These Chains

These Chains - fi

Note from the year 2017, looking back:  It was 2012 when I truly started on my “journey” for margin and balance in my life.  It started with obedience and I didn’t know what was next.  I only knew there were problems and I felt I knew what God was prompting me to do.  This post was a huge step, but I went forward filling my life up again, and going through many forms of obedience and fighting my “self-centered” plans for my life, before feeling like in 2017 that I might have conquered this, with the daily help of Jesus going forward.  This post was from my first ever blog that was later closed, but I’m reposting this here so you can see that these things truly are a journey and they take time.  

Here I am…back writing. I’ve been gone so long. There is a reason. Today I am feeling something that I haven’t felt in at least 8 years. I’m caught up.

That was it. I’m caught up. I actually feel on the verge of tears writing this. I’ve arrived at a place in the journey. You know how so much of this life is putting one foot in front of the other…always feeling like there are things going on, movement, growth…but those moments when you get somewhere…like you know you are there…it is a humbling, emotional, joy-filled place.

I’m caught up. I am not overwhelmed. I don’t have a mile-long to-do list. I don’t have clutter controlling me. The piles everywhere are gone. The kitchen is clean. There are even clean sheets on the bed today and I can’t find any laundry to do. The kid’s closets are looking good. There is nothing in the house that is not how I would want it. I don’t have any projects hanging over me.

I am free.

I’m not free in the sense that this means I have a bunch of free time. The point is that I have let the need for “me” time enchain me for years. Some people talk about their finances in “pay yourself first”…which means they should put money in their savings account before they do anything else. Well, I have applied that somewhat to daily living. I am a multi-tasker, and as such, I can have so many balls going…I can start one thing and put it down, pick it up hours or days or weeks later. I mastered the skill of “paying myself first” by always pacing myself. I can always stop what I am doing and get what I need or what someone else asks of me. It is a great thing as a mom. I am always able to be there for the needs of my kids and my husband. And, I can always find something to do in my day, outside of the mundane tasks, that will be “me” time. I know how to take care of myself so I don’t go crazy. If I’ve done 3 loads of laundry…I can take a break and check Facebook. If one day I’ve spent grocery shopping and putting all of that away, the next I can spend studying my photography, making up some new creative project, or reorganizing something. I always do the things that have to get done…getting everyone around here food (although I’m not always doing that well), cleaning dishes (but I let them stack up), laundry (never see the bottom of some baskets), getting the kids here and there, grocery shopping…etc. But everything else is optional in any given day. I always fit in some things I WANT to do. I basically accept that life as I know it is overwhelming. So I pace myself to cope.

I’m sick of being overwhelmed. I’m tired of being overwhelmed. It makes me feel tired and old. I realize that the only time I am being a decent mom is when I am fulfilling the most basic needs of my kids. It has to be done and I do it…feed them, help them, chauffer them, etc…I’m in the moment…it’s all good. Then I go back into “I’m overwhelmed and have to get things done” or “I have to have some time to do what I want so I can cope”…and I check out of their lives. Now, do they need my 100% attention 24/7? Absolutely not. But when they approach me when I am in my check-out mode, they do not get a good mom. If I am overwhelmed, doing tasks, they get impatient mom. If they are acting up while I am in my zone, they get angry mom. If they want me while I am on my phone or computer, they get absent mom. If they want to be involved in my projects, they get “I can’t deal with making this a kid project” and so I brush them off. If I am “working”…my creative outlets like my crafting business or photography or blogging…they get ignored.

So, not knowing IF I could even catch up, I began, at the beginning of this year, to live by the letter of my to-do list and try to overcome being overwhelmed.

I was attacked at every turn. I gave it a good few weeks in January, and had that momentary feeling that there might be a crack in the task list. So I launched a creative pursuit…I asked a group of women that I regularly talk with if anyone would want to have a cooking day where I would teach them bread making, or certain dishes or techniques that I have learned. I love to teach what I have learned. So it sounded like fun…it would give me the opportunity to get to know them better and have a playdate. Great! Three of them were interested and I realized I just committed three whole days to this. How does such a noble pursuit go bad? Well, the devil is pretty crafty. He loves to take our good intentions and use them against us. We fall for it so much easier. I realized it soon enough and cancelled on all but one of my cooking days. I never cancel. That was big!

Other moms were asking me for winter playdates, and I was turning people away saying I was doing everything I could to get caught up at home. I had to stop looking at Pinterest because it just gets my mind jumping about all kinds of little projects to do around the house. And my businesses…that was my hugest barrier. I had just launched both a photography business and a newborn prop making business in January, and I was pretty energized about “making it happen” with those.

So why did I start out in January to not be overwhelmed? Well, if I am honest, I would say it was probably that I wanted to make room for my creative/business pursuits. I was frustrated with how much there is to do around the house and not enough time to devote to what I WANTED to do…what I really wanted to do…my two new creative pursuits. These are the mac-daddy of all my little creative pursuits. It was like I had finally found what I was looking for.

And, I’ll give myself a little credit, I honestly was feeling that God had given me these things. I felt like I had been given a gift. And I had. But let me back up a year.

In 2011 I found photography. It just happened to me. There was no explanation but God. We were having one of the worst years in our family. Situations were weighing down…the struggling was hard. My husband was having a terrible time with his work situation especially. We didn’t know what was next in life…a new job, a different career, hard times, sacrifice. And we didn’t have a church home…one to call “home”. We were floating…hoping God blew the sail. And photography helped me cope. It was a gift. I knew God gave it to me. There was so much to learn…I was energized…I was devouring everything I could know about it…I was creating…it was beautiful.

So, back to 2012. I had these new things that I loved and I began to make them into a business. I did not have some big plan to work part time or something. I just wanted to become official as a business and still ease into what would come of it. I knew that I was good at it, and that I would enjoy it. I knew that it would be fulfilling. Anytime I did it, it made me feel good.

I kept plugging away at that to-do list. Tedious. Tiring. Overwhelming. This house was a mess really. I have let clutter control me my whole entire life. I will let a pile of stuff sit…forever! There is just a never ending supply of papers, mail, McDonalds junk toys, Legos, paper, receipts, coupons…bits of stuff sitting everywhere reminding me to find a place for it or do a task related to it! I can’t stand it anymore. Clutter controls me. I always ignore it and it is always around. It never completely goes away. Never.

So I work. I work and work. I know it sounds insane that this process has taken 6 months. What could I possibly have to do that would take so long? Well, there is always the regular things that get in the way. Like planting the flowers each year. I spend weeks on that it seems. That still had to get done. It is not just flowers but all the landscaping chores that are put off until the one time of year that it has to be done. And then…our Month of May is pretty crazy with IndyCar stuff. I still had to live life here.

Here is what started happening at the start of May though. First, my neighbor, she’s 37-years-old, had a heart attack. Wow. She has a son who is 4 ½ and loves to play with my kids. Did I ever have the time before to be outside with the kids? That would mean that I would get nothing done myself…it was way down on the bottom of my list. But guess what? My to-do list was dwindling, and I started going out with the kids after school almost every day to help out my neighbor. Her son wanted to get out and play and his mom couldn’t go out. And guess what else? I was making dinner more (like real, made from scratch food), and I was able to share it with our neighbors in their time of need.

Next up…the second most happy time of year (we call it 2nd Christmas) for our family is Month of May in Indianapolis…all the activities that surround the Indy 500. These are things that I love, but I am always torn about dragging the kids out, about expending what little energy I have, and not just staying home and letting Aaron go, so I can get stuff done. But the month was truly a family time. We didn’t go to everything together, but gone were my feelings of exhaustion and thoughts of frustration about how a day at the hot track will be with the kids. It was okay. I was starting to feel the beginnings of not being overwhelmed.

But I had a big breakdown in May. As much as it was lightening up, it wasn’t gone and I didn’t know if it ever would be. I was frustrated. Good things were starting to happen and I wasn’t even realizing it yet. God had one more thing to tell me. I had to give up my creative pursuits. I didn’t know what that meant. Did I have to shut down my businesses and call it quits? I knew I had to let go. I wasn’t sure how or why and…I was sad. I was so sure these were God’s gifts to me. And I realized that although they were a gift last year, when I needed them to cope, that maybe now Satan was using my desires for my creative pursuits to derail what God wanted to do in me…what He was doing. I asked myself, “How can other moms do it all?” “How do working moms do it?” “I don’t understand how it seems like I can’t do anything other than manage this house and the kids and my marriage?” “What is wrong with me?” “I don’t want it ALL, but I can’t seem to manage a few things!”

I guess I mentally gave in. I just stopped anything I was doing to cope…anything that was for “me”. I decided that if I was going to do any of those creative pursuits, that I would find out how those things fit in when I didn’t feel overwhelmed anymore. I can’t achieve balance in my life until I catch up and start over. So I gave the task at hand 100% of me. That put me in overdrive on the to-do list. I knew I could do it. I could taste it.

Today I feel it. I’m caught up. I am free. I am not chained to my tasks or controlled by clutter or frustrated with the weight of being overwhelmed.

That seems so small. But it is so huge in my life.

Now, I probably set out to clear up my to-do list in order so I could do more of the things I WANT to do. But that is not what happened. Here is the rest of the story…the sweet ending.

My kids have their mom back. I just typed that statement and realize that they have never had me. Not really. I have felt overwhelmed since I became a mom. They get a wonderful mom who meets all of their “needs” happily, and then one who has checked out to get stuff done or do my own thing the rest of the time.

I have more time. I don’t want to fill it up. It gives me more patience. It gives me the will to be more to them than their caregiver. It gives me more energy to play and be silly. It gives me the freedom to include them in my tasks and projects. I enjoy my kids more and they are happier. This is my discovery.

This journey was not about finding more time for me. It was for them.

Do I need time for me? Oh yes. But I needed more time for myself when I was overwhelmed, just as a coping mechanism. That blows my mind. I actually might need less time for myself now. Because it is not a mental coping thing. I’m free. I’m free from these chains. Thank you God.

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