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.

“This is why I drink.”

If you exist in our society at all, you have heard the phrase “This is why I drink” after any sort of difficulty, setback, or even celebration.

It was a hard day. This is why I drink.

My kid is not listening. This is why I drink.

I had to have a heavy conversation today. This is why I drink.

My presentation went really well. This is why I drink.

I am an adult. This is why I drink.

It is my birthday. This is why I drink.

Our society also says things like, “You deserve a drink.” and “Your earned a drink.”

All of these are really okay. Seriously. Life is to be felt, commiserated, and celebrated.

It just gets out of control when it becomes, today is Tuesday. This is why I drink. Followed by today is Wednesday. This is why I drink.

But, for me, there is one reason not to drink and it is a powerful one. I do not like me when I am drinking.

I lose sight of my values, my family, how I want to handle situations, and how I want to live my life when I am drinking.

A drink is not a problem. A fun night is not the problem. The problem is when you lose yourself in the drinks.

It is of no surprise to anyone that this has been a really hard year. Reasons why one would drink are stacking up high. So high. There are a lot of reason to drink.

According to Hartford Healthcare, women have seen a 41% increase in binge drinking since the beginning of Covid 19. Read that again. 41% of women have seen an increase in binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. 

Center for Disease Control

Binge drinking and social drinking are very different.

I found myself binge drinking a lot before Covid. I am so grateful that God worked hard in my life to pull me away from my alcohol addiction before Covid started because He knew if I was still drinking when Covid got heavy, it would crush me. Completely crush me.

I now sit on the other side of this mountain at seven months sober and have not had a drinking night that left me heavy with shame in over fifteen months.

The reasons I created to have a drink when I was drinking were really small reasons. It had gotten to the point that I was turning to alcohol because it was evening, because it was there, because I could, because… because… because.

And when I was turning to alcohol it was not for one drink. It was not even for two drinks. Even being this vulnerable and sharing this much with you, I am not okay with sharing how much I was drinking. Lets just leave it at more than I should have.

I was turning to alcohol to get away from anything and everything. And guess what, I missed out on anything and everything. Two years, gone. Gone. I was looking through my phone trying to get rid of random pictures to free up space <ugh> and I hit that time of my life and I was full of ick. I could see in my face that I had been drinking in that picture and I dreaded looking at the next one. Then I was surprised to discover that I have very few pictures from this season because I was not present enough to capture it. This fact, on the other side of this dark season, causes me a lot of sadness. A lot. So much missed in my young children’s lives and I cannot go back and fix it. I can’t and that stinks. A lot.

The other day I was obviously frustrated with a situation and ran into someone else who was also obviously frustrated with the same situation. She smiled at me and said, “This is why I drink.” I laughed… because it did make me laugh, as I did not expect this comment from her reserved demeanor and the situation we were in was a ridiculous one. But then, as I walked away I was struck by the fact that yes, this is a reason I would have had a drink in the past. Yet, instead, I went home and had a hot bath and some tea…and the emotions I would have numbed instead, worked through me and we moved on.

I drink a lot of tea these days.

Things are hard right now. If you are stuck in the hard and feeling like it is just piling on by adding a drink into it all…can I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust. Let them in. Let yourself say no. Let yourself find a new path for coping and healing.

There are a lot of reasons to drink.

But if it is not serving you well, that is enough of a reason to stop.

If you are losing yourself to it. If you are waking up with more regret and sorrow than you had the night before. If you are find yourself constantly reaching for another one. It may be time to reevaluate your situation.

I did not think summer would be summer without a Summer Shandy. Turns out, the season still comes, the sun is still hot, and the nights I do remember.

Christmas can be Christmas without the Blue Moons, red wines, or fancy cocktails.

The drinks do not make the season. Really, they don’t. And we can get through Covid without numbing it all away or creating a hard habit in the middle of isolation that would stay with you long after it is over.

This is a hard season. Don’t make it harder on yourself by adding in a new hard.

Addiction is real. Numbing is real. Avoidance is real. But… healing is real too.

If you are losing yourself in your drinking, that is reason enough to stop.

I would love to have a cup of tea with you and talk it through.

To read more about this or posts similar to this read Mountains and Valleys, pieces,

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.

Looking for the bird seed

I woke up feeling defeated.

Saddened. Teary. All the gross feelings. In this challenging season, we have hit a harder stretch as our Covid numbers keep spiking and the impending doom of distance learning circles as a black cloud above all parents’ and educators’ minds.

It is Thursday, the first day of our three day fall break. Typically, we use this long weekend to do all the fun fall things and soak in getting through the monotonous routine building season of the school year and ready to dive deep into the learning and growing at school. We use this time breathe after pushing hard to get school up and going and know that when we return to school, our normal and structure will be there and we can start to soar.

Well, not this year. Not this year at all and it hurts. A lot. Everything is changing and constantly pivoting. Even as a write this, we are transitioning from face-to-face instruction to hybrid instruction, but our numbers do indicate a strong inclination towards full distance learning. And this breaks my heart.

I could list all the ick that these changes brings to me and my family. But, it is about so much more than my family of 5. It is about everything and everyone.

Everything is out of our control. All of this weighing so heavy on my heart.

So here I am. The first morning of our break and feeling like I am about to break myself. I grabbed my coffee and walked out onto my porch. It is a balmy 33 degrees. Snow will be coming soon and I am quickly reminded that this is a constant I can rely on. The seasons just keep strumming along, like they always do. I find so much peace in this.

