Saturday, April 11, 2020

You Just Never Know

Opening my email the other day, I saw one titled "New Blog" but from an email address I didn't recognize.  Intrigued, I opened it, and slowly began to read.

Then I re-read it.  Then I re-read it yet again.

With tears in my eyes, I saved the email to respond to later, but in that moment, I needed to stop and shake my head about the 2 x 4's that I am so fortunate to have God whack me with (Trust me, I need whacking in order to get it!  I am extremely hard headed!)

I ask for them, regularly, these glorious 2 x 4 moments.  Shockingly, and with great regularity, I get them in ways that are simply too obvious to deny from whence they cometh.

As I was struggling to write over the past several months, and as I was considering that this phase in my life was likely over...the blogging phase...I still had this sense that maybe I should be writing.  I couldn't shake it OR resolve it.  The problem?  The old blog was our family blog and photo album,  but that wasn't what I was feeling drawn toward any longer, and hadn't for quite awhile.  I didn't consider for a long time that perhaps a new blog with a different focus was where I was headed, I just felt "done".  Yet every time I had felt "done" in the past, and that happened numerous times, almost instantly I would receive an email from someone who I didn't realize was reading.  They wanted to share something with me, or needed encouragement or guidance on a particular adoption or homeschooling challenge, and I would be solidly reminded that perhaps I wasn't really writing solely for myself and my family, but that our experiences were being used in ways I would never understand.

Fast forward to considering creating a new online home to write and reflect.  I asked my best friend what she thought of the idea, and she quickly asked an obvious question, "Well, why don't you just keep writing on your old blog and talk about new things?"  Not a bad idea and that was the very question I was asking myself, but somehow it felt "wrong" and I couldn't discern why.  Fascinatingly, within two minutes, Candi completely reversed herself...something she almost never does because she is thoughtful when she speaks the first time.  She said, "Wait a minute, no, I am totally wrong here and I don't know why but you absolutely should write a new blog."  I asked why the sudden turnaround and she said, "It was like God slapped me upside the head and told me I was steering you wrong.  I am 100% certain about this, and that this is really need to start a new blog that is about your new journey, and there are reasons you need to that we don't understand right now.  Just know I am really sure about this."


Now, I am not one who blindly follows anyone, not my husband, not my pastor, not my best friend.  But I heard "between the lines" and realized there must be something there, so I would go along with my original thought and create a new blog home.

Would anyone read it?  Am I writing for an audience or am I writing for myself?  Does any of it really matter anyway?  Knowing I needed to set aside any concerns about others, and yet fully realizing that this blog would be very different and have no cute photos of adorable little kids, nor a compelling story line with the building of a family, I still knew I needed to write.  So with no real reason other than feeling the need to have a place where I intentionally work things out, I began.

Immediately, the old pattern returned, and God responded through the email of yet another person, surprising me on multiple levels.  This reader didn't adopt, but instead found our blog randomly

More importantly, I was deeply moved as she shared with me that she was very grateful I was going to continue writing, and that my words had provided great meaning in her life, particularly at this moment in time when she was on a spiritual journey of her own and we are beginning a lovely back-and-forth dialogue about insights we have, and a growing yearning in her heart.

This woman discovered me through a link from a friend's own blog.  She started reading years ago, and has followed ever since.  This person was a special needs educator and shared that she had learned so much from my blog, had shared ideas with families she worked with, and discovered things about kids in front of her because she was able to make connections from having read of particular episodes of our special needs journey.  Our experiences, challenges, and strategies for educating our kids were being used in ways I had never fathomed!

Could God have provided a more clear 2 x 4 for me?  I think not.  And I was profoundly touched to think that my past words led to a comfort level for someone to share such intimate and important thoughts with me...a person they had never spoken to before but who had heard my life laid out for years, and that life spoke to her.  Unbelievable, humbling, and what a strong reminder of something that we all forget.

