Uncategorized

8 Years.

I’m having a hard time getting my thoughts to slow down enough to put them into words.

It’s been 8 years.  8 years since I’ve had a drink…8 years since I’ve taken a drug to get high.

I remember…the first time I went to detox, I was 19.  I had overdosed on Xanax and alcohol was and 100% sure that I didn’t have a problem.  100% sure.  Like.  “I can’t even legally buy booze yet…how can you tell me I’m an alcoholic?” And. “I’m in college.  This is what you’re supposed to do in college…”

The second time, I was 21.  This time was my choice.  I knew I had a problem.  I didn’t know what the problem was…but I knew something was wrong.  I would wake up and within the first hour or so I would get shakes and experience black outs…until I’d finally cave and have a drink.  At 21 I’d developed a physical dependence to alcohol…and I was terrified.

So I went to treatment.

I got clean.  I got sober.  Call it what you’d like– to me, it makes no difference.

I stopped talking to all of my friends.  And I miss them all still.  If I used to spend time with you…and you’re reading this…know that I love you and I miss you still.  But I was terrified.  They told me in treatment that if I started drinking again that I would die…they told me I had to change my playmates and playgrounds…so I did.  There’s a part of me that regrets it.  There’s a part of me that regrets how one day I just up and left everyone that had been by my side for years before… But I didn’t know how else to handle the situation.  I honestly believe I did the best I could at the time…even if it meant hurting people along the way.  But believe me…it was so hard.  And I am so sorry.

I completed treatment.

I stayed clean.

I got pregnant.

I stayed clean.

He didn’t.

And I will tell you that even while pregnant as an addict in recovery it is hard to find drugs and not use them.  It’s hard to find a substance that must be so marvelous to keep calling someone back to using…and to say no to that substance…and to dispose of that substance…and to feel feelings when I’d been masking feelings for so long…  But I stayed clean.  Until I had her.  And then I relapsed.

And my relapse wasn’t long.  But it was brutal.  Not because I fell back into a physical dependency…but because I was proven wrong.  I had been positive that the love I felt for my newborn would be enough to make me drink responsibly.  –It wasn’t.

If you know an addict or an alcoholic and you think they don’t love you enough and that’s why they’re using…that’s not true.  It’s not.  I promise.  It is a compulsion that I can’t explain with words…and if you don’t have it, you won’t get it.

I felt so hollow.

The day I took my last drink was July 18, 2010.  I’d been up all night drinking…I’d stolen pain pills from my mom’s bathroom…my mom was caring for my 6 week old…she’d cut me off and hidden my booze sometime in the middle of the night…but I found it, of course…  My grandparents pulled up to the house and saw me drunk on the front porch…when I was sure it was 5am and it was closer to 11am… And I was embarrassed.  And ashamed.  And broken.  And so, so, so hollow.

So all day on the July 18, 2010…I cried.  My mom held me and I cried.  My grandma held me and I cried.  I cried and held my baby.  I cried and went to a meeting.  And I cried.  And I cried.

On July 19, 2010 I celebrated my first day clean.  My first day in a string of 2,922 and counting.

Let me tell you something about being young and in recovery:  It’s hard.

Let me tell you something about this past year in recovery: It was hard.  Did I want to drink?  Absolutely.  And did I want to get high?  More times than I can count.  Did I want to revert back to destructive behaviors like disordered eating and/or smoking and/or stealing?  Heck yes…oh my God, yes.  So badly.

But I haven’t.  I haven’t taken the bait.  I haven’t fallen into any of the traps.

Instead I’ve cried.  And I’ve written.  And I’ve read.  And I’ve cussed.  And I’ve prayed.  And I’ve been open and vulnerable and I’ve allowed myself to learn to process grief and anger and resentment and joy and disappointment and exhaustion to degrees that I’d before been unfamiliar with.

I’ve grown.
This year I’ve grown.

Can you imagine how I would’ve sold myself short if I would’ve given up?
This beautifully chaotic life…  Everyday I give my children a mother with clear eyes.  And every night I go to bed with my husband and we talk.  We communicate about our kids…their behaviors and which areas we need to help them to thrive…we communicate about our finances…we communicate about things that are difficult and our current struggles and how we can better serve each other.

What a beautiful life I have today.  I am definitely not hollow anymore.  I am full.  And I am grateful.

If you are struggling…don’t sell yourself short.  Hang in there.  There isn’t a problem in the world that a drink or a drug will solve.  I promise.  I promise-promise.

