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A letter for a tough season

Pilot Fountain pen and journal

Dearest Renee,

That was a rough spell wasn't it? But we made it through and I'm proud of you, and truthfully I'm more than a little relieved.

That was one of the toughest Marchs on record. Now that we are through it and Spring is firmly rooted in your heart I wanted to write you a little love note. Ok, it's a long love note, I'm a bit wordy. But you know that already.

First off, you know that oft quoted phrase, "this too shall pass"? Try to remember that next time around. Maybe write yourself a little note, like the rest of the notes I write yourself. Also, now that you are feeling yourself again you can be reassured that you are not your struggle.

You are not your anxiety. You are not your insecurity. Those are things you experience, ebbing and flowing with season and situation, but they do not define you. But this winter, oh the burden of those was great, was it not?

By the end of the winter you learned some fabulous tricks and truths that would have helped a little earlier on. That's why I'm writing you this letter. Tuck it away somewhere safe and then read it next winter. Once in January will probably suffice, and a couple times in February will do. But I'm guessing that by the end of March the edges of the letter will be worn from reading.

Honey, you read this letter as often as you need to during that dark and difficult month. And maybe the month won't be so dark and difficult after all.

So, Renee, one of the things you learned about yourself this winter is that anxiety can cripple you. Some people battle weight and other health issues, your health struggle is with your mind. Anxiety and negative thought patterns may be a weakness, but that is not a condemnation or weight you must bear.

Now that you know what's going on, you know how to deal with it.

You are a thinking person, more than a feeling person (in the personality typing sense). You love to order the world in your mind, to bring control to the chaos. Most of the time you thrive doing that. Ordering, sorting, and classifying thoughts. Giving each its due and putting it into place.

This winter you learned there are some thoughts that don't deserve your attention. They don't need to be sorted, organized, or classified. In fact there are many thoughts that assalt you in a day that don't deserve the time it took you to read this sentence.

When you dwell on those thoughts, those fears, those insecurities, you give them power Hon. I know you don't mean to. You think, "I just need to follow this train of thought to know if it's true, to know where it belongs, to put it in its box." You can't do that.

When you are feeling well you can indulge more in mental gymnastics that cause you to question and doubt. There are times you are strong enough for that. Winter is not that time. And there are some thoughts that you need never open the door to. Thoughts about your worth being one example. You need never go down a thought trail to establish your worth, or your strength, or your identity in Christ, your provision or your freedom. Let's just be done with that.

The mantra that you created was a great idea. When these doubts creep into your mind, you shut them down Sister with the truth. If you have to speak it out loud, you do that; but Love, do not listen to those lies. They do not deserve your attention. Ever.

I know you don't like labels but finally naming your mental suffering, in part, as Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a healing step, not a hindering step. This is not a diagnosis so much as a direction. Naming your winter despondency for what it is will help you face next year with the right tools.

Let's face it Love, you live in a northern climate (we can't help where we're born and Canada is better than a lot of places to end up!), and getting through winter is not for the feint of heart. Lucky you! You are not feint of heart. You are a strong woman.

Don't forget this summer to buy a sunlamp and start using it in the fall. Your regular morning rising will be a benefit to you in this regard as you spend time each day "soaking in the rays".

Tanning last month was a stop gap measure but you may want to do that again next winter, but maybe you should look into safe tanning practices first. This is new to you and I'm proud of you for getting over your "au natural" hang ups to give this a try. Once you got over your fear of lying in that small space you certainly did enjoy the warmth and the mental boost it gave you.

Also, don't forget to keep taking your vitamins and fish oil (and of course keep eating your greens, but I don't need to remind you of that). These supplements are worth the cost Hon. Your health matters, don't scrimp here.

And speaking of your health, who knew that daily exercise made such a difference. I know you are used to hiking and skiing regularly but Love, you need the outdoors, the woods, and heart pumping exercise every day.

And as you've learned from doing this now for over a month (yay you!) the house does not fall apart and the schooling does not stop; in fact nothing suffers when you exercise every day. But a lot suffers when you don't.

You have the freedom in your days to exercise whenever you want so take that freedom sister! Those morning walks in the woods and runs through the mud, as winter turns to spring, are more necessary than you ever imagined for your mental health. Your mom was right.

You know what was the best gift this winter? Without a doubt the best gift was the people in your life. Aren't the people in your life wonderful?

