Staying Grounded in the Season

Last year, at 36 years old, I got my first tattoo…quickly followed by second tattoo. I wrote about it here: Mountains and Valleys. I started thinking more about metaphors, symbols, and also I had learned about about leaning into the pain and leaning into the season.

After a series of many dark years, I learned that I am someone who likes to push forward or avoid my current situation in an effort to finding more pleasant experiences. I think that is rather typical for human nature: avoid pain, seek comfort. But, all this hiding from pain, or dreaming about the next thing, left me missing out on the current thing, even if the current thing is pain.

Through my heartache of depression and alcohol addiction, I learned that that by hiding from pain or suffering, you are not escaping it. Eventually, when you come out of the hiding space, it is still there, and oftentimes in a much more layered pile. Ugh.

Eventually I had to face it all.

Eventually I had to be present.

Eventually I had to learn the beauty and the growth that comes in the suffering and in the still.

There is beauty in all the seasons.

Life is a series of seasons.

A series of growth, abundance, death, rest.

A cycle of new beginnings, flourish, harvest, and still.

It is so fiercely rhythmic that it cannot be denied there is a gloriousness in the way our days unfold over time.

But still, we often forget about the roots in each of these seasons. The roots that spread, give life, and hold us up strong. Our roots do not disappear in the dark days. The growth does not cease, it is just not visible from the surface. Roots are essential to growth and to life.

It is so challenging to the human design to stay planted in our current season. We keep wanting to move ahead, or at least this is how I am wired. So, last year, with my new tattoos on my arms, I was paddling with my husband, sitting on the paddle board because the wind and the current had taken me a bit downstream, and I mentioned to him that I want to stay grounded in my current season. If it is good or bad, challenging or easy, I need to stay grounded in it because there is a lesson to be learned in it, plus life has taught me that the season will change. We have to show up for the lesson and suffer well.

I began drawing this preliminary series of four lines and a flower in all the stages of seasons, being sure to always have a root present. I have drawn this several times, always with the understanding that I am not an artist, but this is what I want and I want it on my foot as a reminder to stay grounded in my season. Keep my foot planted in the season. Stop moving.

Let us pause and give credit to my tattoo artist who turned this drawing into what you actually see on my foot. Thank goodness for that.

Fast forward to this April, I got that tattoo.

And…since I am all about balance, I got a tattoo on the other foot too. I got an arrow. I had been thinking about this idea for a bit, but nothing as deep as my seasons, or my mountains and valleys, or my garden… but a simple arrow that reminds me that sometimes in order to propel forward, you have to pull back.

There is a story in everything. Each season teaches us so much. Share your stories too.

Plus, for anyone keeping count, yes, I have gotten 4 tattoos in 9 months.

I have never denied having an addictive personality.

To read more like this, check out Sobriety Part 1: What is sobriety?, Sobriety Part 2: the fall, Sobriety Part 3: the valley & the rescue, Sobriety Part 4: the climb, Sobriety Part 5: glancing back to walk forward, Suffer well, Showing up for the lesson.

the lion and the eagle

Being a human is hard.

Being a human and trying to do what you think is right is hard.

I am someone who acts. I take action. Leading is natural for me. I lead at home, at work, at church, etc.

However, has it become so natural that I do not think it all through?

I find that each time I try to do good, somehow I am left with more mess and more heavy, making me want to retreat and not move/engage/breathe at all.

Maybe you have felt that too? You try to help only to unlayer more layers of this awful onion of issues. All issues that need to be addressed and all issues that are valid. This is applicable in relationships, workplace, parenting, oh man is it applicable in parenting, and just life. You want to keep helping and keep fighting for what you think is right but you find yourself just so exhausted by the battle.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I have been praying about it endlessly. What is my role to play? What do I need to do?

And then, I was given the image of a lion and an eagle.

Lions: fierce, mighty, strong, protective, leader

but lions are also terribly destructive. They leave a trail as they move to act, breaking branches or stomping on grass to make their move.

Eagles: fierce, mighty, strong, protective, leader

but eagles are also precise, calculated, observant, and leave little trail of destruction in their decisions to act. Eagles, because of the gift of flight, can swoop in and swoop out, never destroying the area around their course of action.

Be more like the eagle.

An eagle has the gift of impeccable sight, seeing eight times farther than a human and can focus in on the object of their vision. They fly from a distance, but are constantly watching around them. They soar, let’s not say hover, but soar around making informed decisions of when would be best to act and what part is theirs to play.

A lion’s roar can be heard from as far as five miles away. Talk about calling attention. What is the purpose of the lion’s roar? To know it is there. Yes, there is a time to use your voice. Absolutely. But, are you calling attention to yourself or are you calling attention to the issue? Are you listening or are you roaring? The roar insights fear, not love.

I have been thinking about this analogy for a few days and then my family and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. As we were walking, my children screamed, “Eagle!” and up above us was an eagle, majestically flying around above us. This eagle, was gliding through the air, observing the world around it, and making decisions on when and how it should act. The eagle did not interfere with our walk, just made it more beautiful by its presence, and there was a peace in knowing it was there.

I say this as a human, not the mouse or fish it was stalking.

The eagle is so unobtrusive, that you cannot even see it in this picture.
But it was there, soaring above.

It has made me think…am I leaving a trail of destruction in my effort to do good? Or am I making precise and thoughtful decisions towards the goal of love, unity, and restoration? Am I providing peace in my presence or intimidation?

I also have this thought process that all the problems are mine to solve. How heavy of a burden that is to carry and a burden I placed on myself. I have a role to play, but from a place of observation, I can see my part…and also see other people’s parts. I need to allow others to act and trust that all the pieces come into play. I cannot control my spouse’s actions, or my friend’s actions, or my coworker’s actions. I do not know what is going on in their heart and what they feel called to do. But, I have to give them space and time to do their part of the story. By trying to manage it all, I am taking away their opportunity to act.

Action is necessary. Taking out bystanders in my path to act is hurtful.

Being a human is hard enough. Thoughtful, precise, and purposeful action based upon observation and reflection might be the kinder, more loving way to move us.

Be more like an eagle and less like a lion.

Peace. Awe. Wonder.
These are the emotions that come when you spot an eagle in the woods.
And that drive that causes you to look up. Look up.

 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

For more like this, check out Surrendered, Suffer well. and Mountains and Valleys.

Sobriety Part 5: glancing back to walk forward

Thank you for sitting with me and hearing my story. I am so grateful to have shared the darkness of my journey and put it in the light. None of this is easy, but as we’ve learned, the easy stuff doesn’t help us grow.

We have walked through my fall, the valley and the rescue, and my climb. But, before we finish up our conversation, I think it is important that we glance back to know how to move forward. I say glance, because a glance is a quick look, rather than a deep stare, focusing on the past. I do not think it does anyone any good to live in the past, but we do need to look to the past, learn the lessons that seasons taught us, and move forward. Move forward.

This season..this fall, valley, and climb has taught me some pretty big life lessons. Lessons that shape how I view the world now..and hopefully how I continue to view the world as I grow in years.

Lesson 1: It is sometimes necessary to fall, to break, to crumble.

As I sit here with you, I am filled with gratitude for this journey. I know that sounds counter-cultural. But, genuinely, I am really grateful to have been brought so low because it was in this experience that I was able to rebuild and realign who I am and what I value.

Lysa TerKeurst writes about this breaking in her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way She speaks of how when we are shattered from big moments like this, we turn to dust.

What if, this time, God desires to make something completely brand-new? Right now. On this side of eternity. No matter how shattered our circumstances may seem. Dust is the exact ingredient God loves to use.

We can see dust as a result of an unfair breaking. Or we can see dust as a crucial ingredient.

Dust doesn’t have to signify the end. Dust is often what must be present for the new to begin.

And that’s one of the most devastating realities of dust times in our lives. We need the world to stop spinning for a while. We need things to pause. We need the celebrations to cease long enough to work through our grief.

Lysa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, chapter 2, Dust

I am totally okay with the fact that I was broken down to to dust to be restored into something new. My life, the path I was on, was not healthy. I had gotten off from the path that was designed for me. I needed a massive crumbling to be restored.

Sweet friend..if you feel everything around you crumbling…let it fall. Let it break. Stop trying to glue it back together. Rather, let it shatter so that it can be created into something brand new. Let it break and then rebuild.

Lesson 2: Suffering can show you your strength.

I was feeling so weak, so broken, so lost. When asked to use words to describe myself in therapy, a cycle of self-deprecating words circled around my head. I could not think of one kind word to describe myself. But now, on the other side of the valley, having fought through the climb, I have been shown just how strong I can be. How fierce I can be. I needed to be reminded that I can fight for better. I had to lean heavily on God for strength when I was far too weak to help myself. With each success, each small win, I gained momentum to know that I could do things.

You can do things too. You are strong. And if you aren’t feeling that strength, then yoke on to someone else’s strength until you can start to feel your wins. Search for your wins. Build the momentum. See how incredibly resilient you are.

