That happy, sappy, summertime bliss post back in June?
It was total crap.
I needed a way out. An excuse to quit posting, disappear from FB and email, so I could crawl into my cave and curl up there all alone, trembling in fear and darkness.
You might remember I was in a car wreck last April. Wellllll, the real crash happened about 6 weeks later.
It was kinda like when you have a baby – and everyone hovers around you, pampering you, bringing meals, telling you to rest. For about 6 weeks. Then the unspoken expectation is, “buck up, girl! you’re all recovered now – it’s time to get on with real life!”
And we all know what a load of poo that is. I mean, really? Six weeks postpartum I was sleepy, lumpy, droopy, cranky, sweaty, spituppy, and my nipples were raw. Like a late-night, R-rated, horror flick version of the 7 dwarfs, all wrapped up in stretchy pants and dolly-parton-sized nursing bras. You know I’m not remotely exaggerating. Seriously, by my fifth baby, I started asking friends to hold all their loving meals & gifts till 6 weeks AFTER the baby was born. Cause that’s when I try to go back to work & parenting & wifing, and I’m channeling the 7 scary-dwarfs, and all the poo hits the fan.
Annnnyway…I think you get the gist.
Six weeks post-car-wreck I went back to work & parenting & wifing, and that’s when the big crash happened.
It wasn’t all at once, but more of a slow, outta control, spinning, swerving, catapulting of my soul. The fear that has always plagued me, hovering just outta sight behind my back, gradually and fiercely dug talons into my shoulders. Worry became anxiety, anxiety morphed into terror, and terror erupted into paralyzing, debilitating panic attacks. Like, on the highway, my friends. It was not a pretty sight. If you live around Woodland Park and you kept seeing my great big van pulled over on the side of the road back in June?… Yes, that was me, hyperventilating, dry-heaving, and sobbing hysterically because someone simply changed lanes in front of me.
Four months ago I sat across the table from my doctor, bawling my eyes out about chronic pain and paralyzing fear and how hopeless my life was. “You can’t blame it all on the wreck,” he said. “The wreck was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Hmph! Well, who does he think he is??? I was cameling along just fine before getting slammed into at 55 mph on an icy highway! I was managing my load-o-straw perfectly well, thank-you-very-much, and woulda been cameling along still, if not for….
Umm, so yeah. That happened.
Maybe my camel legs were a little wearier than I thought. Maybe that pile of straw I’ve been lugging around was too much, too heavy, too fear-fueled. And the thing is – when that final straw breaks the camel’s back – every last bit of the burden comes crashing down. Whether you want it to or not.
In the last few weeks, by God’s total grace (and with a little help from my doc, my friends, & massage therapy) the fear-fueled anxiety-demon has been declawed.
It was a long, dark, cold winter of a summer.
But things are finally starting to thaw.
You won’t find glossy words of wisdom here. No happily-ever-after, tied-up-with-a-bow kinda ending.
I don’t wanna be that plodding, weary, thirsty camel anymore.
And if I know one thing about my God, it’s that He is in the business of restoration, reformation, resurrection.
He heals my wounds, He forgives my sins, He redeems my life from the pit. His mercy endures forever.
Even if sometimes it feels like a Severe Mercy.
With a little time and space and retrospection…
I see His mercy everywhere.
Mercy that protected me in a potentially devastating car wreck.
Mercy in loving friends to care for my broken soul.
Mercy to bring my cameling days crashing down.
Mercy of relief from the fear-fueled burdens breaking my back.
I’ve started hiking these mountains again, one baby step at a time.
But instead of weary camel-legs, I’m stepping lightly on deer’s feet,
panting and thirsty and refreshed by the Lord.
Didja ever feel like a camel too? What’s the straw that broke your back?
And how did you manage to find your deer’s feet?
“The Glory of God is man fully alive.” Saint Irenaeus
I had a wake-up moment a few years ago. I was depressed and trying to escape from a job I hated so I could spend more time with my kids. The life I had imagined of making a positive change in the world was still a dream I had yet to live out.
I realized that if something didn’t change, I’d be in the same situation, feeling the same misery five years down the road. And that just could not happen.
I declared that day that I would no longer be a model of mediocrity to my children. So I set out to discover my purpose and begin living a more intentional, meaningful life.
