Bearing our Blessings

  • something that is carried; a load
  • a duty or responsibility
  • something oppressive or worrisome
  • that which is borne with difficulty
  • an obligation

These are all definitions of the word burden. And today, I felt each one of them in one way or another. Today, I allowed myself to become burdened. By nothing in particular, but everything in general.

This narrative is not a novel one: that we should reframe our burdens as blessings. And for good reason. Because while there are certainly burdens in life that are so heavy it’s hard to see the good…most generally in our first-world culture, burdens are the product of abundance.

Nonetheless, today I felt it all. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Crushed under the weigh of expectations (albeit mostly my own). I was just…burdened. So for myself (and for you) I thought I would unpack and try to appreciate these burdens for what they truly are.

Burden: I had a work call that didn’t come in when I thought it was going to and then ran way later than expected. // Blessing: I have a job that is flexible and allows me the freedom to work from home. And I have bosses who love my kids and wanted to say hi when they heard them in the background.

Burden: I had to dig out our checkbook to pay our water bill because the rural water district doesn’t do auto-drafts or online payments. // Blessing: I have clean, potable, running water in my house. In. My. House. I have lived in places that do not have this, and trust me…it is a blessing.

Burden: I was tripping over the open suitcases on the floor of our mudroom, still laying around unpacked from a trip we got home from three days ago. // Blessing: We have the means to travel to see family and friends who live over 500 miles away.

Burden: Lexi informed me that she got blood from a scratch on her sheets during nap. Her white sheets. That I washed less than a week ago. // Blessing: My daughter has her own bed in her own room where she gets to lay her head down at night in a warm house. And she can sleep just as soundly in sheets that are dirty as she does in sheets that are clean.

Burden: I did three loads of laundry today only to have the basket piled full with dirties again because of multiple outfit changes by my toddler and husband. // Blessing: We all have plenty of clothes to wear and machines that wash and dry those clothes easily and efficiently.

Burden: Because my work call went late, I needed to feed the baby as soon as I hung up. So my husband offered to cook, which left the kitchen looking like a war zone. // Blessing: Multiple. We have food in our fridge. And our pantry. I have a husband who cooks. And…cleans up.

Burden: All. Of. The. Pine. Needles. On. The. Floor. // Blessing: We have a beautiful Christmas tree that we decorated as a family, making the sweetest memories and the beginnings of family traditions.

Burden: There are a hundred things on the “to do” list that seems to just keep growing. Every day, it feels like I take one step forward and then fall on my face. It can often feel like there is not enough of me to go around. // Blessing: I have job where my work is valued. I have a family that needs and wants me. I have a beautiful house, a running car and more love in my life than I know what to do with.

If you’re feeling burdened today too, know that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel those hard feelings. It’s ok to acknowledge that some days are just too much. But as you sit in those hard moments, remember that you are most likely bearing your blessings.

You don’t have to live like this.

Yesterday morning I woke up in what I would call a “funk”. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and I had nothing specific on my agenda for the day. Still…I felt incredibly overwhelmed. Emotionally depleted. Anxious, even. Over nothing in particular, but everything in general.

I hate to admit…these aren’t entirely unusual emotions for me. And if I’m not careful, I can let these “feelings” go to far. So far that they can become debilitating. They consume me, and then overflow onto the people around me. Not all of the people, to be fair…I can hide it from the general public. But those who know me and whom I love dearly…they become the indirect victims of my emotional angst. If I catch myself slipping into it soon enough, I can sometimes prevent that from happening. Other times, not so much.

Thankfully, I have a husband who not only recognizes this piece of me, but also over the years has learned what I need to pull myself out of it. He doesn’t press for answers. He doesn’t push for action. He lets me breath. He gives me grace. These things may sound small, but in reality they. are. everything.

Yesterday morning, that looked like giving me a solo trip into town to run some errands (i.e., an excuse to drive 25 miles for a Starbucks iced latte) while he managed things at home. On the drive, I started one of the audiobooks that’s been sitting in my “to listen to” queue for a while – Present Over Perfect. I ran my errands, trying to soak in some much needed rays of Vitamin D and convince myself that today is a good day. I only half-heartedly listened to the words coming through my speakers. Until I heard this:

“You don’t have to damage your body, and your soul and the people you love most in order to get done what you think you have to get done. You don’t have to live like this.”
[Present over Perfect]

I stopped – hit the 30 second rewind button – listened again. And then again. I let the words soak into my soul and penetrate my weary heart.

