Mind Over Matter—Matters

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Once a week I go to the local track to do speedwork. I have a love hate relationship with speedwork. I’m a distance runner, not a sprinter. So to me, speedwork is dreadfully painful. But you can’t be a better distance runner without regular speedwork.

I usually run first thing in the morning, but that’s been kind of difficult the last couple weeks. Milo is teething so we’ve had some rough nights. To maximize my sleep, I’ve run several afternoons instead of in the morning. But I always feel like when I run in the afternoon my work is sub-par; I run at my best in the morning.

So when it’s been my days for speedwork and Milo has been difficult, I’ve told myself I would just do the workout another day. On those days, I would head out for a usual run and reschedule the speedwork for another day when I can do it in the morning. I come up with all sorts of reasons to support my “need” to postpone the speedwork: it’s too hot, it’s too windy, I’m still tired, I need to be more hydrated, etc.

So every week Nick gets home from work, and I head out for my run. I run by the high school and start thinking about the speedwork I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not that tired, you don’t get to order up perfect weather on race day, I don’t want to dread this workout for another day or two, and what if the next few nights are even worse. Every time I end up caving and doing the workout my coach has scheduled.

Here’s the crazy thing: despite all of my reasons on why I shouldn’t do the work that day, I always complete the workout and even faster than my coach has prescribed. I think I’m entirely incapable until I’m doing the workout and then I realize I’m more than capable.

It’s the fear of failure that gets my mind reasoning me out of my responsibilities. It’s the fact that to grow and improve, you have to push yourself past your comfort zone and that’s, well, uncomfortable. But none of it is possible if you first can’t find the strength to believe that you can.

I have felt defeated for a long time. I’ve faced a lot of obstacles over the last couple years from 2 foot surgeries to my pregnancy and delivery. These obstacles have left me weaker, both physically and emotionally. I desperately want to get back to the condition I was before all of this, to be as strong and fast as the Melinda I remember. Right now the only thing standing in my way is me; the voice inside my head that says it’s impossible.

And it’s not just about running, is it? How often in life do we feel defeated in our work or relationships? We set a goal, map out a plan, and yet still fall flat? I’ve worked with a lot of clients and I’ve seen it time and again. We have a vision for the future, but we fail to believe it could ever be a reality.

This fall I want to run a sub 3:30 marathon. There once was a time this would be a cakewalk for me, but I haven’t had a sub 4:00 marathon the last 3 I’ve run. I’m ready to do the work; I’m getting out there everyday logging the miles and I’m being more disciplined in what I’m eating. This will all be in vain if I can’t discipline my mind as well. But years of self doubt don’t get erased over night.

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Life Here

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It’s better. There’s no doubt about it: life here in Bartonville is better. It’s slower, more peaceful and even the dog is happier. The way we live is better and where we live is better. It’s amazing how a change in jobs and a move can make such a huge difference.

It’s quiet. We don’t hear people coming and going from our building any more. There’s no longer a small child living above us running around and crying. Instead we can hear the birds chirping in the morning. There is the occasional car that drives by our house. Other than that, it’s silent.

And we have space. Milo and Diesel have room to play without fear of being trampled. Milo has long stretches of uninterrupted floor that he can roll and squirm across. Don’t even get me started on our yard. Diesel is a dog in heaven running around in the backyard. Even Milo loves exploring the outdoors. I’m starting a very modest garden. It’s just a couple tomato plants, a bell pepper, basil, and mint but it’s a start.

Life as a family is better. We have dinner at the table every night. (Confession: until Milo was 6 months old, we had never eaten at our table.) Most nights of the week, we go for a family walk after dinner.

I love my work at home. Milo can be challenging at times, but it’s amazing getting to watch him learn and develop. More and more personality is showing up and I truly delight in spending so much time with this little boy. I’m also getting to explore the handy/crafty side of myself. Already this week I made a valance for one of my kitchen windows (cost me $3!!!!) and painted a pair of lamps to go in the master bedroom. I love having the time to do these projects.

Nick is happier. He comes home every day proclaiming how much he loves his job. He’s really jumped right in to these churches and is getting very positive responses. He’s loving and caring for these communities in ways they have felt for many years. He is definitely in his element.

Yes, life is so much better for us here. But just like any place this side of heaven, it has its challenges. And I think it’s fair to say, in our household, I’m the one who’s struggling.

