Like Moses, My Arms Got Tired

Exodus 17 11-13

As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; but when he lowered them, Amalek prevailed.  When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on each side, so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down.  So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his army with the sword.… 

Just like Moses, I was in the battle. Moses wasn’t on the battlefield, but he was having a profound effect on the outcome. I wasn’t in the high school, the hospital or the locker rooms, but my loved ones were and I was on a prayer mission.

Moses’ hands were in the air praying to ensure Joshua’s victory; and whether my hands were in the air praying in the car, or I was on my knees, or at church, or at the kitchen table, I had determined throughout my parenting years that I would be a prayer-warrior. And, I was. But my urgency and the amount of time spent in prayer really revved up during my kids’ later teen years. It wasn’t all about them, it was the onslaught of circumstances on top of parenting teens…

During the battle, I studied my Bible in a new way, went down on my knees more, read and prayed fervently. I spent countless minutes on the floor of my son’s room…aside my daughter’s bed while they were at school… One day kneeling on my son’s floor, completely perplexed as to why God was not answering my prayers how I wanted them answered, I lifted a photo frame off my son’s bed stand and whipped that sucker clear across the room. There is still a sharp, deep cut in the body of the NHL fathead on his wall. On that particular day, I was really angry which is rare for me. Looking back, I was just hurt that God was either saying “no” or “not yet” but either way, the more time passed, the less chance there would be for what I was praying about.

To make up for less-than childhoods of our own, my husband and I were doing way more than normal parents. We set out parenting with more enthusiasm than Dory and Olaf combined. And, we never lost steam. He is a man in non-stop motion. You will not see him reading the paper nor does he leave projects unfinished. I am just as productive on the home front, endlessly working on something to make the nest more comfortable while working outside the home part time. I invested time in my own friendships, invested in my kids and all the other kids they brought into the nest over many years, I handled group gatherings and hosted every holiday at my house.

Then, things started breaking down at a rapid-fire pace. I had small appliances given to me at my bridal shower that lasted 20 years. In the last five years, the replacements I purchased have broke down every other year. Then the oven stopped working. The fridge wasn’t cold anymore. And on it went. Between expensive kids sports and household nonsense, we were bleeding money.

Finances were tight on top of practices, games (traveling overnight for those games), driving, shopping, holidays, cooking, cleaning, talking, teaching, instructing, negotiating with teenagers in the kitchen and adults on committees, appointments, friends with diseases, extended family insanity, being lied to…

I felt like Moses. My arms were growing weak and the battles were still raging around me. My friend of 18-years was dying of cancer before my eyes and it was ripping my heart out. I was helping with her treatment visits, rotating time at her house and trying to support her daughter. My parents were embroiled in a disturbing family situation that had just come to light by a close relative. It was all-consuming and truly gut-wrenching. Despite the mountain of unpleasant circumstances, I was still mentally and physically operating at 110% as Mom, wife, worker, homemaker, holiday-maker, volunteer… just as I always had. Remaining silently overwhelmed by profound sadness and drama, I expended even more energy keeping the majority of my struggles from my children. Even though they were in their late teens, I still functioned as if they were ten. The details my extended family produced were simply not something I wanted in my kids’ heads. But, I could have exposed them more to the realities of death and dying.

One day I just got tired. All the prayer in the world didn’t seem to be making any difference at all and I eventually crashed.

I could not pray my way out of the haze draping over me. Like Moses, my arms that had held it all up for so many years were exhausted. So, I reached out just a little, looking for an Aaron and Hur. I was quickly reminded that many others had it much worse and, at minimum, they all have their own challenges. This knowledge does not deter everyone from asking for help anyway, but my type A, first-born self could not impose on anyone other than my closest friend. My dearest sister-in-Christ was the one who listened to a few of my sad tales (absent the gory details) and she agreed to be my Aaron. We still pray for each other regularly. But, I simply could not tell her all of the extended family depravity, nor could I tell anyone else about it. My own husband shrunk back, cutting me off as I shared only a sliver of what I had learned.