I have lived and overcome something that was debilitating to me. Now, when faced with challenges, I am reminded of what I have done and how far I have come. Then this new challenge is not as challenging anymore. I was once crushed but I am okay now. When another valley comes, which it will, I will remember this time and remind myself of the strength I had to get through this. I will be better equipped to handle the next climb. My struggle happened before the pandemic hit. So, when the pandemic hit, my heart was ready for it. We could do this. This wasn’t my hardest season…but my hardest season had prepared me for this hard season.

You glance back. Remember the strength. You keep going. You keep moving.

Lesson 3: Boundaries are good.

Lisa Whittle speaks about “Holiness Over Freedom” in her book, Jesus Over Everything. She states,

That just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

We can do a lot of things. Our freedom will allow it. But at the end of the day, it will take our life from under it.

Consider your holiness-versus freedom issue, even now. If you know somewhere deep down inside that something is coming between you and God, in any season, do you pursue getting rid of it, or do you justify keeping it for as long as possible?

Lisa Whittle, Jesus Over Everything, Chapter 4, Holiness Over Freedom

Boundaries and saying no to things you have the ability to do, is hard. Setting firm lines on what is good for you and what is not is hard. However, once the line is drawn, knowing this is not serving me, helps make all the other decisions much easier.

I do not drink. I can drink. But, I know that it clouds my judgement and I do not like who I am when I drink. I know that I most likely will not just have one drink if I have a drink. Therefore, I have chosen that my tight line is no drinks for me. Since I made this clear boundary for me and those close to me know this line, decisions are easy. I can go places and I do not wrestle with “should I?” The decision is already made.

These boundaries help me to be the most peaceful me. I used to think that denying myself something was punishing myself, but now I see them as ways of protecting myself and also loving myself. This is freedom.

Lesson 4: Everyone is struggling with something.

Everyone has a struggle. Life is hard and no one gets through without having to tackle some deep valleys. While some have very visible struggles, many struggles occur behind the scenes or in their hearts. If you know that everyone is struggling than it helps you set your heart to have a posture of love and grace for them.

We do not need to know, or have really a right to know, what that person’s story is.

If they chose to share their story, cherish that privilege, and respect their vulnerability.

Respond with love.

But, most likely, we do not know everyone’s story. Yet still, we need to strive to respond with love. I know I fall short on this often, but I am really trying to respond with love. See people first as people, not their title or their duty or their shortcomings, but as a person. Show love, grace, and kindness because being a person is hard.

Lesson 5: You have to show up for the lesson.

Life is going to take you to some hard places and each one will teach you something, grow you in some way. But, you have to show up for the lesson. You are going to go through the hardship either way, so please do not let it be in vain. Let it teach you what it is meant to teach you. Let it grow you so that you are prepared for whatever season is coming next. Pay attention. Feel the feels. Learn the lessons.

Lesson 6: new mountains…new valleys.. and God is greater than it all

This is where I am today. On this side of the valley. I would not say that I have conquered this mountain because, well, I think it would be naive to think that one can conquer a mountain such as this. However, I am comfortable with where I am in the climb.

Life is a series mountain ranges….peaks and valleys…climbs…rest…growth..sorrow and joy. To think this is the only hard thing I will face is naive. Life just is not like that. But, I will use this story to help me fight through the next one. I will use this story to teach our children about perseverance and struggles, as they will have them too. I will use this experience to be a reminder of how big God is and how He is so much greater than the highs or the lows.

And incase I forget that God is so much bigger than the mountains and the valleys, I have it as a permanent reminder on my body. At age 36, I got my first tattoo, pointing directly to God with my hands open to the path He has me on.

Author’s Note:

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction or abuse, I urge you to find your people to help you.

If you are walking beside someone with alcohol addiction, I urge you to walk with love, truth, and grace. The person you love has already filled themselves with enough judgement and self-deprecation, that they do not need to hear any additional hurts. Be their strength while they find theirs. Be their advocate.

Resources that I love:

  • Jesus Over Everything by Lisa Whittle
  • It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst
  • Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

To check out the whole series follow Sobriety Part 1: What is sobriety?, Sobriety Part 2: the fall, Sobriety Part 3: the valley & the rescue, Sobriety Part 4: the climb.

Sobriety Part 4: the climb

The climb. Have you ever been hiking and trying to get from the bottom to the top…and just know that at the top you are going to feel so elated that you did it, but getting there…oh getting there is hard. The difference between the valley and the climb is that now you are fighting for better. Fighting to climb out of the darkness and to the light. Fighting to conquering this dang mountain.

I wish I could tell you that after I made the decision to stop drinking that it was all easy. Each day was easy. But, that would not be true..and we are here to share the truth.

I went six months without a single drink. I fought for each day. I came up with this line that I still tell myself today:

I don’t know when I will have a drink again. But it is not today…and most likely, not tomorrow.

And then, I had a series of todays which led to six full months without a drink.

It is imperative that I pause here and say, friend…if you need more help than this to stop, seek it. My alcohol abuse was at the level where I was able to stop without detoxing or needing the additional support of rehab, but truly, had I continued on the path I was on, I fear that I would have need these additional supports. If you need the additional supports, seek them. There is no shame in admitting you need them. Share what is on your heart with someone you love and trust, but also someone who will not enable you to continue on the destructive path you are on. Someone who will fight for you, when you have stopped fighting for yourself.

In my story, I still had not come to piece with a label of what I am/was. Am I an alcoholic? Am I “just” abusing alcohol? Is this a forever thing or just something I needed to pause from? This internal battle and seeking to define who I was now was causing a lot of rocks in my climb. I spent hours processing this with my therapist trying to figure out what exactly this all is.

My therapist helped me to understand that there is a spectrum when it comes to alcohol abuse. One can be abusing alcohol in a way to numb whatever is going on in their life, in a way that is no longer healthy. This can lead to an addiction to alcohol and the numbing feeling you get drinking it. Along the way, if you do not rein in the habit, it leads to full alcoholism, which when left untreated, does cause for a detox and rehabilitation for healing. Either way, name it or not, when alcohol is doing more harm in your life than good, it is time to be done with alcohol.

We worked through that… in my case, we thought, I was someone who needed to just reset some boundaries and then I could try to drink responsibly again. So, in January, after six months without a drink, I had a drink. I handled it fine…but…the internal battle of, “Did I say something inappropriate?” or “Did I cross the line again?” or “How did I act?” would beat me up. It was exhausting to have this after recap payout in my head, especially when I knew I had only a few drinks and in full control.

Then in March, my husband and I started whole30 and on whole30, you cannot have alcohol. That was fine for us. It was a good line in the sand for me. But, then when we finished our 30 days, I had a few drinks again. It was now spring…in a pandemic…and a Summer Shandy at night sounded good.

But then it became a Summer Shandy each night. Only one or two, but I did not like where this was headed.

In my mind and I have cross checked this with my husband, I do not feel I had any situations in that spring that were like before…no blacking out…no falling down…no hurtful spew to others…no ick. But, I do know there was one occassion where I had more than my alloted few, but I did not wake up with regret. However, I did wake up and replay every. single. interaction to make sure I had not done something that was ick.

How exhausting to constantly be replaying all my actions.

During this time, I felt this pull to be done with it all, for good. Just be done with it. I did not like how I was feeling with the emotional recap..I did not like the gray of knowing do I drink, do I not drink. If I go out with friends, should I have one drink or should I just have water and explain this whole thing? It was all pulling at me.

I had also been more honest with those around me about what had been going on in my life for the years before. Unfortunately, some people dismissed what was happening to me as not a big deal and made me feel like I was seeking attention by sharing I had problems with alcohol. Oh friend, if this is happening to you, it is not true. Share when you are comfortable and you know your story. You know what you felt and what you went through. You want to get better and sharing helps hold you accountable and encouraged. So share with the people who will love and encourage you. Brush off the ones who are making you defend how bad your drinking was. They are not going to be the ones who walk beside you right now. But, one day, they will probably come beside you or even look to you for strength when they realize that maybe you were shining a little bit of light on a problem in their own lives.

God and I had gotten really close during this year. He and I met every morning at five to share an hour together. I read the whole Bible. I journaled so many journals. He knows me, as He always has, and now I knew Him. I also now knew to listen to Him. He has really amazing plans for all of us and I want to see it through.

May 19, 2020

Lord,

I know you’ve been pulling at me for a while for this. I’m nervous to write this because what if I fail? But, if I don’t commit it. to paper it won’t happen. So, because of grace, I am going to attempt.

This summer I’d like to try a sober summer. I’m nervous about failing but feel I have so much to gain. I don’t want to miss the memories or live in the regret I feel after drinking.

Lord, I’m asking for your strength to make this possible.

I think you’ve got incredible plans for my life and I do not want to miss it.

Here’s to the first day in a life of a few where I’ve not had a drink. I want the freedom that comes from this slope. I haven’t had any of the experiences I had last summer… and I would like to keep it that way.

“I don’t want to abuse your grace. God I need it every day. It’s the only thing that makes me ever really want to change.” *

There’s my last 2% Lord. But, you already knew that.

Amen

*Holy Water by We the Kingdom

This was eight months ago…yesterday. Sober summer came and went…then fall..now winter. I keep going. There is no angst in my head to replay what I might have said or did. There is no regret on what my kids might have seen me do. There are no pictures that I fear the world might see. There is only freedom. Legit freedom from the battle in my head.

