A Lesson on Dirt and Fear

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It’s springtime on our little farm here in Oregon, which means everything is green and bursting with new life. I love this time of year, but it’s also bittersweet. On May 3rd, it will mark 10 years since my mom died. I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of her at this time and I continue to be amazed how I can feel such joy and happiness, while also feeling such sorrow.

Today was the day I decided to start the garden. My husband had tilled and it was ready. But, ready for what? All I saw when I looked at it was a big plot of land, looming back at me. Empty.

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I’ve been eyeing that dirt for the last few days. Intimidated by its vast size and blankness. Instead of seeing it’s potential, I saw and felt fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear of all the “what ifs.” It was the same fear I felt after my mom died and when I made the decision to stop drinking. I was filled with fear of the unknown.

As I was making the bed this morning, I began crying as the fear poured out of me. Doubt started taking over. I couldn’t do this. What if I had gotten in over my head with this farm stuff? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” gardener? What if everything I planted in that plot of dirt died? I needed my mom. She was the real gardener. She would know exactly how to turn that brown piece of dirt into a lush garden.

As tears rolled down my face, I walked into the bathroom where my husband was getting ready. One look and he pulled me into his arms. He reminded me that my mom’s here – she’s always here. She’s by my side, quietly watching and teaching me as I walk through this life. And, he reminded me that I can do hard things. I can walk through the fear because I’ve done it before. I did it when I gave birth to our daughter four months after my mom died, not knowing anything about being a mom myself. I did it when I walked into that first recovery meeting, not knowing a single person or what to expect. I continue to do it when I share my story with others, unaware of how they will perceive me or what they will say.

Fear is real and it paralyzes us if we allow it to. But, making a choice to walk through the fear, to push it aside and instead see the possibilities of the new and unknown – that is freedom.

I spent all day in the garden today. Plotting, staking, digging rows and planting seeds one by one, envisioning the new seedlings poking up through the barren land. Tired and sore, I was faithful that the vast emptiness would one day reap a great harvest.

By continuing to walk through these moments of fear, I experience peace, joy, faith in the unknown and the freedom to be my true self, which is a beautiful thing.

Walking Through Fear

 

Have You Ever Heard the Ground Talk?

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No, I’m not going crazy – oh wait, I was but I take Prozac for that crazy. There really is a story here….

Yesterday, was one of those days you look back on and go “huh?”

Just as we were waking up the power went off…well, crud. So, we got out the lanterns (battery operated that is) and managed to get the kids ready for school – sans coffee. Not good. Not good at all.

By the time I got to the coffee shop I had a raging headache and was practically pleading for an IV drip with caffeine. Apparently, this is what a coffee withdrawal feels like, which I had never experienced before – at least not to that degree. Like I told a friend, it was either coffee or a dark room and a tranquilizer. Fortunately, I got my coffee.

Later in the morning, the power went on, but not before my husband determined that in an emergency I would be a barrel of fun without coffee (or gasp – my Prozac!). He was very matter of fact that in such a case, he would just lock me up with some cleaning supplies and call it good (because by then my OCD would be so bad I would be perfectly content cleaning for hours on end). I’m afraid he’s not too far from the truth.

Being the optimistic person I am (I’m trying!), I had little hope that the rest of the day would be much better. As I’m writing this, I keep having that phrase “turn that frown upside down” run through my mind – any who….

A couple of hours later my husband walked through the door and declared he was taking advantage of the beautiful day to spread dirt. Well, okay. And, I thought “what the heck, I’ll spread some dirt.” Why not?

The sun was out, it wasn’t raining and as I raked the dirt back and forth over the wet ground, I felt the fresh air going in and out of my body. My arms were working hard and I could feel the muscles in my back burning. As I looked around, I realized THIS is where I belong. This is where I’m truly my happiest. Outside, working “our” land, which isn’t really “ours” but God’s. And, I’m but a caretaker, using my God-given body to look after this beautiful place we now call home.

As I walked across the area that will soon be our garden, I stopped suddenly and asked my husband, “do you hear that?” “What?” he said. “The ground; the ground is talking.” And, sure enough he could hear it as well. Bubbling, soaking in the moisture; as though it was quietly whispering to us and welcoming us home.

To simply be quiet and see and hear the beauty in a day that didn’t start out so beautiful…a gift.

 

 

The Little Things

As I sit here on day four of post-surgery recovery, I’m tired but I’m so grateful for some of the little things, like taking a hot shower (alone), shaving my legs, going pee like a normal person without a catheter attached to me and the texts, calls and meals from family and friends.

I’m grateful for my husband who took over all the household duties and selflessly cared for me, which included emptying my “pee bag” and holding it while I took a shower; for my children who were so sweet and caring (and quiet) when I first came home from the hospital; for the first nurse I saw as I came out of surgery who happened to be a friend from my recovery program who kissed my forehead and reassured me everything was okay (definitely a God shot!).

I’m grateful for the message I received today from one of my doctors telling me my results were benign. I’m grateful that I could take my pain medication as prescribed and have no desire to take more than I needed, which can be a major issue for those of us in recovery regardless if we were previously addicted to them or not.