When I began really seeking out my purpose, I discovered it was much simpler than I had made it out to be. (Remember though, simple doesn’t necessarily equal easy).
I found that answers I was seeking were ones I already had. They were hidden in memories, tucked away in events or compliments that I tried to shake off. I found them in the talents I had taken for granted and traits that I had learned to disdain.
My desires were also a big part of it. There’s an awesome quote that says, “What you most want to do is what you ought to do.” And I believe it.
I have always had the desire to take care of others and have always found myself saying, “There has to be a better way.” And I just can’t stop myself from telling people what I learn, or taking that knowledge and creating something new and useful with it.
The thing about your calling is that it can manifest itself in many, many ways. It’s discovering who you are, not what job you should have or business you should build. When you have an idea of who you are and what you love to do in every situation, you can apply that to any role you choose. Especially as a mom.
For instance, after much introspection and prayer, I realized that there is an overall theme in my life. I was trying to pinpoint that one thing that I should be doing and saw that there wasn’t just one thing.
I’m passionate about many things, and they all converge on the common themes of healing and going deeper to the root of the problem. And when I approach those things, what I do naturally is nurture, improve, invent and teach.
Part of how I choose to live out my calling is through my writing, because it’s something I love to do. As I pursue it, with the intention of using it to nurture, improve, invent and teach, opportunities presented themselves to make it profitable.
I also live out my calling as a teacher and natural healer. These things make me come alive and that is what this world (and my family) really needs.
If your purpose seems like a mysterious entity buried somewhere you’ll never find, don’t despair. While I can’t promise that you’ll be able to uncover it overnight, I can offer some action steps that will help in the process.
First, write down the desires of your heart. What do you love to do? Even if it’s something that you think is small and insignificant. What have you always wanted to do? What do you always find yourself doing? Do you see a common thread in the things that bring you joy?
Next, take some time alone to pray and think through these. Overnight is best. And it’s a good idea to do it on more than one occasion. Intentional introspection and questioning are essential in this process. Seek. Ask. Knock. Repeat.
Finally, get It’s Your Call by Gary Barkalow, the master of helping people discover their calling. His book is available online or could be in your local or church library. Gary has been blessed with awesome insight into helping people discover what makes them tick.
This part of the process takes a lot of introspection. Intentionally looking into yourself is a big deal and I invite you to take your time doing it. Don’t brush over this step lightly, but don’t get hung up on it either. You can move forward while continually looking inward.
Just take the first step.
Nina Nelson blogs about simple natural living, and the adventures of life in a bus with her four children and amazing husband. Check out her beautiful, peace-seeking, life-giving words at Shalom Mama.
If I hadn’t just experienced it, I would have missed it. Missed the root, I mean.
You, my oldest daughter, eight years of age, began protesting about going to swim practice. Full-blown melt down, I tell you, filled with words like this:
“You’re a mean mommy! If you were a nice mommy you’d let me stay home.”
(Tears) “Why can’t you let me miss just one class?”
“I’m not good enough. Coach Steve said “perfect” to me only once. I am so bad at swimming. Everyone else is better!”
“I’m not going. Ever. Again.”
And my personal favorite: “You don’t understand how I’m feeling!”
Oh, sweet child of mine. I understand all too well. And if I hadn’t been under the thumb of the enemy just yesterday, I would have just chalked all of this up to disobedience. But God is faithful and He doesn’t waste anything, even the bad stuff. He used my own war with the liar to help me spot the lies coursing through your mind. You see, I know that:
You think if you can’t do something perfectly, there is no reason for doing it at all.
You think that if someone else is better at it, you might as well quit because being the best is all there is.
If you hear one comment that you interpret to be negative, that’s all that really matters. Positive comments mean almost nothing when you throw in something that you did wrong, or could have done better.
You see, sweet daughter, I was the first born, too. And I know what it’s like to try to live up to expectations that you will never meet. And that’s why I want differently for you. I wanted you to go to swim practice because you needed to confront the lie that you aren’t good enough and that you’ll never be good enough.
If I had let you skip, that would be like giving into your truth, which is not The Truth.
I want you to know Truth — that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I want you to know that not your earthly father, not your earthly mother, nor your Heavenly Father expect perfection. I’ve learned that one the hard way and it’s a battle you really don’t want to have to fight if you can win it now by knowing real Truth.
