Peace in the Chaos

When I doubt my decisions and worry a hole in my heart, I seek peace.  While driving to and from all the places on my “must do list”, my mind and heart were wringing themselves out over decisions made, consequences of decisions, and what needed deciding next.  I was caught in the frenetic pace of the days needs and in my own need to set up a perfect environment for my family’s success.  As the words of this song seeped into my consciousness, I became aware of the tight furrowing of my brow, my fierce grip on the steering wheel, and the tension viced between my shoulders.  Even my left foot, not occupied by driving, was pressed firmly into the floorboard, as if my body was slamming the brakes on my thoughts.  I was braced for impact.  
Had you driven along side me that day, you may have observed the tight set of my mouth, but I suspect you would have only seen a woman with the windows down, singing with the radio, arm dangling out the window.  A casual observer would see what I want everyone to see: fine.  And if not fine, fantastic.  I felt as if the song was playing just for me in that moment.  Because I was fooling myself as well. I was wearing Fine like a shield.  Until the words “stop holding on and just be held” echoed in my stilled mind, even I was unaware of the crushing grip of my thoughts or the physical force of the tension. I began a physical and mental inventory as the words of the song took over my mind.  I consciously relaxed my face, shoulders, arms, and legs.  I let my hands relax upon the steering wheel.  And I listened.  When the song was over, I made a mental note to find this song and keep it close.  Each time I hear it, it reminds me of that day in the car, when a strangers words became a catalyst.  I can remind myself that I do not always need the answer right this minute.  Only God knows where this trail is headed. I have paused, prayed, and researched every decision, and I strive to keep those decisions in line with my faith and Gods plan for me. My life is falling into place, and it is good to find peace along the way. 

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Message from Base Camp

Base Camp:  September 2015
Base camps are meant to be the place from which mountaineers strike out in search of the top of the world. Here, they meet their guide: seasoned professionals who have made the climb and learned the mountain. Days are spent acclimating to new altitudes, assessing conditions and strategizing.  Base camp is a kind of safe haven while you investigate and plan the next leg of the journey. 
 Welcome to Base Camp.
As with any journey, there are times along the way when you evaluate your progress.  Sometimes, you find yourself ahead of schedule, sometimes, woefully behind.  I find myself in need of a base camp along the trail.  On one hand, I celebrate the arrival at base camp.  On the other hand, I battle thoughts of giving up. 
Looking back, deciding to start this journey was agonizing.  My thoughts swirled and felt very self serving.  I appreciate now the courage it takes to leap into the unknown adventure.  I made the leap. The chain of events that leap set in motion have been exhilarating and humbling, strengthening and overwhelming.  I put one foot in front of the other as often as I could.  I rested and recharged when I couldn’t imagine what to do next or how this would all work out.  And now, I find myself in a clearing of sorts: a brief widening of the trail just before the next big climb. I am in need of physical rest and restructuring.  Here, I will reevaluate goals, research the next steps, gain some kind of control over the chaos, and dream.  Base camp is no place to rest on your laurels.  Base camp is a mission unto itself:  set the expedition up for success.  Gather, learn, acclimate, strengthen, and plan.  I’m looking forward to my time here at base camp. There is a beautiful, hope-filled mountain looming in front of me.  I am ready to climb it.  Knowledge is power. Success requires a solid foundation.  And a leap of faith grows into reality.
It took nerve and hard work to get this far.  My courage has grown exponentially.  Fear, an unwelcome, yet steadfast companion, has grown quiet.  The incessant reminders of every pitfall imaginable reduced to murmurings.  Fear and I have an understanding today.  Today, armed with my growing courage and Fear’s quieted worries, we will set up the base camp.  Fear cannot stop me.  Love, intelligence, determination, and desire are stronger than the fear that travels with me.  And Fear knows it.  More importantly, know it.  
Check back soon for more updates from Base Camp.  Here we Grow!
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Postcards From the Trail

Postcards from the trail 9.2015

When we last met at the signpost, I stood frozen for some time before deciding which path to take.  I did not choose the path of least resistance, and I have learned that the word path is an inadequate description of the journey I chose. Over the course of the last few months, I feel as though I have walked through calm pastures, struggled through thickets, ripped my way through patches of thorny brambles, spent a night (or a few) in a dark cave of overwhelming hopelessness, and hiking steadily, all the while climbing my personal mountain.  Here are the first Postcards From the Trail:

