Why we are minimizing!

I was recently told that we have figured out in our early 30s what most people figure out in their 60s, if at all. This was said to me in a discussion about why we are up and moving to Kalamazoo, only an hour away, but still a significant move for us.  For the past 12 years, since my husband and I first dated we have always talked about living different places, owning businesses, being adventurous. But, their is always one reason or another for why we stay stuck, stuck in one place, stuck in routine, stuck in a radius of close proximity to our home town. It never seemed like a reality that we could move away since we started our family here and have always had somewhat limited income. Married at 19 and 20, starting a family within months and balancing one income while I raised our kids for 6 years did not make it easy to have even a little freedom to move. I realize now I also struggled with self-esteem and the confidence to be successful without close family around for built in support. Living in Sturgis we have built wonderful support for our family, made friends, have a beautiful home, meticulously well kept, clean and picture perfect, on the outside of course. Inside, it doesn’t always feel so perfect. In fact, it rarely does. I can stand back and look at it all and it feels perfect, until the moment it all seems to come crashing down. Which has been more often than not lately. In a split moment I can go from blissfully happy, calm, enjoying my husband and kids to overwhelmed, emotionally spent with no energy to remain calm when a little stressor arises. The kids misbehave a little and I snap, something breaks and it all seems defeating, I have a long day at work and come home with no energy, but yet still need to maintain the perfection. 

I have recently realized how well I hide my stress, people that I’m closest to did not see how much anxiety and stress I hold in. I hide it for multiple reasons, one is that I’m still able to function quite well considering, it’s what I take pride in, one of my strengths, another is that if I don’t put on a good face I will cripple and not function much at all and last it’s the concept of putting on a smile and eventually you’ll feel happier. It does help, if I feel exhausted and then look and present as exhausted it adds to the exhaustion, like wallowing in my stress. Yuck, I hate doing that. Either way the reality is that many things are stressful and time consuming, maintaining a large beautiful home takes so much energy, hours spent each week cleaning, doing yard work, paying bills, grocery shopping. There is only so much time in a day and for me I have a specific standard for my home, maybe unnecessarily high, but I am not comfortable and relaxed if does not stay clean and meticulous.  After working 40 hours, doing all of the necessary “stuff,” we still need to cook, do homework, spend time with our kids, time as a family and exercise….. I am exhausted. Not even a physical exhaustion, but mentally and emotionally. And no matter what I will still go, go, go and do what I can for everybody else as best as I can. And I still love to do that, it’s who I am, if I didn’t I would have stress from not helping others, not having time for my friends, not socializing. 

So, where does this leave me?

I had to change things, we had to do something different. We had to eliminate stress. I started to look around and hated having space, space I wasted time cleaning, hated having stuff, stuff that had no real purpose and did not bring me true joy, just more to maintain, bills, money we spent on things we didn’t really need that accumulated by living up to what we thought we needed. It all seemed pointless when what really matters is my family. And everything we built was to give our family more “space,” but we don’t need space. We need to be closer together, spend more time together, spend our evenings active together and not apart in different rooms of the house. 

We evaluated our values, which come down to a comfortable home, which means some financial stability to maintain it, education, to provide our children knowledge and possibilities for their future and to teach them cultural awareness so they have empathy for others, care for people and live life without judgement and fear of things a little different than their “normal.” 

We then evaluated our life, what we needed to do to make all of that happen, I was tired of talking about all of the things we want to do and never doing them. 

Reducing our bills, cutting our finances, minimizing our mortgage and square footage and yard size are all things we came up with. Moving to Kalamazoo is a wonderful solution, more affordable housing in smaller sizes, more culture and family activities to educate our children and… bonus… the Kalamazoo Promise will help our kids through college, another check off our list to financial freedom. I prepared for a smaller house by eliminating anything in our home that wouldn’t comfortably fit into our main floor, we cut expenses, paid off debts and had our home listed for sale within 2 weeks of deciding we were moving on to something new. 

We have been told this seems impulsive, that we made the decision quickly. In a way this is true, we are a family of ADD/ADHD, impulsivity is in our nature. But it’s really 12 years coming. We can’t wait to see what this new venture will hold for us, at least for the next 12 years and the boys are all through school. After that, who knows what the next chapter will hold for us. For now we are slowing down, enjoying every minute together and taking every opportunity to enjoy life with our children. 