I want you to know that it’s a constant struggle for this mother to find the balance between nurturing and pushing you beyond what you see your limitations to be. I’ll naturally push before I’ll nurture and sometimes that will be a mistake, but today, today, I was right. That will happen every now and again.
I want you to know that you are more than what you think you are, not because I am your mother, but because God tells me so. Because God tells you so. It took me decades to realize that I am more than what I do, what I say, and what I look like. A lot of women much older than me still don’t know that. (And to be honest, there are still tons of days that I have to remind myself over and over and over again.)
But I get that you need outside perspective, that you need more than just your mother’s words. So I drag you to swim practice and you stomp your feet and pull your swim cap over your eyes for the third time and I tell you “fine. If you want to quit, you have to tell your coach why.”
And this stops you in your tracks. But we make our way to the coach, who thank God was accessible at that very moment, even though we were late to practice. He sees your tear-stained cheeks and your red eyes and asks to know what’s wrong. I look at you and I know that, momentarily, you are unable to speak. And so I give voice to those ugly lies you told me, knowing (and praying) that Coach Steve will speak the same Truth that I did.
He sits you down on the bench and he takes the floor. “You know,” he says, “I never expect perfection because if you expect yourself to be perfect, you’ll just be letting yourself down. Nobody can be perfect, especially all of the time.”
You nod your head. You know what he means.
“And if you are always comparing yourself to the person in the lane next to you, you’ll find yourself disappointed then, too.”
You’re still nodding. You’re still listening and I see your heart turn to this light.
“This team is about getting better and having fun. Let’s partner you up with a friend and give it another try. What do you say?”
You look at me and I see the Truth has seeped in. When I watch your strong arms complete lap after lap, I smile. When I see you smile and laugh with your friends, I feel the lies losing their grip. Oh, I’m sure they’ll be back another day, but it’s always good to have a victory under your belt, eh?
This I assure you, sweet daughter: I’ve lost too many battles and I’ve wasted so much time, but it can be different for you, just like it’s different for me now.
Let’s link arms and march to victory, shall we?
Jen Ferguson is a mama to two girls and wife to Craig. She’s passionate about raising her girls to know who God says they are and how to live in this world with compassion and grace. Jen also hosts a community called The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood, where women are encouraged to live authentically, deepening their relationship with Christ and each other.
I’m not a very trusting person.
Stuffing and pretending and complaining only get you so far, y’know? And after 44 years of leaping frantically back & forth between control and victimization –
I’m realizing how little I really know about trust.
So I won’t bore you with all the gory details of counseling & fighting & prayer & deliverance – but somewhere along the way God started getting through this suspicious head of mine. Things like –
Control is not the opposite of victimization.
They’re not even on the same scale.
Trust is the opposite of control.
Self-advocacy is the opposite of victimization.
What a revelation.
My goal isn’t control, it’s trust.
And when I feel like a victim, it’s time to practice some self-advocacy.
When I feel outta control, my knee-jerk response has been to race to martyr/victim/forfeit. You know:
“look what you did to me”
“I can’t help it; it’s not my fault”
“I’ve done everything I can”
But things are looking different ’round here these days.
I’m learning to practice self-advocacy. Which means in some ways, I’m being pushier than ever.
I’m also learning to practice trust. Which means, I’m learning to let go like never before.
Those outta control moments are starting to sound more like:
“what’s the worst that could happen?”
“the price of trust is risk; let it go”
“relationship is more important than right”
“there’s nothing God hasn’t loved me thru so far…”
My house is messier. My kids are happier. My husband thinks I’ve lost my mind.
There’s something akin to a free-fall happening here, as I take a flying leap off the cliff of control and leave victimization behind. And yet –
I’m more hopeful than I’ve been in years, and maybe even tasting contentment.
None of it makes a bit of sense, I know. But I’m good with that. Seems to me, most of the good stuff from Jesus is all backwards-math anyway. Those first-will-be-last, love-your-enemies sorta equations, y’know?
I’m still in the thick of discovery. And not really sure about all the steps along the way.
But maybe, just maybe, this is trust.
Where are you on the trust scale? Does that whole control-victimization dash sound like something you struggle with too?
