I went on a bit of a sabbatical – a personal break from social media. I was feeling slightly overwhelmed with all the noise and in the past, when this occurred, I felt the need to fly away completely, which led to my deleting accounts and ultimately shutting off the service to my phone completely. This time, I decided to lean into the need for rest and inner quiet. Instead of running away from it all, I decided to do like most normal people do and simply log out and just take a little break.
It all started when I felt nudged by God to fast. You see, my husband and I have a lot going on and a lot coming into our lives right now – good things, but still. I felt like I couldn’t hear God through it all and while I continue I pray for guidance and I continue to hold to the idea that I will follow Him wherever He wants me to go, I felt like I couldn’t hear Him at all. All I kept feeling was the need to fast & pray.
So one day, I decided I’d fast and I don’t know about you, but food was my first thought. Okay, God, I’ll fast. So that day I didn’t eat and I prayed and I meditated and all the while I swear, I could feel the Holy Spirit saying, “No, girl. You missed the mark. This is not what you need.” I ended the day feeling like I had failed.
The next morning, the urge hit again and it dawned on me that I needed to fast from the thing that takes up more time in my day – social media. It’s the thing I turn to when I’m resting, when I want connection, when I want to share something from my day. I tried to keep it positive and even began sharing part of my daily gratitude practice there and started a Bible Chat group & all of that felt great, but the fact was, I spent too much time there & God was trying to speak to me and I was too busy with all the other connections that I couldn’t hear a thing he was trying to tell me: Cleave to me.
It wasn’t easy. For some reason, I feel obligated to post on social media. I have some strange sense that I’ll hurt feelings if I’m not interacting with others online each day. I don’t know exactly where this comes from, but it’s how I feel. With the Covid-19 stuff happening, I feel like the need for online connection increase for myself and others as well. Yet I felt like God wanted my attention. He didn’t want to share it with my social media pals. So, I let some of my folks know what I was doing and let them know I’d be back, and then I turned off push notifications, logged out, and deleted my apps.
I only took a four day break, but I think the difference in this break and a normal break from social media was my focus. I truly wanted to focus more on God and trying to live in a state of meditation and prayer. The interesting thing about it was during those four days, I heard and to be quite honest felt nothing. As I made bread and worked in my garden, and read my Bible, and listened to worship music, and did all the things, I felt more alone than I have in a very long time. Confused, I prayed even harder. I thought about Jesus in the wilderness for forty days and how after that – all that time and suffering, Satan tempted him. What a total jerk Satan is. I also thought about Job and how as he was suffering, He constantly talked to God, but felt like he had been forsaken by the Lord.
Yet he continued to pray and he continued to hold to his faith.
While I thought of these two situations in the Bible, I also criticized myself for comparing my loneliness and what felt to be distance from God with true, actual suffering of Jesus and Job. I know that what I experienced was not even in the realm of all that, but loneliness has a way of seeping into our lives, doesn’t it? It’s a very real human condition and it’s a powerful one. During my four days, I kept having terrible thoughts: God hasn’t really been talking to you. You’re not special. You’re just delusional. This is just another of your stupid obsessions and nothing more. Give yourself another month and you’ll move on to the next obsession.
If that doesn’t sound like Satan talk, I don’t know what does. Many times during my four days, I said to my negativity, “Get away from me, Satan. You have no power here. He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.” It sounds cheesy, I know. I honestly don’t even know if I believe in Satan as a red dude with a pitchfork and fire and brimstone, but I do know the very real power of our thoughts. By saying that, I held those thoughts captive and I gave power back to God. I think that was the point.
Well, today, I ended my fast from social media and I read Proverbs 17 and it is all about how God tests hearts. I also looked back on the other verses I was given to read during that time, many from Romans that discuss tribulations and how our tribulations teach us patience and hope.
Romans Chapter 5: 3-8
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worth patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. God commander his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, christ died fro us.
