Time Well Spent

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Maybe it’s just me, but tasks, responsibilities, choices, options, and general noise from the world can become overwhelming at times.  When life gets busy, I find myself almost paralyzed with information overload.  Have a half an hour before the next scheduled event?  Should I prep food, do some house cleaning, write a blog post, read, play with the kids, go to the store, check an item off my to do list, do a quick workout?

Okay, I decide to prep food.  What meal?  Should I stick with the meal plan I came up with earlier in the week or be spontaneous?  I’ll see what recipes I can make with the ingredients on hand.  Okay, should I search online or peruse the half dozen cookbooks on my kitchen counter?  Will the kids eat the Thai chicken dish I found online?  Doubtful.  I’ll just make something different for them.  But what?  And around we go again.

This is just one possible option of how to spend those thirty minutes.  There are dozens of others, and that’s where the real struggle comes from.  When I get caught up in my thoughts and buy into the societal pressure that my life ought to look a certain way, there is a self-imposed pressure to always be doing the right thing.  I remember this mindset.  It’s the one that drove me into my head and away from my family.  It’s the one that believes my thoughts and actions will keep my world spinning, rather than surrendering to God’s perfect plan.

The truth is, time is finite.  There are only so many hours in a day, days in a year, and years in a lifetime.  How we choose to spend our time is hugely important in shaping the life we lead.  The more activities I tell myself need to fit into my life, the more overwhelmed I feel.  Does the meal have to be completely home cooked and (for me) paleo?   Do I need to say yes to every request for parental volunteer or kids’ birthday party invitation?  Do I have to run or workout a certain number of times per week?

Of course the answer to all of these is no.  Those pressures are self-imposed and lead to stress and anxiety that I have to fit everything in to my already full schedule of childcare, diabetes management, a full time job, etc.

I’m prayerfully asking God to help me re-find the place of trusting acceptance and he’s shown me a surefire method for deciding how to spend my time.

I began down the right track this fall as I prioritized my kids’ soccer games over joining the running club on long runs Saturday mornings.  I’m still running on my own, which is peaceful and delightful, but training for a marathon is not a priority when I could be watching Teo play soccer!

Just last night, I got a wonderful reminder of how prioritizing connection with my family yields joy and peace.  Sienna starting complaining of an upset tummy about an hour before bedtime.  She was already all bathed and in her pajamas; she came to me in tears that her tummy hurt.  I said, “Why don’t we get in bed and read?”

Since she’s been doing most of the reading to Dennis or me at bedtime, she asked “But, can you read?  I don’t feel up to it.”

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“Of course, Lovie.” We settled into her bed to start the last chapter of Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

After taking some medicine and finishing Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Sienna was feeling a little better and asked if we could read another book.  We both moved from her bed to the floor in front of her bookshelves to choose the next book.  I looked over at Sienna, she smiled at me and said, “I love reading with you, it makes me feel so much better.” Then, looking at the books, “It’s like our own library… our own little library,” she gushed.

I felt the tenderness of that moment and thanked God that I wasn’t too busy or distracted to make the time to read longer with my daughter.  This night, I’d certainly made the right choice.

Today in church, if I needed additional confirmation of the value of spending that time, Sienna said to me: “Thank you for reading to me when I was sick last night, Mama.”  I told her what was true, “I love taking care of you when you need me.”

I’m so thankful for these tender moments that teach me the most valuable ways I can spend my precious time.

Unexpected Birthday Chaos

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A couple weeks ago was Dennis’s birthday.  He’s not that into celebrating his birthday so of course I make a BIG deal out of it!  It was a Monday so we decided to take the day off and enjoy a “date day” while the kids were in school.  We knew we’d go down to Liberty Station in Point Loma to enjoy their public market, but other than that we didn’t have a plan.