Everyone knows about Moses – even people who do not read the Bible or attend church or temple. They can talk about him floating in a basket, the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Not many can name his parents Amram and Jocabed. His parents no doubt, went through some stuff. His poor Mom had to eventually surrender him to Pharoah’s daughter. When they could no longer control their own situation, they reached out for help, even to the extent of having the enemy of their people raise their precious boy.

Moses’ parents’ life was not easy and neither was his. Life is life. There is good and bad and if I merely accept what is, and cease searching for reasons “why” that do not exist, I’ll fare much better. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon suggests eating, drinking and enjoying your work while you can. I had to start “enjoying” and stop thinking and analyzing and trying to figure out people because I discovered “nothing new under the sun”. There were painfully few real answers for all the sadness and stupidity. I was making myself crazy trying to understand circumstances, human behaviors and how God could bear to continue watching it all.

I had set out as a young wife and mama with the wrong mindset that if I worked diligently, life would be fairly close to perfect (try not to laugh). But the outside creeps into the nest, even when you’re really diligent. People get sick. Others make horrible choices. I internalized others’ decisions and heartache as if they were my own. I took on responsibilities that were not mine to take on. People were happy to pile their stuff on to me. It was unhealthy.

As I eventually emerged from that difficult time, I tried to see the lessons in the madness, where God may have been in the midst of some really unfortunate happenings. I refused to stay in defeat but it was not easy to overcome.

It’s hard to let go of being the go-to person because you feel you’re letting them down. And, it’s really hard to speak up to – and stand back from – crazy people, even those you may share bloodlines with. In my case, I thought I was being a good Christian by supporting others without boundaries. When you begin to draw necessary boundaries for the toxic folks, they do not like the new person distancing themselves. They want the “yes” “nice” girl back immediately. But distance and creating borders are required in order to preserve your own sanity and to have any personal semblance of happiness on this side of heaven. It also frees up mental space and physical time for enjoying the humans who truly care about you and yours.

My fellow Moses whose arms are tired, find yourself an Aaron and Hur to walk this nutty life alongside you, and enjoy yourself as long as you can.

Mama Duck 

You’re Middle Age When…

You try something on in a dressing room and don’t bother to look in the mirror until you’ve determined it is comfortable.

I took 10 items into a dressing room a few days ago. Whether I put on pants or a top, I immediately did a few yoga stretches, squatted down, sat on the bench and did a lap around the hallway.  Only when I felt sufficiently comfortable in something did I bother to look in the mirror.

Yes, I do care very much about my appearance…thus, the shopping (and my eldest daughter is in the fashion world)! Like any other gal, I love cute clothes but they need to be practical for real living. In my twenties, thirties and much of my forties, not so much. I was definitely looking first, worrying about how I felt later.

Now days? I’m so over anything even remotely snug, stiff, scratchy, too thin, too bulky, too hot or too cold. And, yes, appropriate yet trendy and comfortable are simultaneously possible! It just takes me a little more time in the dressing room.

No matter what I’m wearing during the day, putting on pajamas at night is the best-feeling outfit ever.

Happy Friday!

 

 

 

The TV Show “The Middle” is Funny! Everything Else “Middle”… Not So Much


Middle
Sure we all like the show The Middle.    But I like little else involving “The Middle”. How about you?

Middle Age is surprisingly everything everyone older than me said it was. There really are aches and pains when you wake up in the morning. You really do notice that your skin is not what it used to be. I haven’t read, I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman, but the title makes me say, Amen Sister!

Middle of The Road or Middle Ground is not something I like to take. Although my job as a college teacher (and being a parent) forces me to accept and examine the “gray” areas of life, I like black and white. Right and wrong. I’m a rule-follower and life just seems easier when I choose one or the other. However, Middle of The Road is occasionally necessary.

The Middle of My Long-Gone Waist Line is flab and this makes me mad! I already don’t eat all the M&M’s and potato chips that I really want to, and I exercise a few times a week, and I STILL have a ridiculously soggy, mom-of-3-kids middle!

The Middle School Years… ahhhhh!!  Well, if we’re being Mommy-mushy, there are certainly priceless, beautiful moments between 6th and 8th grade. Lots of really nice days and fun events are now part of our family memories, but often, those years were challenging as I painstakingly sorted through daily questions, tears, and frustrations. Can we just camp on the Middle School years for a minute?

