• collecting stories,  the mothering arts



    I think we think so often that when we’re absolutely running on empty we need to do something big. Head off to a monastery, a hotel, a family member’s house- leave all the cares behind, rest and recuperate and then have a fresh start. And seriously, if that’s within your resources to be able to do that, then by all means, do it! But I find it to be pretty rare that most of us can do something like that. We have to start with smaller steps to finding that wholeness.

    It first starts with saying no. It means backing out of every obligation we have, good or bad. The bible study, the soccer team, the sunday school teaching. The boys scouts. The local home group. The part time job that may be paying some bills but is absolutely draining you dry physically and emotionally- it’s not worth it. Whatever it is, it all has to go for a while. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, especially the good stuff, the stuff we love. But it has to.

    It means simplifying our lives as much as possible. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a support group around you that could bring you meals. Be honest with them about your needs and it just might happen. Go to the grocery store and load up on frozen meals or easily prepared meals (we’ll get to the food later). Pull out the disposable plates and utensils. If you’re potty training a kid, take a break (trust me on this!). You are sick (in heart) and you need to treat it as such. This is the time to pull out that movie the kids have really been wanting to watch- the electronic devices, anything that helps. And then, for at least a few days, do nothing but rest. If it means the kids have to go around in nothing but undies, do it.

    Why is it that we are completely willing to acknowledge that our children don’t make good decisions when they are exhausted, tired, and hungry, and yet most of us adults spend most of our waking hours in that state? And then we expect that we’ll make rational decisions?

    This is why I have learned to rest and re-fuel first before trying to make decisions or facing a transition. I also want to gently point out that this is not a one and done thing. Life doesn’t have one big transition and then it’s all downhill from there- far from it. There are peaks and valleys, surprises, joys, sorrows. We will find ourselves in this place of needing to re-evaluate from time to time.

    I’ve noticed a few things that seem to fall by the wayside for me leading up to the “I can’t do this anymore!”. Any of these slipping out of the schedule should be automatic red flags to me, especially when I am too busy or too harried to pray. These are usually the first things I pick back up after the rest period. They are (in no particular order):

    • prayer and attention to my spiritual life
    • healthy food available
    • creative endeavors (painting, scrapbooking, sewing, knitting, etc.)
    • time to read good books
    • time to spend with my family unharried

    If there has been a constant state of depletion, this re-fueling period should be much longer. You simply cannot pour out if you are not being poured into, period. It doesn’t work.

    Somewhat concurrent to this, I take stock of where things stand. Why was I to the breaking point? What needs were not getting met? Did I ignore the road-signs and if so, which ones and why? What can I do to ensure those fueling activities stay firmly in my days?  Has something changed in the family dynamic that needs attending? Is a routine no longer working?  Have we been spread too thin? Or do we need to re-allocate resources?

    If you’ve taken the time to rest and re-fuel, those problem areas and needs will probably make themselves pretty clearly known when the fog of depletion has cleared. Maybe you realize that you don’t know how to practice good financial management, or kitchen management, or time management or you’re at an absolute loss as to how to feed your family healthfully and frugally (me, for many years!). Maybe you realize you need more time built into the schedule to pursue that learning.  Maybe your family simply took on too much and need to be more judicious with what you say yes to. Instead of slipping into the same patterns and choices that led to these problem areas, take the time to research, explore, and learn new approaches. It is investment of time that will always return exponential dividends. It looks completely different for everyone, but the end result is the same- when we choose to listen to the signs, we can choose different, healthier paths, eventually finding a place of wholeness and peace- home. Refuge. We can make the choice not to run any longer.

    It’s not easy, by any means. It doesn’t happen overnight. That girl in the picture was five years ago, and it’s been a long, painful journey to where I am today. I bear no illusions that I have “arrived”- though I am healthier and happier and more whole, I see this is as a life’s work, a life’s journey. We live in a broken world and we are broken people. So many fractures. A path that turns towards Home means we must dwell in healing and no longer lace up our running shoes.