Let's start with your family. I know you like to "have it all together" and be the mom in charge. The mom who is upbeat, happy, and energized. But when you can't be that because you are suffering, like the time your grandmother died and then with your struggles this past winter, have you noticed how your family rallies around? They can take care of you once in awhile. You don't have to always "have it together".

Love, you have poured years of your life and your very heart and soul into your children. You have been rooted in God's grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit, day in and day out. You have drawn from this rich and unsurpassed well of blessing to pour love, belonging, and rootedness into your children. You have stretched in ways you didn't think possible to love, nurture and educate these children. You are not perfect, and they know that. But just as you love your children unconditionally in spite of their imperfections - they love you back, the same way!

And when you can't be everything you want to be, and everything you know you are capable of being (isn't that the most frustrating part!) all those years of training, teaching, patience, love and understanding - they carry the load.

Love, the foundation you've already laid is secure. By God's grace you and Damien have done well, and though you're not done this parenting journey, you have an amazingly close relationship with your kids. A bad month is not going to change that.

You are a fabulous mother. And I know how fiercely proud you are of your children, you have every right to be. They were God's gift to you and you have stewarded that responsibility well.

And when you married Damien, you picked well. God honors your commitment to your husband, how you support and respect him. Damien loves you and by God's grace he provides for your family. Hon, you can rest in that. You are blessed woman and when your husband carries you, let him. And know that your time will come to do the carrying. But don't be scared, God will give you the strength when you need it.

You have some amazing friends and I know you don't see them very much, seeing as your closest friends don't live in your province, but they are there for you. Your warrior sisters in Maine are one of God's gifts to you. So is Krista in Alberta. Have you stopped to consider how much God loves you and takes care of you by providing friends? And yes, you have to work at friendships. And sometimes in the past you thought the work and the vulnerability wasn't worth it. I'm glad you are learning that it is worth it.

And remember that time last month you broke down on the ski hill? Sobbing into the arms of a local friend who asked innocently enough "ca va bien?" I was good to be honest with her. Her experience and wisdom, given with such love and compassion, was again, God's gift to you.

I know you want to have it all together but when you don't you learn so much for other people.

Your vulnerability and wholeheartedness scares you sometimes. You feel raw and open; you wish you could compartmentalize your life a bit better so you could crank out work projects in spite of your emotions.

Love, you are not wired this way. You are who you are. Your vulnerability and wholehearted, integrated living is your strength, not your weakness. And I have complete faith that you will figure out, as you journey forward, how to do the work you want to do, in a way that honors who you are.

I know one of the hardest parts of not being at the top of your game last month was shelving your ecourse plans. A decision you made looking realistically at what fills your well; what drains your well; and how much time, mental, and creativity energy you have to give to your work right now. It was the right decision, for right now.

It turns out you don't have a lot of time or energy right now to give to your "work in the world", as you like to call it (though you do realize that the work you do in your home, is in the world, right?)

Winter is a struggle for you. Let's face the facts here. You miss the colors and vibrancy of summer. You miss living green plants. You miss garden vegetables. You miss the parts of yourself that are alive during summer.

You are a vibrant, bold and rich woman - high summer seems to be the natural expression of your energy. It's no wonder that winter and the tail end of winter especially drains you.

You can find your own creative work path. I know; you have so much you want to share with other women, mothers, homeschoolers, and families. You have experienced the richness of a freedom education lifestyle, of living your interests and your dreams.

You have seen how families struggle under unrealistic expectations and society pressures and what that does to compromise family life and to deflate and defeat big dreaming and living. You have a message to share Renee and the integrity of actually living a family life in that freedom to back up that message.

But I think we learned that winter might not be the best season for you to move those ideas forward. At least this winter wasn't. And that's ok.

I'm not sure when is the right season for you and I know you felt bad about not pushing through this resistance. All those books and blog posts you're read in the past about pushing through hard things. They make it sound like you just "gotta do the work". But you're a hard worker so I know you've wondered, "why can't I just do this? What is wrong with me?"

You and I have talked a lot about this and I will tell you again Love, there is nothing wrong with you. There are seasons in our lives for pushing and seasons for resting. Seasons for turning in and seasons for turning out. Seasons for cranking out and producing and seasons for caring for our souls.

The message isn't going anywhere. Your family, which is your resume of sorts and the evidence of your work and ideas - will still be there when the time is right to push through. But right now Love, you need to rest and rejuvenation. You need to enjoy the season unfolding before you.

You had a hard winter and your work is to be well. And of course your work, as always, is nourishing, encouraging, and teaching in your home. First and foremost. It's your mission. You know the work you gotta do. And you know you can do it. You are not lazy. You are not less than. You are not missing the boat. You are being faithful with what is right in front of you.