I curl up on my porch and watch these little birds. There are at least 10 of them who keep flying to our bird feeder and skitter away. They come closer to me now as they see I am not a threat. And I am reminded of a Bible verse:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

-Luke 12: 23-26 (NIV)

Welp. This is the truth I needed in this moment. I have the very next verse tattooed on my arm.

 Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

-Luke 12: 27-28 (NIV)

I do not have the words but I have a field of wildflowers on my arm as a reminder to consider the wildflowers and how much better God will take care of us than the fields. However, somehow I forgot this truth.

Yet, here before me are these beautiful birds, getting their fill for winter, from our bird feeder that we just moved to this spot a week ago. How would they have known it would be there? We have run out of seed twice since moving it, as we provide for these birds. Birds we did not know were there.

God provides.

God will provide for us during this time. It is a real bummer of a time but I firmly believe that God will provide for us and see us through this season. We will be stronger because of it and on the other side we will see all the good that came from having gone through this season. However, right now, as we are stuck in the deep middle, with the paths constantly changing, I am reminded to just keeping looking for the next provision to get through and to stop worrying beyond the next step.

I have to look for the bird seed. The small provisions to move us forward. I cannot keep worrying about the long road or attempting to plan farther ahead. I am reminded to be present in this moment and seek God’s provision for today.

I spent far too long on my porch today, especially given that it was 1 degree above freezing, then I soaked up some family time, read a whole book, and went for a walk in the woods.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

I have started to plan in pencil.

But, thanks to these little birds, I will start looking for the bird seed.

God’s provision is beautiful.

Mountains and Valleys

I have been on a journey for the past four years. Now that the path is coming to some even territory, I think it is time for me to start to share my story. I am sure it will come out in pieces as I am really taking my time to process all the lessons of this current mountain and valley.

Here is the thing, the following is my story. Every person has one. Actually, every person has lots of them. I have come to realize that God gives us each our own stories because not every person can experience it all, but if each of us really live out our own stories and share them, then we can all grow collectively as humans. So I share my latest chapter in the hopes of encouraging those walking similar paths or offering some perspective on topics some others have not experienced in their particular stories.

I have experienced two major depressions thus far in my life. The first one lasted approximately three years in my early 20s and I came out of after having gastric bypass and gaining a new beginning. The most recent one that lasted three years and has taken over a year of active counseling, lots of Jesus, and medication to say today that I am 95% out of it.

This mountain (really hard part) or valley (really low part) stretched me in ways I did not know was possible. In fact, it was not the low of the valley, the dark, dark days, that stretched me, but rather the climb out. The days in the valley revealed to me some darks of myself I did not know I was capable of.

My depression was brought on by a wave of unfortunate factors: genetics, postpartum depression, misaligned identity, disappointment, and lack of sleep. Each of these pieces are not great and all can lead to depression. All of them together, well, it has a bit of a tsunami effect on a person. I’ll dive into each of these pieces at another point because they all have much deeper stories to tell.

Whatever the cause, I was in a deep and dark valley. Instead of leaning into the pain, I numbed it. I got really good at numbing the pain but the thing with numbing the pain is you do not realize how big the pain is growing because you just keep numbing it. I numbed the pain for two years. By the time I had a breaking point and had to stop numbing, I turned and saw the giant mountain I had created for myself. Not only was I now deeply depressed, I had also gained approximately 45 pounds and had created some really unhealthy habits with alcohol.

Part of me wants to hide that last sentence. Part of me feels such shame about that piece and fear that my being open with this is going to cause really negative consequences for myself. But, a much bigger part of me remembers that I have to share the whole story because everyone has one and keeping the ick in the darkness is where it grows.

Ugh. How defeating and horrible this was. So horrible. So painful. I was full of shame, guilt, regret. So much regret. And the path out just seemed so daunting.

I had started therapy a few months before the final breaking point. In therapy I was wrestling with the idea of giving up my numbing tools, specifically alcohol, because frankly, I was a 34 year old woman who should be able to have a drink when I want a drink. Well, turns out, I can’t. If I could just have one drink and be done then yes, I could. But, I had gone too far deep from that path to healthily make that choice. In August of 2019, I hit the bottom after just causing myself and a dear friend some embarrassment and she did not let me off the hook. She loved me and held me to a higher standard than I had been living. And from that moment on, I began to tackle the big mountain ahead of me for healing.

Simultaneously while I had been feeling this pull to begin healing but battling the desire to fix it myself, I had been growing with my faith. I had begun reading the Bible each day and had spent the past school year serving with our church’s youth group. I thought I knew the gospel and I thought I knew who God was, but I did not want to disappoint God with all my junk so I kept trying to fix it on my own instead of turning it to God.

Sidenote: This thinking is very much the opposite of the love and grace that God offers as I would later discover.

Flash to August 19th when I really hit a bottom and started to climb the mountain. This overwhelming, sharp, monstrous mountain stood before me and I began to climb. I put down my drink, picked up my Bible, leaned into the pain, and felt it all. And my word did I pray. I prayed every. single. morning. day. night.

I prayed for strength for another day.

I prayed for grace on all the junk I had caused.

I prayed for my children’s forgiveness.

I prayed for my husband’s forgiveness.

I prayed for a path forward.