This isn't unique to me.  Your actions, friends, speak volumes.  Your words have weight.  Your essence changes people, for good or for bad.  You are being watched when you don't realize it, and you are modeling when you are not intending to.  We understand this when it comes to our children, we see quickly how a cuss word that slips out is next uttered from their lips.  We watch their behaviors and see the impact we have on the person they are becoming.  Are we reflecting patience and kindness?  Or frustration and coarseness?  Are we showing how to deal with challenges and disappointments?  Or are we acting the equivalent to a toddler and metaphorically stomping our feet?  Are we speaking words of light and truth?  Or are we practicing obfuscation and darkening our corners of the world?

We are leaving an impression of some sort, and most often when we are not even aware of it.

The affirmation this woman offered me about my "next" in life was something I didn't know I needed until I received it.  I am, indeed, moving in the direction I am being called toward.  It isn't just a desire, it is something I can not escape.  I am saying "yes" without being able to envision some end result.  But this email conversation is responsible for eliminating any residual doubts I had about enrolling in seminary, and honestly, the interfaith component is going to broaden everything for me.  It is who I  truly am.

I have walked around all week feeling so grateful, not only for this email, but for my past resolve to keep writing....writing through tears of sorrow and great personal pain, writing with excited anticipation, writing as I was challenged and puzzled.  I have never known who all was observing my journey and learning from it, be it learning how TO do something, or conversely, deciding how NOT TO do something!

What God does with my words isn't really my business.  I just need to be authentically myself, as I feel I have always been, and share where I am in my life now.  That's it.  I need to let writing continue to be my spiritual practice that is sort of on public display, because oddly that, too, seems to be a unique calling of mine.  It isn't about readership, it isn't about being a "mommy-preneur" and likely never will be for me.  I am not even sure what THIS blog will really be about!!  What I do know is that I regularly ask God for wisdom to share that has been hard earned, and for insights and 2 x 4's that might help others in the world, be it as homeschoolers, as parents, or as people of faith.

And you just never know who needs the lesson you have to offer.  You just never know who will not have to learn something the hard way...the way you did...because you are open and honest enough to share your truth.  You just never know what an impact you are in the world around you, for most of us don't take the time to share with others what we have garnered from their life.

We can't do it alone, friends, we never have been able to.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Something is Spreading

Something is spreading right alongside the COVID-19 virus.  While America is self-quarantining, while hand sanitizer and other necessities are flying off store shelves in an effort to protect loved ones from The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 (and WHAT, pray tell, does stocking up on toilet paper ultimately accomplish??), we are seeing another side of our fellow human beings.  There may be the occasional negative news story about people who are being less than thoughtful, but we are seeing a new viral sensation...have you noticed?


Yes, panic is causing some folks to respond with hoarding, but the overwhelming majority of Americans are stepping up with acts of kindness that are truly remarkable.  Masks are being made in homes across our land to help protect our front line medical staff, people are sharing food, offering drive by birthday parades, and in our town one woman was even offering breast milk! 

I know we have personally been impacted by amazing goodness at every turn, including people making a point to buy pizza as they know we are a fledgling business and not likely to make it through this without a concerted effort.  An old friend who owns his own restaurant in town even used his own business' social media page to plug Buckaroos and a couple of other mom and pop places who are newish and need support.  How extraordinary is that?  We had another person from our church, who we will keep anonymous, send us a check that will cover payroll for a week.  They had no clue how much that will really help us out!  This has really hit at a bad time for Buckaroos, but we are praying daily for the ability to make it through, and the generosity and intentional purchasing of others has so far worked.

Catastrophes are where the rubber meets the road, and were the best and the worst of us is revealed...sometimes in the same person!  Anxiety can make the kindest person act in ways that are appalling, and yet also call on the most altruistic parts of them.

Humankind has a surprising capacity for great good, or great evil.  

I tend to think that when we are truly listening to God, we can't help but see ways in which we can help others and we feel a strong urge to do so.  I also think that when we are the most distant from God is when our selfishness rises and it becomes harder to see the need around us, and harder still to feel drawn to assist.  

