• the mothering arts

    Pursuing peace…

    So let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God.

    St Basil the Great

    If there is anything the last four years of medical trauma have taught us, it is simply how human we are. Very, very human. Tempers fray when one is sick, or exhausted; the dirty dishes in the sink can look five feet higher. The way can look a lot deeper and a lot darker when you’re so tired you can barely pick up a spoon- despair creeps in- impatience, frustration, all of it. Like Job’s friends they make a hard journey even harder, dragging at your feet, mocking your efforts.

    Peace can be in short supply.

    I’ve been considering carefully how I can more actively encourage my children in the area of practicing peace. In working through it, I realized I needed a refresher too. It is very important to us that we choose peace and rest, and that gets a bit interesting when humans are tired and sick. But if we are making conscious, purposeful decisions in the non-temper frayed moments, it will hopefully pay dividends when we are at the edge of our rope.

    Here’s what I’ve jotted down.

    • better discipling of the children in conflict resolution
    • encouraging and practicing respect of each other, spaces, and personal things
    • quiet music makes a big difference in energy level in our house- use it.
    • use soft light and candles both morning and evening to help “set the tone”

    It’s funny- when you’re prayerfully working through something, it will amaze you how quickly the Holy Spirit can provide what you need if you are willing to ask. I had jotted down “better discipling” and then prayed about it- in less than twenty four hours multiple sources of information ‘fell in my lap’- a post by a friend on Instagram, a shared link, etc. I have realized that conflict resolution does require a lot of parental presence but not a lot of parental talking. We are more Switzerland and diplomats during conflict resolution than active participants.

    Here’s what I collected and collated about walking children through conflict resolution.

    1.CALM DOWN

    Teach the children different strategies to calm: walk away, take deep breaths, counting, prayer with the icons, writing it down. Teach them also as they come back to center to ‘claim before blame’- identify what part of the conflict/problem they were a part of.

    2. STATE AND UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM

    We’ve found the “How Big is My Problem” poster from Teachers Pay Teachers really helpful in helping to designate how much help a parent needs to be in the situation. Encourage them to promote peacefulness- that there is a solution, not just stuck in yelling at each other for what has already happened. Use “I” statements: “I felt hurt because…so I threw…”

    3. APOLOGIZE WELL

    Use humility and candor. (Candor: the quality of being open and honest in expression. Also means, don’t say you’re fine if you aren’t.) Take responsibility: “I used unkind words that hurt you.”. Show regret: ” I’m sorry, I will try to do better next time.” Empathy is helpful here: “If that happened to me I would have felt…” State remedy: how the problem will be fixed. “Next time I will choose to walk away before I get so angry that I call you names.”

    4. PROMOTE SOLUTION FINDING

    Encourage them to listen carefully and accurately and paraphrase what the other said. Don’t interfere or suggest adult solutions unless absolutely necessary.

    5. FOLLOW UP

    If the talk together/work it out strategy isn’t working, re-connect and encourage a different approach (i.e. playing with someone else) BUT always encouraging them to use kind words and friendly voices.

    If there’s anything that has struck me in reviewing my notes today, it is the thought that we are in control. We can actively choose peace even in conflict. Peacefulness doesn’t mean a lack of conflict. Peace means that when there is conflict, we choose hope, and love, through it: we realize that our relationship is more important than any problem we might be at loggerheads about at the moment. It also takes discipline- a conscious choice to choose differently and try differently. It’s absolutely worth it.

    How about you? Is this an area of struggle too? What have you learned?

  • beautiful things

    The square of the moon

    I have been listening to Dr. Nichole Roccas‘ book, Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life on my morning walks. It has been such a good companion, and in the chapters I listened to this morning, she shared a snippet of the poem below. I went and found the rest of it, and I thought you all might like to read it too.

    The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer

    It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

    It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

    I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

    I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

    It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

    I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

    It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

    It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

    It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

    I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

    By Oriah Mountain Dreamer,
    from the book The Invitation
    published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
    © 1999 All rights reserved

  • the home arts,  the mothering arts

    Rooted deep…

    To circle back to my post about finding beauty in the chaos, I’m going to dig a little deeper today about taking some of my thoughts and studies and breaking it down a bit further in a specific area.