The Middle School Gym Class is where many girls decide that messing up their hair is so not worth actually trying to compete and win a game.

The Middle School Hallway is where walking to your locker feels like you’re being bounced through the center of a pin ball arcade game.

Middle School Staff sometimes forgets that the emotional maturity gap between a first-born 6th grader and a last-born 8th grader is the width of the Grand Canyon. Yet, we crunch them altogether and expect the 6th graders to feel welcome and safe. Some 11 year olds haven’t been raised on Black Ops and Mortal Kombat. If you’ve read my blog awhile, you’ll remember Desensitize My Kids?! This leads me to…

Middle School Assemblies. Sometimes, good intentions are ill-timed or go too far. Kids are ready for outside world information at very different ages. If they didn’t know prior to the assemblies, these events have taught kids where the best drug dealers can be found, how to roll, inject, snort and hide drugs. They introduced alcohol frozen pops and how to hide alcohol in your flip flops. Perhaps this information would be better suited for the parent assemblies in the younger grades. The Rachel’s Challenge assembly was much too early for my kids. My daughter’s eyes blazed at me that afternoon, “How can you EVER send me back to school?  Did YOU know that kids get shot at school?!” At 11 years old, the precious lesson from Rachel’s life which was well intended by Middle School administration, was buried by guns and mental images of terrified children. After that, I requested my children not attend any assemblies without a note or call home first regarding its content.

The Middle School Cafeteria is where lunchboxes stop being cool. Thankfully, my 9th grader still carries hers at the high school!  

The Middle School Church. Disclaimer: I delicately, respectfully and generally speak only of my small-world experiences!  We are in the Northeast and we can’t boast truly Christ-centered churches “on every corner”, as my southern friends have. Getting youth to come on a regular basis to church is challenging. That said, the desire for my kids to experience a thriving youth group led me a few years ago to visit several church kids programs, and similar organized events.  What I discovered was between nursery and 5th grade, the spiritual growth opportunities were plentiful. At 13, the kids are sometimes dropped off the edge of a spiritual cliff.

When kids are 0-12, they have little say about whether or not they’re going to church with Mom and Dad. When kids are 13-18, they can make dental surgery preferable to Sunday mornings.  Yet, at 0-12, my kids had more VBS, Sunday morning theatre shows, holiday events, and spiritually-driven girls and boys programming in one year than they’ve ever had as middle teens.

When they are little, we smile into those cherub faces saying, “God loves you!”  At 15, we shy away from telling them they are accepted and loved, often because their serious faces scare us off!  Leaving them alone just makes it easier for them to leave. The book, Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, claims that approximately 90% of kids leave church in the middle teen years.

Not to mention that the best-intended parents who say church will come before sports when their kids are 5, find it terribly difficult not to break that family rule when the kids are 15 (myself included). When they do get to church, there needs to be connection. Important to note: we can be in the best spiritual environment possible and kids will still make their own choices-I know that. I’m also deeply grateful for the godly people who devote their time to the often thankless job of serving our youth at churches across this nation.

The Middle Teens: Aren’t Always “Cute”. Remember when your little ones did something mischievous or blurted out “no!!” to you? Their cuteness saved them.  During the middle teens, their moodiness and complaining is just ugly.

The Middle Teens: Puberty My son turned into a completely different species. Did you read, Moms of Teen Boys Be Encouraged?

Kids in the Middle of a divorce turn into adults who still identify themselves as such. Thankfully, there are programs, such as Kids in the Middle, Children in the Middle, and Divorce Care, which help children navigate the “two homes” “four parents”, etc., but living it out as a child is tough, no matter how well parents think their kids are taking it. Some interesting information is located in the book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

The Middle of the Night. Or should I say 2am?  Anyone have the occasional insomnia? Just because I know it’s always “live”, QVC keeps me company!

The Middle Finger.Nuff said.

