Monthly Archives: January 2023

Flurries

The kids were disappointed to not have a snow day yesterday. I was too, but we quickly got over it as one by one we made our ways out the door. First Dad and Elianna, then Ethan, then me with the younger ones. I still make our oldest son breakfast most mornings. He’s the main one who ever seems hungry enough for food then.

My daughter is usually in the kitchen before me and makes up her own. I’ve heard stories about how much teenagers eat. It’s one of those mysteries about the world I don’t understand. To me, stomachs are only so big and only meant to hold so much. I really don’t question it. I just keep making eggs, toast, and oatmeal on occasion.

“Mom? How come it’s been snowing all day and the snow outside still isn’t piling up?” I don’t know the answer to that one either. “That’s what happens when there’s flurries”, was the best I could do, unaware of my grammar. How softly they dance, this way and that, with no other purpose but to descend from midair and bring joy.

Luteal

This feels like a post that needs a TMI disclaimer right from the get go, meaning, if you’re going to read any further, then prepare to be exposed to thoughts and information that you may or may not be better off not knowing. That being said, don’t get your hopes up or start to thinking that I’m about to say anything incredibly new or enlightening. We’ve been saying this for years.

Women have this thing where we are influenced by the hormones that produce our monthly cycles. God created our bodies to go through the same four phases of this cycle month after month, year after year, for as long as he wills. This is God’s design for us, and at the same time, it can be exhausting to have to be so mindful and managing of yourself, as is needed in phases prolonged.

I’ve described it at times as your skin being gone. Over the course of 10-12 days, there is this slow regression of the outer body layer that covers your most sensitive nerves. Your heart is exposed, your nerves, your joints, everything that is normally padded and covered is now out in the open. Anything you’ve been dealing with, not dealing with, it’s all right there saying, “Ok, deal with me.”

Every month we have to do this, to be the most self-controlled in our most weakened state. Prior to this, if your toes get stepped on, if something rubs you the wrong way, you have that wonderful protective layer of the body there to mitigate pain and damage. “It happens”, you say, “We’re human”, as we surely are. It really didn’t bother you that much, because in the moment, it wasn’t hurtful.

And so it’s going to get brought up. Or maybe it won’t. You start to learn which things are worth saying and which things aren’t going to get you anywhere but distanced. Sometimes you learn how to bring things up in a kinder, less offensive way. Sometimes things simply don’t bother you like they used to because the true and repeated dealing with things fosters love and affection.

Station

It hasn’t really snowed much this winter. The small accumulation we awoke to this morning was gone by the end of the church, with the precipitation having turned by then into faint rain. The big kids had a lunch get-together with camp friends at the local Mexican restaurant. The rest of us met up with my in-laws, a weekly post-church activity that’s been part of our family routine for years.

My father-in-law is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Back in September he was diagnosed with stage four cancer, a sarcoma in his leg that had metastasized to his lungs. He travels to St. Louis every three weeks for treatments. His treatments have become a regular topic of conversation, as we catch up on how he’s been doing and feeling. He’s had five of them so far.

Our sis chat has been quieter. We go through these periods every so often where we don’t talk or text as much. We get busy with our families, especially on weekends. I worked on a journal article review that was due Saturday night while Dad and Ethan had a men’s retreat. The other kids joined up with them during meal times, a true perk of living here. After a cleaning time, they played.

Frail

This morning I read an email that better put into words what exactly I’m trying to get at when I talk about the practice of choosing a word for the new year. This quote is from Vaneetha Risner, an author whose every-few-months emails I’ve read fairly regularly for several years. On choosing a word, Vaneetha writes, “For me its not a self-help project or a resolution I can keep myself. My word is something I cannot do on my own but need God to do in me. It represents what I sense the Holy Spirit is nudging me to pray about, a work that God has already begun, a word that signifies my willingness to cooperate with what God is doing in my life.”

Her word this year was actually a phrase: Love Well. It’s been bothering me that in my word post I didn’t actually come out and clearly say what I meant regarding what my word was. When I wrote that post I was still kind of hoping that I’d land on a word, that something would jump out at me as if to say, “Yes, this is it.” I don’t like the word “firm” as a new year’s word. Balance didn’t end up working out because new words came to mind in its place, words that felt like they were the words that balance was pointing to. In the church I used to attend as a child, the men and women in prayer meetings would often reference their “year verse”.

