Wednesday, June 16

A Life in Transition: Post #2 (Focusing on What Doesn't Change)

We are currently living in a sea of packing boxes and bubble wrap against the backdrop of bare walls and bookshelves, with smudged scratches and nail marks on the wall where the pictures used to be. It’s a strange sight—well, it’s actually a messy sight at the moment, all of the boxes and piles of papers and bits of life that still need to be packed, and then to see Aubrey start to play house and dolls either in the boxes or on top of them. 


The strangeness of it comes with sadness and in short bursts—like the morning last week that I decided it was time to start taking all of our artwork and pictures off the wall. After I carefully pulled the first three frames off of their nails I felt a lump form in my throat and then started to cry, “We’re deconstructing our whole life! What are we doing?” I said tearfully to Scott. It was sad, and caught me off guard. I had a similar moment when I saw our budding hydrangea plant tucked into the corner of our patio, beginning to burst forth pink blooms-- I planted that hydrangea as a small potted plant many years ago, and now it's almost as tall as me and full of blooms that grace us with their presence every time we eat dinner on the patio. 

These are the sentimental moments- seeing the little things that we have surrounded ourselves with because they speak beauty, and inspire joy in our daily lives. Realizing how much they've come to mean, even though most days I walk right by them and often pay them little attention. I have realized how we take all of these little blessings for granted and am seeing them through new, maybe overly sappy, eyes at the moment. 

I don't stay in these sad, sappy places long. I get it. I'm a big girl. People move, and we're moving and it's ok to be sad, but it's also important to move on. Ten minutes later I was flying through the house, pulling the rest of the photos of the walls, realizing this is all part of the process. I don't mean to diminish the emotion of that moment- I am very emotional woman! But I'm learning to have my moments, acknowledge the feelings and than step into the next step of the process-- to do the next right thing, as Emily P. Freeman and Anna from Frozen 2 both talk about (and sing about) so well! 


It's interesting how this moving and packing process happens in layers, both physically and emotionally. Physically we’ve been packing and purging for months. Sending boxes over to our storage unit to prep the house to sell, packing up baby clothes to go to the Goodwill, etc.

Emotionally, you learn to let go of the house, really the memories that this particular house holds, one piece at a time. You kind of pack them up in your heart, while you're packing your dishes and toys up in boxes. You begin to realize it's not the house that has made us who we are (and so it's ok to let go), but our family that has made this house come to mean what it does to us. We take the memories with us, and realize that it's ok that soon a new family will be making memories within these walls. 


I’m learning a lot about myself and a lot about God in the process—how it feels to be in the middle of transition. How change feels, and uncertainty, and this desperate grabbing for something solid to hang onto. Then you realize what you've known your whole life, but have never needed to press into it as deeply as you do right now— that God is the only thing in this life that is truly unchanging. The only thing that is always and forever the same. 


Earlier this week I had a scheduled call with my life coach Darlene Larson. I love Darlene to pieces, and when I hired her last November to do some coaching with me I had aspirations of her helping me to set goals to finish a couple of writing projects that I’ve been circling around for a l-o-n-g time, but that I’ve struggled to establish the discipline to finish. 


Oddly enough she came into my life at the very time when so many things were unraveling—Covid was in full swing and had disrupted life and routines in so many ways for so many people, Scott just found out he would be losing his job at the end of the year and my now chronic and confusing health issues were in their very early stages of being long and confusing. They had started in the summer, and by November I realized that they were going to be sticking around for a while with no real answers and that I was entering into, at least temporarily, this club of chronic illness sufferers who struggle with vague autoimmune, hormonal and chronic fatigue diagnosis’. Darlene and I have talked about how it seems that my bout with Covid in early January seems to have complicated an already complicated health journey for me.


All that to say, I thought I was hiring her to help me set writing goals and I can now see how God is using her to help me see Him more clearly, to feel a little bit more steady, in the midst of a season of life that has often made me feel like I’m spinning.  I’d be remiss to not also mention that God has sent several other women as mentors during this season of life as well—when provision hasn't come in the way of tangible answers to specific questions, it has come via the blessing of friends and mentors who have encouraged my faith, and I hope you all know who you are and what a blessing you have been. 


During a text string last month Darlene in which I confessed that I was feeling overwhelmed, untethered and uncertain Darlene pressed me to answer the following question for myself and to keep answering it every time I start to feel that way. 

The question she posed was, “Lisa, what do you know to be true?”


It’s a good question, and one I will hold onto for the rest of my life. It's a grounding question. A question that points me away from the constantly changing landscape and helps me to focus on what is steadier and true. 


The obvious, Sunday school answer is, “God. God is real and God is true.” 


Friends, that would be a fine answer, and something that I could certainly grab onto but these deep seasons of shifting push us to ask deeper questions. Questions like, “What about God do I really know to be true?” 


