and there is a small person trying to exit your body.

That drive to the hospital was a little suspenseful. Thankfully, there was no traffic, but my contractions were close and intense, and I wasn't entirely confident that I wouldn't be having this child in on the side of the highway.

Whelp! That seems like a good place to take a break from our story. More tomorrow!
(I know - it's horrible of me to leave you hanging. But it would be more horrible of me to make you read 1900+ words about my birth experience all in one day. Spoiler Alert: I don't have the baby on the side of the highway... disappointing, I know. Sorry.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fourth Day Hair {A Confession}

CONFESSION: I play with the limits of what is socially acceptable in two areas in particular. 

1) By having a self-deprecating and socially awkward set of over-sharing conversational skills. Especially when in social setting that I find uncomfortable. For example, I met a friend's new boyfriend recently and instead of chatting with him like a normal person, my get-to-know-you questions were as follows:

"How many little tax-returns do you plan on having?" (This was my opener folks, the first thing I said to the poor guy following a brief introduction). I was referring to children. Yes, I asked an almost-stranger who had only been dating my friend for mere weeks how many children he wanted... and I phrased it in the most awkward way possible.

My second question arrived after we finished a game of Wits and Wagers. "So, do you actually enjoy playing games or are you just trying to fit in and make us all like you?" (What is wrong with meeeeee????) Points for him though, because he laughed and admitted to genuinely being a board game nerd. His favorite being Clue.

Lastly, I wanted to know if he enjoyed reading (because he's dating my English teacher friend). Instead of saying something normal like, oh I don't know, "Do you enjoy reading?" I asked him, "Do you watch the movie first or read the book?" He met me with a blank stare. Because I'm obviously an idiot with next-to-no grace in certain social situations. Also, I phrase questions really oddly.

2) The second social boundary is one that many moms of little ones can probably relate to. It is this: I  wash my hair as seldom as possible (without resulting in dreadlocks). I can go a good four days without washing my hair if I rotate my hairstyles just so (curly, wavy, ponytail, bun). My lack of cleanliness is one of those things that I think should probably bother me, but it totally doesn't. And the likelihood of me changing my hair washing habits are getting slimmer, because the last three times I've worn my "fourth-day bun" I've gotten compliments on how pretty my hairstyle was. Um, okay.

My two habits came together on Sunday during the "meeting and greeting" part of our church service (an often awkward social time that brings out the weird in me). A new friend leaned across her husband to say good morning and to compliment me on my "cute hair". Instead of responding with a simple, "Thank you," I felt the need to over-share, with a side of self-criticism, and said instead, "Oh thanks - I haven't showered in four days." At which her husband's face went awash of all color and he literally covered his ears. Fortunately, I was saved from my social blunder by the opening chords of the praise music.

Now I'm wondering, not why I say so many awkward things (ain't nobody got time for that rabbit hole), but when is it that we lost the social skill of graciously accepting a compliment? Why others might not do it as strangely, I think most of us, especially women, have adopted the habit of returning a compliment with some sort of self-deprecating remark. Why is that? Is it because we're crazy insecure and can't mentally accept that someone thinks better of us than we do of ourselves? Or is it a fear of sounding prideful by giving a "Thank you," as a return to a compliment? I know both have been true in my case. I never realized until just now how rude (or awkward) it can be to shoot down someone's compliment with a self-deprecating rebuttal.

Also on my mind: I hope I didn't make my friend's new boyfriend feel unwelcome... oops.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, and in honor of over-sharing, below is a picture of me with my fourth-day bun. Looks lovely until you know the greasy truth behind it, huh? ;-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When God Doesn't Pick You

While I knew moving to Colorado was the resulting answer to our prayers, I still felt a bit miffed that (from my perspective) God had chosen to give my husband the desires of his heart, rather than giving me the desires of mine. I acknowledged that because our desires were different, God couldn't very well give us both what we wanted (or so I thought at the time), but I still didn't like the outcome.