Is life easy? No. life will not be easy. It just won’t. However, I have learned so much about strength and I have clear eyes to see navigate the hard. So many lessons that I want to share with you…

But for this moment, sweet friend who has sat beside me as I have laid this all out, lets just soak in the climb.

I do not know when I will have a drink again. But it is not today, and most likely not tomorrow.

Sobriety Part 3: the valley & the rescue

It is a real bummer to know a problem but to not be able to fix it. Sometimes I wonder if it is better to not know that something is wrong because when you know and you cannot fix it…you feel defeated. again and again. on repeat.

Maybe you have never experienced this, but maybe you have and you know the pain of knowing something is broken and you can’t fix it. Now layer on knowing that you are the problem and you can’t fix yourself. Heavy. Each time it happens, whatever the it may be, the regret, the guilt, the shame just all piles on.

For me, this was months upon months of knowing I had a drinking issue, but not being able to get control of the drinking issue. It started with a very close friend taking me out to lunch and sharing her concerns. She did this layered in love and grace. I knew it was an issue but it was something that I had not said out loud yet. I was not ready. I brushed it off as though I could handle just having two drinks at gatherings…but that led to me creating elaborate math equations of how many drinks I could have verses the time I was spending verses what type of drink it was. Which all went away once I had a drink and my ability to make good choices weakened. Now I just felt embarrassed around this friend and tried to justify everything I was doing, or worse yet, I started sneaking my drinks around them.

Then it was the doctor appointment for my depression where they also ask you if you do drugs, which I proudly stated no…smoke, another no…alcohol…oh wait, say what? That humbled me immediately. Then the questions went on to ask how much and how often. Let me think of how small one can be. All that false righteousness immediately fled me.

I started therapy to work on my depression and also to admit that drinking is an issue for me. This was also humbling…but then freeing. I said it. It was in the world now. But, I am a grown adult and really got caught up in this idea that I might be a grown adult who cannot have alcohol, at all. My internal dialogue went something like, “I am a grown adult. If I want a beer I should be able to have a beer.” However, later I realized that I was forgetting the next piece of the sentence, “if it is only one beer.” I wrestled this for months. Months. So many therapy sessions trying to wrestle whether I could be a person who could drink or not. Trying to balance how I could drink in moderation and each time I failed, I felt worse than the time before.

The regret piled up.

The guilt layered on.

The shame covered me.

I would sit at church, which we had been regularly attending for a few years at this point and hear messages, covered in grace, and feel like a fraud because I knew I was doing something that was not honorable, respectful, life-giving. I knew I was making self-destructive choices each day.

I kept trying. I started to sit with my Bible on my front porch and I would write…crying out to God to help me.

April 28, 2019

Lord,

Thank you for your love, your grace, your patience for the millions of times I let you down. I know you worked in me to keep my words honorable this week, please continue to do this in me and make me stronger Lord. Help me to gain more self control in all areas of my life to better honor you and support and love my family.

I’ll try to be honoring, leaning and walking with you this week.

Amen

and the patterns continued… shame, piled onto regret, piled onto guilt.

May 19, 2019

Lord, I pray…

Help me to make chocies to honor you, to glorify you.

Help me to teach our children about your love and grace.

Give me the strength to make choices to show your love and grace, Lord.

I have fallen so far…help me to grow and strengthen to honor your love and grace. I know I’ll get better, Lord because of your love and grace.

Thank you for your faithfulness and not giving up on me.

I know you will see me through this for your glory.

Thank you for placing Godly women and families in my life to walk beside me in growing my relationship with you.

Amen

I wanted to be able to drink appropriately but also to be able to keep drinking. I was not able to just give it up yet. I wanted to find a way to do both. I could not give my life over to this call I kept feeling to be done with it. That drinking had a hold on me and I was allowing it to run my life..not the other way around. I had not gotten there yet. This internal battle was dark and lonely. Isolating and full of self-hatred. Why couldn’t I be someone who has self-control and is strong enough to live life balanced? I was terrified to give up what I thought was my control. I did not want to surrender.

and the patterns continued… shame, piled onto regret, piled onto guilt.

But then…after months in the valley….a rescue came.

I made one last bad choice and a friend spoke truth and grace to me. She heard me apologize. She listened. And…she told me there was better for me. She told me I am better than the choices I am making. She never once told me my actions were okay. Never once. But she told me she loves me, that God loves me, and that there is so much better for me.

And that day, I stopped drinking.

August 20, 2019

I’ve been praying for change and to get out of the hole I have been in for the past year and a half. I keep praying for grace and self-control, yet I keep falling short and hoping with prayer for a change… and dealing with my own demons of guilt each time I fail.

Yet today, I’ve been 3 days without a drink. At one time, that was nothing, but today that’s a celebration. We also hosted a party to celebrate a friend today and I didn’t have a drink. I notice I talk much less…I still miss conversation not because I am drinking but because one person cannot be everywhere. I also was done with the party before the party was over…and my dishes are done and counters are clean. So here I am, sober day 3, in the books.

Walking home today the stars were so bright. I stopped and thanked God for the beautiful world He created and for the gift of being sober enough to appreciate it.

So Lord, I pray you continue to allow me not to be tempted. Continue to show me my own strength, that is a gift from you and Lord, I pray you’ll help me to forgive myself for the past two years …. and that my babies are not forever ruined because of it.

Amen

I surrendered. I gave up trying to fight for this arbitrary thing that was destroying my life. Destroying everything designed for me. I decided to follow that call in my heart and see what the plan was for me. The following set of verses just echoed throughout my summer and finally, I resigned to not being able to do it myself. I wanted to live the life God had planned for me, not this destructive path I kept taking.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:15-18

Each day forward was a day forward. But that is the climb out of the valley. We will get there. But, finally, my rescue had come. And it came when this song below just hitting the radio…and I felt like it was speaking directly to me..as though God gave her the words just for me to hear.

So many tears brought forth by the lyrics.

Every single word right to my heart.

and this is when our children started seeing me fall madly in love with Jesus…for He rescued me.

But here is the thing friend, maybe the idea of Jesus is not your thing. I can get that. I can understand that. In my story, Jesus totally saved me. But, in your story, that may not be what you are open to hearing, feeling, going to. And that is okay right now. If you have made it this far, sitting by my side, cuddled up cozy and sharing our stories together, I would tell you that the first thing you need to do, is find the people and the place in your life that support you with being sober. Where do you feel safe? What is holding you back from trying to go without drinking? Write a pro and con list. Make a decision to get into therapy, see a doctor, tell a friend, tell your spouse. Take an action forward, because sweet friend, your life is so much better than this.

To check out the rest of the series follow, Sobriety Part 1: What is sobriety?, Sobriety Part 2: the fall, Sobriety Part 4: the climb and Sobriety Part 5: glancing back to walk forward.

For more like this, check out Mountains and Valleys and “This is why I drink.” and Surrendered.

Sobriety Part 2: the fall

To tell any story, I guess we should start at the beginning. I am sure there are a lot of people reading this wondering, what happened?! See, I do a half-decent job of covering things up because I am an Ennegram 3 and care far too much about appearances and how people see me. So, I did the things needed to play the role of a middle-class, thirty something mother, wife & teacher, until I didn’t.

I suppose we should go back to 2015. I was pregnant with our third child and also in school to get my administration license. We thought doing both these things at the same time was a good idea. It was and I am grateful for it, but still, it was a lot. After the birth of our daughter in the dark days of November, I noticed that it was really hard for me to snap out of postpartum depression feelings. Mostly because you cannot snap out of postpartum depression. It does not work that way. But, I tried.

I also was invigorated by career opportunities that were coming my way with my administration license. These opportunities gave me the drive to keep going. I focused heavily on my career because I felt like I could do that. My emotions were spiraling but I could do this. I heaved ahead. And personally, I was able to lose the baby weight and seemed to feel like things were coming together. But they weren’t. I had just buried my emotions under piles of distraction.

The next school year I had an amazing opportunity to become a literacy coach. It was huge for me. Dream job. I dove full in. I had to travel away from my family, which is a big deal for a teacher and a mother of 3…with our baby less than a year old. But, I was in. I was in, in. I gave it all to this opportunity for a full school year. I was feeling good about everything and pushing through. I had distracted myself from any of the ick in my heart of postpartum feelings by only focusing on work.

and then it fell.

After a year of training, four weeks out of state away from my family, countless hours doing additional learning, countless days out of my classroom with a guest teacher…the position was pulled across my school district. Everything I had given myself to was gone.

along with it went my identity and my distraction.

Now, I think it is important to note here that now, a few years out from it, this is exactly what needed to happen. I am very happy in my classroom and love what I get to do. I am grateful for all the training I have had because it helps me in so many capacities within the classroom. And my family… I am so grateful for the lessons I learned about priorities and to shift the focus back to my family. I know that this situation had to happen for my heart to realign some priorities. But, at the time, it was devastating.

When everything was pulled, summer was just beginning. Summer meant no structure. Summer meant Summer Shandys. So, Summer Shandys I drank.

and drank.

and drank.