    I’ve received such lovely, encouraging notes from people while writing this series. I am so grateful that even one person has found help and hope from what I’ve written here- somehow that makes the pain and sorrow of it all more worth it, if it means that even one person might not have to endure some of the same pain and sorrow that I have. This series was a promise kept, and I am ever grateful that she would not let me out of it. I have found further healing in writing it all out, and seeing that there was reason and rhyme to many things I could not see straight at the time.

    May the Lord keep you, make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace.

    This is the final post in the series. Start the journey here.

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  • beautiful things,  collecting stories,  the mothering arts


    starbushEvery once in awhile, you go to an incredible hotel. Maybe it’s an anniversary weekend, maybe it’s a girls night off. Any which way, you know what I’m talking about. The bed is absolutely amazing. Fluffy and yet firm, it enfolds you and cocoons you, the sheets and comforters so soft and so silky that as soon as you lay down in the bed, your muscles start to relax and you know you’re going to sleep so very well. The pillows are feather down, firm enough to read a book on and yet comfy enough that when you lay down, it feels like you’re sleeping on a cloud. The bathroom has the most amazing bath tub, which you’ve filled with water at just the right temperature in which to take a long bath. Maybe it’s even a jetted tub. Everything about this place is restorative. You have softly lit candles around the room. You know well the peaceful, whole feeling you have when you wake up in the morning, the sun gently streaming through the beautiful curtains (because everything about this hotel is beautiful with exquisite attention to detail).  Breakfast is a feast for the eyes and the body, freshly cut fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice, fluffy beautiful eggs, toast, the whole nine yards. You feel as if you could conquer the world, or at least those half-dozen bookstores and antique shops downtown.

    Hold on to that thought.

    When’s the last time you felt that peaceful wholeness?

    Is it a solid guess to say that it may have been years, maybe decades?

    I hear you whisper softly. I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for the last decade. My husband works third shift. Sleep? What is sleep? Peace!? Ha! Have you been near my house lately? I’ve got teenagers. I’ve can’t get my toddlers to stay in their beds. My house looks like a bomb went off. The laundry has been sitting in situ for so long that it has that weird smell because I’ve washed and forgotten to dry and washed it again and forgot to dry it and washed it again… my toddlers think it’s a game to throw food. My home is decorated in toddler snot and always has this weird diaper-y smell. I’m laughing at your hotel room idea because my house, my bedroom will never look like that.

    And that whole feeling? I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired. I get every little bug the kids bring home from the park. My doctor fusses at me at every yearly physical because everything is so off. I can’t seem to manage my [medical issue here].

    And don’t even get me started on that food! Do you know the last time I had a real meal? Are you kidding me!?!?

    I hear you.

    Loud and clear.

    Between 2007 and 2012, my husband and I were both hospitalized for complications with pneumonia seven times. Every stay was at least four days. The longest was almost two and a half weeks. We were exhausted. We had three children under three, then four under four, five under five, six under six. Cancer scares, severe illness, losing a child, losing a job, nearly losing our home and our cars…Everything. I understand what you’re going through because I’ve been there. There has been more than a few times that my husband and I have gone hungry so our children could eat. There was once a time I had to throw away an entire load of laundry because it got destroyed by mildew because I just couldn’t keep track of it. We were homeschooling through most of it. We both consistently worked odd jobs all throughout, which means there was no schedule to speak of- just when we’d find a workable rhythm something would change. We just tried to keep our heads above water. I absolutely understand.

    When I think back to that exhausted tired mama who was running on empty, I just want to wrap her up in a hug, sit her down with a delicious cup of something hot, and then…tuck her into bed. I’d play with the children, read lots of stories, sing songs, go out and swing. And when my younger self woke up, this is what I’d gently say to her.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. All this illness, the lack, the laundry, they are all signposts that something is not right here. Pay attention. Take a deep breath and slow down. Listen to what your life and your body are telling you.

    I think, more importantly than even the symptoms you’re seeing, listen to your dreams- think about that beautiful hotel room experience, think about the places you’ve been and the situations you’ve experienced that helped you find that place of peacefulness and wholeness.