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Starting over, A fresh start, Is it that easy??

I have been so grateful lately. Thinking about my husband, specifically. The journey we have had, things we have overcome, what we have learned, how we have grown. What that means basically is that we learned together how to have a healthy, loving, appreciative, successful marriage, friendship, partnership.

At one point, thanks to a conference, I looked at my relationship and imagined what it would look like if it was exactly what I would want it to be, kind of like a fairy tale I suppose. Then I was asked, are my actions and words fostering that picture? No, they were not. Maybe sometimes, but not enough. That was a changing point in my life.

I see on Facebook all the time articles of what marriage really is, fights, bad days, struggles, people proud to degrade themselves or their partners. I cringe anytime I see people proud to be a “bitch” or thankful their partner “puts up with them,” when they degrade their partner on social media. These are articles and posts that make me sad; maybe that is what many marriages are, maybe that’s “common,” but it’s not healthy. And, it does not have to be that way….it is a choice.

I am not one who likes to give advice when it’s not wanted or tell others “just do…” because productive communication does not really work that way and some things are easier said than done. People value somebody to just listen and not offer advice. Which I am more than happy to often do. At the same time biting my tongue from offering unwanted advice can be very hard when I see people I love so sad, unhappy, struggling, drowning, surviving in relationships. Day to day getting by for so many reasons, kids, vows, religious beliefs, finances, stability, dedicated years put into a relationship that they don’t want to walk away from. And I get it, I really do; we have had struggles, downs, ups, uncertainty, times we struggled to like each other. But the day I listened to that speaker though it hit and I decided I don’t just want to love my husband and be happy some of the time. I wanted a healthy marriage, to be happy to be with him all of the time, all day, mutual respect, to laugh, be mesmerized, feel butterflies, spend time together (not only in front of the tv or just being in the same house), quality time. I wanted to always love and like my husband. 

From that day on every interaction was a conscious effort, conscious awareness of what I said to him, how I said it, what actions I showed him. Were my actions and words kind, loving, respectful, did I show him appreciation and that I value him? If I thought about what I wanted my marriage to look like was I acting in ways that would make that possible? Each day was about the present and future going forward, not months or years ago. I had to let it all go, start over and only hold on to the good. Not holding on to things that happened in the past that harbor grudges, resentment or hostility.  If something upset me I kept it about that moment, not all of the past things that often get brought up in arguments, no more revenge. I made him coffee each morning, not because I felt I had to, but I wanted to start the day doing something nice for him. I thanked him for helping with the dishes after dinner; and I remember that first day so clearly because he told me I didn’t need to thank him for something he should be doing anyway. I said “yes I do, because I appreciate you.” These little gestures make an amazing difference, these are not things that were natural for us, I dont remember most adults/relationships I watched as a kid looking like this. Maybe I only saw it on tv shows that seemed so fake to me. The posts on Facebook that portray “real” marriages to be not so great in my opinion, was more normal to me. People happy to have time “away” from their spouses, fights, sleeping on the couch, etc.; that was normal. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have disagreements, but we don’t really have fights anymore, we are happy to have time to do our own thing, but not to “get away” from each other.  We communicate our feelings, talk to each other, respect each other, take an effort to share in each others interests…. we like each other and have gotten to get to know each other all over again. 

Is this easy? 

No, it is a lot of work, and it may be harder for some than others, maybe it won’t work for others. I know for me making the decision to be happy and go forward is what I needed. If people can’t forget things from the past, maybe the relationship will never be what I have. I also believe all people deserve to be happy and if that means ending a relationship, then maybe that is what that means. I know that may go against many peoples beliefs, it’s not my ideal either. Of course this also takes effort on both people, my husband and I have both learned a lot, we are both growing, always putting full effort into our marriage. But for me it was my choice to change my actions and thoughts, I couldn’t expect anything in return, what I did was for me. Over time I saw a difference, I received back what I had put in, we both smiled more, spent more time together and grew to appreciate each other and love each other more than I could imagine. 

Successes…

I haven’t posted in some time as I have been processing the stages of grief and I have been consciously aware that my emotions could have gotten the best of me if I let them control my writing. Each week at church I have been contemplating what I would write, but I could not focus on writing a new topic because my thoughts were preoccupied. Until the past few weeks anyway.