 

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Fearless Faith, Uncategorized

The Struggle is Real.

I’m struggling.  In a time where being a Christian isn’t exactly “cool”…especially as a millennial…I’m struggling with Christianity.  I’m struggling with Jesus.  I’m struggling with prayer…and with God, in general.  And, the truth is, I have been for a while.

Prayer for a while was cussing at God and asking him why things were the way that they were…and then it became more of a, “Hey.  Are you even there?  Are you hearing me?”  And it’s slowly become a mixture of, “HEY!  DUDE.  If you’re real, CHANGE THIS.  If you’re REALLY REAL, FIX THIS…  IF YOU’RE REALLY, REAL…WHY IS ALL OF THIS HAPPENING AND WHY AREN’T YOU TAKING CARE OF IT?!”– or silence.

I know, I know.  “Free will.”  I know, I know… “God made humans imperfect.”  I know.  I know.  I.  KNOW.

But Jesus Christ…it is all REALLY HEAVY…and if I feel like I can’t turn to Him with it, where do I take it?  And why is it not letting up?  It’s not even stuff that affects me personally (yet)…but, if my God is real and powerful and all things good…and, if my God is the same God that created all the heavens and the earth…why do I feel His absence?  Why does it feel like He’s hiding out?

I’m still going to church.  And I feel a loving presence while I’m there…but, when I leave, and I realize things are still REALLY HEAVY…WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?

I’m struggling with other Christians.  I’m struggling with what is viewed as moral…and ethical.  I’m struggling with the idea that there are some Christians that are in such opposition to what is CLEARLY DECENT BEHAVIOR…and, for whatever reason, THEY maintain a constant contact with this loving presence of God.  And, if THAT’S the verbiage and action and attitude that grants a relationship with God, I don’t want any part of that.  I’m struggling with the idea of, “Well it would be less painful to just NOT BELIEVE than to BELIEVE and feel so HURT and ANGRY with God.”

I’m struggling with what to teach my children.  In a world where I’ve always seen so much gray…things are becoming very clearly black or white…

So.  What do I do with it?

I guess I write it out.  Ride it out.  Keep trying to pray even if it’s just a whisper…even if it’s cussing and fighting and challenging God to “fix it” or “change this”……

In recovery, they say, “Fake it til ya make it.”  And I think I’ll continue to apply that phrase to this situation.  I’ll just keep trying to believe until I feel it again.  Eventually the load will lighten.  I might not have faith…but at least I have hope.  And that’s a start.

**Note:  I don’t want your feedback.  I REPEAT.  I DON’T WANT YOUR FEEDBACK.  I don’t want your advice.  I don’t want your, “yeah, christians really suck.”  I don’t want your, “We’re called to be like Jesus, not other Christians.”  I don’t want any of that.  I wrote this to get it out.  If it’s on the outside, at least it’s not inside continuing to fester.  If it’s on the outside, surely there’s someone who will read this and feel peace because he/she isn’t alone with his/her own struggles with God right now.  We’re all in this together, friends.  I want you to know my struggles, because pain shared is pain lessened.  But I don’t want your feedback.  Got it?  Good.

Uncategorized

I Have Bipolar Disorder, But Bipolar Disorder Doesn’t Have Me.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything in regard to mental illness, but -in honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month- I thought I’d shine some light on my personal diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder.

I spent years assuming that I had a mixture of anxiety and depression…and medicated separately for each (mostly with alcohol, but also with prescriptions).  Anxiety and depression are both talked about so freely and described openly by so many people, that it was natural to assume that would be the appropriate diagnosis.  More than a few years but less than a decade ago, while taking an antidepressant, I had my first experience with what I know now as a wave of mania followed by depression followed by mania until I could get in with a psychiatrist who lovingly explained that my previous diagnosis was incorrect, and prescribed something that would make me feel level for the first time in ever.