As I stewed about God "choosing" Devin over me, a poisonous shift happened in my mind.

I allowed my wants (or "desires" if I'm trying to sound spiritual and not spoiled rotten) to morph into a need - and entitlement settled it's fat rump smack dab in the center of my heart. My prayers were no longer a petition of, "God, could you please maybe give me the desires of my heart?" but rather, "God, how could you be so cruel and withhold something I need?"

I wasn't just "a bit miffed" about the move anymore, I was angry with God and jealous of my husband. God had uprooted our life to give Devin want he wanted, and had ignored my needs. (Naturally, I had only converted my wants into needs, while Devin's wants conveniently remained petty wants.)

Even when I started to enjoy my new life in Colorado, this attitude shadowed my walk with God. And it got darker the more I held on to it - becoming a fearful, sinister accusation of, "God chose Devin over you. You don't matter enough to Him." It was a horrible place to be and caused me to keep God at arms length. Even when He was the only One I felt I could share my emotions with, my prayers were full of confusion, distrust, and often bitterness.

So when Devin announced at the end of last year that he wanted to move back to Arizona (and was actually excited about the idea), I was skeptical. Part of my suspicion in the ernest of his declaration was due to the fact that this man whom I knew and loved had told me from our earliest acquaintance that he absolutely never wanted to live in Arizona. But much of my avoidance in even discussing the topic stemmed from the fact that I didn't trust God. Since I had convinced myself that God didn't care about my needs, the prospect of moving back to Arizona didn't line up.

I'm starting to see now that while it appeared God was giving Devin's desires priority over mine, God was actually allowing both of our desires to be met. When the possibility of moving to Colorado was first seriously discussed, we prayed God would align our hearts on where we should live. Our desires were at odds, our reasons for staying-or-going weren't compatible, and we knew God was going to have to change our hearts so we could start guiding our family in some kind of direction. (It's difficult to settle on a job, or buy  a house, or invest in community or ministry, when "but what if we move?" is constantly on the table.)

This impasse would have likely continued to debilitate us had God not clearly told us to go to Colorado (or rather told me specifically, "Go with your husband"). Through our move Devin was finally able to experience the city he always dreamed of living in (and we ending up having a lot of fun discovering said city). We were provided many opportunities for growth personally, professionally, and in our marriage and family life. And at the end of it all, God chose both of our desires.

I never expected that this was the round-about path we'd have to take to align our hearts in this area. And I assumed it would be my heart that would need to be changed in regards to where we'd live. Ironically, by the time Devin made his declaration, I felt like my heart was starting to change and that I could actually like living in Colorado permanently. Perhaps this is why I felt so confused when we moved back home (and I still do at times when my heart misses our friends and our life in Colorado).

I know this isn't how God always works. There are a lot of times when a want-turned-need isn't what is best for us. Or when it feels like God is ignoring a need when really, He can just see a bigger picture. Sometimes, this life is unjust and though God walks beside us, we still get caught the the crossfire of this messed up world. And sometimes, our desires don't get met because they are not aligned with what God desires for us.

I didn't love moving three times in one year. I hated the homesickness. It would have been much easier had God changed Devin's heart before we moved from Arizona to Colorado and back again, or if had He made me really excited to move to Colorado in the first place. But He saw a bigger picture - ways my heart also needed to be changed (that wouldn't have happened had we stayed in Arizona), ways we needed to grow as a married couple and as a family unit, and ways we needed to experience community at a level we never did during our years in Arizona.

I'm learning so much through this process and can see now that God was never choosing Devin over me, or vice-versa. He was moving us both through the challenges, joys, and pains we needed at the time. It just looked different for each of us. And frankly, I listened to lies when I thought God didn't care. When I look back at the intricacies He wove through this last year, I would be blind and stupidly selfish not to gratefully acknowledge that He did in fact care, and had a purpose all along. 

