Monday, May 28, 2012

Work out With God

I have to confess that lately my quiet times have been a bit blah.  And blah led to avoidance.  And lately I just sort of look at my bible and tell myself that I am going to spend time with God as soon as I am done with Facebook, email, cleaning, blogging...but then something else comes up, I run out of time and here I am.  The longer I went the harder to make a connection and feel like it was worth the time.

Also, between the cold winter weather, my knee pain and life stress I somehow managed to go so long without going to the Y that they installed new curbs in the parking lot which dried and the caution tape has all be removed since I was last there (they are wrapping up a year long remodel).  I haven't lifted a weight, run a mile or downward dogged in far too long.  I think as everything became too busy I worried that continuing to prioritize my exercise routine over being with my family seemed a little too selfish and I unconsciously started letting it go.

But this is my last week of full time outside the house employment and today is another day and the morning was a gorgeous 65 degrees and I decided it would be nice to just get out of the house and move my body.  I do love to exercise even if I let my guilt and lazy take over occasionally.  And while I was on my walk/run, mostly walk, I started praying which is what I often do when I run.  And listening.  I started by confessing my lost connection with God and how I have felt so overwhelmed by my life the past few months I haven't known how to rest my mind and turn to God.  I even wondered what to say now, on my walk, about what was happening in my life.  Where am I?  So I listened.  And God said, "Worship".  I was listening to worship music and as I turned my heart and mind to the music and the worship I realized something, that is what I always do on my runs.  That is a big part of what I love about running.  The connection to God I experience as I worship him while I run.  Then we talk and I have clarity and peace and when I get home and open my bible or devotional book I am ready for the lessons He has for me that day.  I can't run without worship and apparently I can't worship without running.

My sister-in-law and I have talked many times about the connection to exercise and our quiet times.  How for both of us we don't seem to be able to strengthen one without the other.  Anytime I make a goal to improve my health and exercise I always find myself writing next to that goal something that strengthens my faith as well and vice versa.  They are linked for me.  Always have been.  And today I think I began to understand why.  They are my solitary time of worship.  When I am away from the distractions of my life and open to what the Lord has to show me.  I have only recently started running with music.  I ran in silence for years and loved it.  I still often leave the ipod at home.  I love to bask in the beauty of the world God has created and be open to see and hear and appreciate the sights and sounds all around me.  I quiet the noise in my head and just listen and be present with God.

So as of today I am letting go of my guilt over my work outs.  They aren't selfish acts of escape and vanity, they are acts of worship to God.  They strengthen my faith and prepare me to be a better wife, mother, friend and child of God.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

And with that I am getting SERIOUS about rehabbing this IT band injury.  Because as lovely as a morning walk is I LOVE TO RUN.  And there is just no reason I shouldn't be able to loosen this thing up and get back out there.

3 John 1:2 "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."

Proverbs 4: 20-22 "My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body." 

Old Mom/New Mom

"I miss the old mom!"  This is what Isabelle was crying the other night.  An interesting comment given that in my family we have always joked about "the old mom" and "the new mom" regarding who my mom was before and after going back to work.  Now I am the new mom and my daughter is lamenting the old mom.

I am really struggling lately with parenting while working.  Conceptually I believe that you can be a good parent and work.  While I believe in the value of having a parent at home I have never been one to believe it is the only good way to raise a child.  I believe that it is about priorities not about presence.  Whether you work or stay home you make sacrifices for your child.  When I was at home we sacrificed additional financial help, now that I am working we sacrifice in new ways, less outside activities and involvements in areas outside our home and family.  Actually I would say NO involvement in anything outside our home and family.

But I have been thinking about MY "old mom/new mom" mom who now in retirement is exploring her "old mom" ways a little more once again.

When I was little my mom was the quintessential 70's housewife.  She sewed our clothes, did crafts all the time, baked delicious frosted sugar cookies for every holiday, got up every morning to make my dad toast and eggs for breakfast before work and had a hot homemade dinner on the table when he returned home every evening.  And while my memories of that part of my childhood are limited, they are all happy.

Then, somewhere around late elementary, early jr, high my mom transitioned back to work.  And my dad, being a quintessential product of a '50's upbringing (bless his heart), did not step in to help out despite the fact that we had entered the '80's.  Which meant that she had to let go of her "old mom" ways and become the "new mom".  A woman who did not sew, bake or volunteer to make ornaments for all the kids in the children's program at church.  Looking back she struggled with the transition just like I have.  Letting go of who you are and what has defined you for so many years and allowing yourself to be re-defined by your new circumstances, circumstances you don't necessarily want to be in, is hard.  HARD.  And I watched my mom struggle with it for the rest of my childhood.

