My Date With Sadness

“I’m sad,” I said to my husband on the phone as I sat in my car waiting for my children to pile in during carpool.  He said, “what?”  I said, “I’m just so sad right now.”  Of course, my knight in shining armor wanted to rush to my defense and fix it for me, but he couldn’t.  Absolutely, he wanted to, so he continued to ask me what was bothering me.  And being the heavy-duty vocalizer that I normally am, you would think that I could tell him exactly what it was; but I couldn’t because at that time, I really didn’t know.  However, in that moment, I was trying to acknowledge that my body felt heavy-hearted and I felt compelled to shout it just to release it, “I’M SAD!”

“I’m sad” is a sentence you know.  True, it is only two words, but it is a sentence nonetheless, and a powerful one at that.  On that particular day, when I said the words out loud, it forced me to look at it and tackle it head on.  I had to take the emotion that was swirling about in a disguise and face it.  I didn’t want to, because to admit that I was sad would go against everything that I believed about myself.  By admitting sadness, I was also admitting failure, defeat, and weakness.  In essence, I was allowing my emotions to get the better of me.  I am a happy person, I am confident, I am positive, and I am strong. Why was I letting sadness creep in and steal my joy?  How dare I allow it?  But there it was, alive and well in my body; truly in my body.  You know the familiar sensations of sadness; a heaviness in the heart, many times involving tears, sometimes anger, and unfortunately for me head throbbing physical pain and even at times, nausea.  Sadness is sometimes so strong that it creates an absolute debilitating lifelessness inside.  We want so badly for the feeling to flee us that we do almost anything to make it go away. We self-talk it to death and try to convince ourselves that we are not sad.  We numb it away with external remedies: retail therapy, alcohol, food, exercise, anti-depressants; because we just don’t have time to invite it in and have a pity party.

There was a time in my life where I unknowingly chose to shrink sadness and pain with perfectionism and over ambition which are as dangerous as anything else you could come up with.  It looked like this: out-perform everyone, out-work everyone- oh, and make sure you look good doing it!  When I felt moments of sadness, I would quickly turn my attention from it and jump into something else that could distract me.  At any time, and for big and small sad moments, I would buy new clothes and shoes, I would start researching a new car that I absolutely HAD to have, I would book a dinner at a fancy restaurant, I would call a neighbor and request a social gathering all in the name of a rotten day.  All of this was easily justified as “self-care,” and only provided a temporary fix.  I just needed to be distracted and free from feeling the emotion that had crept up.

The thing about pain is that we don’t want to feel it and we don’t want to admit it.  All we know is that we just don’t like it and we want it out!

But here’s the deal, once you start on a path toward self-discovery and self-awareness, you cannot become undiscovered or unaware!  So here I sat in my car on the phone with my husband while the feeling of sadness was alive in my spirit.  What was I going to do about it?  I had two choices: I could shove it down and pretend it wasn’t there or I could just face it by slowing down and allowing myself to feel it.    Had I chosen to silence it, the end result could have looked like just another bad day with a sharp tongue toward my husband or children, or it may have looked like a night filled with social media distraction, or even tv binge watching.

I did just the thing that I have tried for most of my adult life not to do, I invited the feeling in. I asked sadness to come on in, pull up a chair, and take a seat so that we could visit.  I needed to figure out what was causing this feeling that had taken me over that day.  So, I sat in sadness, in sunken despair and I paid attention to it like a friend, not my enemy.  The only way to get rid of sadness is to learn from it and let it go.  As I sat with it and let it be my teacher, I realized that the source of my sadness that particular day was rooted in loneliness. I felt lonely and defeated in my season of change.  Being three months in to a move 500 miles from home, I was lonely for my old life, my friends and family, and the familiarity of home.  This was not weakness or failure or defeat.  This was a real emotion rooted in a truly normal human experience.  This was simply a time that I needed to acknowledge that I missed home and that it was perfectly ok.  I needed to invite sadness over for a visit so that I could spend a moment thinking about all of the people and places that had brought me joy in my life and discern why I missed them so much.  It reminded me of my humanness and my personal need to be connected to the people that I love.  Inviting sadness to “hang out” was a gift and it allowed me to move past it and take on a true feeling of gratefulness.