Fall came and I switched to Blue Moons.

and drank.

and drank.

Winter came and I continued with Blue Moons.

and drank.

and drank.

Summer came and I learned about White Claws.

and drank.

and drank.

All those feelings of postpartum that I had buried under my work? Well, they grew into full depression..also because it is hard to say it is postpartum when that newborn is now a year and a half old. Now I also got to add shame and regret for my misalignment with my priorities to the layers of negative emotions I had. Regret from all the time I wasted away from my family. How can one pretend there isn’t any depression?

drink.

drink.

drink.

That baby weight I lost? It came back and then some. Which also led to more depression especially with my history of being 23 years old. 300 lbs.

Heavy depression that was getting heavier each day.

Things started small with a drink because it was summer…then a drink because it was a less than great day…then a drink because it was a great day…then a drink because it was the weekend…then a drink because it was Tuesday.

And somewhere along the way… a drink turned into six.

I had fallen. Fallen hard. It was now 2018 and I was in the worst depression of my life. I have had two hard depressions and this one shook me the hardest because now I had a husband and children. It was not just about me anymore.

Should a career blow cause this much devastation? No. But, my heart was misaligned. I allowed that role in my life define me. This needed to be adjusted and it took this fall to show me that.

Should I rely only on myself to fix myself? No. But, I thought I could…until I clearly couldn’t and then I felt compounded shame that I was not strong enough to fix this myself.

Should this have happened? No. But, I am grateful it did. I’ll explain…

But for now, I had fallen.

Fallen hard.

Still one of my favorite glasses… but it has water in it these days.

To check out the rest of the series, follow Sobriety Part 1: What is sobriety?, Sobriety Part 3: the valley & the rescue, Sobriety Part 4: the climb, and Sobriety Part 5: glancing back to walk forward.

Sobriety Part 1: What is sobriety?

sobrietynoun. The state of being sober.

sober adjective. 1a- sparing in the use of food and drink 1b- not addicted to intoxicating drink 1c- not drunk

2- marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character or demeanor

3- unhurried, calm

4- marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness

5- showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice

Webster’s dictionary keeps it pretty simple when they explain what sobriety and sober is: not drinking to intoxication and not drunk. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. I can see on this side of sobriety the unhurriedness, the calmness, the thoughtful character, and the levelness that comes without the extreme qualities of emotion.

To me…sobriety is not just about not drinking. Drinking alcohol is what caused me to have clouded eyes. But, there are other things that cloud people’s eyes that might need to be adjusted. We think of drugs, gambling, and sex…you know, the “big ones.”” But what about the little things? Overeating…shopping…gossiping…social media slander…or other overindulgences that are clouding the way you see the world and stopping you from living the life that has been designed for you. When you “sober up” from any of these habits, addictions, or choices you can begin to the see the world in a much clearer way. Better? Not necessarily. But clear. And when you have a clear view in front of you, you can make choices to find the path out.

Everyone has their own unique story. I break out and share my story to bring light to the fact that you can have a drinking problem without being a raging alcoholic. I think our society has this idea that if you can get yourself to work, pay your bills, and provide basic levels of care to you family, you can’t have a drinking problem. But, that just is not true. In my story, I went to work each day and did the best I could there, giving it all to my career. I came home and took care of my family…but with a beer in hand…and then once my kids were in bed, I had a few more beers. On repeat. And when I wanted to stop the cycle, I just couldn’t. This is when it became apparent that this was a problem. This was my problem.

I did not go to rehab or get a DUI. I did not lose my job or my family. But…I hurt my family. I hurt my friends. I broke all faith I had in myself to be strong and do the hard things. I did not make the memories I hoped I would have made with my young children and shame overtook me.

Depression brought forth the drinking and the drinking kept the depression around. Cycles over and over again.

Here is the fine print as I open my heart to share with you one of the hardest things I will ever write… but also what I feel God calling me to write the most. I am not an expert in sobriety or addiction, but I have lived it. I share with you my story in hopes that my story will help bring healing to someone else in their story. I am also not writing from a place of condemnation to those who do drink. I truly believe that some humans can drink responsibly… I am just not that human. I write these words with the thought that if being served alcohol is no longer serving you, you may want to rethink your approach.

In the next few days, I will be diving deep into my heart and sharing pieces of my journals with you…as though we were sitting here in my living room together…peeling back the pain and the layers to walk together forward into the life that has been designed for us. I will share things that I have only shared with Jesus, in hopes that they will give light to others.

So please, snuggle into a chair and grab a cozy blanket. I will light my favorite scented candle and bring my journals along. I will pour us some coffee or tea. Maggie (our dog) will keep our spots warm. Together, I will share my story and hope to hear yours. It is time we have this hard conversation.

To keep reading, check out Sobriety Part 2: the fall, Sobriety Part 3: the valley & the rescue, Sobriety Part 4: the climb, and Sobriety Part 5: glancing back to walk forward.

In the meantime, you can read more like this here: Mountains and Valleys, Surrendered, pieces, throwing rocks & collecting rocks, let it leave its mark, and Suffer well.

throwing rocks & collecting rocks

I noticed something in myself recently. A heaviness. A hardening. Maybe you have felt this too.

This need to protect yourself from the criticism, the opinions, the angst that has been walking beside us for this season.

I felt like there were all these rocks flying at me.

In large conversations,

in subtle statements,

in words not said,

in actions,

in avoidance.

All these hard rocks just coming at me.

And I did not react in love like I should. Instead, I started collecting rocks with the thought process to throw rocks back.

This is challenging to admit, but it is truth. When I felt criticism or harshness I started to find faults in their choices, in their paths, in their lives. I started to compare and find ways to acknowledge the “at least I am not doing that” thought process. Ugly right? So ugly.

My faulty thinking and really, it was not intentional, but rather something I noticed after and realized I had been doing, was finding things to armour myself from anticipated criticism when I was feeling like everything was just getting too heavy.

I was collecting retaliation rocks.

But the thing about collecting rocks is, it just makes you even heavier. So much heavier. Think of your pockets and if they had actual rocks in them for each negative thought you had about someone else. Heavy upon heavy. It weighs you down.

Think about where we find rocks. They are always on the bottom. They layer the bottom of our lakes and oceans. If you carry too many rocks, you drown. The heaviness over takes you and you physically cannot overcome it. This is not how we were designed to walk.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2: 4-5

We were designed to be merciful and full of grace. We were designed to be forgiving, because of how much we have been forgiven.

I have not been my kindest, most gracious self this season. I went into this weird survival and self-preservation mode. But at its root, we began to self-destroy because we allowed our hearts to get so hard. Did you do this too?

So then we enter the world with hard hearts and interact with other people who maybe aren’t at their best and also have a hardened heart… grace really struggles to show up there.

We know we are not our best selves and yet we expect everyone else to be their best. Solid reflection on that.

The only way we can stop this cycle of hardening and rock collecting is to stop picking up the rocks.

Stop taking the offenses. Stop taking notes. Stop planning your retaliation. And act in love.

Drop the rocks. Give grace. Love one another. Even in the hard spots. Especially in the hard spots.

After I dropped my own rocks, I noticed a lightness in myself. I noticed this freeness.

Some comments are just comments.

Some opinions are valid and worth reflection.

Some critiques will help me grow.

And some things, I just do not have to give any value to.

Drop the rocks.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.

Matthew 24:12

Don’t let your love grow cold. Drop your rocks. Let them freeze. And open your heart to love one another.

It is hard to throw stones,

if your busy washing feet.

Luke Lezon

For today, I am going to love the mess.

This mess is ours.

This mess does not stop at our tree either. Typically this mess would give me quite a bit of actual anxiety and cause me to be rather nasty to everyone I love. But, for some reason, it is different this year.

It is December 27th. I walk through my home and I hear our girls playing together in one of their rooms. I see our son at our dining room table turned Lego central, building what must be his sixth Lego kit. My husband has been grinding our coffee beans and drinking several cups of hot coffee while building with our kids. I finally showered, since..ahem… Christmas Eve. We have really soaked in the days after Christmas to just be together and it has been amazing.

Anyone in the generation one step above mine, with kids grown or who have left the house, have made it clear that Christmases like this are for a very short season in life. Soon the sounds of screams on Christmas morning over the perfect toy, the wonder of how these toys got here, which toy to play with first, will be replaced by Christmas brunches with most of your kids, if you are lucky, as they start spending Christmas with their significant other’s family. Your trees will be perfect and orderly as no one will be touching them. The mess will be cleared as soon as it is made, if it is made. The wonder of it all fades away as your children age.

I am a bit… or rather a lot… particular about our house. If you have ever been to our home, I am particular about making sure things like the toilets are always clean (we can’t let anyone know that we actually poop), the counters are cleaned off, and things are in some order for use to live in an efficient manner. Also, quite honestly, I like when our house looks nice. There I said it. I care a lot about appearances and I want our home to be functional but mostly, look nice.

This makes me super fun to live with. Also, it is hard on my mind to keep up with it all. It exhausts me. So much. The guilt and the struggle, the frustration and the anger I have towards myself for not just letting things be, but also the genuine anxiety I get with clutter and mess. It is just a whole thing in my mind, that the people I love the most get to experience from the front row.