Let me explain “mania” and “depression” to you as it relates to my experience with bipolar disorder:
Mania is not sleeping.  Mania is starting so many projects but not being able to focus long enough to finish any of them.  Mania is crying because I feel spread so thin.  Mania is not eating.  Mania is a very short fuse.  Mania feels like anxiety…because it causes me to be anxious.  Mania makes my muscles ache from being so tense.  It might last a few days.  It might last weeks.  It might last months.  literally.  months.  And it might seem better some days only to throw me back on the ground the next.  Mania is feeling like I need to sleep…and wanting to sleep…and craving the ability to just sit and watch TV or read a book or write…and, regardless, not being able to sit still…even at 2am.  Mania is impulsivity like most have probably not experienced since childhood…like…in mania, if I want something and don’t purchase it or make it or do it, it feels like my skin is crawling out of itself. Mania is not being able to sleep because I am 100% sure that we are getting bombed…and researching how far bombs can travel from various points around the world…and telling myself, “Your kids are safe.  You are safe, Dani.  Everyone is safe.” Over and over and over again.  And my husband telling me, “Everything is fine.  Everyone is safe.” And still not sleeping because…well…mania.  Mania is barricading myself in the house and telling myself it’s because I’m an introvert…when it’s actually because I’m too scattered and nervous to leave the house.  And, all of the sudden, when I least expect it…my mania can drop me into…
Depression.  Let me first say that depression is not a lack of not being grateful…but the lack of being able to feel gratitude.  Depression is not delusion.  Depression for me is extremely dark.  It feels worthless and painful and hopeless and suicidal…and, as difficult as mania can be to manage, the depression is what prompts me to take medication.  I can live with mania.  I can apologize for getting angry and snapping at my family…and I can tell myself that it’s fine to never leave the house or to stay awake for 72 hours with a few 30 minute nap sessions…but the depression is too dark to handle on my own.  And why try?  That’s like playing Russian roulette.

So, it’s been a while because I had taken a break while having babies, but I’m finally back on my medication.  Finally.  And, things haven’t immediately improved upon starting a medication for bipolar.  Not for me, at least.  It’s taken several weeks to feel “okay”– and I still feel pretty anxious…but it’s getting better.  I’m sleeping again.  And I’m taking deeper breaths.  And I can lay in savasana and not feel panic.  …Do you know how freeing that is?  To not feel panic when you’re accustomed to feeling panic (but hiding it) 24/7 for weeks on end?  Savasana has forever been the most difficult pose in yoga for me.  It’s when you have to lay still at the end of your yoga session and breathe and feel strong and confident and safe… The first night after having a pleasant experience with savasana, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband all about it…in detail…how calm and relaxed I felt, the images that floated through my carefree mind…and how I wanted to be able to access that feeling all the time.  –I know that people without mental illness also have days when they’re unhappy…or stressed…or anxious…  I know that I’m not supposed to feel calm and relaxed at all times; that would be completely unnatural to a human being.  But medication has helped to find a middle ground in the extreme highs and lows.

Anyway, this has been just a very brief glance into what my experience has been.  I wanted to write this because this is not a diagnosis that’s talked about.  Ever.  Or rarely, at least.  There’s a ton of shame and hush associated with it, whereas folks talk about depression or anxiety or ADHD without reservation.  So here I am!–declaring no fear or shame or hush…I have bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t have me.  Not today, at least.  And for that I am grateful.

 

Fearless Faith, Uncategorized

Speech//Hillcrest Hope

Hello friends!  Remember a few weeks ago when I was like, “I’m going to do a product review once a week from now on!”…and then I only did that one…and I haven’t gotten around to writing another…?  Yeah…  Sorry about that.  Eventually, I’ll start writing on a consistent basis, I’m sure of it.  And THIS is different than what I typically publish, because THIS is a speech.  I was asked to speak to a group of volunteers and donors of an organization that is very special to me– and, I figured, since it’s already written I might as well publish it.  If you are on the fence about volunteering or donating goods or supporting a non-profit financially, my hope is that this tiny portion of my story will push you closer to saying YES and giving yourself away.  I hope you are all having a fabulous week!!!–the sun is shining…the wind is blowing…Thank you God for this new day!


 

I’m not a speaker. Speaking to a group regardless of size is not something I enjoy.  However, when Rachel asked if I could do this for her…there is absolutely no fear or excuse great enough to keep me from behind this podium.

When I submitted my application, I had just over a year clean from drugs and alcohol.  I had an 18 month old daughter.  I was in a toxic relationship.  And I was trying so hard to get my head out from under water…and I couldn’t.  (Brief caveat: I was a preschool teacher…and I made $10.51 an hour, which is above minimum wage.  But at $10.51 an hour, you also don’t qualify for any public assistance.  No food stamps, no rental assistance, no TANF…) No matter how much I tried to save, no matter how hard I was trying to make decisions that would benefit myself and my daughter, I just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

At the time, I was living with my mom in Excelsior…Hillcrest had been mentioned to me several times and each time I disqualified myself: “I’m not ACTUALLY homeless.  I have a place to stay.”…really what I was saying to myself was, “Someone else deserves it more than I do.”—One day I ended up in the teacher’s lounge where I worked…with a parent of a child who attended this school…and this parent happened to have very great knowledge of Hillcrest.  So I took a deep breath…and asked her about it…and she said, “I think you’d be a great candidate.” And I said, “Well, I’m not REALLY homeless though…” and she just smiled and said, “I think you should apply.”  So I did…  I applied by myself…and during the interview asked if my boyfriend could stay with me (because things were likely not going well when I had filled out the application, but were better by the time I interviewed)…and Rachel told me “NO”…and I’m so glad that she did.