But I have to admit from my side of it I didn't think my mom working was the end of the world.  To be fair, I was older than Isabelle.  And my brother, who was closer to her age, struggled with it more than I did.  Still once a routine was established it was fine.  We grew up and are all wonderful.  I know my parents feel like they had nothing to do with it but they were there, they were consistent, they provided, they were safe, they loved us and their example of relying on the Lord in every situation gave us exactly what we needed to become the adults God had planned for us.

Although I am looking forward to a return home of sorts with my new job and a better balance of work and family life, I will still be working.  A large part of my day and my energy will still go to things other than my children.  And they will still have to sacrifice.  But I am finding myself feeling more at peace with my working as I go forward and think about Isabelle growing up in a home with a working mom.  I was there establishing a foundation for 6 years, the fun "old mom" years.  And going forward as "new mom" my priorities might be new but my commitment to her and the rest of my family will never change.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Working Mom 2.0

One year.  It has been one years since I said to my brother, "any openings at your company?"  One year since we decided to send John back to school.  One year since our lives were forever changed.

It has been a good year.  And a bad year.

There have been a lot of things that have not worked this past year.  Me being out of the house nearly 10 hours a day has not worked.  John taking on so much responsibility at home while also being a full time student and working nearly 30 hours a week has not really worked.  Ignoring our children for most of the year has not really worked.

There have been some good things too.  I was able to separate myself from my homemaker life.  I miss it but if I am going to have a career going forward I needed that separation.  John has spent more time with Jake and especially Isabelle than he normally would have otherwise and created a beautiful bond between them.  We have worked together as a family to care for the house and each other.  And most of all, John as a student has worked very well.  Throughout all the struggles of the year I have kept going because my husband was thriving in school.

But I am not one to accept that I must be miserable to accomplish a goal like this.  I believe we can have success in our family life while also putting John through school.  I believe there is a better balance out there than what we have experienced.  And so this winter as everything was feeling so overwhelming we started talking about what our family needed.  Who we are and what will work for us.

We are self employed people, not 8-5 desk sitters.  Our personal lives and our work lives have been fully integrated for so many years we hardly know the difference between them.  I needed a job that allowed me to continue that kind of flexibility in our lives and in the pursuit of our financial support.  By the end of the year John had found a nice balance with his construction work and his school.  But I was getting nowhere starting a business on the side of an 8-5 job.

We decided that when he was done with the semester I would quit my job.  The plan was for me to find something part time so I had some consistent income while I worked on generating self employed income on the side.  John would be able to work extra and had several good sized jobs lined up for the summer so it was the perfect time for me to make a little less money while establishing a business and building up some income.  It was scary but we had the Peace that this was where God was leading us in this second year of our life change and everything would work out perfectly.

I had hoped that my current company would keep me part time and gave them a month notice to consider and come up with something.  Unfortunately it became clear very quickly that it probably wasn't going to work out long term to stay with them part time.  At first I sort of panicked.  I was irritated at how they were handling my request.  Then I was worried about finding another job.  And I sent out a couple resumes to jobs on craig's list and got zero response to them.  Crickets.  The whole time I know I heard God's voice in the back of my head telling me to relax, that He had directed this plan to part time and that He would provide.  I wanted to draw that truth to the front of my head but was too busy riding my roller-coaster emotions to let it happen.  Still, God doesn't need me to be on board waiting patiently to put His plan in action.

A friend of a friend from church, who didn't even know she would be looking for someone when I first quit my job,  found herself panicking last week over loosing her bookkeeper/assistant.  As she was telling 2 of my friends this problem they both told her it wasn't a problem because they should hire me, "Melanie would be perfect".  And, long story short, less than a week later she had hired me to replace her sister as her assistant.  In her confirmation email she echoed my thoughts exactly:

"I am so grateful God has provided (as usual). Isn’t it funny that the stress still gets to me even after He has provided in every single solitary situation??"

On June 4th I start a job I never even considered as a possible option, but God did, He knew where He was leading me all along.  I will be working 20-30 hours a week from home.  FROM HOME.  I will be able to get Isabelle on AND off the bus the last 3 days of school and all of next year and the years to come.  I will be able to set my own schedule and take time to pursue my own things on my own schedule.  I won't have to ask permission to take a little time off to run up to the school for one of Isabelle's class parties, or take a long lunch with a friend and I can run Isabelle to her various activities this summer all without worrying about warming a seat for the required number of hours each day.  The job just needs to be done, I won't be monitored online to make sure I am really working.  They are trusting me to get the work done.  The job sounds to be a lot like what I have been doing in my husband's business for years only on a much larger scale.  I will know more in another week but for now I just can't believe how perfectly God has worked this all out.

So exactly, to the day, one year after returning to work full time I will be leaving my current job.  And the following Monday we start this transition of me returning to work all over but, in a whole new structure.

