October 21, 2010

And God Pushed Pause…On My Brain

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 10:24 pm by Tamara

It’s been an emotionally draining few weeks, with some high highs and low lows.  My family coming to visit was a huge high, but followed by a forlorn low when they left again and it hit me all over again how alone I sometimes feel here.  Another low  was when the dog I’ve had since I was a little girl drowned two weeks ago, followed by our horse getting sick and having to be put down.  Immediately after losing my doggie, my family arrived with the new puppy, which has been a high but a lot of work, and a reminder of the one we lost.  And all that was interspersed with a heavy end of the block homework/final load which, while not a high or low, was none the less quite exhausting.  Poor Adam has been working A LOT and we’ve been on opposite schedules—we really only see each other when he gets home after 10pm and we both crash, which adds to my forlorn feeling, as well as my concern that he’s going to just keel over one day with all this non-stop running.  And then there’s the minor detail of being four months pregnant, which I hear adds to that emotional and physical exhaustion thing (but who knows if that’s really true, right?)  All in all, to quote poor Bilbo Baggins “I’m beginning to feel it in my heart.  I feel…thin.  Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread.  I need a holiday.  A very long holiday” (Fellowship of the Ring).

In the midst of all this, in one of my major papers I touched on the importance of self-care and self-assessment for counselors.  It’s not just a need for counselors—we all need to know our limits, know when we’re getting drained, and know when to step back and take care of ourselves.  Suddenly as I was writing about it, it seemed God’s marshmallow-covered 2×4 was aimed at my head with a “Hello, Tamara!  Are you listening to what you’re saying?”  I’ve been feeling (but ignoring) little warning bells going off in my head for a while, reminding me of another particular time in life when I did too much and got too overwhelmed, and my spiritual life suffered drastically, to the point that I was so spiritually and emotionally unhealthy I just about walked away from the faith entirely.  Uhg.  It’s a painful time to remember, and a place I’m very scared of going again.  I wondered if I should take a break from classes for a block (eight weeks).  But in spite of my fine words about self-care, taking a break just didn’t seem…wise.  Seemed lazy.  Seemed short-sighted.  Seemed weak.  Etc., etc.  And I didn’t feel like I should NEED a break.  I’ve been far more busy in the past and handled it fine, so why was I being a wus now?

But, still, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, so I started praying that God would clearly show me what to do, and I checked on the deadline to register; no worries, I had another two weeks to decide.  So I just kept praying and thinking, and about decided that I was being overly dramatic.  A couple days ago I got online to look at what classes I might take, and my jaw about hit the floor.  I’d missed the registration date.  I don’t know how it happened, because I was SURE it was a week later.  I’d checked!  But, none the less, there it was in black and white, and there was no way for me to register.

It appears, then, that I got my “clear answer” about whether I need to take a break.  I’m still rather annoyed with myself, because I feel like it was irresponsibility, not a decision.  But on the other hand, I’m completely baffled, because I NEVER make mistakes like that.  And I’d checked on the date!  So, I’m choosing to think that for whatever reason, God put a pause button on my brain and my plans.  My pride is a little wounded, but I can either beat myself over the head or chose to surrender these next eight weeks to God.  In the end, I think I’m more likely to not take breaks when I should than to take too many.

So, deep breath, I’m about to embark on a few months of being a lazy failure—er, I mean, Sabbath rest.  Unfortunately life won’t be paused in all the other areas, but I’ll still have more time and emotional/mental energy, so now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.  I probably need to go re-read The Rest of God, which I highly, HIGHLY recommend if you can sympathize with anything I’ve written here.  I used to teach workshops on boundaries and rest to the student leadership girls at the Bible school, and I think I need a refresher course on my own talks!

More than anything, I don’t want to waste this time, regardless of how I got here.  I want to drink deep of whatever refreshment and renewal God has planned.

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May 22, 2010

A New Saga

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 10:37 pm by Tamara

It may be a little bit dramatic, but I can’t help thinking that tomorrow will begin a new saga of my life.  Hopefully, prayerfully, oh-PLEASE-fully, it will involve some “margin.”  Last Friday I officially finished/survived/collapsed at the finish line of my term of full-time work and full-time school at the same time.  I was able to get everything done, but it left me with NO margin.  No time to make new friends, be involved at church, cook meals, sleep, or deal with unforeseen issues (for example, I just about had a breakdown when Knightley needed to be taken to the vet last week, right in the middle of my big research project.)

One of the things that has been the most distressing to me is that I’ve felt like I haven’t been able to “be a wife.”  I don’t want to get into a big discussion of women’s roles here, and please don’t misinterpret me and think I subscribe to the “barefoot in the kitchen” model.  But, what I will say is that it was very distressing to me to head off to work leaving a half-folded tower of laundry, a floor carpeted in dog hair, and a note for Adam that there was canned soup in the cupboard (“Oh and could you please clean the toilet because you’re so wonderful?”), and then come home and immediately lock myself in the office with my textbooks (and my bowl of soup).  Adam, wonderful man that he is, very graciously picked up my slack, cleaning the house and even cooking.  But it still made me feel frustrated, stressed and unfulfilled.

