The Redemption of Super Mess

There are two quirks in my personality that cause me the most grief. They have the combined effect of turning me into a complete mess.

  • I’m terrified of feeling overwhelmed.
  • I always bite off more than I can chew.

I try. Really, I do. But invariably I get in over my head so that, naturally, I’m overwhelmed. And, oh yeah, since I’m a perfectionist, even if I’m not having to tread water to stay on top of the work load, I find ways to ruin even manageable responsibilities. So…make that three quirks that cause me grief.

That’s why I quit teaching school full-time. And then, because a perfectionist can drown teaching even just part-time, I quit teaching altogether.

“She’s Super Mom!” Eden said to her daddy the other day. And he agreed. Gosh, I love them. These sweet compliments were traded between bites of a meal which I did not prepare. With the addition of my new full-time teaching job, our lives are so crazy that finding a few minutes to buy groceries is a tremendous feat of organization, patience and energy. I have not these gifts. Not having wholesome, healthy meals prepared for my family is fodder for my beat-yourself-up-mercilessly gene. It sure is sweet that my family is not as hard on me as I am on myself.

Like so many summers before, school started even though I wasn’t ready. Honestly, I’ve tried to cut myself a break because it wasn’t entirely my fault that I wasn’t ready. I spent most of the in-service week before school started without a computer. We started a ladies bible study the week I went back to work. (It was awesome.) We had our very first church plant worship service the night before school started. (God is awesome.) The weekend before I actually had students in the chairs, I managed to go for a long run, write lesson plans, put my classroom together, and buy some new clothes so that I wouldn’t disgrace myself wearing the rags in my closet. I continued to not beat myself up as I got up at 3 A.M. on the morning of the second day to get my lesson ready. OK, I was a little irked with myself, but I did have a good week.

Still, I am too busy, and I’m overwhelmed. I sure don’t feel super.

And then God gave me this…

I ran 17 miles today. Don’t ask me how I harangued myself for settling on 17 instead of 18! (I may have had an epiphany this morning, but I’m still a work in progress.) Lately, I’ve been circling downtown Benton for my long run because it’s about the only place around here that somewhat flat.  At various street corners downtown, markers have been placed in the concrete stamped with famous quotes–ostensibly to inspire or maybe bring a smile to your face. Since my regular route is around downtown, I’m sure I’ve read all of them 100 times. Today, on about my 10th lap, I stomped over the following, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.—Abraham Lincoln.”

How nice. Honest Abe and all his wisdom. Makes me so proud to be an American. And even more proud to be a Christian since Jesus actually said it.

Yes, Abe made the speech “A House Divided.” Right. Got that. But when he borrowed the principle from Jesus, his audience most likely read enough of the bible to know who Abe was quoting–unlike the well-meaning person who stamped it in concrete at the corner of Main and South.

I chuckled about this for half a block. Then it occurred to me that I’d run over this little error again and again for the last year and never noticed. A falsehood—a half-truth—has been laid down and preserved. It’s meant for us to take it in—even subconsciously—as we pass over it and glean whatever wisdom it has to offer. But it’s not exactly true—and for a Christian, very often the source determines the validity.

I pass over falsehoods and half-truths repeatedly every day. Lies that say I have to be perfect. Whispers that claim my best doesn’t measure up. Stamped on the very core of my being is a little fib that says even a tiny slip-up is a crushing failure. I walk right over it. I stand on it. It is foundational to the way I view myself and everything that I do.

This morning, though, God made it pretty clear that those things are not true and He isn’t the source of it either. My life is plain ol’ normal—mom, wife, school teacher—nothing super hero-ish about it. There’s nothing spectacular about my background or my education. I do a few things well, and lots of stuff I don’t even attempt–just like anybody else. I’m pretty ordinary.

But I’ve answered an extraordinary call. God has put me in a lot of roles recently that I’ve hardly felt prepared to fill. I agonize over all the details, all the people who are depending on me, whether or not I can live up to the commitments I’ve made. Yet God sustains and strengthens. He loves and fills up and transforms. And for whatever reason, He blesses me to be a part of what He’s doing. I can offer up what I know is a complete mess to God and He makes it useful.

Someone’s life is going to be different because I was here…being a mess…

I’m not sure I can run that 26 miles. Today I confronted a very real fear that my body just isn’t up to it. And yet, I’ve made 63% of my fundraising goal. Someday soon, a cancer patient will have assistance paying their bills because I was a complete mess after my dad died and decided to do something good.  If you have a few extra bucks, you can click on my fundraising page to make a donation and change lives with me! I need $1875 to reach my goal. Small donations are HUGE!