Honestly, there are still residual doubts and struggles I'm working through as a result of my "God doesn't care" mentally, but I can at least see now that there was a purpose in all that happened through this move (some of which is still to be discovered). And this assures me that God does in fact care. I matter enough to Him.

If you are feeling like God hasn't "picked" you - please, please don't let bitterness and anger set in. He's got something in the works for all who love Him and it will be for a better purpose than the one you can see now, because it will be for His purpose. "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It might be painful and take a really long time, but if you listen to the lie that God doesn't care about you, the journey will be horribly lonely and so much harder.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gender Reveal Party: He or She?

gender reveal invite"I'm so glad you're having another baby - you throw such fun parties!" I won't disclose which family member said this (with a wink and a smile of course), but truth be told - I share the same sentiment. I love themed parties and the creativity that goes into planning them (Pinterest only makes my "love" borderline obsessive... fortunately, I have strict and realistic budgets to stick to when party planning).

We had a great time three years ago with the gender reveal party for our twins, and baby number three wasn't about to miss out on an equally fun party for his-or-her gender reveal! (Plus, I desperately needed a creative outlet after the stress of our move, so I had another good excuse beyond "fair" parenting - which I'm not necessarily a proponent of all the time. Sorry kids. You'll might have fun parties, but otherwise: learn early that life isn't fair.)

Okay, so. The party. YAY! I designed invites, banners, signage, photo props and all kinds of adorable stuff that I could go on and on about, but instead, I'll just show you the final results.

First Off: Games and Activities. Guests dressed in pink or blue to make their predictions on the gender. We also had a tally board for guests to place their votes. As you can see below, the votes were pretty lopsided. When you already have two boys, people tend to assume that surely your body will magically produce a female child in order to maintain a balanced world populous.

gender reveal party

We also had fill-in-the-blank notecards that allowed guests to write some "Wishes for Baby." Some of the answers were really amusing. Example: My ten-year-old sister, Julia, completed the forth question thus: "I hope you aren't afraid of: me."  

gender reveal party

gender reveal partyFor a party game, we played a rather competitive round of "Sugar Baby Jeopardy". The answer to every question was the name of a candy and the top teams got to compete in a Final Jeopardy round to determine who would have the honor of revealing the baby's gender. It was intense. We have some serious game-players in our family, let me tell you. The questions were hilarious (I wish I could take credit for writing them).  Such treasures as, "Q: The Conception. A: What is a 'Skor' bar?" And, "Q: Difficulty lactating. A: What are 'Milk Duds?'"

In addition to wearing our "team" colors, I made pink and blue photo props for team pictures. Mustaches, lips, bows, and bow ties - I don't care if it is a trend, I love the photo prop movement!

gender reveal party

gender reveal party
Next Up: The Food (possibly my favorite part of any party... we'll just blame it on the pregnancy. Yeah, that's it.)

My inspiration for the party food was that old poem about What Little Boys/Girls are made of. Never mind that it's slightly sexist, if not misandristic, it made for a really cute food spread. The themed food was perfectly complimented by all the awesome trays and serving items that I borrowed from my mother-in-law. My favorite piece was a vintage toy truck that held mini dirt cup shooters - perfect for the boy food.
gender reveal party food
gender reveal party food
gender reveal party food
gender reveal party food

And Finally: The Big Reveal. We wanted this reveal to be just as fun and playful as when we announced the twin's gender (by popping balloons filled with colored confetti.) Our solution: SILLY STRING!

gender reveal invitation As mentioned, we had the top two teams from our Jeopardy game compete for the honor of the reveal. We did a race of sorts, where the teams tried to answer four baby trivia questions as fast as they could. Then when the final question was answered by one of the teams, they could race across the lawn and grab a can of silly string. There were only six cans and about twelve adults, so as soon as the first can was snatched, anyone could run and grab the remaining cans (if you've ever played the card game, Spoons, it was a similar idea). It was fast and fun and really heighten the anticipation for the reveal.

