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A Journal.

Okay, internet. I am going to confess something. I am not sure if this is permissible to admit. I do not know if it is common. But, there are times when I read my own blog. I do.

Does this make me narcissistic?

It’s just that, I am always in a perpetual state of self evaluation. Checking and rechecking. My progress. My emotional health. Am I a better person than I once was? Have I improved? Am I showing signs of growth?

And time and time again…I measure my behaviors. My words. My thoughts. I check my pulse and I see myself always lacking.

Circumstances are always changing around me. Time passes. But it seems my state of emotional health remains a constant fixation of failure for me.

I look at these words so conveniently laid out before me. And I see the struggles I had years ago, are the struggles I have today.

Does this make me eternally flawed? Or hopelessly normal?

Most girls have private journals. All covered in pink velvet and guaranteed privacy by a heart shaped lock.

My journal is a 17″ glowing screen that is publicly available to the world via the inter-web.

I don’t know if my ponderings, ramblings, verbalizations of my struggling heart serve any good purpose for the inter-webs or for me. But I will post when I can. In hopes that someday, among the thorns of my tangled thoughts a bloom will fight its way open.

 

Morning.

There is a solitary green orb glowing out my window. My neighbor’s porch light. But everything else? Black.

The time change has my body pushed into a corner. I am sleepy at weird times and fully awake at equally weird times. Funny how a sixty minute change can cause such a ruckus.

I’ve never been much of a night owl. I always feel more at home in the morning. I prefer the beginning of the day to the end of it. The end of the day is for reflection and adjustment. The morning? Well, that is my blank page. And as someone who enjoys art and writing, well, that idea appeals to me more.

I have been wanting to return here for a while. But there are plenty of excuses. I work and commute over 50 hours a week. I am enrolled as a full time college student at my local community college. Then there is the house. And the four kids.

But I think what keeps me away most is the fear of what I might say to you, oh, internet void.

The last four years have been, well, my words would be inadequate.

I divorced my husband of 18 years. I started working again,full time for the first time since I had babies. I fell in love with an incredible man. I moved to a beautiful new state. I started a pretty amazing new job. I went back to work on getting my degree. Then, my heart was broke. And in all of this, I have watched my outlook change, saw my personality change, I saw my faith change.

There has been fluxes in hope. The moments where I had no hope have been more numerous than the moments where I felt that hope.I have watched my own unhealthy behaviors and ideas shape events around me that I cannot undo.And sometimes I have little hope I can create a better way for myself. Make better choices. Think better thoughts. My earnest prayer this year has been that my Heavenly Dad would revive hope in my heart once again. Hope in Him. And hope in me, his daughter, that I know he loves. The heartbeat of hope inside me is thready and weak. But I remind myself, it still beats, albeit quietly. I remind myself, it is still there.

There has been fluxes in faith. I have struggled to find my heavenly Dad in these events.Despite my love for him, I feel unloved. I have recently stumbled across this feeling. I have unpacked this idea and asked myself why I feel unloved by my creator. Even though my deepest faith tells me,without a doubt, he loves me. I know he does. But yet? I do not feel that warmth from him.I look inward, and I feel very little, I see no movement of him in my life and heart. I am holding steadfast in my belief that this is momentary.

I have concluded that I feel most loved by God through the people around me. And this time in my life, has been the loneliest I have ever known, so I am grasping at other ways to feel his love, and it has been difficult for me to locate that love.

I am grateful for the moments I catch a breath of him. Because, do not misunderstand, there are such moments. Where I recognize his face. See that familiar smile. And he winks at me. As if to say, “Just give it time,kiddo.”

And this is why I like the mornings. It is my daily dose of do over. My sunrise reset. Anything could happen today. And I holdout hope that anything might.

 

Funky

So, I’ve been finding myself in a funk lately.

It comes and goes. In waves. Sometimes the cycle is days. Sometimes moments. But, at this very moment? I am in it.

Up to my feverishly overworked mind.

I gots me a case of the feels.

That’s right, emotions.

I am, an “emotional person”. This title does not serve me well.

Someone whom I admire recently called me passionate. Intense. Overwhelming. I pointed out to them that these words are also synonyms for crazy. They weren’t calling me crazy (THIS time), but they were simply in awe of the capabilities of my emotional capacity.

Rarely, is such emotion sought after. I certainly am not happy with the tumultuous swells that my personality can undergo. And I think it’s safe to say, those around me could do with less of aforementioned swells. It wud be one thing if my emotions were simply heart and flowers. Ah no, sad to say that is not the case here, my dear internet void.

I can be dark. Yes, ma’am.

Frighteningly so.