I still don’t know how I’ll make friends here. It would be easier to meet people if I was working; that’s a sacrifice I knew I was making. Fortunately, Nick has some good friends here and they’ve befriended us.

I’m also struggling to find my place in the church. I was very active at Windsor Road; not just because I was staff, but I was also involved with the high school ministry. I really love my high school girls and feel called to work with that age demographic. We don’t have any students at either church. Milo is the only regularly attending child, so I don’t know how to get involved. Nick is working to develop a pastoral ministry in the church who will visit our shut ins. That’s not my giftedness; I’m not exactly a people person. So for now I’m the pastor’s wife. I’m just another person in the pews. That’s really hard for me.

And then there’s the ongoing struggle for balance. How do I not feel like all I do is work? And how do I work in order that Nick might have times of rest?

It will just take more time. My father-in-law was texting Nick and I the other day and he made the comment “find the blessings every day.” So that’s my goal: to quit worrying about everything I don’t have figured out and to enjoy the joys each day offers.

Family Planning: There’s More to It Than My Childish Imagination Thought

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When I was a little girl, I had my whole life mapped out. I would meet a guy in college, we would date for a year, be engaged for a year, be married for 2 years when our first child was born, and we would have 3 children each 2 years apart. For whatever reason, my feeble mind thought this was the perfect timeline for dating, marriage, and children. Well reality was completely different for me in terms of dating and marriage, so what about children?

I was pretty traumatized after Milo was born. I mean that in most senses of the word. As you might expect, pregnancy and delivery left me physically worn. But I also had mental and emotional wounds that needed healing. I still harbored resentment towards God for never relieving me of the sickness I experienced during pregnancy. That resentment grew deeper as I had a few complications while healing from delivery. Add to that the stress of establishing breastfeeding, the long nights without sleep, and trying to learn what each cry means—I was a wreck.

It was bad. I felt like I was drowning and I wasn’t sure if I could trust God to save me. The light finally broke, mostly around the time Milo started sleeping through the night. Things didn’t feel quite as desperate as they once had, but the experience left some scars.

I had developed an intense fear of getting pregnant again. I’m not kidding when I say intense fear. It was an obsessive thought that took over my day. I would randomly break down crying because I didn’t think I could handle another 9 months of what I had just been through. I have several friends who had unplanned pregnancies in the last year or so and I was terrified that they might be contagious. That I was bound to have one as well just for knowing people who did. There were multiple occasions in which I would have the slightest symptom, a little stomachache or the taste of iron in my mouth, and I would become convinced I was pregnant. I could not talk myself down, so I would take pregnancy tests just to get confirmation one way or the other.

It’s embarrassing to be admitting this, but it’s the truth. My pregnancy with Milo was extremely difficult and things didn’t just get better when he was born. I continued to suffer, but in different ways. And it made the thought of ever going through it for another child very hard to bare.

I can thankfully say that’s behind me now. I no longer lie awake at night trying to figure out how I would survive another pregnancy. I don’t obsess over pregnancy symptoms and, I can honestly say that if I found out today that I was pregnant, it wouldn’t be received as negative news.

That also doesn’t mean I’m all too eager to get pregnant again. I’m really enjoying having my body mostly to myself again (I’m breastfeeding so my body isn’t completely my own). I’m actually training right now; meaning I don’t just run miles to get them in, but I have grueling workouts in which I push myself to the limit. I’ll be running another full marathon (#12) this fall and have pretty aggressive goals in mind. The opportunity to have a really good training and racing season is important to me, especially after the year I experienced last year.

Trying to decide the right time to have children is challenging. I don’t know what I was thinking as a child, that I could just say I would have a child every two years. There are so many factors that have to go into play; for me it’s time to emotionally recover from a sick pregnancy and the chance to run “freely” for a while. For another it might be a career or financial goal they need to meet before feeling comfortable having children. I think it’s important that we realize how difficult this decision is and that it looks differently for each person. What keeps me from having another child now might seem ridiculous to you, but your reasons may seem ridiculous to me.

Like most things in life, I’m just trying to stay present. To not worry about when the time will be “right” or if my next pregnancy will be as bad as my first. I’m trying to enjoy today: my body functioning properly and being Milo’s mommy. So I take it day by day and trust that God will reveal His plan in due time.

Does Balance Even Exist?

