Overpowering the Sleep Thief

Does this happen to you too? I go through phases when I just do not sleep well. I’ve heard from other women that this is their experience as well. I usually fall asleep without a problem, but then wake up a few hours later. The sleep thief quickly steps in and exploits my momentary wakefulness to bring up daytime concerns in the darkness of the night. My mind starts going a hundred miles an hour. I fret about my to-do list. I am unsettled about what was or was not said in a conversation and I replay it over and over again. I worry about the multitude of happenings in my life. I am tormented by significant and insignificant thoughts. This middle of the night insomnia most often occurs when I am stressed or anxious. At 3 a.m. even trivial things appear urgent and life-altering. Before dawn, everything appears more pressing. Common sense, realism and sanity often fly out the window. I can’t turn off my thoughts. I consider EVERY. SINGLE. SCENARIO. of what may or may not happen (the majority of these notions are unreasonable and unlikely.)

My mind swirls.  I toss and turn.  My heart races.  My stomach flip-flops.  

I read somewhere that deep breathing exercises help to calm the mind and body, restoring sleep.  I have experimented with these, but they often have not worked for me.  I have also tried reading and muscle relaxation techniques.  I have even turned my clock around so I don’t watch the minutes tick by reminding me that I am not sleeping and how tired I will be tomorrow.  There has not been a guaranteed way for me to return to slumber.  

I recently remembered the saying “Give it to God and go to sleep” so I’ve started praying in the middle of the night when my mind is a vortex of irrational thoughts.  In all honesty, when I start praying, frequently my thoughts wander to whatever I was worrying about before the prayer, but I stop myself, get back on track, and pray some more.  Upon waking in the morning, I often realize that I fell asleep mid-prayer.  I started feeling guilty about this.  How rude of me to fall asleep when I am communing with my Maker!  I have now come to the conclusion that God would probably say, “My child, you have handed over your troubles and found peace and rest in me and that is exactly how I want it.”  Matthew 11:28 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  

Sleep thief, please stay away.  If you do return, I will overpower you by finding rest in the only one who can give true peace.  Philippians 4:6-7 ESV “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Continued Lessons from 9/11

Have you seen the short documentary called “Boatlift” that has gone viral? I will attach it below so you can watch it now if you haven’t already. Get the tissues ready. I can wait while you watch.

If you can’t watch right now, I will give you a brief summary. It is the previously untold story of the maritime evacuation of lower Manhattan on 9/11. Over 500,000 people were transported off of the island after the Coast Guard put out a call asking for any boat to come if they could assist. Within minutes there were at least a hundred boats that converged on that area to assist in getting people away from the horror of Manhattan that day.

This story really showed 1. People want to help and 2. The marvel of what can be done if we all work together.  

Oftentimes when we are struggling with something difficult in our lives, we resist asking for help.  There are many reasons for this such as feeling like we should deal with things independently, feeling too apprehensive to ask because we don’t want to bother people, and feeling like others should already know what we need.  We need to overcome this trepidation and just ask for help.  Don’t carry your burdens alone. People have a desire to lend a hand when needed.  The assistance obviously blesses the receiver, but it also blesses the giver.  We should not deny ourselves the support of those that care or deny the giver the opportunity of providing that support.   It feels so good to help, doesn’t it?

When all hands are working together toward one goal, it is amazing what can get accomplished.  The boats coming together to help in New York is a prime example of that.  One call is all it took to get the rescue in motion.  What seemed an insurmountable task, was completed in nine hours. 

Watching this documentary reminded me of how redwood trees work together to strengthen each other to do something seemingly impossibly.  These enormous trees can grow more than three hundred feet tall, but their roots only go to depths of six to twelve feet.  So what makes them so strong and durable?  Their root systems spread to lengths of fifty feet or more and intertwine with the roots of other nearby redwoods.  The trees are able to withstand high winds or whatever nature throws their way by holding onto each other and working together to create a firm foundation.

