Today is really my New Year's Day. We spent 14 hours in the van yesterday. Travis' grandmother passed away on Andrea's (trav's sister) birthday. So we drove to Oklahoma on Selah's 5th birthday (27th) had the funeral on Trav's 3oth birthday (28th) spent some time with family and drove home on Jacob's birthday. Yes, I am one exhausted woman, slightly disappointed at being cheated out of making 3 birthday cakes, and not having the time to get a party planed or gifts prepared. All in all, the birthday crew was thrilled with the surprise of snowmen and sledding for birthday gifts. All is well.
Since today feels like the beginning of the New Year I've been evaluating the last year in my mind, amid unpacking and scrounging for something to feed 3 little hungry people all day when the fridge is empty. Last year Travis and I made a commitment to purge our lives, asking God to clear out what His plan for us and holding us back. You can read about it here .
" We want to get back to a minimalistic, basic lifestyle with a focus on God. We've made a plan and resolution for this year that EVERYTHING we do must be purposeful, working towards peace, health (emotionally, spiritually and physically), and security for us and our children. If anything works against it in any way at all, we have to reevaluate the action, relationship, item, event, etc. or rethink the purpose and realign what we're doing so there is integrity and wholeness."
I remember wondering what would happen and what it would feel like to be standing on the other end looking back. I can tell you it's not at all what I thought. While my hopes for the whole thing seemed lofty and dreamy then, I look back at it with a clarity and a smile at how narrow minded and naive our expectations were.
- a house of simplistic order
- to regain control of our finances
- to eat healthy and perfectly
- Deepen friendships and family relationships
- to finish work on our house to make it more livable
It truly is amazing how God gives you what you ask for in a completely different way than you expected. And if you aren't paying attention you'll almost miss the subtle changes that brought you to it.
1. In the last year I took at least 3 van loads full of things to the Salvation Army to donate, and was rid of about 3 van loads more in the 2 yard sales we had, one in the spring and one in the fall. So, we succeeded in having less and getting our home down to a more minimalistic type of living as we had hoped, but the bottom line is that we have 3 children. Life is full of unexpected chaos at every turn. So while the purging of things was a success, we've been shocked to find that it wasn't the real answer. Our 'simplistic order' has come from the blessing of a new job for Travis with a company that absolutely values their employee's home lives. A company that rewards his work with praise, respects his hours every week, invests in his education because they believe in him, and gives employees extra time off when they can, like the entire week between Christmas and new year paid off. I've learned to stay home and be still. Oh I'm still all over the place when I need to be, but it's not the same. God's given me a contentment with my house (although I'm still praying for that house not to sell, and it hasn't) and with what I have. I've come to enjoy less as more in the house, and in my 'free time' from the kids. I just don't feel this need to escape and prove that I'm still anything other than this. This is GOOD.
2.We were determined to get our money to behave. With his new job Travis is obviously making more money, and my little business that I started at the beginning of the year is taking off. But, as usual, with more money comes more reasons to spend. I have to say this Dave Ramsey Course has completely changed how we feel about money, and what it is for. Not to mention the fact that it's NOT EVEN OURS! It's God's money and we're responsible for being wise with it. I don't have this panicked feeling anymore. I thought we would have all of our debt paid off, our house built onto, our two good reliable cars.... We don't have all of the debt gone, but it's certainly going. The house is lovely the way it is. Contentment can be so much more fulfilling that more square footage, although I'm in love with my gorgeous new bathroom this year. We have only one car, the van, and I love that. It's streamlined our lives to keep us on track with our schedules. Travis rides his bike and the Marta train to work and can read his bible instead of fight traffic. Let me tell you, I have a much happier, peaceful man coming home to us every evening and I love it. I hope we never have to buy another car again!
3. Ugh, 'food' the beginning of last year was a pretty consuming topic. I was struggling to keep sugar-toxins-hormones-antibiotics-anything unnatural out, handle Jacob's allergies, try to lose weight for a wedding I thought I would be in. It took WAY too much of my time. In July, we had the typical 'Jacob' slip up during a family reunion. He ate something, somewhere and was covered with eczema and crying about his belly aching withing an hour. I broke. Whoever thinks I'm supermom must be out of their mind. I swear I was just ready to let the whole family starve rather than deal with cutting out all of the things he couldn't have. I buckled under the pressure and I was just DONE. So,not knowing what else to do, I prayed for deliverance, begging for him to be healed completely. Why hadn't I done this before? I don't know. I felt so guilty, knowing that some mothers have to deal with cancer and lifelong disorders for their children. These allergies seemed to small in comparison. How selfish of me not to simply handle it. How weak of me to not humbly bear the burden of something so simple as food allergies. Truly failed logic, I'm sure. Broken, I begged daily for deliverance for my son from the pain and for all of us from the overwhelmingness of it all. Withing a week Jacob was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on regular wheat bread with a glass of milk. We even have blood work to prove that they are gone. I'm completely humbled by God's mercy in that, and overwhelmed that he found it a worthy request. For the record Jacob was allergic to dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, baking soda, rye, tomato and yeast. It was a long 2 years. As far as eating all natural, I took a break from trying so hard and feel much more peaceful and less panicked about feeding my family. We'll slowly get back to eating more natural once all of our debt is cleared. And for the wedding, I was forced to take a stand that excluded me from participating. It was painful and devastating to lose a friendship so precious to me. I didn't think it would ever happen. That actually happened the same week as Jacob's allergies. I have callouses on my knees from how much they were used in prayer that week. I'm still the same size, as always. But I'm peaceful about it. I'm looking forward to spending some time on my health to be fit for when we are ready to add number 4 to the tribe.