And the result was.... BLUE silly string!

gender reveal party ideas
gender reveal party
Even though the twins had been adamant that they were having a baby sister (they can't seem to comprehend that anyone besides their twin could be their "bro"), I think they were pleased with the result.  
gender reveal older siblings
gender reveal party invitation  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When Change Feels Overwhelming

An abundance of things to share can be more restrictive to my ability to write than an actual lack of things to write about. I had one of the most difficult, heart-molding, trying, wonderful, and fullest years of my life in 2013 and yet, I wrote a grand total of twelve posts last year. Twelve. Most of them devoid of any real substance.

It was not for lack of content, I can tell you that. My year was insane - I moved states, faced horrible home-sickness, was placed out of my comfort zone, and was forced to make friends with strangers (gasp!) - some of whom I'd only met through a friend-of-a-friend on the internet (which for my introverted personality was super uncomfortable at first). Then around August, there was this shift and I found myself loving my new city and my new friends, and actually feeling settled in my new life. And THEN. A career refocus for my husband, a sooner-than-expected pregnancy, and a move back from whence we had come (barely a year after moving away). My life and emotions in 2013 were topsy-turvy and back again. Lots of trials and lessons learned and beauty to write about. Content, content, content.

And yet. Writer's paralysis clung to me because I had such an overwhelming amount of content. Really painful, messy, don't-really-want-to-process-it-in-public kind of content. Usually writing is therapeutic for me and helps me work through my thoughts and emotions. Flannery O'Conner said, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." That's me.

But these things? They were things I felt so deeply, but I didn't understand. Bitter, ugly things, and conflicting, confusing things. Emotions and doubts that were unflattering to me and potentially hurtful to those I loved if expressed publicly. So my ramblings were kept in the safe privacy of my journal and my prayers. Which is probably right where they were meant to be kept. At least for now. At least until the bigger picture of who-knows-what God has been doing with my life these past couple of years becomes clearer.

I've seen healthy growth and little glimpses of what these years of change have brought about in my life - some good, some necessary, and some I'd like not to repeat. I don't understand (or like) a lot of it, but I do see purpose in much of the pain and confusion. And for now, that's just enough to keep me holding on and moving forward into whatever it is God has for us in our new (again) city and our life as a family of (soon-to-be) five.

Some good things that have come out of the difficult:
  • There were many times I had no one to share my heart with except Devin. While we have always been close, we were brought closer as he helped me struggle through the mess of emotions I normally would have poured out to my closest girlfriends. But with their absence in my daily life, I had no choice but to turn to my husband for comfort, sympathy, and advice. It was a hard-at-times, but good thing.
  • There were times however that the things in my heart were too difficult to share with even Devin, and I was instead driven to share my thoughts and emotions with God. Again - a relationship strengthen because of the relational void I was experiencing in other areas of my life. 
  • With few family members (and no friends) in town, we had the time and motivation to invest in relationships within our church and our community early-on. This was a part of our lives we didn't realize was lacking during our years in Arizona, but now that we've experienced it, we see the importance of leaving room for community relationships amidst the time we spend with our extended families. 
  • I learned to step out of my comfort zone, show up to a room full of strangers, and make friends. And even though making an effort to start those friendships was difficult for me, it's those sweet friends who I shed many tears over leaving. 
  • And most of all, I've learned (or am at least forcing myself to acknowledge - which, believe it or not, is a big step) that change is a part of life. And as much as I hate it sometimes, fighting it will only make it more difficult. I ran across a quote shortly before we moved back to Arizona, and it was a turning point for me as I worked towards accepting some of the changes coursing through our lives right now:
"Faced with inevitable change, the choice was mine. I could fight until my spirit was weary, or I could release all resistance and create something new in my changed world." - Dean Jackson

So that's what I'm trying to do. Because my soul has become weary from fighting and it's time to try and make something beautiful in my changed world.