Checkpoint 1: Back to School.  In the spring, before this blog was born, I was searching.  Searching for the path that would lead us back toward our family principles, reel in the children, and bring peace to our daily lives.  The variable wreaking the most havoc on me personally and by extension, my family, was my job.  I have come to regard my entire experience in that full time office roll as a “teachable moment.”  A long, arduous, limit stretching teachable moment.  I took the post with a hope and a prayer of improving the financial mess we have been mired in.  I went in eyes wide open, knowing the potential cost to family, home, and relationships.  This wasn’t my first rescue mission.  I went in armed with knowledge gained throughout my lifetime as mother and breadwinner.  I had parameters.  I knew my make it or break it points.  And I consciously allowed each of them to be shattered.  People worked for me.  I worked for them and our clients.  My roll required me to know the deepest needs of these people.  This was more than a job.  Lives and livelihoods hung in the balance.  It was pressed upon me, at times, to put the job (read: clients, staff, and department operations) first.  Eventually, my phone/job became a member of the family.  It joined us for mealtimes, showers, sleepovers, vacation days, holidays and special events.  To separate it from my family very often meant someone suffered.  To service the job fully and then go home to family, meant I did not see my family those days.  My house and family steadily suffered neglect.  My only defense became exhaustion.

You see, I didn’t miss the signs along the trail.  I cannot say I didn’t know.  And every day I fell into a black, restless sleep as I struggled to find a way to maintain my core priorities:  My family: husband and children come first.  Income: in a perfect world, we could survive on one income.  2008 taught me otherwise, but that is a story for another day.  So I was back to searching.  Searching for anything, everything, THE thing, that I was led to, willing and able to do.  The thought of changing jobs led to an investigation of schools.  College (again) for me and different schooling options for the kids.  One cold day in February, this journey began as I sat in the university counseling office.  The seed of this journey, planted itself in a tiny, warmly bright spot of hope in my heart.  I could feel it.  Fragile and surrounded by ominous, billowing fears.  Rooting itself in my heart the moment I heard I could finish my degree. The credits were there, and they count!  With a part time schedule, I could earn my degree within 1 year.  For the first time in 20 years, I could see the finish line.  I could Do this.

Checkpoint 2: Reduced full time job to part time.  Scary. Good. Bad? Financially terrifying.  Mildly anxiety reducing. Exciting. Completed.

Checkpoint 3:  1st Semester back in college:  Done.  While spending the summer adjusting to my new roll in a flexible, part time post at the office, I spent as much time as possible with the kids, with positive results for all of us.  (Check out The Adventures of Benny, Izzy, & Squirpy page for details) My husband changed jobs twice.  I began the Everest-like challenge of gaining control of the house.  And I managed to add an A and a B to my transcript.

I’m still on the trail.  I know this is exactly where I need to be.  I pray for the strength and God’s guidance to keep exploring and reach the top of my mountain.

Check back for more postcards from trail.  Thanks for joining me!

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Where do I go from here?

Armed with the knowledge of self discovery and a burning desire for a life of purpose, I seek the signpost. It feels good to be doing something.  I have a pep in my step and the tunes are blasting.  Like the first moves of a new workout, I am energized and fearless. I am taking steps to break the jar that has captured my life.  This is it!

And then I was again.  I was excited. I was fearless.  There I was, at the crossroads, and instead of sign post pointing toward various paths of purpose,  the reality signpost I faced looked like a stressed out porcupine ready to defend itself.  Each arrow thrusting toward a path.  Each path looks different and appears to have merit.

Some look to easy….you can’t trust those.

Some look like the path to Mount Everest…even if I thought for a moment how exciting that would be, my body reminds me of its limits, which include a healthy fear of heights and a true aversion to the bitter cold.

And then there are the paths that look as though they were heaven sent; hand created just for me.  But wouldn’t those paths be self serving?  Can I justify walking one of those paths?  Will choosing such a tempting path diminish my primary loves and responsibilities?  Can I choose one of those paths and still be a dedicated wife and mother?

Maybe this is where I was captured.  Paralyzed by the fear of every what if racing around my mind, each chasing the other, a cacophony voices and heart beats.  Paralyzed and deafened just long enough to miss the jar surrounding me and the sealing of the lid.

 How long have I truly been in the jar?

What woke me from my fear induced coma?  Perhaps the crushing pressure of loss as the possibility rich air was slowly vacuumed away.

