It was strange to have him gone. The office felt bare and quiet. Adela gleefully filled the empty desktop with the Lego jungle she was creating. I tucked a stray paperclip into a drawer and wandered back into the kitchen. A second pot of coffee gurgled forth from the old coffee maker. Jovani had taken the thermos full into the bunkhouse where he had set up camp out of the house. After nine months, we agreed that having a office inside the house was providing more distraction than it was worth. A few yards away he would have a chance to focus.
I get that. I know mankind has touted the "multitasking" badge around for a few decades, but I doubt we were ever created to do that with peace. Believe me, I've tried. I can either watch a movie OR clean up after dinner. If I try to do both I lose my patience with everyone and everything. I'm a terrible listener if I'm looking at my phone. I fail to remember Micaela's meds if I'm already planning tomorrows agenda.
Truly, we were made to have distinction in our lives. Distinction that separates one task from another. One day from the next. One season from what comes ahead.
In Genesis, God spends the first few days, creating the earth in opposites. There is dark and then He makes light. He makes day and then night. He makes dry ground come up from the waters. He marks the seasons.
It was time for Jovani to get some separation from us and our happy chaos so that work could be work and home could be home. Family time feels more complete when he is there to spend time with us and doesn't need to juggle anything else.
As I begin this new year, I want to stay sensitive to the areas of my own life that need distinction. Even the little things need their separate space so that I came experience them fully. May God mark the spaces of my life and leave me little question to treasure their individual space.
But I trust in you, O Lord;
Where do you sense you need some separation or distinction in places of your own life?
I attacked the bottom of the stainless steel pan, raking the S.O.S pad across the surface as if that cookware had affronted me personally. A little hand came to rest on the side of my leg.
Micaela happily announced, "Uh, oh, Mama. Can you help me put it on the tree?"
Her hands clutched a sparkly green ornament whose marketing promise of "shatter free" has been put to the test an exhausting number of times in the last few days.
It was my own fault.
Micaela's talking is so exciting. Last year she said a handful of single words. Now she is talking up a storm. Last year she thought the round ornaments on the tree were all toy balls that had accidently landed in their prickly perches. This year she loves to admire them and leave the where they are...except the sparkly green ones. You see, the first time she made one fall off, I patiently said, "Uh, oh. That fell off. Would you like me to help you put it on the tree?"
And the game began.
Poor thing. No one thinks this is as fun as she does. Out of desperation I've begun to hide those horrid green sparkling balls and even have got angry enough to put them in "time out." However, Micaela will not be ignored. She is fighting to connect with us. As her language grows she is discovering new ways to interact with her family and it is more exciting to her than almost any other activity in her world these days.
I think more a few of us can sympathize with that hunger. Humans are social creatures with an inborn love of connecting with others. Some of us need more connection than others but we all crave something. I admit to being very blessed during this pandemic. Living on a farm right across the road from my father and brother, I have regular meaningful connections with some of my family. In fact, with the work of ranching, we connect often with much of our extended family. It is an essential part of life. Still, there are friends and family I miss dearly. I can't wait for this to be over.
Micaela found this one, silly, but fun way to connect with us. It makes her so happy.
I think about all the loved ones I am missing these days and ask God to help me connect with each one in a way that brings us all some peace.
How have you been able to connect with the people you love these days?
The world was white when we woke up. A soft, heavy snow fell silently to the ground. The air held a pensive quality, as though it might be holding its breath. There was none of our usual wind to whip the snow into drifts. It sat gently on every leaf, every twig, and every living creature that held still long enough to gather a flake or two.
Adela squealed so loud when she saw it that she jump-started my heart. Miceala laughed. All I could think was, Thank You, God. Our land has become desperately thirsty.
It was a long day indoors. Adela and Micaela began a typical sister-battle. Micaela wants to copy everything her sister does and says. Adela hates it. I'm sure it feels like an intrusion on her autonomy. Jovani and I love watching Micaela developing by leaps and bounds, but it is hard not to notice how difficult it is on our older daughter. Adela was quickly driven outdoors into the snow in order to spend time with the kittens under the shelter of the hay shed.