Is that not beautiful? It dawned on me that God was testing me and while I had times when I felt alone and cried out to God, “What am I doing wrong?! Why are you not here with me?!” God was there and in His way, he was testing my heart to see if I’d stick with Him. I’m happy that I did stick with him.
And afterward, He shined a light on all that He was trying to tell me during those four days. From here, I have decided that once a week, I’m going to have a social media free day to really focus on Him, because my spirit needs it. Also, it was nice to get quiet and spend those days in constant active prayer and meditation.
God is good.
God keeps his promises.
God is always with us.
I’ve not felt inspired to share here lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the idea of having more time with my family at home during this quarantine. Maybe it’s my focus in the garden. Maybe it’s my focus on reading. I’m still here. I’m still homeschooling my daughter every day. I’m still creating. I’m still writing, except I’m writing for clients and working on my book.
While I’m praying hard for the people I know who are sick and in critic condition, I’m trying to see the goodness in all of this, because there is always goodness. I’m enjoying the quiet time. I’ve found myself thanking God for the quarantine, because through it, I’m learning about connection. I’m learning how to turn off the noise and focus on what matters. I’m learning to let go of the need to go all the time and I’m learning to live with less.
We’re cooking at home a lot and it’s nice, really. My husband grills and I make sides. Today, we had homemade red skin potato salad with pork chops. I am baking more than usual. This week: bread (half of which we shared with the neighbors), oatmeal cookies, and brownies. Oh my! Thank God I’m still keeping up with my workouts on Beachbody On Demand, or I might come out of this a bit heavier. Ha!
I miss my sons and my grand babies. I miss my friends and I know my daughter misses her homeschool friends and our daily outings. We’ll be happy to get back to them, but in the meantime, I want to soak up all of the goodness of being home. There is a lot from this that I want to carry forward into my every day life:
Wheelbarrow rides, tea on the patio at sunset, eating together, eating out less, no alcohol (day 45 alcohol free!), connecting with the neighbors, phone calls, checking in on my sons more, spending less, not going to Target and Starbucks every week, and so much more. I feel peaceful in my spirit and it feels nice.
I’ve had several parents reach out for help or advice for their children while they’re out of school because of the Covid-19 outbreak and I have four words: Have fun with it.
I know, it sounds too simple. Maybe it even sounds impossible, because you’re feeling so overwhelmed, but I’m quite serious. I remember when I first began homeschooling my daughter & we started with a serious focus on unschooling. In doing this, we read each day, had fun outings, and just learned from life. The cool part: she really did learn.
Later, my old teacher habits creeped in on me and I began to worry that I wasn’t doing enough. I began checking the standards for her age group, and even though she was ahead in most of them. I bought a curriculum that we began following to the tee & I was dismayed to find we were sitting at the table more and more and she was growing more and more opposed to “school time.” I’ll never forget seeing her sad face one morning, as I gathered the materials for the day.
It was then and there that I put it all away & we worked together to build the schedule we have in place now. Each day we read together, she reads independently, and she does math. Other than that, she chooses the activities she does and I document what she’s doing. I don’t stress it anymore. I know she’s learning.
I know it’s a little different for children who have been sent home to be schooled while school is closed for the CoronaVirus. You can’t pick your own topics. You have to get finished with what you’re told. I understand well how stressful this can be, because very often the work isn’t something the children have a true interest in. It’s something a group of adults chose to teach your children before schools opened for the year. I remember having to fight my sons to get school work finished. It’s no fun.
The advice I have is to give children some control over their work schedule. Sit down with them to figure out what needs to be done and let them figure out how they want to plan their day. This may make the work less of a chore and it will help them learn time management, which is a vital skill. This can work well for younger children as well. My daughter chooses in what order she does her work, and she often adds in other activities and games as well. At seven, she is learning how to manage her time.
I realize having multiple children can pose a challenge. I once taught 120; not all at the same time of course, but I had multiple children in each class and they were not all working on the same things at the same time. What I did for my students was similar to what I do for my daughter: “You’ve got this to do and this much time in which to accomplish it.” Each student knew what he needed to do and they were trusted to get the work accomplished.