    Then, start small. Take one thing off your plate, and then the next. And the next. Pull your husband in, your support system, and be honest. “I can’t do this anymore” is not a sign of defeat- it’s a sign of change. It’s always a sign that you need to re-evaluate. I’m going to talk about more practical ways to re-evaluate tomorrow, but I’d like you to consider a not so practical thing first.

    Sometimes, what’s adding to our burden is something so tiny and so huge as beauty itself.  Or more specifically, the lack of beauty. We need to keep on top of the kitchen or the laundry, but both rooms are dark, and ugly, or there isn’t enough counter space. You hate putting the laundry away because the closets are horrible messes, the drawers bursting. No one really wants to eat dinner together because the table is always strewn with papers and soccer cleats and three day old coffee cups.

    It’s easy to respond to these roadblocks with two knee-jerk reactions: one is sort of this thought process ( ala the dark kitchen with no counter space) that the situation is hopeless and only a full scale renovation will fix the problems. Or two, you’re probably expecting me to say that it’s high time you cleaned those closets or cleared that table or cleaned that trouble-making space. And maybe that’s true, and cleaning will help, but I’d argue what you’re really missing is beauty.

    Think back to that hotel for a minute. Yes, sure, the beds and linens and things are luxurious and expensive, but the real secret is a hotel’s attention to detail- and to beauty.

    So again, start small. My kitchen is dark and awful and there is no counter space. It is so awkwardly laid out, and we’re renting. Going in there at first to create meals made me want to cry or pull my hair out. I don’t have a lot of money, ever, but this is what I’ve done to bring beauty into the space and make it work for me, help me to a settled, creative feeling when I enter it: I stapled twinkly LED Christmas lights back and forth underneath the cabinet above the sink (which was a dark hole), bringing both light and whimsy to the space (and without breaking my lease). I found temporary wall paper for $25, and wrapped it around that sink/counter area, giving it a gentle, pretty shot of butter yellow. Over the oven I pasted some of my favorite, inspiring cooking and floral photos from a magazine called Taproot. I found an inexpensive rolling cart that adds another foot and a half of counter space to the kitchen, which I move around as needed. There is a cheerful rug I found in clearance that sits in front of the sink. I think, all told, I may have spent about $80 or so dollars. Now, it’s not some magazine layout gorgeousness, and the real flow and layout problems haven’t been fixed- but I’ve made it work for me and I’ve brought beauty into the space- so that I want to spend time in there. I’ve paid attention to the details that I most need in a kitchen area to make things work for me.

    I firmly believe that when you are at your worst- exhausted, sick, heart-sore- that is when you need beauty the most. And it’s not beauty with a huge price tag either. Healing looks like three dollar flowers from the grocery store, a line item that is always in my grocery budget. It’s buying myself that beautifully ripe gorgeous pear- just one- they are expensive- and sitting down to enjoy in the afternoon, treasuring the moment. It is choosing to take down all the ugly blinds and hanging inexpensive muslin and lace curtains in all the windows. (Outfitting our whole house, all three floors, cost me about thirty five dollars.)

    What has fascinated me about this project six years in now is that my home has become my hotel. It is the place I am most at peace, and the beauty of it restores me. Slowly all the cheap and ugly stuff has disappeared, the stuff I always bemoaned- and now things are simple and beautiful- what I always wanted but swore I could never have or find- and it starts with one small, simple choice, and then another.


    This post is eighth in the series. Begin the journey here.

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  • collecting stories,  the mothering arts

    Reset the clock…

    Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” from GMO OMG from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

    It is telling that something so simple- lay down your weapons, lay down your tools, lay down your books, lay down, lay down- is so very hard.

    When I am resting well- sleeping well- I am at peace. When I do not, a fog stealthily descends, and before I know it, I am lost. Depression nips at my heels, I stumble over decisions that should be so very simple, and most telling, I rarely know where I am, for the fog has grown so thick that I can barely see my hand in front of my face. I am given up to tears for the addled frustration I feel. When the simplest thing I could possibly do is to find a quiet spot and rest, I instead continue to run, becoming more bruised and battered with each passing moment.

