All Our Bags Are Packed.

AGAIN. 

Have I mentioned yet how much I loathe moving? I mean, I guess it's not the packing that I hate, it's the leaving. The stepping out into the unknown. The starting something new. I've done this enough times in my life to know that transition is a four letter word. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I have a bad attitude. I just want to stay in one place! But we don't usually get to choose our circumstances, so here we are, surrounded by boxes again. blah. 

Ok, I promise I'm not going to make my blog and everything in my life about oils now, but seriously. I just could not survive this emotionally draining and stressful season without them. I really could not. I've become dependent on them (in a good way, of course) and I want to smack two years ago Kristen and tell her to open the bottle of Joy that's been sitting in her bathroom drawer and slather it on her face. I am 100% convinced my year and a half with postpartum depression and anxiety would have been significantly less ... significant, if I'd been using oils the way I'm using them now. Anyway. I'm teaching a class about it tomorrow night if you're interested. >> click here <<

So besides all that, I'm actually in a really good place mentally and emotionally. This season that we're in right now would have wrecked me last year. But I'm surprisingly still standing and I feel balanced and clear headed and I am so excited to see what God is doing. It's weird leaving a church to do a different ministry in the same city, but it's right. And overwhelming. And terrifying. I'm rambling. So maybe not so clear headed? Ha. Sorry I have no profound thoughts or eloquent writing for you today. Maybe next week.

So here's to fresh starts, new things, picking up old things, and rubbing coconut oil on callused hands from dealing with cardboard and packing tape all day. 

This may or may not be a cry for help. ;) 

New Things.

Oh hey. 

SO many new things happening around these parts! First. The LaValley fam is headed to Georgia for an extended stay this summer, so if you're around, let's hang out! We have just resigned from our church and are putting our things in storage as we begin to prepare to start a community development work where we're living now in Western Mass. I'll share more about that as it comes, but right now it's a one foot in front of the other sort of thing and we're just trying to wake up every day and to the next right thing. It's all very exciting, but also very overwhelming and kind of cloudy right now, but we're really looking forward to what's next. 

TWO. I started using essential oils again a few months ago and my world has been rocked. 18 months of trying to find a solution for my anxiety symptoms and in two months I've had more immediate relief using oils than any medication that was given to me that entire time. It's been crazy. Now that I've decided to start distributing and teaching classes about oils, I'm making some $$ and having so. much. fun. Come get oily with me. I'm so excited about showing people how oils can actually improve your life. Former skeptic turned oil evangelist. Life is weird. I have an instagram - @oilingual and a facebook group. I just taught a class on using oils safely when you're pregnant, nursing, and with your kids, so you can catch the playback once you join the group. My next class is Monday, May 8th at 9pm est and it's all about how to use Oils on a budget. So come watch live if you're into that sort of thing. 

THREE. I know you keep hoping that I'm going to tell you that I'm pregnant, but that is sooo not happening. I'm finally starting to get my head above water with these kids and I'm not messing with that. The thought of it makes me shudder. Not that I hate the idea of another baby, buuutttt... I want a dog. We're thinking about buying a house and if and when we do, you will definitely be seeing photos of a dog pop up immediately after. Because we will not be able to stop ourselves. Anyway. There really was no number three. Except that, does anyone read blogs anymore? I've been doing most of my "blogging" on instagram, but now that we're no longer on staff at a church, I can get back to writing about my life like I used to. When Zach or I are in pastoral position, it puts a necessary (but frustrating!) filter on how open I can be about my family, my thoughts, my fears, my frustrations, my whatever, but now there's freedom again! Woo hoo! Not sure how long that will last but I'll ride the wave as long as I can. 

FOUR. That's it. Hi. Bye. Thanks for reading. Here's a photo of us from Easter. These kids are getting so big and it's really not fair.

Kid, I Hope You're Weird.

I sit back and watch you play. I've been doing that for as long as I remember. You used to sit in front of me with Woody and Buzz and act out adventures as if I wasn't even there. I'd watch you and laugh at your story lines, occasionally taking a video of your silly voices and phrases. Over the years, your imagination has grown and your adventures have, in some ways, become more realistic, but in other ways, even more outlandish. You used to tie a pillow case around your neck and jet through the house with one fist stretched out in front of you. Now you draw up plans and blue prints and supply lists on what you need to buy to make a real Iron Man suit : batteries, jet packs, metal, magnets, lights, robot wire. 