Just so no one has a heart-attack…no, I'm not actually pregnant.
But in a way –
I'm kinda pregnant.
After growing seven babies in my belly, you'd think I'd be plenty weary of pregnancy. I'm no spring chicken either; at 43-ish my body is past the birthing years & cresting the mid-life-crisis hump. And yet, over the past year or so, I keep thinking, and wishing for, and dreaming I'm pregnant.
To help God grow a new life…is just, well, beyond words.
But of course, since this is a blog & all, I'll try to think of a few:
Ummm, how 'bout – empowering, challenging, thrilling, exhausting, energizing, nauseating, aSTOUNDing and pretty much all around terrifying. (I mean, sheesh, who wouldn't want 3 months of morning sickness followed by 3 months of heartburn and then 3 months of waddling with a watermelon under your skin???)
Okay, but obviously there's more to it than that. And I think maybe my recurrent dream about being pregnant is true.
I think God has new life growing in me.
No, not a baby in my belly – but new life, all the same.
It's not much more than a flutter so far; a dream of something incredible and beautiful, eternal even. A mission, a calling, a passion – finally conceived, and swelling within me. I'm not even sure yet about it's name…but I can sense the heart of this baby, and its so much about healing, rescue, empowerment.
So this new life has been implanted in me, right? And I'm all thrilled & scared & expectant. But if I leave it at that, the life won't grow or thrive. Now I've gotta join God in this miraculous process – take my prenatal vitamins, eat well, exercise, rest…
You see what I'm getting at?
Just because God is makin' it happen doesn't mean I'm supposed to sit back & do nothing.
Being a mommy is all about joining God in the miraculous.
Doing my part to nurture & grow the gift of life He has given me.
So this past week I met with an admissions adviser to pursue my master's degree in psychology. Reserved Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort for the inaugural Mommy Sabbatical retreat in May 2014. Dug into the 'Calling Class' with Free Agent Academy. Scheduled a weekend with a business planner & author James Woosley. Created my Collaborative Crew' support team. And tomorrow I head into Donald Miller's Storyline conference in Nashville, TN.
It seems pretty daunting – joining God in this venture, stepping out in faith.
I'm feeling kinda pregnant with it all.
Grow, baby, grow!
Feeling pregnant with anything lately???
Some people call it a mid-life crisis.
I sure wasn't gonna have one. And sheesh, I'm what…42, 43? That's not like mid-life already or anything. That's way down the road.
I definitely didn't see it coming. I mean, who does?
Cause in the middle of yelling at my kids, blaming my husband, being jealous of my friends, resenting my aging body, and killing myself to hold it all together…it felt more like my life just generally sucked, than some identifiable crisis.
Crisis somehow implies a catastrophic event: a volcanic eruption, bomb explosions, flash floods and mud slides…
No, I think what actually happens is a slow, gradual, inevitable deconstruction of life.
What has been needs to make way for what is yet to come.
I'm starting to see a pattern: for alot of us, the mid-life deconstruction happens somewhere in the early to late-forties. Feels too young, doesn't it?
My life is already halfway over? I'm at mid-life?? Mid. Life???
And so here at the end of the world, and the middle of my life, it's time for a new start, a fresh perspective: Reconstruction.
But here's the really crappy, hard truth:
Reconstruction must be preceded by Deconstruction.
I know, genius, right? That's some kinda serious rocket-science logic there.
Obviously, I couldn't see that in the middle of the slow, gradual, not-so-much-of-a-crisis train wreck of my life. Now, with the dust starting to settle, I'm getting a hint of just how far back the train track was deconstructed, just how long ago my life started falling apart, trestle by trestle.
With a little time to let the bruises fade, and the wounds to heal…I get a glimpse of what a mess this train has been for a long while. I was in serious need of some deconstruction!
This mid-life deconstruction is a good thing; I can finally see it now. I've been rattling along for too long, with too many slapped together spare parts, trying my darndest to hold it all together. And now my good Abba God has a shiny new engine for me, and so many boxcars loaded with hope & promise.
Just to be clear – I don't know diddly about trains, or engines, or much of anything mechanical – so obviously, God is gonna be the one makin' it happen.