Later that day, my brother brought home a dogie calf and Adela went outdoors again. When I went outside to inspect the newest addition to the farm, I found a sight that stopped me.
It was that same pensive feeling around the shed. A soft peace that surrounded the area. I found Adela with her arms wrapped around a tiny black calf, talking to it in soft nurturing tones. It was the first time that day I saw her truly at peace. Just as the snow had soaked into our land, time spent with one of God's quiet creatures had eased the frustration in my daughter's heart.
In retrospect, we are never that far from God nurturing our souls. He knows how thirsty we are, how depleted, how desperate. Right when we feel that we could not go another day, another moment, He provides unexpected blessings meant to soak deep into our being and strengthen us in the next breath. It was breathtaking watching Him do this for Adela. It made me pause and consider how He provides for me daily, just the way I need it.
Micaela was gleefully shoving winter squash into our shoes in the entryway when we got back. However, Adela laughed with her sister this time and gently admonished her. Just as I should not worry that God won't provide for me, I should not worry that He won't intimately provide for my daughters' hearts and souls.
How has God surprised you with a heart-healing moment?
Conspiratorily, Adela and I walked into the room where Micaela played. Adela held out a box to her sister and said, "Micaela, we have something for you."
I watched with a proud heart as Adela helped her sister open the box to reveal her new pair of pink glasses with her new prescription and matching shoes that fit her AFO's. Micaela flapped her little hands in excitement as we fitted her braces into the shiny pink shoes and slid the glasses over her head. I hugged her and said, "I like your pink shoes and your pink glasses, Micaela. They are very pretty."
She grinned and exclaimed, "Micaela is pretty!"
Adela and I laughed and hugged her hard enough that she squirmed in our arms. She leaned back and very deliberately articulated, "Thank you." My eyes stung as they filled with tears.
She stood up and flapped her hands the whole way through the house on her way to show Jovani her new kicks and specs. Our little girl is pretty in pink.
Micaela has so much equipment. Another little girl, older and more knowing, might want contact lenses and high heels, but Micaela is content with her family telling her that she is beautiful. That is enough.
Most of all, she is thankful.
We are all thankful. I watch her walk and am reminded of the miracles...the incredible answers to endless prayers. When I watch her, I am at peace. My trust in God fills my heart.
Perhaps, mine is the most miraculous blessing of all. The storms of life have kept me close to God and Micaela reminds me of this with every step, every spoken word, and every night she is brough safely into the morning sun. Thankfulness is etched into the deepest corners of my soul.
Is a grateful heart keeping you close to God today?
I refreshed the weather app on my phone and slid my finger past the next 10 days. No rain. Not even a chance.
My stomach rolled over with fear. Restless, I stood up from my chair and softly padded my sock-covered feet to the windows. I stared at the wind, furiously moving dust and leaves and yellow grass.
Lord, I prayed, please send us some rain.
Determined I went back to my endtable and grabbed up my Bible. God made so many promises to the Isrealites to bless their country with rain and I wanted to hear one. I am an adopted daughter of God, that means He promised rain to me as well, right? My mind eagerly snatched at a formula: Find the verse + pray the verse = God remembering His promise and makes it rain.
This is where you the reader can shake your head and say, "Poor, girl."
Well, God in His mercy directed me to something else. I found Moses blessing to Isreal right before he died in Deuteronomy 33:26-29. While God does promise "dew from Heaven", He primarily emphasises that He is our reguge, that we are in His arms, and that He protects us.
My soul sighed, my shoulders relaxed. God is already here.
We all do this. We fixate on a problem, small or enormous, and all we want is for God to intervene. We want it now. We just know that an answer would set our world right. If you are anything like me, you have a hard time with any semblence of contentment until you get what you "need".
We are already protected and safe. Even before the answer from God or the miraculous intervention from Heaven, we are loved, in God's arms, and overloaded with His blessings.
I stopped refreshing my weather app and decided prayer was enough. I am bringing the need for rain to God, often multiple times a day, but I am not waiting for rain to have peace and joy. That, my friend, would be an insult to our Lord who "rides across the heavens to help you".
The next time you feel the agony or fear of an unanswered problem in your life, take a moment and revel in the truth that you rest in the arms of your everlasting Father.