I moved in really close to Christmas…forgive me for not having the exact date, but I remember so clearly getting a knock on the door one of my first nights there… It was my church sponsor…with gifts.  They just came in and set all these gifts on the table, prayed for me, and then they left…and I cried and cried, because I was grateful…and I confused…because I had made so many awful mistakes…and again with that “Someone else deserves it more than I do.” –And, as a non-Christian…not quite an atheist…maybe an agnostic…it began awakening my soul…  Those gifts of towels and a homemade scrap booking kit were so much more than merely towels and a homemade scrap booking kit…

During my stay, I was taught everything—not necessarily because I didn’t know how to do them, but because I didn’t have the confidence in myself to do them without someone’s guidance.  For years, my decisions were poor.  My decisions were NOT good…they got me in trouble…over and over and over again.  So while I was there, I was taught everything…how to clean, how to follow rules and meet expectations, how to shop, how to budget, how to do laundry, how to microwave a hot dog, how to manage time, how to make popcorn, how to pray, how to ask for help…

It was hard.  Staying at Hillcrest was so hard.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished (and I’ve had three children, so that’s saying something).  …There was a time while I was there that my boyfriend took my car…a time when he took my money…and of course a time when I could no longer deny that he was getting high again……and usually I’d forgive him and continue on in this cycle of chaos…but during one of our case management meetings while discussing this relationship, Rachel asked me if I wanted Journey to think that this is how a father behaves.  She didn’t word it like that…but essentially that’s what she said.  …And something clicked.  I told him I never wanted to see him again…and, to this day, I’ve maybe seen him three times, and I’ve left as soon as he’s entered the room…he has minimal contact with our daughter through letters…and I’ve told him repeatedly that he needs to go through the courts if he wants any sort of visitation…because when I was at Hillcrest, I learned how to set healthy boundaries for myself and my child.

Close to the end of my stay, I was telling my resident managers about how upset I was about being alone (being alone was uncharted territory)…and how I was struggling with not answering the phone when my ex called…and they told me pray for the right person/people to enter my life.  And by this time, I’d learned to pray because it had been demonstrated regularly by my resident managers…prayer was the solution for nearly everything it seemed…and it WORKED and it turned me into a believer. So I prayed.  And I prayed and I prayed and I prayed…and I have no idea for how long it was…it logistically couldn’t have been longer than a few weeks, I met the man that is my husband today.  …He asked me out for coffee and I told him that I couldn’t spend any money…and he said, “I’m not going to ask you out and make you buy your own coffee…” And that was different.  I’d never dated anyone who had offered to buy my coffee.  I had never really DATED at all.  –I was so confused, because he had it all together…WHY would want to date a single mom…in recovery…in transitional living for homeless…… “Someone else deserves him more than I do…”  But I kept praying…and we COMMUNICATED (which is something else I learned here)…we got married in 2014 and today we stilllike each other.

I feel like I’ve been here and there…and I’ve tried to touch on just a few of the highlights of my stay…but I want to reiterate that this program is so, so, so, soooo much more than a shelter…or a temporary solution… Beyond the ability to save during my stay and getting childcare reimbursement and little treats for meeting expectations…this program gave me a life beyond what I would’ve ever imagined.  I learned indirectly and directly about God…about Jesus…about selfless service…about communication…and boundaries and recovery and credit reports and confidence and that I deserved so, so, so much more than I was giving to myself.  Today, I know with all of my soul that I am WORTHY of a place to call my own…I am WORTHY of healthy relationships…I am WORTHY of assistance…and my story is WORTH telling.  Oftentimes, because my story is mine…and I’ve lived it and heard it many, many, many times…my story loses it’s sparkle.  It loses it “WOW”…until I share it with someone who hasn’t heard it before…and all that shock factor and “OH-MY-GOODNESS…GOD-IS-SO-GOOD…” comes flooding back.