I prayed for the forgiveness of anyone whom I had hurt.

I prayed to forgive myself. That was the hardest one.

See here is the thing. When you are in a depression, sometimes the strategies you use to get through the depression cause another depression. Such a horrible vicious cycle. I kept trying to fix it myself, rather than lean into the lessons I was learning and grow from it. But, when you finally stop fighting the feelings and really listen to what is happening, you really do begin to grow.

Each day I moved forward. I spent so much time with God every morning and I spent a lot of time trying to realign the priorities that had gotten so drastically misaligned in the past few years. I spent time at home being intentional with my family. I learned to balance family and work, as I learned my identity is not anchored to my accomplishments at work. I spent a lot of time wrestling with the feelings I had tucked away and grew. I built back relationships and I built back myself, bit by bit. Hard realities by hard realities.

I had to be honest with some people who I had been avoiding being honest with for a long time. That was really hard.

I had to be honest with myself. That was really, really hard.

I had to create boundaries. I am really bad at boundaries. That was really hard.

I had to be honest with God. That was not hard. Turns out, He already knew. He had long ago forgiven me and now he was growing me back stronger than ever. God just wanted me to turn to Him, learn the lessons, and move forward in a place of love and forgiveness. This is the gospel.

I was making momentum on getting my life back. I was no longer numbing my pain but had learned the power of leaning into the hurt. I was eating healthy and thinking of dusting off our drying rack and using it as a treadmill again, and then Covid hit and turned all of our lives upside down.

Crazy right? The world has been flipped over when I had just gotten my life back in order. God is crazy like that. Let me be very clear here. I do not think God caused Covid or sent Covid as punishment. God does not play like that. However, God does know when bad things are going to happen and He does like to prepare His children for it. God had prepared me. In a time that should have sent me right back to numbing, God had laid the path for me to get through this hard time. My word. My word.

I kept eating healthy.

I had a sober summer. And my word was it a good summer. And…one I remember.

I have put hundreds of miles on our treadmill.

I ran my first 5K last week.

I have read the entire Bible.

I have climbed the mountain.

So now, 6 months into the new normal of living in a pandemic, I sit writing these words and put out into the world the first pages of my healing. This summer I got a bit wild and was baptized in a lake with my husband and our 8 year old daughter. That was amazing.

And then, I did something I had been thinking of doing since I was 18, but never really had anything meaningful enough to do, until now.

I got a tattoo.

A reminder for me that God is greater than the mountains and the valleys. God is so much greater than them and when we lean into the lessons we are being taught in these seasons we come out so much stronger.

Crazy thing: I am the most “me” I have ever been now. I am not the pre-depression Ashley. I have grown so much since them. I know my identity. I knows my strengths and my weaknesses. I knows to lean into life, rather than to numb it away.

And then, just because God has really taught me so much in this season, I got another tattoo. I got a field of wildflowers on my arm as a reminder of how well God will always take care of me and all of us.

It is from Luke 12: 27-28:

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!”

I cannot say I am healed. I do not think that happens in this reality between the two gardens. But, I can say I am stronger and growing. I am also really open to all the lessons that are being taught in all the seasons. Right now, in each of our lives, we are being presented with mountains and valleys. Lean into the lessons. Be open to the growth. It is truly amazing on the other side.

Connect. Touch. Love. Pray.

IMG_4629

Covid-19 has shown us who we are, what we value and how close our actions align with what we live for. The piece that  has been the most eye-opening to me and my own heart is the humanness of it all.

I love people.  I love connecting with people in real ways. I am better in small groups, than large groups, because I like having deep and thoughtful conversations. I have learned, I do not like smalltalk. If we aren’t going to dive deep, I retreat. I like to know people, deeply and to be deeply known.

What Covid-19 has shown me, is I really crave human physical interactions to feel truly connected to another human. I am the wife who will snuggle in close. I am the mom that is always reaching for your hand. I am that teacher who goes all in for hugs. I am the aunt who kisses the top of your head and will forever call you baby. I am that friend who holds on tight.

So therefore, when I just participated in a simple act, it became abundantly clear a lesson that Covid is teaching me. This was the most heartbreaking event I have participated in thus far since Covid started.  There have been many more heartbreaking events happening, I have just not participated in them. Today is one of our friend’s birthdays. Eight women filed into their cars, drove in front of our friend’s home, and from a distance sang happy birthday to her. Simple. Sweet. Heartbreaking. Here we were, a group of women, celebrating and loving another woman, but not allowed to hug her. Not allowed to comfort the women around us who were failing to fight back tears because of the basic human instinct to comfort was stripped away.

She is right there.

I can see her.

I can feel her emotions.

My words fall short.

I cannot physically comfort her.

So, I withdrawl. I feel helpless.

Our humanness is constricted, protected.

I go into a store and I cannot see someone’s smile…only their eyes, as they are protecting me and themselves with a mask. My mind tries to see this person, truly see them, but it is so hard without seeing their smile.

A piece of our humanness is covered,  protected.

The only thing I do know how to do now is to pray. Everything is so outside of our control, as it always has been, but now I feel it. I feel the enormity of it all. I will retreat to my home, with the ones I can hold, pray and learn the lessons this season is teaching me. Today showed me why I have opted out of being around others right now because it is just too hard to be with them and not be able to be near them.

My own humanness is retreating, protected.