I'm asking myself that daily. I'm writing the question in my journal. I'm listening and watching throughout the day for answers in the way that God speaks and appears, so often in the mundane. 

Here are some things I know to be true...


That God loves me. 

That God never leaves me. 

That He knows every hair on my head and breath that I take.


That He loves my children and has plans and purposes for us as a family and each of us as individuals. 

That He provided this beautiful place that we’ve called home for the last 12 years and that it has been a true blessing. A place that we will all look on fondly as the place we started our lives together as a family. 

That even though we haven’t found it yet (that’s another story all together) that He will provide our next home in the next chapter of our life. 

That He is in control of my life. 


That He IS in control of my life. 


And, that He never changes. 


Darlene reminded me of this verse yesterday, and I wrote it out in pink ink in my journal this morning. Hebrews 13:5-6,8: 


So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. 


As I meditate on that verse I realize that Jesus Christ is the sustaining thread in my changing life. That wherever we move to, whatever house we end up in, whatever school district we end up in, whatever job Scott ends up in, or I end up in, that Christ is with us and the He is unchanging. 

It’s an interesting thing, but I've suddenly realized that as much as I’d like certainty about so many things right now—that I’d rather have Jesus over all these things. It's the best most secure place to be--a little bit uncertain, with faith like a mustard seed, clinging to Jesus for everything. 


So I will leave you with that today. 


We’re going through a move, and you might be going through something else entirely different—job loss, health issues, family relationship struggles, changing school options, anxiety, depression, a struggling marriage, a sick child, a difficult child, a personal business that’s struggling or thriving and either way it’s overwhelming, and so many other things. In this world we will have trouble! (John 16.33). But this piece of truth is the same for all of us--whatever you are going through, you too can proclaim this with confidence over your life,The Lord is my helper, I will NOT be afraid.Jesus Christ IS the same yesterday, today and forever. 

And then watch how your anxious and shaky heart starts to rest in peace as it hangs onto the steady truth.  


Here are some photos of our current life in boxes...πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ


Sunday, June 6

A Life in Transition, Post #1

As I was walked through Michaels a couple of week ago I passed a display of cute farmhouse dΓ©cor—it reminded me of the Pioneer Lady stuff, with whimsically painted flowers in reds, yellows and turquoise, framed in rustic wooden and metal frames. I picked up a sign that said “Kitchen” and another that said “Home Sweet Home”, realizing that I didn’t really need either, but was enjoying the browsing anyways.  

That’s when my moment of browsing led to a moment of panic…Wait, I can’t buy this stuff. We’re moving out of our house, to another state, and are going to be homeless in a couple of weeks!!!

It might be slightly melodramatic to say we’re going to be homeless, but we did just sell our house and we don’t technically have another one yet (small details, right?!). It’s the home we’ve been in for 12 years, and I’m feeling ALL.THE.THINGS about this transition. I vacillate between peace and curious excitement about the adventure and panic about the unknowns. 

Unknowns like not having a house or knowing where my kiddos are going to school yet next year. Just small details, right?

It feels a little crazy, but it’s something we’ve been talking about for years and so we’re giving it a try, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy, and as a matter of fact, now that it is upon us it all feels a little surreal.  

Am I ok with moving out of the house we’ve been in for 12 years? 


It’s the house we moved into when Ava was 2 and Ella was 6 months old. 

The one where Ella’s chubby little baby legs crawled up and down the stairs and where all three girls learned to swing on swings on the swing set we bought a year after we moved in. 

Where we planted 10 vegetable gardens and I watched the girls pick and eat cherry tomatoes with reckless abandon every summer. 

The house where we’ve had 12 Christmases—the magical ones where the girls were little and believed in Santa, and we sprinkled reindeer dust on the back patio before going to bed. 

Where I walked up and down the street, over and over again, with wagons and tricycles, bikes with training wheels and scooters. Where they all eventually graduated to bikes without training wheels and now take bike rides together with each other. 

 The sentimental part of me wants to sit in this place, physically and emotionally, and make sure I do an accurate job of recounting every little thing that has happened in this house before I leave: Every memory, moment and million bits of family-life-mayhem that has happened under this roof over the last 12 years. 

I contemplated getting out one of my journals or a brand new legal pad and walking through the house room by room and creating a bulleted list of every memory that comes to mind as I sit in each room—I know. I know. But, this is how I process life—in my head, or on paper. On paper tends to be better for me, because it makes me feel less crazy. 

 This season that we’ve lived here- it’s a season of life that has gone by in a blink of an eye. We’ve all changed in this house, matured in this house. Heck mine and Scott have both started turning gray in this house (aka: we're getting old!).  

This is the house where I have spent one of the most formative decades of my adult life, and as a matter of fact I realized the other day that I’ve lived in this house longer than any other house in my 42 years of life. Yet, while I’ve lived in this house longer than any other address in my entire life, it’s the season of life that has gone the fastest…like sand through an hourglass. 