Hillcrest changed my life. –Actually, Hillcrest gave me the skills I needed to change my own life.  Completely.  I am a homeowner…a car owner…my credit is LOVELY…I’ve gone on a trip to Haiti to love on orphans and talk about Jesus…I’m the owner of a bachelor’s degree…I have almost 8 years of recovery…I am a stay at home mom and I can be because we SAVE and we PLAN and we don’t go on a bunch of trips because we BUDGET… …When I say that Hillcrest helped to change my life…I mean it.  I can do hard things.  Hillcrest has played a huge role in teaching me that truth.

Really quickly, before I’m finished up here, I just want to say that Rachel, Anne, other employees…people who donate time and talents for community living…and food and goods for the pantry…and church sponsors for the apartments…volunteers at the thrift store and volunteers on the campuses who build and clean and organize and pray— you are all so vital.  As a graduate looking back, without any one of those pieces of the program, something major would have been lacking.  Thank you so much for helping to create the person that I am and the life I have the opportunity to live today.

Mom Must-Haves, Uncategorized

Mom Must Have: Daisy May Candle Co.

HELLO!!!  It’s been too long, feathered friends.  Between sick kids, teething kids, snow/ice days, sleep regression, and everything else my writing has definitely taken a back seat.  However, I’m making a goal to do a product rave/review once a week.  It’s not the introspective, raw writing that I typically lean toward, but I think it’ll be something new and fun…and maybe associating writing with something less heavy would be a helpful approach to getting me back into the swing of things.

So.  Onward we go!

(Literally as I wrote that:  Pause…baby’s crying.)

(An hour later…)

Daisy May Candle Co.
(with special guest Pink Zebra)
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Product:  Daisy May Candle Co. (Hand-poured soy wax melts)

Scents Available:  *The ones I’ve tried are in bold italics*
Honeysuckle Jasmine
Clary Sage
Sweet Orange Cream
Eucalyptus + Peppermint
Fresh Lemon
Lavender Cucumber Sage
Antique Sandalwood (with Orange, Frankincense, & Bergamot)
White Birch
Very Vanilla
Clean Cotton
Amber + Vanilla Wax Melts (with Sandalwood, Musk, & Cedarwood)
Black Raspberry + Vanilla
Hydrangea
English Garden
Red Ginger + Saffron
Tea Tree + Lemon
*Note:  I purchased English Garden for Valentine’s Day gifts, but I haven’t personally melted them.  They smelled wonderful in the packaging, though!

Feedback:  When I saw this product during my Facebook scroll, I had to give it a try.  A local business of so many of my favorite things?  Yes, please!  I’ve placed two orders so far…one in January…another in February…and I’ll be ordering again in March.  (Until March 9th, you can use this code to buy 2 get 1 free: B2G1FREE.)  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by not only the strength of the scents, but the duration of the scents.  My house is chock-full of large animals, grown kids, a busy toddler, and an adorable baby– all of that fun makes for interesting smells from time to time.  If I’m honest, I’ve struggled to find a product that smells great and is able to fill our main level for any period of time because of the aforementioned reasons and our vaulted ceilings.  Most products would smell amazing, but only in the kitchen (or wherever the warmer is)…and only for a few hours.  My experience with these has been different.  I typically put two cubes in my Pink Zebra Simmering Light (I’ll say more about product this momentarily) and don’t switch them for at least 48 hours.
My absolute favorite is Very Vanilla.  It is VERY AMAZING.  In fact, I’ve had it melting all this morning, and I can smell it alllllll the way in our bedroom.  (I’ll include a picture of the layout of our house so you can see why it’s exciting that I can smell it up here.)