Picture from our 2009 trip to California

Imagine if we were more like a redwood forest: strong, solid, and hardy by holding onto and supporting one another.  Imagine the multiplied blessings if we asked for assistance when our burden is too heavy to carry alone. Also imagine if more people would heed the call to rescue others in times of need just like the vessels from “Boatlift”.  There is strength and power in unity, collaboration and cooperation.  Let’s not forget.

12 Things That Bring Me Joy

I am currently in a Bible study called Defiant Joy by Candace Payne. Because of this study, I have been thinking a great deal about what brings me joy. First of all, the definition of joy on dictionary.com is: “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure, elation.” I have made a list of what makes me joyful (in no particular order). I’m sure it isn’t a complete list, but this is what I have come up with:

  1. Secret random acts of kindness I have tried to teach my kids how fun it can be to do things for others in secret. Over the years, we have surprised people with various activities and gifts. I do not want to disclose the types of things we do because it is extremely satisfying doing this anonymously. I am also not looking for recognition or a pat on the back for our good deeds. Just know that we smile, giggle, and get a ton of joy from this type of activity.
  2. Doing the unexpected for others Holding the door for someone. Waking up early and getting donuts for my family for no reason. Letting someone go ahead of me in line.
  3. Being the recipient of the unexpected (which is the opposite of #2) For example, after my daughter broke her arm, she made me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day using only her nondominant hand! She has been making this special meal for me for a few years, but I totally didn’t expect it this year. What a joyous surprise! It made this mama’s heart feel so good.
  4. Family and pets I get an exorbitant amount of joy from being a mom to my two kids and my two fur babies. As challenging as it can be to parent (especially teens), the joy supersedes all of the friction and strife. I also love all extended family gatherings. My dog and cat, Winston and Max, are a constant source of delight, comfort and amusement.
  5. Sending care packages This is one of my favorite things to do for family members who are college students. The boxes aren’t always pretty or homemade, but I truly enjoy mailing special treats to those I care about.
  6. Donating It gives me joy to give, whether it be snacks to the teachers at my kids’ school or money to charities or supplies to an animal shelter. It feels good to give!
  7. New found pleasure I enjoy when family or friends try something that I love, whether that be a new food or experience, and they discover that they love it too. To see their smiles when they fancy something that they were initially unsure of, is simply joyous. It is also fun when I find new things that I am crazy about.
  8. Achievement Accomplishing something I originally deemed undoable, difficult, or out of my comfort zone is an incredible feeling. Two examples for me are writing this blog and finishing a hiking trail that I thought was beyond my physical or mental ability. It feels amazing to complete a formidable task!
  9. Giving the perfect gift My favorite gift I have ever given was a cat to my father-in-law. We had wrapped up cat supplies with a note saying we would go to the shelter the next day, have him pick out any cat, and we would pay for it. Complete joy!
  10. Nature The beach, mountains, streams, animals, insects, flowers, trees, rocks, sky, and all things nature give me abundant joy.
  11. Cheering on others Watching my kids or a friend or family member play sports or participate in any performance makes my heart so full. It is pride. It is joy. (Full disclosure—I may be a little cranky if it is 30 degrees and sleeting at an 8 a.m. soccer game, but I will still feel joy in cheering on my favorite people!)
  12. Watching someone else’s joy. Joy is contagious!

I can find joy in the majority of circumstances, even if I have to search for it. I will choose to embrace joy and be joyful. I pray that you experience much joy in your life. Seek it, soak in it, share it. The world needs more joy right now.

Mom Fail

Last Christmas I learned that a friend of mine had never had her fifteen year old son watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  I was shocked!  We watch this movie every year.  It is tradition for my family.  When my friend told me this, my mouth dropped open and my eyes got wide.  Disbelief was written all over my face.  She claimed that because of this, she has failed as a mom.  I would have immediately agreed, but that is only because I love Rudolph and can’t imagine not having this be a part of the holiday season.  But did she really fail?

What is one of my “mom fails”?  What is something that I haven’t had my son and daughter experience that most children have?  I have never taken my kids to a parade.  I personally do not enjoy parades so I have not put forth the effort to take my children to one.  Perhaps some of you are opening your mouths in the horror at this declaration.  Personally, I do not find it a big deal; however, I do feel a little guilty that they have never had this experience.

