Thursday, February 9, 2017

Of Course...Well, Duh!

"Of course you will get tired and burn-out and experience stress."
- said to a group of Catholic homeschooling mothers by a compassionate priest

There is nothing that has stuck with me more from our beautiful DFW Day of Grace for Catholic Homeschooling Mothers last month than this statement. I have circled it in my journal, pondered it in my heart, and wow. This seriously has changed my paradigm.

For years, I have heard fellow homeschooling mothers (but everyone probably experiences burn-out) discuss how to avoid burn-out and keep going. We talk about doing all the things we know we should do to remain at peace in our daily lives, all the many, many things. And I am not saying that burn-out is completely unavoidable, but I now think it is not the end-of-the-line desperation I once saw. It is instead an opportunity to grow in holiness.

The previous two Lents I have been blessed by Elizabeth Foss's Restore workshops, an online course for women experiencing burn-out. She is not running the course this year, but her guidance of spiritual and practical help for making ourselves whole again has been a gift to hundreds of women, proving that burn-out is a reality and a concern for many and that we can heal from it with God's grace. A quick Google search on Catholic homeschooling burnout resulted in over 371,000 results; it's clearly not rare.

Father's focus was not, as I expected, how to avoid burn-out and stress and not fall apart. It was to instruct us to choose to respond differently when we are tired and weary, to choose to respond rather than react. He taught us that God's grace is the help we need to see the stress as a symptom of the sickness of sin and to seek healing by making changes, by stepping back and viewing our stress through God's eyes. This can only be done, he reminded us, when we have a solid friendship with God.

I think that partly inspired my resolution to spend time in Scripture daily, in order to grow in relationship with God. So that is key. But my new paradigm is that instead of causing myself more stress by thinking of all the things I should be doing to avoid burn-out (i.e. eating well, sleeping well, exercising, planning meaningful lessons, keeping up with housework, etc.), I am looking at my stress as a reminder to take a deep breath and deflect the negativity, turning to God in that moment, which is much more frequently, and that's definitely a good thing.

Maybe all of that only makes sense in my head, but it seemed worth putting words down to try to communicate it to my friends, even though never of you ever face burn-out or stress. lol!

What choices do you make when you face stress that help you see it differently, through the lens of God's grace?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A New Resolution

(alternate title - The Day I Was Humbled Into Action by Elizabeth Foss Quoting Me!)

Just a short bit ago (yesterday perhaps) I was lamenting my prayer life. I just do not take the time I know I need to spend with my Lord in order to receive enough graces to get through each day. I am weary. This road is long and hard, as it should be, but that’s a deep thought for another day.

A couple of weeks ago, the Lord reminded me that, “In the beginning was the Word.” And I realized then that I need to immerse myself in Scripture. I feel, like Elizabeth Foss so eloquently articulated for me, that the dryness of my prayer and the longing of my heart can be healed with God’s Word. She shares:
I wonder how many of us spend as much time wondering what God thinks as we do scrolling through social media looking for ideas, or opinions, or arguments. (After this week, I’m thoroughly convinced people go looking for arguments.) We have time. We can read what God has to say every day. Even if we gave Him a fraction of the time we give to other reading, we’d give Him significant time.

Her words feel like a 2x4 to the head from God! Dummy! Pick up a Bible. It doesn’t matter where you begin; just begin with Me. And, so I do. At the beginning. Where the Word Became Flesh. (John 1)

Have you seen lately the treasures you can find there, friends? Oh my! The light we all need today in this broken world. The example of John who testified to the light and yet was not well received. And, the flesh, the man, the Eucharist, our greatest treasure. That’s only verses 1-13! John then writes:
And we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14b)
I haven’t told you yet that the word on my heart for this year is “glory,” and I will soon share with you the incredible graces I witnessed and received at our Mother’s Day of Grace this past Saturday. I am in awe at the careful love God has for me in half a verse of His Word!

My friends, He has words just for you, too. Words that will stir your heart, that will reach you wherever you are on this road to Him, whether you are filled with peace or struggling with doubt. The Bible is God’s gift to His children, and waiting inside are messages for each of us.