What problems are filling your mind and heart these days?
I wrapped Micaela in my arms and began to play the "face game". Her body was warm, her eyes sleepy. In the opposite recliner chair, Adela was curled up on Jovani's lap. The house smelled like the popcorn I had made on the stove. The news talked to us from the television.
My shoulders dropped. In that moment, the world felt delicious.
I took in all the details of Micaela face as we named emotions and changed our faces from "surprise" to "anger" to "happy" and so on. Every once in a while Micaela would let out her tiny little roar and I would pretend to be scared. She giggled.
Worry niggled at the back of my mind.
The side of her head bore a quickly growing bump. She had fallen five times in the last few minutes before I scooped her up and decided to hold her the last little while before bed.
Falling has become a new norm as we go through the tedious process of slowly introducing Micaela to a new Epiplepsy drug. The medicine makes her dizzy. The neurologist asked that we push through the process and see how her body reacts after it has had some time to acclamate.
The process is scary and frustrating, but necessary.
Isn't this true for all of us? When we move toward good and lasting change, the process is often frustrating. We must compell ourselves to endure through discomfort, people telling us we should give up, loved ones asking us if it is really worth it.
I love reading Nehemiah, the book in the Bible where the Isrealites return to Jeruselum to build a wall of protection around the city. It was tough. The nay-sayers were loud. The enemy was dangerous. But once they finished, the wall protected them from assault.
There are some pretty awesome habits, customs, and atitudes God has called on us the build with Him if we will have the fortitude to stand firm through the process. With God, we can build our own walls of protection.
Have you started working on a wall? Perhaps it is a new prayer habit or a new healthy eating plan or a dedication to learning a new skill. As you strive for this change, you feel the push back from the world, friends, and even your very self.
Don't give up. Ask God for discernment and protection and keep going with His blessing.
Our family has chosen to wait out the side-effects of Micaela's new medicine. In the past, her body gets used to a drug within a few weeks and the side-effects lessen or dissapear. We are hoping for an added layer of protection from her seizure which are markedly decreased since her surgery last year.
As I hold her, I thank God for this moment, a moment of peace, and I ask for His strength as we continue to work on that wall.
Have you ever had to stand firm through a grueling process meant to better your world when you got to the other side?
I absolutely could not sleep. My eyes closed and filled with visions of the laminated lists and perfectly packed lunch boxes.
It was done.
It was all done.
Nothing to worry about.
But still my heart hammered inside my chest.
There is a mom out there, more easy-going than I, probably getting a good chuckle at my anxiety. I know there are plenty of families out there who make through everyday without spreadsheets and timers on their phones. They probably enjoy each other a bit more than me and mine do these days.
I am simply terrified that something isn't going to get done.
Like, what if a teacher texts me that Micaela's breath smells? Or, what if Adela starves at school because she didn't have her lunch?
While I love my children, a more honest voice inside me confesses my motivation is desperation not to mess anything up.
Nearly at the end of my mental and emotional capabilities, I needed God to speak into my life. For this particular instance a few weeks ago, He used my sister. I called her because she is an organization guru and I wanted some tips and tricks to incorporate into my infallable system. I told her about my insomnia. I could hear the smile in her voice when she told me two things: First, I would get used to this new working-mom routine and would start sleeping again. And, second, I would mess up and realize that life could go on with mistakes.
I breathed out slowly and realized that I had not been allowing God any control.
I'm in week six of working and I am now sleeping again. I have gotten used to the new routine. Also, I have a more gorgeous view of my family supportively picking up the slack. Jovani has become a pro at getting the girls school-ready. Adela is feeding animals, emptying the dishwasher, and double-checking her backpack. Micaela kisses me goodbye and gives me a joy-filled grin as I leave.
The more I give up control of what I've held onto so tightly, God fills my hands with blessings. It is so easy to make plans and systems a kind of idol that edges my trust in God out of the way. The more I had focused on trying to become organized and prepared enough, I had taken my focus off of the magnitude of God's love and power.
Sometimes we have to let go of something for God to hand us the blessings we have been waiting for all along.
When has God surprised you most with unexpected blessings?
