Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Lingering

When Jay and I were first married, we perfected the art of lingering.  We would linger over dinner, even sit and have dessert.  We would linger on the couch, holding hands and talking.  We would linger in bed in the mornings, holding each other until the very last second before getting up and facing the world.  And we would linger in God’s Word.  From the moment Jay and I met, he’s been my favorite person to discuss the Bible with.  We would have long talks over the words of Jesus, what they meant, how they impact our lives.  It was treasured time for me.

Eight years into our marriage, Hurricane Micah entered our world.  And even though things were disrupted for a time, we got our groove back.  After all, there were two of us and only one of him.  We even taught him the fine art of lingering.  He learned to climb into our bed on Saturday mornings.  We took our time with bath time and bedtime (Jay – THIS is why he STILL stands in the shower letting the water run over him for 30 minutes every morning and why he STILL makes a million excuses to stay up late.  Case solved!)  We played music during dinner.  We strolled through the grocery store.  We had picnics in the park.  I even found time to start this little blog.  We were pretty chill.

Those days seem like a lifetime ago.

We’ve added three people to our family in three years.  With the addition of two miracle babies and Pop, we have filled the Spalding family to capacity, and to keep everyone fed, clean and happy, things have to stay on a schedule.  I, the keeper of said schedule, most of the time feel like a dictating, bossy, killjoy.  You can turn the world from order to chaos by missing one day of laundry.  Don’t check the big kid’s agenda the second he gets home?  You might find yourself making a midnight run to Walmart for supplies for a project we knew nothing about.  Don’t keep a careful diaper inventory?  You may be pulling out those very well intended but very seldom used cloth diapers at 3:00 a.m. – which adds to the laundry you don’t have time to do! 

And lest you think that you can rest easy when you’re all caught up… beware!  Spalding’s Law (like Murphy’s Law!) will come into play.  Like the rule that if you have a great morning, a flat tire is awaiting.     Or on the day you wash bedsheets, someone will vomit (that’s an exaggeration – last week no one threw up.  Asher did pour an entire sippy cup of apple juice on my bed though)

My day basically goes like this: I wake up in a state of terror because I hit the snooze button one too many times because one (or two or three) of my kids have been up through the night several times.  We begin the delicate, frantic dance to get everyone dressed and ready and where they need to be at the time they need to be there.  No one can be out of step or the morning will just implode.  Jay and Micah have to leave by 7:30. The little boys and I have to be out the door about 8:15.  No one can be lagging.  Almost Teenager, you can do without your Axe body spray cloud today, we are out the door! Silly Potty-Training toddler, there’s no time to go to the bathroom now!  Nursing Infant, don’t be crazy, no one has time for that!

Jay rushes in one direction, I rush in the other.  When I finally land at the office, I fall down in my chair and tear into my annoyingly color-coded to-do list, which I must subconsciously set up for failure since I’ve never, not once in fifteen years, crossed off every single item.  I try, at some point, to be in God’s Word – usually using some aptly named book, like “Devotions for You Slackers Who Think You Don’t Have Time to Do Devotions.” At about 3:45, Micah arrives at the office from the school bus.  I nag him to start on homework.  He rarely does.  I try to tie up loose ends and finish a few things so that I can bolt out of the office at 5:05 so I can get to the littles by 5:15. One minute later and I’m the last parent there… and no one wants to harbor that guilt.

We roll up to our house at about 5:45 (unless there is grocery shopping to do, church programs or basketball practice).  One of us (usually Jay!) starts dinner while the other one tends to the kids and gets Micah started on homework.  It’s our goal to eat before 7:00 on “regular” nights so that we can start bath time before 8:00.  The kids go to bed at 8:30 (ish) for the little ones and 9:30 (ish) for the big one.  Then Jay and I start on our night – picking up, dishes, laundry, lunch-making, and then trying to watch some TV (although I make him clean during commercials – sorry, sweetie) before stumbling to our room a few minutes after midnight – just in time for Silas to wake up for the first time to eat.

I end most days knowing there was so much I didn’t get to, and yet feeling like I couldn’t have possibly given anymore. 

Even at times when lingering is forced – sick kids, waiting rooms, long drives, food taking forever at lunch (I’m looking at you, Chilis!), the thought of not doing something productive makes me so anxious.

This inability to stop, this crushing guilt of what I couldn’t get done, this exhausting feeling of failure has been weighing heavy on me this last year.  I keep telling myself that in another month, when XY and Z happens, I’ll be back on my game.  But the reality is, the game has changed.  And it may never be the same again. 