Thank heavens, cause I am plumb tuckered out of steam, or coal, or whatever it is that makes trains go, and finishes up this silly analogy…
I'm all in pieces here, Lord!
Let the reconstruction begin!
* Steam Locomotive image courtesy of Tom Curtis/freedigitalphotos.net
Caught up in any train wrecks lately? C'mon…spill it…don't leave me hangin' here deconstructed, all alone…
I used to think Makin' It Happen was all about me.
Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, right?
I'm the master of my own fate!
If its gonna be, its up to me…
And yet, when I finally let go of all the trying & straining & stressing & pushing –
God started making things happen.
Everything's getting golden around here. The Aspens are starting to change, and just like every fall, I'm awestruck by the glowing beauty of yellow and orange leaves quaking in the wind.
Our western culture would say those Aspens sure worked hard to get so glorious!
Ummm, yeah. Sure.
Why is it we so clearly see the mighty Hand of God in creation…and yet think our personal lives are in our own small hands?
Seriously, it just doesn't make sense. As much as I wanna believe it, and so often live like it – I'm really not God.
Now don't start with the whole, "God can't move a parked car…ya gotta get yer engine goin…" Cause, duh, I know. I'm not suggesting a life of apathy & paralysis. Just wondering if all our cultural focus on taking-the-bull-by-the-horns is more bull#### than truth.
All I know is I got to the point of being so. stinkin. exhausted.
And then I sorta gave up. Cried alot, ate too many potato chips, quit running, stopped blogging, and mourned the loss of so many self-aggrandizing dreams.
Through the cold, dark winter, my cry to God was desperate & simple:
I've spent so many years trying to transform myself. Be thinner, act nicer, get smarter, serve better, make your life happen, girl.
And when I finally said, "screw it; this whole change-myself project has officially failed, and I'm sending it to the shredder" —
when I finally laid back & cried & got off the treadmill, and admitted that I couldn't heal myself, fix myself, or transform myself….
God started making things happen.
Yeah, I had to 'allow' Him in. I had to come to that place of utter helplessness & defeat. I had to cry out for Jesus. But I didn't make it happen, y'know?
And now, seriously? I'm a little bit of a lot of transformed.
There are so many new, exciting, frightening, overwhelming, beautiful new paths ahead of me, my head is spinning! In alotta ways…it feels like a new life is opening up for me. And I didn't make it happen.
'Course now the challenge is to stay in this trusting, released place, where I remember that God is God, and I am not. Cause there's a whole lotta stuff to get done, as I venture forward onto these new paths.
I'm pretty damn scared.
Definitely more free.
And hopeful like I've not been in…maybe forever.
So yeah, I'm gonna risk typing again. But this time in a transformed kinda way.
Here's a shout-out to God,
for Makin It Happen.
How's God Makin It Happen in your neck of the woods?
The healing journey is mostly a long, slow, arduous path.
Alone, ashamed, convinced its all up to me; rushing forward, then collapsing exhausted. Tripping and stumbling through briers and mud and dark valleys, it feels like I'll never find that light at the end of the tunnel.
Somewhere in the depths, I begin to get it:
I don't have to see the light at the end of the tunnel,
I just have to believe its there.
No sooner does my heart accept this truth, than I sense a glimmer, bringing light to my despair-blinded eyes. And suddenly, in a rush, propelled forward by His grace…light shines all around.
Twelve weeks: Classes, counseling, healing prayer, more counseling, more prayer…little God-appointed, coincidence-miracles all along the way. And I find myself in a different place.
Crying out, still – but now, seeing His face.
Fast forward twelve weeks:
Hope shines bright.
Are you in a season of crying out? Praying for that Fast-Forward?
There were dark days this winter.
Endless mornings of bitter cold and dim light; wishing I could stay curled up in bed and avoid the drudgery of housework, chasing after little ones, laundry, bills, home school lessons… Each day so much the same as the one before, mind-numbing with repetitiveness.
Nothing to complain about; everything to be thankful for. But gratitude evaded me. The bitterness of a critical spirit kept my teeth on edge and my head aching with disappointment, resentment, exhaustion.
