between the worlds

We often joke in our household that no one would believe what actually happens here. We joke that we should have our own reality TV show, though ultimately we’re not interested. Sometimes stuff happens here which simply couldn’t be planned or scripted. Okay, most of the time this is the reality of our home, and probably true of yours as well.

I think about life within the four walls of our home quite frequently. It’s a busy place because of our business, but it’s also busy because we’re open to people.

When we were trying to figure out which house we were going to live in on this farm, I naturally had my heart set on the farmhouse. The little house just felt too small. The bigger house would have allowed for more people, easier entertaining, a more comfortable space. But Grandpa and Grandma were a little overwhelmed with moving, so they asked to stay in the farmhouse. Moving is overwhelming as a young person, and I can’t imagine how it feels to a mid-80’s person!

When we were trying to figure out where my dad  would live when he was ready to be closer to one of his children, I knew our home would be too busy for him. He wouldn’t know what to do with all the bustle about our life.

We own a 26 stall boarding stable which means there is a lot of activity with the horse owners coming in and out. During the summer in hay-making season, there is a lot of tractor and wagon activity. There are horse trailers in and out with trail riders, horses moving in and out, and all the other general activity which goes along with owning property and a business. Though my favorite part of all of this is the people we get to meet.

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things which go on here, and how sometimes it seems there is a gap between all of the components of our life. Some spaces don’t feel like such a big deal while others feel like a big, dark abyss.

The space between almost empty nest and empty nest.

The space between the end of caregiving and the next thing in life – which seems to be taking quite a bit of time in which to figure out.

The space between working on the farm and working off the farm.

The space between young life and older life (midlife is quite unsettling these days).

The space between teenagers and young adult people.

The space between understanding and embracing military life and the non-resistant way of life I was taught.

The space between learning how to cook more healthy to accommodate the people who visit and making the traditional PA Dutch food comfort foods.

The space between disagreeing with someone’s political views and embracing their individuality and friendship.

The space between leaving church and finding fellowship.

All this space is called the space of loving people. What makes this space feels like a black hole most of the time is the effort it takes to live in this space. It takes a lot of choosing to not be offended; standing up for one’s own principles and beliefs in the face of being misunderstood and judged. It means living authentically, messing up, owning it, and moving on. It means being questioned and being real enough to give the tough answers knowing you may lose a friendship. This space includes flexibility with boundaries. It means sitting around the table talking about life; listening without fixing. It means working together and playing together. This space includes late nights and early mornings. It involves tears, laughter, and never stopping the praying.

Never stopping the praying.

THAT right there is the secret weapon to thriving in this life, in this space between the world because the challenge from the scriptures to love others is ever before me.

To become love. To live love. To spread love. To give love.

Unconditionally. Not holding back.

The space between the worlds is where life happens, lives intersect, and differences are made.

And this little house??? We fit a lot of people in here. We sleep a lot of people, feed a lot of people, and love a lot of people in this space.

What are your in between spaces? How are you thriving?

 

 

 

 

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on the emptying nest

Caregiver.

By definition….from dictionary.com:

noun
  1. a person who cares for someone who is sick or disabled.
  2. an adult who cares for an infant or child.

I didn’t think going from caregiver to parent would be as difficult as it has been. Maybe it’s because the reality of my caregiving situation was my mother becoming more like one of my children than my staying a child to my mother. I needed to make decisions for her. I needed to feed her, bathe her, dress her. She depended on me. I was needed.

It was easy to let the older children “go” because there was still someone dependent on me. The days of caregiving ended abruptly, and though I sought help fairly early after my mother’s death through spiritual direction, and now therapy, I am finding myself in a place of an emptying nest.

I am no longer a caregiver by dictionary definitions, though I am by nature someone who cares deeply about other people in my life. Wishing from time to time that I didn’t care so deeply.

Caregiving ended when my then youngest was 16. He on the cusp of manhood, and I in the depths of grief and transition. He is now 21 looking to find his way in the world, a man. He is caring, thoughtful, responsible, and fun-loving. I don’t give him enough credit for who he is.