After some middle-of-the-night reflection and prayer earlier this year, I told my husband that he and I need to figure out a time to Sabbath.  To just stop.  We need some linger in our lives, some dawdle in our days, some idle in our existence.  So we pulled out my annoyingly color-coded day planner and blocked off the next Friday afternoon.  And the next.  And the next. 

We have decided to come in on Friday mornings like normal. Check emails and messages, deal with any pertinent issues, make sure Sunday is planned, and then around lunch time, we leave and we are free until Micah gets home from school.  The “rules” of the day are simple.  No work, no chores, no grocery shopping.  Just linger.  Some days we go out to lunch… and have dessert.  Some days we go walk around a store we don’t usually have time to go in.  Some days we go home and watch a movie or even take a nap.  Some days we spend time talking about the things we like to talk about with each other – old times, future vacations, politics and current events, and most importantly, God’s Word.  It is our time.  It is a gift.  It’s four measly hours in the week… and it has been a game-changer for me.

I’m not going to pretend that we are perfect at it.  Obviously there are a lot of times we are out of town (like last week and the upcoming one), but we do our best to guard that time.  I block it out in my planner so we can’t schedule meetings or appointments.  It’s sacred.

This busy life we have created is not showing signs of getting any less busy, but I am determined to no longer wear my busyness like a badge of honor.  The I-did-more-than-you-did martyrdom that has unwittingly set itself up as such a point of pride in my life is no more.  It is time to unplug and reboot.  To revisit the lost art of lingering.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An Explosive Year

When I started this blog several years ago, I was in my early 30's, wife to Jay and mom to one sweet 7 year old boy, who definitely filled my days, but also allowed me time to do a few things just for me... Like blogging.  Since those days, my life has... for lack of a better word... Exploded.  Our simple, manageable family of three became a family of six. Six! That's double, people! Double the grocery bill. Double the laundry. Double the noise.  (Double your pleasure, double your fun...).

Quiet is non-existent in this house... And if there is ever even a small moment of silence, my reaction is panic. Someone must be playing in the toilet. Or trying to free the hamster.  Or eating something they're not supposed to (something that may or may not actually be edible).

When I fall into bed at night, with equal parts joy and exhaustion (okay, not always EQUAL parts), I often find myself asking, "How did I get here?"

Well, here's the quick recap -
18 1/2 years ago, I married my camp sweetheart, who by the way, is totally still my sweetheart. 8 years into our marriage (and 6 years into trying desperately for a baby), we were incredibly blessed with the adoption of our son, Micah. For several years after that, we toyed with idea of a second adoption and never really stopped trying to get pregnant.  Finally, about 3 1/2 years ago, we decided to see a specialist and give the whole thing one more good try, and lo and behold (I've literally never used that phrase before) - we got pregnant and had our #2 son, Asher. We were so blessed, so tired, and so done!

In the fall of 2013, my mother-in-law, who several years before had decided to leave her hometown with her hubby, get a little apartment close to us, and just move when we moved, was diagnosed with a devastating late stage cancer. Seven weeks later, just days after Asher's first birthday, she died.  Not wanting Jay's dad to be alone, we made the decision to ask him to move in with us. So there we were...five Spaldings. Our home and hearts were very full.

About a year ago, we were relocated to a new town. A month or so into our time there, I started to feel sick. I was sluggish, nauseated, and crabby and I just couldn't seem to feel better. I made a joke to my husband that I was probably pregnant. He didn't like the joke. He suggested we buy a test. Now, as a woman who'd been hoping to be pregnant for most of her adult life, I'd probably taken 100 pregnancy tests and only ever had one positive (and confession - I already had a positive blood test with my doctor telling me I was pregnant when I took that one! I just wanted to see what it felt like to see that second line appear!).  I told Jay that I couldn't possibly be pregnant and reminded him what our last OBGYN had said when I asked her if we needed to think about birth control - "Jamie, it took you 14 years of trying and medical help to get pregnant. I don't think you need to worry about it."  (I demand a refund!)

We compromised that if I didn't feel better in a week, we'd get a test.  Seven days later, we pulled into a Walgreens. I went home, took the test, saw that second line (felt a bit different this time!), and screamed at Jay from the bathroom to go buy more!

It took a while to adjust to the thought of baby #3, especially since he had the nerve to just show up without home studies and paperwork, without blood tests and hormone shots. We had to figure out where we would put him in the house, but we didn't have to make room in our hearts. It's like love just expands as needed.  Son #3, Silas, will turn 3 months old this week.