But, right now, things are different. We are on a pause from life and it feels so good. As a teacher married to a teacher, we worked right up until Christmas Eve, in what we can all describe as a very different year. Our family, as with many families have experienced a lot of tragedy this year, life just keeps taking some hits, and we have not had a moment to even process them. Everything just keeps coming at us and life keeps going but this week, right now, in the days between Christmas and New Years…we have no plans because you can’t have plans this year and we are just being here, with each other, in our joyful mess.

We aren’t rushing the moment along. We aren’t yelling at our kids to get their stuff together for school, in whichever learning model they are in. We aren’t meal planning or grocery shopping. We aren’t worried about the laundry because pajamas for tomorrow sounds really nice. We are playing. We are building. We are napping. We are being together.

We can’t do this forever. We will have to return to the world soon. But for right now, I am going to soak in the mess. This is the most rested I have felt in a very long time. The most calm I have felt. The most present. The most loving. We are giving our family this time to just be and to enjoy one another.

I am grateful for the women ahead of me who have spoken such truth into me about enjoying the right now, as the season is fleeting. These women remind me about the loneliness of a clean family space. The heartbreak of sharing your children with another family. The sorrow that comes with the great joy of raising your children to be adults with their own lives.

Therefore, right now, we will enjoy our mess.

We also ran out of trash bags, so that has been a real hangup on the whole cleaning up thing. The tree is raining needles, making it painful to walk by it, and the trash is really piling up outside. We will have to pick up tomorrow so that we can continue to play but have the space to do it well. And…the mess is starting to get to my husband. Maybe he has more of my mind then we thought.

But right now, I am going to soak it all in.

let it leave its mark

When a tree experiences trauma, like a storm, its trunk is permanently impacted by that moment. It can and will keep growing strong and tall, but will forever show markings of that moment.

The other reason a tree may have this unique bend is because it was not getting what it needed from their current position, so the trees trunk began to grow in the direction where it would receive the light it needs to survive. Permanently marked because it fought to survive.

We have all been marked by an experience, experiences, or moments. We have scars from when we fell on our bikes as kids. We have scars from when we have the chicken pox. We have scars from surgeries we have had. We have changes in our skin from children we have grown in our bodies. We are marked by life. Our markings tell our story.

My body is full of scars. I have had several surgeries throughout my lifetime, lots of falls, a real unfortunate treadmill fall, and lots of damage done to my body by myself over time leaving me with a lot of loose skin, lots of markings, and lots of stretch marks. My body is marked by my life experiences. Your body is also marked by your life experiences.

When our son was 4, he had an unfortunate run in with a golf club to his eyebrow. You could see bone when you looked at him. After a series of stitches and being oh so brave, our boy who did not have any permanent marks yet, got his first real scar. I remember thinking how his face would never be the same again. He was changed. He was marked. And now, when I look at our sweet boy, his inch long scar over his left eye is a symbol for the time he was a total badass and allowed a doctor to sew his eye brow without having to be held down.

Two of my favorite little people are covered in scars from multiple surgeries starting just moments after their birth. Being friends with their parents is one of the best gifts I have ever received because they have shown me perspective, the ability to persevere, and so much love. These little people who are now ten and seven, are two of the bravest individuals I know, next to their parents who had to watch it all happen. Their bodies are full of scars, some that can be hidden under clothing, and some that are out for the world to see. I love the ones that are there for the world to see because to me, it shows their strength, their badassness, and their ability to take on some really hard things and do it with amazing grace. Their scars give me strength to tackle the hard things. I pray these two little ladies grow up showing off their scars, not hiding them, because of the strength they represent. Their families are doing an incredible job of empowering these fierce firecrackers to know how strong they are and how amazing their scars are.

Scars, markings, the left behind reminders of a season are not a bad thing. They show us our strength. They need to be better celebrated and acknowledged. They lead to someone’s story and someone’s heart. They can also show you how far you have come, how much you have grown, and remind you of your own perseverance.

Not all scars or markings are left on our outsides, most often it is our heart that takes the most marks. Can you imagine what our hearts (not the beating one) would look like if all the pain and suffering we experienced internally left an actual marking. We need to acknowledge that internal marking that no one else sees, but we feel. We have felt it and continue to feel it. That shifting, that struggle, that growing, that strength brought on by suffering, pain, joy, and life.

We are coming to the close of what for many of us has been our hardest year. If it was not your hardest year, I think most of us can agree it was a challenging year. For some of you, I want to acknowledge that this may have been a joyous year marked by some global ick as you experience pregnancy or welcoming a baby home. I am so happy for you and want to encourage you to scream your joy out loud, for we all need to hear those great things too.

The thing is, I see people running at 2021 wanting to get as far away from 2020 as possible and forget it all behind. Don’t. Let this year leave its mark. Reflect on what ways you have been changed, shifted, fought to survive, impacted by trauma, and yet, you made it. Let the year leave its mark so that in the future, when you experience more hard, because you will, you can remember that you made it through this hard. You made it through stronger. You grew on tall and strong. You adjusted, much like the tree, in order to survive the changes. You are going to need these reminders because hard will come again and it will not magically disappear on January 1, 2021. Life just does not work that way. But you have changed. You are stronger. You have markings that show that you have grown, you have lived, you have survived. Let this season mark you.

Or you can be like me and get your first and second tattoos at the age of 36…in 2020, deciding it is time for you to choose what marks you.

To read more about these markings, check out Mountains and Valleys.

this Christmas.

I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite time of the year. My Grandma Fran loved Christmas. When I think of my Christmas memories so many of them involve the way she did Christmas, even though she passed away twenty five years ago. She left a huge legacy on all my Christmas traditions and my deep love of this season. The ribbon candy on my table, the Santa ornament on my tree, the appetizers on Christmas Eve, the reading of The Night Before Christmas. These are all beautiful and cherished memories that I am so grateful were rooted into my childhood and life.

I also know this post-Christmas down. Maybe you have felt it too, when all the gifts are opened and all the traditions are done, and you are left with more stuff, more mess, and a little feeling of disappointment or sadness. It gets me every year. I want the joy of Christmas to last forever.

But this year, this year looks different for me. This year, we have invited Jesus to His own birthday celebration. If you have been around my writing for more than a minute, you know that my life drastically changed a year and a half ago after I felt Jesus pursuing me for years and I finally gave my life to Him after I had made such a mess of my own doing.

So, this year, Jesus is center in our celebration. Santa gets a nice nod because I do love a good tradition and my grandma would for sure assault me from Heaven <that is not gospel truth but stick with me> if we did not bring Santa to Christmas. But, our family is doing things a bit different this year.

This year we are doing Advent for the first time as a family. I mean, actually reading from the Bible each night, not just eating the chocolate. We have been eating the chocolate for years. Advent is beautiful. Advent takes my favorite day of the year and makes it a four week celebration of hope, peace, joy, and love. Every Christmas carol I hear now, like O Holy Night brings forth such emotion because they are about our Savior coming. Advent honors the wait and anticipation we feel during the Christmas season. The wait for Jesus’ arrival and for God to come to live with us on Earth. The wait feels different this year because it is so good when He does come.

Traditional Christmas songs and philosophy gets me differently this year. I think about this concept of naughty and nice, which was something we never really brought into in our home, but still it is front and center in secular Christmas culture. We sing songs with lyrics like

He’s making a list,

He’s checking it twice,

He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Yet, Jesus came for us all. He knew we are all a mess and we all struggle with something and He came for all of us. Everyone can get the gift He brings because He came to save us all, naughty or nice.

Christmas is about God becoming fully human and living with us, Emmanuel means “God with us.” He came in the most humble of ways to save us. In a world, two thousand years ago and today, that focuses on money, stature, appearance, and power, Jesus came as a baby to poor parents, in a Middle Eastern country, to grow to be short and unattractive, still poor, and lacking governmental power. Yet, He was God. Constantly tempted, yet perfect. Feeling all human emotions, the joy and the suffering, yet obedient. He served others. He sat with the untouchables or social outcasts. He healed. He listened. He taught. He wept for the ones He loved. He wept for Himself knowing the horrible suffering He would endure to save us all and then silently gave Himself over for His own crucifixion. Jesus.

If you do not know Jesus as this loving, kind, serving, forgiving, and yet very confusing person, I encourage you to get to know Him, for yourself, not by what man tells you about Him. Read four books in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read just these four and get to know Jesus. Not religion, but Christianity. Not the laws and rules and hand-slapping of religion, but the hope, peace, joy, and love that is Jesus. If you need a Bible, please email me at ashleyelindner@gmail.com and I will get a Bible mailed to you!

This year is hard. Everyone knows it and I have written these exact words “this year is hard” in almost every post I have written this year. This is the year that we need hope, peace, joy, and love more than ever. So while I completely love the tradition of Santa and all the joy the celebration of him brings, this year I need to tie myself to the one who lasts all year. The one who truly came to town and truly brought the best gift ever. Salvation from a messy world. Isn’t that what we all want right now, to be saved from this messy world? It has come. He has come and we get to celebrate that this Christmas. Right now. This season.