Our youngest is 18. Are you confused? We’ve added to the family in the last year. He is a perfect fit for us. Committed, adventuresome, responsible, fun-loving. I’m trying to learn WHO he is…though one word sums it all up nicely. Marine. Though we often say he can’t die because of various situations he’s survived, there isn’t a deployment which won’t leave me feeling as there’s never been enough time.

I’m trying to not be a caregiver to these boys, but a mom/momma/moms (I only get called mother when one of them thinks I’m being ridiculous! lol!) who supports, encourages, walks alongside of their life choices. Balancing the letting go, the emptying nest, and mothering is like a walk I imagine would take me on a tight rope across the Grand Canyon. Teetering and tottering on a thin line trying to take the right steps with the right balance…focus and persistence are important parts of this process. As is prayer. I.pray.a.lot.

My mother heart deeply loves and cares for ALL of our children. When we are separated from each other I miss them intensely. When we are together I wish for time to stand still. I enjoy simply sitting in the presence of our children watching them spar with words and actions. I enjoy listening to them speak of events and people in their lives. I enjoy meeting their friends. I love the diversity of occupations in which our kids find themselves!

This business of letting go of the caregiving and entering into an emptying nest is being more of a difficult walk than I anticipated. Who needs me? Hubster? Yes. Where do I fit? What is my job? Where am I headed?

My Marine introduced me to this song recently, and as I visited the 2 Western kids last week, when I left their homes, this is what was in my head. TIME with the family is never enough. Especially in this empyting nest stage of life.

Have you gone through the empty nest? What’s your best advice to survive and thrive this stage of life? 

1,825 days

1,825 days

When my mom took her last breath, I didn’t know how I would get through the next moments. Right or wrong, she and her care (and survival as a wife and mom) consumed my world… I had watched her go from living a full life into a state of decline whereby she could no longer walk or move herself about independently.

Some people have this happen in a short amount of time. Others of us live with it for years, and it’s a gradual thing, a normal routine. And we can’t see the severity of the decline until after the fact has come and gone.

I remember the feeling of total helplessness as I watched her breath escape her. For all the times I wondered about this moment, it was nothing I expected. I hate death scenes in movies, and hers was not much different than the ones I hate. I hate them even more now than before.

Nothing about how this scene played out was how I prayed it would happen. But the real question is, does it play out for anyone how we wish it to be?

I remember waking up the next morning, all of us girls in the house with our dad, and going and sitting at the kitchen table, unable to function. Unable to think about what to eat for breakfast. Unable to think about what needed to be done next. I was done. shot. kaput. exhausted. There was nothing left for me to give. To anyone. Anywhere. Like a metal tank to which someone took a high-powered vacuum and sucked all the air out. I was dented, rusted, and worn.

If I could have described my life at that moment, I would have given a snapshot of a crossroads deep in the middle of a mountain somewhere where the 4 roads meet. I would have been found in the middle of a puddle, laying there in a heap face down in the water. Surrounding all the roads on all sides of me were tall green trees of all varieties. And I was alone.

Now what? Now where? Now who? What next?

I couldn’t imagine a day ever without her, though I tried. For years I had tried to imagine what it would be like when I could decide how long and how far away I wanted to travel. I tried to imagine what life would be like when I didn’t check my schedule and base my appointments around a dialysis schedule. I tried to imagine what it would be like without a mother, and truthfully I could never imagine this scenario for very long because mother’s are supposed to live forever. They aren’t ever to leave ahead of us. Ever.

Some people haven’t yet been without their mother for 1,825 days. Others have been without her for longer. And the truth is, no matter how long or short the time has been, a mother’s absence leaves a gaping, jagged hole.

I’m trying to be present with and for my kids. I may never be able to prepare them to live without me, but I want our memories to be pleasant and peaceful. My heart is full of love for these offspring…Abigail, Elisabeth, Ben, Ethan, & Andrew. My nest is full. And I will love them beyond my last breath, just as I know my mother loved me. This is the gift I will pass along.

I now realize the last gift she gave to me was to take her flight on my watch — no matter how much I dreaded that ending.

Rest well, Momma…I’ll see you in the morning!

 

 

a broken hallelujah

Currently a friend is caring for her actively dying mother, and as we “talk” from time to tome, I remember so many things. Especially of the pit caregiving became for me…and IS for most caregivers.