The time came later that night for sadness to leave, so I graciously and politely escorted it out of my being.  I thanked it for showing up and for teaching me about myself and my needs.  I gave myself grace and responded to myself in a loving way.  Gone are the days that I stuff sadness in the background and try to replace it with things that are not good for me.  There is beauty in embracing sadness, loneliness, and grief.  It can become one of life’s greatest teachers.  Next time you hear sadness knocking at your door give yourself permission to experience it; sit a while with it and become its student.

It’s Not Polite to Flash Your Money

When I was young, I remember my parents teaching me not to “flash” my money in public.  “It is not polite to show people how much money you have,” I can hear my mom say, ” you need to keep it to yourself.”   As I have reflected on that concept, it has made me wonder.  As I look around, are people not socially groomed to “flash their money around?”   As a society, we  are obsessed with what other people have and we make judgements about how successful they are based on their home, the kind of car they drive, and the designer handbags that they carry.  And guess what…at a young age, I fell victim to that too.  Feeling like I needed to prove my worth with material possessions, I signed on the dotted line of a loan application when I was just 18 years old in order to buy a new, shiny car.  I was a freshman in college and was working and making good money for a college student. I lived at home and made good grades, so I felt like I deserved to treat myself.  And like all new cars, once the new car smell wore off, I was left with my first car payment.  I paid a car note every month from 1998 to 2017.  Continuously trading in and trading up searching for the newest and best model, needing to get bigger and better.  At the height of my car note experience, I was paying $948 per month in order to drive my dream car; a luxury SUV that would guarantee my safety and happiness.  Well, like all of the others, within the first 30 days, the new car experience wore off and the first note came due.  I am a smart girl and I know lots of things, and I am a banker, “I deserve this, and I am responsible with money…no problem,” or so I thought.  Had I really used all of the brain power that I possessed, I would have figured out many years ago that had I not focused so much on the glamour of a new car, I could have put an average of $500 per month into a savings account for the past 20 years earning only 1% and have over $125,000 today!  Just that little change in behavior of not having a car note would have made an impact in so many ways.

In 2016, when my youngest son was diagnosed with childhood anxiety and a learning disorder, I had to make some life changing decisions in order to get him the help and therapy he needed.  We suddenly had an emergency on our hands and we had debt and no savings.  In that moment, I decided, I needed to get a handle on my spending.  What I learned is that my spending was a result of the many things that I was going through as an individual and I had to finally face the reality and consequences of my irresponsible behavior.  Spending shame is a tough one and all too often, we bypass this very critical piece of information in our own lives.

What I learned is that when put in a situation that makes you choose between getting the help your child requires and driving a fancy car, you quickly pivot and sell that car! That was only the beginning of our journey.  Fast forward two years later and I am happy to report that we are completely debt free, I drive a 4-year-old sedan that I bought used and with cash, we have a fully funded emergency fund and  are saving up for a down payment on a house. Imagine that…saving up for something you really want; such a foreign concept in today’s world.  Because I am no longer tied to car payments, student loan payments, credit card payments, second mortgage payments, I have the freedom to live out of a place of contentment and not have to stress over money. I am able to enjoy a life that is more persoanlly fulfilling and rewarding, and I no longer have to make choices based on what someone is willing to pay me so that I can ensure that it pays for my picture-perfect lifestyle.

I am still working through my issues of acquiring material possessions as a way to stuff emotions but have come a long way, so I celebrate that.

I know what it is like to be slave to money, car payments, and a job that no longer brings you joy, but pays well.  Even when you are not struggling to pay the notes, it is still exhausting and steals your sense of peace.  I would encourage you to dig deep and uncover ways that you may be flashing your money around.

The Car Seat: A Mother’s Identity

Just google the word “car seat,” and you will have 376,000,000 links pop up.  When a couple is registering for the baby shower in anticipation of the arrival of their new bundle of joy, the number one item on the list is usually the car seat.  I remember when I was picking mine out for my first child; I agonized over which one I should choose.  I read the reviews, interviewed friends and family, and was most excited to unwrap it at the baby shower.  When I installed it in my back seat, I discovered that it didn’t fit in my small European sedan.  I actually traded in that car so that I could fit the perfect car seat in with ease. The purpose of the car seat is to protect our precious babies as we transport them from point A to B while they are in the car, but what we also discover is that it doubles as a crib.  We handle it with care as we take our infants in and out as to not wake our sweet, sleeping baby.