One thought leads to another and leads to any other until I find myself lost in a thorny tangle of self doubt. Self hate. It is at that moment, that I realize I am caught there  the briars of my own self recognized weaknesses. And every movement I make to break free of this brambled prison? I feel the uncomfortable jab of those thorns.

So, here I sit, paralyzed and in pain.

Most people often confuse emotional with witless. But rest assured, it’s not always the case. I am acutely aware of my condition. I know. I realize. I know what I should have said. What I should have done. And I know what I need to do to get out. And further more I fully recognize I have all the capabilities to do so.

The concept of healthy behavior and healthy self love is fully grasped- it’s the execution that I find elusive.

Am I totally alone in this?

 

3 Ingredients. 3 Steps. Butterfingers.

Here is your main cast of characters.

Three ingredients.

(And right now, at our local stores candy corn is 75% off. – Bonus!)

And you dont have to use Kisses for the chocolate… in fact, there are much better options out there for dipping chocolates. A friend told me about chocolate with paraffin… you should look into that kind, as the kisses as a chocolate coating didnt work fantastic.

And I used smooth PB… but my next batch I will use a crunchy kind… or a more natural “corse” PB.

First step:

Nuke those candy corns for 30 seconds. Stir. Nuke for 30 more seconds. Stir again. Keep nuking those bad boys until the are smooth and melty.

Second step:

Be quick now! Dump a whole small jar of PB in that candy corn goo… hurry! Quick! You are gunna wanna move fast… so have the jar open and ready to dump… cuz that candy corn? Solids up pretty quick.

Now stir! Stir! Stir! Do it like you mean it!

Third Step:

Dump that mixture onto parchment paper. You can put the paper in a pan to help you form it into a square… or you can do it by hand. Me? I did it by hand. Cuz I am hardcore like that. (Be intimidated.) Then chill that puppy.

Now you are gunna want to score that brick of peanuty goodness. Make it into bars. Make it into coin size pops. I made cubes.

See? Cubes. As you can kinda see… the texture isnt quite EXACTLY like a Butterfinger. But it is close… it’s crumbly and the taste and color is PERFECTLY like a Butterfinger. Wait… you’ll see.

Now, at this point, you can chill these cubes again… or move right on to the next step.

Step Four:

Dip. Dip. Sha na na na… na na na na na… Dip! Dip!

And there you go… bite sized Butterfingers!

I was able to make over 150 little fun size bites from one batch.

So there you go…. Homemade Butterfingers!

Lemme know how you like yours!

Mixed Well.

I like most all things creative, a well written poem, a play doh sculpture, a sidewalk chalk drawing, an engaging book, a thought provoking photograph, an artfully decorated cake, well, the list could continue on and on. The ability to thoughtfully create something is one of the greatest gifts we as a race have been given by our loving creator.

There is so no way I could describe the feeling I have when I find myself applying the my creative giftedness to a canvas or paper. I dont get the opportunity to do it much. But when I can… there is something about those moments. I get giddy with anticpation. I find my thoughts racing. My mood actually is lifted. I get lost in what I am doing. And it’s not because I am so very skilled. There are many, many artists out there whose skill far exceeds my own. (My daughter is one of those people.)

But just beacuse I so enjoy it.

I was thinking recently how we are all made in God’s image.

You. Me. Your spouse. Your parents.Your siblings.  All made in God’s image.

God is a wonderous creator. He delighted in creating us.

It says in Psalms 139:15 that we were skillfully made..  When you look up the word skillfully (in Hebrew: raqam) it literally means to “to variegate; to mix colors”… Isn’t that beautiful?

I saw something interesting in that definition.

I like to paint whenever I can find the extra time. I grab a styrafoam plate off the top of my fridge, and the shoe box of paints. I squirt a quarter size amount of blue, red, yellow, brown, white and black… I use the primary colors to create whatever color I need.

A dusty blue for the sky. A muddied green for grassy leaves. And often times I run out of the mixed color I created.

Then I have to try to recreate that shade… I know for the dusty blue I used blue, a bit of white and a bit of brown. But try as I might, I cannot duplicate that shade. I can get close, but a exact.

God created us that way… a mixed color. Not to be duplicated. Never to be recreated.

Only once in all of creation will he mix a colorful you.

Only once will the world see the work of art that is you.

So, I say, let your colors shout! Let them be loud!

Figure out what the tone of your mix is… and turn up the volume!!

All in a day’s work.

The night has snuffed out the last of the light. The snow is falling, we are all in preparation for bed. Jammies on. Teeth brushed. But there is one ingredient missing. Do you know what it is? What’s that? A story? Well, yes, a story. It just so happens I know one.

Here’s one to as you snuggle up on this cold January night.

“Once upon a time there were  three men, all working towards building the same structure. A back breaking job, chipping rock to form the wall that would surround a new building. It was hot. The progress was slow. And so they worked, day by day.