So that’s what I have for this year. A verse. The verse comes from the second half of Psalm 40:2, which in the NIV translation states, “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” With this verse comes many words that support it including firm, stable, solid, constant, steady, and grounded, and all together then those are words that I like. The skies were pretty grey today, as they have been lately. It doesn’t effect my mood as much, but it does effect my energy, making me tired and just overall slower. I was thankful today for a comfortable life, where I have a home, space, and opportunity to take time to rest if I need it.

Tables

The schoolwork is starting to pick back up again. Monday night we had our first pop reading quiz. This is my first class with this particular teacher, who is known for being the most strict of all of them. The program has three full-time professors, and is currently looking for a fourth. I haven’t actually counted, but I’d say this is more of a medium-sized class compared with the class sizes I’ve had in the other semesters.

Four men, and maybe twelve women. Because I started in the spring, I go back and forth between core groups, that is, groups of students who began the program in the fall. My first semester I was with the group that started in Fall of 2021. For the fall semester I was with a different group, the group just starting in Fall of 2022. I got used to being with them, a smaller group of women more my age who I got to know a little more.

So I do miss them, but I like this group too. For this class, the last hour from 9-10 is when we split into two groups for our family therapy role-play sessions. This week I was one of the two therapists counseling a family; a husband, wife, and two teenagers. You’re half-way on your own just making things up, and half-way being coached by the teacher when you get stuck. Next I switch to playing the Dad for a few weeks.

Firm

“…he set my feet upon a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand…”
~Psalm 40:2~

Last year my word for the year was “secure”. I liked that word and found it helpful for reiterating things I’d been learning in the prior year regarding establishing a “secure” connection not only within one’s self, but also with others, with our primary relationship being the one we have with God. I’ve been trying to think of a new word for the year, and originally thought this year’s word would be “balance”.

Normally when I hear this word it’s in the context of speaking of “finding balance”, applying proper proportions to the required occurrences in your life. For example, someone might speak of wanting to find balance between their work and home life. As a wife, mom, or member of a family, there is the balance of encouraging yourself and others towards growth, while also maintaining realistic expectations.

I’ve often envisioned with balance the act of walking a tight rope. With such a narrow object to walk on, the potential to fall or become off-balance is high. You have to be careful. You have to make sure you’re not leaning too far in either direction. On a narrow strip your arms are held out to the sides, assisting you in keeping your body upright. Balance in this way requires persistence in concentration.

But the balance I was thinking of when I thought of that word didn’t include that more careful kind of balance. It was not the horizontal type of balance that you would see with a seesaw, parallel to the ground holding two equal weights. It was a vertical balance between the heavens and the depths, with a way that wasn’t narrow, but open and wide, and firm beneath my feet. It was the balance of walking on solid ground.

It was the balance of two feet firmly planted on the earth, the place that we were given where we might live and walk with God. It is here he brings us down from all impaired and skewed visions, the opinions of ourselves that were sickeningly lofty. And it is also here where he raises up, bringing correction to assessments that were far too low. So as I don’t have a word, I have a verse, a new song I can learn.

Keep

The kids and I spent some time cleaning this morning. Dad had a board meeting he needed to prepare for, and the oldest had a pre-season baseball practice. The schoolroom is still getting put back together from Christmas, but earlier when I went down there it looked pretty good. The boys straightened the mudroom and my daughter dusted and decluttered the piano.

All of us worked on the living room. I dusted and straightened the book shelf and brought some order to my numerous piles that live beside the couch. There were things to throw away including articles I no longer needed and homeschool workbooks I decided I could part with. I cleared an entire shelf of homeschool books and had the boys take them to the shelves downstairs.

This gave me a place to put some of my school books and tidy up my corner. When life allows, January does seem to be a good month for reordering. I set a January goal for 5,000 steps a day, if I feel good. Most days I’ve felt good and have gotten the steps in, either by walking outside or stopping by the Y after dropping off the boys. I prefer the combination of both methods.

Today on my walk my mind meandered to a January prior. Halfway through the month I thought I was starting to feel better until again I was worse. Josh brought me something to eat and I tried to eat and couldn’t stomach whatever it was. I was in the bed downstairs, wondering how on earth I could feel so bad and not having to be in the hospital. I was impaired beyond knowing.