    [As a side note, I’ve really struggled over the years to take big picture ideas and break them down into usable goals and strategies. It wasn’t until last year when Elise Blaha Cripe did a series of Instagram Stories on goal setting that the light bulb finally came on. I am saving up my pennies for when her new book comes out! She’s a great resource for understanding how to do this.]

    I find it more and more important that our children feel grounded and safe in ways I would not have even contemplated (or have had the discipline for) four years previously. Because our life is so chaotic, it has become increasingly important that what can be made predictable and clear is made so. That we hold to our family rhythms as much as possible. It gives the children ‘hooks’ to hang everything else on that doesn’t quite make as much sense. This means, by necessity, that we say no to a lot of things that in the past we probably would have said yes to. We tend not to stray outside of our scheduled rhythm very often, because it is upended by medical things anyways. The days that we can hold on to it are very important and we place a higher value on rootedness than some of the ‘short term gains’ activities we could be doing.

    What does encouraging “grounded-ness/rootedness” look like?

    Here are some recent notes I jotted down and some reasoning behind them:

    • caring for ourselves: medicines, dental care, faces and hair
    • caring for our sleep: lamps lowered, quiet tv or reading together before bed, calming music, essential oils for sleep, prayers
    • caring for our home: regular chores, inspecting what we expect, faithful service with a good attitude

    Caring for ourselves: We have medicine regimens that seem to change almost weekly or daily at times. I have been much, much more intentional about setting phone alarms to remind myself of medication needs- to make the practice external and automatic and not something my brain has to track. I’ve also gotten quite literal about setting reminders about making sure that the children have attended to brushing their teeth and hair and washing their face. It’s a little thing, setting the reminder on the phone, but the sort of mental load cost it was costing me to continually track and remind children was pretty high. It was a simple fix and I wish I had done it much, much sooner.

    Caring for our sleep: This has been a constant struggle and shuffle for all of us in the family for different reasons over the last three years. There are cycles where no one sleeps well because of an ill child or because they are an ill child themselves. It’s not unusual that just about every third or fourth week of the month everyone’s sleep cycles will get interrupted. It starts a cycle of grumpiness (for the kids) and exhaustion (for the adults). In the last month we started putting these practices into place to solidify the importance of good sleep for us all, teaching these sort of self-care practices to them, discipling them to honor the gift of sleep that the Lord gives, to pray and to let go of the cares of the day. Again, being super, super protective and intentional with these ‘getting ready for sleep’ practices has made a marked difference in our lives in just a month, and again, I wish we had gotten more intentional about it much sooner.

    Caring for our home: We go through cycles where the children basically have to fend for themselves in many ways, and I realized that we could make that reality a little bit easier on us all if we acknowledged, firstly, that it happens, and secondly, to have a plan for it. To up the competency level of the children, overall, in say, being familiar with and having the ability to make an easy meal. To make super clear what a ‘clean space’ actually looks like with instructions and pictures. When everyone is clear on the expectations, it makes it a lot easier to hit the marks that are needed to keep a family of eight running. It also means that no one person is having to carry it all in their head or gets stuck doing all the work. This has been a bit more nebulous in practice than the previous two, but I still see improvements happening, if only in shifting what we pay attention to. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, there’s more of a trend towards empowered and confident, both for me and for the kids.

    In practical action, here are the strategies we recently put in place to encourage grounded-ness:

    • phone alarms for medicines and brushing teeth
    • essential oils and rosewater spray at bedtime
    • calming music at bedtime
    • lowered lights
    • better chore chart making clear responsibility
    • working on teaching children how to make easier meals

    So there you go! What are some practices you do in your home that encourage grounded-ness for your family (even if you are single or it’s just you and your partner these days) ?

  • Ebenezer,  facing grief

    Love changes everything.

    Today marks eleven years since we lost our little one. The grief has changed and mutated over time. Now it is a mostly fleeting feeling that someone is missing at the table, an echo of laughter, a sense of something just there, beyond your reach. Love changes everything. I have never been the same.