Every day I juggle all the myriad tasks that make up my teaching job. Want to know something really cool? I love those kids. I hardly knew them a week before I wanted to wrap my arms around the whole lot. God put me there to love and disciple those kids. I’ll do it. I’m an absolute mess, but I’ll do it. The lesson plans will be posted late, the copies won’t be printed out, I’ll be pulling my hair out because I just keep dropping the ball when people are depending on me, but someone’s life will change forever because I answered that extraordinary call.

And finally, the proverbial kicker…I am back to working full-time after I swore I wouldn’t. My husband can now answer God’s call to plant a church because my job provides for our financial needs. Lives will change. Mine already has. Thank you, God, for redeeming the mess.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.         Ephesians 2:10

Little Big Momma Gets Her Back to School Freakshow On

It’s my last day of summer. No, I don’t live in one of those northern, unforgiving environments where it might top off at 60 degrees before blizzard season hits. I live in one of those southern, unforgiving environments where the forecast usually calls for a high around hellish. On a good day, we are treated to mildly hellish with a chance of showers.

Summer is over because I’m a teacher. I feel a little as if this summer signifies the closing of chapter entitled “Rare and Elusive Sanity”, as I’m back to teaching full-time for the first time since May ’06. Realistically though, I’ve always been neurotic, regardless of the work hours, and I frequently teeter on the edge of the abyss. I never exaggerate. And I’m not at all sarcastic, either.

The big question is, am I ready for school to start? I’d love to give a decisive answer, but my brain is a house divided. Periodically in my on/off again teaching career, I’ve mourned the loss of stay-at-home-mom-dom. As anger is part of any grieving process, naturally I get mad at God.

“You’ve robbed me of these precious years with my children!!!!” I would cry, defiant fist held high. “Think of the children!!!”

I imagine this response from the Almighty, elbow resting on the side of the throne, chin in hand, replying tonelessly, “Really? You wanna go there?”

Hmm. Probably not.

First, I can’t say that I’m always the best steward of my time. This summer, I’m juggling time with the girls, a mountain of work to do in preparation for school, and stealing time to write. We’re coming dangerously close to having a leadership team together for our new church, and I will be assisting with a women’s bible study for the next couple of months. Without really thinking about whether I had time or not, I started training for a marathon and fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I’ve got stuff to do. And yet, this is how I spent my morning–

In my defense, an open bible was sitting right next to me on the bed the whole time. I did read it...

In my defense, an open bible was sitting right next to me on the bed the whole time. I did read it…

Before we hit the road for Texas a few weeks ago, I attempted to get the house good and clean. “No one wants to come home to a dirty house,” my mom used to say as she handed out assignments for the kids to complete. Ewww…she’s right. We want to enter a clean home after a day in the car.

So I set about accomplishing this task, after a couple (or three…maybe more) monstrous tantrums at Wal-Mart wherein I had to explain to that sweet, well-meaning stock boy that the five year old shrieking on the aisle 5 floor was not lost. She’s just…mine.

And that’s how it’s done in the summer. Spend a few hours at the pool, have your will to live ironically sucked out of you at the mega chain which claims to help you “live better,” and then try to force a chore list onto your cherubic heirs.

I endured a couple more tantrums because my older daughter, who has always been a little OCD about cleanliness, chose that particular day to decide that she no longer likes to clean and most certainly is NOT mommy’s little helper. Well, excuuuuse me. This is the child who got in big trouble–more than once, mind you–for cleaning her sister’s room without permission. Without my permission. Without her sister’s permission–i.e., throwing away things (artwork) that look like trash and any item (toy) that she can’t find a place for because “she doesn’t even use it!” Good heavens, child. I can’t even get away with that.

Then Little Sister makes a good show of her temper, and I was about to cave because, who am I kidding, I can do it better in a fraction of the time. But suddenly, a miracle. She decides that cleaning’s not so bad with frequent costume changes. She scrubbed the bathroom in her finale outfit. It was stunning–the outfit and the bathroom. I wouldn’t have to re-do it. Huzzah!

Pause the drama for a quick pic.

At this, I can finally turn my attention to the kitchen, which has been too long neglected. While I’m holding my nose, digging through a stack of dishes out of a filthy sink, Eden is vacuuming with a machine whose filter has likewise been neglected. It is doing a fine job of sucking dog hair from the floor evermore blowing dust out the back.

I hung my head in shame at the realization that the backseat of my car is cleaner than my house. Maybe after a day in the car we should just…stay in the car. It’s a miracle God trusted me with children, much less staying home with them all day, year-round.

But today, I moved things along by promising a trip to the pool. I finished up the above nonsense on Facebook and turned my attention to my journal, which is really the only way I can pray with the kids in the house. They had continuously interrupted everything all morning and sure didn’t slow down because I was in talks with God. Emma Kate was babbling excitedly when I finally rose from my bed work station. Then she said something kind of garbled–like the teacher in the old Peanuts cartoons–something about mouthwash and Big Momma.