And I think that’s the key: Trust. As a teacher and as a homeschool mom, I have found that trusting and empowering children works far more effectively than trying to control them. At first this will be tough. If your children have been going to school, they may not yet trust you in the teacher role. They also haven’t likely experienced a time when they had control over their learning, but instead worked until a bell told them to stop, and then moved on to a completely different subject and project in another room until yet another bell told them to stop. With patience and encouragement, they (and you) will settle in to the new schedule & you never know, they may even get ahead!
I do recommend that children have independent reading time every day. This might be one chapter per day, or it might be a certain amount of time per day. Whatever works for your children. Ask them about the book, and if you’re reading (I hope you are, because they learn what they live), talk about the book you’re reading as well. Create a community of learning in your own home that they can carry back to school when they return.
It may sound idealistic, but I can assure you, it works: As long as you’re not looking for perfection and as long as you put away any worry of how you’ll perform as a “homeschooling mom,” and enjoy the process. The schools aren’t sure how all of this will go. They’re doing the best they can and they know that many parents will be feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for all of this, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your children.
Do the best you can. Trust your children. Trust yourself. Breathe. Take a break when needed. Go outside each day. It’s going to be okay.
Note: If you were not provided materials by the school and you’d like free online resources, please check out linktr.ee/resabrandenburg and click on “Getting Started with Homeschool.” I have several listed there for children of all ages and levels.
I wish I could say I always approach motherhood with such grace and ease as I am in this image, but I don’t. Most days sure, but there are some days when I just “don’t wanna.”
There are days when I experience a bit of FOMO, thinking how nice it might be to go grab a chai latte and sit down at the bookstore to sip my coffee and browse the latest issue of Magnolia, or Where Women Create without a child at my side, asking to go to the children’s section.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother, but there is more to me than that and sometimes even I forget that. I’m great until I’ve gone a couple of months without any time alone, or a decent night’s sleep, because I’ve allowed our daughter to sleep in our bed again, or an adult conversation that doesn’t include the word curriculum or schedule. As an introvert – INFP, to be exact – I need time alone, and time with my husband and my tight circle of friends to recharge my Spirit and plug back into my life. I’ve been neglecting this and I can feel it.
When I neglect this vital part of my life, I feel the FOMO and I even feel resentment toward my family. That feels terrible to type, but it’s true. I know I’ve reached this point when I heave a sigh before answering my daughter’s questions or threatening her with school. I have to say this: You know you’re a homeschool parent when you use school as a possible punishment! Yes, I was that mom. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but happened. The Winter doesn’t help either and while I’ve tried to embrace the stillness and the coziness of this season, I’m just f*cking over it. Can we fast-forward to Spring, already?
The thing is though, I don’t want to be left alone. I love my family and I love being with them. I absolutely love homeschooling our daughter, too. I just need to make time for what is important for my mental health and well being, and while I like to wish it was as simple as a thirty-minute workout and a few days of yoga each week, it just isn’t. I need more than that.
After chatting with other moms recently, it seems I’m not alone. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we wait until we feel like we want to run away from the people we love before we decide to make time to feed our Spirits? I can’t speak for other moms, but I feel pressured to do it all with a smile and a nonchalant wave of my hand. I feel pressured to just handle it. I feel this even more so, because I have only one child at home. I look at some of my friends and think, “Look at (insert name) she has multiple children and seems so happy with her life. Why can’t I just be happy? What’s wrong with me?”
I have the luxury of being able to stay home with my daughter, to watch her learn and grow every day. I can be silly, dance in the kitchen in my pajamas at three in the afternoon, if I want. I can visit the places I only wished I could when I was a teacher, and I can focus on writing and creating as much as my heart desires. I tell myself I don’t have the right to complain because I have it made.