Wouldn't it be something if we all moved out of this scary moment in history having gained not only better hand washing practices, but also finding that kindness rooted itself in humanity like never before and blossomed across the globe?  What if this lasts long enough that thinking of others, and working together to solve problems became a habit in the majority of us?  How would our world be impacted by that sort of lasting change?

And what if those COVID-19 maps reflected the gradual transformation of every society on earth rather than the spread of a deadly virus?  What if it was kindness being tracked and not a diagnosis?

It starts right in your own home and in your own circle, and it is not an impossible dream!  Oh, I know the cynicism that many walk around with, and how preposterous it seems to reconstruct our world into one that is gracious and good.  But what if I told you that half the battle is simply noticing the generosity and compassion that already exists? I don't believe we live in a world that lacks kindness, I believe we live in a world where kindness isn't celebrated nearly as often as indifference or hatred is.  What if we all made a concerted effort to elevate the goodness we witness in the world, if we all highlighted the best there is among us rather than the worst?

Let me share with you the goodness that shined the past few days in my life...

Matt and Josh are my COVID Companions.  We are basically on house arrest while the other four are out in the world working, as we simply have no choice right now and need the income and Buckaroos can not close unless we are forced to.  We have moved Kenny and Dominick down to our TV room, and they are living down there and sharing the bathroom with the girls, so that we three can have space where we are safe from anything they might bring home.  I am very susceptible to bronchial issues and am on daily asthma meds, and Josh also tends to get deep chest colds that are tough for him to shake, so we are being extra cautious.  I have basically been isolating for about five weeks now, and moving into week three in my "dorm room":

We moved in a small fridge and microwave so I can make life easier on everyone else and not have to have  them wipe down the kitchen and common areas six thousand times a day.  Poor Dominick and the couch!  But, we all realized this was safer for me, and this is love.  I get cute texts from Angie, Olesya, and Kenny keeping me up to date on everything, but we are trying to stay apart as much as possible.  

I couldn't have two better companions for this quarantine period (well, the other four aren't half bad either but I can't have them!)   They have been so helpful in cleaning up the kitchen, Josh washed my car yesterday, and a couple nights ago they set up our first ever fire in our fire pit.  We three had s'mores, looked at the stars, and laughed over camping trip disasters from their younger years.  They are kind, helpful young men who I am so lucky to call my sons.

Kindness and care starts at home, yes even for our dog Sunny!!

Now is the time for everyone to step up and help where they can, and that call is also for our family.  Being kind at home is one thing, and hugely important, but seeking out opportunities to help others is where the magic starts to happen:

With toilet paper being a hot commodity, we learned of a group that needed help obtaining some.  Foster Alumni Mentors is a small entity in Grand Junction which provides mentors and support to young adults who have aged out of foster care.  Many couldn't find toilet paper, so we met that need because we could get a case from our commercial suppliers.  I know it isn't much, but it is a little way to pay it forward!

Kenny is part of Peer Kindness here locally, another entity that tries to spread kindness throughout our community.  They partnered with us this week to deliver pizzas to the grocery store staff in town.

Sometimes though, it isn't that something needs to be given or purchased, but spirits lifted and hearts reminded of connections.  One of the most touching moments of this past several weeks was this Saturday evening when dear friends from our church showed up and left palm fronds for us to celebrate Palm Sunday with.  They drove a two hour round trip, basically, to say, "We love you." as they stood 10 feet away.

There it was, another example of the viral nature of kindness.  Dale and Ruth Ann with their cute little masks and palms were spreading kindness, and they do so in numerous other ways...and I'll tell you they are two of the happiest people I know.

Kindness works that way, we think we are doing it to make others happy, and what happens is it spills over and fills us up as well!

So, while we are waiting anxiously for the novel coronavirus to decrease, we might be seeing in increase in something long lasting.  Time will tell if new habits are formed, if we begin to work together for good in the world in new ways. 