Caregiving becomes a pit, though unintentionally. It becomes a pit because, among other reasons, friends disappear (were they really friends?) as we become consumed with the demands of caregiving and life. No one means to disappear, I don’t think; at least, I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. My world shrank out of necessity to survive.

One of the biggest lessons I learned in my journey is the fact that God was in each moment. Growing up in church, it was often implied that if we aren’t reading our Bible daily and praying for an hour a day, then our walk with Jesus was going to suffer. Hear me, there is shred truth in that belief, but it is more a fear tactic to stay out of hell than an encouragement to relationship in the long run.

The reality is this: when we are handed a task in life as demanding as mothering and caregiving, there are days when Bible reading and designated prayer time simply won’t happen. It is not a measure of our lack of spirituality when we skip a day or two. Don’t carry that guilt any longer, my sister friend.

In my darkest moments as a caregiver, when I selfishly wanted to die, when I didn’t feel any strength to move one foot ahead of the other, but I knew I was doing what was in front of me to do. In those moments, God was in my pain. With me.

In those moments, I came to understand the great lengths God went to show His love and His presence in my life. Even after days of not reading my Bible. Or being on my knees.

I prayed constantly. Prayers of desperation, mostly. Sometimes there were prayers of ecstatic praise, though mostly the prayers were from a broken heart. And though I wondered if I was being good enough at praying, I knew God heard each desperate cry for help. In the course of 12.5 years, there were mostly desperate prayers and prayers for redemption. Redemption for me, for my marriage, and for my children.

My friend appears to be surrounded by a strong support system. People coming to care for her children so she can be. Hospice and home care support staff. A loving church family.

But sometimes this is all we can give….and it is enough. God knows me. God knows my friend, Jody. He knows us and remembers we are dust. Psalm 103.

thoughts to mom on a snowy day

Dear Mom,

I think about you on days like today when it’s snowing out of control! You would have been exclaiming over the large flakes and telling me a list of names of people of whom you’d like to snowball or roll in the snow! You would have caught those flakes on your gloved hand and admired their uniqueness and wondered, “how do they know how to all be different?”

You know the nicest thing about today? We don’t have to risk the roads and bundle up from the cold to get you to dialysis. There was no “dialysis delay” for you because of the weather. How many times, though, we went anyway, because it’s what kept you going. Well, that and your love for life and family.

I miss you like mad, and I wish I could still hear your voice. I’d purposely saved 3(!) voicemails from you (for years!), and they all 3 got deleted within months of each other! I had one where you sang to me on my birthday, another one where you were asking me to get a birthday card for Daddy, and another one where you thanked me for caring for you. I cried bitterly when those got deleted. Like ugly cried. Here’s where you’d ask me what ugly cry is, and I’d tell you it’s crying which simply isn’t behaved. I have another birthday voicemail saved, though. It’s from Gerry…she sounds a little like you. She’s a really good surrogate mom, but she’s not you. Sometimes your brothers and sisters think to call me on my birthday, and that is so very special! Aunt Fran reminds me so much of you. Sometimes when I see her I fight tears because she reminds me so much of you.

What’s it like in heaven today? Well, I mean, the Son is shining, and for sure the animals are playing, flowers are blooming, and the River of Life doesn’t ever flood it’s banks. Are you helping to cook that supper we’re promised? I bet you and Judy have the best menu ever planned! And all those great cooks you have to help you! wow!

I can’t imagine the family reunion that happened a couple weeks ago…Uncle Kore, Jesse Lee, Uncle Sollie…the family circle is getting bigger up there. I’m just not ready to give Dad up yet, though. Sorry, mom. He’s doing pretty well. Getting slow, he says. He’d tell you all he gets done is taking care. Judith takes such great care of him, and you’d just love the little house Jonathan and Galen built for him. Some of the rest of the family helped, too. It was an effort of love. We love him so much! It’ll be hard to let him go, but we know that day is coming. I know you’ll be happy to see him…he took such good care of you, mom!

Guess I ought to get back to my day. I’ll write again soon! Oh, the dog in the picture is Daisy…she loves to play! I think you’d like her a lot though I know you didn’t care much for animals. I remember you cooked oatmeal for the outside cats on cold winter mornings, feeding it to them while it was still warm so it would warm their tummies. You were such a great example of care.

