Being Overwhelmed: Laundry and Life

I hate laundry.  It never ever ends.  In the event that I get caught up, everyone puts their clothes down that they wore that day and the vicious cycle begins again.  I have a laundry chute and that can be a very bad thing.  I close the door of the chute and pretend that laundry is not happening.  I can do this over a busy week.  I ignore it, do other things, and then I hear, “Hey mom!  The clothes are pouring out of the laundry chute upstairs!”  I then have to open the door and it falls down on top of me.  I become so OVERWHELMED.  I do not know where to start and a feeling of anxiety takes root.  I then just pick out the emergency pieces that are necessary and continue to ignore it because it is just too hard.

Life can be that way in all areas.  Our feelings, work load, relationships, and sin can all accumulate over time.  I call it the snowball effect.

I’m okay… I’m okay…I’m not okay.

This is one area that I have been growing in my life.  Since I am a pleaser, I am fine.  I can handle it.  I am good.  Until I am not.  This happens most when I suppress large emotions over time and then I will explode over something small.  When we were first married, poor John never knew what hit him.  It was such a transition.  We both were learning to live with one another and it was challenging.   Plus, I was the master of keeping records of wrongs, so when I exploded, things came up from 3 months before.

Strong emotions last 25 minutes.  Ride the wave.  Respond.

In the peak of adolescence, the girls and I tested my theory that strong emotions last 25-30 minutes.  Instead of asking one another to suck it up, we would just say what it was.  “I am really mad right now.”  “My heart hurts.” Once we owned them, we would cry, go run, do the thing that helps us cope and process.  We then might talk about it or we would move on.  But, we responded, we recognized it, and we dealt with it.  Stuffing feelings only result in larger feelings of that variety over time.

Whether the wave is a good one or a bad one, it eventually reaches the shore.

Little things turn into big things.  Good or bad.

Doing the little things can be hard.  We would rather do the things that we get recognition for instead of the things that nobody sees.  The little things are hard because they are monotonous.  (practice, dishes, laundry, cleaning, studying, etc.)  The little things are where we exercise our minds, faith, and bodies.  We enjoy the harvest, but sometimes we do not enjoying taking care of the crop.  We discount the importance of the little things in daily life.

When I first became a Christian, the people mentoring me gave me a huge list of rules.  I could not wear shorts.  I could not swim with mixed company.  I could not…   And for someone that struggles with perfectionism, I quickly became overwhelmed with it.

But, I learned that God slowly changes the little things in me.  He convicts me of things a little at a time. Over time, my life is changed for the better.  The little things make the big things happen.

This is a quote from Randy Alcorn that I love:

                                                      Sow a thought, reap an action.

                                                      Sow an action, reap a habit.

                                                      Sow a habit, reap a character.

                                                      Sow a character, reap a destiny.

I have lived most of my life overwhelmed.  I am learning to enjoy doing the little things.  I TRY to do a load of laundry a day from start to finish.  Just one.  I was standing in my laundry room a couple of months ago holding up a pair of teenage girl underwear and thinking, “Why can’t they be wearing Curious George underwear still? Where did time go?” And after I had my moment of strong emotion, I celebrated that the girls are still home and that we still have a little more time.

I also keep my laundry chute door open and let the clothes just fall into the basket. I do not close it and pretend it isn’t there.  I can’t hide it.  I have decided that it is time to not just air out my dirty laundry, but process it and move on.  I have it.  You have it.  It is time to deal with it one load at a time.

 

Why I Share Too Much

When I was 18, I entered an eating disorder unit for women eight days before Christmas.  I was the youngest of a group of women that ranged from my age to 50.  I was scared, mad, and tired.  I had the “perfect girl addiction” because everyone wants to be skinny.  Some friends told me they were jealous because they wished they could be that skinny.  Yet, nobody understood the horrible and deadly thought processes behind the disorder.  “Just eat!”….if only it was that easy.

The women on our unit were the most eclectic group of women that I ever met.  The women were high achievers with type A personalities and a variety of backgrounds and stories.   For the first time in a long time, I felt like I belonged.  I did not have to explain.  I did not have to be anything I wasn’t.  I didn’t have to meet everyone’s expectation.  Our stories were different, but with a common thread of hurt, perfectionism, and self-destruction.  We laughed.  We cried.  We danced.  We yelled.  We felt safe.

I spent a couple of months there as an in-patient and a day patient.  The thing about eating disorders is that the drug that can kill you also saves you.  Food was the drug, but you needed it to live.  When I re-entered life back at home I discovered all of the dysfunction was still there, the rumor mill that surrounded our small town was alive and well, too.  And once again, I was completely alone.

“Did you hear that Nikki was a drug dealer?”  Yeah….okay.

“They had to take her away in an ambulance.” Really?

“She had to be put in a straight jacket!” Well, I wasn’t happy, but sorry, no straight jacket.

It seems that when people do not know the entire story (or even when they do), they like to fill in the gaps.  I decided then that I would live my life differently.  I decided:

  1. I would always be completely honest about my struggle so that if someone else could not feel alone or crazy, my struggle would be worth it.
  2. I refused to allow any woman to suffer in silence. You do not just get better.  The process is messy, full of failure, and the most important part.  I would be open and honest about that as well.

You see, I have found that all women struggle with very similar thoughts.  We are conditioned to “pick up your lip before you step on it.” (a common phrase I grew up with) or “Suffer alone”.     I have tried all of these and I must say that those thoughts and feelings eventually destroy you.  They make you bitter and hard.  I still  have that side as well.