After dropping the kids off at school, we decided to forgo sitting in traffic on our way to Point Loma for breakfast and instead eat closer to home.  San Diego folks – if you haven’t been to Nutmeg Bakery and Café, you have to go!  It’s an urban styled, farm-to-table place with amazing coffee and delicious food.  We loved it!

I’d been battling with my medical supplies company for the past couple weeks.  They needed an updated prescription for my insulin pump supplies and then had to run it through insurance.  Just the ridiculous process of obtaining supplies for a chronic illness.  Anyway, I was down to my very last pump site and the one I’d inserted the night before was defective.  So, it’s was a tenuous situation.  On our drive down to Liberty Station my cell phone was on hold with the medical supply company for over 30 minutes!  But, when I finally got through to someone, they confirmed that my order was shipped and should arrive by Wednesday.  I would just make it with my current infusion site. Whew!

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After strolling around lovely Liberty Station and enjoying the peaceful gardens and very quiet public market – it was before 10:00 a.m. on a Monday morning – we decided to hit Old Navy on our way to see a movie.  Sienna needed a college t-shirt for her school (they wear college t-shirts on Mondays) and her teacher said they had SDSU shirts there.

I found so many cute things at Old Navy, so I decided to try some clothes on.  I was mindful of my infusion site which was located on my hip.  But, not mindful enough obviously, because it pulled right out and hit the floor as I took off a pair of pants!  Agh!!  I quickly got my purchases together and told Dennis the news – I had no infusion sets and we needed to figure out how I was going to get insulin for the next couple days.

Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like having to help your wife solve a medical emergency!

Fortunately, my insulin pump company (not to be confused with the medical supply company) is located in San Diego.  So, I called them and asked if I could come pick up an emergency infusion set or two.  They were helpful and said “Certainly, they’ll be ready for you in about 4 hours”.  So, pretty helpful, but that timing still left me with the issue of needing to do injections for the next few hours.  I didn’t have insulin or syringes with me, so we headed home to get it.

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While at home, I started testing my blood and gave myself an injection.  Meanwhile, Dennis went to the backyard and noticed that the gophers were digging up holes again.  He got the rodent poison pellets that have worked in the past, and buried one in the hole.  A few minutes later, he asked me, “Where’s Claira?” and I told him I heard her push the kitchen door open.  He rushed outside and caught her eating the pellet of rodent poison!

A quick internet search followed by a call to one of the many local emergency animal hospitals got us the information we needed.  We had to induce vomiting in our little terrier by giving her hydrogen peroxide.  Fortunately, we had some on hand and quickly got her to take a couple teaspoons, which certainly did the trick.  She threw up voluminously.  The vet still thought we ought to bring her in for observation and a dose of activated charcoal to make sure any traces of the poison were absorbed.

Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like a trip to the veterinary hospital with your poisoned dog, right?

We sat in the waiting room of the vet laughing about the absurdity of our “date day” to celebrate Dennis’s birthday – and took a selfie too!  After getting Claira home, all safe and sound, we still had to make the trip out to the pump company to pick up the spare infusion sets.  What a pain.

The day wasn’t a total bust – we picked the kids up early and went out for BBQ that evening.  Plus, the morning was lovely and relaxing.  But, the thing that I kept reflecting on that day and will stay with me much longer than the irritation of those circumstances, was how wonderful Dennis was through it all.  He never complained or acted put out that he’d spent a big chunk of his birthday running around taking care of his wife and dog’s medical emergencies.  He is a very devoted husband, father, and apparently dog owner too!   His calm demeanor and sense of humor about the whole thing made all the difference.