A stranger happens by, noticing the pile of rubble and wondered to the first worker, “What are you doing?” The worker, agitated by the interruption, doesn’t even look up from his labor. He responds gruffly with, “What does it look like I’m doing, I’m breaking rocks!”

The wandering stranger moves on down the sidewalk a bit and asks the second worker, “What are you doing?” The second worker responds, leaning heavily on his hammer,  in a tired worn voice, “I’m chipping stone for this stupid fence.”

The stranger goes a bit further and sees the third worker, busy stacking the rock, and asks him, “What are you doing?” The worker looks up, wipes the sweat from his brow, smiles, and with a sweeping gesture toward the location of the new building says, “I’m building a cathedral, and it will be magnificent!”

Three laborers. All doing the same job. All received the same pay. Each with a different view of his work.

I have to admit that my view isn’t so positive most of the time. A lot of the time I’m just face down in the sticky ceramic tile. Or the stained berber carpeting. Or the piles of smelly laundry.

In the midst of all the cooking, cleaning, teaching, and mothering, I can feel very much like the first laborer. I can be bitter and indifferent. I feel the slow progress of my daily work. Sometimes being a wife and mother can feel like such a thankless job. I never seem to accomplish anything, and the work is seemingly endless. It taunts me daily. I tell myself, “No one really appreciates me.”

Sometimes I find myself in the work boots of the second contractor. Tired and worn. Stretched to what I feel is my limit. Empty of self. I inwardly sigh at the constant requests of my children. The expectations of my husband. I tire at the pull of the requirments and responsibilites. And secretly I wonder, “Will what I do here make any difference?”

But, oh….

Oh God, I want to be like the third worker. I want to see the bigger picture. To see my daily life as you see it. To see the importance of my service. To have abundant joy and take pride in what I’m called to do. I want to see that the work that I’m doing here is much bigger than even I can imagine.

That I have in my power, the ability to change this environment from tedious to tremendous. For you and your purposes. Teach me how to make doing dishes a holy service. Cleaning laundry as a worship. Making my house a place of imperfect magnificence.

Today, they are mess makers. Snack sneakers. Dish dirtiers. Fight pickers. Clingy cryers. Fussin Nellies. Eye rollers. Grumblers. May God help me to see past that. When I inwardly sigh at my days and I stop to I wipe my brow, remind me to choose to smile, look at my girls and say, “I am building a cathedral. One day I will stand and see four magnificent God serving women.”

The View From the Backseat.

So the other day I took a pair of the young’uns to Cleveland to visit the Rainforest at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. (We have season passes. I know, it’s impressive. Be impressed. I know people.) So, anyhoo, me and the pair headed northwards to go visit the Rainforest and I took along my trusty D80 to snap a few pictures of a couple of my kids cavorting with the critters. Well, when I was driving, my children took control of the shutter.

This was the result of that road trip.

There was a snowstorm the night before. My lil Cabrio was enveloped by 15″ of powder.

Perhaps I should have taken the time to clean off my whole windshield, no? Eh, it was fine. Who needs to look to right? Certainly not me.

These little kicker boots belong to my three year old. Who handles a Nikon D80 with alarming ease.

How does a 9 year old survive a one hour trip (thanks to the snow laden roads) to Cleveland? Electronics. That’s how.

Ah, the loverly grayness that is Ohio somehow seems less dreary when captured by the chubby little fingers of brown eyed baby.

Why does my 9 year old beauty look so suspicious? It’s like she doesn’t believe me when I say Ohio is cheerful. Eh, who am I kidding? It’s still gray. Still dreary.

But the company makes it tolerable.

Testing. Testing. Is this thing on?

So… it’s been a while. How ya been? Good? Good. The family? Doin’ well? Good. How’s work? Eh, well, two outta three ain’t bad.

Me? Well, I am glad you asked.

Alina is runnning cross country this year. Her best pal join cross country as well. So they get to hang out and run till blisters cover their toes. She loves it. Except for the running part. And the blister part.

Alina also is playing soccer as well this year. As well as an avid member of FaceBook. Wait… what’s that? That’s not a sport? Well, what about YouTube? No?!? Sigh. So she’s not that sporty. But she is gifted. Her drawing skills have excelled over the summer break. She took her sketchpad everywhere. For example, I had to make her put away her paper and pencils while we were at the Forth of July Carnival & Fireworks in my hometown. She’s THAT dedicated.

Keni also playing soccer. On the Trasher team. They are doin much better than last year. Thankfully. Last year I coached. This year, I do not. Maybe that’s why they are doin better. Hmmm… I hadn’t thought of that before. Anyways, this summer Keni has perfected her frog catching skills. All summer we had scores of those things. First in the wading pool. Then in pop tubs. Then in small buckets. She walk to her Grammies? Come back with a frog. Go for a ride in the semi truck with her dad? Come back with a frog. Go to my parents house? Come back with a frog. She has yet to find a prince tho.

