I’ve spent the weekend internalizing this last year, trying to figure out what I’ve learned and how it could propel me forward (mostly because I spent the weekend on the couch, sick). Normally I’d be making all kinds of lists and trying to figure out how to better structure my life with great hopes of making all the changes in January. Instead, I’ve been reviewing this last year and making mental notes of things I learned from different phases in 2015.
Saying No to good things is sometimes a necessity. It’s extremely hard for me to pull out of something I’m committed to, which I think in most cases is a good thing. Commitment is good. But sometimes God does this very unusual prodding that looks way different than anyone else thinks it should. And this year has been one of those cases for me. I’ve been praying and praying through something, and begging God to change my mind or give me a different perspective, only to come to the realization that I think He actually meant for me to come to this conclusion, the conclusion to lessen some ministry loads in our family, and to actually voice the need for help in some specific areas. Church planting is hard, especially for those who’ve been there from the beginning, because you feel this pressure to fulfill all the roles and to never mention the need for a break. But in releasing some responsibility, it actually allows the church to come together to fill in the gaps and it’s such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ. It’s hard for me to admit when I’ve hit a wall and feel like I can’t go on, because I’m so afraid of letting people down and wondering what people will think. But the bottom line for us lately has been to be needy before God and to see the Church do it’s thing. To allow ourselves not to think we are so special that we are the only ones who can do this or that, but to see God take care of the details.
There is more than one “empty nest” season in a mother’s life. I never even imagined that I would feel this very strange thing when all my children were off to school. I always thought it would feel so good to have the house to myself and get things done on my own and then be ready for the kids when they get home from school. Ah, but this year has taught me otherwise. I’ve realized that for me, homemaking has been most enjoyable when my loved people are around me. It feels purposeful and intentional when there are warm bodies around to actually serve. But now the work I do at home has started to feel somewhat empty and meaningless. And of course ultimately it’s purposeful and meaningful–the family loves and needs clean clothes, they love to sit their bottoms down on a clean potty, and they love eating. But because I do like to be alone, I thought I would enjoy providing these things for them while I’m left alone to my own thoughts and plans. But alas, I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t worked out quite like that. So there’s a ton to be learned here. I know God will grow me in this area and will bring things into my life that feel purposeful and intentional, but these are just the real struggles of an early empty-nest feeling.
The struggle of adolescence is real. I do remember being a pre-teen and a teenager, and I do remember being irritating just for the sake of being irritating, but I may have always assumed that my children would never be like that. Ha! Life with a pre-teen fast approaching being a teenager has been quite interesting. Mostly it’s fun and silly and goofy, but often Luke and I just look at each like “who is this kid and what did she do with my daughter?” I really feel like by the time we’re past this phase with Landis we will be experts, which is so sad because by then no one will really need our expertise. All I can say is I’m trying to learn how to get through this phase with grace, and how to help her get through it with grace too. I’ve seen myself react on far too many occasions where it would have been more helpful to just listen and wait.
I say yes to snuggles. I’ve realized this year that my babies are getting so big, and the snuggling days are few and far between. So when my little guy comes and asks me to snuggle in my bed, I drop everything. I mean I will literally turn off all the burners while I’m cooking to go snuggle for five minutes with Landis. Because I have no idea if it’s gonna be the last time he will ever ask and I want to soak it all up. The same is true now when he asks me to carry him upstairs before bed. He’s 6 and he’s big and heavy, but I still do it when he asks because it’s not forever, and before I know it he will have a beard and stink way more. So I’m learning to savor these moments (with the girls too, of course).
Postpartum Depression seems to also occur upon the arrival of a new puppy. Now I’m sure there is no scientific data to back me up on this point, but I’m pretty sure I spiraled downhill for about a month while caring for a puppy. It started with three nights straight of no sleeping due to a puppy that cried 100 % of those first nights, followed by cleaning up poop and pee constantly and watching the puppy like a hawk and always rushing him outside and always thinking he was peeing somewhere, it was kind of insane. I really thought my life was over as I had known it–I felt like I was maybe enjoying it and then bam! we get a dog. Of course I’m glad he’s ours and he’s pretty much potty trained now and does get into trouble but offers lots of snuggles and therapeutic fur, so it’s all good. He’s definitely a people-person, if you can call a dog that, but has one very alarming and scary bark, so beware.
In times of Loneliness, Jesus is near. I think loneliness is such a weird word, because it totally implies that there are no people around, but that just isn’t the case. I hate admitting it, I hate talking about it, because I have so many people in my life that it makes me feel guilty when I feel lonely. But the truth is, this has been a year of feeling lonely. I’m sure I could write a million things about why I think I feel this way, the root causes, what’s wrong with my thinking and what’s right with my thinking, but I’ll just say that Jesus is so near. If I’ve experienced loneliness just to lean on Him more than it’s worth it, even if it’s hard. There’s been so much comfort from Him, He speaks to my soul and uplifts my spirits, and His Word definitely hits my heart like an arrow. I’ve found comfort in knowing that He is acquainted with all my sorrows, no matter how big or small. Sometimes my path just feels lonely, even though a sweet someone told me she thought I walked a brave path. It doesn’t always feel brave. Sometimes it feels unsafe and unexplainable and distant from everyone else. But it’s where we are and Jesus is near. So it’s good.
Sometimes I waste time doing things that I don’t love. Well, you can’t always love every moment of what you do (like cleaning out the garage or picking up puppy poop, both of which simply have to be done). But I think in the past I’ve picked up hobbies here and there that other people love and I admire so I learn them and do them for a time because it seems fun and then we have something in common, but after a while I put it away. This last year I honestly don’t think I did a single hobby or craft or project. I’m trying to remember if I even got out my sewing machine once. Somehow I lost all inspiration and I wonder now if it’s because I’ve chosen to do so many things throughout the years that other people love, but that maybe I just don’t love personally, that I ultimately have no idea what I love! Not to say that it’s all been a waste, of course not. It’s been great to learn different things, and I may pick them up again. But I think I’m learning to be more discerning about what I chose to do and make sure it’s something that I personally enjoy, and not something that I just admire in someone else so I feel like I should do it too. I think this could be a potential problem with scrolling instagram and pinterest when I notice everything cute and pretty about other people’s homes or interests and then wonder if I should do it too. The point is, I’m learning to pay attention to what I really enjoy and then do that.
I’m sure there are so many more lessons to be learned from 2015, but I think this just about sums it up. Now I’m off to start thinking forward into 2016.
(linking up over at Emily P. Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky.)