Perhaps I was comforted for a time, cocooned in peaceful silence, giving in to the fear, and staying still.  That stillness can be viewed as a victory of sorts.  Choosing to be still.  Refusing to be prodded toward any path.  Taking the time to see through the glass without distraction.  Time to slow my racing heart and calm the frenetic thoughts in my mind.  Moments my mind used to remember the joy of anticipation and the rush I feel striking out on a new path with fresh air and heightened senses.  Memories triggering feelings.  Feelings awakening need.  Need forcing my eyes, heart, and soul to wake,  look around me, and catch that fleeting reflection in the glass.  To truly see the flickering and wilted fairy. And the spell was broken.  The stillness shattered, revealing the spoils of my stillness like the unveiling of a bride.  But where my eyes had seen solutions that blinded my heart, my soul saw the inconspicuous curved walls of my prison and the wilting of the precious family I hold above all.

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The Future Has Begun

When I am feeling confined and the bone deep longing for change is crushing me, I search for guidance and inspiration all around me.  I listen even more carefully to my family, radio and news.  Straining for a sign to justify the intense and sometimes overwhelming need to find a path home.  What would really be lovely and heaven sent?  A sign.  Literally.  A sign from God that says:  Go this way =>.  I imagine it to be something like a scene from a movie.  Golden paths stretching endlessly in many directions.  Some paths look simple and flat.  Tempting.  Some paths roll gently before me, undulating forward, no major climb for as far as the eye can see.  Doable.  Then there are the paths in shadow.  Rocky, nettle laced paths that scream danger.  Easily weeded out.  And there, before me, a path with my name on it.  It calls to me, enticing me to follow the smooth stones.  Come, walk along my tree lined path where flowers bloom in clusters at the base of each tree and berry bushes dot the path.  Everything about this path speaks to me and my heart aches with wanting to step toward the coming adventure.

And here I stand, frozen. Which path to take?  Am I selfish or actively reaching the solution or goal?  Each day, every moment, I am listening. Searching for the sign or key.  Searching for permission.  Searching for absolution.

Searching for signs and that still small voice takes me many places.  Every interaction an opportunity to glean meaning or direction.  Every drive a chance to filter through the ideas and knowledge. Moments not occupied by work or responsibility are chances to ask myself: “Where do I go?  What am I meant to do?  How can I make that happen?”

I listen to my favorite radio station hoping and praying to discern God’s will in my life and find the courage to do something about it.  The day my heart, mind and soul found the same page, I heard “Day One.” My own personal epiphany.  I had discovered the answer to a critical question.  With solid confidence, the answer was the same for the family of questions related to the life shaping question:  “What is my purpose in this life?  What is my most vital work?  Is what I am spending my time on supporting that purpose, enriching my family, and laying a strong foundation?’  On this day, the ‘coulds & ‘shoulds  were quiet. Knowledge, courage and bone deep certainty welled up and flowed.  The time had come to stop making excuses and take control of life’s rudder. It is time to open my eyes and See.  See the paths, the jar, the lid.  “Day One,” an anthem to my soul.  I am starting over.  My future has begun.

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Pixie in a jar

Breaking the Jar
     Recently, my mother described me as a fairy trapped in a jar.  Fresh from a trip to Walt Disney World, she asked me to humor her as she tried to share her visualization of the impact of my most recent job.  “I see you like Tinkerbell, trapped in the jar, shining and bright.  Full of light and equally trapped.” 
     Her comment, shared with me a little tongue in cheek, with a disclaimer that she knew how silly it sounded, has resonated with me profoundly.  I have recently struggled with describing the overwhelming pressure I feel; trying in vain to find a way to share with those closest to me the feeling of being trapped in plain sight with no ability to reach freedom.  Trapped by the must, should and “if I don’t, who will?” commentary reeling through my mind.  At once knowing something has to change, with a care-worn list of things I want to get back to or do better, while simultaneously being frozen in place.  Experience is a great teacher.  I have internalized fear as a result of change and thus find myself a very neatly trapped pixie in a jar:  full of light, hope, ideas and dreams, railing at the transparent bonds around me; the tinkling bell thunderous in my ears and silent to those who can see me.  Maybe my light has begun to dim.  Maybe my wings have started to droop.  Maybe this last year has changed me so much that the pieces of me I miss and long for are visible to those who take the time to look in the jar.  A strange kind of seek and find puzzle where the viewer sees a familiar image and has to study it to notice what has changed, only to be disappointed at the discovery rather than joyful with solving the puzzle.

     Today begins a new journey.  Breaking the Jar.  The journey began with the words on this page.  Admission, tension, anxiety, fear, and exhaustion are overcome by hope, courage, prayers, and dreams.  I long to wake up with purpose, step into the day with confidence, knowing I am where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to do.  I can survive.  I have survived.  I will survive.  I want to Thrive with purpose.  I am a wife and mother above all else.  My purpose and joy are rooted in those precious titles. Today I strike out to find a way Thrive while we survive.

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Casting Crowns – Thrive (Official Lyric Video)

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