Monday, September 26, 2011

Finding "me"

In the fall of the year where I experienced depression and burn out, and had my fifth child, an unexpected pregnancy, I put my three middle children in school. I had home schooled for years by that time, home schooling my oldest until 4th grade, and then on the track to home school the little ones as well. But after that, I just couldn't do it. I needed some time to heal from the darkness and confusion that I had experienced. I needed quiet in my home to think and just "be". It was a painful decision, for I love to home school and I love having my children at home with me all day. I love the lifestyle of home schooling. For so many years, that defined me. I was*that* stay at home mom who home schools and bakes bread and talks about curriculum at ladies' nights. Pretty soon I became *that* home schooling mom who never socializes and never gets out of the home. That wasn't healthy for me.
I spent a lot of those early years of my marriage and raising my little ones in a fog. I attribute that to a lot of things. Having babies every other year, continually clawing my way out of the pit (not really realizing that), spending a lot of my days just. holding. on. until *it*(whatever *it* was at that time) passes. I was desperate for time to complete a thought. I wanted time to rest but I didn't know how. I just wanted to be able to have the time to clean out my junk drawer. Looking back, I was neglecting "me."
Christians flinch at the phrase "finding myself." And I get that. I used to be one of those Christians who waved it off. But nowhere in the Bible does it say, "Mothers must sacrifice their time, health, and general well-being for the sake of their family." I mean...does it??
During that time of burn out and re evaluating my life--everything from home schooling, to how I spent my free time, to what "friends" I had (or thought I had), to what I cooked for dinner, to what shows I allowed my children to watch on television, I read Psalm 139 a lot:

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

I found comfort in those verses. They told me that the Lord knows me intimately. He *made* me a certain way. Not like *so and so* who can home school and also find time to make fermented foods for her family, while balancing on a tight wire. He made me have the desire to have quiet time amidst the chaos of my home. I tried and tried to do it *their* way, but what I needed to do was seek the Lord to how *He* wanted me to live the abundant life and how *He* wanted *me* to raise my family and care for my children....and myself.

The summer after their first full year of school, we were visiting family in Utah, and were having dinner with some family friends. Dana is a lovely woman with a pottery studio in her backyard and a gorgeous garden. We sat on her back porch and ate corn on the cob and sandwich wraps. She asked me how it was with the kids in school. I told her how great it was and how well they (and I) were doing. "You had time to find yourself, right?" she said. In my prideful days I might have flinched at that comment. But this time I embraced it because it was truth to me. "Yes, I did," I said. "I really did."

Finding "me" doesn't always mean that I abandon a way of life for the Lord. It doesn't mean I spend my time and energy away from my family to the neglect of them. It means I live a life in devotion to Him, trusting Him and listening to Him on what is best for me and my family. This could certainly change from year to year. But I don't accept a model of a life lived just because it looks good on someone else. (I am not saying I did that, but there were certain decisions I made in which I did do that.) I will keep looking for ways to "find myself". I will get lost in the Lord and embrace His plan for me. This means there is much freedom in my decisions. This means my path might look different than others. And I'm ok with that.

"If I find in myself, desires nothing in this world can satisfy, I can only conclude that I was not made for here." ~C.S. Lewis


Lisa said...

I dont know you but this is a very good, honest post and reflects my experience as well.

I too burned out with 5 yrs of hschooling trying to be the "perfect" mom. Sent them to school, best decision for me. Went to counseling, got on meds I needed, focused on me, went to grad school and back to work. I love my kids and I am a better mom now, hands down. Taking care of self is very looked down upon in Christian circles which is why you put your needs last. Crappy theology. Me too. Hugs!


Andrea said...

Taking care of self but also trusting the Lord and seeking Him is important! And that's good theology, I think! Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa.

Betsy norwood said...

Beautiful, sweet friend. I'm just now starting to understand this for myself. And you have so gently taught the true freedom of our identity being rooted in Christ Jesus, first.

Anonymous said...