Although it has been hard and didn't end up working out long term, I am so glad I have had this year working outside our home.  It gave me the opportunity to re-learn what the work force is like, get up to speed on current business practices and augmented my very basic understanding of Excel and Word.  It created a forced discipline that I don't know if I could have developed on my own but which I can take with me into my new job.  It pushed me into a new mind set.  A working mindset rather than a homemaking one. It prepared me for what is next in my life.  It wasn't the right place for me long term but it was exactly what I needed this past year.

So here I sit with 3 working days left before I start my new life amazed at what God is doing.  Can't wait to see what's next!

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, May 7, 2012

Joy in the Trial

I have to admit that as much as I hate trials in life, I also love them.  Not that I would be disappointed if my life went perfectly from this point on...No, actually I think I would be.  Because while trials are hard they bring about growth.

In the book "Going on a Bear Hunt" the family on the hunt comes across obstacle after obstacle.  Each time they say to themselves, "Can't go over it, can't go under it, I guess we are going to have to go through it."  So it is with life.  I certainly would like to navigate over or under this trial we are going through with Jake.  I would like to skip the years of John's education and the trials of being a working mom it is bringing with it.  But there is nothing to do but just go through it.

James 1:2, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds"

And as we go through we find ourselves learning, growing, conquering.  We do persevere through our trials because we are strong.  We are strong because God made us to be strong.  To endure.

I have told many people, maybe even all of you, that if I could go back and get pregnant when Jake was 2 rather than suffering the pain of infertility I wouldn't.  I would go back and suffer again.  Not just because it has brought Isabelle into our lives but because I know how profoundly that experience has shaped who I am today.  And I cannot imagine becoming this woman, the woman God made me to be and continues to shape, without that experience.

There have been other smaller trials that maybe didn't as significantly influence my life that I might not need but, still, I would keep them all because each one was an opportunity to turn to God and be drawn ever closer into His presence.  Each trial is a pathway to growth and greater joy in our lives.

My son is experiencing a trial right now as we ask him to face the reality of his relationship.  And while I hurt as a mother that he will have to suffer, I rejoice as the Lord works in his life and as we watch him grow and mature.  

Going through a trial somehow feels like the beginning of his grown up years.  Of the stage of my parenting where I don't get to protect and rescue my son but must now simply sit with him, watch, wait, suffer along if necessary, while God does His work and Jake learns his lessons.  I know it will be hard but I am excited for him too.  Just as I have always done, I place Jake in God's hands knowing there is no safer place.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

You don't want your eye pecked out do you?

Sometimes parenting is hard.  This past week parenting has been really hard.  Hard because sometimes as parents we have to make our kids miserable.  And we have to let them be mad at us.  Because letting them continue down a path you know is destructive just to keep the peace does not make you a good parent.  Because you know that doing nothing still leads to miserable kids who are mad at you for not stopping them from making a big mistake.  Because it is my job to protect him, even from himself.  Because once you make a bad decision you can never unmake it you can only learn to accept Christ's forgiveness and live with it.

This week we asked Jake to end the 2 year relationship he has had with his girlfriend.  I won't go into detail but I will simply say it has become increasingly clear that this relationship had become very unhealthy for both of them.

It was scary to confront Jake on this issue.  But, while we knew we were taking a big risk and could loose him, we also knew that risk was minimal and we know how it will end.  Because we know our kid.

Many years ago when my brother was not much older than Jake and busy making his own bad choices my parents sat him down and gave him an ultimatum about his life.  They too knew they were risking loosing their son but knew parenting was about making the hard choices.  The next day at work my mom was sharing with a co-worker some of what they had said including some scripture they had read to him.  Her co-worker was horrified telling her it was the worst thing she could do to bring God into it.  My mom responded that he "would have been disappointed if we didn't".  They didn't pull out scripture in a desperate attempt to control someone they had lost control of.  They pulled out scripture the way that had at every turn, for every problem and every success.  They were totally consistent and simply reminded my brother of who he was and who they had raised him to be.  God had been working in him before my parents sat down for their little chat and he chose to honor them and turn his life around.  Today he is a wonderful godly man, husband, father, brother, friend.

Just like my parents, all the years of parenting our son have led to this moment.  A moment in which our relationship is strong enough to endure hardship.  We have sat and listened to him, respected him, encouraged him, helped him make hard choices and celebrated the good ones.  We prayed with him and for him.  And we taught him to pray and seek God.  All of it in hopes that we would never have to give him an ultimatum but also preparing a solid foundation of trust and respect should this day ever come.

It will be a journey for the next few weeks, months, years(?).  While he hasn't agreed to end the relationship he has agreed to a process we have asked him to be part of.  He is not stomping around the house and continues to be part of our family.

And just in case he decided to rebel against us, my mom sent this awesome verse to me:

Proverbs 31: 17 " The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley will be eaten by the vultures." 

What else really needs to be said?