The Middle Class and being Middle Child are up for debate! Have I bummed you out or can you relate? The Middle is not always great, so I keep striving for better. Because I hate ending anything on a downer, some good things about The Middle? Middle America! Malcom in the Middle! (I never saw it, but I hear it’s good). The Middle of an Oreo…:)Oreos

10 Things I Believed at 25 That Proved False by 45

Ahhhh, to be 20-something… Like most during those years, I had very definite impressions about how my life would progress. I would eventually learn, and after serious resistance – accept – that life has a way of detouring, surprising and wearing down a person, leaving a few disappointments along the way.

You may detect a touch of mid-life cynicism, but however you label the post, women I know in their later forties are experiencing a few discontents. We tend to hide them, worried that if we share our disappointments, it will replace the otherwise pleasant image people have of us. We fear earning a reputation as a complainer if we dare talk about the thoughts that dominate our 2am insomnia. For those of us “in the church”, we definitely don’t want to be judged as being ungrateful.

At 25 I believed…

1. What goes around eventually comes around.
What you send out often does come back, but life is unequal.
Some really bad people live into their 70’s without consequences.
Some really good people get really bad cancer.
Life is unfair in many ways for many people.

2. Maturity will finally belong to everyone – women will stop gossiping and men will stop gawking.

I was the naive 20-something who sincerely believed that once everyone became an adult, immature behavior would cease entirely.
Most often, what you see in someone at 25 will hold true at 45.
The scarce numbers of people who become better humans practice self-discipline and work hard to change. The effort is worth it, but few will bother.

3. My life would be anything but ordinary.
While marriage and parenting are adventures all on their own, it’s not the cocktail parties, fancy dresses and life of relative ease that I expected.
My life has been largely conventional. And there is blessing in ordinary.

4. Being nice always pays off.
I was stunned for many years that no matter how caring, nice or genuinely thoughtful I was toward a person, some people were still unkind.
I’ve tried to jump start my kids on this truth: people will find fault with anything-even good things. Not everyone will like you and that’s ok. We answer to God, not them.

5. Blood is thicker than anything.
Many people have sweet, fun and tender-hearted relatives who would rather die than upset each other.
Other families go out of their way to intentionally hurt each other. After years of confusing heartache, I learned that spending time with blood out of obligation is just wasting time. Perhaps not entirely applicable here, but even Jesus asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mat. 12:48) Friends are the family you choose.

6. That one, brilliant pastor would finally be able to explain to my inquisitive, deeper-than-most mind the harshness of life.
No one can.
I’ve met some intellectually gifted, deeply genuine pastors whose hearts eventually lead to the same place as mine: on this side of heaven, we simply will not understand the unconscionable suffering.
While a significant amount of earthly sorrow is the result of a person’s poor behavior, much suffering is simply enigmatic.

7. Unlike everyone around me, I would enjoy a pain-free marriage. Hands down, my husband and I are among the most normal and committed couples you’ll meet in a world of truly crazy marriages. We have been married for 22 years, and are both utterly devoted to our family. But marriage has peaks and valleys and all couples are imperfect.
I love Hallmark movies and every Disney princess story, but real life is not a fairy tale.

8. Those 40-something women were eating way too much McDonald’s.
Hormones-schmormones. That’s what I thought at 25.
After going through early menopause at 40, I gained 10 pounds in a month and never ate fast food. Then, clothes that fit the new me 10lbs. heavier, suddenly didn’t fit me at 45.
Hormonal changes are real. The weight can go up or stay the same, but the dispersion of the weight is fearfully unpredictable.

9. Those 40-something women weren’t exercising.
It takes double the effort at 45 to earn the same physical results I did at 25. Who has “double the time” while raising three teenagers?
At 25, I was only doing three things: working on my Master’s, working, and working out.

10. Having faith will eventually get easier.
I know my bible better than I ever have and for me, faith is harder.
Years of observing our global, moral deterioration. Depraved abuse, abductions, perversion, lies, seemingly endless unanswered prayers…
Living in a society that names what is blatantly “wrong” as “right” makes it seem like the dark side is winning. Of course, the days are numbered and we know the Good One wins. (Rev. 22:20)

Shhh…I’ve Been Doing “Nothing”!