This is the house I lived in during that season of motherhood when I was too tired and weary to believe the sweet older ladies who proclaimed things to me like, “The time goes by so fast. Enjoy the moments,” or  “I know the days feel long (like really, REALLY long!), but the years are so short.” 

And all I wanted to say to them was, “If you really know do ya wanna come over and babysit this afternoon, because I’m really tired!” 

Turns out they were right after all. 

Here I am  packing up our house realizing how very fast the years have gone. I’m not completely sure I’m ready to return to the toddler days—I feel like every momma should get some sort of medal for surviving that season, but I am feeling a little nostalgic and sad about the baby clothes I just sent to the Goodwill, and the princess dresses that might still be in a bin in my basement because I didn’t have the heart to get rid of them all. 

 I know in my heart that this move and transition is the right thing for us right now, but it certainly doesn’t make it easy. It’s the proverbial ‘when one chapter ends, another begins’, except this feels a lot bigger than a chapter…maybe it’s a volume that is ending and another is beginning. Maybe. 

I’m planning to post here weekly over the next few months as we move- I’m going to call the series of posts “A Life in Transition” and label them by number so that if you want to follow along in chronological order you can. 

The why and how of this move are another story all together.  I’ll share all about that in more detail in my next post, but the gist of our life right now is that we’re moving to Charlotte, N.C. in a few short weeks and it’s crazy, and wild, and bittersweet and all sorts of things I both expected and didn’t expect it to be.

The good news is that I have faith in a God that is in the expected and the unexpected details of our lives and that none of it is a surprise to Him. I’ve been holding fast to that truth and will continue to do so over the next several months. 

Stop back next Monday to read the story behind how and why we decided to relocate right now, and how important prayer has been every step of the way. 

P.S. Moving With a Family, Tip #1: My sister gave me this incredibly helpful tip about taking photos of our house when we were getting ready to put it on the market. Take pictures of your house one room at a time, over the course of several weeks because if you're anything like me, trying to get the entire house clean on one day and stage is for photos is virtually impossible. 

Here is a sneak peak of the day I took pictures of my office, which is generally scattered with all manner of books, papers, homework, permission slips, binders and any other type of paper clutter you can think of! 

                                               To capture this "clean" photo...

                                                       This is what my hallway looked like! 

Tuesday, March 30

A Family Update From a Season of Waiting

Our family is in a waiting season right now. We're waiting for wisdom about some big decisions, waiting for answers about some confusing (though not especially serious) health questions, waiting to figure out if and when we're moving out of the house we have been in for 11 years. 

It's a lot of unanswered questions all up in the air. 

I'm realizing I don't particularly like unanswered questions all up in the air. 

This particular season of waiting is making me antsy and restless and a wee bit confused sometimes. I've joked with friends that I must seem bi-polar in my story of what we're doing next, swinging from one side of the story to the other, like a pendulum back and forth, back and forth. 

I can feel that swing too- in my heart and soul, in my answers to our kiddos who want to know what we're doing next, in my approach to my daily work and what needs to be done at any given moment. 

Are we staying or going? Is there a job opening up or is there not? Is God calling us to stay here in Buffalo or to a somewhat unpredictable adventure out of state, at least for the time being? 

Depending on the perceived answers to these questions on any given day the thoughts and feelings that accompany each side of the answer are complex, nuanced and multi-dimensional. 

I'm realizing that waiting on God for an answer, and/or an open door, often requires an incredible amount of faith- more faith than I expected it would require. Faith that I thought I possessed, but that has been put to the test as the wait goes on longer and longer than expected, and as life circumstances have made it more challenging than expected. 

I'm not going to beat around the proverbial bush, this has been a l-o-n-g season for Scott and I. A long and weary season in many ways. 

I won't retell the entire story that I shared in my last blog post, you can read that here if you want, but this season of long and weary, this season of requiring deep levels patience and surrender started last August for us. It started with my health taking a sudden and unpredictable turn towards chaos. It started with doctors appointments and heart palpitations, trips to the ER, severe fatigue,  and a variety of other mysterious symptoms that led to many long and confusing days. Days that left me in bed and Scott taking care of the cooking, the homework, and the bazillion details that family life requires. It started first with us waiting for me to hopefully feel better, or at least find answers. 

It continued into October when, while I was in the middle of these health struggles, the announcement was made that Mass Mutual (Scott's company) was selling their sales division to a competitor, and that they would be more than likely laying off the majority of their sales force in the process. The guys being let go would all have jobs for three more months, until the end of December. One of those guys was Scott. 