I slept for hours, yet never rested. Painted on a happy-holidays smile, but remained hollow inside. Lost the motivation to get up, get out, get along with anyone or anything. Heart sickness drug me down, deeper & deeper, until physical sickness took hold. Strep, flu, sinus infection…
I left the doctor's office with a prescription for antibiotics, and a strange new diagnosis: S.A.D. (No kidding, doc – I'm sad. Tell me something I don't know!) A step beyond the winter blues, Seasonal Affective Disorder can you leave you feeling lethargic, tearful, apathetic, depressed. And it all made sense – the chilling lowlight of winter sun in our mountain home, depletion of immunity-building vitamin D in my body, cold temperatures keeping me indoors & away from sun exposure & exercise & alone time & prayer…
I was suffering from lack of sun exposure, no doubt. And along with that –
I was suffering from lack of Son exposure.
I would crawl into bed at night and cry to my husband:
"There's just no light at the end of the tunnel!"
From November thru February, the bleak words repeated in my head, tumbled hopelessly from my lips:
"Just. no. light. at the end of the tunnel."
Darkness so black, so endless, I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.
And then the Cross crashed in.
No, not with blinding light or burning bushes…
the cross crashed in with a simple, quiet voice in my head:
You don't need to see the light at the end of the tunnel;
You just need to have faith it's there.
It was still dark. I didn't see the light. But I believed it was there.
And maybe with a little help from vitamin D supplements, and working with a counselor, and forcing myself to get outside…
things got brighter, bit by teeny-tiny bit.
We got over a foot of snow this past weekend. It was so cold, cloudy, dim.
But today dawned bright & sunshiny warm.
There will still be dark days. Days when I've gotta choose to have faith in that Light I can't see. But for now,
there's Light at the end of the tunnel.
I've spent years striving to be remarkable.
Ever grasping for brightness, for that always-out-of-reach glow.
Not just another dancer; I wanted more than corps-de-ballet.
Didn't settle for singing in the choir; I had to become the soloist.
English class? Nothing but straight A's & top honors.
Poetry contest? I'll win that scholarship, thank-you-very-much.
Stage productions? A leading role, or I'll move on to another company!
My marriage had to be fairy-tale bliss; my children the picture of perfection & delight.
Gotta stay fit & trim,
keep the house tidy,
impress the in-laws,
please the friends:
keep working, working,
working to be,
Wholly crap, people. I'm exhausted.
And I've finally figured out what you've known all along…
So much wasted time & energy, trying to shine, trying to be so special, so radiant. But the real me? All by myself? I'm kinda dull & weary. Crabby, controlling, critical.
Ironically, most of my works are faith-related.
To be a godly wife, a devoted mother, above-rubies and all that.
The Proverbs 31 woman, y'know?
Okay, except without the up-at-dawn part. But even there, we all feel a little guilty for it, don't we? Sleeping in? Not getting up to knit socks & make five-course breakfasts before the sun rises? I mean, seriously, who can measure up???
What a relief to discover I don't have to. I never will.
God didn't create me to be perfect, only to be perfected.
What a relief to discover I'm not supposed to be remarkable after all. Ordinary is just the place He wants me to be:
Clearing breakfast dishes with a toddler on my hip.
Endlessly picking up Legos from the living room floor.
Driving my daughter to & from youth group.
Laughing at the antics of my boys on the trampoline.
Scowling & scolding when it turns into a wrestling match.
Bending, cleaning, reaching, cooking, holding, fussing, loving.
Nothing remarkable about it.
Everything remarkable about it.
The remarkable of what God has done.
With ordinary me, He has brought forth this home of laughter & struggle & heartbreak & repentance & forgiveness & love, so much Love.
Through ordinary me, He birthed these 7 amazing children; filled with imperfections & beauty & fun & frustration & redemption & love, so much Love.
Despite ordinary me, He grows a marriage, from roots of control & fear, to branches of commitment, and blossoms of hope & humility & vulnerability & courage & love, so much Love.
I've not been created for perfection, only for perfecting.
How strange that I've spent years striving to be remarkable for God.
He is the only remarkable in me.
Ordinary, unremarkable me.
Linking up with Lisa-Jo and Five-Minute-Friday.
And just for the record…I always cheat. The basic writing might take 5 minutes, but yeah, I go back & edit & add links & all that jazz. Still tryin' too hard to be remarkable, I know. So c'mon, cut me some slack. I'm in recovery, 'kay???