Til You Can Breathe Again


When I think about sitting down to write something--because I want to sit down and write something--all the possibility of words tumble around in my brain and jam up my ability to write anything at all. Like the bedding I pulled from the dryer this afternoon, heated mattress cover rolled over and over sheets cocooned inside in a damp ball. No ideas are drying thoroughly around here.

Or something like that. That analogy doesn't land right, but it's better than the other one I shared among friends in July when I talked about my need to write and my inability to find the words lately--I'm creatively constipated. That's the blunt and simple truth.

So I have a moment to get a few words down, but I'm stuck on the laundry sitting around our home in piles that we're in our 3rd week of living out of. I have so much more I want to say about this season, but the laundry piles and the outdated goals sheet displayed in my room since May say it all.

I pick my daughter up from middle school and she asks if we can go to the store for a Reese's peanut butter cup. I kind of brush it off with "yeah, probably sometime." She expounds that's one of her teacher's favorite candybars and she wants to get it for her since the teacher's friend died by suicide. She has the idea to give her the candybar with a card and a drawing of her favorite animal.

My daughter disappears upstairs after doing her homework and returns a bit later, first to ask if I'd look up a picture of a sloth so she can draw something that looks less like a monkey. Then she comes back and slides the finished card on the counter in front of me asking me to read it and let her know what I think.

In it, she tells her teacher about a sermon she heard at church when we visited family in Idaho this summer. It was about suicide and the importance of letting people know how you feel and ask for help when you're feeling low. I had wondered what she'd thought about that sermon or what she took away from it, but didn't have a great opportunity to ask about it then forgot about it soon after. She tells her teacher she's sad for her and wishes that didn't happen and will be praying for her.

She asks me what I thought. I tell her it's so thoughtful and will likely mean a lot to her teacher.

A couple hours later, after going to the store for the candybar and dinner and reading, I tuck my daughter in for the night and her stomach's in knots and hurting because she's afraid of dying in her sleep. We've been working through different versions of this same fear for months.

I remind her of ways to ground herself in truth, because our minds play tricks on us, especially at night, and make fear seem like reality. I remind her she can get the essential oils she likes, she can think about the story in the book she's reading, she can do the things she knows how to do. She tries and sometimes it doesn't seem like enough and I encourage her to not give up, to keep doing what she knows how to do. (We also regularly have conversations to decide if and when to seek professional help for her.)

We pray. For the redirection of her thoughts on truth. For her teacher as she mourns the death of her friend. And I wonder if maybe her jumping to action for her teacher was a little bit about releasing her own fears and anxieties around death. She knows acting on truth is how we show our anxieties where to shove it.

Before school started in August, her anxiety was hitting a depth it hadn't ever reached before. Her panic at night made her hard to calm, her irrational fears couldn't be reasoned with. She had been working on writing a new book and asked if she could read it to me. I didn't even try to stop the tears as I heard her share her story describing her anxiety and how she coped with it. So wise, honest, and in touch for anyone let alone my 11-year-old.

She goes to her happy place in her mind, which is often school, and when that happy place is in jeopardy (like when she didn't know what to expect before school started at her new middles school), there's nothing left to fight off the anxiety. It grows and takes over like mold on bread. That's how she described it. I ache for her, my sweet baby girl. And I can relate.

Today, I asked someone what helps her destress--when life weighs on her, what helps her be able to breathe again.

I have been feeling my own need for a release. The tension building inside of me--from stress, including the good kind, and holding it all together. Without the proper outlets even the things that bring us great joy and give our lives great meaning can weigh us down and leave us at a loss for what to do with it all.

As the words jumbled in my mind this evening and I wanted to open Notes on my phone or post something on Instagram or open a notebook and put pen to paper, I realized I can breathe again when I write.

Not to over-simplify very complex things, but that's really what I want to say with all of these words. Suicide and anxiety and tackling work-life balance and change of seasons in life are big things. Most of them too big for me to tackle ever, let alone in a blog post. But this I can ask: What can you do in this moment to breathe more freely?

Take a walk to get fresh air, ask for a hug, vent to a friend over coffee?

This evening my daughter wrote her teacher a card that included a drawing of a sloth, baked some muffins, and read a book.