The air filled with the smell of animals and the powdered dust kicked up by the sheep's tiny hooves. Adela's ponytail swished back and forth in the air. I smiled and shook my head as a lamb, near the size of her mother, tried to nurse and her eager movements almost lifted the ewe off the ground.
It was a good thing today was weaning day.
I love working days. We begin with a family breakfast that usually involves extended family and friends coming over to help with the work and enjoy each other's company. As we work, everyone has an oportunity to be involved. The pastures and pens are a flurry of activity as the animals are gathered and sorted. The lambs are given booster vaccinations and taken to different feeding grounds. The mothers are given rest and a chance for their bodies to recover from the work of nursing lambs before they are bred again.
So many families are busy these days. We live in a "divide and conquer" world. Parents work. Kids go to school. However, on a farm or ranch, we literally live where we do much of our work. Our kids get to go out with us. We can share a huge part of our lives together. I grew up on a ranch about thirty minutes from where I live now. My weekends were spent checking cows with my dad or tying fence. I still enjoy the close relationship I have with my father.
I am blessed beyond beleif that as we share our life and our work with our children, we get to build relationships with them that will last a lifetime.
It is just another reason that while farming and ranching isn't easy, it is beautiful.
What part of your life are you blessed to share with your family?
It started the week I began working. Adela had a very rough attitude. She was uspet, sad, or angry about everything.
I am a ridiculously emphatic person. I will feel what anyone around me is feeling. So, my eight-year-old's negative vibes brought me down to a new low. We wallowed in it together. There were way too many tears and raised voices. We could not seem to get out of that cycle.
Finally, afraid that I might commit a terrible act if I did not put an end to the circus, I told her, "You are completely allowed to feel all your feelings, Adela, but I am not going to feel them with you."
Expecting more tears, I was shocked when she erupted into giggles. The giggles turned into full-body laughter and the unicorn on her little pink dress danced with her merriment.
I had to laugh, too. To my young daughter, what I said must have sounded absurd, but for me, it was completely liberating.
If there is a sin that I hold on to tightly, it is the belief that I am responsible for fixing everyone. If someone is sad, I make them happy. If they are angry, I calm them down. If they are anxious, I try to be a peaceful voice.
However, I was listening to a podcast about personalities, and heard a psycologist say that so many emotions must be felt. Sometimes, the most healing thing we can do is settle into the feeling and let it run its course. Only then can we identify the thoughts and memories that hurt us and take a step toward healing.
Also, it definitely is something people need to do for themselves without me running over and covering them with emotional anesthetic.
So, my new motto is, "Feel all those feelings, child. I am just not going to feel them with you."
Adela did eventually figure out the root of all her negativity. I was proud of her voicing her fears and anxieties. Together we worked out new ways of thinking about the changes in our home and school. My happy little girl is back.
When someone you love is hurting, how do you come along side them?
My cheeks instantly flushed as I stepped out into the humid afternoon. On the horizon, the sky was darkening, the clouds building and bubbling. As I bent down to turn off the dripline to my garden, I smelled the rain on the air. I wondered if the storm would bless us or pass us by again.
So is the life of a New Mexican living here on the Great Plains. We can see a storm and watch it pass by us, so close we could touch it and smell it, and not get a patch of ground wet. We can also go from sunshine to flash flood in mere minutes. We don't really know for sure until it is happening.
The storms are the perfect analogy for my life right now. I'm at a season of change. Micaela's sudden developmental leaps have left us with a little girl who walks and talks about her favorite color. Adela's maturity and quick wit means I have a growing daughter willing to help with chores and care for her little sister. With their growing independence, motherhood for me has changed.
And I don't know what it means. I'm waiting. I'm putting my feet forward and testing the waters. I have taken on responsibilities in our new company, A&G Family Meats. I am even going to start a job outside my own home. For a woman who hasn't been formally employed since teaching in 2011, I feel as if I am venturing into an alien world. A world that requires me to put my coffee into a mug with a lid and drive away.
As I look to the days ahead, I have no idea what they will bring or what challenges will be faced. However, I am at peace with the thought that I am not alone. My God who sends the rains will bless my life with His never ending goodness.
What helps you juggle home and work?
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"...and God was already there with me."