On December 26th, or really, December 25th at 7 in the morning, when all the gifts are opened, because our kids don’t sleep past 5am on Christmas morning….this year, I will not feel the Christmas disappointment when it is over because the greatest gift we can get has already been given and it continues with us after the gifts are open. We are given a Savior who is hope, peace, joy, and love. This continues throughout the year and through our life between two gardens. Anchoring to Him, who is with us all the time, not just on one day, is the best gift we can receive.

For amazing resources to get to know Jesus better, consider checking out She Reads Truth.

For more posts like this, check out Surrendered, pieces, “This is why I drink.“, Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls, and Mountains and Valleys

the in-between season

as seasons transition, they leave some evidence that they have been there and bring beauty for what comes next

I am guilty of drinking pumpkin spice in August and wearing sandals in March. People roll their eyes at me and blame climate change on my preemptive coffee creamers. I am totally okay with it.

As seasons transitions, I am always eager to jump ahead to the next one. My mind romanticizes all the things that come with the next season and files the current season away as a lesson learned and a memory to later look back upon.

This year, the transition to the next season just seems to be taking longer. Maybe it is because we are slowing down our schedules and can feel the days move along, or maybe it is the weather pattern. Weather science will never be my thing. But, this in-between season is just dragging on. and on. and on.

I live in the woods in northern Minnesota. Typically, come December, we are deep in snow and cold. In fairness, we did have eight inches of snow in mid-October, so thinking that winter was coming early was actually a rational thought. Today, though, it was 42 degrees and my down jacket seemed quite excessive. As I walked outside, I was drawn to the transition from fall to winter and how the stillness reveals even more to the season. It made me think, as we are rushing this year to an end, what else do we still have to learn from this season?

This season, not fall or winter, but this overarching season of ick, has a purpose and a lesson to be learned. I imagine that we have many, many lessons to learn from this season. Have we been intentional in pausing to think about the lessons we have learned and using this as an opportunity to grow? Are we going to let this stretching, suffering, challenging be in vain by not learning the lessons presented to us? Either way, we are sitting through the season, so we might as well make sure it is not a waste.

I think we have learned the value of community. We need community. We need people to walk beside and share in our joys and our sorrows. I hope we move forward with a deeper appreciation for the people we get to do life with.

I think we have learned that we need our neighbors. We need our neighbors to be respectful and responsible because the choices of our neighbors directly impacts us. We are all ridiculously linked together.

I think we learned that everyone is essential, in varying ways. Let me be very clear that the medical professionals, first responders, and scientists are AMAZING and we can never properly show our gratitude for their work on the front lines of this pandemic. I also do think we have learned that we also need the grocery store employees to stock shelves and pick our groceries. We have learned that truck drivers are incredibly necessary to ensuring that we have toilet paper at home. We have learned that custodial staff are vital to keeping our public spaces clean and safe. We have learned that schools not only offer education but also food, mental health services, security, and childcare for millions of children every day. We have learned that our economy and society cannot properly function without everyone participating in life. As it turns out, everyone is essential to their families and our community.

I think we have learned that less is totally okay. Less on our calendars, less hustle, less to tackle. Less can happen and we can still be content. With a slowing of our lives, we have been able to appreciate the things we do have together so much more, as we are not already planning the next thing. (Again, with the way I move seasons along because I am too busy to appreciate the one I am in.)

I hope we have learned how important the people we share our home with are to our lives. I hope we’ve taken enough of this time together to really see their hearts and make the most of the time we have together. I do not think it is possible to ever make the most of anything because really, my mind spins to what I did not do or that there could always be more, but I hope, really hope, that the people I share this home with can look back at this time with some bits of fondness for all the time we have had together.

I think we learned that even as everything seems to be crashing down, the seasons do keep on changing. We are entering our fourth season in a pandemic. Even though everything else shut down,

the snow did melt,

the mud did come,

the grass and the flowers grew,

the leaves fell,

and now we await the snow.

There is some peace in knowing that eventually the season will transition. Eventually this season of ick will be over.

As with season change, they happen slowly and always leave evidence from before. Every summer, we find our previous Christmas tree, brown and lifeless, propped in our woods, waiting to be burnt. Seasons leave proof of their existence, so that we have a marker and can be a witness to the experience. What will be the markers left behind from this season? Will we remember the lessons it taught us? Will we be a witness to what we have learned?

What were the lessons that we are being taught during this season? Did we learn them all?

Before we can finish this season well, we have to remember its purpose, learn the lessons, and then move forward with little pieces of evidence for having been through the season. There is a purpose to this transition going so slow.

Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls

What if we took a moment and thought of our journey of life as a river?

A flowing river that meanders around curves and hugs its banks, that goes through winters without freezing and summers without getting too hot at the bottom. A river that has clear water but hits murky sections. A body of water that has purpose, brings joy, and can also be destructive.

When I type that out, I can see how our lives are very much like a river.

We float along on our individual river and many of the days are really smooth. Gorgeous, sun on your back, light paddle smooth.

But rivers also have rapids and waterfalls. The rough parts and the straight up catastrophic parts. Our rivers aren’t mappable. We are at the pressures of the waterflow to take us forward. Yes, we can choose to get to the bank and look ahead for the best paths, but really, we cannot see much farther beyond our own eyes’ limitations.

Rapids come. Waterfalls come. Smooth waters also come.

The thing about rivers is, you cannot control the flow of water. You cannot make water stay only in the calm banks. Humans try really hard to control the water. Really hard. This coming from a girl born in upstate New York, who has traveled the Erie Canal lock system more times that I can count. We try really hard to control the flow of water. We have systems to conquer the climb up the flow of water…but truly, we cannot stop the water flow. Even dams cannot control the heavy weight of it all for too long in bad enough storms.

But God.

What if the rapids we are entering or are currently in, are preventing us from a waterfall ahead?

What if these prayers we have prayed and have gone very unanswered or even solid closed doors, are really saving us from some rocky water we could not survive?

What if this lack of current is preparing us for the next turn?

As humans we feel the need to control it all, thinking we know what is best for us. But really, we do not know all the ways things could play out for us. We do not know what is down stream. We just don’t.

Right now, many of us are not doing our normal things, at all. But I have to believe with everything in my being that there is reason for that. That we are growing from this, or we are being protected from things we are not ready for, or our paths need to change. There are so many possibilities and we just do not know and won’t ever truly know.

But God.

This is where faith is so life giving and powerful. If you have experienced enough closed doors or unanswered prayers and then look back at how it all worked out and realized it is exactly how it should be, then your faith just keeps growing.

My dearest friend, gave me this quote today, not knowing exactly what the words of my heart were:

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

Buddha

Now, I will not even attempt to argue that Buddha was a Christian, but I do think he was very wise in many ways and was right about this. I can look back at so many things that have not turned out how I expected or are as a direct result from a closed door on some big prayers and I am so grateful for the closed doors and unanswered prayers. The situations have worked out exactly as God wanted and beyond what I could have ever dreamed of.

I firmly believe that we will get to the other side of this current bend in the river, whatever it is for you right now, and we will look back at it and it will all make sense. The hard, the suffering, the good, the bad, the yes, and the no.

This is faith.

Trusting that God is in control and it will workout to match His plan.

That is the hard part…It will match His plan. His plan often does not match your plan. And, if you do not know God, I get why you would have a lot of trust issues with this one. A lot. I only recently really learned to trust in God’s plan because I had made enough of a mess of my own life trying to do it myself. This is hard. I get it. I wrote about finally handing over the reigns in Mountains and Valleys

He takes us along on our river and only He can see ahead. Only He has the map and only He can known why we are in current rapids, slow current, or murky waters.

It does not mean we cannot get frustrated at our current situation for a bit. Have you ever been in a canoe with another grown adult, in water that is 6 inches deep and stuck in muck? Anyone would get frustrated at this. Or at least this anyone did.

But, it also means that we need to surrender and trust the One who knows your river best to lead your course.

And, it also means that we need to be grateful for all the unknown waterfalls He has protected us from.

We have much to be grateful for.

Rivers are beautiful, uncharted, wild, and constant progress forward.

So is life.

Take the journey for all that it is.

Yes, this is a view of a lake. But, we took a long river to get here.

A Weary World Rejoices

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of O Holy Night? Like really listened?

Maybe I had never truly listened before or maybe I have not had this heavy feeling of weary at the holidays before, but when I heard O Holy Night this week, the lyrics shook me.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn

-O Holy Night

We, as humanity, are coming at the Christmas season weary.

I do not know what your personal struggles may be at the season, but I know enough to know that you have them.

Typically, I do not like to list out my current struggles because in a lot of ways I feel as though then I am comparing my struggles to yours and thus diminishing either of our hards. Hard is hard is hard.