If you do not pick up your Bible daily, please join me in a new resolution. It may be the end of January, but let’s push away the burnout blues of February and prepare ourselves for the season of Lent to come by seeping ourselves in Scripture. Spending just a few minutes a day with the Word of God will surely bring great fruits for each of us and our families.

Will you join me?

Friday, January 20, 2017

You Have My Permission

I don’t have time. That thought runs through my head on a daily basis about many things. Fun outings. Kid meltdowns. Personal interests. Whenever I think of the things that I want to do and don’t get to do, that’s my internal response. The voice that whines in my head.

What thing would you like to do that you don’t have time to do? For you? Maybe you like to sew or read or paint or craft. Think especially of those things you want to do that do not have a tangible benefit for your family but are a way for you to create something.

I have a friend who makes fun t-shirts for her family to wear. I have another friend who has a direct sales business that she loves, and the income helps her family get through each month. That's fantastic. In this day of Etsy and blogging, mamas can turn almost anything in a money-making endeavor or turn their creative passions into tangible items that benefit their families. But, while that’s admirable, the rest of us who can’t handle the stress or logistics of self-employment (trust me, I tried a few times) and whose passions can’t directly benefit our children and husband still do desire things that bring us joy and feed our souls.

So, that thing? The one that you look forward to and love doing but takes time away from your homemaking, mothering, homeschooling, paid position, wife duties, etc? Do it anyway. Seriously. You have my permission. You don’t need it, but you have it.

As women, often we want to make lovely things, especially in this fallen, broken world. I remember growing up, noticing that my mother would sew and write and garden for fun. She enjoyed it. Sometimes it benefited our family directly, but sometimes it was just something she wanted to do. And it’s so difficult for me to follow her example.

But God made women as part of His creative genius. Beauty is of God, and I’m not talking the perfect Pinterest-beauty. I’m talking the art made with your heart. In my experience, when I do set aside that time, 15 minutes here and there or an hour or two once a week, my soul soars. I gain peace and confidence that does directly benefit my family. Mamas, you know this is true.

So, again, I give you permission, and I beg of you. Please, this week, take some time to do that thing. I made myself sit down and write this, and I challenge you to go do something that brings you joy - and brings God glory - and come back and share what you did! Our world is a messy place, but if we find beauty and create beauty, our souls will glorify God and His light will brighten our often dark and dismal world.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Last Year

I bought this little decor item as a post-Christmas gift for myself as a reminder of what I did last year.

Last year, I said goodbye to my husband five times, each time knowing the stretch of time before I saw him again would be longer.

Last year, I said see-you-later to the dearest group of mom friends I have ever had, and fought little by little to make brand new mom friends.

I spent five months living in an apartment with my four kids and no husband, except for the couple of nights he visited before deploying.

I searched for a house, bought a house, moved into a house, and set up a house that my husband has never seen and will not see for several more months.

Last year, I survived my 17th wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, my 40th birthday, Christmas, and New Year's Eve but missed my man every second.

Last year, I learned that fighting doubt and anxiety is exhausting, terrible work and that lowering expectations is a perfectly acceptable, but humbling, coping strategy.

I loved my children through a 2600+ mile road trip, attitude adjustments (before, during, and after), their own anxiety struggles, and plenty of too-big feelings they are ill-equipped to handle.

I found joy and peace in doing the one thing in front of me and putting one foot in front of the other each day, despite my longing to just stop time and stop being in charge of everything for a bit.

You see, I am strong. And I knew that. But I had no idea the kinds of tough emotions and stressful challenges I would face in 2016. I simply had no choice but to love my husband and my children and get through it somehow. I suppose I did have a choice, but no other option was okay with me. I might not have always done it with as much grace or love as I was capable of, but when I woke up on New Year's Day, I realized...

This year is the year my husband comes home.

This year is the year I cultivate my newfound strength into personal growth.

This year is the year that no matter how daunting the day, I know I can face whatever life hands me.

Because that's what we do, and there is no other acceptable path. Whether you deal with deployment, divorce, death, discord, disease, or something else, when life hands you adversity (and only then) God will reveal the hidden depth of the strength He planted deep in our souls.

5 days down, 360 to go! To God be the glory!