There are major challenges to this life and they are easily dismissed in a world where working for money is the supreme goal: The isolation, the constant tugging, the boredom, the constant need to stay positive, the incessant feeling of not doing enough. The mom guilt is so real. I feel it on a regular basis. Many moms do.
We owe it to ourselves and our families to make time to recharge. This month, I’m making a point to make time for a date with my husband and meet-ups with friends. I’m making time to be alone as well, because I need it. I need it to be a better wife and mother – and to be a better ME – which is just as important as the other hats I wear.
What can you do to recharge your Spirit this month?
I hope you make time for that, because you deserve it.
I’ve been wanting to go on a retreat, to get away from everything and devote some time to self-care and a renewed focus on God. The church we attend has a woman camp, but they will have alcohol there. For me, this just doesn’t fit with my plan and it is unfortunate, because you would think a church would be a great resource for those seeking freedom from worldly habits.
I feel led to completely eliminate alcohol from my life, rather than just eliminating wine. I’ve done this a few times, but I always find myself back to drinking several nights a week. To be honest, this time around it’s far more challenging to abstain. I have other friends who are on a similar journey and they have experienced the same struggle. I can go a day or two and feel really good, but by the third or fourth day, I want it again. My husband seems to follow a similar routine and thankfully we have arrived at this desire to quit together.
I generally have two – two and a half glasses of wine each night. I am so regular with this that my daughter began calling it “Mommy’s drink.” To cut the crap, my nightly wine habit amounts to about half a bottle. Actually it is exactly half a bottle as my husband and I eyeball each pour making sure they are perfectly equal and by the end of the night, the bottle is empty. While this isn’t as much as some people, that’s not really the point. Comparing our behavior to others is dangerous. My husband drinks as much as me each night, but he’s twice my size. Women metabolize alcohol differently than men. Also, each of us is different and what works for one person may kill the next. I recently read an article about a woman who is hoping for a liver transplant and she drank very much like I have. However, due to protocol, she may never receive one. I know a woman personally, who is in the hospital fighting for her life as all of her organs are failing. I don’t want to wait until my body is in serious trauma to make a change.
As it is now, I awaken most nights at around two o’clock with anxiety attacks & heart palpitations. I am generally awake for about three hours when this happens. Lack of sleep compiled with the effects of alcohol is a dangerous cocktail, indeed. All from just two glasses of wine.
In the United States, “alcohol consumption is decreasing in men, while it is increasing in women,” according to Aaron White, a biological psychologist and senior scientific advisor to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. I’m tired of the mommy wino narrative. I’m tired of an addictive, dangerous substance being embraced by our culture to a point that you can find lists for family-friendly events that serve alcohol. I’m tired of wine being advertised as self-care. I’m tired of the pallets of wine stacked in the aisles in Target next to shirts that are screen printed with things like, “Mommy needs wine.” We are being brainwashed to believe that wine is a health food and that it’s somehow safer than doing tequila shots, but this isn’t true.
5oz wine = 1 shot tequila to the body. It’s processed the same way. It’s equally addictive, but with the marketing, it may be even more alluring because it’s everywhere. From Target to Instagram, wine is presented as an answer to every mother’s troubles, as if being a mom somehow necessitates a nightly medication to continue. I just don’t buy it.
I have a long history with alcohol that started when I was fourteen. I always stopped drinking when pregnant and nursing. That’s said, I began somewhat regular alcohol consumption when my sons were about six and seven. I drank wine or beer at night, usually after they were tucked into bed. When they were teens, however, this progressed to my drinking a bottle on my own after a day of teaching, and “falling asleep” on the couch. Since my daughter was born, I’ve begun paying better attention to how alcohol affects me and I’ve worked hard to curb it. I have not succeeded as I have hoped, but I have made progress.
I have a lot of guilt wrapped up in all of this. I mean, how could I, as a loving mom, develop an alcohol addiction like this? And why aren’t we talking more about this, publicly? Why is wine still being touted as some sort of elixir of life? Why do we focus on the antioxidants, but not the anxiety and depression? Why do we focus on the meager health benefits, but look away from the danger of cirrhosis?