Speaking of your mission statement Sweetheart, remember the part about beauty? You feel called to create and share beauty. You keep doing that, with your whole heart. Sometimes that is expressed in your home. All those instagrams you are taking of beautiful nooks and life moments, keep doing it. Stop, notice, and share - it fills your well.

And when you don't have any words to write, like the way you felt for most of March, that's ok. Your creative gifts are not going to disappear because you have a hard month. I know you find March as about inspiring to photograph as a tub drain. I'm not sure what to say about that, except that spring does come. Maybe you need to buy flowers every week next March. You are not defined by your photography and if your camera is unused for weeks you are still a creative, beauty seeking person.

Not just that, you're actually physically beautiful. I know you've always thought of yourself in the cute category but as you get older I think of you as beautiful, a matured cute. And your hair! Renee you have such gorgeous curls. Isn't it fun to have longer hair again? A pain some days also, but mostly wonderful.

Love your beauty Renee. Live your beauty. There is something electric about a woman who radiants her inner beauty. Don't be afraid of that.

You're an extravert. You're a teensy bit introverted but definitely more extraverted. You need conversation, engagements and action with people.

That was another thing you learned this winter, perhaps the hard way.

You are an adventurous soul and you choose to move to a Francophone province, where it is admittedly difficult for you to communicate, en francais. But most people here do speak English, don't be ashamed you don't speak French very well yet. Don't let your pride or your desire to please people get in the way.

Keep learning, keep trying, keep "putting yourself out there". But in the meantime girl - you gotta make sure you are talking regularly to people in English. Friends on the phone and friends in your community, you need regular and frequent conversation with people.

I know last month was hard and you would have bypassed the more difficult moments if you could have. But it was in these moments that you learned some of the most important lessons of this difficult time.

You learned how to have compassion for yourself. You learned how to speak the truth. 

When you don't have answers for things, when you are doubting yourself, when you feel "not on top of your game", when you are laid low, there is nothing else for it but compassion. Beating yourself up does not make the situation better.

The day will come and it has already, firmly planted as I am the sun and spring thaw of late April, when you can look at the situation and yourself more critically. You will be strong enough again to do that. But until that time you need only compassion for yourself. Just as you would have compassion for your children when they are struggling.

Really, treat your heart and your tender soul with the same love you lavish on your children. Believe in yourself they way you believe in them.

You are so beautiful. So loved. So strong. So talented and gifted. You are provided for. You are rooted in love. How could you think anything else?

I know why you are tempted to think otherwise. There is an enemy of your soul and sometimes you forget and you let your guard down. I don't blame you (we need to be done with blame, once and for all). We live in a society that doesn't believe the same things we do and sometimes we lose sight of the truth ourselves. That's ok. We found it again.

You are in control of your mind Love. When the negative self talk track starts and the outright lies are bombarding you, you need to fight. Now. You fight with truth. The truth of who you are.

Keep reading your Bible every morning and writing encouraging words for yourself to read throughout the day. Recognize the lies and replace them with truth.

I should wrap it up here. If nothing else, remember you are loved and this too shall pass. Treat yourself kindly Hon. Be exactly who you are and don't doubt your strength or courage. The time you spend investing in relationship with your family and friends, that's the best investment of all. Relationships are what support us. And when you are strong again you will do the supporting, we all take our turn.

Love you,

22 April 13

Comments

Dear Renee,

Dear Renee,

Just a reader...thank you for your perserverance, and the gift you have been to me - all year.  I struggled this winter too - and I live in a very sunny place - the High Desert in California!  I admire your courage and am learning from you!  Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your self.  Laurin

Renee,

Renee,
What a blessing to have this - to remember that we really do have to nourish ourselves and that sometimes we really do just have to get through...
Mike and i are already working on strategies for next winter as well as this past one was soooo hard for us - with him suffering from winter depression and I just needing to get outside more. Our strategy may involve going to a warmer climate in November and then again in March, we shall see....
Thinking of you,
Tonya

Thank you for being

Thank you for being vulnerable here and sharing this.  I am in tears reading it.  I am in this place, right now, for many reasons, some similar and some different.  But one is that it is still winter here...today is another gloomy, snowy day and there is snow everywhere.  I'm hoping that spring will come soon (its about 2 weeks late this year so far).  Moving, challenging seasons with littles, challenging situations in other ways has made me feel like I am at the end of my rope.  So, thank you for this encouragement.

