Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Finding joy despite the hormones

Today is just one of those days - and not for any good reason. Or at least, not for any good external reason.

Yes, my little ones were particularly destructive creative this morning while I did school with my oldest. There are legos and bionicles quite literally covering our playroom/schoolroom floor. My two-year-old daughter ate a steady stream of fruit leather and managed to touch at least 98% of everything we own with her sticky hands. When it was time to get dressed, no one wanted to. When it was time to eat breakfast, no one wanted anything we have. When it was time to go to the library, no one wanted to go. When it was time to leave the library, everyone wanted to stay.

But all of that is normal, day-to-day stuff. And yet today, I find myself feeling like just taking one more step, cleaning up one more mess, getting out one more snack... is going to make me snap.

Why? Hormones. Ah, the joys of being a woman.

Yes folks, PMS rears it's ugly head. I'm still not really used to the ups and downs of my cycle and each month it does not fail to surprise me that I spend a day or two feeling.. out of sorts. I spent most of my twenties either on birth control pills (gasp! I know, I know), or trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant (unsuccessful because I have a hormone disorder called PCOS). I spent years having either unnatural, medication induced cycles, or not having regular cycles because of my PCOS. Then I spent a number of years (finally) having and nursing babies. But my daughter turned two in August, and she stopped nursing when she was about 15 or 16 months old. Thanks to a lot of research and changes in my diet (as well as regular exercise), I've been in the ranks of "regulars" to the (often dreaded) monthly visit for a while now. But somehow, I'm not quite used to it.

It occurred to me early on today why I was not feeling like my usual, (mostly) cheerful self. And yet, simply knowing that I'm in the midst of a hormone crash doesn't seem to override its effects. So what is a busy mom to do?

Well, since I don't have any wine or good chocolate in the house, I suppose I will just have to take the advice of one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. No, he didn't exactly have advice for PMS'ing mothers, but he did say something to the effect of (and I'm grossly paraphrasing here), "Fake it till you make it." He wasn't exactly talking about being happy when you want to curl up in a ball with a hot water bottle and a glass of wine. But his advice to those seeking to become righteous (ask, what would a righteous man do, and then act accordingly, and soon you will find you are) seems to apply here. Act like a happy mom, do the things a happy mom would do, and pretty soon, I may just be that happy mom.

I'm not talking, plaster a fake smile on my face and white knuckle it through my day. What I need to do is catch myself in those moments when I feel like blowing up at my kids, or locking myself in my room, and think, "What would a happy mom do?" or at least, "What would I do if I didn't feel like mud?" Then do that. Smile at my children. Take a deep breath when they ask me, again, for another snack when I'm in the midst of doing something else. Hug them when I'm feeling the urge to send them outside and lock the back door (not that I would actually do that, in case that isn't obvious).

And lean on the grace of God. I'm sadly imperfect and flawed through and through. But with His help, I can be a good mother today, even though I don't particularly feel like it.

Fake it till I make it. Breathe. Smile. Enjoy today anyway.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving... for realz

My husband has been looking for a new job....

It has been a little stressful, but we've tried really hard to use the experience as a means to grow in faith...

And still, stressful....

But the wait is over! He officially accepted a new job yesterday.

(Cue great, big, giant sigh of relief here)

It is a great job, a step up and in the right direction, pays great and will hopefully allow him to finish his degree and keep moving ahead in his career. I am convinced he is part kender (if you haven't read the Dragonlance series, a kender is a small Hobbit-ish race who are typically infected with acute Wanderlust and are extremely averse to routine and being bored)... (and if you don't know what I mean by Hobbit-ish, I can't help you).... So he's part kender, and being bored is pretty much the most dangerous thing on the planet for him. This job looks to be decidedly not boring and full of opportunity. The drawback is that it is a long commute away - 60 miles, and there's always traffic. But they easily agreed to a partial telecommuting schedule, which will have him driving up there only half the time.

It is amazing how quickly he went from having nothing in the works to having a great new job. Last Friday he got the news that our good friend (his partner in the soon-to-be-closing business) got a job offer. He didn't. They'd both interviewed with the same company, but they apparently didn't need both of them. He was pretty disappointed, and it wasn't what he had expected.

However, you know what they say about a door closing? He realized immediately that if our friend took this job offer, that left one of their current clients up for grabs. My husband had stepped aside from pursuing their client, since he thought our friend was going to go after that job. When our friend truned it down, he jumped after the opportunity. Monday, he emailed the executive director. Tuesday they met in person. Wednesday he accepted the job.

It's amazing how quickly it all fell into place.

And the timing, well, what could be better than getting a job offer - a good one - the day before Thanksgiving! Now we get to spend the holidays NOT worrying about whether or not he'll be employed in January.

So yes, we have a heck of a lot to be thankful for this year. I'm so thankful for my husband who does such a fabulous job of providing for our family. And I'm thankful to God for extending us His grace and helping us weather through the last few months with our sanity intact (well, mostly - although it's arguable how intact it was in the first place).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Big day - job search progress

My husband's job search continues. Today he has two big meetings, either of which could result in a job offer. There are pros and cons to both possibilities, and honestly, I'm not sure which one I'm rooting for. There are still some unknowns and my hope is that he'll come away with some concrete answers and have a better idea of the possibilities.

I'm glad there is some progress and will be so thankful when the uncertainty is over!

This is such a test of our faith. We're both working very hard to not let ourselves drown in worry, and instead rest in our faith that God will lead us in the right direction. That, and remember all the things we have to be thankful for - whether this week is Thanksgiving or not. We do have a lot to be grateful for and things could be so much worse. So, so much.

