Mourning Lost Memories

The dates from the calendar simply disappeared. Literally. There one day and gone the next.

We received a call from the school system Sunday night that our kids would be moving to e-learning for at least the next two weeks and that all extra-curricular activities would also be cancelled in that time frame. My son’s Christmas show choir performance that we had been holding out hope for, that at least his dad and I would be able to attend, met a sudden death.

I’ll make a confession here. We have been a part of this Christmas event for the past four years. It’s a lonnnnnngg performance…at least three hours or more. This past year I was required to make dozens of cookies to contribute to the cookie walk. It was stressful. However, the last part of the program is always the highlight of my Christmas. The high school kids don choir robes and sing songs that tell the true Christmas story. I’m not sure how they are still able to do that in our current culture, but I love it. I leave with my heart full.

Can I tell you that I would bake twice the number of cookies to watch my kids perform this year? I am so sad. I haven’t even been able to attend a junior high band concert where I listen to kids screech through their first performance. I didn’t think I’d miss it, but I do. There’s nothing like watching your kids do something they love.

I’ll be honest. I feel robbed. These are memories I will never, ever be able to get back with my kids. There isn’t a replacement. There won’t be an opportunity to do it another time. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. And I know being safe is important and we could lose a lot more by leaders taking unnecessary risks. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s awful.

We’ve just had to cancel our Thanksgiving plans. We were waffling on what to do and then we found out yesterday that our oldest has to be quarantined due to exposure at school (this is after our youngest had just finished being quarantined). We were supposed to host and I was eager to share our home with a small part of our family. We had agreed to wear masks so we could gather. Poof. Gone.

I try to talk myself into looking at the bright side. Sometimes, though, I think it’s better to simply acknowledge the mess. And feel it. And mourn.

Today, I was reminded of Faith Hill’s song, “Where Are You Christmas?” (click to watch the video). Some of the lines from the song that stick out are, “Why can’t I hear the music play,” and “My world is changing, I’m rearranging.” I love the hopeful message of, “If there is love in your heart and your mind, you will feel Christmas all of the time.” As we head into the Christmas season, that will inevitably be very different, I think this is an important message to remember.

Here’s hoping you can make some special memories this year in spite of everything going on right now. And may we have a greater appreciation for the memories we are able to make in the future. Holding out hope for when the music plays again.

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Feeling overwhelmed?

Anyone else feeling some stress right now? Those of you who read my blog and social media posts know I try to be super positive. I also never want to give the illusion that life is easy or happy all of the time. It isn’t, which is indicated by my blog title “Middle of the Mess.”

I am fairly good at holding things together and seeing the bright side. However, once in awhile it just gets to be too hard, too much, too unbearable. I also DESPISE talking about my feelings, so I stuff, stuff, stuff until it oozes (or explodes) out of me. This is usually brought on by something small.

This week has been hard for multiple reasons. Both of my kids have had mini meltdowns at some point from their own stress. There have been health issues to deal with, home repair problems, and multiple decisions having to be made regarding all things Covid. It’s the last one that has made me the most weary. As numbers ramp up and the holidays are before us, there are more decisions to be made than ever, or so it seems.

Too often I forget the necessary role that sadness plays in our lives. I sat down on my bed and had a good cry. It helped. I stood back up with renewed energy and determination. Things are truly not that bad. There could be sooo much worse. We’ll get through this.

Writing things down helps me to process what’s going on in my head. I share it with you because I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen a lot of posts from friends recently who are struggling. Please know I’m here to be an encourager right down in the pit with you.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:4-5

I appreciate the first verse where it encourages us to give praise and thanks. Thanksgiving is a brilliant weapon against stress and sadness. Did you know it quite literally changes your brain?? So fascinating.

My new friend, Kelley Dawson, has started an initiative centered around joy. Check out her posts here. It’s a group worth joining to get yourself in the right mindset. I know it’s helping me! We could all use a little extra help right now.

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A Season of Struggle

A sweet young mom looked at me and confessed, “This has been one of the darkest times of my life.” I had just participated on a panel of mentor moms talking to moms of little ones at our church. This sweet friend proceeded to tell me the struggles she has been facing due to the effects of COVID. My heart hurt for her as I sensed her pain and isolation.

I belong to a Facebook group that serves teachers who are trying to find other careers. One mom wrote how she has a toddler, is pregnant, has extra responsibilities with her teaching job due to COVID and she is drowning. “What can I do to relieve the stress?” she implored.

A dad of three confessed to me recently that he has sought counseling for the first time in his life. A strong man of faith, the increased isolation and uncertainty of the time is getting to him. He needs a safe place to process.

This Tuesday I have the pleasure of being a guest speaker for a MOPS group in Michigan. The theme I’m supposed to talk about is Be Strong. What a timely theme! It seems there is much to fear right now. Life can leave us feeling pretty weak right now when even going to the grocery store is a more difficult task. I still find empty shelves for things I need and I realize I’m using more brain power in order to check all of the items off of my list. I read recently that living in a pandemic is similar to visiting another culture. Rhythms we once held for common tasks are thrown off kilter so we really do have to think harder these days.

Each of the people above made some good choices. The first realized something needed to change and started focusing on self-care, which included simple things like connecting with a friend. The second mom reached out to ask advice and people responded with some great ideas. The dad I talked to was right on track by recognizing he needed some professional intervention. Sometimes being strong is best accomplished by admitting we need help.

I have undoubtedly had worse years in my personal life than 2020. This year has been a breeze for me compared to a couple in my past. For some, this is most certainly one of the worst. I do worry a bit as we enter the winter months. I always find it harder to regulate my mood during the coldest season. I’ve coped well the last several months by hiking and spending a lot of time outdoors. As that gets a little harder/less enjoyable to do, I’ll have to be more creative and intentional.

Don’t be afraid to communicate your struggles to your spouse, a friend, or a counselor. So many are fighting tooth and nail to remain positive. If you find yourself there, you are certainly not alone.

I was recently reminded of how God provided manna for the Israelites in the desert one day at a time. God asked them to depend on Him for what they needed just for the day. Any extra gathered would rot. In my darkest times I have found it best to focus on the present. The future might seem terrifying, but God can give us what we need just for the moment. Devoting energy to troubling thoughts is just like rotting manna. As Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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