What’s Getting Done When “Nothing’s Getting Done”

"Car boot full of luggage" by Colin Brough

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“Car boot full of luggage” by Colin Brough

We’ve been traveling again, and with my second baby due in less than two months, I am eager to get back home and nest. After seven trips in the past year, I don’t even want to think of the hours and days I’ve spent packing, unpacking, and re-adjusting each time we return from Minnesota or Texas. In other words, all the work–the writing, homemaking, home decorating, and integration into a new community–that isn’t getting done. But then two realizations dawned on me.

Realization One: Important work is happening while we’re away from home. Work on our family life. Work on our marriage. And work on our parenting. (For example, how do we uphold family ideals regarding TV, diet, and time use in places where our ideals are not the norm?)

Realization Two: Traveling is actually training for our second child…because each trip puts us back to square one. I arrive at the destination, and I am forced to pare back my to-do list to bare necessities:

  • Is there food in the cupboard?
  • Do I have a meal plan for the week?
  • Is this living space livable for us?
  • Do we have clean laundry to wear?
  • Are we getting along? Is our marriage okay?

Yes, again and again in the past year, my life has been reduced to putting first things first: food, clothing, shelter, and marriage.

And that’s how life is with a baby.

With both continual travel and baby care, I’ve learned sometimes it’s all I can do to keep the fridge stocked, meals prepped, laundry clean, and a smile on my face…if I can even do that.

So I guess I’m in training right now. On the outside, it feels like nothing’s getting done, but once again, I can’t go by my feelings.

James 1:2-4 adds perspective to my situation:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

As I trust God with my life, I can be confident that even when “nothing is getting done” on the outside, something is getting done inside of me. Patience. Endurance. Perseverance. All tools needed for parenting, marriage, and life. I guess I shouldn’t be so disappointed when I don’t have time to write…because when I finally have time again, I will have lots to write about, and probably some wisdom besides.

Getting Refreshed, and Maneuvering Life’s Changes

I stole a few moments away to write this morning before Sam woke up. This is my corner of quiet space while we stay as guests in our Texas home.
I stole a few moments away to write this morning before Sam woke up. This is my corner of quiet space while we stay as guests in our Texas home.

My dad has a simple rule for determining whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert: extroverts draw energy from other people, introverts are drained by the same. There’s no doubt that Dad’s an extrovert. Or that I’m not.

During my past two weeks in Texas, I’ve enjoyed wonderful times with friends. I’ve had meals out with some of them, taken Sam to play with others, and prayed with yet a few more through difficult issues. I feel I have been available to these precious people to an extent I was not able before we moved away. I was even able to bless some of them with the work of my hands and my words of advice or prayers. And I’ve loved every minute of this time.

But last night at 10 p.m., when I realized I had not taken time in seven days to sit down and write, and when I could only gaze defeatedly at The Love Dare book, which has had a bookmark in day 20 for quite some time, I found myself moaning, “I’m not ready for another morning yet.” I knew it was time for this introvert to go “home” and get refreshed herself.

Life is an interesting journey. How did St. Louis become my “home” in just a few months? It’s not “home” in the sense that I have extended family or many friends there (about one friend so far). But it is becoming home in the sense that I have set up my own household, established some patterns, and can expect some routine in my week, more or less. While I love the excitement of our back-and-forth travels from Missouri to Texas, and the extra family time on travel days with “daddy,” I find comfort in routine. And quiet time. And my own space.

I am beginning to doubt this arrangement we have of visiting TX and staying in our old house with my in-laws every couple of months…for the long term (if you missed the details, see this post). Especially if we have another baby. Buc asked me last night, “If we end up getting pregnant, would you rather be based in Texas or in Missouri for the delivery and newborn period?” Good question. There’s no doubt where I would rather be for that early period. Near family and friends. But what about all the days after? As I’ve learned, motherhood gets easier as the first year goes on, but not much easier.

After our last visit, we talked of getting a house in Missouri at the end of this year, but what if there’s a new baby? And no family around to help? And travels back and forth with an infant and toddler?

There would be depression, I’m pretty sure. And maybe insanity.

If we get pregnant, I think we have to look at getting our own space in Texas again, somehow. Maybe it would mean seeing daddy less, as he travels back and forth on business without us in tow. That thought makes me sad, but the thought of toting two kids between two states every couple months, and having to reestablish family patterns, sleep patterns, meal patterns, ALL patterns, every couple of months makes me CRAZY.

For now, I am handling the mild damage control that travel requires when it comes to changes in Sam’s sleep, and changes to Buc’s and my routines. And I have been so blessed to get to see my friends without strings attached (strings such as having to hold offices at my church during this season of early motherhood). But I am relieved to know that this season is temporary–it has to be. At some point, things will change again, and we won’t be traveling so much. I don’t know when, or how, but if there’s anything predictable about life, it is that (as my dad also said), “Life is predictably unpredictable!”