Will your child be scarred for life for not watching Rudolph or never attending a parade?  Probably not.  Every parent chooses activities to do with their children that are most important to them.  For my friend and her family, they have a tradition of going to downtown Indy for a weekend during the Christmas season and enjoying the festivities there.  For my family, we would prefer to take a hike in the woods rather than attend a parade.  

What is your “mom fail”? I would love to hear what experiences your child has missed out on. Also what is the reaction of others when they find out? Moms, we need to remember: to each her own. Moms, you are not failing your children. We each choose our paths, do what we love, and do the best we can.

Can I Be a Minimalist Hoarder?

The school year has started and I am once again having an urge to purge the clutter.  Time for fall cleaning.  A few years ago we got new carpet in the entire upstairs including in the four bedrooms, bonus room and hallway.  This meant that we had to take ALL of the furniture, toys and other belongings downstairs. A lot of cleaning out had to be done.  I quickly learned how much crap we had accumulated over the years and how much my kids can stuff under their beds and in their closets.  It was quite the job to prepare for the workers to come and lay the carpet.  We had boatloads that went in the trash and heaps of toys and clothes that went to Goodwill.  

When the carpet was laid, I returned only the necessary furniture and accessories to those spaces. I remember telling one of my friends that it felt so good to have a minimal amount of things in each room and I planned to keep it that way.  The rooms appeared bigger.  I loved the way the space looked and felt with no clutter.  Fast forward to today:  we are back to being collectors of all sorts of things and are no longer minimalists.  If we were to ever get new carpet again, or even move from this home, it would be an ordeal yet again.

I’ve spoken of my clutter before, but now I think it is out of hand.  Why do we insist on having so much stuff?  Do we need these possessions?  Maybe. Some of it.  Some should just be thrown out or donated when we are done with them.  Some items we think we “need”, but really, most are unnecessary.

I am sentimental.  I may not quite be a hoarder, but I am a keeper of things that have a memory attached.  I have bins of things I have kept from my own childhood and young adulthood.  My sister recently cleaned out things she had been keeping since childhood and she gave me a jewelry box that was mine.  It was one with a wind up dancer that twirls and plays music when I lift the lid.  That box was full of costume jewelry from the 80’s.  Super fun to go through and relive my youth.  I kept it. My daughter doesn’t want the box or the “cool” earrings inside.  So now what?   Do I just store it in a bin in my bonus room until the next time I feel like taking a stroll down memory lane?  I have decided that I should take a picture and/or video of it and give it to Goodwill so perhaps another child will enjoy it as much as I did.  I also doubt the style of earrings will be making a comeback any time soon so they will either go to Goodwill or to the trash.

I believe that a house is a home only if it has personal items that have memories and sentiment attached.  I need to narrow down what really means something to me.

You see my dilemma.  I love to keep things that are meaningful and yet, I love the feel of a minimalist life.  It is hard to have it both ways, but I am planning to dwindle down our stockpile of possessions, keeping important and sentimental items while returning to a minimalist existence.  I am determined to prove that preserving sentimental items and having minimalist decor are not mutually exclusive.

Aftermath of “No”

There is no joy in heartbreak,

No happiness in hurt,

No satisfaction in loss,

No serenity in sorrow,

No contentment in failure,

No bliss in misery,

No delight in struggle,

No rejoicing in adversity,

No peace in suffering,

No gladness in anguish,

No comfort in woe,

No jubilation in defeat;

However,

There is hope in possibility,

Strength in determination,

Advantage in intention,

Courage in climbing mountains,

Fortitude in resilience,

Confidence in clearing hurdles,,

Fulfillment in diligence,

Gratification in overcoming,

Power in tenacity,

Moxie in conquering,

Grit in dedication,

Achievement in perseverance,

Grace from God,

And blessings to be discovered.