Our humanity is being highlighted right now. More than any material item or need, I feel the need for human connection, human realness, human vulnerability.

Therefore, here I am, doing the only thing I can do, praying and being vulnerable by sharing it with those willing to hear.

  • I pray we use this time to soak in the love we have with those around us.
  • I pray we learn other ways to connect.
  • I pray we see one another, deeply see one another and love one another.
  • I pray that this will all be over soon and when it is, we have learned the lessons we were meant to learn from this all and our new normal does not match up to our normal of before.

And Lord, do I pray, we soak in the beauty of every human touch we get to experience again.

 

God is good. So, so good.

It has been a long time since I have written anything. Many things have happened and changed since I first started writing as a new mom. Life keeps going and hopefully we keep growing. I have grown significantly since my first blogging days and I would love the opportunity to share that all eventually. But in this moment, I have been feeling the overwhelming urge to share the most important growth, my love for Jesus. I can feel the eye-rolls now. That is okay. I get it. However, stick with me for a minute and I can explain more.

Jesus has been pulling at my heart for years. Years. I listen, pull closer and then I pull away, wanting to control my own life and not give my life to Him. Well, it is truth what is said about Jesus. He will leave the 99 to rescue the 1. Jesus has pursued me in many instances and finally, finally, I am free from some pretty terrible things that have been weighing so heavily on my heart. My heart has so much forgiveness for myself and others, grace for mistakes that I make and others, and overflowing love. I will share this story soon…I just need to pray a bit more for the right words to share the amazingness of God’s grace.

What called me to write today is a moment. A instant. A second.

My husband and I were in a car accident on December 2nd. Not a fender-bender. Not an oopsie. But a three ambulance, fire trucks, first responders, stop traffic, airbags deployed, accident. Thank the Lord, the only injuries were non-life threatening. But, still there will be thousands of dollars worth of medical bills and on-going pain and doctors appointments for Nate and I. This was a horrible moment.

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A moment before this moment, Nate and I had taken a personal day to drive to Duluth (an hour and a half from our town) to go Christmas shopping for our children. This year I have been craving some closer moments with my best friend and to share the joy and stress of preparing for Christmas with him. I was so excited to walk the stores with him and daydream about the excitement our children’s faces when they open up the gifts we found for them. I was also really excited to just walk, hand in hand with my spouse, sipping on my favorite Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte, and soaking in the lights and smells that are the consumerism version of Christmas.

Well, Jesus had different plans.

It is easy to get really down upon the drastic change of plans and the destruction that is this major inconvenience on life. Nate will be out of work for at least the next two weeks. I will have many upcoming appointments to support my knees and my weakened shoulder and chest. I could keep going, but really, my heart keeps focusing on the good. So much good. Let me share with you the amazingness that is God and His ability to show you the good and make good from hard situations.