Your father and I don't tell you those things aren't possible or real, just like we never told you Ninja Turtles weren't real. You'll figure those things out eventually. We let you take your imagination as far as it will go and as far as we can help you take it. So now our home is filled with cardboard boxes ripped apart and twisted in contraptions of what purpose I'm not even sure you know. There are Tupperware containers in your room filled with wires, buttons, springs, and switches that you pulled apart and dismantled from old toys and electronics. You know how to use a soldering iron and wire cutters and hot glue guns and we have to constantly remind you exactly why you can't just take the wire cutters to your room and cut things. You are brilliant and inventive and believe in big things and you're starting to realize that you're not like most kids. 

They're starting to tell you that your ideas are stupid, that Ninja Turtles are fake, that Santa isn't real. When we get home from church or from playing with friends, you tell me things like, "So and so said that robots are stupid." I can see it in your eyes and by the expression on your face that you're starting to feel the cold heat of rejection ... of being different. You're not into what a lot of other kids are into and to top it all off, you're homeschooled. We're really stacking the odds against you, kid. But it's not just you! 

Your little brother is the beefiest, stockiest kid I've ever known (besides your uncles - they were preschool linebackers), but he is sensitive and emotional and dramatic. You've seen him walking around the house with jewlery on, with your sister's shoes and headbands. He goes back and forth from pretending to be Batman, destroying the city and beating you up, to putting on a pink sparkly shoe, singing Let it Go and telling me, "You're so beautiful, mom. I love your hair." And just like we did with you, we let him pretend and play and pursue his interests. He loves color and flair. He memorizes songs and melodies and can rival Ariana Grande with his vocal runs. He is wild and unpredictable yet sweet and intuitive. 

Your sister is only two, but she knows who she is. One day she wants to wear pink head to toe and the next she's putting on your clothes and your brother's shoes and refuses to change. She loves her baby dolls and she loves to play in the dirt. She's tough and can handle her own with the two of you. I hear her yelling, "Give that back to me NOW." And then silence, so I'm assuming she got what she needed. But she is also sweet and caring and will check on you when you're in trouble or hurt. She does her thing, just like you all do. 

The point of all this is to tell you that the world has an idea of how kids are supposed to act and behave and what they should play with and what interests are "normal" and "age appropriate". There's a standard that someone made up, I'm not sure who, and anyone who doesn't stay directly on that line is either "above average" or below it. But you, kid... you're none of the above. Your dad and I don't let other people tell us who you should be, so you shouldn't either. We're not concerned about you being anything other than exactly who you are.   

Normal does not exist. There is no such thing. It's make believe. If you're interested in things other kids are interested in, that doesn't make you normal. That doesn't make you anything. You aren't defined by what you like, what you learn, what you imagine, or what you watch. You're just you. But if normal is the standard, be weird. Be unapologetically, authentically, weird, if that's who you want to be. You don't have to bend and stretch to make other people feel comfortable. "Fitting in" is a lie. Nobody fits in. Everyone feels awkward and rejected. I hope you never feel like you have to change who you are to make other people like you. You don't need to blend in, kid. Stand out, build a robot, dance with your sparkly shoed little brother and baby doll carrying, basketball shorts wearing little sister. You'll get where you need to go and you'll do it your own way. 

You dad and I will be behind you every single step, cheering you on, and indulging in whatever wildish idea you come up with next. 

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Me Right Now

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post just telling you where I'm at in the moment. That used to be all I ever wrote about, but being in full time ministry again has kind of put a heavy filter on my writing. I can't write as openly as I used to because my life revolves around church, so I just don't have that kind of freedom anymore. But it's early in the morning, my kids are playing quietly (WHAT) in their room, my chai is still hot, and I'm in the mood to be candid and rambly so whatever. 

I'll start with the not so great things. It's been six months since my last panic attack, but I haven't stopped feeling tremors. I get heart palpitations every day because I just haven't learned to manage my stress well. My kids are so intense and loud and they don't get along and it puts me on edge from the second they wake up everyday. I feel like I'm failing them, like I don't know how to parent them. Since pulling Jonah out of school and deciding to homeschool him, my stress has tripled. Not because of him, he's such a good kid, eager to learn and quick to pick up on things. It's just the pressure of having to be the one that makes sure he's learning what he needs to be learning. Is he learning enough? Am I pushing too hard? Am I not pushing enough? Zach loves the idea of homeschooling all of our kids until they graduate, but I'm really hoping we can get him into a magnet school. The public schools in our city are just not for us. They have wonderful teachers and staff, but Jonah was really not doing well and I have to remind myself of that every time I angry text Zach, "WHY DID WE TAKE HIM OUT OF SCHOOL!?". So the stress is real and I'm learning to manage it, and I must be doing a lot better than I was last year because not having panic attacks is seriously the best thing ever. It's nice to wake up everyday and not be surprised that I'm still alive.