Give my love to Jesus. Can you give him a hug for me, please? One day I’ll do it myself. I’m so grateful for the strength I’ve had to keep walking on the road of life since you left. Your leaving left me helpless, but I’ll write about that some other time. I just know I couldn’t do it without Him!

Love you, mom! xo

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Quandry

I’ve been struggling with the direction of this writing space. I originally started it as a place to talk about what I was dealing with in regards to my mom’s care. I ended up not writing much about that because my emotions were so raw. I wasn’t sure I could handle publishing those intensely personal stories because people I know would read those dark expressions of exhaustion, and that thought terrified me into silence. Yet, I find myself still thinking there is someone somewhere who is also dealing with the rawness and loneliness of caregiving and they’re searching, digging, clawing for someone who relates. That’s what I did.

And in the middle of the caring for my (mostly sweet) dear mother, I found myself at odds with my place of worship. The caregiving and the experiences in the “house of God” are so tightly intertwined…the realizations I’m having as I journey through healing, well, oddly enough I still love those people, still care about what happens to that place of meeting, and I find myself grappling with how to express what I felt without causing more pain in all of that situation.

And now, I find myself (we, Hubster & I, find ourselves) in a place where we seek to establish a place of safety and peace at our farm. It seems as though there are huge obstacles at almost every turn and junction. We have huge dreams — dreams which will only be fulfilled through divine intervention. So we hope as Abraham…he hoped against hope. (Romans 4:18)

Today I am full of questions…how, what, why, when, where? Today I’d like to have a sit-down conversation with God, face-to-face actually. I’d like Him to zap me with understanding, along with healing the misunderstandings among friends which accompanied long-term caregiving.

Today I choose to believe, even though things seem hopeless, that the good work begun will be carried to completion. (Philippians 1:6) I choose to believe that God is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or hope for. (Ephesians 3:20-21) I choose to believe that we will be connected to the right people and sources for healing and for the realization of our dreams. (Philippians 4:19) We will do the steps along the way. The easy ones and the hard ones.

The journey of a thousand miles passes with each step taken.

and when you pray….

Life’s been pretty rough since coming home from a truly wonderful week at Roxbury Holiness Camp. There has simply been so much “catch up” stuff to do that we can hardly see straight. On top of that was the physical struggle of not feeling well.

During one of the sessions at camp, one of the lessons we heard taught was on the story of Peter walking on the water. Here’s the story from Matthew 14 for context:

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning[b] Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here![c]”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong[d] wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

We were challenged to think about what our walk on the water may be. Peter took 20 seconds of courage and stepped out of the boat. Why do WE need to get out of the boat? What will our 20 seconds of courage be about?

Our journey at The Farm with our desire to have it be a place of rest, peace, ministry, joy, a place where families can BE, is being interesting. It feels sometimes as though we’re up against so many challenges. It gets wearying. I want to quit, but quitting isn’t an option. I feel alone, but I know we have each other. But where are WE headed? How will this land support us adequately? What is the next step? How do we deal with this issue or that issue? And the questions swirl around faster and faster until you want to scream, “STOP!” and get off the merry-go-round of life for just a minute.

My journey at Lifeline Pregnancy Care Center has also grown and stretched me in various ways and manners. When I was a young mom, I prayed one day I could be a support for young moms….here we’re about so much more than young moms. We’re about seasoned moms. Dads. The kids. Grandparents. Fostering and adopting. Meeting needs – physical, material, emotional, spiritual. Being a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. But when I take stock of my life and all that goes on at home at The Farm, I wonder if I should be working away from home, to simply be paying attention to life there.

This morning in one of my moments of questioning, I prayed, “Dear God, please just show me plainly if I am still to be at Lifeline.” Boom! At 1 p.m. when our doors opened, there was no stopping till we closed at 4 p.m. People kept walking in looking for answers to questions about what we do, can we help them with this or that, past clients came in looking to start parenting classes again, women needing pregnancy tests…. OUT.OF.NOWHERE.

And when I finally sat and got quiet, I heard God say, “Do you still doubt your purpose here?”

….when you pray…there is an answer….