One of the things that I like most about Very Vanilla is its ability to pair with other scents.  For example, one of my favorite combinations is Very Vanilla and Sweet Orange Cream.  (OMG heavenly.)
My least favorite that I’ve tried so far would be Clean Cotton…and not because it doesn’t smell fabulous…but because I didn’t feel like the scent was strong enough to cover all of the other scents in our home.  It would be a wonderful option for a family that has a warmer in a smaller area, likes lighter scents, or doesn’t have so many other scents to mask.
I’ve also mixed these scents with Pink Zebra Sprinkles…which sounds weird to give a shout out to another product in the middle of another review, but you guys want an honest review…right?  Where Pink Zebra has so many amazing scents, they don’t fill my home the way Daisy May Candle Co. does.  BUT, Daisy May gives the Pink Zebra the extra oomph it needs to smell stronger, longer.  A scoop of Black Cherry Sprinkles and a cube of Very Vanilla from DMCC…or a scoop of Meditation Sprinkles and a cube of Eucalyptus + Peppermint DMCC…it really works together well.
img_1923On the topic of Pink Zebra, I use a Simmering Light ($28 for a basic)…which uses a lower temperature bulb so scents last longer.  I’m sure most melting pots or warmers say something along those lines…but I really do love what I use.  And, honestly, one of the determining factors prior to purchase was that you’re able to purchase different shades ($15-18…there are a few really fancy ones for more) to use on the same base.  My white shade looks fabulous everywhere…but if I want a pop of color, I can just order a new shade without having to order a whole new thing…which is pretty cool.
ANYWAY, back to Daisy May Candle Co– I’ve reached out to the owner several times with questions.  Her response time has always been within the hour…and she’s been so helpful in deciding which scents would work best for my needs.  Plus, she’s full of new ideas and seems to be trying out those ideas often.  For example, she gave me the inside scoop on brand new lotion bars (with essential oils) that are in the works…AND an online craft show that she’s organizing through Etsy with over 30 shops interested in participating in an online craft show that has the feeling of a local craft fair with freebies and drawings and freebies and featured shops and F-R-E-E-B-I-E-S.  It’ll be called Fresh Air Marketplace and will hopefully be ready for action mid-April.  So be sure to keep your eye out on the Daisy May Candle Co. Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, etc. for updates on that.

Alright, I think the only thing I have completely failed to mention so far is the price.  Each scent is $4.99 and comes with 6 cubes per container…however, I’ve not yet paid full price for an order…which is just another reason to follow DMCC on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. for those discount codes.  Also, shipping is FREE (no international orders) and my packages have all arrived within 3 days.

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And there you have it!  My house smells great, despite all the craziness we have in here…and I’m thankful for great products to help me out, because it doesn’t matter how much I clean, there will still be smells.  At least now the smells are fabulous.

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Until next time,
xox,
Dani

To order Daisy May Candle Co products, click here!
To order Pink Zebra products, click here!

Fearless Faith, Mission Motherhood, Uncategorized

JOY

WOW.  Putting aside time to write has felt near impossible these past few months.  Between the baby being a baby and the two-year-old being a two-year-old and the seven-year-old actually being very helpful and the dogs and the kitten and my husband also having interests, along with a job to support our not-so-tiny family…when is there time for me to sit at the computer and get my thoughts out?  If I don’t have time to clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, get caught up on laundry, vacuum, or any of the other “housewifey” things that I feel like should be simple tasks to complete– how can I justify spending 45 minutes in front of the computer?  I’d be the first to tell another busy mom (or dad, for that matter) that self-care is not selfish…but when taking my own advice, I obviously struggle.

IT’S A NEW YEAR, FRIENDS!!  Can you believe it!?  2018? 

Like most of everyone, I’d assume, I did some careful reflection over my 2017.  I had a friend suggest to write things that I wanted to thank God for…and, in the midst of a heavy year, I found so many things that were more than worthy of praise.  –In this activity, I had to quickly realize that acknowledging that I’m grateful for events while mourning the death of a loved one does not negate the pain I still feel.  To me, after a few deep breaths, it felt like an unnatural but necessary part of grieving that I likely wouldn’t have taken the time to do had this friend not literally handed me pencil and paper as she posed this question.  Following the question about thanksgiving, she asked: “What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”  …These two questions churned hard in my heart.  For what do I need to give thanks and what do I need to bury to start fresh?  Christians likely think of Jesus’s suffering on the cross, being buried, and raised again to life so that we, too, can have everlasting life.  Atheists, agnostics, and individuals of other religions or beliefs might have an easier time thinking of a tree.  (This was the analogy that I immediately thought of, honestly.)  I’m not even sure if this analogy is true or backed by science, but I heard one time years ago that a tree lets go of its leaves not because they’re unneeded during the fall and winter months, but because their branches would be too heavy to support the weight of the leaves in addition to the ice or snow that often falls during the colder months.  In order for the tree to bear the weight of the snow, it must let go of the leaves grown in the previous season.  It’s because of this defense that the tree keeps its branches and is allowed to produce new leaves and new life each year.