Since postpartum depression has made an exit (for the most part - i still have sad days every now and then) and anxiety has become manageable, I've finally had some free space in my brain to want to do things again. I have goals again! I want to write again! I want to be in ministry again! All great things, but it's been frustrating trying to find my place. It's like my life hasn't caught up with my mind yet. I guess I just expected opportunities to fly at me because I'm amazing and have so much to offer (haha) but every time I put myself out there and tried to do something....rejection. I put that in bold because rejection feels like bold font. I was really discouraged for several months. I started feeling the familiar heavy dark cloud pulling me down again and telling me those familiar lies, "You can't do anything. Nobody wants you. You're pathetic." But then I heard someone say something, and I can't remember who said it, or what it was, or maybe I just dreamed it? But whoever it was said, "If you can't find a ministry in your local church to be a part of, create one. If your can't create one, go outside the church and find one." I had never, ever, considered finding a ministry outside of my church. Ever. I've been in ministry literally my entire life (pastor's kid problems) and have never thought to leave the church walls to serve. Sad, I know, but I'm conditioned, ok??

So anyway. I'll try to make this story shorter. I got sick sometime in December and stayed sick until a week ago (not kidding-it's been awful) but in one of those really intense sick weeks, I started watching the show "Lock Up" on Netflix. It's a documentary series about women in prison and I just went IN. I couldn't stop watching the show and somewhere around episode 6, I started feeling a heavy burden for incarcerated women. Years ago, I was asked several times to be a part of prison ministries and always gave a confident "no" because I just didn't feel like I could do anything for them. Their problems were too intense and I was too young, too peppy, too full of excuses, I guess. But watching that show stirred something in me and I started to think about our city. Zach and I are passionate about investing in our community and creating change in our city, on small levels,  and doing what we can to help people break cycles of abuse and addiction and, of course, to know how much Jesus loves them. Watching that show and thinking about our city and its drug and gang related problems made me realize that working with women in prison is exactly what I needed to be doing. It's the first time something that totally does not make sense for me really makes sense for me. If that makes sense. So I googled "how to teach writing to women in prison" because I thought that would be a natrual way for me to serve and I found an organization called Voices from Inside. It's a non-profit that teaches writing workshops to women who are incarcerated or in drug recovery programs. I emailed the director, had a phone interview, and  spent two eight hour days in training. Now I'm just waiting on my placement! So. Pumped.

The training was phenomenal. It confirmed that working with underprivileged and marginalized people in our city is exactly what God has called me to do right now and it ignited passions in me that I didn't even know were there. I sat in the room with 13 other women, some who were training with me, some that were facilitators already, and I was so inspired by them. I've spent so much time at home, raising my kids, with little connection to the outside except through Facebook and Instagram. All I see on my newsfeed are political opinions and people ranting about the left and the right, telling me why I should hate Donald Trump, or love him, or whatever, but I don't see anybody talking about what they're actually doing except marching or making phone calls. I naively (maybe pridefully) assumed I was the only that believed real change happens on smaller, local levels. You can march on Washington, but if you're not investing in your local community, I don't really put much stock in what you say. Put your work boots on where your heart is. Or something. But in that training room at Smith College, I was surrounded by women who were there to help marginalized women not for what they can get out of it, but for what they can offer. It's probably going to go down as one of the most eye opening and inspirational moments of my life. And I haven't even been inside the jail yet. 

That was not a short story. Sorry. I'm just excited about it.  

Anyhoo. So that's kind of where I'm at right now. I'm balancing this excitement about what I'm doing outside of my church with the disappointment and frustration of not being able to find my place inside it. I have felt like the walls are up on all sides and I don't blame my church for it. (Although I definitely have spent a lot of time doing that.) I think this is a God blocking my path to get me on the right one kind of thing. It's this awkward stretch of muscles that I haven't used in a long time and I'm not exactly sure what to do with them, but I'm just going to keep stretching. A few months ago I was talking to my mom about some of this stuff and she said, "God's not done with you yet, Kristen. Just be patient." I hate when moms say stuff like that, but she was right. (I hate that too!) I'm finally starting to believe that God's not done with me yet. I'm trying to stop taking rejection so personally and think of every "no" as a "not this".  It's hard, but I'm trusting that God has me, just like he always has. 

In other news, Jonah turned 6, Anna turned 2, and Zach bought me Nikes for Valentine's Day. Well, really Christmas, but it took him a while to find the right pair, so I got them on Valentine's Day. We're romantic like that. I'm still learning Spanish, so hablame, por favor! Necesito practicar.  

And now my kids are demanding cereal, which we're out of, and juice, which we never have, so I'm going to deal with that. Here's a photo of me and three of my long time friends after our Women in the Church chat a few weeks ago because this is the first picture taken of me in a long time where there is life behind my eyes. Also my friends are gorgeous, so that makes me look better. Happy Tuesday, friends!