If anyone happens to read this, I would greatly appreciate any prayers you could offer for us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spiritual attack

I used to sort of scoff at the idea of spiritual warfare. I mean, wasn't that just something used to explain the unexplained in a time when people simply didn't understand science? All those demons Christ expelled, they were just mentally ill people, right? There can't be any actual bad spirits or demons anything like that. This is the modern world here. Right?

I'm not one to go seeing demons around ever corner or claim they are responsible for my sinful behavior; nor am I going to assume that mentally ill people are in fact possessed. But I also can't discount how the spiritual realm touches the natural world. After all, I believe in angels. If there are spiritual beings dedicated to the glory of God, isn't it possible that there are beings who have fallen?

Whatever the literal reality of the spiritual world may be (angels, demons, etc.), for the first time that I am aware, I felt the effects of spiritual attack recently. That's almost weird to type, as if saying it out loud makes me sound kind of crazy. Maybe I'm still coming to grips with admitting that this piece of existence is real.

In any case, I had been on this "I'm so happy I have been obedient to God's call and started homeschooling" kick for a while. Not in a prideful way - I wasn't boasting to my friends about how great a mom I am. It was an internal thing, a realization that God was truly calling me to this life and I listened, despite being unsure. And He was right. It's been a great experience so far and I am thrilled that we chose to pursue it.

So here I am, feeling all full of the Holy Spirit and I wonder if that put a big target on my back. If C.S. Lewis was onto something in The Srewtape Letters, was the demon assigned to me being chastised for allowing me to heed God's call and begin reaping the spiritual fruits of my choice?

Out of nowhere, I got grumpy. I felt PMS-y (yes, I will feel free to make up words), yet it wasn't the right time for that. Hormones didn't explain it. I was tired when I shouldn't be, frustrated over the littlest things, snappy with my kids. I would get to the end of the day and wonder what on earth had been so draining, so awful about the day. Nothing had gone amiss. The kids were typical, the day had been fine. So why was I feeling so crappy?

Yes, we have extra stress in our lives right now. My husband's job search goes on, but even that added stress didn't explain this sudden, random turn of mood that I couldn't seem to get out from under.

And then it occurred to me. Is this what spiritual attack feels like?

Just as I'm riding the high of my new found commitment of obedience to the will of God (and not just in homeschooling - my husband and I have used the job situation as a means to explore our trust in God and it has been a good growing experience despite the stress) - I come crashing down. Nothing external happened to cause my distress, and yet there it was. I was slogging through the mud of self pity and frustration, wet and cold and dirty, despite the sun shining high in the sky.

So I prayed.

I thought about whether this might be what people mean by spiritual attack, and I prayed for protection against it. And you know what happened? I felt better. Instantly. Right then and there. It was as if the only window to the outside world had been wiped clean of dirt and grime, letting the light pour in and warm the room. I felt lighter, less frustrated, renewed. I have felt that way ever since.

Not that I feel happy and perfect every second. I am concerned about my husband's job situation and there are moments when I'm frustrated with my kids and wish I had more hours in the day to get things done. But that oppressive weight that was dragging me down, the weight I couldn't explain, is gone.

I've continued to ask for protection for myself as well as my husband and it has had quite the effect on both of us. I'm glad I have opened my mind to the possibility that spiritual attack is in fact real - otherwise I would have found myself defenseless against it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Trying not to stress... trying.

My husband is looking for a new job. He's been helping run an IT consulting company for the last 7-ish years, but for a variety of reasons, they are essentially closing their doors. Long story. In any case, he will no longer have a job as of January 1st.

We've known this was coming for a while now, so it's not a shock in the least. And when he first started looking for a job, he got so many emails and calls, we figured it wouldn't be hard to find a new job. There are some things that make finding the right job a challenge - commute time, benefits, finding the right "fit". But it seemed as if it would be a matter of looking through the potential opportunities to find the best one.

However, none of these emails or calls have turned into actual job offers. He's had a couple of interviews, but nothing has materialized. One of the more promising opportunities was put on hold. Another seemed like a sure thing, but he has yet to hear anything back from them. Another recruiter told him he'd be getting an interview, but so far, no call.

I am trying very hard not to stress. With the holidays right around the corner and possible unemployment on the horizon, I'm beginning to lose that battle.

I wish I could say that we have been really good with our money and can survive for a few months without an income. Sadly, we can't. We just can't. If he doesn't have a job in January, we are in big, big trouble.

This has been a serious test of faith for us. We are both trying really hard to put our faith in God, that He will lead us in the right direction if we have faith in Him and do our part. But as the weeks tick by, I'm getting nervous. I can't help it. I want to embrace the words of Jesus and not worry about tomorrow. But we have never been in this position before - not with kids, anyway. He was unemployed once before, about a year before we had our oldest son. It was very short lived, he had a severance package and unemployment, and we weathered the change without difficulty. He did wind up in a job he hated, but he found his current job less than a year later, so it was little more than a pebble in our path at the time.

I struggle because I know that we could lose a lot in this world, in terms of material things, and that's not necessarily what God has promised to provide. He promises that He will provide for our salvation - but He doesn't necessarily promise He'll make sure we can pay our mortgage. A few months out of work would be devastating to us, and although I know that my husband and I would get through it together - who wants to face financial ruin?

This experience has been an emotional roller coaster. We've run the gamut from feeling elated at all the possibilities, to fear and worry as time passes and our future is as yet unsecure.

Today I pray to God that He helps lead us a we move into this time of transition in our lives. I pray that we are open to the possibilities for where He wishes us to go and that He'll provide us the faith, courage and wisdom we need to face whatever lies ahead.