    Somewhere, the lines got so very crossed. There are always seasons. Seasons when one has a newborn baby, for example. Seasons where a spouse is very ill. Seasons where a new idea, a new venture is taking off and needs a late night infusion or three as it gets ready to soar. Seasons where life gets intense, a confluence of things coming together. But they are seasons. We are not supposed to go for long, extended periods of time when we aren’t getting proper sleep. Our bodies aren’t made that way. And yet so many of us do.

    Committing to sleep means we have to commit to letting go. To let go is to admit we don’t have control over the outcomes, and that is a very difficult place to be for many of us. Sleep has always been and always will be a surrender.

    It is an incredibly hard thing to stop to rest when everything feels like it is spinning out of control, and yet is exactly the thing we most need to do. I’ve confused this many times over the years and now in order to live most fully and truthfully within my life, I know I have to keep a careful eye on not only how I am sleeping but how I am thinking about resting and sleeping.

    It is so difficult to leave things undone, but that is exactly what sleep beckons us to do. So many times when I’ve been long past exhausted and should have been asleep hours ago, I see the piles of clean laundry strewn across my couch, the staggering tower of dirty dishes in the sink, the clearly visible bits of crunch and dirt on my floors, the relative state of undone-ness of my home, and the voices in my head are so very loud that I must finish this- I am not a good mother, a good wife- if this lies unfinished. So many times have I crawled into bed and my mind begins to circle and accuse- did you do this, why did you say that, did you, could you, you should, you failed, you can’t, you left this undone and I am going to remind you of it endlessly- spin and spin and spin and suddenly it is three in the morning. Sleep is elusive.

    In order to truly rest I have to let go of it all. My need for control. My desire to be good. My fear of being called lazy or a failure. The misguided illusion that if I could manage to stay awake, I could somehow wrench things into some semblance of order.

    Perhaps worse, sometimes our fear of being vulnerable means that we keep running so that we don’t have to face it. “I’ve always been a night owl,” we say, as the minutes and hours creep far into the night and we do anything to stay awake- another tv show, another click, another swipe, anything to distract us from the gnawing aching fear that will greet us as soon as we crawl into bed. Meanwhile our sleep becomes more and more disordered.

    We’re not meant to live like that. When we are wandering sleepless, that is when we most need the perspective that Wendell Berry describes- a vision of the world beyond, above, outside of us. It is easy to convince yourself that the go is wildly important and worth your sacrifice when you are wrapped up in a world that marches sleepless right next to you. It’s a lot harder to believe the go should be so endless when you step outside of the hamster wheel and realize that there is solid ground.

    Above all, it requires trust.

    “Cheered by the presence of God, I will do at each moment, without anxiety, according to the strength which He shall give me, the work that His Providence assigns me. I will leave the rest without concern; it is not my affair. I ought to consider the duty to which I am called each day, as work that God has given me to do, and to apply myself to it in a manner worthy of his glory, that is to say, with exactness and peace.”

    – Francois de La Mothe Fenelon

    This is seventh in the series. Begin the journey here.

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  • collecting stories,  the mothering arts

    Pace yourself…


    {{sometimes there is an advantage to being one’s own editor. I had written this entire series in rough draft form before beginning to post; I paused with the vacation so that I would not have to worry about technical aspects while I was gone. While on vacation, I realized I wanted to change this post entirely. Thank you for your patience!}}

    Tired is a word that we bandy about with abandon, second only to the other four letter word, busy.

    I am so exhausted. Things are just so busy. I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

    And then we laugh. Weakly. Or that sort of half smile topped by eyes quietly edging with tears. We accept that it is a given. We all joke about it. We respond: I know, right? Sleep when we’re dead. More laughter.

    Thing is, though- we’re dead tired. Bone be-numbed weary.

    I’m here to tell you- stop laughing. This isn’t just some joke. Don’t make light of this. We are running scared, we are running crazy, we are running on fumes.

    Our American culture is formed on an economy that never sleeps. Go, go, go, go. It has slipped into every aspect of American life to a point that we don’t recognize it for it’s un-naturalness. Everyone is on the wheel, everyone is spinning, this is the way life is….isn’t it?

    Go the ant, thou sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise.