Reggie? Also playing soccer. I know. I know. I can’t believe we are the “soccer family”. There are so many other things I would rather be, than the” soccer family.” Like the “museum family” or the “zoo family” the “beach family”… hey! I’d even take the “tv family”… ok, I guess not, but still. So, what was I sayin? O yes… Reggie… she plays for The Heat. She is VERY into this sport. (Although she keeps bugging us about golf, which she’ll be doin next year, God help me.) She will be the one on the team shouting out the plays. “Get the ball!” or “Pass it! Pass it!” or “Hey! I’m open!” or when she’s defending, she’ll coach the other defenders and goalie, “Here comes the ball… you guys ready?” It makes my heart smile, even tho I don’t care for sports…  I can’t get enough of Reggie playing them.

Reese.. o my word. My baby. She’s three and a half now. Busy. Busy. And bored now that her sisters are in school. Because, I am… how do you say? Ah yes.. boring. Reese is a strong and brave girl. A helpless and needy girl. She is an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, dipped in confusing sauce. She’s not scared of the dark, but terrified there might be a big dog in the bushes. She tells me, “I can do it myself.” when she is on the computer, but says, “I am a baby, so I don’t have to clean, right Mom?”

I have  four little girls, but so far none of the are the same as the others. Just when I think I’ve mastered a certain aspect of parenting. Or when I am on the brink of figuring out how the brain of a girl works. It changes up. They grow out of one phase and  it’s, “On to the next!” I cannot keep up. They have me breathless.

But I love every minute of it.

Mystical Love.

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Friday afternoon, with vans filled to bursting with sleeping bags, work gloves, preteen gals, moms, snacks a plenty and one grandpa we hit the road.

It was a four hour trip to our destination, The Hannah House in Athens, Ohio. The Hannah House was our home for 2 nights.

We hung out and talked with people who were under the heavy weight of poverty. Who struggled with addictions. Who were disabled. We shoveled gardens. Built compost bins. Prepared meals. Played bingo. Raked leaves. Gathered limbs. Sorted canned goods.

Of of the volunteers there said something I thought was very insightful.

“Loving God and loving others are somehow mystically intertwined. Where one cannot tell where loving God stops and loving others begins.”

Last weekend we served. We worshiped. We loved.

We need 100cc’s of Ginger Ale! Stat!

And Ramen Noodles. And popsicles. And to make our couches into beds. And drag out all our pillows into our living room. And force all adults to watch cartoons. To keep the thermometer within reach AT ALL TIMES. And for my arms to get sore from rubbing backs.

Because this, my friends is what sickness means in the Neff House. It is a ritual we go through when each child shows signs of any illness. And yesterday we didn’t just experience one sick child, but three. Three children, all with the same complaints,: “Mom, my neck hurts.” and “Mom, my head hurts.” and Mom, my belly hurts.”. If you have children, then you should recognize these maladies as symptoms of strep.

So now we wait for the doctor to open his doors. A mere 10 minutes from now I will begin the calling to try to get through to a doctor’s office whose phone lines will be, no doubt, busy from all the other parents trying to get their children in to see him today. We will pray for favor. Amen.

Below you will enjoy picture of each ailing one.

First Reggie. Notice she is pretty excited about the prospect of getting to stay home. “Mom, do I get to stay home from school tomorrow?” She likes to see the glass half full. She enjoys what she can outta this experience.  She is also an original child and has decided to mix it up with an additional complaint, “Mom, my one ear hurts.” She always has to be the best. (Over achiever. Humph.)

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Reese, ah my baby. She was pretty upset about this whole illness thing. She acted as if someone gave it to her on purpose. Like we did it TO her. And she let us all know. Oh, the grouchiness that has ensued after the onset of the, “Mom, my neck hurts!” Oh, the grouchiness. But, oh, the change in her that was wrought with one dose of Motrin. Ah, Motrin. In my prayer time last night  lifted up thanksgiving for the person who invented Motrin. It is in my humble opinion, a miracle drug. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Keni, though reacts differently. She has a super immune system and never ever gets sick. (She’s like her Dad.) And when the day does come that her body submits to a germ, she is very disappointed. In herself. “Mom, what about my homework?” and “Mom, what about my test?” and “I CAN”T miss my test!” and “I will get in trouble!” and  “What about my library book?” She runs through all the possible horrible implications of missing her schooling. The little brain just won’t let her rest.  It is bad enough she is being tortured in body, but I think the mental torture she puts herself through is much worse.

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She should embrace the situation. Like this:

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