Something is spreading though, and looking for it might be the best way to find yourself wanting to multiply it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New Beginnings!

Welcome to my new blog!  After fourteen years writing our family blog, and surprising myself that I had more than two readers, it was time to start anew.  Oh, I will still update the family blog from time to time, but I think this might be the place where I feel called to write more.  This blog itself may end up with a mere two readers, but what I have known all along, and perhaps rediscovered this past year, is that I write for me.  As the blog header reflects, writing is indeed my "working-it-out-place", and life in general has grown ever more complex with much more to work out!  I don't write for an audience, though I happily share my thoughts with whoever might be amused by them.  I write because it is my spiritual practice, one I left behind in the murkiness of the past year and a half or so, and one that I need because it is soul-filling for me, regardless of whether I have an audience or not. 

You know how you wake up one morning, and mindlessly begin your day assuming it is the same as every other day?  Maybe you grab your coffee, or in my case my Diet Coke (No chastising, please! Haha!  A girl's gotta have some vice in life, and this is mine!), and set about your usual tasks. Before the day is out, f"orever" has changed.  Unexpectedly, life as you knew it is no more and you have no clue what is to come. 

Or, sometimes it is a gradual change that sneaks up on you, and one day your eyes are opened wide enough, or your heart is honest enough to see it more clearly.  The ground you thought was rock solid suddenly feels as slick as irrigated pasture mud sucking at your sneakers for all its worth, causing you to lose balance and wonder if you are going to be able to remain upright, or will end up a gloppy mess.  Oh, you know the solid ground is under you, logic tells you that, but you can't seem to gain purchase and a second or two feels like an eternity until you stop sliding and are almost scared to stand fully upright for fear you have misread the situation and will, indeed, end up unceremoniously on your rump.

That, my friends, is exactly where I have been for well over a year. 

In the midst of homeschooling, business building, and mentoring, I was slowly falling apart.  I haven't shared too much with others about how painful the past many months has been, largely because I felt foolish and out of control in a way I never have before.  This past fall I was in tears nearly every day, exhausted from extreme insomnia, sad in a way I had never been and yet it still wasn't what I would have called depression.  I was overwhelmed, unable to think clearly, and a sense of hopelessness utterly unlike me had settled over me like a dark cloak. 

Some might have said it was because our homeschooling years are drawing to a close.  Those who don't know me better might nod knowingly and say, "She just isn't admitting she is grieving her kids growing up!"  I questioned myself about those very things a thousand times.  Each time I examined that as the possibility, my gut response was a clear "Nope!"  I am an introvert, though many don't believe that as I can force extroversion when necessary.  I love the alone time I get, our kids aren't leaving our home anytime in the foreseeable future, and I have never been one of those moms who yearns for days gone by, but instead excitedly greets the new version of each child (now young adult) as they emerge.  I am also tiiiiirrrreeedddd and though I loved every minute of our homeschooling years, I am SO ready to declare us "done"!

As I am just now emerging from the fog of The Year I Lost It, I can look back and see how much came together to create a perfect emotional storm...menopause, thyroid med imbalances that took me to both severe hyper and hypo levels for almost the entire year and still not quite right, the decline of my mom and her subsequent entering into a nursing home while I was the only living family member to handle her affairs, then her death months later.  Two major surgeries for Kenny.  Oh yeah, then there was trying to get a business up and running with the kids, teaching as I went along, and dare I say that the entire last 20 years caught up with me finally?? Haha!  I guess there was a lot more going on than I cared to see, and NONE of it had anything to do with my kids growing up and me yearning for them to be babies!!

Part of all of this angst was wondering what was my "next" going to be?  Where might I find meaning and purpose in my daily life?  What was on the horizon that was clearly growing nearer with each passing day?  I had no real "career" prior to adopting our kids, decent jobs, yes but no career.  I have no higher education to rely on.  I had no clear sense of direction, and a fear that I might pull inward so much that the remaining years of my life would be lived flitting about from offering one act of charity after another...doing no harm, but never truly invested in any particular thing.  I am just not built like that.  Yet I still need to be available because our kids will need us a little longer than most.  Basically, I guess you could say I had no idea who I was going to be, and I kept saying I felt so lost...over and over agonizingly lost.