    Go the garden, you perennially exhausted.

    Find time.

    Real time.

    Plant a tomato. Observe all the work that goes into that plant. Observe the time it takes, observe the yield. Pick the worm, worry over the blight. Know that you are absolutely not in control and whatever comes of it is God’s good grace. And when it’s all done, for all your work, you only get four medium sized tomatoes, which are only this side of ugly. No food magazine props here.

    Know how long it takes.

    Know how long it takes.

    As you slip into the grocery store, pick up that organic heirloom tomato in the bin, note the price, and have a revelation. You know now why it is so expensive. The resources. The time. The investment. You are paying for time. Real time. Not machinized, stream-lined, industrial, pesticide full, still-green, have to be sprayed with ethylene gas, ready in three weeks from seed to harvest tomatoes time.

    We have become so disconnected from our real life that we forget real time.

    I thought of this on the first morning of our camping vacation. This article edges into crazy-town, but I agree with what she had to say here:

    It’s a life that keeps us far more in touch with the natural seasons, too. Much of modern technology has become a collection of magic black boxes: Push a button and light happens, push another button and heat happens, and so on. The systems that dominate people’s lives have become so opaque that few Americans have even the foggiest notion what makes most of the items they touch every day work — and trying to repair them would nullify the warranty.  The resources that went into making those items are treated as nothing more than a price tag to grumble about when the bills come due. Very few people actually watch those resources decreasing as they use them. It’s impossible to watch fuel disappearing when it’s burned in a power plant hundreds of miles away, and convenient to forget there’s a connection.

    Sarah A. Chrisman, I Love the Victorian Era. So I Decided to Live It.

    Peel back even one layer of our modern technology and you suddenly start to see glimpses of real time. Attach the propane gas to the stove, find the match, light the stove, set the percolator atop. Wait for ten to fifteen minutes for the coffee to perk. Same with your food. Collect all the dishes, walk them to the bath-house, clean each by hand with soap and water. There went an hour, maybe an hour and a half. The fire never starts at the click of a button. It requires a bit of midwifery and coaxing and patience- ten minutes, sometimes twenty. It takes time.

    I think about this in mothering. The demands on our time are so diverse and vast that we often forget what each costs us. We do one thing barely well, toss it in the air to spin a plate, do another thing hardly well at all, toss it in the air to spin, do the next thing a bit better than the last two, toss it in the air, pull a baby climbing a bookshelf off, catch a plate that has stopped spinning, toss it again, and on and on. Sometimes those plates come down with a dreadful, heart-breaking crash. Sometimes we manage to keep them all spinning but we’re running exhausted from one plate to the other and we’re not really living- we’re just running. And in all that tossing and running, we forget what it is like to do something well, to completion.

    Please don’t confuse me here- there are certain things we have to do all the time- the dishes, the laundry, the floors, wiping noses….I’m not saying that we only do the dishes and stand there and wait for the washer to stop spinning before moving on to the next. What I am asking is what happens when we start to slow down and do things with intention.

    Two things begin to happen. One, you realize how long it actually takes to do something. When you slow down and fold clothing with intention, you realize that in order to do it well, you need a bit more time. Two, you begin to see things you did not see before. You notice where a knee is beginning to fray on a child’s jeans and make a mental note to fix it. You pick up your littlest’s dress and marvel at how fast she is growing, and you make a mental note to spend more time snuggling and reading together. Maybe you notice that your family just has too many clothes, and to make better use of their time and yours, you need to cut back and donate some clothes. The fact is, you are paying attention to something you’ve only previously rushed and ran through because isn’t that what everyone does?

    If you’re like me, this intentional experience will teach you that you are just doing too much in too many areas. That your time is finite each day, and that the endless to-do list you carry around in your head is beyond unreasonable.

