Reward

I tend to think of a reward as something given for a job well done or a game well played. I think of a reward as a positive end to a task or event. I think of a reward as instantaneous rather than something doled out over a period of time. Truthfully, rewards are both negative and positive, good and bad, instant and delayed.

There are moments when I deal with butterflies in my stomach, heart palpitations, feelings of dread. I have learned to recognize these experiences as anxiety trying to creep it’s ugly way in to my heart, mind, and soul. I used to try and think about what was the cause; okay, I still try and think what is the cause from time to time! My reward for trying to figure out why I was feeling anxious was to go into a tailspin of trying to control people, outcomes, events. Worrying about this person or that person or what if this or what if that. And nothing good ever came from this. My imagined fears never came true.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I started asking myself what would happen if I tried choosing to focus on different thoughts when I felt anxious? What if I tried looking at the truth of what I know about whatever situation I was stressing over?

Over the last few weeks and months, I have started choosing to rein in my thoughts when I feel butterflies in my stomach and are my heart palpitations from too much caffeine or stress? I ask myself what I am stressing over or what is disturbing my peace? When I figure this out, I am then able to look at the facts of the situation and focus on the positives. A wise person (my therapist! Everyone needs one, you know!) told me to raise my hands to heaven and say, “I am looking forward to….” and say it three times over out loud. I say it a dozen times, not just three!

I don’t enjoy dealing with anxiety. I’m finding as I keep talking about it, as I keep choosing to refocus my thoughts, as I keep choosing to focus on what is true and not imagined, then I am able to break these chains which I have allowed to bind me to lies.

The choice to focus on the truth has been it’s own reward in loosing the chains which bind me in anxiety.

Happy to be linked to Five Minute Fridays.

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20 years have gone…

It’s hard to believe it’s 20 years since we moved back home. A move we weren’t thrilled about making. Moving back home meant facing a lot of challenges. It meant learning to establish our own family on our old turf, with expectations I wasn’t willing to fulfill. For me, it was a sink or swim kind of move. I decided to swim, though there were mild bouts of sinking involved. It’s a good thing we didn’t know what all would happen…What does happen in 20 years?

  • Emoved 3 times
  • graduated 4 kids from home school
  • had a child get married
  • welcomed a son-in-law & his family into our family
  • moved a child to Kentucky
  • moved a child to New Mexico
  • moved a child to Idaho
  • moved a child to college
  • learned what it’s like to have someone you love in the military
  • attended countless sporting events: baseball, football, wrestling, 4H
  • watched the kids obtain goals and realize dreams
  • pulled lots of weeds, literally and figuratively
  • planted a lot of flowers, literally and figuratively
  • mowed lawn
  • got angry
  • cried a lot of tears
  • prayed
  • smiled a lot of smiles
  • hugged a lot of people
  • spoke a lot of words, though not all were beneficial or uplifting I’m sorry to say
  • went through a lot of cars
  • bought a farm
  • learned to ride a horse
  • learned to ride a motorcycle
  • battled depression and won
  • sat with my mother while she died
  • picked up the pieces made that day and survived
  • learned how to mostly thrive at life
  • loved the son’s girlfriends
  • repurposed things to serve a different purpose
  • spent time with friends
  • drank a lot of coffee
  • lost 50 pounds and losing more
  • learned to value stillness, solitude, silence
  • went to church for church, funerals, weddings, and other events
  • drove a lot of miles to hospitals and doctor appointments
  • agonized and stressed over what seemed like impossible situations
  • prayed
  • sang
  • made new friends
  • cherished old friendships
  • read books, though not as many as I wish or think I have
  • loved a lot of people
  • cheered the kids on during their educational endeavors beyond high school
  • prayed
  • got out of debt
  • got back in debt
  • survived a small house fire
  • had surgery
  • visited friends in other states
  • lost my dreams and desire for life
  • learned to dream again
  • prayed a lot of prayers
  • asked a lot of questions without finding all the answers
  • welcomed people into our family & home
  • made the agonizing choice to ask someone to leave
  • learned I had a capacity to love beyond myself
  • hung on to my marriage during caregiving and beyond
  • learned the Christian life isn’t all black and white
  • prayed. a lot.
  • learned to let go of prejudices
  • learned to love without strings attached
  • cried over dead animals
  • laughed hysterically
  • became a great aunt 25 times
  • celebrated accomplishments
  • mourned losses
  • taken instruction on difficult topics
  • learned to love myself to better love others
  • received criticism
  • walked away from painful situations
  • stayed with painful situations
  • done public speaking
  • cooked a lot of food
  • learned to listen to my intuition
  • asked God a lot of ‘why’ questions
  • done mountains of laundry
  • painted rooms in every house we’ve lived in
  • learned to use a weed whacker
  • learned I love to work hard and get dirty
  • gotten scratched with thistles
  • changed churches
  • learned to take care of my health: mental, emotional, spiritual, physical
  • gotten kicked at by a horse
  • took naps in the hay mow
  • thrown lots of hay bales
  • survived all stages of my children’s lives
  • colored my hair purple
  • prayed even more
  • visited the beach, the mountains, the desert, and the plains
  • ….and so much more!

Simply, there is no way to list all the things which happen in the span of a life…though it’s good to remember. It’s good to remember where I’ve been and where I am now. It’s good to look back. More important than reflection, I must look forward!

Though I never wanted to move back home, these 20 years have been good years. Full of life, love, laughter, sorrows. I wouldn’t change a thing…well, maybe one thing…I’d buy the farm sooner, if it had been an option.

The next 20 years? There will be more joy and sorrow. Maybe I’ll bury a child. Maybe they’ll bury me. Maybe I’ll become a grandma (help!). Maybe our family will fall apart (God, forbid!), and maybe we will still be an intact family, whatever that means. I know I’ll cry and laugh. I know I’ll love people who won’t know what to do with that love. Others will receive it. No matter what we encounter as a family, my love for them will never wane. It only grows.

I hope they never forget how much I love them.

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The people who light up my world! Photo credit: Dee Manning Photography

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?

 

 

 

 

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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