  • We are alive. Truly by the grace of God, we are alive.
  • God had called us to live across the street from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law   for countless numbers of reasons and it shows in our daily lives.
    •  Family showed up. My sister-in-law met us at the hospital, immediately embraced me, and I cried. I cried because we are okay and she knew that. She took a picture of the pants that they had cut off so she would know which ones to order and quickly replaced my favorite jeans. She checked on Nate and I, walking between different ER rooms, updating each of us on the others’ status. She has taken Nate to the doctor because I was worried about him driving. She has organized meals for us. Etc. Etc. Etc.
  •  God works at relationships.
    • Family from out of town reached out and continue to check on us and bridge connections.
    • Coworkers and acquaintances have reached out to check on us and support us. People who I did not know if they knew my name, let alone show care, reached out.
  • God planted us in the most amazing community.
    • Our friends brought meals, warm and delicious meals, so that we did not have to be worried about cooking or grocery shopping.
    • The tree farm, where we go cut down our own tree each year, were gracious to us, helping us pick out a pre-cut tree, cutting the stump fresh for us, and helping us to load the tree in our truck.
    • Our friends came over to help us carry in our Christmas tree and set it up for us. I bet this year the tree won’t fall over.
    • Our teaching partners laid out all of our sub plans for us, so that we did not have to worry about school for a few days.
    • I work at the same school our children attend. Our children were given such extra love this week as people were checking on them and listening to them as they shared their concerns.
    • God brought us to West Cohasset Chapel, which has been our church for the last 8 years. Families from this church have been checking on us, praying for us, and providing meals for us.
    • A friend of ours had already been our insurance agent, through Greater Insurance Services. She has been such a blessing to us. She has worked in all the details to help us navigate the world that is insurance, focusing on getting us set for right now, making sure we have proper medical care, dealing with a vehicle that has been deemed a total loss, and walking me through the step by step expectations of mountains of paperwork. She knows us and is advocating for us. She also knows me and knows what to filter from me because of how I worry.
    • We have been going to the same car dealership since I was pregnant with our oldest daughter. After the accident I called to see if we could rent a car from them. Given that we live in snowy northern Minnesota and we have a long gravel driveway, I was not willing to drive a small 2-wheel drive car while we waited to see the plans for our vehicle. While they stated they could not rent me a car because of liability reasons, they offered a vehicle for me to test drive for a few days. This was such a blessing.
      • Then once we were informed that our car was officially considered a total loss, on the same day we realized our December car payment went through on the day of the accident, we were very concerned on how we would come up with an additional car payment to cover the cost so we could have a vehicle this month. After coming to the conclusion that we would just have to pursue a rental car through the insurance company until January, the car dealership, Grand Rapids GM, called us to inform us they would be covering our first month car payment. No strings, no repayment, just covering a gigantic car payment for us so that we could bring home, four days after the accident, a car that our family fits and and I feel safe in. What?!?! Who does that? Truly amazing.
  • God works at your heart.
    • This whole thing could have really set me in a horrible mood, especially at the holidays. Yet, my heart is so full of love and joy and a need to sing His praises. God is so good and I see so much good from this. I was sharing that with a friend last night and she said, “Only God can help us say crazy stuff like that.” She is right. Only God can work in your heart to help you see all the good in such a hard time.
    • Our kids were asking me about the car accident again today. It is so fresh on their minds, as daddy is home from work much more than he normally is and both mommy and daddy wobble about. They were showing fear in the situations and I said to them, “I am so grateful for the accident. It helped me to see how good God is and all the good there is.” I meant that, whole heartedly. I hope my children can see all the good and feel all the good from this situation and see the world this way moving forward.
    • One of the first things I prayed about after thanking God that Nate and I were alive was for the person who hit us to feel forgiveness. They made a poor choice, a misjudgement. But, it was an accident. There was no malicious intent. I am sure that the event was weighing heavily on their heart. I wanted them to feel forgiveness and to ease their feelings of guilt. I know that my heart alone would not have thought to intentionally think, let alone pray, for the other person in such a loving way. God does that.
  • God answers your prayers in ways you could never imagine yourself.
    • All I wanted for Christmas this year was time with my husband. He works approximately 55-60 hours a week. He had been gone for 10 days to hunt and before that we had been working conference week, which meant we only saw each other to sleep for a week. We were not together for Thanksgiving. I was missing my guy, a lot. I felt disconnected from him and wanted to be closer to him.
      • Nate is home now. A lot. He is not allowed to go back to work for at least two weeks, but may be more. As for that closeness, I have never felt closer. We were together in that accident for a purpose. He is so hurt because my amazing husband reached his arm over to protect me in the accident, causing additional strain on his left side when the vehicles collided. He also took the brunt of the pain because he steered the car towards a snowbank to try to avoid a complete t-bone, again to protect me. His gut reaction was to protect me and check on me. After we checked on one another and I saw that Nate’s neck was really hurting him, I jumped out of the car with adrenaline fueled power, called 911 and once I was sure help was on the way, my body then went into shock. But… I made sure help was coming to help him first. We love one another fiercely. We would do anything for the other one. I needed that reminder.
  • God gives perspective.
    • This was the worst accident either nate or I have been involved in. However, we walked away. I know many stories do not end this way. I do not share our story to belittle anyone else’s story. Awfulness happens. It happens to everyone, in varying levels on magnitude. Life stories are not handed out with an evenly distributed amount of sorrow and joy.
    • By sharing our story, I hope others can see how God can work in amazing ways.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. -Genesis 50:20

God is so, so good.

 

The night before the first day of school… through the eyes of a teacher mama.

Tomorrow I will greet 20-something smiling, nervous, excited, apprehensive, familiar, or new individual children at our classroom door.

Tomorrow this space will be filled with life as little people with big minds begin exploring.

Tomorrow we start our nine month journey together through 1st grade, a journey I feel is one of the most precious to have together.

Tomorrow is the first day of another chapter of their childhood and the first day of my 11th year in the classroom. Through my experiences so far, I have learned that tomorrow will likely be the most tiring day of our school year. We will spend time getting to know one another, reinforcing the concept and feeling that school is a safe place to make mistakes and grow, and we will begin to establish routines and procedures to create a secure and predictable daily structure to support our learning.

Many things have happened to make sure that tomorrow is the best tomorrow it can be. Families have been busy preparing their children for the switch to more structure and routine as the summer comes to a close. School supplies have been bought, clothes purchased or pulled out from hand-me down bins, and backpacks picked. Families around town are making sure that baths and bedtimes happen. This is not true for all children who walk through our doors tomorrow. I will see them, as my heart is always looking for the children who might need a little more. I will make it a point to be their first hug tomorrow morning and encourage them that today is going to be a great day.

Families have been preparing their children for the switch back to school, while teachers have been preparing their learning environments. Everything about our space has been intentionally created and placed by the teachers. Teachers hope to have a space that fosters a love of community, shared learning, and the ability to grow. Teachers all over our wonderful town have been  volunteering their time in their classrooms throughout August getting their spaces ready. This is after maintenance staff have been working tirelessly to clean, tile, and build-on to our facilities to prepare for the upcoming year.

Each teacher is an individual and brings their own experiences and perspective to the classroom. I have always had a strong love for teaching and focus on the individuals who enter our door. Since becoming a mother, this focus has become such a driving force in everything that I do. This past year, after having our 3rd and last baby, my heart struggled with the guilt of feeling as though I should be a stay-at-home-mom, and that fire in my heart for being in the classroom, developing relationships with students, and creating opportunities to make our great schools even better. Our oldest will be in our school system next year, which means we are one year away from having the district vision and choices directly impact my children. We have an incredible district, with great teachers and we are headed in great direction. I want to be part of this district vision because all students deserve to have great schools, but 100% selfishly, my children also deserve to have great schools. While I am not at home with them now, I am working endlessly to make sure that I am doing my part to make sure that our district is the very best it can be, because my babies are going to be impacted by the choices made today.