    A quiet, intentional life is going to look different for each person, but I like how my husband says it: we live a considered life now. Our day is slower than many other persons in similar situations right now- it has to be at the moment because of our unique medical needs. At the same time, it is faster than others because of the unique choices we’ve made (like using paper plates). We have looked at every aspect of our day with intention and made choices that most closely reflect our needs. The paper plates go against my crunchy, earth-conserving, creation-honoring self, but for right now, I need the time that I would normally spend dealing with those dishes to spend intentional time with my children. Our evenings get pretty complicated with Josiah’s medical needs, and everyone needs to be all-hands-on-deck. There is a pretty constant evaluation of our choices against the needs of our family, and they shift as needed. The bottom line here is that we know what the needs are.

    I used to think that the only way I could mother well was to learn to spin plates really well so that they wouldn’t crash. Now I have begun to realize that I can mother from a place that doesn’t toss plates in the first place. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. I need to live in real time.

    This post is the sixth in the series. Start the journey here.

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  • collecting stories,  the mothering arts



    Cadence: Also known as stride turnover, a runner’s cadence is the number of steps taken per minute while running.

    I am not a runner. I am, or at least I was, a competitive swimmer. I’ve been exploring running terms while writing this series- totally fascinating. Cadence compares most closely to a swimmer’s idea of split- the timed distance a swimmer swims in a larger race. It helps them to know where they are strongest- and weakest, so that they can develop better skills in practice.

    As a former athlete, I can tell you that this idea is the hardest thing for any long-distance athlete to master. Go too fast too soon, and you’ll hit the wall before the race is over. Go too slow and you’ll be so far behind that no amount of peaking will get you to the line fast enough. Ideally, you maintain a pace that is fast enough to keep you in the competitive heat, but slow enough that you don’t fatigue too soon, and at the right time, you pour on everything you’ve got to finish well.

    I think the scariest part of American culture right now is that we feel like we have to run all out. All the time. As I said before, the problem is not the go itself- going is good. Training, exploring, stretching- these are good things. The problem comes when the go turns to a flat out frantic run. Elite runners (and swimmers) run (or swim) every day. But they do not run all day every day. They run incredibly difficult races and then they enter recovery periods, where they still run, but they run much slower and easier. They still don’t run all day everyday. Not even Olympic level athletes that devote most of their days to their sport run all day. So why in the world are we running all the time?

    Somewhere we got in our head that we had to.

    When I look back on that time in my life, I can point to specific things that goaded and confused me into running all the time, totally messing up the cadence that I should have been maintaining. The first of course, is not realizing or confronting “good” definitions in my head, which I’ve talked about and parsed out in the last two posts.  The rest of the reasons have a more practical bent. How do you find home if you’re always running — or you’re always trapped — by your home?

    [What follows is our story. I share this in the hopes that it helps someone else, but I fully understand that no one has the exact same situation. Glean what helps, leave the rest.]

    Without a doubt, finances drove many of the running decisions I made in those years.

    I’m not talking about a small financial setback. I try not to flinch when people say that things have gotten tight, or that they are so broke in a laughing sort of way. I want to start asking questions like- things are tight but you still have cable? Things are tight but you still have a landline and x numbers of cell phones? Things are tight but you can still pay for children’s activities like swimming or dance or Boy Scouts? Things are tight but you can still do a Starbucks run every day? Things are tight but you still have gas in your tank and food in your pantry? My eye gets so twitchy and I want to blurt out so many un-nameable things, because that is not what being flat-out broke is. When you are flat-out broke, none of these things are true for you, and chances are, you don’t even have a car because the car broke down and you couldn’t repair it.

    We lived through the crash of 2008. My husband lost his job and would not have another one for two and a half years. Everything crashed in on us. It was only the generosity of people from our church and our parents that meant we even survived that crash. Had it not been for them, we would have been homeless, and we would have lost our car. In some ways, we did lose our car and our house, but we were able to make decisions that would change the circumstance before the bank came calling. We were able to sell our house before we couldn’t make another payment on it. We were able to trade in our car and buy the Beast, greatly reducing the car payments to a more comfortable level. We were extremely blessed to be able to do so. Many others weren’t so lucky.