Right now has been a several week series titled Home Run Life, where baseball has been a metaphor for scoring in life. Start at home plate, win with God; run to first, win within; run to second, win with others; run to third, success; and score at home, again win with God. We have only gotten to 2nd base as of now reflecting on how we must first win with God and win within ourselves before we can win with others and have success. As I have been reflecting I can say that I have been seeing this play out. This has not been a short journey for me.

I recently received a compliment that I have seemed happy lately. That I am for sure of, it is true; but I of course still contemplated and wondered…what am I putting out there that is different, what are other people seeing that is different from a year, two, three years ago.  I wondered, could it be that I have been focused on my health and exercise; which had really raised my self-esteem? Then I heard the first sermon on Home Run Life, and I went, uh duh, light bulb moment…. I have been back at church for the past year. While God was never absent from my life, this past year I have been “winning with God” and truly focused on myself so that I can have the capacity to love others. To really be the way I want to be with my husband, kids, friends, family. And I can say it has been a progressively great year and it is getting better. Full of promises and the potential to be living the life we really want to have, more simple, secure, family oriented and fun filled. I will admit this reference to a home run life is just one example where I have seen or am seeing this play out, and it is a slightly more materialistic of an example as it does revolve around career success and a little more financial stability. I can truly say though I am at a point in my life that it will not be squandered, underappreciated or taken for granted. I want what to me, seems like basic things to come from financial stability, to not stress over monthly bills, get my kids a college education and give them experiences in different cultures. I want a smaller house not a bigger house, I want less expenses and more of a God filled life, filled with family and friends. To me that is SUCCESS!!

Just Jump!!!

Each Sunday seems to have direct meaning to some area of my life. Of course, I think if we are all introspective and look for meaning in things each and every part of our days can be a learning experience. With God empowering us on Sunday mornings, for me those mornings are some of the most meaningful connections I make.

We were led by a story of the disciples crossing the sea of Galilea and Peter asking Jesus to tell him to come to him, Peter then took a step of faith and walked across the water to Jesus. This story was a demonstration of what it means to have faith, to take risks in life to follow God. That taking those risks and following God leads us to the divine. 

I can say that in the past I have for sure jumped in and took risks. I have always been one to put my faith in God to get us through tough times, most often the struggles in the past have been financially. Today I realized even more connections of where that faith and jump has led me.  I jumped into a career that seemed to be pulling at me and just felt like the right move for me, that God was calling me there. With that however, meant a pay cut, a part time job and really, little room for advancement. But I knew I needed to do it and looking back I can see how God has provided for us through that time. And now, finally leading us to more financial security as we have entered our 30’s.  With the storms I have been faced with recently I made more connections today of how God has led me to this path. I was led to working in a career with addictions, I was taken into a path to learn empathy for situations I could not relate to, I developed a passion for what I do and with learning how addiction has impacted my family I feel this is the path I needed to be on to get through the storm I am facing. Had I not jumped into this career and trusted God, I may have sunk in this storm. As much as I know about addiction and how it impacts families, I can picture myself going down another path had I not had the supports in place that I do, had I not learned about addiction as I have. 

“We lose sight of Jesus and begin to sink.”- Pastor R. 

I can see times where I could have started to sink; I am always thankful that I have never fully lost sight of God. This statement could lead me to a spiral of what if’s, what if I didn’t learn about addiction, what if I had learned about the impact it has had for my family when I was much younger, what if I didn’t have supports in place or a loving husband, what if I had ever experimented with substances – where would that have left me. Fortunately I feel God has put me where I need to be and I don’t dwell on the what if’s. I feel blessed to be where I am at in my life because I never understand why one person’s journey is harder than anothers. I agree with Pastor R this morning when he said “the best decision we can make is to go, go and follow Jesus!” We need to “Just Jump!”

We were then asked “what are you needing to take the risk in yet? The risk to tust and follow Jesus.” One thing in my life I am most contemplating with is my career and the long term path of finances, stability, getting a masters, do I need more money, should I be content? I mean after all I know God led me to this path, so if he put me here should I be content? I finally thought of this a new way today, that maybe I had to “just jump” to get the knowledge I needed, to learn the empathy I needed, to find the supports I needed to get me through this personal storm. But, maybe in the long run I can still take another path, that God may stear me somewhere else, that I may need to “just jump” again when the time comes, even if I am afraid. That maybe I need to “just jump”more when it comes to facing things head on, especially conflict, because I can definitely shy away from conflict. I mean it is very uncomfortable. 