“What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”  

For me, the answer wasn’t one that I wanted to hear…but it was an immediate lump in my throat and I knew that I had to put pen to paper: ego, pride, self-reliance, and comparison.  Between Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and self-help sections and DIY projects, it is so easy to find myself buried in a pile of “oh-my-God-how-am-I-ever-supposed-to-get-all-of-this-done-in-15-minutes-and-the-veggies-are-burning-and-why-is-there-snot-all-over-your-face-son?”  And, instead of asking for help, I’ll look on Pinterest to find ways to make my one person become so efficient that I’m able to complete the tasks of several while still caring for my children and modeling for them the values that I want so badly so soften their hearts in a world that suggests toughening up.  Why do I look on Pinterest?  Why do I ask for recommendations on Facebook about organization and quick meals?  Why do I think I should do it all and why do I think I have to EARN a break by completing everything?  In teaching, I know that students perform better if they’re given frequent breaks.  Why would I think it would be any different as an adult?  I also tell my children regularly, “Do not yell at me.  Do not whine.  If you need help, all you need to do is use your words and ask.  I’d be happy to help.”  I was on the phone with my mom a little over a week ago, and she said, “Dani, why don’t you ask me to help you?  I’d be glad to come watch the kids for a while.  You just need to tell me when you need me.”  My mother in law, aunts, grandma, friends, neighbors, etc. have all said the same thing.  Why is it so hard to ask for help?  Ego.  Pride.  Self-reliance.  “I got it.”  “I can do it.”  Or the worst of all: COMPARISON.  “But I saw on Facebook– SHE has kids…THEY goes on vacations…HER house is clean…HER meals are perfect…THEIR bodies are flawless…SHE is a better mom/wife/Christian/daughter/friend/person than me…THEY ARE BETTER.”  I know I’m not the only one who does this.  Right?  Right.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word to focus on through the upcoming year.   Each year I’ve experienced transformation.  The first year, my word was “INTENTION.”  Year two: “IDENTITY.”  Last year: “PEACE.”  This year: “JOY.”

In the previous years, I’ve mediated and prayed about my word because I wanted to pick the perfect word for the most drastic spiritual transformation.  This year, I didn’t do anything to receive my word.  –I have not been able to get away from my word for MONTHS.  It literally keeps showing up everywhere.  I know, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Christmas was just here…and ‘JOY to the World’ and JOY-this and JOY-that…”  But it’s been more than just the typical Christmastime sightings.  And it started prior to Christmastime festivities.  So my focal word for 2018 is JOY.  As a noun, it’s great…of course: “a feeling of happiness”–but as a verb…that’s truly where I’m going to place my focus: “rejoice.”  Can you imagine how much less stressed and resentful I would feel if I would stop comparing my dirty dishes to yours or hers or his or theirs…and instead took a minute to rejoice?  It sounds hokey.  But I’m going to try it, because it can’t hurt.  I’m going to rejoice in the dishes that show my family has eaten today…Rejoice in the laundry that shows my family has plenty of weather appropriate clothing…Rejoice in the aching shoulders and arms that show my children feel comforted in my care….Rejoice in the many friends and family who offer to help and say YES because self-care is not selfish.  Rejoice in the knowledge that I’m not so important that another person can’t watch my kids or load the dishwasher or fold the laundry…Rejoice in the recognition of some control issues and the ability to ask for help instead of drowning because I refuse to let go of the idea that I can complete everything on my own.  Rejoice in letting the dead leaves fall to the ground (ego, pride, self-reliance, comparison) in order for fresh leaves and new life to emerge (JOY).

 

 

 

joyDo you have a word for 2018?  If you haven’t yet chosen one, I encourage you to choose a word that resonates with your soul.  Choose a word that encourages growth and demands action, but is gentle enough to tuck away at night and allow you to sleep
peacefully.  If you have already chosen a word, I’d love for you to comment with your word.  No explanations.  Just the word.  I believe in support…I believe in the power of prayer…and I believe that the simplicity of a single word can be extraordinarily impactful.

Until I get the chance to write again, from my heart to yours, Happy New Year!

xox,
Dani

Fearless Faith, Mission Motherhood

One Body

Lately I’ve found it difficult to communicate that I feel like I’m currently incompetent in my job.  No one likes admitting a struggle…especially when (in my mind) so many people would be like, “What are you talking about?!  You’re a stay-at-home-mom!  How can you be incompetent at staying home?!”  Well, I have a 7-year-old who is at school during the day, but I’m home with a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old and I feel like I’m drowning.  My entire adult life has been devoted to working with children and learning about children and playing with children and helping and laughing and guiding children.  So in this time that I’m home with my own two children, why is it that I feel like I’m not enough?  Why is it that I feel like I’m unable to provide the consistency, structure, flexibility, and grace that I’d be providing in a classroom?