Not as I would have it…

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This past week has been hectic and stressful.  Working in a public accounting firm for nearly a dozen years, I’m fairly used to the seasonal, deadline-driven nature of our business.  However, this deadline was particularly crazy for me for a variety of reasons – both tax and audit had deadlines and the team of administrative assistants I manage has recently hired new teammates, who are wonderful but not fully up-to-speed on all our processes.  So, I knew going in that the week was bound to be busy and stressful.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my life the past few years.  I’ll be living in the moment, accepting various emotions and the ups and downs of life, and basically living  with my struggle switch off and trusting God’s providential guidance.  Then, as things go along well for awhile and I’m not having many negative thoughts, I start believing my thoughts more and more.  This leads me to be “in my head” and I start to plan more.  The urge for control creeps in, slowly and without detection.  I find myself getting irritated more easily and, particularly if life gets a lot busier, I get overwhelmed and need things to go the way I planned.  My thoughts become more negative and I don’t like the way that makes me feel.

Bam, my struggle switch has flipped.

When the struggle switch is activated, “negative” feelings are not acceptable and therefore become amplified.  For me, frustration morphs into anxiety. When a few nights of insomnia are strung together, I realize how I’ve drifted away from reliance on God and gravitated toward my need for control.

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Fortunately, experience is a great teacher.  After the extreme anxiety from a few summers ago, I have learned a lot.  The techniques of defusion, expansion, and connection that I learned through ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – have brought me back to acceptance, being present, and trusting God time and again.  I know that the anxiety will be there when I’m facing these periods of letting go of control. But now, I can accept it and go about my day with a lot of prayer, thanking my mind for telling me such interesting stories, and making room for my feelings to come and go as they please.

Last Friday evening, after a long week and coming off the worst night of insomnia, I was feeling wound up and short tempered.  On my drive to pick up the kids, I prayed The Serenity Prayer aloud, three times.  As I’ve shared before, this prayer is so meaningful to me.  The entire prayer goes like this:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

Amen.

On the third time through, I stopped after “…as it is, not as I would have it…”

“Not as I would have it.”

I repeated the phrase quietly a few times.  The message seemed so clear and heaven sent.

How often are we irritated, frustrated, and generally out of sorts because things aren’t going the way we would have them go?

People don’t act the way I want them to, circumstances don’t work out just right, and life serves up chaos that alters my plan.  But, often, the problem is my perspective, my expectation, my plan.

When I drift away from trusting God and start trusting myself and my tenuous sense of control, I’m on shaky ground. It’s truly sinful to think that I can keep my world spinning, that I know best.

I can definitely beat myself up when I realize how far I’ve strayed.  But, then I remember – God knows we’re unworthy and need help.  As Saint Paul said,

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Corinthians 12:8-11

I’ve come to see these bouts of insomnia as God’s way of getting my attention so I’ll find my way back to surrendering and trusting Him.  It’s a perspective that brings me peace and leads me back to a much firmer foundation.

What Fills Me Up.

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Whoa. Where did September go??

253.JPGNow that we have two school aged children, I’ve become keenly aware of how busy and hectic the fall season can be. Transitioning from the lack of structure and routine of the summer months into the scheduled-to-the-hilt (what in the world is a hilt?!) school year routine is jarring.  This year, Mateo joined Sienna in the elementary school summer program on August 1st and the kids started soccer practices that same week.  So, even though school didn’t officially start until the 16th, our summer more or less ended at the beginning of August.

Between the fall busy season at my office, school, soccer, starting the Stephen Ministry training program (more on that later), church, football season, family activities and social events, life has been super full the past couple months.  There was a week of crazy work days as we worked to meet the 9/15 tax deadline.  I’m not cut out for 12 hour workdays back-to-back-to-back.  I don’t know how those accountants do it for weeks or months on end!  But, for the most part, we’ve found a good balance of activity and downtime which has felt manageable.

My favorite part of the week is attending mass on Sunday!  My goodness, those couple hours fill me up with such joy and peace, that it feels like I can deal with anything that comes my way the rest of the week.  We recently switched from sitting toward the back of the right hand side of the church, to sitting just in the front of the middle of the left hand side.  Specifically, next to the stained glass of Jesus raising his arms.

167Dennis dutifully gets the whole family up and going on Sunday morning so we can make the 8:00 a.m. service.  We then record the Dolphins game which is typically on at 10:00 a.m. our time and pray that no well intentioned member of our church family decides to give us an update on the game before we head home.