I have been preparing my mind for tomorrow all summer. In fact, this summer looked different than most “two teacher parent” summers, as both my husband and I are pursuing our K-12 Principal Licenses, and have both taken on additional responsibilities to help support making our great district even better. As we have taken on these extra time commitments, it means that we have sacrificed some family time. While I will always struggle with this balance, I can see the benefits of our sacrifice when my daughter says to me “Mama, you are a teacher. You help kids learn.”  Or after a meeting in which we are supporting new teachers, she says “Mama, you helping teachers so we can learn more?” She gets it. She knows why I am doing what I am doing. I have also learned the value of quality time vs. quantity time. We have not had an overabundance of time together this summer, but I have tried so hard to appreciate the quality time. I watched my children dance in their Christmas jammies, on the last day of summer break, soaking in their childhood and this moment we have together. I have played in their “tree house.” I have taken many mama-A trips to the store and wandered the aisles. I have taken our sweet boy on mama-W bike rides and let him pick our path. I have held our sweet baby girl, who is on her way to walking, and tried to keep her small. I notice what my babes are doing and how they have grown, and it pulls at my heart that I may not have soaked it in as much as I should, but I really do not know if it is possible to ever feel that you have done this enough. I wrote a blog before called, Did I love enough today, and really, two years later, I do not know that I can ever fully answer this.

Our Church did a several week study about God’s gifts last year. Through this, we talked about how God gives everyone a different gift or purpose. I needed that reminder and needed to be at peace with the realization that my gift is education. I have so much passion and drive for education, best-practice, and supporting individual children to grow into the best versions of the “me they want to be.” In the schools is where I need to be. It is where I am meant to be. So, tomorrow, I will kiss my three babies good-bye for the day, put them in the extremely capable hands of the women who have been a gift to our family, and know that they are safe and loved, so that I can go to school and focus loving and supporting other children grow into people with strong character, the ability to read and understand what they read, the ability to understand how numbers work, and the ability to write in a way that clearly communicates their thoughts, feelings, and stories.

Teachers across our globe have the same gift and will make the same choice to kiss their own children good-bye for the day and head into the classrooms tomorrow. Teachers know what a gift it is for parents to send their most precious people to them for most of their child’s waking hours. Teachers want the best for their students and lay awake at night trying to figure out how to best support each individual child. Teachers also know that many of the students coming through their door will need much more than support in academic content, but that some children need advocates to help them get their basic needs met. Teachers know that some children come from very supportive, loving families, but teachers also know that some children do not. Teachers make sure that they are those children’s biggest cheerleaders.

Tomorrow, as children, families, and school staff head back into the schools, know that this year is going to be great! Children are going to be loved, supported, and grow more than you can imagine. Families are going to find support in the school and feel as though they are a team with their child’s teacher. School staff will work together as a team to ensure that students have a safe, supportive, and effective learning environment.

It has to be great! What we do has to matter…because this is what I tell my babies as I kiss them good-bye each morning, starting again tomorrow.

 

23 years old. 300 lbs.

23 years old. 300 lbs.

I have been there. Those numbers have been mine. I did that. I became that.

I changed that. 

This week marks eight years since I had gastric bypass. This will probably be one of the most vulnerable posts I have written yet. I am discovering that now as we have finished having our children and I have lost the baby weight, that this chapter of my life is not finished. I now have to acknowledge my past, the damage I did to my body, the demon in my mind that allowed me to get to that point, and find a way to love who I am….for my beautiful daughters, for my sweet, sweet son, for me. 

To understand where I am now, you have to understand where I have been. See, I have done a really incredible job of running away from my past. I have literally moved two times across country from my past. I could not wait for the day I legally could change my name when I got married, not because I did not honor and love my family name, but because I hated the girl it represented.  There are few people who are active in my current life who know the details of who I have been. I have come to see that even my husband can never really understand, as he came into my life after I lost the weight. He will never completely know what got me to 300 lbs at just 23 years of age. I do not think most people can understand that. That reality is gut-wrenching and lonely. 

This is one of the few pictures I have of me from when I was 23.

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At 23 years old I found myself living alone in a one bedroom apartment in Peoria, Arizona. I had moved to Phoenix from New York two years prior. I had a great group of friends and was loving my career as a teacher. However, I was also clearly in a bad place in my own mind because I had allowed myself to go from being an overweight teen to a morbidly obese woman. The people at Dairy Queen knew my order. I understand that this is funny at first, but when you think about what the means and what my habits were, it is really sad. I spent all my time eating, or thinking about eating, or searching out foods to eat. I would purposefully eat the things that I knew were the worst. I was intentionally punishing myself. I knew I was not well and sought out medical help. I was diagnosed with having a Compulsive Overeating Disorder. Yes, this is a real thing.

The weight and the eating are just a physical manifestation of something much deeper. My anxiety or emotions or way of thinking was “medicated” by food. To try to start some path towards being healthy, I had to start the really tough journey of looking at myself and facing some things I did not want to face. I began seeing a therapist. This was not my first time with a therapist because I had begun facing this while in college. I thought I had it under control by the time I had moved to Phoenix and I was wrong.

I was one month post-op in this picture.