I always knew I wanted to be a wife and mother (among other things) but I’ve actually been a little surprised by how fulfilling I find the “homemaking” tasks the feminist movement has made sound so negative.  I kind of thought other things would fulfill me and the homemaking stuff would just be work that had to get done.  But not only am I realizing how much satisfaction I get out of crafting our home, what has been more apparent of late is how UNfulfilled I feel when other life demands keep me from being able to actively create our home environment.  I can’t say I get big kicks and giggles vacuuming or cutting the fat off chicken breasts for dinner.  But, I love the total affect.  I love when the place we come home to at night, the place that envelops the most personal and cherished parts of our lives, can be described with words like restful, warm, nourishing, created, orderly, inviting, etc.

The shocking takeaway?  God knows what He’s talking about.  (Whoa!)  No matter what the world tells us, His instructions for roles are GOOD ideas.  Ideas that fulfill us and bring us peace.  And, here I have to give credit to my amazing mom, because I’ve spent my whole life watching her beautiful illustration of what this looks like.

So, after many talks with Adam, we decided it was time for me to cut back to part-time at work.  I should note that the reason we’re able to do this is because wonderful Adam is working two jobs right now to provide for us.  I feel a little scared and a little guilty: scared because this involves both a pay cut and an hours cut, and guilty because part of me is still saying, “You’re just too lazy to be able to handle it all.”  But, I’m holding on to two truths: first, God has been INCREDIBLY faithful to provide for us financially.  Adam’s second job was just dropped in his lap, for example.  And second, I believe God is happy with my desire to take care of Adam and our home, and if this is what He’s asking me to do, He’ll take care of burdens I can’t shoulder.

And last but not least, not only will this allow me to oversee my little home domain again, but it will also give me time to be involved in other things that fulfill me, like ministry and (dun dun dun!) THIS BLOG!!  So let the new saga begin, and may I protect it a little better from now on.

July 16, 2009

The Upside

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 5:03 pm by Tamara

http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/images/Gallery/D.d7d119dc8f79a29fd98a/Quaderno_a_112_folgi_in_formato_A5_o_A6___112_page_blank_book_in_A5_and_A6_formats.jpg

I’ve written about a lot of the struggles of my current “blank page between chapters” (as my friend and mentor Natalie called this stage in life). I think I’m drawn to write about struggles because I like wrestling with them and trying to learn from them. But there have been a lot of enjoyable things about being in a time of limbo. Here’s a few (in no particular order):

I commented to my mother-in-law the other day that I’ve never been so available to help out with random things. I think in the midst of all the business and the drive-to-accomplish that I usually thrive on, I’ve lost a lot of my sense of compassion. I’ve learned (pretty well) how to guard my time, “saying no so that I can say yes to other things,” but that’s meant that I’ve said no to a LOT of unexpected, practical needs the people around me have. But suddenly I have very little reason to say no! The result has been helping with a lot of things I usually just wouldn’t have the time (or the compassion?) to help with. Helping several friends pack, clean, paint, move, etc, for example. I’m currently pet-sitting one fish, two birds, and a cat, for another example. I’m surprised I haven’t been babysitting. Anyone need a babysitter?

It’s nice to have so much time to be in the Word and in prayer, and no excuse not to be. Granted, I should probably be spending MORE time in the Word, but I’ve enjoyed having more time than usual. I would think that down time would naturally increase the amount of time I spend with God, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes knowing I have “all day” to get around to Bible study means I never get around to it. But I’ve determined not to let that happen, and it’s been nice. I’ve been reading in the Old Testament, which I don’t do as often as I should. I’ve just felt a drive to understand GOD better—how He works, what He does, how He acts/reacts to things, etc., so that drove me to the Old Testament. Another perk of where I’ve been reading is that they’re stories, which draws me to want to read just one more chapter…. There are so many things God does in those stories that I don’t understand. I want to know Him better.

I get a massive thrill of exhilaration when I see my list of “Books I’ve Read This Year” grow, and there’s been a significant growth spurt lately. I just finished Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by the Ricucci’s, Holy Available by Gary Thomas, Emma by Austen and The Enclave by Karen Hancock. Now I’m reading Glocalization by Roberts, Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible by Farah and Braun, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Scazzero, Plot by Dibel and Romans Verse by Verse by Newell. Plenty to keep my head spinning.

I also just accepted an internship at my church! That’s pretty exciting. My job at the moment is to research how to connect and involve women in missions, even if they can’t go overseas themselves. I’m supposed to have a proposal of ideas ready to present to the church in September. It’s a very exciting opportunity! I welcome any practical ideas you might have. How do you help people catch the vision for missions AND get involved in it?

And last but not least, have you noticed my proliferation of blog posts? You may consider that a blessing or a curse. Not sure which….