The Hardest Prayer to Pray

I mentioned in a previous blog that one of the most painful times of the year is when my children have tryouts for sports teams.  It is stressful for players and for parents.  When my kid desires to get on a specific team with his or her friends, I want that for him or her too.  It is heartbreaking when that doesn’t happen.  My prayers during this time of year generally tend towards “God, please let my child get on this specific team”.  One mom I know told me that her prayer for her child in regards to tryouts has always been for God’s will for her child.  Why is it so hard for me to pray the same?

Tryouts are just one example of when praying “not my will but yours be done” is the hardest prayer to voice.  Why is it so difficult?   Do I believe my way is better than the Lord’s way?  No, I don’t think that is it. I am human. I want to be in control.  I like to state specifically what my desires are. God knows my heart anyway. I don’t like to experience sadness or hurt.  Even Jesus prayed and spoke his specific wishes before saying that he wanted God’s will to be done:

Luke 22:42 NLT  “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

And we are told to bring our requests to God:

Mark 11:24 ESV “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Philippians 4:6 ESV “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Matthew 21:22 ESV “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Just because I make a request, doesn’t mean God will grant it if it isn’t His will for my life. Disappointments and heartache are part of life and, unfortunately, we all have to deal with that at one time or another. Sometimes I can’t see the bigger picture of why things happen or don’t happen for us, such as when my child isn’t put on a specific team, but I have to trust God’s plan even when I can’t wrap my human mind around it.  Sometimes I won’t see God’s goodness during the initial distress of adversity, but I may be able to see it down the road, maybe WAY down the road, or maybe I will not understand until I get to heaven.  But for now I will pray this most difficult prayer: “Father God, you know my heart and also my child’s desire to get on the soccer team, but your will be done, not ours.  If what we wish isn’t your will, give us peace for the path before us.”

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV  “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Vacation or Staycation?

For many it is tough to decide between a vacation or staycation this year, but my family, after some deliberation, chose to go on vacation. We recently traveled eleven hours from home to an isolated beach. To sit with the sand between my toes, a cold drink in my hand, and the smell of salt in the air, was absolutely delightful. It was wonderful to see different scenery after predominantly only seeing the walls of our home since mid-March. We did this as safely as possible in these Covid times. It was lovely. It was amazing! It brought me so much joy. I loved seeing and hearing the waves roll into shore. I enjoyed watching alligators silently swim in the lagoons. Finding sand dollars with miniature crabs hanging out on their underside was fascinating! It was incredible to watch a storm move in over the marsh and see a rainbow in the distance. Anyone who knows me or follows me on Instagram knows that I love taking pictures of animals, insects and all kinds of cool elements of nature. Perhaps in another life I would be a marine biologist, zoologist, naturalist or entomologist.

When we got back from vacation, I decided that I didn’t want to hang my head in despair due to being back in somewhat isolation at my home for an unknown amount of time.  Since we have no idea when we will be able to get away again, I have come to understand that I need to find the beauty around me because that creates joy within me.  I can look out my window or walk around my neighborhood or stroll through a local park and find all kinds of things that make me happy.  Sunrises and sunsets here in the midwest aren’t exactly the same as on the east coast; however, they can still be glorious.  I need to look around and notice the grandeur of the earth wherever I am. I may not be able to see loggerhead turtle tracks on my morning walks right now, but there is plenty to enjoy in my own space.

My friends will attest that I often interrupt conversation to point out things that I see or hear, such as a fish in a pond or an interesting cloud formation or an owl in the distance.  Nature excites me.  It also gives me peace.  I feel so close to God when I sit by the ocean or hike a trail in the mountains or daydream by a babbling brook. “The singing birds, the buzzing bees, the opening flower, and the budding trees are the little windows through which God permits us to commune with Him, and to see much of His glory, majesty, and power by simply lifting the curtain and looking in.  I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour and every moment of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so.”–George Washington Carver

Change of scenery is always nice.  It is also sweet to be delighted in our own surroundings. So whether you do a vacation or staycation this year, tune in and find the beauty and treasures all around you.