Love this post, Andrea. I too am just now figuring this out after going through burnout. In fact, I'm making small changes to help turn this ship around. With God on my side, who can be against me...not even myself ;)
Love you!

contentedsparrow said...

yes! thanks for sharing your honest and wise words, andrea. in the freedom of the Lord, there is awesome liberty! nobody knows you like HE does. He's constantly whispering direction and if we tune out all the other voices, He's loud and clear!
love you, girl!

Jess said...

Thank you for sharing this. Beautiful words, and so true.

Alicia said...

Oh, thank you for the honesty. As nearly all of my dear friends shifted into homeschooling this year, I've felt a bit lost and have wrestled my own self doubt. While I don't feel called to homeschool, I lOVE the lifestyle it lends to, the extra time with my kids, and the opportunities it brings for a family. However, the Lord hasn't said "do it," and so I continue to send my 3 oldest to school each day. That's HIS plan at the moment. I just needed to hear that I'm okay b/c I'm NOT the mama baking my own bread while leading math lessons. (Ok, reading Anne Voskamp's blog DOES make me want to try it!) But I love that we can all have our "own path". Thanks for the reminder.

Children of Eve said...

Dear Andrea-
This so much echos the sermon we both heard on Sunday. Each has HIS OWN gifts, talents and work to do. Never should we aim to do "It" like another brother or sister. We strive only to please HIm. Love you!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post and for helping me see this in my own life last spring when I was drowning. You were the only one who realized my need and reached out to me, and you kept on checking in and pushing me to make a change and praying for me, and that is something I will never ever forget. I'm still struggling to find the balance in my life, and also to let go of the guilt for needing to take time to hang on to the little bits of me that seem to so easily evaporate in the heat of my demanding life. But it is so much easier to see the blessings outshining the demands when I am in a good place myself. Love you and your wonderful family.

joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joanna said...

andrea-- this is so well written. what a difficult subject matter to talk about honestly. thank you for your boldness. this can be a difficult idea to broach in these believing-mom circles. thank you for pointing us to Christ. He sees and knows. He cares and guides. He has made us all in His image, but not one of us is the same as the next. to His glory. He's just plain awesome

tonia said...

thank you for sharing honestly, andrea. i'm rejoicing with you in GOd's freedom...that we are each free to be who He made us with no guilt or shame. So glad to hear the *space (like a deep, cleansing breath)* in your voice again.

Kat said...

Andrea, this was BEAUTIFUL! Loved how you put this into words. Thanks for sharing...and i so agree! Good to know i am not alone with these thoughts :)

Blessings, Kat

Lorilee said...

thanks for the honesty. It is so refreshing to read. I burned out about a year ago and really cut out tones of stuff. I still homeschool(but try to simplify and not stress it to much) but we moved out of our house and got rid of most of our stuff because it was such a drain. It is so hard being a woman with social pressures often exagurated with our own ideals.... then add the hormones :) I find I have to constantly re-evaluate what I am doing and if it is really what is best for all of us. My life and how I live it needs to come from God and myself instead of society... there isn't room for all of it.

debbie bailey said...

Your story could have been mine about sixteen years ago. Laurel, your friend, was my oldest with three other younger ones. I decided to put her and two others in a Christian school. That was one of the hardest things I've ever done, because it didn't fit into my dream of homeschooling them "all of the way through". I knew it was either that or my sanity, so I did it, and it was the best decision all around.

I'm probably in my last year of homeschooling this year (26 years) and won't be looking back. It was great, but I'm ready for the next stage of life. Taking care of Laurel's twins, of course!

Susan @ said...

Thanks Andrea. You have been an inspiration to me and a guide in navigating the way through all this in my own young mothering. Neglecting 'me' for any reason, even the best, like mothering, isn't of God. He's the one who gives us our souls and tells us to steward them. Sometimes doing so takes discipline and creativity in these years, because free time came be so hard to come by. But He is the God who provides in unexpected ways and can expand time.
I blogged about aspects of this very topic this week and thought of you, Know yourself, mother!

Thanks again and many blessings to you and your flourishing family