Whatever we are doing in life, if we are following Jesus and not just mimicking the motions, we should be jumping. Jumping all in and trusting the path God takes us in.

Just Jump!!

Personal Storms!

“Do we wonder if Jesus cares if we drown? When we are forced with a crash of change, do we maintain faith? Who hides the storm in their lives? You’re in the storm for his purposes.”- Pastor R.

These questions were very powerful for me. “Do I ever wonder if Jesus cares if I drown?” That one I can answer confidently, no, I always have trust and faith that he will keep me safe, that their is a purpose for what crosses my path in life. I know he won’t let me drown, if I drown in my turmoils, that is on me, that would be me rejecting him.

“When we are forced with a crash of change, do we maintain faith?” Do I maintain faith when my life appears to be crashing, when my world seems to be turned upside down, or even just hitting lots of pot holes along the road? Yes, I feel that I do. I may feel hurt, sadness, anger, betrayal, devastation, but I am always thankful that I know I have support to get through any situation that comes my way. At this point in my life I can say yes; I hope I can always say yes. 

“Who hides the storm in their lives?” My hand shot up in response to this faster than I anticipated. It was a spontaneous response, with no attempt to hold back my answer to that one. I thought, I for sure hide the storms in my life. Right now the storm is huge, and for the most part I put on a good face, continue with each day and my life goes on. After a few minutes something stuck out to me “You are in the storm with his presence!”- Pastor R. I love moments in life when I have the ah ha moments, when I feel enlightened because I realize or learn something new about myself. It is a very reassuring and calming feeling. This was one of them, I intially was struggling with the fact that I hide my storms, but at this moment I realized, maybe for a brief period I hide my storms, or maybe just to some people, but really for the most part I realized I am not hiding my storms, I am in them with his presence, his presence is still radiating through me. He is guiding me, keeping me strong, comforting me. Sometimes when people know I am going through a lot, like recently, I get looks that kind of ask “if you’re in a storm, why are you smiling, why do you look okay?”  I know that often people may be confused by my optimism, my ability to push through, to keep smiling and going forward. I also know it can be hard to describe, I mean I really can’t describe it, but in spite of things that happen, I still find myself feeling at peace, all because God is by my side. He not only provides me with his comfort, he has provided me with amazing friendships for support, a community of support and my faith that he is shaping me for the next twist in my path. 

“You’re in the storm for his purposes!” That next twist in my path, that next crash of change, sudden uproot of everyhing I know, they all have purposes. I may not always know in that moment what it is, but I can look back at my life and I can say that of the different bumps I have hit along the way, they have all had a direct influence on who I’ve become and where I have currently landed. I am realizing even now how amazing God is that he can guide us in a way and put us where he wants us. I chose a Bachelors degree in Pyschology for many reasons, one being that it is very vague. I have many different interests and I wanted many doors open to me. When I graduated I began job searching and I’ll be honest, there were some very appealing things about the job I accepted, that I knew I wanted to do. But other things came with the job that would have not been my first thought of a career or where I would belong. Looking back at my life and the situations and experiences I have had, all give me many strengths for my career. For the career that God clearly led me to, I have weathered my storms for his purpose and I am confident that I am continuing to live his purpose.
One final question we pondered which I think is one people often find themselves asking, is “did he cause the storm or allow it?” My only response to this is…. Does it matter? We grow from it, it is for his purposes!

 

Do you sink in your failures?

Two weeks I ago I sat down at church and during the first prayer I was flooded with blessed emotions. The prayer was reflecting “living like Jesus.”My flood of positive emotions was contentment, joy, humbleness, that I feel I am living like Jesus. Of course not perfectly, but my goal this year has to been to radiate. I can say I feel this working through me, I am happy on the path I am on and I continue to focus on radiating each day. 