Thankfully, the people in my life who love me continued to be very present, understanding, and listened a lot.  All of us were puzzled as to why I felt so blue, though learning that my thyroid meds were again quite off provided part of the answer. 

I should have known though, I should have trusted.  God had something in store for me, something I had never even heard about, let alone considered.  When we think God feels very distant, it might be that WE are distant and less connected, which I certainly was.  It also isn't all that tangible, I am still struggling to grasp the "why" alongside the certainty that this is precisely where I need to be heading.

It was in a hotel room in NYC in January with my best friend while she was editing something she was working on that I began to skim through the wonderful world of the internet, looking for something to grab hold of, something to give me hope and an action to take to start feeling less confused and despondent.  I knew I needed to feed my spiritual side and that might help me center myself.  I scrolled through looking for spiritual retreats when I was led down a rabbit trail...and there it was.  I knew it the moment I saw it, though I pushed it aside.  Because I didn't really want to go there in my mind.  I just didn't.  And yet it was absolutely, unequivocally me. 

Interfaith Seminary.

After weeks of prayer, discernment, and asking God for multiple 2 x 4's, it was more clear than ever that this was my "next", even if I had NO CLUE why or what I might do with it.  I still don't.  But I applied, and during this self-quarantine period I have been working my way through the application process, multiple interviews, and preparing writing samples to offer as well as answering many thought provoking questions they asked as part of the process.  I had great doubt as to whether or not I would be accepted, as I am coming in as only a high school graduate, no college behind me.

Thanks, in large part to two terrific references that I am sure were overly hyperbolic, I was accepted, and my "next" is now before me  Beginning in September, I will be spending two years in seminary working toward ordination as an Interfaith minister, and then, because I am a total nerd, I plan to spend two more years training in Interspiritual counseling.  I will be traveling to NYC for classes once a month, and doing the coursework at home. 

Why not a traditional Christian seminary, you might ask?  Well, largely because when have I EVER done anything traditional?? Hahaha!  Actually, it is because, though I have considered it in the past, it is not authentically where my theology sits.  I definitely come to Interfaith with a rich Christian tradition as part of my faith DNA, but for me, what we perceive as Divine is something we necessarily limit in order for our minds to grasp it, and we usually limit it based on what we were raised with.  My entire life has been spent nudging around the edges of various faith traditions, exploring in personal readings differing perspectives, and I want to learn more.  I also want to be a voice that helps, in whatever ways God decides to use me, to speak to the unity of all of us, rather than pointing to the differences, for we miss so much when that is all we see. 

I don't know why this called out to me.  I almost felt too old.  I don't see a way in which I will use such training, but thankfully I have a very faithful husband who said, quite literally, "Cindy, when HASN'T God used you?  Just keep saying yes like you always do and that will work itself out."  I have a best friend who said, "I have seen this for you for a long time, I am thrilled you are seeing it for yourself now!"  I had two dear ones step forward and offer to help cover part of the costs so I could attend as they knew money was going to get in the way of me saying yes, and that was something that was totally unexpected and speaks to their trust in this being the right "next" for me...which also helped affirm it for me as well.

I don't know why, but I immediately knew this was right, and it sparked me up like nothing has in years.  I am so grateful to have been accepted at One Spirit, and I know it will be an incredibly enlightening, soul awakening experience for me.  It will also be academically rigorous which I truly look forward to.  And I pray that God uses me in ways I can't fathom at the moment, and that this training will help me be able to better stand in the shoes of others and understand the things that have deeper meaning for them. 

So, here we go!  As of September, a new beginning for me.  Thanks for being part of my life, and the life of my family.  If you are reading this, and some of you have read my meandering posts for years, here we are, off on another wild adventure!