Thanks for the wisdom, Dad.

Going Home

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My dad called last night to check on me. He’d been reading my posts from last week and wanted to make sure I was “okay.” Also to confirm travel plans for this week when I will go see him.

“So you’re feeling depressed? Are you feeling better?”

Since another family member has long been diagnosed as bipolar, I think Dad is extra sensitive to signs of mental illness. It’s understandable. And though I didn’t appreciate these inquiries when I was sixteen, today I think they’re sweet. He and my mom are the only ones who really ask about my mental health anymore, since I’ve been off medication for about eight years.

Thankfully I am able to answer, as I did last night, “I’m feeling much better, thank you. It was just a bit of the blues, and some female hormones getting the best of me.”

Thank God, I do feel better.

But that’s the thing these days. Even when something painful triggers bad feelings, I know they’re just passing feelings. None of that abysmal stuff of the past.

Like with visits home.

Used to be these visits triggered deep depths of anger and sadness.

Because of the divorce, I always miss half of my visit time with each parent and my little brother. The ‘rents live hours apart (and both are far from the airport), so though I buy a plane ticket for a week, I only get to see each for about half that time.

Needless to say, visits are complicated.

For years, when I was about to make a visit, I would typically spend the days leading up to it grumbling about the inconvenience. Anger bubbling up again at the awkwardness left over from divorce. Sadness that the awkwardness would never go away.

And, oh, I can get pretty low rubbing my nose in the past—and I have. Sometimes, in the past, returning from a visit was even worse, as I got to thinking about how a few days were not enough—and how long it would be until the next visit (usually six months to a year).

Maybe some of these thoughts were unconsciously playing in my head last week as I felt the illusion of the abyss, though I didn’t acknowledge them.

But over the weekend, something happened to remind me: my life is not that bad.

After church, I found myself talking to a new couple from Romania, the first real conversation I’d had with them since they’ve started visiting our church.

The woman is pregnant, and due this very week, in fact. Because I knew they were from far away—and I am sensitive to being far from home—I got to wondering: Does this lady have any friends or family nearby to help with the baby?

So I asked her.

After describing how miserable the pregnancy had been in the beginning—constant vomiting, dangerous weight loss, and inability to eat or sleep—she told me she’d lost both parents at a young age. Now she has only one or two family members left…and they are still in Romania. In the states, her husband is really all she has. Still new to this area, she doesn’t even have a church family yet.

“That must be hard,” I said, over the lump growing in my throat.

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” she said, eyes bright, face brave. “We’re always seeing and hearing interesting things; we get to meet a lot of interesting people.”

She proceeded to tell me about the groups of people they’ve met at various churches they’ve attended over the years, moving from state to state for her husband’s job.

Through it all, she kept a smile on her face.

Does she really mean it? I wondered. If I were her, all alone and pregnant in a new state without so much as a church family to call my own, I think I’d be depressed. Perhaps she really is. But she carries on, as we all must.

Readers, I have to apologize. I want this blog to be positive and godly and uplifting. But sometimes I find myself hovering a little closer to melancholy than I want to.

Though it’s not an excuse, my parents tell me I was a melancholy child. My husband agrees that my personality still drifts that direction.

I want to show you how far I’ve come from depression and sadness, but sometimes, with a personality that tends toward the negative, it’s hard. And I’m not going to lie.

So I write about sad feelings hoping you realize I’m just being honest—to show that, though one’s life might, overall, be “re-set” from broken and despairing to hopeful and healing—that doesn’t mean all sadness leaves.

It just doesn’t stay like it used to.

But knowing, recognizing, and acknowledging when bad roots are stirred up allows me to take them to God once again. Allows me to open my heart, once again, and say:

“God, it hurts. And I don’t ask you to fix everything just today (because I know you will in the future). But for today, here’s my heart. Thank you that Jesus died for my broken heart. Thank you that His heart and Your heart were broken as He carried all my hurt and pain to death on the cross, as He suffered and died for me, and rose again in victory over the death and decay of our mortal bodies and wounded hearts, so I could claim my inheritance as Your daughter.”

Though I have to pray this way daily, He delivers daily. Fresh batches of grace every time I need them. And I’m sure I’ll need them again, soon.

This week I’ll get to my dad’s and have a jolly good time laughing and talking over Scrabble and coffee—and at Mom’s I’ll enjoy the home-cooked meals and those mother-daughter conversations I can’t have with anyone else. It’ll be a good time, and infinitely more fulfilling than past visits, when walking over the old family threshold used to bring tears.

I’ll probably battle some more resentment when I have to part from Dad on day three—then I’ll face it again as I wave goodbye to Mom and little bro at the airport on day seven.

But I will recover quickly, as I remember that it won’t be too long until I go home for good—my real home—where there will be no more tears, no more regret, no more long car rides, limited visitations, or broken families. This is the hope that heals—and brightens bad days.

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev. 21:1-4, NLT)