What I have also realized is that the perfect car seat becomes a fixture of our backseat in a most profound way.  Ask any parent who has one or multiple car seats in the back seat and they will say how it tells a story.  The car seat is tethered in and becomes a landing place for cheerios, French fries, pacifiers and toy cars.  Or, ask a mom who can only have one passenger because her backseat is absolutely full of such baby gear.  As a working mom, I remember having to ask other people to drive to meetings or lunch dates because I could not fit anything or anyone in my back seat.  And for years, we have these big, bulky, worn car seats that we forget the days that we didn’t have them back there.

Then, the day finally arrives when the baby of the family graduates from the booster seat and is now old enough, tall enough, and heavy enough to go at it alone; with only the lap belt holding on to our precious cargo.  I remember the day that I sold the multitude of booster seats at a garage sale, one for each; my car, daddy’s car, Nana’s car and GG’s car, because we were no longer a safety seat family.  How exciting that day was!

However, there would come a day when my disdain for bulky car seats would change to a longing for a time gone by.

I was dropping the boys off at school and as I turned my body around to kiss them goodbye and watched them getting out of the car, an emotion struck me in a very unexpected way.  There were no car seats; my backseat was empty!  I drove to the office, my eyes filled with tears, as I recalled all of the baby moments, toddler moments, and preschool moments that had taken place as my children sat securely in their harnessed seats.  The naps, the claps, the singing, and even the cries of frustration that had taken place were now only in memories, mostly mine.  It was bittersweet to think of that time; happy that we were now in a different season and enjoying it, but at the same time longing for a time when my boys needed me to help them in and out of the car, reaching back to hand them a pacifier or looking in the rearview mirror just to get a glimpse of their sweet face for a moment longer.

I arrived at the office and had to get myself together with the help of tissue, powder, and lipstick. When I got out of the car and shut my door, I took a moment to peer into the window of my backseat, reflecting on my recently recalled memories; and then the realization hit me even harder.

My identity as a mother was characterized by the car seats in my backseat and now that time was gone.

How would others know that I was a mom now that my backseat was empty?  How would people know that at one time I was raising 2 babies, two and under? How would they know that my whole life revolved around the safety and security of two little people?  They wouldn’t know, that before anything else, I was a mother.

What I have realized since the car seats have been removed is that so very quickly we begin to lshed the obvious symbols that signify that we are mothers.  All too quickly we lose the ability to protect our children at every turn. And, all too quickly, we wish away the present and look forward to the next phase, not fully appreciating the season that we are currently in.  Looking back, I wish I would have paid homage to the car seats while they were in my backseat because they left all too soon.  Children grow up quickly, capture the moment that you are in before they become too old, too tall and too heavy to protect.

 

Seeing Myself Through My Best Friend’s Eyes

I remember the first time I met my lifelong best friend.  We were trying out for the high school dance team at the end of 8thgrade.  We both knew instantly that we would be friends for a long time.  Within a 25-year friendship we can recall all of our major milestones together; graduations, marriages, births (we were pregnant for our babies at the same time), illnesses, deaths, as well as all of the simple and glorious moments in between.  She has seen me at my best and worst.  Her family is my family and vice versa.  You all have this friend…the one who knows you better than you know yourself at times, the one who shares all of your secrets and the one you could never replace or would ever want to.

So, you can imagine how I may have felt when I had to tell her that I was moving away; leaving behind the area that the two of us had grown up in together in order to explore a new life with my family.  This was the case on May 13, 2018 when my phone rang.  Catherine was calling me to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.  We don’t see each other as often as we would like but we remain close and bonded, so it was no surprise that she was calling me to express her well wishes on the day that celebrates our bond of motherhood.

I was 450 miles away from home that day looking at areas to relocate to in Austin and I had not yet told many people what James and I were up to.  We were in fact contemplating a move and I needed this final weekend to solidify the details.