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At this time I also decided to start to look into weight loss surgery. I originally was thinking of getting a Lap Band, which in 2007 was still a very popular option. However, after attending the mandatory informational seminar at Scottsdale Bariatric, I realized that I needed to have the actual bypass done, as I felt that I needed to physically get sick if I ate foods that were not good for me, as in too many cookies or ice cream. Remember what I said about Dairy Queen?

At this same time I looked to the internet to hear other people’s stories and see if they were like mine. There were not many young women who had undergone gastric bypass that were sharing their stories. I decided to share my story in hopes of helping others. This is my first video on the topic. Turns out, over 2,000 people have watched this video. While looking at it right now, I see a comment that says “You are a very weak person for doing gastric bypass. You don’t even look that big.” If this person even knew how strong I have become.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels trapped in their own body. That this isn’t who you really are. You are someone else. If you could just get rid of the weight, the real person you really are could show.- Me. September 29, 2007

I documented my entire journey, until I had lost 122 lbs and fit my whole body into one of my pre-surgery pants. I can fit in 1 pant leg! I even documented what it was like immediately after surgery, in what has to be one of my lowest moments. As I watch these old videos, I am not proud of all the choices that I made at the time and I am sure there are people who were watching them who thought poorly of me, but I am so glad that I have them to show me how far I have come.

But, most amazingly, I have this video. I talk about meeting my husband. In this video we had only been dating a month. Watching it now, I can see how much I already loved him. I have matured and really grown into a different person since this video, as in I do not call people “asses” anymore, but I am still so grateful to have this time in my life recorded. I mean really, who loves everything about who they were in their early 20s?

In total I lost 140 lbs. After the initial shock to my system I leveled out at 120 lbs lost total and stayed steady there until having our babies.

Many people have said that I took the easy way out.

Many people have said that I did not earn it.

Many people say many things, but many people are not me.

Having this surgery brought these 5 people into my life.

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I met this incredible man because I finally had the confidence to approach a man that I had only dreamt about.

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I married this amazing man and we quickly had our three beautiful babies. I have two amazing girls who need to see their mama as a role model of health, strength, happiness, and who celebrates imperfection. I have this incredible little man who is going to grow up to be an actual man, who needs to know how to love and respect a woman for so much more than her body. Our children will know my story.

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I have finally met the woman who was behind all the weight. I am no longer trapped in my own body. I have felt what it is like to be the person who I really felt I was. I am so different than the girl I was, but in so many ways, I am the same.

That is hard.

It is hard finding a balance of embracing the good and the building blocks of the steps that make you, you, while acknowledging that there was a lot of bad, and some of the bad did not go away with the weight. Those demons are still there.

There is so much good that came out of me having had my 300 lb journey:

I know what it is like to be a person that people openly talk down about, as though you are not a person. I have been at the pool while girls loudly discussed whether or not my rear-end would fit in a chair. I have been the person who assessed the chair situation at restaurants because I did not fit in chairs with arms. I have been the person who awkwardly struggled with the seat belt on a plane but did not want to ask for a seat belt extender, so faked buckling it in. I have been the person who has lowered my own standards so far, and have done ridiculous, embarrassing things just trying to get someone to like me, or at least laugh with me. I have been there. Not many people have. This taught me empathy. 

My struggle was on the outside where everyone could see it. For many people, their struggles are on the inside, where they can hide them, but that does not mean it does not hurt the same. My struggles are now on the inside, as I am at a more “socially acceptable” weight, but the struggle, the mental battle, will forever be there. I know others have struggles.

I am perceptive and emotional about including others, treating others as a person, being kind, and having character because of my journey. This makes me a better wife, mother, teacher, friend, person. I am grateful for that.

I have learned to accept what is mine. I got myself into the situation where I weighed 300 lbs. I did that. It was not my childhood, or my parents, or my friends, or my lack of friends, or life. It was me. I fed myself. Yes, there were situations along the way that have surely impacted me, but at the end of each day I am accountable to myself.

I learned that one phone call can dramatically change your life for the good. You have the ability to make your life better. You do not have to be defined by your circumstance. You can do something about it.

And no one but you can change it. Not the well-intended friend, or the supportive family member, or the doctors. It is up to you. When you are ready, you will do something about it, but nothing will change until you really decide to.

However, my decision to have gastric bypass is not without side effects.

I have a lot of excess skin. A lot. I looked like I had 3 babies before I had 3 babies. Now my stomach looks like I have had 6.

I was unable to nurse my three babies. My body did not create enough nutrient rich milk to support my babies and help them grow. I still am deeply saddened by this reality. It may be completely unrelated but we will never know.

There are still many foods that I cannot eat. I have to think about sugar with every meal or snack that I eat. I still get sick from it. I am so grateful for this, as those compulsive urges are still there.

The most challenging side effect is that I still feel like the 300 lb girl. Whenever I am feeling insecure or vulnerable, my mind goes right to the emotions I felt when I was 300 lbs. I feel unworthy of whatever I am after. I feel as though no one else believes I am capable. I feel embarrassed of who I am. If you know me well enough, you may notice that when I am feeling at all insecure or vulnerable, I curl my midsection up into a ball and try to get as small as I can, because I want to hide myself, for fear of everyone seeing the mess of a person that I really am.

I had gastric bypass 8 years ago this Thursday.

I met my husband 7 months later. We will be celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary next week.

We have had 3 beautiful babies in the past 4 years.

I could not wait for my life to get started and as soon as it did, I wanted it all to happen as fast as possible. It is time for things to slow down. I have to go back to the beginning. I have to finish what I started and face the demons that I have been hiding under pregnancies.