    It was still profoundly scary after that. Our parents helped pay our rent and car payments. We could not feed our children. We couldn’t purchase gas. We couldn’t get to church because we didn’t have the gas. We went absolutely nowhere. Every time James had another fruitless interview, we would all pile into the car just to be able to leave the confines of our house for a while. We would find the closest park and stay there while he went. Even so, every time he had an interview, it would dig deep into what little grocery money that we had. I distinctly remember at one point wondering if it was even worth it to try to go to interviews anymore, because the financial cost of being told no one more time was so utterly demoralizing that it almost hurt too much to try. We were bereft.

    For all of that, we had so much more than others we know during that time. We were so blessed. We are still.

    It is in light of all this that my next decisions were made, and what led to Running on Empty. Because we had been so hopeless and uncertain for so long, when jobs finally came calling for us both, of course we felt like we needed to say yes. I don’t think we even thought it through. Looking back now, I should never have taken the job. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have taken a job at all, period; I just shouldn’t have taken that job. There were red flags and warning signs all over the place, but we didn’t heed them because we were running so scared.

    It was so loaded. Having that job meant in my head that I had to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good employee, and all three were defined by a hopeless perfectionism that nearly killed me. It is what led to me quite literally burning the candle at both ends and only getting two or three hours of sleep a night- which led to profound sickness- which led to my family not having the wife and mother that they needed. (Thankfully by that time, I had finally wised up and resigned from the job.)

    If I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t have taken the job. I would have made my job instead to work hard at keeping our budget in check- making more from scratch, repairing more, finding the pennies in the couch. And then, when I had done the best I could and knew that the budget couldn’t be fine tuned anymore, I would have looked to my gifts and talents and figured out ways to give rise to income from those giftings. We also had resources that we couldn’t ‘see’ because we were running so hard and so fast. James had other skill sets that he could have made use of in his down time, as did I, that would have served both the dual purpose of filling our creative tanks and putting money in the purse.

    It is with this in mind that we are facing our newest challenge, now, with all the costs associated with both Ellianna’s and Josiah’s illnesses, some of which will be ongoing. Hopefully the big, expensive parts of these illnesses are behind us now and we can work to pay down the debt. I have purposely withdrawn from all work obligations for myself to ensure that my focus is, exactly as I said- making sure I am doing my absolute best within the home to manage our resources well. We faced a huge adjustment when we realized that we would all have to become a gluten-free household. Everything you ever knew about cooking and food budgets flies out the window when that comes into play, and while I made do from September to May using my best learned skills from the 2008 crash, we couldn’t continue that way forever. It has been my very careful pursuit within the last two months to learn the new skills required and tweak and minimize cost as much as possible- to be both good stewards of the money James earns and the money our many kind friends have sacrificed for us. To do less would seem disrespectful of the gifts of time and money so many people have given for us, both in the the crash and running on empty years, and now.

    I can see that perhaps in six months or so, maybe more, I can begin to pursue avenues of generating income again. When I do that, I won’t be running scared. I will be, hopefully, operating from a place of peace. I will know exactly what it takes to run the home, and what budget is truly reasonable given the new medical debt, the ongoing medical needs, and the food- I will be able to make choices that bring life to my family, not death. The number one problem of those running on empty years is that while we survived, the price was exponentially too high. James and I both have long lasting medical issues related to our lack of caring for ourselves during those years. It didn’t pay.

    I do fundamentally believe that not being in debt is the safest place to be- it sure would have made 2008 a lot less fretful and scary for us and we would have had a lot more resources to draw from- but at the same time, if at all possible, you have to be able to feed yourself and your family, and sleep, and care for yourself in a healthy way. You shouldn’t be running all out all the time. Financial burden is certainly a marathon, but you still need to keep a safe pace to ensure that you get to the finish line. If you don’t know how to do that, ASK! Look for someone who is running well and use their guidance to help set a healthier pace. It wasn’t till we had a long, deep discussion with my grandparents (who came out of the Great Depression) that we could start to see a different path to take and feel some hope.

    I hope no one reading this thinks I am condemning or judging them for any financial choices they have made: I specifically want to state that I am in no way criticizing moms who work inside and outside the home. I most likely will need to rejoin either of those forces in the coming year. I am just sharing what it has been like for our family and what we have learned. I pray you only hear grace and mercy here. 

    This post is fifth in a series. Begin the journey here.

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