I think we need to start this dialogue in a very real way, because alcohol-related health issues and deaths are on the rise and all of this can be avoided.
I’m not going to start screaming to ban alcohol. I see nothing wrong with alcohol. I do think we need to refocus on true health and happiness & realize that alcohol is not needed to live a fulfilling life. For many of us, alcohol actually inhibits us from living a fulfilling life.
I’m on day three of a journey to discover what my life might be like if alcohol was simply not a factor. I’ve prayed hard and have invited the Holy Spirit into this place and I’m trusting that God will see me through, because I know I was not able to overcome this on my own. I love wine. I’ve made it an idol in my life and as we all know, what we focus on grows.
It’s time to pull this weed.
Each year, my husband and I sit down to make a focus for the year. Last year, it was home and health. The year before, it was travel. This year, it’s PLAY. We both decided we need more play and exploration in our life, but also we wanted to avoid the trap of wishing our lives away waiting for a big vacation, or for warm weather, or whatever, as we have been known to do in the past.
So, we’ve been scheduling in time to play and explore in simple, more local ways and it’s been a lot of fun.
Yesterday, we made a trip to Raven’s Run Nature Preserve in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful place has various trails that range from paved and easy to manage to more strenuous, but with amazing views. We chose the main trail that loops around to an overlook with views of the Kentucky River.
To my surprise, we didn’t get the overlook to ourselves. There were several people and many children there, so we checked out the view and continued on. At this time of year, you may spy some early Columbine leaves popping through the leaf debris, but the star of the show is the thick, brilliant green mosses that grow on every available stone, including the old dry-laid stone wall that meanders along the trail.
If you’d prefer to see flowers, definitely visit in mid-spring when view from the yellow trail is in full splendor. It’s a more strenuous trail, but worth it. Do be aware that many areas of the trails get muddy after rains, so proper foot attire is necessary. I’m currently bearing a large bruise on my thigh from a fall that had my daughter and me in tears from laughing so hard!
Not interested in a hike? You can also walk through the meadows and check out the old Parker house. Maps are available at the trail head behind the Nature Center so you can easily plan your visit for what best suits you.
Sometimes things just creep up on you. You’re walking along, minding your own business….you think you have things mostly figured out in your life and then BAM! life smacks you right in the f*cking face before you know what hit you.
It seems when this happens, it’s not just one thing – it’s several things at once. It’s the old cliche “when it rains, it pours” situation that leaves us feeling completely perplexed, if not downright incompetent.
I’m not one to get overly-emotional about anything in my life. I don’t get overly excited when something goes my way and I don’t get overly sad or scared when things don’t go my way. At least not obviously so. I might lose sleep because I’m positively drowning in worry, but no one would know it to look at me (okay, sometimes my husband knows). I wear a veil of detached indifference everywhere I go. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done.
When I was a teenager and my friend got shot right in front of me, I held his head in my lap and gave him sips of the only fluid I had on hand – Pepsi. He told me how thirsty he was and inside, my mind and body were racked with worry that he was bleeding internally and was sure to die. Outside, I was the picture of calm detachment. I brushed his hair from his forehead and assured him that everything would be fine. Once the paramedics took him away, My knees literally buckled beneath me and I slid down the wall that I leaned against to hold me up.
Sometimes we can crumble inside without anyone else becoming aware of it.
I’m not exactly proud to say that I’m really good at this and have been for most of my life. It’s a coping and survival thing.
The trouble is, I’m not super great at this when it involves my children and it seems that as I lean into all this vulnerability and faith stuff, I have become less and less able to veil how I’m feeling.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this.
I hate burdening others with my worries. I feel guilty for worrying when I know I should have faith and trust and hell, why not throw in some pixie dust for good measure. Mostly though, I don’t want to talk about my worries. I just want them to go the hell away and leave me in my middle-of-the-road sense of peace, where high emotions simply do not exist. Inside I convince myself that if I don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist.