But in an effort to be vulnerable and also to show you the stature I had when I heard O Holy Night, you should know what has led up in my little family’s life to understand this moment:

My father-in-law passed away from a series of medical issues, on November 8th after spending two weeks in the ICU with his two sons and wife by his side. My spouse and his brother then came home to help us tell our respective children that Grandpa had passed away and then they packed up to go support their mom for a few days. While they were together grieving, they were exposed to Covid. After a week, my husband came home and went into isolation in our home, thus taking over our master bedroom and putting me on the couch, unable to hug my grieving husband. While in isolation, my husband developed Covid from his exposure. Thanksgiving came and our three kids and I did not get to spend the day with our favorite human. Also, let us remember, Grandpa also is not celebrating Thanksgiving with us…and neither is Grandma, who is alone now. During this time, another family member who was close to the grieving process of my husband’s father was hospitalized with Covid. Oh and also, we had to switch to distance learning because Covid is running rampant here and I am both a parent of students in distance learning and a teacher. So, everything is a lot.

Heavy. Hurt. and then I heard the lyrics.

the weary world rejoices

O Holy Night

And finally, I had a word for all that I have been feeling: weary.

So many of us are weary right now. You may be weary from employment issues, social unrest issues, equality issues, addiction issues, fertility issues, health issues, money issues, parenting issues, pandemic issues, life issues.

The crazy thing that makes me pause is that all these issues, accept for pandemic issues, were present in life before the pandemic began. However, right now, we as humanity are feeling one massive issue collectively, on top of all other life issues that have always been there. This has the opportunity to draw us together because we can all feel the collective heaviness that is right now. We collectively are weary.

We are a weary world but we have reason to rejoice.

Life is hard. Life between the two gardens is hard. It just is. Sin -not your individual sin so keep reading. I am not blaming any one person.- But sin entered the world in chapter three of the first book of the Bible. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible and it only takes three chapters of it for us to have sin enter the world. Chapters one and two tell us how God had this plan as He created creation and it was all good. All good. There was no death, no shame, no anger, no need, no jealousy, no suffering. It was all good. Then sin entered the world and it is just the pits after that until we enter the other garden, which is Heaven.

So here we are, between two gardens, living in a hot mess of the world and we are weary. This year we can feel the weariness. But, we have reason to rejoice. Rejoice because this is so not how it is supposed to be and one day, it won’t be. It just won’t be.

The lyrics go on to say:

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger

O Holy Night

Yes! He knows our need. Oh my word, does He know our need and our weaknesses. He knows it all and fierecely loves us anyways. That is reason to rejoice.

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

O Holy Night

Love. Peace. Joy.

These are amazing reasons to rejoice. As you read God’s word, you see the theme of love, peace, and joy written all over it. It is not the condemnation that many feel religion brings. No, faith is not the laws, but rather the grace by faith.

This season is a season of joy because our savior has come and He will deliver us from this weary, weary place. It was never supposed to be this way. He can bring us peace. He wants us to show love and we are so deeply loved by Him.

So as we walk in the heavy, we have hope. So much hope. We can rejoice as we will not be in this ick forever.

And, there is some Earthy peace in knowing that this weariness is not something that is unique to our current human experience in 2020. Almost 200 years ago, a man, Adolphe Adam, felt this weariness in 1847, as he composed O Holy Night and turned his hope to Jesus.

To read more like this, check out Surrendered and Suffer well.

Suffer well.

I got angry. Life things, pandemic things, living things piled up and I got angry. Life and living are different when you are in a season where death is very real.

I was not angry at any person. I was angry at the situation/situations.

and then I got bitter.

I was not bitter at any person. I was bitter at life.

Everything was piling up and I felt so out of control. I lived in this space for a day. A full day. A full day of anger and bitterness. And then I surrendered. But that was one horrible day. All the days have been less than great lately, but this day was horrible. It was horrible because my heart was full of emotions that do not give me hope or life. I allowed anger to take over me. I allowed anger to harden my heart for one awful day. Have you been there too?

I could not stand myself that day. So now, not only was I dealing with the previously stated pile of things, I had added my raw and unsavory emotions to the pile. This did not help things. At all.

In Romans 7:18-19, Paul states:

For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.

Ugh. Man, Paul speaks right to my heart. I do not like that my emotions take over me like this. I know that this is not the way to handle situations. I know there is a better way, but my word, it feels all so much. And I lose, a lot.

Have you been there? You know your reaction is not reflecting the person who are striving to be, but there is hurt in your heart and you just spew it out.

Fortunately, I have been in the practice of spending time with God every. single. day. He knows my heart and there is nothing I can hide from Him. And His word reminded me to suffer well.

…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3

Oh Paul, there you go again bringing some serious truth. Life between two gardens will have suffering. This is a fundamental truth of life. But, it is in the suffering, when we suffer well, that grows our perseverance.

Our perseverance strengthens our character.

Our strengthened character will bring hope.

Hope.

Everything is a mess and there is hope. Hope. Hope for the next steps. Hope for the greater plan. Hope for tomorrow. Hope.

I needed this reminder. I needed this truth to speak right to my heart. If you need this too, I pray you feel the peace that comes in the hope that is brought through our suffering.

Suffering well does not mean that you act like everything is fine.

Suffering well does not mean that you ignore the situation.

Suffering well does not mean that you try to fix it all and be your own superhero.

Suffering well means you lean into the lessons that are coming in this season and allow yourself to feel the feels of it all.

Some of those feels are anger. But you have to move on. I have to move on. I have to show my children and myself that living in the anger hardens your heart and stops you from learning the lessons.

Yes. Suffering is such a bummer. But, the gift of perseverance, character, and hope will make the suffering worth it.

Suffer well.

Lean in. Grab a blanket. Hot coffee. Lots of books. Maybe a dog. Warm candles. Whatever gives you a feel of cozy and feel the feels.

Suffer well.

Unstaged picture of my favorite space to lean in and feel all the feels.

Surrendered.

Mountains and valleys:

We think that life is made of highs and lows, but somehow we forget the climb. The middle. The suffering and the growing.

When you are at the top of a mountain you can see your successes and be awe inspired by the journey you’ve been on and He who has helped you reach this moment.

When you are deep in the valley, you can see the dauntingness of the mountain before you. One can find themselves going deeper or retreating from moving forward.

However, we do not spend enough time talking about where most of our time is spent: the climb. The part when we are not giving up but oh my, is that mountain a hard climb. So hard.

Everyone is experiencing some sort of climb right now. I am not sure what your current situation is, but given that we are in the midst of a pandemic, with rising cases each day, one can assume you are feeling some ripple effects of this season. Our family is feeling it. Our family, as with many other families, are experiencing other life crises at the same time, because as it turns out, other horrible things can also happen in a pandemic.

Everything has gotten pretty “a lot” lately. Maybe this is you too. You know it could be worse, but you also know it could be better. In fact, you know it can be better because it was better just a few weeks ago and now you do not know what a few weeks from now will look like. For me, that is daunting.

There is a Matthew West song that just echos so much of what society wants us to feel and the contradiction to what our hearts are screaming. My favorite lyrics are:

I say I’m fine, yeah I’m fine, oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine

but I’m not, I’m broken

And when it’s out of control, I say it’s under control

but it’s not

and you know it.

Matthew West -Truth Be Told

Things are not fine right now. They just aren’t. Everything is out of control and I am broken. I cannot pretend everything is okay. Maybe you feel this too.

I tried to control it. I tried to change the plans I created and make new plans. I tried to fix what I thought I could fix. But everything just keeps piling on. Piling on in a level that has become almost comical because of the sheer ridiculousness of all. the. things.

And turns out…this one is bigger than me. So much bigger than me.

I keep running to God. Not in my structured routine of daily quiet time every morning. But constantly. I have run to Him more than ever before. And then I was reminded of Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

I have to surrender.

Surrendering is not giving up. It is knowing when you have done your part and now have to release it to the one who can do what you cannot.

God. God is in control. I firmly believe that God does not cause bad things. However, God does allow you to walk through the hard with Him beside you, to grow you.

He is in control. He is sovereign. He works all things for good.

So, I surrender. I give it to God. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, quite literally. However, I have to anchor to the truth that there is a bigger picture here and God will clear the way. He will clear the path on this hard climb. He will move us forward. Otherwise, if I do not anchor to this truth, I know I will fall off the mountain into a deep valley. I have been there before. I am not going back today.

So I surrender. Maybe you need to surrender too.

It is okay for things to not be okay. Stuff is hard right now. Hard Hard. Not broken dishwasher hard, but lots of things are crumbling and normal is so far away, hard. Some things will never return to how they were before. Hard.

But, keep climbing. Please keep climbing. Stop trying to find the path yourself, but surrender and let God clear your path.

We will eventually get out of this hard middle and we can be at the top of this mountain again. No climb is without it’s struggles. However, there is nothing wrong in admitting it is hard.

Surrender. This battle is bigger than us.

And to check out Matthew West’s beautiful reminder to let the truth be told, check out this video. Listening to our kids sing this song in the car today reminded me how beautiful it is to show our kids the importance of not putting on facades but sharing our struggles.

To read more like this, check out Suffer well, A Weary World Rejoices, Looking for the bird seed, Showing up for the lesson, and Mountains and Valleys.

leaving a legacy…carrying a legacy forward

I love black jelly beans…

in a probably more than healthy way. But is it because of their unique flavor or because they remind me so much of my Grandma Peetz? I also love hugs from squishy older women and have a fondness for daytime Oprah because of her.