The sermon focused on “it’s not fair.” Pastor R challenged us by asking “do you sink in your failures?” I am blanking thinking on this, I do not know what I would even consider failures. To me I don’t feel that I set myself up for failure, I don’t put myself in situations for failure. So maybe that means I don’t take enough risks, maybe it means I play to safe, or maybe it’s that I look at all situations on a constant changing path, with twists and turns, learning moments, but no failures, maybe I have faith that God will lead me where I need to go and without a few falls my path wouldn’t change. I’m thinking it’s most likely the later; actually I know it is.  Even in my past I don’t look at things with regret, I embrace things and how they have made me who I am. They are a part of my journey, my journey of following Jesus. Which means I may be tried, challenged, let down, I may make mistakes, struggle with moving forward at times, but all of those moments are experiences I have had, they affect how I percieve the world, they create empathy for others, they allow me to cherish what I have. So I am confident I can answer no, I don’t think that I sink in my failures, at least not for the significant life events I can think of. But, who knows what the future may hold; hopefully if I find myself sinking, this sermon will flood my memory and lift me up. 

A big part of avoiding the “it’s not fair”trap is accepting our situation, accepting what we can and cannot control and keep our eyes focused on our greater purpose. Pastor R said “what does what somebody else have, have to do with us, we follow Jesus.” Exactly!!! I know that this mentality, belief, perspective, that it may not be easy. It may be easier said than done; in order to live this we may need to reflect on who we are, why we feel and react to things the way we do, we may need some therapy to figure these things out, a friend to bounce ideas off of, a shoulder to cry on. But I cannot stress enough how important it is to get to the place in life that we just don’t care about what others have. I have learned to embrace what I have, cherish it, and to be present in each moment, with my kids, husband, family, friends.

I hated my fat because I loved my body!!

So often people want to lose weight, they complain about their fat or a part of their boody they dislike. I find it interesting and honestly complete crap that more often than not the response to this is “what?? you look great,””you don’t need to lose weight,” or “size doesn’t matter.”  I even asked my doctor at one point before I got to my top weight because I had gained 5 lbs and I didn’t think I was doing anything different and he told me “that happens as you get older.” He did’t even ask about my nutrition or exercise level. I get that people are trying to be supportive, but really it’s not support, it’s telling somebody to live with their insecurities, deal with the weight, don’t change, don’t be healthier.. and really, it’s probably because it helps them feel better or forces them to face their own insecurities. But, if somebody wanted to change their haircolor or a negative personality trait and strive to be a nicer person or gossip less they would get all in support. I think there is something wrong with this picture. I completely understand that we want to support people in accepting/loving who they are, and we don’t want people to feel shame about their weight. I don’t want people to feel shame about anything. But, I feel it is perfectly acceptable to hate your fat. 

I got to a point last February that I hated my fat.  To clarify, as much as I hated my fat, I still loved myself as a person and I still loved my body. I respected it, I did not feel bad about myself because of my weight. I hated my fat because at 153 lbs my back hurt driving for more than an hour away, I was not in good physical shape, I did not feel healthy. It was because I loved my body that I hated my fat so much. I wanted to treat my body with respect and give it the proper nutrients it needs to be healthy, I want to take care of it, it is the only one I will get. 

A year later I am down 27 lbs, for my friends who are also health conscious (with their nutrition and physical health), they are very supportive and think it’s awesome. However, I still hear all of the time, “if you lose any more weight their will be nothing left of you,””you look great you don’t need to lose any more,”or my favorite is the judgement I get for eating healthy. That to me is the most offensive! At what point did our society start to judge people for eating HEALTHY, it blows my mind. When I am told “you should just eat,”or “I’m glad to see you eat (sweets) at least sometimes,” I don’t even know how to really respond.  I happen to eat a healthy, balanced diet. I love the foods I eat, if I didn’t I would not have continued this lifestyle more than a year later. The whole, natural, clean food that I eat is delicious and my body thrives on it, I feel phsyically and mentally amazing. 

My overall goal is to still lose 6 more lbs. This apparently is cause for mass judgement. But I want to lose 6 more lbs of fat. If I gain “weight” as in muscle back or if the scale doesn’t change, I still know that I will be losing 6 more lbs of fat. Over time I will continue to add muscle, but I am healthy, active, I feel great and I can keep up with my kids. I will be honest I do enjoy the way my body looks, even though it also comes with changes I didn’t think about, like loose, wrinkled skin from having 3 babies and losing a cup size or two, since my body is no longer filled out with fat. I am actually starting to feel more pride in my loose skin; at first I was self-conscious about it. I did not expect it as much thinking about losing the weight. But I feel like it shows the person I am, a mother of 3 boys, with imperfections, flaws, and developing amazing self-esteem.  I do not look like a super model, but I love my body as much as I did. I just feel so much better physically and mentally when I am healthy.