“Did you just call me…Big…Momma?” I asked incredulously. And what are you insinuating about my breath???

She was too happy about swimming to be contrite. She giggled, “Yeees.”

“Let me tell you something. I’m no Big Momma. I’m Appropriately Sized Momma. The bulges are all…proportional…mostly…” She continues to giggle. Disappearing into the closet, I glance around, and given her assessment of my shape (as unfair and inaccurate as it is), I make a decision. “Girls, Momma can’t find her suit. I can’t get in the water. Shucks and darn it.”

Now we’re at the pool. I’m smiling because the girls are getting along, playing together, and wearing themselves completely out. We’ll be glad for that at bedtime. I continue smiling because there’s a woman here having more problems with her two girls than I am with mine. That little one’s shriek rivals EK’s, which is something most people describe using the words “bloody murder.” It’s okay, lady. Remember the steps. Call your sponsor. See you in group.

At night, I’ve been counting down the waning hours of my summer vacation with a phenomenon I’d completely forgotten about since I left teaching full-time.

Stress dreams.

You’ve had them, right? Anyone? Teachers, haven’t you had that dream in the late summer where you’re going over your procedures with a class of 8th graders on the first day of school and suddenly, to your horror, you realize that you’ve got nothing on but your skivvies? No? Just me?

This summer I’ve had some loo-loos, let me tell you, and the one I’m about to relate goes in the record books. I think its accurate interpretation would have something to do with the fact that Katie doesn’t do stress well and has too many irons in the fire. Here it goes…

In this dream we were staying at my friend Laurie’s house, which is less than a mile from where I live. This would, like most things in dreamland, make no sense if it weren’t for the fact that we stayed with Laurie and her family on about five occasions last year while we were making arrangements to move to Arkansas. I was, at that time, very, very stressed. Back to the dream, I’m feeling all this guilt that we are being an imposition to these lovely friends of ours for the umpteenth time. To compensate, I’m wrangling my children, trying to keep the peace and not be such a nuisance. At the same time, I have piles and piles of books with me, which act as an excruciating reminder that I have got to get out of there and go study. But how could I dump my kids on these poor folks when they have done so much for us already?

At this point, the dream merges with a recurring nightmare that I’ve been having since college, in which I’m late for school but no matter what I do, I can’t get out of the house. Ordinary things like breakfast and dressing take hours. Frantically I check the clock again and again. Each time my anxiety grows and grows. Eight thirty. Nine forty-five. Eleven o’clock…

In this version of the dream, I’m panicking over the hours on Laurie’s clock and trying to get my family out of her door. And just when I think the anxiety is more than I can bear, I realize that I simply can NOT leave the house without my…

Wait for it…

Jogbra.

You read that right. The climax to this drama broiling in my subconscious is the confounded absence of the appropriate women’s workout apparel. I’m turning over suitcases, rifling through closets and bureaus (not mine, remember), and running back and forth to each member of both the houses Beasley and Cox, wailing, “I’m LATE!! Where is it??? Where is my BRA????”

Now, Mr. Sandman, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’ve had some visits of late from your evil twin, Insomnia, and I’m okay with a bizarre dream here and there. But any latent phobia I may have regarding the availability of undergarments for high impact aerobic activity may stay safely housed in my unconscious. Please and thank you.

People keep asking me, “Are you ready for school to start?” I hardly know what to say.

So tell me, teachers? Are you ready? Feeling pressure? Weird dreams? Let’s hear it!

A Little Like an Asthmatic Donkey

In order to get to the shade tree at North and Main, from which the name of this little blog is derived, I have to run a mile uphill. Well, I could drive it, but then I wouldn’t need the shade. The first 1/3 mile has three fairly steep, albeit short hills; though generally it’s uphill. From there it’s a steady climb. And while I’m at it, I may as well mention that what I’m doing isn’t what most people would recognize as “running” so much…but, anyway…

Until recently, that one mile was the number one top reason that I couldn’t get motivated to don the running shoes and head out the door. I’ve done a few half marathons, but the truth is–I’m not much of an athlete. I’m a fake-it-till-you-make-it runner. For ten years I lived, and “trained” (and that’s playing fast and loose with the meaning of that word), in an area of Texas that is completely flat. Prior to that, I lived in places where I could get to a flat spot to run and what fool would go find a hill when they’re really a fake athlete anyway? Furthermore, I actually never trained for anything until two years ago. I ran to support my food habit, and truthfully, there just aren’t enough hours in a day to run enough miles for me to break even, y’all.