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I’m tired. I’ve been tired for several weeks now. At first, it was trying to manage a 40 hr work week, maintaining my home, and training. I kept telling myself it would get better once I was at home full time. Then it was the move. Spending what felt like every free moment packing, the rush to get everything moved, and then the long hours unpacking. I told myself things would get better once everything was unpacked.

Not that the house is completely settled, but it’s feeling more like home. There are fewer boxes laying around, I finally have a counter cleared in the kitchen for cooking, and the laundry is getting done on a regular basis. Life feels a little more normal, but I’m still tired.

Nick was talking to me the other night about trying to find balance with work and home. As a pastor, the job is never really done. There is always another person who could use a visit, a sermon to outline, vision to be cast; considering it a 40 hr work week is kind of a joke. It’s hard for him to come home and not be thinking about the church. And it’s hard for him to emotionally invest in the church all day and come home motivated to work around the house. I listened to what he was saying and sympathized. This is new territory for him compared to working at Starbucks where, when he clocked out, he could come home and not be on the job.

After that conversation, I was able to see how much I was struggling with that exact same issue. My job is now my home. I am a full time caretaker of my child and house. For me, the work day starts when I wake and finishes when I go to sleep. I never leave work, not in the physical, emotional, or mental sense of the word. And when 5pm hits, it just means I’ve entered the nightshift. There is still work to be done.

I’m so tired from trying to work all the time. My home is no longer a place of rest for me, but a place where there is always something to be cleaned, prepared, or created. Each job that I’ve had, there was a clear sense of when the day was over. Either I would complete all of my tasks or I would reach the time my shift was scheduled to end. That’s no longer the case and I have no idea how to adjust.

So this morning I did something that felt uncomfortable. I resisted the urge to start tackling my long to-do list and, after I put Milo down for his nap, I sat down with a cup of coffee and a book. I did something out of sheer pleasure, not necessity or boredom but because I wanted to. It felt weird. The struggle will be to maintain this kind of balance each day. To carve out time of leisure in the face of all that could be done.

It’s a struggle I know I’m not alone in. And it’s one that is not isolated to stay-at-home parents. This search for balance does not discriminate, it just looks different in each of our lives. On my quest for balance I’ll be praying for yours as well.

Bartonville: A Soft Gift From God

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This week has been a whirlwind. We moved on Monday and Tuesday was Nick’s first day at work. There has barely been time to breathe, let alone blog. But I’ve got my breath and I’m trying to find my words.

The first few days in Bartonville were kind of surreal; everything felt weird to me. I went grocery shopping in unfamiliar stores, had to GPS every place I went to and then back home, I got lost in my own kitchen trying to remember where things were. My source of comfort was my run in the morning. Running is always the same; the scenery changes, but the rest is the same. I need that: an anchor in the sea of change.

Then came our first Sunday in this new place. The first Sunday I attended church as the pastor’s wife, not an employee. The first time I attended these churches specifically. The first time I realized this is my new home. These churches are my home; these people are my family.

I wouldn’t have chosen them myself. Honestly. I walked into the Bartonville church and was the youngest adult there. My son and my niece, who was visiting, were the only babies. There was one other little girl. There were no stage lights, no band, no praise songs. We sang hymns to a piano. At Kingston Mines, there wasn’t even a piano. No, this isn’t the place I would have chosen for myself.

But Nick’s sermon was on God’s perfect gifts. That every gift is from the Father above who loves us. He shared about how in his family there are two types of gifts: soft gifts and hard gifts. Growing up if you felt the present and it was soft, it was probably things like socks and clothes. The necessities. But if you felt a hard package, it was toys. The things you really wanted.

I sat in the congregation wishing for a hard gift. Missing the music I am used to and all of the instruments. Feeling lonely that there was no one my age to befriend. I felt disappointed. I felt scared that this is going to be difficult to endure as our permanent place.

Until I remembered that this is the place God has called us. This is His good and perfect gift. Sure it’s a soft gift, not as fun as a hard gift would be. But it’s what we need. And God loves us, He delights in caring for us, He has given us this gift.

I wouldn’t have chosen them. I would choose other. But these people are so full of love for us. They showed us in numerous ways how excited they are to have us and to welcome us into their family. I truly believe that, after some adjusting, I will realize I’m the luckiest to be part of these congregations. It will just take time for me to surrender my expectations of church and worship and embrace the beauty of the place that God has called us to. His soft gift of perfect love.