I Don’t Feel Like Forgiving You

Recently, my husband did something minor that made me angry.  Really angry.  I was upset.  I was hurt.  I didn’t understand why he did what he did.  Didn’t he know me better after 25 years of marriage and 30 years together?  I just couldn’t wrap my head around why he did that.  I didn’t want to talk with him or even look at him.  

He apologized several times.  I still couldn’t forgive him.  He asked me how much more did I want him to apologize.  Honestly, he could have apologized a thousand times, and while in the depths of anger, I probably still wouldn’t have forgiven him because I needed to sit with my feelings of fury.  I needed to be mad at him.  I felt justified in my anger.  He was wrong.  He knew he was wrong.  

After letting my feelings settle, I realized that he didn’t intentionally try to hurt me by doing what he did.  I now recognize that I was intentionally trying to hurt him by remaining angry and distant toward him.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  Isn’t that the old saying? 

I remembered this verse from I Corinthians 13:4-8:  “Love is patient, love is kind (oof!). It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered (BIG OOF!), it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  Alright, God, I hear ya. 

I really wasn’t loving at all towards my husband.   I am embarrassed to say that kindness and forgiveness were not easy to give to him, but were so important to repairing our relationship.   I finally decided to extend kindness to him.  I wouldn’t say that I initially forgave him, but I least made a conscious decision to be kind.  During my period of anger, I thought about how much I didn’t like my husband at that time, but I did think that I loved him somewhere under all of the hurt.  But I came to understand that if I really loved him, I should be gracious and forgive him.  I was eventually able to. 

If things were reversed, I would hope that if I did something to upset him that he would be more loving, kind and forgiving than I was during this little conflict we just had.  Forgiveness is a gift you give the other person, but it is also a gift to oneself and to the relationship.  My anger was weighing on me.  It was a quagmire; it was difficult to get out of without being intentional and putting forth effort.   It was important for me to get rid of the resentment and move forward.  So even though I didn’t feel like forgiving my husband at first, it was necessary and loving to forgive and to not dwell in mistakes and hurt.  I just need to remember this lesson for the next time…

Fat or Fiction

**DISCLAIMER**  Before you begin reading, this is about ME and my thoughts and feelings about myself and NOT a generalization for everyone in the world.

FAT= I don’t care. 

 I don’t care how I look.  I don’t care how I feel.  I don’t care if I’m not completely healthy.  I don’t care if I’ve outgrown some of my clothes.  I don’t care if I stuff my pie hole with a lot of crap that I shouldn’t eat.  I don’t care what the stupid scale says.

FAT=not enough

Not enough willpower to stop overeating.  Not enough energy to force myself to exercise.  Not enough time to meal plan or work out (that is currently not an excuse for me, but it used to be).  Not enough motivation to do something about my weight.  Not enough sleep.  Not enough drinking water.  Not enough self-esteem.  Not enough self-control.  Not feeling (worthy) enough to take better care of myself.

FAT=too much/many

Too much food.  Too many empty calories.  Too many emotions being drowned by food instead of dealing with it in a healthier way.  Too much unhappiness.  Too much self-doubt.  Too much sitting around.  

FAT=uncomfortable

Uncomfortable in most clothes.  Uncomfortable seeing myself in pictures.  Uncomfortable talking about my size.  Uncomfortable with who I am.

FAT=ME

I am realizing that I do care.  I am enough.  I will make changes.  I’ve said it before and I’m sure I will say it again…I’m tired of always talking about my weight.  Ugh!  So frustrating!  Time to be accountable to myself to think MORE of myself, to be COMFORTABLE with who I am, to CARE about my health and my well-being, to empty my life of the negativity and be FULL of life and joy.  

Some people can be overweight and still feel good about themselves.  I just don’t happen to be one of those people.  Time for a change.  Time for a transformation.  Time to do hard things.  Time to work on the inside as well as the outside.  

FAT=me, but only because I’m allowing it.  I am not going to blame it on my age and changing hormones, even though that is definitely a factor.  I am going to take control so that fat no longer equals me.