Thayer Allyson Gowdy, via Real Simple

Thayer Allyson Gowdy, via Real Simple

My husband and I are both “A-” personalities. I know a few true type-A’s, and while I might admire their daily sanitized and shining kitchen floors, that’s not happening in my house! Therefore, I’m an A- to a B+ on most days. I share this with you to illustrate the truth that I am not the sort to “rest” during the day or “do nothing”.

 

So, you can imagine how I was reeling last year reading Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet. (This is mentioned in my June 2013 post, My Mid 40’s Identity Crisis.)  The book describes 10 activities (“menu items”) that if practiced daily, will lead to joy and help you discover your true purpose or career. Out of 10 daily practices, her #1 instruction to the reader is to “do nothing” at least 15 minutes a day.  Usually when someone wants to embark on a new career or unearth their true purpose, they are expecting to take action, not “do nothing”!

 

Before I read any words that followed menu item #1, I judged the “do nothing” recommendation as absurd. However, the further I read, the wiser her advice seemed. Even though it sounded great, I didn’t practice it for long.

 

That was, until January 1st, 2014. Something changed in my New Year’s routine. I didn’t plan it, nor did I feel entirely guilt-free as I practiced it. I didn’t expect it to continue, but it did – all month long. What is the “it”? Doing nothing. Often. In fact, sometimes more than twice a day. I thought it might be due to the two preceding months of holiday entertaining. But, after a couple of weeks of resting several times each day, I was plenty refreshed from the long Christmas season of serving. I was almost relieved two weeks ago when I came down with a cold, giving me an excuse to “do nothing” in between my hours of “doing something”!

 

This January, I found myself on three mornings waving goodbye to the kids at 7:20am, and (gulp) I crawled back into bed. I couldn’t fall asleep, but…I rested.  On several days, after chores, grading papers, checking emails, and the like, I sat on the couch. I didn’t turn on the television and I turned off my cell phone. I wasn’t tired. I just…did nothing. Can I tell you that typing this truth feels like I’m sharing something scandalous?!

 

One day I watched snow blow outside my window at 25 miles an hour for 15 minutes. Another day I sat in a chair staring at the family room curtains. I pondered how long it had been since I’d washed and rehung them. No, I didn’t take them down and toss them in the washer. On my daughter’s piano lesson day, when I usually blitz through the grocery store, I waited for her in the car and closed my eyes. I actually laughed out loud one afternoon, stunned by my own indulgence.

 

Normally, the only time in January I stop moving is to drop exhausted into bed. It’s a busy month in our house. My top 4 “usual” January activities look something like this:

 

  1. Make all returns at stores for my kids and all grandparents by January 3rd. This year? One lingering return bag for American Eagle is still sitting on my dining room floor.
  2. Throw my twins a family birthday party, followed by separate friend parties by the second week of January. Have I been that crazy for 17 years? This year? My daughter just had hers on Friday night and my son is still waiting….!
  3. Tear down all Christmas decorations, pack up over a 100 tree ornaments, re-organize the boxes in the basement, search out and vacuum every pine needle by January 5th. This year? Various ornaments lingered around until mid-January and after cursing my “do nothing” habit every time I hopped around with a needle stuck in my foot, I finally got into the nooks and crannies, vacuuming them all!
  4. Organize closets in all bedrooms. This year? I walked into each closet, and then walked out. I sat down on the closest bed and did nothing but stare into the closet for 15 minutes! Then, I got up and left. I suppose that will be my February project (when I limit my “do nothing” habit to the allotted 15 minutes a day).

 

The fascinating outcome is that for all of my “do nothing” time, I actually started an exercise routine. I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, but I’ve kept up with the dreaded sweat-fest 4x a week. I’ve read a book. This is a big accomplishment for busy Moms. Being me, I also almost feel a little mischievous, like I’m … gulp again … enjoying myself. If you’ve read anything I’ve posted, you already know I’m a bit of a deep-thinker, humor-challenged, and this “do nothing” experiment became “fun”, the further into January I traveled.

 

So, in conclusion, my do-nothing adventure was quite unintentional. I hadn’t thought about Beck’s book until I was well into the do-nothing habit. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue, but what I’ve observed is that the house didn’t come tumbling down, everyone still had clothes, food and water, and Mom just happens to be a little more relaxed this New Year!