I posted the current state of my life in my Insta Stories, folded the laundry in my room (nevermind what's on the couches, I had to start somewhere), and sat here writing something. And I can breathe again.

Your answer may not solve everything, but it's a worthwhile place to start:

What will help you breathe today?

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where life happens

Finding Calm after the Jump

Grateful for the adventure of the jump, anxiety-inducing and nerve-racking as it may be. When all's said and done, I wouldn't want to live life any other way.

Anxiety has been brewing inside me. Like the time I stood on a rock cliff staring down at the water more than 30 feet below. It's the classic choice of giving into anxiety and stumbling back down the path that got me here, or not letting anxiety boss me around and jumping anyway.

When the choice was about a literal jump off a literal cliff into literal water, nerves and fear twisted my stomach in knots and grew louder in my ears the longer I stood there. Still, standing there "forever" really turned out to be just a couple minutes, I could see the water I would be landing in, and after jumping it was all over in the matter of seconds.

My nerves settled just as soon as I jumped, and I was full of equal parts pride and relief to have made the jump. That settling of nerves is exactly what I've been waiting for over the last few years, and just haven't been able to find. Until recently.

It started when my middle kid went to kindergarten. This mom of three grew accustomed to chaos over my years of motherhood with my passionate kids. My oldest two now spent most the day in school, and the house became strangely quiet with just me and my toddler at home.

You'd think I'd love the break in the chaos, and I kind of did. Yet, along with the quiet came an unnerving sense of alarm. I'd spent years lost in my purpose at home and feeling like these needy babies would never not need me. Now here I was sobered by the reality of how quickly my 9- and 6-year-olds were moving on and that I hadn't spent enough, or any, time preparing for that.

I became more and more uncertain of my future; my identity and purpose were now all wrapped up in home and my kids. Fear twisted my stomach in knots and grew louder in my ears the longer I wondered what was next for me after almost a decade of being stay-at-home-mom.

Over the last couple months especially, as I looked into a specific job opportunity, I felt like I was standing at that cliff edge all over again. I felt a strong urge to jump, to quickly leap from my life as stay-at-home-mom into the working world. But jumping in life is often a much slower process. I worked on my resume, I did the interview, I even got the job. Each step my nerves only grew, fueling my urge to jump.

That's when I realized it was the landing, not the jumping, that held the release of nerves and anxiety I longed for. So as I went through the stages of the jump, I had only to wait in the uncertainty for the landing.

That's where I am now. I landed. I jumped from the life I've known for 10 years as a stay-at-home-mom into a new reality as a working mom. And I am full of equal parts pride and relief to have made this jump.

There is still plenty I'm figuring out for my future (like learning my new job). I'm also still in the middle of processing and reflecting on the decade of mothering young kids that I'm leaving behind. I'm sure that nostalgia will really hit me when our baby goes to kindergarten this fall.

But for now, I'm just so incredibly grateful. For the years of financial sacrifice that have granted me the privilege of being fulltime childcare provider for my kids through their little years. For countless precious memories that far outweigh all of the challenges. For incredible lessons and growth that only comes in thriving through hard things.

For the adventure of the jump, anxiety-inducing and nerve-racking as it may be.

When all's said and done, I wouldn't want to live life any other way.

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returning home to myself
grow your life emails

Where LIFE Happens

Consider what gives you LIFE, and make space for it.

What gives you LIFE?

In the fall, I got a new journal with green leaves etched over a black background and gold foil script on the front. The simple cover of that journal brought me so much life at a time when I desperately wanted more LIFE. The important kind written in big letters with vibrant lines drawn around it.

Life not just for the sake of surface level happiness. But for the sake of deep healing joy; of stepping wholly into the beautiful person God created me to be; of celebrating when others step in to who God created them to be; of living this wild and precious life with deep faith and trust covered in deep peace, contentment, and gratitude.

For the sake of being able to take a deep breath and just know that I am whole and wholly loved, not for anything I've done but for simply being in the One who made me who I am.

Sounds lovely, right?

I thought so.

The day-to-day logistics of living with more LIFE can trip me up if I'm not intentional. I know because I've been there many times before. I'll go through my days feeling little glimmers of a spark of life in me, but it disappears just as quickly as it came.