In the hospital, I loved those women, but I didn’t want to be them.  Many of them were there for their third or fourth time.  There is a sense of safety there.  But, I wanted my life to be different.  I didn’t want it to be about hospital stays and relapses.  I wanted more.

I began talking about it when people did not want to hear it.  I began finding people that said to me, “Really?  You, too?”  And I would whisper, “Me, too.”

I am cynical and hard.  Life has made me that way.  I am also hopeful, kind, and have a tremendous amount of empathy for people that feel that they are broken beyond repair.  I have that because I am STILL in the process of putting my pieces back together.

God’s patience and love is amazing that way.  Sometimes we put our pieces together quickly and other times we have to sit and stare at the pieces for a while.  We have to examine those pieces and see if they can even fit back together.  We also have to realize that the pieces will never quite fit together like they did.  We are allowed to mourn that brokenness.  We are allowed to feel.  With tears streaming down our faces, we put one piece with another.  And when that happens we need people beside us authentically celebrating that journey of growth and healing.

That is why I share.  You do not have to do it alone. We were not made to do it alone.

 

3 Ways To Thrive In Middle School

Dear Sweet Middle School Girls,

Words cannot describe the transitions you will go through in middle school.  You will grow physically, academically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  During this time, you will be outside of your comfort zone often, but this is where you will grow and change the most.  Your focus is to change for good and you will need to answer the question, “What does that look like for me?”

Only you and God can define that because he has a purpose for you that you are only beginning to discover.  He has made you wonderfully and you are in the process of finding what makes you wonderful.

My daughters and I brainstormed 3 things for you to ponder as you begin a year in middle school.

1. Focus on your lane.

In this picture, “What do you see?”

FullSizeRender (11)

We see Michael Phelps, a gold medal winner.  The winner is looking ahead, focused on his goal.  He is not looking and comparing himself to anyone.  He knows what he is about and he is going for it.  The other swimmer, Chad le Clos, is looking and comparing himself.  He is more worried about what other people are doing than swimming his race.

We can easily get distracted in middle school wishing we were taller, shorter, smarter, faster, etc.  Look at who YOU were created to be and learn to do that.  This lesson is an ongoing lesson in life.  Keeping your focus on your lane helps you grow to be the best you can be.

2. Your friends matter.

In our house, we always say, “Be kind to everyone, but keep your circle small.”

Jesus had 12 disciples, but in those 12 disciples, he was closer to Peter, John, and James.  I have used this example many times with my daughters when we had friend issues.  Jesus had 3 close friends.  How many close friends do we really have or need?

Friends in middle school will be challenging because EVERYONE is LEARNING to “swim” and figure out life.  Many people will be learning to just keep their head above water.  Some people will be hanging on the side afraid to let go. Some people will be tired of swimming and they will complain the entire time.  Some people will be good at backstroke, but really bad at freestyle.  And many kids (including YOU) will not be sure of which lane to even get in let alone stay in.  Everyone is at a different level with different needs.  Sometimes it will be hard to be a good friend and have good friends.  Remember this.  Forgive quickly and move on.  Every person you come in contact is going through the same learning process, they just will be going about it in a different way.

This is from Caroline, my 13 year old daughter:

“Last year, I was tempted to go with the “popular” group, even though they were really mean to other people, and would talk about them behind their backs. I struggled with this because I wanted to be part of a group that seemed to get everyone’s attention. My other friend and I were talking about this and I realized something. I didn’t want to be the people that they were, just plain mean. Then it hit me, do I want to be the person that puts other people down or who brings them back up? I decided, to be the person who brings people back up. It took me a while to find a good group of friends. Eventually, I found like two or three people that were there. It is OK to just have one or two people that have the qualities. Those are the ones that will last.”

3. Finish Your Job….Everywhere You Go.

This is from all the moms, teachers, and adults in the world.

Did you see any of the Olympic athletes quit?  No.  Successful athletes do not quit and they finish what they start whether they win or lose.  When they fail or fall, they learn and grow.

Put away your things.  Complete your homework.  Put it in your folder.  Turn in your homework.  Put your cups in the dishwasher.  Pick your clothes off of your floor and into the laundry.  You get the gist.

This will make your life easier in SOOOOO many ways.  Just trust us on this one.

The girls and I will be writing letters to you throughout the year.  Start out well and stay in your lane!!!

Love,

Nikki, Grace, & Caroline

Who Are You?

Staring at the mirror.

44.

Taking the wife hat off.

Taking the mom hat off.

Taking the teacher hat off.

Staring into the same blue eyes.

Who are you?

 

I am the woman that is tired.

I do 100 things at once.

But, unsure of what I accomplish.

I have said never.

I do what I said I wouldn’t.

I see heart ache.

Rejection.

Trials.

Pain.

Setbacks.

Anger.

Tears.

And lots of laundry.

 

Look deeper.

I am the woman that has overcome.

I’ve done things they said I couldn’t.

There is strength.

Wisdom.

Redemption.

Perseverance.

Drive.

Growth.

Hope.

Love.

And lots of laughter.

 

Look even deeper.

Look past my 30’s.

My 20’s.

My teens.

I see the little girl.

Before they changed the reality.

I see adventures.

Climbing trees.

Imagination.

Belly laughs.

Fearlessness.

Dreams.

Wonder.

And lots of giggles.

 

It is okay.

You can come out now.

Little girl, I want you to meet someone.

This is 44.

We made it.

We are healing.

We are strong.

We are thriving.

We did not quit.

We can laugh.

We can love.

We always have hope.

 

We have more work to do.

More living to do.

More adventures to take.

We are not finished.

We are just beginning.

We are free.

From innocent to wise.

It all matters.

This is 44.

Life has just begun.