But I’d worked in hospitals and knew what they were like. Unless there was some kind of acute malfunction they were treating, there wouldn’t be anything they could do for me there. But even someone to monitor, to be aware of what was happening. In the hospital you encourage your post-op and able patients to move, to sit up in a chair, to walk down the hall even if it is hard.

“I have to sit up in a chair”, I thought, and arranged myself in a chair on the deck where the sun could work to stabilize my serotonin or do something to help me. The act of doing that was so difficult, with my chest feeling like it was being pushed into the chair. Though outwardly calm, inwardly I was so upset that I had let myself come to this, that I couldn’t even sit up in a chair anymore.

I called my parents, asking them to come get me. I spent my time there in my sister’s room. I slept in her bed and she slept on an air mattress. When I slept I slept to sounds of rain. One night I woke her up and asked if she could play some music. I called her while I was out for my walk. She was at my sister’s house. They were face-timing last summer’s foreign exchange student from France.

Trails

Today was cloudy and grey outside, but yesterday was nice. The younger boys and I went on a walk to the beach. We walked a small part of the beach trail toward the pine forests. Across the lake there are three official property pine forests: Pine Forest I, Pine Forest II, and Pine Forest III. Their existence is owed to (besides God creating and sustaining them daily) a man from southern Illinois who led a boy scout project to plant them.

We turned around before the bridge. We found a new fallen tree that had been recently visited by a beaver. I don’t like walking on the trail by myself anymore, hindered by fears and uncertainties of if I couldn’t get back. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but for a while it seemed camp was a place that anybody just came to. People just drive on by the office and house, find a place to park, then disappear to fish and go for hikes.

Dad and the boys came home just about the time I was setting pickles on their plates. I’d made grilled ham and cheese for lunch, pausing an online lecture at noon to make sure I had enough time. They walked in saying how they’d been talking on the way home wondering what food I’d made this time. It made me happy, as it does when I have gifted toward joy. I wondered if this is what it was like to be restored to your first love.

Meek

“…for they shall inherit the earth.”
~Matthew 5:5~

Everybody is back to school now. Yesterday was my first night returning after a much needed and very much enjoyed break from obligations and assignments of the academic kind. All in all I loved last semester, but I was also tired by the end. I am currently not at all looking forward to continuing with the online board posts and responses. I have one more semester long online class and then I am done with those. The rest continue to be the 8-week quarter classes. I like having the quarters.

Tonight again we watched the latest episode of The Chosen. So far I’ve still been liking the show. It can feel risky giving opinions on things because you never know how certain shows are going to develop. It does start to feel a little much at times with the way the livestreams or social media accounts emphasize the emotional responses of the viewers. To highlight the emotion takes away from the scene or the story that produced it.

Yet we do this at times. I do think, at times, it rightly human to do so. To say, “I cried five different times”, or “this brought me to tears” is to offer up evidence in the most accurate, intimate, and verifiable way. The tears are proof that something inside us has happened. What the show continues to do very well is portray the fallen human condition in an accurate, intimate, and still pitiable way, so that in some sense we are given “eyes”, a glimpse into the heart of God himself.

Song

For the past almost two years I’ve been listening to the piano music of Dan Musselman daily. The first album I started with is called Healing: Two Hours of Instrumental Worship. When I no longer listened to it at night before bed, I played sections throughout the day, over and over. Last year he came out with an album called Calm which I also have listened to almost daily and continue to play as my day to day background music. His music has been a blessing to me.

Recently on his Instagram he announced a new album called Peaceful Piano Worship. He says it is based on the music he listened to from Spotify’s Peaceful Piano playlist. Inspired by his post I searched for a peaceful piano worship playlist on Spotify. Since then I have enjoyed the hearing again of so many worship songs from the period of time when I was in high school, when worship music was a regular part of my life. I remembered songs I hadn’t heard in years.

Sometimes worship music gets made fun of and put down. I understand the concerns about it. I’ve also been one who loves to sing these kinds of songs, and I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about them that feels like your soul is being freed to speak the words we’ve been created to sing and speak for the entirety of our lives. There are songs you sing about God, and there are songs you sing to God, directly to him. The best ones are the ones you sing straight to him.