During a fog in my life that kept diffusing these sparks, a friend sent me a beautiful little strip of birch bark. All dried out, it makes the perfect kindling for a fire. In her note she wrote something along the lines of "that song that says 'it only takes a spark to get a fire going' is crap. It takes more than a spark. It also takes plenty of kindling for that spark to land on, and friction to create the spark, and logs to fuel the fire, etc."

I have that piece of birch on my bulletin board as my reminder to not settle for fleeting sparks of life. I need to fuel the fire of my life with the things that set a fire in me. I can't keep warm or cook a meal over a spark... I need to fuel that spark until it becomes a full on flame. And I can't grow a happy and healthy LIFE unless I'm nurturing the literal life that's already in me.

It's taken a variety of things to get to this point where I feel like I'm getting through the fog and really feeling more fully alive. One thing that has helped is asking what gives me LIFE, then making time for those things.

For me it's being in nature, new adventures however simple, updating a space in my home, meaningful connections, and sometimes just plain ol' checking off my to-do lists and feeling like a competent adult.

It truly is the simple things of life that are some of the most life-giving and meaningful. I updated my room in really simple ways, and it still makes me smile and brings me LIFE. I breathe in fresh air as I read on the porch and I'm fueled with LIFE into the next morning. I cheer on my child learning to ride his new bike, and LIFE glows from us both.

Where LIFE Happens

What gives you LIFE?

If you're not sure, here are some places to start...

1. Take a deep breath.

The simple practice of deep breathing is mentioned in every sort of advice on meditating, refocusing, destressing, healing, and energizing for a reason--breathing gives us literal life. This has been the case since we were created when God breathed "the breath of life" into the first humans (Gen. 2:7). Science backs up the healing work of oxygen, but more than that I like to think every intentional deep breath I take repeats what God did in that first breath He breathed--literal life flowing through me. Simple yet life-giving, isn't it?

2. Choose good and true words.

The words we think in our own minds matter just as much as the words we say out loud. We don't always see it this way, but negativity toward ourselves, others, or life is a lie clothed in "full honesty" or "a realistic perspective"--it robs our abundant life (Jn. 10:10). Wise words promote health, and counselors of peace have joy (Prov. 12:17-22). Are those things true of the words repeating in our heads or slipping through our lips? Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). If we had to choose, which category do our thoughts and words fall in? Worried thoughts cause depression; but good and true words bring deep healing gladness to our hearts (Prov. 12:25). Are your words life-negating or life-giving?

3. Read Truth.

The Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12); all scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Much like the breath of God still alive in our breath, I like to think of God's Word being alive and active in my life each time I read or meditate on it. Additionally, when we need a way to push out the negativity and the lies, reading and repeating God's truth is a perfect antidote.

4. Show love.

Jesus came that we might live through Him in love (1 Jn. 4:7-11) and have his light in us (Jn. 8:12). Acting in love and doing kind things--for our family, our friends, our neighbors, people we don't know--is a perfect way to experience LIFE more fully. Maybe even especially when we're not feeling it, there's something to a little doing into the feeling. There's nothing better than to be joyful and do good (Ecc. 3:12). It's a great reminder that people really are what life is all about.

5. Work with your hands.

The simple acts of making a meal, baking, washing the dishes, gardening, or creating something is all the more important in our heavily tech-centered lives. While technology can be tools for fuller more meaningful lives (looking up a recipe, learning a new hobby, making plans with a friend), the actual LIFE happens away from the computer, phone, or TV. What can you do throughout each day to make sure you're leading a quiet life, minding your own business, and working with your hands (1 Thess. 4:11)?

6. Go outside.

When I need a reset in life, I often have to go back to its source--nature. Where trees, plants, grass, and flowers grow with what they were given at creation and no extra effort of their own. It's outside that I remember that this world goes round out of my control, and my life does the same. Just as good things are growing under the mulch down in the dirt with the worms, so is good growing even in the darkness of life. And just as the sun always shows up even behind the clouds, I can be certain God always shows up even when I'm not certain He's there.

I am deeply thankful. For this gift of LIFE, for people to share it with, and for the gift of kindling when I need it most.

Consider what gives you LIFE, and make space for it.

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