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I start working when the first kid wakes up…which on some days is 4:00am…some days is 7:00am…  Eventually they nap, and IF I’M LUCKY it’s at the same time…so then I clean…and, by the time I think I have a second to get my thoughts together enough to read or write or take pictures or stare at the wall for 30 minutes– 52 seconds have gone by and one of the kids is awake again.  I typically smell of coffee breath and baby puke…and there have been times when I’ve felt resentful toward each and every living thing in this house– including my children and the dogs…because they are yet another thing that I stress about as I’m drifting to sleep at night:  Do they [the dogs] have food?  Have they had any water today?  Oh my God, I don’t think I let them out after dinner…wait…DID THEY GET FED?  How is October still alive?…but, really, does she have an ear infection?…and what is that rash on her belly?–She is SO old…HOW IS SHE STILL LIVING?  Oh my Jesus, Tommy will be devastated when she dies…I HAVE to make sure I’m the one to find her.  Geez, then what will I do?  I can’t lift her……  I wonder if Tommy gave her meds tonight…because I gave her meds…did I unintentionally overdose her?  Can dogs have kidney failure?  Oh my GOD, Summit had to have just pooped on the floor…No?  THAT was just GAS?!  Uhhhhhhhh why am I not sleeping?!  …DID we overdose October?  I hope she’s okay…Uggggh…I’ll just get up and go check on her…

Does that sound familiar?  I know I’m not the only mom who does this.  I’m sure there are dads that ALSO do this very thing…but not in my house, because my husband can fall asleep in about 45 seconds and will not wake until ready to be woken.  Doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!  I hear EVERYTHING…and, as soon as I’m awake, the cycle of thoughts starts all over again: Please tell me there aren’t wet clothes in the washer…I think I switched them…but I really don’t want them to smell like mildew…I should get up and check…but what if Jett hears me?…wait, when did Indie eat last?…should I just go ahead and feed her while I’m awake?…oh, she’ll be due to eat in 30 minutes or so…I might as well just stay up……

At small group a few weeks ago, we read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26– And, while I’m sure the author did not intend for these words to apply to household roles, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of comfort as I allowed this scripture to sink in.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

–I’d love to say that I immediately relate this piece to my relationship with the world…or with the church…and how I can be Jesus alongside everyone and to everyone because we all have something vital to offer…sometimes what I need to do is bring it down reeeeeally small, put on my egocentric shades, and apply it to where I am right now.  This might not be the case for you, but for this stay-at-home-mom, it’s easy to let my mind drift to:
“Well, I’m not earning a paycheck…”
“Well, I’m home all day…why have I not gotten the laundry caught up?”
“…Why are there still dishes in the sink?  …Why has the vacuum not left the closet in three weeks?  …Why does the bathroom smell like urine and why is there toothpaste residue?”
“Well, I’m home all day…why does my barely-two-year-old not know his colors, shapes, and alphabet?”
“Why is dinner not ready?”
–But, after reading this, I’m trying to give myself more grace and to give God more credit.  I have always felt equipped to work with children…the difference now is that I am working with the same children every minute of every hour of every day for years– and it often feels like there are no true breaks. There’s no clocking out…and my role rarely changes. I am “Mom.” And even though “Mom” wears so many hats, the role is still “Mom.” Everyone in our home has a role…everyone has a job… Is my job any less important because I’m “not earning a paycheck?”  Is my husband’s job any more important because he does?  Am I failing miserably at my job because I’m unable to mark every single task off my to do list every day?…or is my husband failing miserably because he’s continuing to wear clean clothes to work and therefore producing laundry?  …Just as my life would be significantly impacted if my husband suddenly quit his job, his life would be significantly impacted if I suddenly quit mine.  Even when I think I’m getting nothing accomplished, I’m drowning in baby puke, and I’m a lousy excuse as a stay-at-home-mom…I need to remember that: “As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” No single person makes our family the unit that it is– it’s a collective effort from each part to produce one body from our house and transform it into our home.

Isn’t it amazing how a piece of literature from thousands of years ago has the ability to be this breathable document that can provide so much peace and clarity to present day circumstances?–and it might not provide that to anyone else…but, for me, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Has there been an instance in which you’ve stumbled upon the perfect scripture to shine light on a current or past dilemma in your own life? We would love to hear your stories! Feel free to comment below or join our Facebook group of the same name: Birds of a Feather. Thanks for flocking with us!