So, the phone rang, and I debated whether or not to answer it.  My husband and I had just arrived at this really cool outdoor venue for lunch and I was literally standing in a vineyard on a beautiful, sunny day intended just for moms.  I answered, and she said, “Happy Mother’s Day!  What are yall doing?”

In a split second I had to decide whether I was going to tell her exactly what I was doing, pass it off as merely a weekend getaway, or use the proverbial response, “nothing, what are you doing?”

I went with my gut and said, “Well, I have some big news.”  She said, “I know you can’t be pregnant, so what’s up?”

I dropped the bomb, right there over the phone, standing in a picturesque vineyard.  “Cat, I’m moving to Austin.”  She was speechless.  And not like a little speechless, but like 2 minutes, which felt like an hour speechless! I gave her room to be silent and I didn’t say anymore in order to give her space to process the news.  This is how well I know her… you can’t just drop surprises on her like this.  I finally did break the silence by saying, “This is going to be really good for our family.” She didn’t respond immediately to me, but I could hear her tell her children, “Hey guys…we are going to start vacationing in Austin!” and that made me smile.  She then turned her attention back to the conversation and with a lump in her throat and I’m sure tears in her eyes, she said, “I can’t say much right now, but I am not selfish when it comes to the people that I love, and I love you.  This is exciting, and I know it is the best thing for you.”

Selfless friendship is amazing and life giving and in that moment that is exactly what I needed to hear from her.

Then she spoke words to me that I will not soon forget because as I fast forward, they have stayed with me and have helped me to endure times of loneliness along the way.

She said, “I knew you would move someday.”  I asked her why she thought that.  She replied, “I’ve known since we were young that you would leave because you were always up for that.  You were always up for anything, always wanting to experience something new, and always willing to try.”

This comment has resonated in my mind since that day.  Catherine is a person who has known me for so long.  She’s always known my deepest desires and has known me as a person up for change and never afraid to be different.  (Little did she know how scared I really was inside when I broke the news to her on Mother’s Day.)

As she spoke those words to me, I literally didn’t recognize the person she was referring to.  Me? Was she describing me as free, adventurous, give all you got, a “you only live once” kinda girl?  I didn’t know this girl anymore.  But she did…she remembered me before life had gotten a hold of me; before I had been taken over by wifedom, motherhood, and a ladder climbing career. Had I become that disconnected from the person she saw versus the reflection that I saw in my mirror?  Our conversation had me questioning the girl I used to be and the woman I had become; somewhat unrecognizable- taunted by anxiety, conservativism, and lost in a cloud of seeming perfection.  I guess that would explain why I had reached the point in my life where I was feeling a bit underwhelmed and searching for the opportunity to reconnect with my soul; to the person that I was meant to become.  Had I been traveling down a path that had steered me away from who I was supposed to be, away from the purposes that God had created me for?  It seemed as though a void had formed which had been replaced with perfectionism, over-ambition, accolade gathering, and material possessions.

That day, my best friend gave me the best Mother’s Day gift, she made me see the freedom of letting all of that go and attempting a life of adventure.  This was my time to set myself free and embrace uncertainty, let go of the fear of making a mistake and just allow my spirit to be transformed. Thank you, Catherine, for reminding me of who I am and for allowing me to see the deep connection between who I’ve always been through your eyes; a woman with hope, purpose, passion, and a sense of adventure.

As I move deeper into understanding myself and moving back toward my center, I have found an immense amount of contentment and joy.  Sometimes, we need to be reminded of who we are.  The people that we surround ourselves with can help to be our guides. Who are your guides?  Who are the people that can help bring you back to the person you were always meant to be?  Whoever they are, find them and let them help you rediscover you.

~Katie

Conquering BIG Feelings and Slaying Giants: A Morning with Childhood Anxiety

This Friday started off much better… better than last Friday that is!

Last Friday morning, my 8-year-old son woke up with so many questions about what was going to happen when he arrived at school that day, followed by complaints of upset stomach. “What’s wrong buddy,” I asked, as I gently opened the bathroom door to check on him. “We have to leave to go to school.”

