Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Days of Thanksgiving -- all in one go!

Some people are skeptical of being thankful just in November, but I think it's helpful and valuable to write down even 30 blessings as a prayer of thankfulness to God and a reminder to myself of his gracious gifts. May my heart be encouraged by these blessings everyday...

1- a God who is bigger and more loving than I can ever imagine
2- a family who loves me, extended and immediate
3- good health that I've enjoyed for a lifetime -- I do not take it for granted!
4- my 5 senses, with which I greatly enjoy the world and people around me
5- music "God gave us music, that we might pray without words"
6- color -- the world is so vibrant!
7- diversity -- so thankful the world is not all the same!
8- ethnic food (related to #7) My tongue delights in Ethiopian, Chinese, Italian, Nigerian, Peruvian, etc.
9- laughter
10- my heritage, both good and bad, that impacts who I am
11- that I'm not bound to my heritage, but have a new future lying before me
12- old friends who have stuck by me for years on end
13- new friends who have been willing to get to know me quickly, for whatever short time they have with me
14- books: fiction and non-fiction, children's and adult, beautifully illustrated and interestingly worded
15- movement -- frisbee and long walks, wave-jumping and dancing -- thankful that my body works
16- forgiveness
17- my childhood home of California, its beauty and people and all the memories it holds
18- the years I've had to live in so many diverse homes: Nigeria, Scotland, Illinois, England, Virginia, Jordan, D.C.
19- games, especially fast ones, rowdy ones or get-to-know-each-other ones
20- nature, and all its incredible splendor and minute intricacies
21- animals -- learning about them will never cease to amaze me
22- fast travel - when family's as spread out as it is, fast highways and airplanes become so valuable!
23- communication gizmos, that allow me to keep up with family & friends in far-flung countries and states
24- quiet
25- sleep, though I don't get enough of it. At least when I do sleep, it's restful and rejuvenating
25- provision -- through many ups and downs, we've never been on the street or in serious debt
26- my husband, who has not given up on me even though if I were he, *I* would have given up on me!!
27- my children, who daily forgive, love, annoy and delight me, unspeakable treasures I have on loan!
28- memories
29- my brain - this sounds funny, but I'm so thankful I can think and process and learn.
30- Jesus, who died for me & conquered death, who loves the 'least of these' & whose Spirit never leaves me

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Just Keep Breathing

"How many times have you heard me cry out, 'God, please take this'?
How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?
Oh I need you.
God I need you now." (Plumb)

The past 7 years have been the loneliest of my life (except for a brief respite in 2009-10), and there have been many moments when I felt like all I could do was cry out to God and hope to "just keep breathing." How many years can one sustain such a basic hope, though? "Just breathing" is not how life is meant to be lived. I feel like I've reached the end of what I can handle.

I'm not intentionally isolating myself or my family, though home-schooling naturally keeps us more insulated than most. I'm part of an informal 'support group' and a more formal 'co-op,' but no relationships have developed from either of those. I'd hoped that neighbors would be a natural source of friendship, but even 5 months after living in our new home, I hardly know any names. And the worst thing is that we are back to having no church home.

We lived our first 8 months in Washington, D.C. with no church and that was truly the loneliest I've been in 7 years. To be brand new in a huge place and have no neighbor friends and no church friends is almost unbearable. We finally did settle on a church and attended it for 12 months, but as of July 1, we've been looking for a new church.

Most of the time, this loneliness has settled in the pit of my stomach, in the depth of my brain, crouching like a hidden dragon. I've ignored it, on the surface pretending that I'm hardy, that I don't need close friends. My husband has tried to encourage me, reminding me of all the good friends I "still have" from my past. These are friends who were close at one time, but they don't call or visit or write. I don't know how that's supposed to encourage me: absent friends aren't the friends I need right now.

The other day, though, I received a phone call from someone I'd known at Wheaton College, been in touch with over the years, and had re-connected with since moving to D.C. This person needed to talk about a heart-breaking situation they're in the middle of, and I listened and chatted for over 2 hours. It happened on a day when I was hard-hit with a bad cold and was desperate for a nap, and my husband later asked, "Why on earth did you talk so long instead of just saying you needed to sleep?"

It hit me hard: I could count on one hand the number of talks I've had with friends in the past couple months, and my heart *needed* that conversation. Even though I was mostly listening (and I still have a heart full of burdens I'd love to share with someone else who can listen to me), I was still interacting with another adult who was actually appreciative of my presence. Such a rare occurrence these days...

I don't know how much longer I can 'just keep breathing.' I know I have my kids who depend on me right now. But I also need to be a friend. I need to talk to friends. And my kids need the same. They are almost as lonely as I am. Without friends, this life seems so purposeless and I don't know how to keep going...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Depression and Home-schooling

I've been thinking a lot about home-schooling lately ... about why I've chosen it for our family, about why I'd consider stopping, about what I like and what I don't like. I've also been reading some wonderful homeschooling blogs like Small World and Simple Homeschool, which have encouraged me and helped me want to continue on this journey.

I've come to a recent epiphany, though. As I've read about the need to prepare our children for 'real life' and the ways in which home-schooling can do such a better job with that than regular schooling, it's occurred to me that I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I'm letting my children down by home-schooling them because I feel like I don't know 'how to do real life.' I fail miserably at keeping a tidy and peaceful house. I fail moderately at cooking healthy, delicious meals. I don't have great ambitions or career goals. I struggle with depression and motivation and relationships. So if I'm supposed to be preparing these children of mine for a fulfilled life ahead, I'm not sure how on earth I'll accomplish that. 

If I can surrender myself fully to God's love (as I hope to) and see transformation take place in my spirit and life (as I pray to), then perhaps I'll have something worth teaching my children. They can look back with me on these dark days where everything seems murky and meaningless, and know that it's possible to come out on the other side. They can hopefully learn that true 'success' is only by God's grace and strength. But that's a lot of 'ifs' and in the mean time, we're slogging away with math and history in the midst of untidy chaos, less-than-stellar meals, and up-and-down mood swings.

I hope I'm not doing more harm than good. And I pray that God redeems this confusion and depression, enabling the kids and me to grow in love and peace.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Recent Prayers

Recently, I've been thanking God...
  • for my new niece Alethea
  • for my parents' adoption of Luke, after many years of trying!
  • for all I'm learning by home-schooling my children
  • for 13 years of marriage
  • for friends and family I got to see in California, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin in November and December
  • for a new mini-van, which feels so luxurious, but will hopefully last quite a while and be big enough to fit all the kids even as they become teens
I've also been praying...
  • for the Syrian refugees, living in tents through one of the coldest and wettest winters in the Middle East in 20+ years
  • for my parents' next step, as they prepare to leave SIM and Nigeria, and look for work in the U.S.
  • for friends and family who are struggling with illness and death
  • for the patience and diligence to develop new friendships
  • for wisdom in knowing what God really wants of me right now
  • for the provision of a new home, at just the right time, so that Ethan can get the speech therapy he needs through a different school district