4. Friendships. What a bittersweet subject. Family first. I started the year out very separated from my family. My parents were still not fully accepting responsibility for my youngest brother's actions with Selah. Hannah was pregnant with her dream little girl to name after my mother and, it felt, quite spiteful with it. Melissa couldn't acknowledge that she did anything wrong in attacking me while I was at the hospital with Lucas. It was all one big mess of pain.
So with my parents and Selah's therapist, we sat down to see if a discussion would open their eyes. Selah sat on the couch in my with her 4 year old heart open and told Grandma and Grandpa what Uncle Bobby did. I sat focusing on breathing so that I wouldn't vomit. Susan blinked repeatedly through tears as she smiled at Selah and praised her for being brave and talking. Travis' face was white yet strong. We all were moved. Yet my father sunk back like a deer in headlights and didn't way a word. My mother nodded and bobbed her head the whole time with a big grin at Selah and said "well, that was wrong, wasn't it? I'm sorry" as if reading it from a script she had planned in advance. It's funny, because it never occurred to me that I could just give up and and be done with them at that point. We could have. I just finally realized that I can't fix them. I looked at my father and saw the little boy who was beaten down with words and forced to perform and behave. He didn't have a clue how to deal with this. I saw in my mother the woman who spent every moment striving for the identity of perfect benevolence and all encompassing love to the point that she couldn't feel anger at anything evil or it would throw of everything she knew about who she was. She didn't know how else to respond. They just didn't get it. And I was shocked at the immediate feeling of empathy for them, making forgiveness and healing come quickly. The boundaries are another story, and will not be compromised. But for now, there is peace there.
Hannah and I could hardly speak to each other at the beginning of the year without a complete mess coming of it. There was so much misunderstanding and pain between us and so much comparison. I finally wrote her a letter stating that, short of counseling, I was not willing to continue a relationship that was so unhealthy. Even if we are sisters. I think it shocked her pants off. I met her and read the letter to her. She cried and I just told her that I was putting it in her hands to proceed. I've tried so many times to reconcile with her, and I'm not even sure what over. To my surprise I received a letter from her, in her own writing. I know what a huge effort that took, with the fear of writing she has from her dyslexia. I was moved. We went to counseling. I never thought it would happen. After all the times I told her we actually needed mediation to be sisters, she went for it. We still are very different. But I don't have the same sister I had a year ago and I'm so thankful. And to be honest, neither does she. I'm mush more understanding of who she is. I love her, Buckhead Betty and all.
I've chosen not to talk about the whole thing with Melissa. I feel like, once again, she has no idea how it feels. She was gone by the time hardships hit as kids. She was never forced to dig through boxes of rejected produce for food, or see my father come home with $20 for groceries because he sold his blood. She was able to make it untainted by any of the devestation. I love her and I forgive. Sometimes it pops into my head that she called me neglectful, not a christian, a bitch. It hurts. I know she snapped out of fear and shock. I just don't understand the stance she chose. And I don't have to. We don't agree, and we don't talk about it. I am completely confident that I did exactly the right thing for my child AND my brother, who desperately needed his life to change. I do have to say that it completely changed how I see her. We have so much in common, and I respect her in many ways. I enjoy our relationship. I suppose I just don't have that 'My big sister is so cool." feeling anymore. She's wonderfully human and fallible. I love her that way.
So, like I said I forgave. On the other hand I simply can't be at peace with how she would have handled the situation for Selah. She made it clear that she would have brushed it under the rug to protect my mother from trauma. My mother is not a martyr or a saint. She is a human that makes mistakes. Unfortunately SHE made a mistake and this happened. I will not let a 3 1/2 year old feel betrayed for telling the truth. And confused because nobody did anything. We handled it legally, yet appropriately to protect our daughter and for Robert to get the help he needed. She would not have done it. Her concern was for my mother feeling attacked, or being in question for her parenting. My concern was for the precious heart of a 3 year old, and the point of no return my brother was quickly approaching.
Painful as it was, Travis and I chose to have our wills rewritten to have the children go to some of our closest friends in the case of our death. Melissa and Cesar had been primary, but were removed completely as an option. I love all nine of my siblings, but I can't say with complete confidence that any of them would really have had the gutts to stand up against 'The Fam" and do what we did. Hopefully Travis and I will live and love long past the time where custody would be an issue. And our family will never have a reason to make decisions so severe again.
The house, well.. that goes back and forth. We had grandiose plans of doing so much this year, but we've done very little. Still I find myself becoming more and more content with what I have. We've redone the bathroom. Rearranged things over and over... I finally feel like it's at a place where I really enjoy my home. Things finally all seem to have a place. Children have learned to make their own beds, put away their clothes and they are still young enough to think it's fun... that won't last I'm sure. I'm still praying for the Niles Ave. house not to see, and it hasn't. But I'm not so anxious to move now. I'm more anxious to just be wise with what we have and wait on God to bring some great opportunity along.
So wow, that's an ungodly long post. But that's my year, in a nutshell. On to the next one. I'm renewing my commitment for growth, and praying that God gives me a year even fuller than the last.