“I don’t want to go to school today mom,” he said in a flustered tone. “I’m sick; my stomach hurts.  I can just can’t go,” he moaned, as the tears began to roll down his face.

How was he sick?  He seemed fine just a minute ago and besides this is the child who wakes up happy and excited to be alive; but not today. Today, he was panicked and unsure.

He said, “Mom, the assembly at school is today and I just can’t do it.  I can’t be in the crowd with all of those loud children.  I’ve never been to an assembly at my new school and I just want to stay home.”

“Buddy, I said, you will feel better soon.”  That is all I could offer my sweet baby in his moment of anxiousness.  You would think that I would be ready to properly respond with my arsenal of anxiety weapons since we have been regularly dealing with an anxiety disorder diagnosis for almost two years.  Often times, it hits me from out of nowhere and I stand paralyzed in my own fears and insecurities as a parent.

In this moment on that morning, I recalled similar feelings from my own childhood.  My parents were in the middle of their divorce and every morning on our long drive to school, I would suddenly be nervous and would have to go to the bathroom without warning.  It’s amazing how the body reacts in a real, physical way when it senses unsteadiness. The fight or flight mechanism turns itself on and there is no turning back.  This is what was happening to my little guy and now it was up to me to figure out what I needed to do to convince him to suck it up and get to school.  This is where I felt ill equipped to do this parenting thing; until, I recalled my own childhood memories and started to feel compassion for him, rather than impatience.

I offered to walk him to school so that we could spend a little more time together talking through his feelings.  The quality that I most admire about my anxiety ridden child is that he is typically able to articulate his feelings very well…sometimes too well!  My secret hope was that we would walk slowly enough that he would actually miss the assembly that he was so afraid to attend, and I would just check him in 15 minutes late. Naturally, we want to protect our children from the things that frighten them, but was this the right choice?  Should I make him attend so that he could learn how to “toughen up” and be prepared for the “real world?”  Who knows?  It is what I thought was right at the time, so I went with it.

On the path to school, I asked him open-ended “feeling” questions and he began to be vulnerable with me and once the conversation started, I got an earful.  He said, “Mom, I’m scared. This is all new to me and I just don’t know what is going to happen.”  There it is was!  The underlying culprit- fear.  The thing about anxiety is that it feeds your brain with fear and tells you lies that make you believe that bad things could potentially happen.  We begin to worry about situations and circumstances that have not yet occurred, and we begin to play perpetual, suggestive voicemails to ourselves.  Anxiety does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, or religion and here it was wreaking havoc on my precious baby boy.

I leaned in to my little guy and grabbed his sweaty palm and said, “keep going; I’m listening.”

He said, “Mom, I’m different.  I am different from other children.  I’m afraid that other kids think that I am different and see me as dumb and weak.  I don’t like the loud sounds in the gym or at pep rallies and I don’t like being in a room with a lot of people.”  Thank goodness I had my sunglasses on because the tears where beginning to build in my eyes.  He continued to express to me all of his deepest, darkest, eight-year-old secrets and I listened intently, asking God to give me the words to speak over my child who was obviously struggling.  I don’t even know what I said, but what I said to him was not the important part.  The most important thing that I could do for my child in that moment was to pay attention and listen to him.  As parents, we think that we constantly need to be talking, teaching, and directing our children and sometimes do.  But many times, I think it would be better if could just stop and pay attention to them, listen to them, and pick up on the subtle and amazing ques that they provide to us.

In that moment, I stopped (forgetting everything that I had planned that morning), focused my attention on my child, looked compassionately into his eyes, held his hand, and connected with him in a way that hopefully carried him through his day to fight his giants at school. He was experiencing BIG feelings and needed help to navigate his anxiousness and fear.  I am so grateful that I was able to give him a few extra moments that day.  So often in the past, I would have fallen short because I would not have paid attention because I would be too busy rushing off to work, to a meeting, a conference call, emailing a report, or maybe even foolishly texting a friend; things that I would have thought to be more important in that moment.  Our children need us to unbusy ourselves and pay attention to them.  They need us to see them, truly see them as tiny humans with BIG feelings.  In a world where everything and everyone is vying for our attention, it is our responsibility as parents to focus on what is most important.  If you were to ask any parent, they would say that their children are the most important people in their lives; but are our actions suggesting so?