The baby weight is gone and that is a feat that I worked hard at. However, I still am not comfortable in my skin and have not reached the doctor’s original goal for me. I feel defeated by that. Our youngest is only 7 months old though, so I should probably allow myself some grace, but again, I still feel like that 300 lb girl.

I do not know what I feel like or who I am as just a woman in a body that she is okay with, without another human growing inside her. Those babies made me feel like my body was doing something amazing and I needed to feel that because at so many other times I had failed my body.

They say your 20s are when you find yourself and your 30s are when you embrace who you are. As I am approaching 32, I know I found myself in my 20s and I am beginning to accept who I am, now if only I would do a better job of embracing it.

My choice is a controversial one. I have heard all the opinions. But it was my choice and one I am so grateful that I took. My journey is my journey. I have done a really good job of hiding it from what my current life is and I need to stop that. That girl, me, is still here. She always was here. The way I felt, the emotions I grappled with, are all here. My journey built me into who I am. I need to start going beyond the weight and start dealing with the emotions. For my family, for my beautiful girls, for my sweet boy, for me.

light.

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Embrace the current season of your life. – Gabrielle Blair

As I was driving home tonight, I was blinded by the light. The sun was glaring in my eyes. I looked at the clock and it is 5:45 and there is still light.  For anyone living in the tundra, this observation is a welcome sign that spring is near. We made it. We have made it through another winter. 

Winter symbolically is a hard season, known for its harsh elements, solitude, darkness, quiet, and lifelessness. Everything seems to be on pause or muttering through until the first signs of light again. When the world was designed, it was done  with beauty, even in those dark moments of winter, as the cycle of the seasons so perfectly match our seasons of life. The new life of spring, the lively days of summer, the death of fall, and the wait of winter. If you are fortunate enough to go around the sun year after year, you can start to appreciate the ways the seasons work and blend into your own life.

Lately I have found myself in a wintery season. Yes, we have new life, which would lead one to think that I am in more of a spring season, but emotionally, I have been feeling vey wintery. Everything is just a bit harsher lately and sometimes I feel very alone in my own thoughts. We are waiting for the days that we can get out and do things, but right now I sometimes feel rather trapped and alone, even though I have three beautiful children who are always close by. My husband and I are spending so much time being present and raising our children or working hard to develop our professional craft, that we have not given our relationship the time and attention it needs. Right now we are surviving and making it through, but we are not growing in our relationship or growing together. We are in a winter.

To take the metaphor a step farther, in winter the roots of strong trees do not disappear, they are just silent. The bulbs that will bring beautiful flowers are just waiting for their chance to sprout. Life and beauty is still there, hidden under the snow, patiently waiting for their chance to show their full potential.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. – proverb

Feeling the light on my face the other night reminded me that this hard time will end. This season will end. They always do. That is how our world works. Spring will come. A new season in our marriage will come. We will have to be intentional about that, but it will come. Winter is the hardest season but it comes every year. My husband and I are in  a winter, but that does not mean we are in trouble, it means we are going through the normal cycles of life, marriage, relationships. It is how we emerge from this winter that will show the strength of our marriage. Literally, we do this with our surroundings at the end of every winter. Once all the snow is melted, we will look around to see what else has survived the winter, or what needs repairing, or replanting. Each year we have this chance to re-evaluate our surroundings, make adjustments, and try again next year.

There is some comfort in knowing the predictability of the harsh season and being able to prepare for it.   We need to be doing that in all our facets of our life: Enjoying the wonderful seasons but also carefully laying the ground work to prepare for the harsh ones. Having lived in Minnesota for 6 years now, I have learned about the summer tasks that must happen to be ready for the long winters, such as taking the hose off the house so you do not have a frozen pipe, or making sure the gutters are cleared so that you do not have an ice dam, or growing a gigantic garden so you can make homemade sauce…eventually. However, I have not been as diligent or intentional when it comes to life’s figurative seasons and preparing for them, even though I should know by now that with all the good, the hard will come too.

Every season has its purpose. My grandma was a woman of her own type of faith, but one thing she really made sure to reiterate time and time again with me, was the importance of understanding that everything has a reason. Everything. She was right.  Winter is this brutal season of struggle. However, there is also the profound feeling of success when you come through the harsh season. I was recently talking with my sister-in-law about struggling and how it is hard to struggle and even harder to watch your child struggle. But, how important it is in both your own life and your child’s to go through the struggle. In the struggle is the learning and the growth. As both parents and educators, we know this. It is harder when it is you or your child dealing with it, but emotions aside, we know that an appropriate level of struggle is actually really good for us. As I felt the glow of the sun, it gave me hope that the growth has happened, this lesson has been learned, and it is time for new life, or a new perspective, moving forward. This winter has served its purpose. 

While I reflect on this current wintery season and rejoice in the coming light, I have these take aways about seasons, change, and growth:

Each season has a time.

Be fully present in each season, as they are intentionally designed.

Be open to the change each season will create.

Prepare for the hard seasons, while embracing the good seasons.

Every season has a purpose.

Make sure you do not leave the season without learning its purpose and be humble enough to grow from it.

So here I am. Reflecting and listening. Waiting and growing. Struggling and pushing forward. I will get through this season and I will love my spring and summer, but I  also know that winter will come again.