I think my biggest struggle is how to actually care for myself when I have young children, and no one to help in any way- no family anywhere nearby, no good friends here yet, (hopefully one day) etc.  I need that outdoor time and exercise too, and I do what I can, but its still not enough due to the limitations of little kids (they are really slow walkers!)  

I think I am going to write a letter to myself sometime soon. 

Thank You so much Renee.  I

Thank You so much Renee.  I have suffered this March and April worse than I imagined I would.  I left Upstate NY thinking living in the sunshine of Colorado would help.  This year winter decided to wait till March to hit and this April has been colder and harder as well.  I feel like I shouldn't complain it could be worse.  I could still be in the darkness and dreariness upstate winters are known for.  I struggle knowing that my husband loves that area and is really in Colorado for me and the kids. So much doubt, so much 70, 72, 65, 21 F. and snow, slush, and darkness (actually rare here but not this April). I know the stress I am currently under will subside soon and that it just hit at the worst time of the year for it to. I need to let the stress go especially the things I have no control of ( I have always felt the need to make life better for all). I know May will bring warmth and more wind than I would like here on the plains of this state. June will come and I will bask in the sunshine, I have to keep reminding myself June will come. I will be sitting in the stands of a baseball field with friends and watching our children play soon.

Thank You for the reminder I am not alone in this seasonal struggle.

Beautiful. Yes, we do need to

Beautiful. Yes, we do need to give ourselves the same permission to just be who we are, the same compassion when we struggle with life that we'd offer to our sister or daughter. Such a good idea to write this down for yourself. And though I don't struggle with SAD, the past couple of years have been filled with different struggles for us and I am learning some of the same lessons you are...and in the process becoming stronger and putting down deeper roots just as I know you are.

Again, I feel like you are

Again, I feel like you are writing this to me. Our struggles look very similar, if different in location, from my perspective. Thank you for sharing this piece of beauty with me. I needed this. My time of greatest struggle is during the summer. My two youngest daughters (ages 15 & 16) spend a month with their dad, and I only have them on the weekends during that time. My heart breaks on Sunday afternoons, when I know I won't see them for 5 entire days. I am especially dreading this summer, due to the fact that my older daughter is 18 years old & on her own now, and won't be around to help distract me. This new phase of my life is a hard one, but I am trying to welcome the good that comes with this difficulty. Your words help me feel like I just might be okay...

I see your blog (you!) as

I see your blog (you!) as wholehearted, and this letter is just another piece of the evidence of what a courageous and wise mentor you are to your family, extended relationships, and those of us that are touched by you through this blog.

I have just finished all 3 of Brene Brown's books, ending with her recent "Daring Greatly" this past week. Reading those books along with what I'm learning in my own personal bible study--about the fruits of the Spirit--are really interplaying with me these days about what is shame, vulnerability, and how do we name these things and overcome them (and as Chistians-- through the truth of the cross), and how to we use those very things in our own lives for better, and for others? Sometimes I think we all "feel" or "think" (whichever you are on the MB, right? :) that we're headed downward, but we come out better, and healthier; in hindsight, we've always been moving forward, just hitting a bump in the road that seemed huge and ominious. 

Much peace to you this April!
Sarah M

That is something to be proud

That is something to be proud of, for sure.

 I also came back to this space to share something I read this morning, that I loved, and though you might like, too. 

Job 23:10

"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I have come forth as gold." 

SM

Your post brought me to tears

Your post brought me to tears - how I love the gift you have of loving yourself and the sweetness with which you speak  - as women we are all similar in so many ways - in our strengths and in our struggles - thank you for sharing - we are not alone - you have empowered me Renee - as the heart of our homes our role is so crucial - thanks for the reminder to love myself so that I can truly love those around me... 

 

Renee,  Thank you for your

Renee,  Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this letter.  I'm in the midst of an intense period of self doubt, uncertainty and discouragement and it was very moving to read your words to yourself.  There were several places I heard myself so clearly, and I am grateful for your words of encouragement that you were willing to share - and the fact of knowing that someone else has struggled with these same issues.  I'm so glad you are coming out the other side of that tough time, and so much stronger and more caring for yourself, for it.  Peace to you, Annie

Beautiful! That is some

Beautiful! That is some tremendous growth you are describing! Very inspiring! Thank you for sharing it!

I read about half this letter and thought "she is lucky to have someone in her life who loves her like this". And when I got to the end and realized you wrote it to yourself, "Even better". Good for you!

Tremendous growth is awesome (and painful). Sending love

Renee, I TOTALLY do not see

Renee, I TOTALLY do not see you as someone who doubts herself.  You seem like a very strong person, without a doubt.  This seems to be coming out of the blue for me.  But, I know that we all can put on a very good act right?  I've had a tough winter too and I'm finally starting to feel human again.  I'm sorry I haven't come around in a while but you know, I think about how awesome you are a lot.  You totally inspire me to follow my dreams.  Stay strong, big hugs and much love, Kyndale

p.s. can we skype sometime?

 

Thank you so much for sharing

Thank you so much for sharing this here Renee, and for your continued openness and honesty about your journey.  So much of what we women struggle with would be easier if we didn't feel like we have to hide or camoflouge it.  Here's to letting the light shine in!

Thank you, Renee. Thank you

Thank you, Renee. Thank you for sharing your bravery, your vulnerability... thank you for sharing both the struggle and the beauty in your life. Your words about how "there are seasons in our lives for pushing and seasons for resting" resonate (and have reverberated over the past day or so) with me tremendously. Over the past year two lessons I feel myself continuously learning is that  I need more ebb and flow in my life and that it is tremendously important to care for myself as well as others (as a mother I am sure this is a different feeling for you, but I still believe it is so true). Thank you for sharing and making many feel less alone (in whatever struggle they are having). Sending you love. 

What a beautiful letter.  I

What a beautiful letter.  I am also very verbally affectionate with my loved ones, but i never 'speak' to myself with affection! What an epiphany! Im really going to have to spend some time thinking about the 'whys and wherefores' of that. You are Brave and wonderful.  I don't take the time to comment very often, but I just couldn't help myself today. I'm proud of you. Thank you for sharing your heart. 

Thank you for sharing such a

Thank you for sharing such a lovely and honest letter. I think you would really enjoy the book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown. She also has two TED talks. Check it out.

salut Renee,

salut Renee,

C'est si beau et si vrai ce que tu as écrit. Je me suis retrouvée dans cette lettre. Je vis la même bataille chaque hiver, et ici en belgique les hivers sont très longs et gris. C'est un fabuleux cadeau que tu as fait à toi même avec cette lettre. Je devrait faire la même chose mais je n'arrive pas à me pardonner de ne pas arriver à traverser l'hiver sans ce mal être. 

Merci beaucoup, et continue à nous donner la voie.

Bisous

Paula

 

I understand. I think I'm

I understand. I think I'm going to give a try in a sun lamp too, and some vitamins, And also find time to exercise; That's a difficult one because I work inside all day and when I get home I a have work to do so,It's not easy to find time to go outside and exercise. I never thought that living winter would call for this supplements, because I eat a lot of fruits and veggies and go outside as often as I can. But I dont want to live another winter like this last one, so lets try.

Thank you for your hearted response;

A bientôt

Paula

Renee, I am in tears... We

Renee, I am in tears... We are so, so alike, sisters... I am so moved by the love you give yourself in those words, the compassion. If only we could remember in those dark times. Reread our words and let them sink in to relieve the pain. I feel bitter sweet to reading what you write because I know myself very well and know that returning to spend a winter in Quebec in a neighborhood that I don't know much and where there are no families for the next winter (it really is the girls and JF's desire...) will put me in a very similar situation. I felt so amazingl the last two winters! No SAD at all!! No dip, no down, no questioning everything, no darkness... it is incredible what living outside all day long, in the sun in a warm climate can do to our mood, to our confidence, to our self-esteem... to our thoughts. I command you for wrting this love letter to yourself. I is incredibly touching. I am glad this tough season is over for you. And yes, get a lamp and start early (end of August, and do it every morning!). It saved my sanity in the Yukon! That, the good quality supplements and the physical activity outdoors, of course!

This was the best thing I've

This was the best thing I've read for a long time! Thank you for sharing it. I also have struggled with episodes of depression; but have been depression-free for 7 years. Exercise and medication are the most important factors for keeping depression at bay, at least for me.

Renee, I've been thinking so

Renee, I've been thinking so much about this post since I read it a few days ago and I wanted to come back and just let you know how your writing and sharing this touched so close to my heart.  

I've struggled with SAD for years and this past winter (in Boston) was awesome!  I was devoted to my daily dose of "sunshine" from the lightbox, mega doses of fish oil, walking, and positive thinking/affirmations.  I'm feeling stronger than ever and I know that you will too.

You've been inspiring me for years and this week the inspiration was to give myself some grace.  Much love to you!

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