But it does exist and I’m human and I freaking worry.
Right now, I’m worried about my daughter, who has developed a motor tic. Actually, when I think of it, it’s not new. This particular tic is new, but she’s shown others in her seven years of life, including eye brow raising when she’s concentrating. I thought perhaps it was too much screen time, so we limited that. I’m not sure if it’s helped, because she now has an eye rolling tic. It worries me, as it would likely worry many parents. While I’ve read numerous medical studies and articles that tell me plainly that such tics are fairly common at this age and will usually go away on their own, I still have a running monologue of worry that goes something like this:
Am I being too critical? Oh my gosh, I’m pushing her too much…but I try hard to let her lead the way in her learning and her activities. She can quit any of the things she’s doing if she wants to and her father and I always tell her this. She seems happy enough and genuinely seems to enjoy her classes and activities. I’m a bad mother. What am I saying? It’s not about me at all and I need to focus on my child. Damn, I’m so self-centered. Could she have Tourette syndrome? God, I hope not. Geez, I’m such an ass for thinking this way, when other parents and children are dealing with this every day. I should simply love her as she is, for all she is…I do and I always will…I just want her to be healthy and happy. I God, I pray, please let this the eye rolling stop and let her grow calm and confident and please keep those parents from looking at her with those terrible, questioning expressions as they did in her gymnastics class. Please, God, I pray this and I pray that no other adults inquire about whether or not she has a lazy eye, or “what’s going on with her?” Please God, don’t let this be Tourettes.
I pray the selfish prayers of loving mothers everywhere. Please God, not my child.
Everything I’ve read says that most of us have tics at some point in our lives and that most of them occur before the age of eighteen, with most showing up around the age of 5-8 years old. My daughter is 7. I know it’s too early to worry, but I can’t help it. While I read and feel hopeful, I feel like I’m also preparing myself for the worst, so if it happens, I’m not taken off guard. This is how I approach everything in life. It sucks and it’s not really helpful at all.
From what I’ve read:
If you’ve ever experienced worry regarding your child, then you know that all of this and none of this helps me feel better.
Mostly, I fear that she’ll be made fun of for it. I know how people can be. While little children are often kind and forth-coming, when they see someone with an obvious difference, older children and adults, in an effort to avoid their own discomfort, do things that can come off as cruel. They might point and whisper, blatantly make fun of the person, or even ostracize them.
I worry about that for my daughter as she ventures out to socialize more and take classes with other kids. She’s never been isolated from others, but lately, she’s been exposed to more situations that are new to her – all her own ideas, but still a lot of new, unfamiliar territory for her to experience. We started going to church so she could spend time with kids. She started taking art classes around the same time. We’ve been meeting up with a homeschool group for various fun activities as well, and now she’s taking gymnastics. She enjoys all of these things and always seems to look forward to each one, so I don’t feel like we’re pushing her to do any of them. That said, it’s a lot of change in a short period of time.
Perhaps this is also why so many children begin exhibiting motor tics in early grade school – it’s to cope with the many changes they experience in a short period of time.
I’m trying to let go of expectations. I’m trying to recognize that this very well may be a temporary challenge for our family. Our daughter seems the least affected by all of it and it’s ironic, because she’s the only one truly experiencing it. I’m trying hard to trust and have faith – in God, in her pediatrician, and the eye doctor – with whom we’ve made appointments, and I’m also making the following changes:
I don’t know where all of this will lead and that scares me, but what I do know is this: worrying and obsessing will not make it go away and mentally isolating myself isn’t going to help me show up for my daughter. My job is to show up for my daughter.
I’m going to step through, into the fear, and trust that God has all of this under control. It’s all part of a plan and I’m going to choose to lean into that and have faith in that, because it feels a hell of a lot better than worrying and obsessing.