I love all things Christmas and probably not just because it is clearly the most wonderful time of the year, but because my Grandma Fran lived for everything Christmas. Our girly is named after this woman because of the spunk she had and how much I loved her.

I love history, but is it because I am fascinated by the stories of the past or because my Papa Jim would watch the History Channel on volume 100 every night? Our son is named after both this grandfather and my Papa Warren because of their powerful influence on me.

And my word, do I love calling my oldest child Peanut because my Papa Warren called me Peanut since the moment I entered the world, until the moment he left, telling my Daddy to “Say goodbye to my Peanut for me.”

I have no doubt that you could also list out the things that make you uniquely you, that have been brought on by the people who have loved you and walked ahead of you in life. These memories are their legacy. We honor the time they spent with us by thinking of them and talking about them as they leave us.

Our youngest child is a deep thinker and a processor. She is selective in what she shares and has to toss her thoughts through her own brain before she articulates them. It is a complete honor whenever she opens up and shares with me. She and I got a rare moment alone together as we waited for grocery pick up and she brought up family and I knew her heart was thinking about her grandpa, my father-in-law, who passed away a week ago.

“Do you have a great grandpa?”

“Yes. So do you. We all have ancestors.”

“What is an ancestor?”

“The family that came before us.”

“What was your grandpa like?”

And so began our healing conversation of me sharing with our girly my favorite stories of four of my favorite people, all of which I was very blessed to know, and all of which I have had to say hard goodbyes to.

“How do you remember so much about them?” our girly asked me.

“Because I think about them a lot and I talk about them. It is okay that it makes me sad sometimes, but it also makes me really happy to remember them. I am happy when I think of things that they taught me or showed me or that we did together. Being sad because someone is gone is part of being so happy to have been so loved while they are here. We can keep loving people when they are gone, by remembering them.”

Then my five year old shares how she misses Grandpa. A lot. She says she can still remember him. Of course she can. We will keep on remembering him by talking about him and my husband will share about him.

We will never again eat Tic-Tacs without thinking about him, as he was constantly handing them out to our kids. Once our son even got one stuck up his nose and my husband had to use needle nose pliers to get it out. Thanks Grandpa.

I told our girly how Grandpa is the one who taught me how to shoot a gun. Me, a girl from upstate New York, who had never in her life shot a gun or had the desire to, spent a Father’s Day in northern Minnesota with a folding table covered in guns, target practicing. And..it was amazing.

I thought about how I ate lutefisk (basically fish that has the consistency of Jell-O) in an effort to earn positive favor of my future father-in-law, and I do think it did help me get some bonus points. I would do it again if given the opportunity to do it beside him.

I thought about my incredible husband and brother-in-law, who are amazing, godly, loving, supportive, all the good things- men, who my father-in-law and mother-in-law raised. The way they act in life and treat others continues the legacy of my father-in-law. I am often blown away by the goodness that is my husband and lately I have been feeling very grateful to my father-in-law for the work and sacrifices he made in raising him.

I thought how we can never watch a Vikings game again without someone making a connection to what Terry would have thought about each play. And, my word, I do not want to see the Lindner men if the Vikings ever actually do make it to the Super Bowl. I do not know if Terry would be happier that they made it or upset that he missed it?

I chuckled because my sister-in-law had just shared with me how she is hoarding soap that smells like him.

Smells. Sounds. Experiences. Conversations. Foods. Memories.

I thought about how we have to keep talking about these things and sharing these things because our experiences with those who we love do shape how we view the world. When you have the gift of having someone love into your life, it is so risky because you have a very real chance of losing them one day. But if you do it well, you will be forever shaped by their love and pieces of them will continue on with you as you continue forward.

We have to honor these legacies. We have to feel the feels and share the stories. We have to continue it on. And… our kids, they get it. Invite them in. Let them share. Yes, they have different views of the same memories, but these are their stories and they need to be able to solidify their moments. Otherwise, one day, our girly will grab a pack of Tic-Tacs and think nothing of it…and I don’t want to live in a world where we don’t remember those we love in the simple moments of our lives.

Showing up for the lesson

God is always teaching us something.
Are we creating enough quiet enough to hear Him?

I am was an escapist.

I have been known to try to escape all the hard things by avoidance, numbing, or literally running away. Hard stuff is hard and why would anyone knowingly put themselves through the hard? That seems counter-cultural.

I have been thinking about this much more lately as life keeps getting more difficult. More social unrest. More political opinions. Covid numbers climbing. Personal tragedy. Life is really hard. And my default button is to run from it.

Avoidance. Numbing, Escaping.

However, God in his amazing mercy, prepared me for the road that we would be facing collectively as humanity and personally as a family, in the year before this. I wrote about this in Mountains and Valleys. He taught me to run towards him, rather than away from problems. He broke me hard and built me back together with a shifted heart that has learned to really lean in to the lessons.

So here I am, in a season where everything around me is changing and the phone just keeps bringing more reminders of the ick in the world, yet my heart is not running away. I am trying my best to show up for the lessons. What is God teaching me right now?

Covid is out of control. Numbers are sky-rocketing. My classroom, which is my safety blanket of normalcy and full of sweet 1st grade faces, is in jeopardy. There is nothing I can do to change this. There is a lesson there. Am I learning that I have idolized my career and need to keep that in check? Or am I learning that education and the impact of a teacher far extends the classroom walls?

People are ill. Very ill. Not covid ill, just life is hard and people get very sick, ill. What lessons can we gain from their suffering? What is the legacy we are leaving? Are there things we should say to those we love that we put off? Are there choices we are making that our older self will be grateful for or wish we had done differently? Are we loving one another in hardship and in celebration as we should? I want to learn these lessons.

Social unrest and political turmoil is making each day a bit more rocky. How are we handling things? How are we stepping into the situation? Are we avoiding having the hard conversations, as my previous self would have? Or are we gaining the courage to say the hard things but say them laced in love and do our part to bring us back together? Are we working towards reconciliation in our actions or are we allowing division to further spread?

See the thing is, bad and hard things are going to happen. That is how life is. However, we can make sure that the suffering is not in vain. I think that is how we can honor the hardships we see others going through by showing up for the lessons that we are being taught and apply the new wisdom to make sure the life we are living, is lived well.

I was an escapist. Now, I am showing up for the lesson.

But, I still nap. I love a good nap.

You take what the enemy meant for evil

And You turn it for good

You turn it for good

Elevation Worship: See a Victory

Can we all view the same season in a different way and still love?

We are all in a season right now.

Collectively we are facing some serious ick that we have not faced before.

Pandemic. Social unrest. Election year. Etc.

and then social media sparking opinions on it all and turning people against one another.

It is a hotbed of straight up mess.

Our world has experienced social unrest before. Our world has experienced a pandemic before. And our world experiences a presidential election every four years. However, this looks so much different now because

1- it is all happening at the same time

2-social media gives us all a chance to share our opinion loudly without having to see the hearts of those we are sharing with

We have somehow forgotten that we are in this together. Collectively. We are turning on one another, rather than walking forward towards unity in love. Yes, we will have different opinions, which is the most amazing thing about perspective. However, we need to be listening with our hearts first and moving towards unity, laced in love, in order to move us to a positive place of change.

No matter where you stand on any of the issues occuring in our society right now and really, everyone has a stance, I think we can collectively say that right now is a bummer. It is hard.

All of a sudden you realize that people you deeply love think different than you. That is not the hard part. This is where growth happens if we open our ears and our hearts, before our mouths.

But… sometimes you also realize that people you deeply love think different than you and are not accepting of how you think.

Or worse yet, people you deeply love think different than you and you are not accepting of how they think. Ouch.

We cannot change how others act or how they perceive us. But we can change how we act and how we perceive others. We can choose to put on love and layer our hearts with grace in order to still see and hear the person we love and to see their view.

I am not saying that we cannot have our own opinions. We need to. What are our values and how can we walk in them? However, I think the way in which we share our opinions can be done in a way that works towards unity, rather than division.

We all know the problems right now.

No. We do not. I do not know your perspective. I only know my own. So sit with me and share your perspective with me. I learned through a previous struggle that it is really hard to dislike someone once you’ve sat down and had a cup of coffee with them. I think there is a lot of truth to this. It doesn’t mean I will have their same opinion, but I can see their perspective.

But, we need to sit with each other and have two sided conversations in order to truly hear the perspective of others. Social media allows for only one sided conversations, often spewing one view, without allowing for reflective dialogue between the person sharing and those receiving the view on their newsfeed. I encourage us all, myself included, to have the hard conversations with those we love, rather than using social media to passive aggressively share our thoughts without allowing for dialogue. This is a huge challenge for me, as I despise conflict <insert all the yucky feelings> but I am learning we will not grow unless we lean into the hard stuff. So, I will try to lean in.

We need to work actively to not allow this season to divide us. On the otherside of this ick, we are going to need our people to get us through whatever ick comes next. There will be more ick. That is just how life goes.

How can we use this current season to draw us closer?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful.

– Colossians 3:12-15





I think this is when I must share my email address incase you would like to take this current one sided conversation into a two sided one: ashleyelindner@gmail.com