I do not have to do all. of. the. things.

It’s like I just needed permission. But from who? Myself? My husband? The author of this book? I’m still not sure.

I write these things for the same reasons I write most things on this blog – not because I have it all figured out or because I have some magical answer. But because, one, it is extremely therapeutic for me to put my thoughts into words. And two, I know I am not the only one out there feeling and facing these things. And sometimes, all we need to know is that there is someone else is in the trenches with us. And friend, there is always someone in the trenches with you. His name is Jesus.

Sometimes, I forget. I forget that the creator of the universe also created me. I forget that while He made me flawed and imperfect and deficient in so many ways, that’s ok – because He also created me perfectly for His purpose. He created me in His image. And I need to be reminded of these words from my creator:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.   – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Maybe you need reminded of those words today, too. Maybe you need someone to tell you it’s ok. It’s ok to slow down. To take a deep breath. To throw that “to do” list out the window and instead spend some time just being and loving and living. It’s ok.

In fact, sometimes…it’s necessary.

With Grace,

Jen

My Not-So-Typical, Stereotypical New Year’s Day Post

I have nothing against the typical “New Year, New You” blog posts being published this time of year.  They can be introspective and inspirational, no doubt. I’ve just never had the urge to actually write one. Probably because looking back on an entire year’s worth of thoughts and memories seems daunting, and making projections about the year to come feels a bit assuming.

But this was not the typical start to a new year. And for that reason…here I am. Writing my “not-so-typical” stereotypical New Year’s day post.

The thing is, today…I started to feel sorry for myself. In fact, just after tucking our toddler into bed (after a prolonged evening of arguing with her about eating her dinner, picking up her toys, not sucking her thumb, etc., etc.) …I declared to my husband that this was the worst start to a new year EVER. Yes, I said E.V.E.R. Dramatic much?

In my defense, it had been a long couple of days. Yesterday we got home late after five days on the road and a combined total of 30+ hours in the car in that timeframe. With a potty training toddler. I mean really, who signs up for that kind of misery?

So we got home, late, to frigid -10 degree temps.  And at some point during the day, the heater in our sow barn / farrowing room malfunctioned. So not only were the waterlines frozen (cutting off the water supply to all of our pigs), but one line actually busted right above a sow whose litter is not but two weeks old. Not. Ideal. We weren’t asking for a whole lot out of our New Year’s Eve, but that scenario did not make the top ten list of things we’d hoped to be doing.

This morning we all woke up with a barn mostly put back in order (thank you, husband). We decided since it was New Year’s day, we’d cook some cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Nope. Not gonna happen. Because the oven was mysteriously not working. And we had no food because we hadn’t been home since December 21st. Ok, nbd…we can improvise.

Fast forward a few hours. Husband commented that it felt a little cold in the house. Even though I had kind of thought the same thing, I basically told him to “toughen up and put another layer on.” Because I’m so empathetic. About an hour later, he realized that although our thermostat was set on 70, the actual temp. in the house had dropped into the low 60s. He was right…our house was getting cold. And sure enough…our furnace was out. As in Not. Working. At. All. Did I mention the temperature outside? Seriously.

So we get our cold, cranky toddler down for a nap thinking we’d call someone about the furnace, catch up on work and just reset. Then, out of nowhere, the smoke alarm outside her room started “chirping” like it had a low battery. But the smoke alarms are supposed to be hard wired into the house. So….yeah. Not sure about that one. To prevent an epic wake-up/meltdown, the hubs drug out the step stool to investigate. We could already hear her stirring. Then, it happened. Every smoke alarm in the house started SCREECHING this horrible sound proclaiming, “FIRE, FIRE!!” and that was that. She was no longer napping. And we had no clue what had just happened.

We survived the day with no furnace, no oven and malfunctioning smoke alarms. And there I sat feeling really tired and really cranky about our circumstances. Until…it was time for bedtime prayers with my daughter. And, as we usually do, we started lifting up in prayer those who are less fortunate than us. And then there I sat, eating crow, thinking of all the things I had to be thankful for in the middle of our chaos.