So here I am, that poor barren woman, now in her later 30's, pushing a double stroller while walking beside my PRETEEN!

I am so very blessed and happy to share my story with you... But I gotta go for now because it's been kind of quiet for 12 minutes! I'm sure disaster awaits!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Life Gives You the Creeps

Have you ever gotten home late at night, and while walking from your car to your front door, you get a little spooked?  You know what I mean?  As you're standing on the porch, you hear the leaves rustle behind you.  You feel the cold chill creeping up your spine as you struggle to get your key in the door.  For maybe just a millisecond, you are filled with dread… until the door opens and you walk safely into your home.  And promptly lock the door behind you.  Anybody?  No?  Just me?

It’s that time of year again.  You can’t walk into a store without seeing cob webs and scary masks everywhere.  Haunted houses pop up all over town.  Every movie advertised is terrifying, even the sweetest Disney shows get a creepy twist for Halloween.  And over the years, this season has taught me something about myself.  I’m a total scaredy cat.  I am.  I can’t handle creepy crawlies or things that go bump in the night.  I’m not one for thrills and chills.  I don’t like goose bumps or heart pumping spooks.  None of that is fun for me.  I’m a chicken.

Our Not-Spooky Costumes - But alas, Micah will be trick-or-treating as Chucky!

On the rare occasion that I ever watch a scary movie, I do it facing in the complete opposite direction and make Jay tell me what’s happening.  I don’t need more in life to be afraid of, because even without horror films, there is plenty in life to make you scared.  

Earlier in the week, I put a question out on social media – what are you afraid of?  And people flooded the comment section with all sorts of different things – sharks, snakes, heights, stage fright, darkness, mice, water, clowns, flying, giant cockroaches (just to be clear – flying and giant cockroaches are two separate things.  Flying giant cockroaches would be a whole other kind of terrifying!)

If I asked you to make a list right now, how many things would you be afraid of?  5?  10?  20?  

Well, I made a list.


89 things that scare me.  That scare might range from the heebie jeebies to downright paralyzing terror.

I believe some fear is ok.  The fear that leads to common sense.  Like I got a speeding ticket two years ago this week.  My first and hopefully last, because the fear of getting another makes me not speed.  Or at least not speed in front of a police officer!  The fear of something happening to our homes might cause us to get insurance.  A fear of water might encourage us to wear life jackets.  I’m constantly afraid of oversleeping, so I set a pretty ridiculous amount of alarms. Some of the fears on my list are that kind of fear, the kind that leads to common sense.

But then there are things on my list, things that I’m afraid of, that can be debilitating.  Maybe some of these things are on your list –

being alone

something bad happening to the people I love

being judged

not being liked

not having what I need

not being a good enough mother

not being a good enough wife

not being a good enough officer

disappointing everyone

What if my kids don’t come to love Jesus?   What if I get sick and have to leave my family too soon?  What if I never do anything that matters?

These are the fears that keep us up at night.  These fears are not silly or spooky.  They are not a movie we can turn off.  They are not a make-believe boogy man hiding under the bed.  They are real.  These dangers are real.  So how can we help but be afraid?

Mark 4:35-41 says, “35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Why are you afraid?  I have to tell you that this story is pretty scary to me since numbers 19 through 24 on my list have to do with being out on the water and numbers 80 and 81 have to do with storms.  I can’t imagine putting all those things together!  And this storm had to be sudden and fierce if even those disciples who were experienced fishermen were terrified.  High waves breaking in, the boat filling with water.  Sudden and scary.  

A spouse who decides they’d rather be with someone else… a call from a doctor that changes your whole world… the loss of a pregnancy…a heart attack… a car accident… a child who does something to break your heart…  unexpected layoffs at your job.  Real storms.  Sudden and scary.  

It seems a little cold to us that Jesus would be sleeping like a baby in the hour of his disciples’ greatest need, but Jesus had no cause to fear.  He knew who He was.  His disciples may have forgotten in the midst of the storm.  I know that in the storms of my life, I need a reminder that even the wind and waves obey Him.  That doesn’t mean that He is going to calm every crazy, unexpected, danger that creeps up in my life, but it does mean that He is not surprised by what seems sudden to me.  He is never thrown or caught off-guard.  He knows.  He is ready and prepared.  He sees what I can’t see, and He loves me.  Jesus isn’t saying to His disciples, “Why are you afraid of this measly storm?” He knows the storm is scary and dangerous.  He isn’t making light of what they’re going through.  He is simply saying, “Why are you afraid when you know I’m in the boat with you?”