Then. Arkansas. Holy crap.

We moved here a year ago. There’s simply no way to get around the dad gum hills. My house is midway up a hill to begin with, so I either start a workout running uphill or end it that way. The easiest approach I could come up with is to tackle that mile hill, ending up at the edge of downtown Benton, which is kinda sorta flat. So then I can run a lap or two around downtown which rolls some and has a couple of steep spots on either end, but that’s about as flat as it gets in Benton. The whole thing has been a little ridiculous.

Simultaneously, I wasn’t meeting any fitness goals. AT. ALL. Not that I need to prove that I’m a fake athlete, but it is evidenced in the following fact. I “trained” for two half marathons in the fall of 2011 and winter of 2012, and I GAINED weight. Now that’s just wrong. The funny thing is, every time I complained about this to a friend, we would invariably have this conversation:

Her: Well, you gain muscle…

Me: Really? In my butt? Does butt muscle split the seam in all your pants?

I appreciate the sentiment, but c’mon, now. I thought making the move and thus running more challenging terrain would make a difference. But, alas.  Even running Arkansas hasn’t done much to reduce the size of my bum.

So, it has all been pretty discouraging until today. We’ve had a little break from the heat.  It rained through my whole workout today. I made it to the top of that hill, right through the intersection at North and Main, and kept going and going. Up and down more hills that have plagued me since I moved here. I only stopped, if necessary, for traffic (and not because I was sucking wind so hard that I sound like an asthmatic donkey) and actually felt like I wanted to keep going when the workout ended.

Thank God. It’s finally getting easier. And it only took a year.

A year ago this week, we moved to Arkansas. So many challenges and obstacles went before that decision. It bordered on hellish there for awhile. I asked God on multiple occasions, “When do we get to rest?” But one thing I’ve noticed since we finally took the leap (decided to come here without jobs to start a church, etc….it’s all in another post), it is getting easier FINALLY. It’s not getting easier because the hills have shrunk because they certainly have not. Maybe chugging up and down the mountains before had better prepared us for what lay ahead. Maybe we don’t need rest as often because we’re conditioned to tackling the hills in faith.

Team in Training Savannah

Before I sign off, I’m still fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On October 27th, I’m running the Rock n Roll St. Louis Marathon. Probably the most powerful thing that I’ve heard since I started training is that a cancer patient can’t hit the snooze button and sleep through a day of treatment. I encounter that temptation every time I put on my gear to walk out the door. Some days, I just don’t want to face the hills–and that’s not to mention the heat! My dad couldn’t just say, “No bone marrow aspiration today. I’m just not up for it.” And so I train, even when I just don’t think I can.

But here’s some AMAZING NEWS!!! I found out this week that I now have a company sponsor that will match dollar for dollar every donation up to my $5000 goal. That means that when I make it to my goal, it will actually double to $10,000! If you’d like to help, just click here. Small donations are HUGE!

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”   Psalm 121:1-2

How Much is Left?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m running a marathon (the whole dad gum thing!) with Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. One thing that can’t be stressed enough about the research funds that will benefit from my efforts is that they ultimately support treatments for a spectrum of other illnesses. Therapies that were developed for blood cancers have helped patients with many other cancers as well. And, have you noticed? Cancer is everywhere. We need research funding to put an end to it! We all benefit from the work that LLS is doing.

Having a cancer diagnosis hit so close to home has left me with, not only grief, but a general skittish feeling. Will it come for me? My husband? My kids?

Emma Kate and Papa Bear

Even if I never have a personal encounter with cancer again, it’s left its mark. This is my little girl Emma Kate with her “Papa Bear.” Sweet, right? She loved my daddy and I was so looking forward to her discovery of all the things that made him a great man–besides the fact that he would hold her in his lap while she ate her Cheerios. One of my biggest regrets is that my girls didn’t get to see him one last time before he died. This picture was taken at the zoo the last time that Emma Kate got to visit with my dad. She was 2 1/2. After that trip, she never saw him again. We didn’t know it when this picture was taken, but he was already sick.

If someone had told me five years ago that I would one day run a marathon, I would have laughed them out of the room. Things as drastic as this have a way of changing you. I once was a woman who ran to support my food habit. Today, I’m running to show my resolve–so patients don’t have to measure time in terms of how much is left.

Here’s something exciting for me, though. As I write this, My Fundraising Page is showing that I’m 28% of the way to my goal. It’s actually 30%! I have a check that I got in the mail that isn’t included yet. How much is left? Just 70% but let’s just shoot for the moon and maybe we’ll be looking at 200% by the time October rolls around. Click the link above or to the right to make a contribution. I’m so grateful to everyone who has donated. Thank you!!