Sliding into the pew with Dennis and the kids, I settle in for the beautiful, familiar routine of the liturgy.  Cuddling with the kids is the best way to keep them from getting bored, loud, and unruly.  It’s typically about a 90 minutes service, so I understand that the kids get fidgety.  But, if we snuggle up with them they tend to behave very well.  I’ve learned so much about the importance of loving actions over frustrated words in getting the kids to behave the way we’d like.  Sienna likes to lay her head in my lap during the sermon so I can run my fingers through her hair.  It’s relaxing for us both!

As I wrote about before, our coffee date while the kids are in Sunday School is something I look forward to all week.  It’s so lovely to walk hand-in-hand with my husband and talk, uninterrupted, about whatever is on our mind.  Sometimes we talk about the logistics of the upcoming week, other times we just chat and reconnect.  Again, this time of connection with my sweet husband totally fills me up for the busyness of the weekly routine.

218.JPGLife is full and blessed.  We’re soaking up as much of our kids as possible during this stage of life.  On the brink of nine and six years old, we’re well out of the little kid stage and moving quickly into the fun middle years of childhood.  I’ve heard so many parents say that these ages (basically before the teen years!) are the best.  I can see why.  Sienna and Mateo are interested in anything that Dennis and I are enthusiastic about.  They’re inquisitive, engaged, and excited to learn new things and have new experiences.  Just talking to them and hearing their perspective on life is delightful!

On the other hand, we’re now a family of four people with different ideas on what we want to do, eat, watch, etc.  Whether it’s picking a movie for Friday Movie Night or debating the dinner options, there’s no shortage of opinions in our house.  Sometimes the kids will take the high road and let their sibling pick the movie, other times kids (okay, mostly Teo) is sent to his room for throwing a fit about not wanting to eat what is served for dinner.  If there’s only one of something left, God help us.  They’ll both want that last banana desperately!

Trying to rush to get dinner on the table?  Yes, of course that’s when Teo drops his pencil sharpener and the shavings go everywhere.  Trying to get out the door for school and work in the morning?  Sienna’s shoes will inevitably be missing even though we’ve asked her to put them on ten times over the past 15 minutes.

The peace that I’ve come to cherish is when I take a deep breath and lovingly tell Teo, “It’s okay.  Go get the broom and dustpan, we’ll get these shavings swept up quickly so we can eat.”  Or, when I look Sienna in the eyes and calmly tell her – “Your shoes are by the front door. Go put them on right now so we can get going.”  We’re all just trying to do our best to get things done individually and as a family.

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I constantly remind myself of the basic tenant of our faith that we’re not doing anything to earn or deserve God’s favor. Christ’s sacrifice means that, by grace, we’re saved and sanctified.  We’re all sinners and fall short of God’s glory.  It takes all the pressure off!  If I slip up and yell at the kids – like I did this week when I accidentally bumped my head on the car door jam as I was reaching for Teo’s school bag – then I pull myself together and apologize to my children for acting poorly.  They respond with “We forgive you mommy.”   We are reconciled to one another and I’ve taught them that we all make mistakes and it’s safe to apologize with humility to right the wrong you’ve committed.

Sitting here, in the fall of 2016, over three years since my awakening, I see life entirely differently.  There are ups and downs, highs and lows in life.  I haven’t been blogging as much lately because these realizations don’t strike me as radical, like they did a couple years ago.  But, I want to write more and share the daily ups and downs, the simple lessons and moments of tenderness that I experience.

I love the peace that comes from surrendering and not trying to have everything figured out.  I love the joy that comes from being present with my family and letting life unfold in ways I’d never imagined.  I love trusting that God has a perfect plan and knowing that he loves and protects us all more completely than we could ever know.  I love taking the time to write out what’s in my heart and mind and am thankful for loving readers.