  • prayers of the saints

    Walking with a limp…


    I want to preface what I am saying here by acknowledging that we are beyond, beyond privileged to have good insurance, and therefore, relatively good health care. This is not true for many I know personally, and it needs to be acknowledged before I dive in. Knowing this, consider also that if this is our story, full of privilege, how much worse it is for your friends and family members who don’t have this access? If we are drowning with our level of access, how far under water are those you know who don’t? Please think carefully about how you can ally with them and care for them in the midst of medical storms.


    A few people have been gently curious about why our finances are still so intensely strained. It doesn’t offend me, and I’m glad to briefly answer. Simply put, the medical debt that occurred with Elliana’s and Josiah’s first hospitalizations has been roughly cut in half. However, life didn’t stop that year and hasn’t stopped since. Josiah has been hospitalized repeatedly since; Elliana and Josiah have both required out of state trips to teaching hospitals; Elliana and Josiah have both required surgery; my husband has been hospitalized and required surgery; our special needs son was recently hospitalized. Keep in mind also, that we have a fall full of medical travel, surgery, and therapies. We have to travel either eight hours or four hours for Josiah’s care (depending on what it is), as the local hospitals here are too small to have the right specialists. Our medical debt overall has more than doubled and there isn’t an obvious end or solution in sight.

    Even with a job change and an increase in salary, better insurance, and all sorts of help and intervention, we still have to pay out an intense amount towards medical costs. We live on roughly one third to one quarter of James’ income, with about a quarter of that amount going to living expenses like utilities, housing, and transportation, leaving about $400/mo for us to purchase groceries and other household needs for a family of eight (though more often, recently, it is about $250/mo due to our current copay load.) Over half of our income every month goes strictly to medical debt, and it often is more like two thirds on high needs months when payment is required up front for a surgery or hospitalization that we couldn’t plan for. The margin is incredibly thin. A sudden hospitalization can put us under water; and it’s not super unusual to occasionally have a medical bill go in to collections. We regularly cancel routine care appointments and things like needed dental surgeries (three of our children have required dental surgeries since January of this year, and it still hasn’t happened yet and James has needed dental work for 2 years now) and orthopedic surgeries (two of our kids need to have them; they keep getting rescheduled because we can’t afford it and it isn’t quite emergent yet; however one became emergent and will happen Aug 21st.) Part of these being rescheduled is because something more emergent happens in front of them- but either way, we often can’t afford routine care. This year that has been especially true. It’s been a bit better other years.

    We often have to make hard choices with medical care, which means that things often go unattended until emergent and can no longer be avoided. Our copay load alone most months is roughly $350-400. Without a dear friend providing for the copays as much as they are able, we’d be even farther in the hole. We wouldn’t be able to afford them and would have to cancel all non-emergency care.

    This isn’t even the portions of care we are required to pay for, which is only 10% if completely covered by insurance. Even at ten percent, those can run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars, depending on the care required. It seems like there is only one major surgery or hospitalization we can plan for a year; the rest happen quickly and abruptly, without notice.

    It is a nightmare I would wish on no one.

    We don’t qualify for state or federal aid (like Medicare/Medicaid, SNAP, welfare) because my husband makes too much, but we apply for any aid we can through the hospitals and medical debt assistance organizations. Sometimes we are approved. Most of the time we are not (again, because he ‘makes too much’). We have considered bankruptcy but have been advised against it as it would not deal with the medical debt. We continue to do all we can to liquidate our assets. I myself have applied for many jobs over the last three years, but at this point we have acknowledged the near impossibility of me working. I spend most weeks driving back and forth between doctors appointments and other such like. Hospitalizations happen on a regular basis. No regular nine to five or service job is willing to work with me and the schedule we keep. I can’t even really work the freelance jobs I used to do in web and graphic design; I don’t have the mental or physical capacity to keep up with them.

    All this being said, however scary it seems on paper in black and white…I have also seen God provide us in such amazing ways over these years. Just when we think we’ve hit the bottom of the barrel and don’t know where our next meal will come from, somebody will drop off some groceries, a unexpected check will arrive- all sorts of things, crazy out of the blue things that could only happen in God’s timing. We have learned to hope and to trust and do the best with what we have, knowing that God will provide.