I’m grateful for my God who is with me in not just the good times, but the times when I’m scared or uncertain of what’s to come. Who gives me strength and peace in knowing that His will for my life has already been determined. I am not in control.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this blog. As you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing as much lately. I’ve felt a distance growing, which makes me think it’s time to bring this chapter to a close. Maybe I’ll start a new blog that focuses on something different. Maybe I’ll just focus on life as it happens.

I know this; my main focus is being the best mom and wife I can be. My sobriety has made that possible. My children are getting older and I want to be present for every moment possible.

More than anything, I want to focus on those little things that often get overlooked in our efforts to always be “doing” or “going” or “making.” I feel the need to be still.

God bless you on your journey.

 

 

 

 

And, God Said Be Still

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On the 7th of this month, God said, be still. He said stop your busyness, throw away your to-do list, spend time with your family and just be. How did He do this? He sent snow. Lots and lots of snow. More snow than we’ve had in over five years. And, then He sent freezing rain. And, we were stuck. We were snowed in for three days. And, we were together.

On the first day, in the midst of my kids arguing, I said, God I don’t know if I can do this. And, I went downstairs (we have a daylight basement) and locked the door. I took some deep breathes and I prayed for patience. And, God said, you’ve got this. And, I did. That’s the thing about my God, He’s usually right.

The next day, it snowed a lot. As I stood in the kitchen cooking a big breakfast, looking out at the snow falling, I felt peace. Peace in the simplicity of a morning where we weren’t rushing out the door; or barking orders at each other. Peace in my children’s laughter and excitement over the new fallen snow. Peace in sitting with my husband, drinking our coffee and just being.

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We played, built snowmen and sledded down my in-law’s driveway. We didn’t need fancy sleds. Boxes worked just fine. We used my husband’s childhood sled to walk around the neighborhood, visiting friends along the way. It could have been anywhere; at any point in time. We were just a family – sledding, laughing and being together.

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Sledding

And, God said, Chenoa, I know you’re not a big board game player, but you’re going to play a game as a family, because, really, what else do you have to do that’s more important? And, so we played a game of Chutes and Ladders and we laughed. And, I said, okay God, that was fun but I’m pretty sure that game is rigged because every time you get to the top, you have to slide down one of those damn chutes and it’s impossible to win. And, He laughed, because He knows it’s true.

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We baked cookies, watched movies, did puzzles, danced and sang (I’m pretty sure my husband and I could both sing that “Frozen” song word for word). And, I didn’t worry about running out of wine – because before, that’s what I would’ve worried about. Because, before, that’s how I “coped” with my kids. Now, the only thing I worried about running out of was my coffee and Prozac. Because, God knows I need both of those to function. Yes, my God has a sense of humor.

And, in the silence of the snow, God said, this was good. This was good because it made you be still. That’s what I love about my God. He knows what I need, when I need it most.

Finding Joy in the Silence

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I grew up in the fog on the coast of California, but nothing compares to the thick, cold fog that has engulfed us over the past few weeks in the Oregon valley where we live. It’s hard to tell whether it’s 7 am or 4 pm, each day rolling into night only to repeat itself the next day. To say it’s depressing is an understatement. It’s why so many of us (despite the cancer warnings) are often tempted to find refuge in a tanning bed. I won’t, but, as I write this, it sounds absolutely amazing.

Today, despite the frigid temperatures and thick, white fog, I decided to bundle up and get some much needed yard work done. I was beginning to feel suffocated inside, surrounded by the stale air and constant buzz of the forced air heater. The air was cold and crisp, and hung low covering the yard like a thick blanket. It reminded me of the English moors that I’ve so often read about in the Secret Garden or Wuthering Heights, eerily enchanting.

My outfit on the other hand, was anything but enchanting.

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As I worked my arms back and forth, cutting down the grasses that had become brown and wilted, I felt a surge of energy pulse through my body. I could feel the blood flowing through my veins, heating my body up and giving me a burst of energy. As I breathed the cold, thick air in and out, I felt my lungs come alive, grateful for the fresh air.

Despite the silence and starkness of the yard, I heard birds chirping nearby, perhaps cheerfully optimistic of the upcoming Spring. As I pulled the remaining growth from the raised garden beds, I found great satisfaction in the flat, emptiness of the beds. Instead of seeing them as sad and empty, I saw the great potential for next season’s crops. I thought of the parallels between those garden beds and my life and an upcoming panel I’ve been asked to be part of where I will share my story of recovery. I saw those empty beds as my life when I made the decision to get sober – sparse and barren, yet so full of potential. I’ve been nervous and apprehensive about sharing my story in a panel-like format, but today I realized the power that a once empty, but now overflowing garden bed could have on one looking in from the outside. To see potential is to have hope.

As I walked through the yard, picking up debris from the recent windstorm, I thought of my mom who I often feel closest to while I’m gardening or doing yard work. I felt her presence all around me and pictured her in her robe and slippers working in her yard as I would so often find her growing up. I imagined her pointing out all the new growth on the camellias or the first glimpses of Spring in the daffodils pushing up through the hard, cold dirt. And, I realized no matter how much time passes, I still miss her just as much now as I did back then.

Yet, regardless of the sadness and longing I felt, I found a deep sense of peace and joy in the silence of the cold, thick fog – and hope in the new signs of life growing up all around me.

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