A Better Burden

I’m on my second cup of coffee and it’s well before 7 a.m.  I’ve woken up at 5 without an alarm for the second morning in a row.  This is unusual.  My stomach flirts with the idea of rejecting the scalding black liquid I keep sending down into it because it wants to be asleep like my teenagers are, but I keep on sipping.

Being awake turns out to be what I need.  Now I can think in straight lines.  The breath of the box fan tethers my brain to the real, though, if I’m honest, the real isn’t strictly better than the dreams.

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The world has lost its mind, like I’m sometimes sure I’m losing mine, and this forces me to ponder Things That Matter. Should I have had another baby, I wonder, now that the kids are stretching toward adulthood like the potted ivy on my side table?  (There is nothing like housing a human in one’s core to realign everything).  But there’s the self-destructing world–that giant live coal that blisters our souls as we walk on it.  There’s us.

And that’s when I realize I’ve been tired for a long, long time.

I reach for my coffee mug, but this time my stomach is not playing around.  I need more than caffeine can offer anyway.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” he says to me, to us.

I fill up my lungs, let the air out slow.  I close my rusted eyes and choose to believe Him again.

(This).

When Not to Worry

DSC_0919When we become mothers, women who were once carefree or serious or focused find ourselves turning angsty over all that could go wrong in the lives of our children.  We seem to stress in direct proportion to how big we feel our job is.

And I think we all agree:  it’s big.

In earlier generations, moms cared about their kids but didn’t assume they needed to be their little darlings’ entire universes.  Frankly, they didn’t think it was healthy for the kids or themselves.  But add busier-than-ever parents plus guilt plus more things to worry about (thank you, Internet.  No, really) and you’ve got a recipe for defensive, burned-out mothering from the word go.

Homeschooling does not make a mom immune to inner and outer kvetching.  It can help to turn down the temperature on our worries in some ways, only because we’re spending a lot of time with our kids, and we can sort-of take stock of how they’re doing throughout the day.  But it also presents a whole new list of things to question whether we (and they) are doing well.

In spite of all that, I’m happy with the way this school-and-mothering year is unfolding.  My oldest son turns 14 tomorrow.  I have another one who’ll be 13 in the blink of an eye, and an 11-year-old daughter who looks like a freshman.  We have had, and will have, our fair share of difficulties, new things about which to wonder, problems that will arise.

Believe me, I know.

But, looking back, lots of my parenting worries throughout the last fourteen years have not come true.  Most haven’t, in fact.  The kids are doing well, by the grace of God.  They’re turning out in spite of my failures both as a teacher and as a mom.

I want to offer encouragement in case some of you have younger kids and are tempted to worry, too.  Just keep showing up, loving them, praying for them, enjoying the time you have with them as much as is possible.

Refuse to give in to the temptation to fret.

In the end, most of what you worry about won’t come true.  And, honestly, even if some of it does, it will still be OK.

On Bearing Burdens

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I woke up this morning with a whirling mind and bruised heart so that it felt like I hadn’t slept at all last night.

My mood further plummeted when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to mull over what’s burdening me in order to mentally work it out.  I’m a writer and a teacher and I have to be emotionally present and alert to do my job(s) well.  And these weighty thoughts are like mental sludge in my brain pipes.

So what will I do in the next eighteen hours?

I’ll pray every time the heavy thoughts come up today.  Like a ninja.  My problems are beyond me, but not God.

I’ll make a list of the things I have to accomplish in the next several hours.

I’ll follow that list, checking things off as I get them done without trying to decide in the moment what  comes next.

I’ll listen to music when I’m not teaching or writing.  Few things focus my mind more than hearing songs and lyrics I love.

I’ll exercise at some point, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

I’ll remind myself that today will last for exactly 24 hours like its ancestors before it.  It’ll pass.  It has to.

Finally, I’ll get on with life because that’s what mothers do.

How do you cope with burdens you can’t seem to permanently offload? 

Going On An (Information) Diet–Starving Distraction to Gain Peace

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I’ve been thinking a lot about peace these days, what it means to me and my family, how to hang on to it over the long-haul.  I’m a Christian, so I understand peace to be, ultimately, about the Prince of Peace, Jesus.  He’s who we’re singing about in all those carols this time of year, and remembering that helps me to breathe in the midst of the season’s festivities.  Entering into and nurturing a relationship with him is, I’ve discovered, the starting point to a fundamentally different kind of (peace-filled) existence.

Still, we all do things–year round–that sabotage our personal peace, things that end up affecting not just ourselves but our families and friends as well.  The number one way I work against myself in my quest to maintain a peaceful heart and home?

I consume too much media. 

We’ve all heard it; the human brain can store only so much information.  Yet never before have we humans had the ability to access as many important facts, hybrid lies, complete lies, and useless info-bits at the click of a button.  And I have a confession:  I love it.  Even if I can see that some Internet “fact” is a lie, it’s all good.  In that case, I can bookmark it, text it to my sister, and get the particular pleasure of discussing just how much of a lie said fact is.

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But a funny thing happens to me after too much engagement online, whether it’s social media, news websites, or blogs–I find that I can’t concentrate on my real life, and I get anxious.  The actual goings-on of my day get upstaged by the vague chatter in my brain as it tries to process enough (mostly mindless) info to last me a month, maybe a year.  I lose patience when my son tries to tell me about some world he discovered in Minecraft because I don’t have the mental space to receive One More Piece of Info.  This is sad because often he uses the sharing of factoids to jump-start deeper, more meaningful conversations with me.  I know all this.  Still, when he starts in, my brain screams no mas.

And then, when it’s dark news stories I’ve been consuming, I find myself replaying horrifying scenes in my mind, ad infinitum.  Even though I know that most of the time, a). I don’t have all the facts in order to ascertain the complete truth in a news story, and, b). I can’t help the situation, other than to pray, still I can’t shut the fretting off.  Then, as I worry about things I can’t change, I’m rendered useless to effect change in the ways I can.

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Now, since I have no plans to go permanently dark on the Internet (I work from home, after all), I’ve had to come up with other ways to mitigate the effects of media on my mind and in my home.  I’m not always faithful to stick to my resolution since information is to me like molten lava cake is to others.  Still, these things have helped:

I limit my exposure to social media.  I’m not a member of 50 different sites so I don’t have a ton of checking to do anyway.  When I do want to check a social site, I give myself two minutes or less on it if I don’t have any notifications that indicate something’s changed.  And if something has changed, I try to limit myself to ten minutes, tops.

I consume very little news.  Virtually none, to be honest.  It’s impossible to avoid headlines and I find that I can sort-of stay up on major events that way.  But any more info than a casual glance affords is too much for my anxious heart.  I try to pray for local, national, and world issues as they come to my mind but I do not spend time thinking about things over which I have no control.  This is a biggie for me.

Is my heart a perfect oasis of peace these days?  No.  Do I spend too much time thinking about things that have no real bearing on my actual life?  Sometimes.  But I’m working on it and it’s making a difference.

Is there any chance that cutting back on media consumption might help you too?