It continued on into November and December when our kids were in and out of school due to Covid tests, and suspected cases in their classrooms, culminating in Ava getting Covid in early December and the kids all being sent home to quarantine until after Christmas break.  I mustered some semblance of energy to buy Christmas presents and try to make Christmas feel as "normal" as possible given so much uncertainty with my health, Scott's job and what our next steps should be. And we all breathed a little bit of a sigh of relief to make it to the end of December, the end of 2020, one of the most unpredictably hard years for people globally. 

 "Yay!!" we thought! "We made it! Maybe life will start to return to some new semblance of normal!" 

And then, on January 6th, 2021, I got COVID and my slightly improving health situation was wrecked by a really bad case of the virus that left me in bed for 14 days straight. Literally, on my back, in bed 24/7. 

I have never, ever felt so sick as I did this past January. I was so ill that I couldn't tolerate watching television or reading books- many days I just laid in bed, sometimes trying to listen to music or podcasts, sometimes coloring for short spurts, but mostly just sleeping and passing time while feeling miserable.  I had severe headaches and body aches, a low grade fever, literally zero energy, some difficulty breathing, and on several days I experienced the heaviest sense of darkness and depression I've ever felt in my life (making me think the virus had a neurological component to it). It was awful and scary and I would not have wished that period of illness on anyone. 

In the middle of it all, my kids weren't allowed to attend school because they were potential carriers, so while Scott was trying to take care of me, he was also trying to manage their school work, which was feeling increasingly tedious from home. Ava was allowed to go to school because she had had COVID in December, but Ella and Aubrey were both required to stay home for my entire 12 day quarantine and than 12 days afterwards (so just about 3 weeks total) in case they caught the virus at the end of my quarantine. 

Fortunately, in late January, I started to slowly recover and the girls were all allowed to go back to school, finally reinstating some sense of "normal" in our otherwise not-so-normal season. 

Listen, I'm sorry to be dragging ya'll through the mud here. I planned to mostly write about the waiting and transition we've been walking through,  but in order to give you a better understanding for our season of waiting I wanted to give you some context,  which includes all of the above nitty gritty life stuff. 

I eventually got back on my feet, though my post-Covid healing was long and slow. It took weeks before I could have a conversation with someone again without feeling short of breath, and even now I'm still dealing with the ripple effects of my health issues this past fall combined with  the Covid in January.  My symptoms currently tend to come and go- I'll feel good for a few days, and then really crappy for a bunch of days, but there is no rhyme or reason to any of it--my symptoms include abnormal levels of fatigue, heart palpitations, stomach issues, some occasional breathing issues, spaciness after too much exertion, and mild flu like symptoms and body aches.  We still have questions- is there some sort of underlying autoimmune condition going on? Is there a thyroid or hormonal issue? Is there a neurological issue? A sudden onset of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia? 

I have visited multiple doctors and local (and out of state) naturopaths- we're trying to figure it all out, but such is the case with chronic illness, hormone issues and/or undiagnosed autoimmune conditions-- there is a lot of mystery and confusion before there are ever really answers, and then sometimes the answers are ambiguous at best. I'm a fighter and I'm also a huge health advocate, so I've been researching the ever living daylights out of these conditions in an attempt to get to the root cause of what is going on. I drive myself and my family nuts at times with all of my research, but when you walk these backroads of ambiguous health condtiions your choice is to give in and just hope things get better or to try to get to the bottom of it all. 

I'm a get to the bottom of it all kind of girl, and will keep digging until I do. 

And so that brings us to today-- this breezy, unseasonably warm sunny day at the end of of March in Buffalo, NY. My symptoms have flared up again this week, which for me means a lot of fatigue, unexpected achiness, and some on and off nausea. I'm pushing through with walks, stretching, deep breathing, lots of water, smoothies, bone broth and the cleanest diet I can eat on a day to day basis while trying to keep the kids happy with foods they will actually eat as well (if you're a mom, you know how challenging that can be!). 

Scott is still navigating what his next steps will be- he knows a ton of people in his industry, and has had a lot of great conversations, which is exciting. He has had multiple job offers in Buffalo, but we're looking at the possibility of moving to North Carolina (Charlotte, in particular), which is a whole other story entirely. 

And so we wait...we are praying and waiting. Waiting and praying. Praying and waiting some more. For answers, for clarity, for wisdom and open doors. 

We have come to the conclusion that in many ways it would require as much faith to go as it would to stay, but we are seeking deeply God's wisdom in all of this and have faith that He will provide. We are believing James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you." 

I plan to post here regularly for the month of April- daily life at the Littlewoods kind of stuff. I'm not going to promise a particular number of posts, just that I will post as often as possible. 

It's going to be some old-school blogging- just some random meandering through our questions, thoughts and daily life as we continue to declutter our house (and maybe my mind?!), make decisions about whether we should stay or go, try to figure out this health stuff, and respond to the ebb and flow of the daily shenanigans that tends to be the fabric of our family life.

Stop by if you want to come along for the ride (: