Friday, March 20, 2020

Please pick the blue jeans

Does anyone else's clothing choice determine their level of tolerance for adventure? Like if you put on your sweatpants, you automatically cozy in for a long day of tea and books and fuzzy blankets. If you're wearing dress pants and a button-down then, of course, you won't be getting out the finger paints that day. That kind of crazy will have to wait for another day.

The last few days have been hard for everyone. I don't want to make light of the hard so many of you are experiencing. So many families like ours have autoimmune illnesses and need to avoid people, even the people we love most. So many families are dependent on an hourly wage and a predictable school schedule, and they have been robbed of those things they thought were the most reliable. Lots of you are extroverts, which means the next few weeks look bleak. Coffee shops are closed. Restaurants usher you out with a to-go bag. And playdates are not going to happen for a long time. It's hard. That word seems so inadequate, even trite. Decisions that used to be perfunctory are now matters of serious contemplation and prayer. It's a whole new world.

In the midst of this, one really trivial decision hits me every morning. What will I wear? What will I prepare for my day to hold? How will I be ready in every way possible to love my children and my husband, to serve and benefit my neighbor, and to not go crazy (it's the little things, right?)? I have an idea I want to sell you on: pick the blue jeans.

"What?!?!" you say. "I finally get to work from home and wear my pajama bottoms for 24 hours solid. Why would I wear blue jeans? No way." But give me a second to explain.

When I wear my pajama bottoms, I'm pretty engaged in my own comfort. What do I want to eat? What should I read? How can I get everyone to leave me alone so I can enjoy silence with this cup of coffee? What are my personal projects that will make me feel successful? I'm fully focused on pleasing myself, but what if it's not about me?

Right now we have the opportunity to do (and not do) a lot of things for the good of many... so that they might live. I'm just going to be honest that if I'm wearing my sweatpants my mind just isn't tuned in to the frequency of thinking that involves others. I am putting myself first and am unwilling to rise to the occasion because, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm in my comfy clothes and this day is about me. I am far more likely to snap at my children because how DARE they behave like...ahem... children in need of guidance. I am far more likely to snap back in disrespect to my husband because how DARE he interrupt my alone time to communicate with me about our shared life. I am far less likely to run across the street and take in my neighbor's trash cans or answer their messages because obviously I'm the highest priority around here.

And none of these responses sound very much like Jesus, who at the end of a very long day was approached by a group of children. His response humbles and inspires me every time I read, "Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them for such is the kingdom of heaven." It's time to invest all we have in others. These souls that need us to love them are HERE and NOW. We don't get a second chance to do this virus thing. So I'm putting on my old blue jeans. The ones with holes in the knees that I so often use for gardening because I want my exterior to match what is going on in my heart. I am willing to do whatever is necessary in this moment, and how things (including me) look matters so much less that what they truly are. I'm here, and I'm ready to be poured out.

I am willing to drop dinner prep to answer a struggling friend's Marco Polo. I am willing to take a walk with the dog and the child who just canNOT handle the indoors another second. I am willing to use my evening alone time to plan for the next day so that our minds are kept focused on what is true, beautiful, and interesting. I am willing to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, even if that means showering before and after I make the delivery. I am ready to offer ideas and educational assistance to any friends who may feel like their creativity is buried under the weight of this difficult moment. I am willing to give up my quiet time to hear a child share their heart about all that is happening right now. I am willing to stay home far more than I ever thought possible and even stay six feet away from my dear friend at the grocery store because doing the right thing doesn't have to feel right to be right. There's critical intentionality to this moment, and I don't want to miss my opportunity to be a light.

And please know that all this pouring out would be fruitless and pointless if my heavenly Father weren't pouring into me with His Word and His Spirit. I would just end up depleted and cranky, probably wearing those sweatpants and locking the door to my room. Wearing my blue jeans means I'm gearing up for each day, trying to wake up before my children so I'm ready to respond and not react. It means I'm putting on my armor, and I'm entering the day ready to fight for what is right and not just what is comfortable. And let's just be honest, I'll most likely be declaring a comfy day soon because I'm just as human as the next guy and Sabbath rest is a part of our plan, for sure. We're on day six of this crazy here with no end in sight. Today I'm hanging a lot of my hope on the promise that we are not to grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest IF we do not give up.

Just because we aren't going out doesn't mean we are giving up. So pick the blue jeans, preferably the ones that you are willing to get messy... because we don't know what tomorrow brings and we're all rolling with the punches. And even if they don't get muddy dirty because all you did today was play a six-hour game of Monopoly, maybe those jeans will remind your heart to chose the hard work of sacrifice over the enticing promises of selfishness. Because it's not about me. And it's not about you. It's about us. You, my friends, are in my thoughts and my prayers. Our family fighting alongside you (from our house or at least six feet away) and rooting for all of us. So.. please... pick the blue jeans.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Where we are now

If you wondered where we've been, we've been in detox. Gluten and dairy detox. Having now experienced it, I have no idea how Benjamin functioned for the entire month of January when he went gluten free (He was already dairy free.) in preparation for his appointment with Dr. Hulseman. Ben is now my hero for having survived that month, and I'm completely ashamed I asked him to do anything but breathe and eat for those first two weeks.  I'm just starting to exit the fog and am noticing benefits in my own mind and body. The last three days I have woken up in the morning with more clarity and energy. Laura has also had more infrequent flares which is HUGE! Grateful to have done this alongside Laura and Emily although I'm pretty sure Dave would rather not have had all three of the women in the family simultaneously detoxing. It's be a real treat for him.

It may be counter-intuitive and a sign of mental instability (probably both), but whenever I feel sick, I take on massive projects and get things done. Pretty dumb, right? When I get a head cold, I clean the garage. When I'm supposed to be resting, I'm reorganizing bathrooms. It's a super power that makes David roll his eyes and brew the tea for when the inevitable crash happens. As my body detoxed last weekend, the project bug bit me. Hard. In addition to working on the fifteen projects from Dr. Hulseman, I felt like our physical environment was working against me. I'm a bit obsessed with efficiency so as long as I felt crummy, I thought I might as well streamline some things.

I went through the pantry and put all the gluten and dairy free snacks at easy reach and gave away food that I knew we wouldn't be able to eat for a long time.  Even though Caleb and David eat what they want when they're not at home, there turned out to be a tray of ingredients I knew they wouldn't eat unless I prepared them (and preparing two entrees per meal isn't in my abilities right now). Dave distracted the kids while I threw out or got rid of foods they like that aren't great for them and then took them out of my hair that evening so I could start another project.

The dreaded closet under the stairs. Yep. We have one of those. It started out as a coat closet/craft closet/party supply storage and then morphed into the place we throw large awkward items we feel like we need to save. As I've reflected on how to give kiddos who need a sensory break a true rest from the bustle and fun that is our home, that closet kept coming to mind as a space in our home that we just weren't using well. It's the drawback to having an open concept house. Sometimes it's so open, that there's no where you can escape the crazy. So I bit the bullet, got rid of over half the coats that we don't use anymore, decided no one needs over a hundred gift bags, and re-prioritized what we really wanted to save based on the fact that I want to live in the all the spaces I've been given. Not store stuff. The kids were thrilled.

Though I intended it to be a space for Laura to unwind and do crafts or for Ben to sit and color, they have turned it into a dance studio, a band rehearsal space, a house, an art studio, and (my personal favorite) a fort that must be defended at all costs. It's amazing how inspiring empty space can be. As I left a huge pile of our unneeded things at a local resale store, it hurt to let go; but the knowledge that the space has been far more used in the last week than in the seven years we've lived here is energizing. And the physical sign to Laura that we are trying to meet her felt needs has yielded good fruit. It's not a place we send her. It's a place she chooses to go to when her anxiety flares and she just needs to draw and to sit on the over-sized dog pillow we bought for them to enjoy in there.

So despite the fact that we are far from out of the woods, actual important steps are getting done as we seek to heal as gently as we can. In addition to the purging, I had the opportunity to attend a Google talk with Dr. Hulseman for parents of children with autism, addressing a lot of my questions and giving some of the science and theory behind what she does. Super empowering, and I now have pages of notes that give me confidence that the steps I'm taking are helping. We're continuing with specific probiotics, omega-3's, omega-9's, and vitamins which the kids have taken like champs. These are LARGE pills, but they take them without a fight. Baking soda and Epsom salt baths happen every/every other night depending on the child. And I even managed to follow a crazy complicated protocol that was necessary to send some samples to a lab. Grateful.

We also had our home tested for mold by an incredibly kind, knowledgeable biochemist. This is where my story turns a bit less victorious. The air upstairs is safe. The air downstairs is very safe. Even the walls of our home were cleared, but the crawl space has active mold growing and a lot of moisture issues. Last week was filled with contractors coming over to give estimates as well as professional opinions about how it should be handled. Though mold in a crawl space is pretty normal, it would appear that our family has a special sensitivity to it. Can I just be a gigantic two year old for a second and gripe that I do NOT want to spend all our savings remediating mold in our crawl space, installing a dehumidifier and sump pump down there, and digging a trench through the back yard so we can move the water away from the house? This is not a fun kitchen remodel that we get to show off. This isn't an educational RV trip. This isn't a shopping spree at a used book store. It's just boring and messy, expensive and very necessary.

As we wait for all the estimates to come in and watch the money drain away, I realize how much of my faith is in my bank account, how much security I place in having savings and resources. I'm not knocking having an emergency fund, but this week I'm living with the painful reality that the emergency fund is for actual emergencies like this one. I should have been walking in gratitude this week. Instead I've been a rotten, spoiled child who is mad that God gave her His resources and now wants to use them for her and His children.

This morning, I was reading In His Image by Jen Wilkin as part of my community women's Bible study, and the passage on God's character trait of "Goodness" ended with this prayer prompt: "Ask [God] to help you trust his goodness in your current circumstances that are not as good." Yeah. I should do that. Because all the fear and anxiety that are bleeding out of me are clear indicators that my trust has not been in the unchanging Provider but in my own store of provisions. MY own store of provisions. That are there for only ME (and sometimes Dave and the kids). I'm struggling and surrendering multiple times a day because normally the lesson we want to learn the least is the lesson we need to learn the most.

Lord, those You love You discipline. You take away good things that you know aren't good for us to give us something better... Yourself. You place people in our life who have walked this journey so the enemy has no ability to lie to us and tell us we are on our own. You give us rest and Truth, sunlight and beauty. And we have so much. Thank you for giving us the ability to do what is healthy for our family. As we celebrate your goodness, God, please prompt us to live generously with the grace you have given us to steward. Quiet our hearts with Your love and restore to us the joy of our salvation that we may glorify you where we are now.