Instead of complaining about being exhausted from a long road trip with my family, I should have been thankful that…

  • We have a reliable vehicle that allows us to travel anywhere we want
  • We have family to visit who loves us and is excited to have us there
  • We have flexible jobs that allow us to travel on days we don’t have “off”

Instead of being upset that the barn heater quit and we had frozen water pipes, I should have remembered how lucky we are that…

  • My husband gets to pursue one of his greatest passions, regardless of the set-backs
  • We have alternatives to feed/water our pigs when needed, even if it takes a little extra effort

Instead of complaining about our oven not working and not getting cinnamon rolls for breakfast, I should have been thinking about how fortunate we are to…

  • Have a gas stove top and microwave that still allow us to cook food
  • Even have food…seriously…sometimes we forget
  • Have a fridge and pantry full of things to get us by until we figure things out

Instead of worrying so much about the furnace (even though yes, it is a big deal) I should have been so, so grateful that…

  • We have a wood-burning stove that can keep our house warm for the night
  • I have a a husband who worked diligently throughout the summer and fall to make sure we had enough firewood chopped for the winter…because a wood-burning stove is useless without wood
  • Even if we didn’t have the ability to heat our house, we’d have places we could go to keep warm until the furnace got fixed

These are just a few of the many, many things I know I overlook on the daily that, in all reality, I should be so thankful for. And even though it took a hard day (or two… or three) and a blog novel to get to this place…I’m here.

And I wanted to share incase your start to the new year wasn’t quite what you expected, either. Here’s to the next 364 days…not of better luck, but of greater perspective.

You Are More

Yesterday was a hard day. Hard because – you were more than just a nanny.

So. Much. More.

You walked into our home just over a year ago, by most definitions a total stranger. Yesterday, I wrapped my arms around you – likely for the last time – and my my heart ached. Because you are more.

You are the mommy of my daughter’s best friend. Together, we’ve watched them grow from chubby faced babes to exuberant, independent (and sometimes exhausted) toddlers.

More than once, I looked at our little red haired, blue eyed girls loving on each other and my heart ached because I saw what it would have looked like for Lexi to have her sister. Then, my heart swelled because I knew in many ways, that’s exactly what Cece had become.

You are the woman who selflessly cared for my daughter through long weeks and even longer days. You taught her, played with her and loved her like she was your own. The peace of mind that gave me was a priceless gift.

You are the kind, creative soul who gave us countless mementos of life’s sweetest moments. You went above and beyond every. single. day. And…you never forgot that we have two babies.

You are the wife I saw struggle through and SURVIVE her husband’s first deployment. Your grit, perseverance and strength are unequaled. I am so, so proud of you.

You are the friend I grew to love with each text, each chat, and each shared moment of motherhood. Even though our lives look very different, our mutual title of “mama” bonded us in the sweetest ways. I’m not sure how I’ll survive the terrible twos without you.

So….yesterday was hard, sweet friend. Because you are so, so much more than a nanny to me. To my family. For the past 14 months, you gave us YOU. Thank you will never be enough.

Wishing you the best with all of life’s adventures. We love you!

Grey’s on Grief

It’s a Thursday night. Which, for the previous 12 years of my life meant you would have found me firmly planted in front of the TV at 7 PM (sharp) fixated on the latest Derek and Meredith drama. Well…now Meredith and Riggs. I think? But, I honestly don’t know because…toddler in the house.

I digress. The point is, I stumbled upon this quote the other day. And although it is (mostly) just a ridiculous medical (sort of) TV drama, there are still very real things we can relate to. Like that one time, my girl Mer got it so right about grief….

Grief may be a thing we all have in common, but it looks different on everyone. It isn’t just death we have to grieve. It’s life, it’s loss, it’s change. And when we wonder why it has to suck so much sometimes, it has to hurt so bad… The thing we gotta try to remember is that it can turn on a dime. That’s how you stay alive when it hurts so much you can’t breathe. That’s how you survive. By remembering that one day somehow, impossibly, it won’t feel this way. It wont hurt this much. Grief comes in it’s own time for everyone in it’s own way. So the best we can do, the best anyone can do, is try for honesty. The really crappy thing, the very worst part of grief is that you can’t control it. The best we can do is try to let ourselves feel it when it comes and let it go when we can.

Because sometimes, it hurts so much I can’t breath. But I need to remind myself that it’s ok to just feel it. And let it go when I can.

Always, always thinking of my fellow angel mamas out there in their own stages of grief. Keep feeling it. Keep breathing. Know that God can change things on a dime. And even if you don’t have it all together – He does.

With Grace,

Jen