 My advice is to show up for our little people in a big way, give them a safe space to discover, explore, and work through BIG feelings with the adults that provide love and security for them.  These are the times that we can teach them the power of vulnerability and self-awareness which are life-long skills needed to cope in such a fast-moving world.  These things are vital not only for my little guy navigating anxiety but for all children who long for connection.

That morning, anxiety attempted to rob my sweet baby from having a good day at school.  What happened instead is that for a moment, I was able to show up for him and attempt to help him conquer his fears and slay his giants. This Friday, he went to school and attended his first assembly at his new school.  He asked me that morning if it was going to be scary and I told him that I didn’t think so and that I had full faith and confidence that he was ready. And he was ready…anxiety did not steal his joy that day and for that I am grateful.

~Katie

Listening to God’s Voice

On that Friday evening I walked into the retreat center filled with a sense peace and calmness. I am not sure how I ended up there that weekend because life had been so busy, and I didn’t really have freedom to take a timeout from my work, family, and responsibilities; but I was hungry for something.

For months I had felt a current move within me and I was trying to figure out what it was.  I was unpleased in my job and the stress of my busy, chaotic life had me feeling anxious, irritable, and physically ill.  I don’t think that I was very pleasant to be around and I really needed a mini getaway.  Meditation and mindfulness practices were luxuries that I had begun to indulge, in an effort to keep my spinning mind from racing.  It was during these practices that I worked on keeping my mind in the present moment and free from distraction.  I guess this weekend was going to be like a long mindfulness session, so that I could hear my own heart beat and allow myself some quiet time to figure out answers to  questions that had begun swirling about.

So here I was, in a group of only women, at a retreat, for a weekend of peace and meditation.  Parts of me were elated that I would have a weekend with no social media, no schedules, and no errands.   There were other parts that were nervous and uncomfortable.  Would I be able to truly unplug and stop my mind from spinning?

When the large group met for the first session that evening, we were asked to go around the room and share the reason that we had decided to come.  My answer, “I am trying to discern God’s voice above my own.”  I really don’t know where that came from.  I hadn’t had that thought before that single moment but in my gut, I knew that I needed God to intervene.  I had a deep desire to hear from Him to tell me what I needed to do next in my life. I had a longing to connect with my own soul and I needed stillness and quiet.

There was so much emotion inside of me that night.  My heart felt full and the tears that needed to be shed filled my throat, right on the verge of erupting.  I journaled the entire weekend and recently, as I have looked back at my prayer journal from that weekend, I recognized the words that my pen stroked on opening retreat night.  I wrote, “dear God, please straighten my path toward Your call.  Please help me feel joyful in my career, please help guide me toward a life of simplicity.  Open me up this weekend and let me experience it as Your never-ending gift to me.  Let this be the day that I begin a journey. Let this be the day that I open myself to all of the possibilities that You see for me.  Let this be the day that I move in the direction that You have already put in motion for me; for You alone know the deepest desires of my heart.” And with that prayer, I turned out the light that lit my modest retreat room and drifted to sleep.

Throughout that weekend, God made me aware of many things.  I felt drawn to certain scripture readings and while nothing was revealed instantaneously, I do believe that God spoke to me that weekend.  He spoke to me through His word, through other ladies that I was able to connect with and through signs in nature.  I think that because I slowed down and called out to him in need, He heard me.  I will share in follow up posts how he revealed himself to me after, but for now, I would like to share this story.

Recently, I sat at dinner with a friend that described her journey of hearing God’s voice as she was awaiting medical test results that had the power to evoke life changing circumstances.  I sat at dinner looking at her in wonder of how she was surviving the excruciating waiting period between a biopsy and the pathology report.  It had been at least a week and the not knowing had to be unbearable for her.  I gently asked how she was doing and she began to beautifully described how she had been praying and reflecting and hoping that she would not get the dreaded news of cancer.  She shared her story by saying, “on my run the other day, in the smothering heat of a Louisiana morning, I felt a cool wind circle around me and I knew that it was God telling me that everything was going to be ok.”  She went on to say, “I don’t think I have cancer.  I sense that the wind was God and that is how I am able to deal with things.” I was instantly moved to tears and in that moment my belief was reconfirmed that God does talk to us.  The good news is that my friend does not have cancer yet her words have stayed with me since that night.