Fear sucks away our energy.  It is a monster that paralyzes us.  Fear tells us that there is no joy or hope in our situation.  Fear tells us that we have no purpose, and that our terrible circumstances define who we are.  Fear tells us that we are alone.

Fear is a liar. 

We are told in God’s word in 2 Timothy 1:17, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

Fear is not from God, it is a tool of the enemy.  Satan knows how to use our fears against us in order to weaken our faith.  When you remind yourself that Jesus is in the boat, he draws your attention to the waves.  He finds you in a vulnerable moment, maybe late at night, when you’re exhausted and exposed, and he whispers in your ear, planting those seeds of fear that grow into full-blown terror.  It’s the foothold he needs to crumble our belief. 

Why do I fear not being good enough?  Because in the wee hours, when I am weak and weary, the enemy tries to convince me that my shortcomings are many, and I might as well give up now.  Why do I fear not doing anything that matters – because when something doesn’t go as planned or someone isn’t responding the way I’d hoped, Satan suggests to me that it’s not the message they’re rejecting, it’s the messenger. 

He digs deep.  He takes fears I thought I’d put to bed years ago and brings them front and center, putting them right in my face again.

This is why we are told in 1 Peter to be alert because our adversary the devil roams around like a prowling lion, waiting for someone to devour.

I read recently that the command of God, “Do not be afraid,” is in the Bible 365 times.  One for every day of the year.  A daily reminder that God’s grace and love are sufficient.  A reminder that our security is not found in any of the temporary trappings in this life, but in the eternal, matchless name of Jesus who stands beside us always.

Romans 8 tells us this:
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate me from His love.  No thing.  Not one of the 89 things on my list.  That is why I shouldn’t fear.  I’m safe in His love. 

I don’t know what’s keeping you up at night these days, but whatever it is, I’ll bet you’re tired.  Tired of struggling with this fear and worry.  Really needing to just trust in the loving arms of Jesus to hold you while you rest. Give the song below a listen and remember that in whatever you're facing, you're not alone.

"I'm Not Alone" 

Now, just for kicks... here’s my list.  Promise to never use it against me!
1.      Heights
2.      Spiders
3.      Snakes
4.      Lizards
5.      Opossums
6.      Skunks
7.      Some dogs
8.      Cats
9.      Large birds
10.  Bees
11.  Wasps
12.  Mice
13.  Rats
14.  Small animals
15.  Bugs
16.  Feeling dirty
17.  Closed-in spaces
18.  Suffocating
19.  Drowning
20.  Deep water
21.  Dark water
22.  Fish
23.  Sharks
24.  Anything that touches me in water
25.  Plane crashes
26.  Unfamiliar food
27.  Car crashes
28.  Falling and knocking my teeth out
29.  Eyeballs
30.  Being embarrassed
31.  Public bathrooms
32.  Worms
33.  Germs
34.  Getting food poisoning
35.  When it’s really, really dark
36.  Not being liked
37.  Movies about demons
38.  Disappointing everyone
39.  Something bad happening to Jay
40.  Something bad happening to Micah
41.  Something bad happening to Asher
42.  Not being a good mom
43.  Not being a good wife
44.  Not being a good officer
45.  Ebola
46.  Being alone
47.  Not having what I need
48.  Oversleeping
49.  Having another baby
50.  NOT having another baby
51.  Cancer
52.  Being judged by others
53.  Not having friends around
54.  Not getting my work done
55.  Memory loss/dementia
56.  Feeling stupid
57.  Strangers
58.  Walking from my car to the door late at night
59.  Getting lost
60.  Traffic
61.  Chaos
62.  My house being a mess
63.  Not accomplishing anything that matters
64.  Being out of control
65.  Leaving my family too soon
66.  Loved ones not knowing Jesus
67.  Hurting someone
68.  Micah walking home from the bus stop
69.  Alligators
70.  Losing my hair
71.  My jaw locking up permanently
72.  The dentist
73.  Criticism
74.  Making the wrong choices
75.  Choking
76.  Cigarette smoke
77.  Bad memories/dreams
78.  Zelda from Pet Cemetery
79.  Bats
80.  Tornados
81.  Thunderstorms
82.  Forgetting something important
83.  People shorter than me
84.  Getting a mental illness
85.  Bedbugs
86.  Ticks
87.  Slime
88.  Frogs
89.  rollercoasters