The key in being able to discern God’s voice from our own is in spending time with Him in prayer, meditation, and scripture so that when He speaks to us, we recognize His voice. Think about a voice that is completely discernable to you; perhaps it is the voice of a parent, a child, a sister, or a friend.  How do you know the voice so well?  It is because you spend time with that person, you share stories, and you listen when that person speaks to you.  God speaks to us in our time of need, our time of sorrow, and our time joy.  Are we listening?  Do we know the sound of His voice?  Is it a soft whisper, a loud clang, or do we experience his voice in the form of the wind, like my friend did?  For me, God’s voice is a physical sensation that radiates from my gut to my throat in a rippling effect.  And lately, he has been talking to me and my body feels it!  This physical sensation is so apparent to me and I no longer fear it; I embrace it and actually long for it.  I would encourage you to be still, slow down and learn to discern God’s voice for yourself.

At the end of the retreat, we were asked to pick a stone to take home with us to remind us about the goodness that occurred over the weekend.  All of the stones were beautiful and distinctly different, and we were to pick a stone that appealed to us.  Once we chose a stone, we would turn it over and there would be a word for us to contemplate and carry with us; all of the stones had different messages. I picked my stone and when I turned it over, the word was simply- Listen.  And that, my friends, is exactly what I had been called there to do.  God invites me to listen.  Sometimes I do it well and other times… well, I still try to do things my way.  His ways are always better than mine and so… I listen.

 

Unpacking Kitchen Boxes

I am so thankful that my purge started in 2017; as it prepared me for the move that was waiting for me in 2018. While many of my friends and family were surprised by the decision to sell some of our possessions, it felt so good to let them go.   Surprisingly, it still took three moving trucks and several car loads to transport our belongings to our new home; that equated to approximately 2800 square feet of stuff for our multi-generational family unit (our household consists of three generations as my mom lives with us). Many would say that we did pretty well. Sadly, as we unloaded the last load off the truck at our new home, my husband looked at me and said, “we still have too much.”  I thought that we had done pretty well but there is something so revealing when you have to touch every single possession that you own and move it four hundred fifty miles from its location.

About three days in, I began to unpack the kitchen boxes.  I had been working tiredlessly and little did I know that soon the tears would begin to fall. About two hours in, anxiety struck as I had run out of space to store my pots, pans, plates, spices, and utensils.  I quietly sobbed as the feeling of excess settled into my body.  Naturally, I started to ask myself, “where did all of this come from and why do I still have all of this?” There were some items in which I could not recall its origin and I wondered why I had moved it in the first place.  I decided in that moment that I needed to get real with what I needed versus what I had kept as part of a feeling of obligation.  I needed to stop thinking in terms of “just in case” and “for that special occasion.”  At once, I pulled an empty box from the pile and started packing things back into it. I made the decision immediately that many of the items had to go and needed to be donated.  As soon as the kitchen was unpacked, I loaded the trunk of my Honda Accord with boxes destined to the local goodwill store.  What’s interesting is that as I write this, I cannot recall what is missing from my kitchen shelves.  Let’s just say, our purge is not complete.  The feeling of simplicity is a remarkable one and I long to continue to free myself from the overwhelming need to collect and fill my home with things. When I set out to change and simplify my life, I visualized what I wanted- a home that feels like a vacation resort, more time to spend doing the things I love, and the freedom to live a valued life.  I actually picture in my mind being free from chaos and stress so that I can imagine, explore, and create while enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Today, as I write this I am entertained, watching my boys make new friends at the community pool because I am not bound to clean and tidy my home on a summer afternoon.  I am not worried about the task of caring for and cleaning my “stuff” because much of it no longer occupies space in my home.  My simplification process is not yet complete and I am continuing to purge as I seek to keep only the things that bring me joy.  Therefore, I continue to move forward and simplify my journey.

~Katie

 

Hello world!

I feel inspired to write about my journey in hopes that it will touch someone in a meaningful way.  It is a work in progress so stay tuned!!

~Katie