Who Am I? Losing Part of Myself

Hi. Wife, Boymom, Writer, Jr High Confirmation Teacher, Creative Thinker, Outdoor lover here.  

All those things describe me, but lately, most of those have taken a back seat. And that’s left me a little disquieted. 

Two really big things happened in my life. I bet you can guess one because it happened to all of us. 

 

Yep. Quarantine. 

 

Quarantine shut down not only our world but parts of ourselves. I know you have felt this. Not always blatantly, but it comes out in conversations I hear from friends and people around our world. We are NOT feeling normal.

 

My number two big change: 10 days into quarantine, on my middle son’s 8th birthday we found out we were pregnant. 

 

With our fourth. 

A complete unplanned surprise. 

 

A year ago at this time we had talked about how 3 was our number and we were going to make it official. But you know how that works right? We know how that works. We just continued to live our life and God blessed us with the fourth I had always wondered about. 

 

BAM! Not done.

 

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A “shock walk” the evening of my son’s 8th birthday. Even then, God was showing me beauty.

Have any of you had an identity crisis? Sometimes people call it a midlife crisis or maybe more a crisis due to trauma. I don’t know that I am in crisis mode, but I will say I have been in an identity whirlwind for most of this quarantine. I struggled in the beginning with the idea of quarantine, but started to understand the need to flatten the curve as info came out. I’m an extroverted, non-germaphobe, who loves to be spontaneous and march to the beat of her own drum. I’m not opposed to planning, joining the crowd for certain things, time by myself (as if!) or washing hands. All have a place and are needed. But none of these things come natural to me, and I had to come to terms with what I assumed was going to be a lengthy time ahead. 

 

When God threw new baby in the mix, holy moly, it just stirred my pot even more. My husband and I, on the evening we found out, sat down and wrote out our fears on paper about doing this all over again. I expected his list to be long and heavy. It turns out, mine was longer and I had been the one that was never really sure we were done. His had to do with work and finances and my career on hold again. All things I expected and knew. You know what the first thing I wrote was? 

 

“Losing my boymom identity.”

 

I think I even caught my hubby a little off guard with that one. Not because he didn’t expect it but because it was something he saw as manageable. Less scary. 

 

But let me explain myself a little more deeply. This was something I grew into. I have been known to say, it’s all I never knew I wanted. When we had our first, we did the surprise thing. Ready with a few names for either a boy or girl, we found out his gender when he was born. When we found ourselves pregnant again a year later, we decided to find out at the mid- pregnancy ultrasound. Why? Because I needed to know then I wasn’t having a girl to rid myself of any disappointment before the birth. And when our third came along, we found out again for the same reason. I was hoping for a girl, but would be happy with either. After 3 boys in 4 years, we took a break. A nod of thanks to the one in charge there. 

 

It took me no time once they were all here, to take on the identity of boymom. Our pediatrician would even come into the patient room and say “I love boyworld,” when he’d see my 2 year old hanging off the sink wearing only a diaper and the 4 year old spinning around on the doctor’s stool while I was nursing the baby. 

 

Not only does boymom describe me, but it is a group I find comfort with. My mother-in-law is a boymom of 4, and all her boys have boys. That’s right! All boy cousins on that side, one every year for 8 years. I have friends who I bond and commiserate with over disgusting bathrooms, wrestling, constant competition and getting them to SIT for dinner. This has nothing to do with a lack of love for girls. And some of this may even describe your girls. But you just bond so closely with those in similar situations, right? 

 

As my boys grew, I grew into loving all that it entailed. Busy, rambunctious and full of adventure described them quite well. I think the great part is, some of those things can describe me too. So watching and guiding them through early life became a sort of solidifying of who I was. Some of it I knew about myself already, and some of it brought a whole new side of me to learn and grow through. I was a boymom and have been a proud supporter of the “Boymom” company out there that makes hats and shirts and sweatshirts.

 

This is why I wrote what I did at the top of my fear sheet that night.  I have grown into a role that I didn’t know existed for me. I knew motherhood was something I wanted, but boymom is a special little niche I took on. I had started to think, if we ever got pregnant again, I’m pretty sure I’d be rooting for a boy, because it’s what I love and am comfortable with. God has brought me so much joy in this identity. 

 

But much like the quarantine, identity can abruptly change throughout life. Why? Because circumstances change. Maybe you moved away from a town you loved, and you are struggling to find joys around this new place. Maybe you were forced out of a job that was perfect for you and are now facing uncertainty of the next steps and who you are apart from that role.  Maybe you always considered yourself able to roll with the punches but find yourself ready to pull out hair at this time. Maybe all you once trusted and leaned on is shaky at best.

 

In the past when working with youth and talking about identity, I have found it can be exciting to help them grasp and understand parts of themselves and learn about what really makes them tick. It’s like discovering the work of art God made in each of us. But because we are human, even we must grow and change. So if we can’t even trust that to stay put then what are we to do?

 

 Identity isn’t just about who we are, it’s about whose we are.

 

When I get to know myself and then circumstance or feelings change, I can head very quickly into a pool of anxiety, wondering what in the world is happening.

 

When I understand that I belong to Jesus and am his dearly loved and forgiven child, that…THAT lasts forever. The world and even my feelings can go through ebbs and flows that threaten to take away things I’ve always known and loved, but STILL– I am a dearly loved and forgiven child of God. To know something doesn’t change in this ever-changing world, and right now, ever-changing minute–it brings me a lot of peace. 

 

Knowing this also helps me worry less about losing parts of myself, and see that growing sometimes necessitates this very action. In the Bible the prophet John the Baptist says this simply as he shares about Jesus “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

 

I appreciate the time God gave me to hide out during this first trimester (when things are not so good for me anyway) even if it felt quite rotten to be holed in at times. I don’t love all the shifting in this world, nor do my kids. It’s hard to live in a time where we can’t make plans or simply be around people we love. My husband and I prayed that night over our fears and gave them to God. An attempt to make Him greater and give our future-blind eyes peace. Within the week after that prayer, my fear turned to wondering about what it might be like to have a girl for these 3 crazy and sweet boys. 

 

Until we find out about our little one, until the day I can again roam the earth and walk up to someone without worrying about 6ft of distance,  and until the day I’m with Jesus in eternity, I can rest my heart and mind knowing I’m His no matter what might change. 

 

*Boymom is just one part of my identity that I’ve struggled with as part of being pregnant. Bringing a baby into the world at any time is an exciting and nail-biting event. As one prepares, the body changes, and the mind reels, we have to remember how very precious this child is to the Creator. And he, in his infinite wisdom, chose me at this time to be a caretaker for his special child. As I look at the changes ahead for our family, I try to keep this at the helm. Not only am I God’s child, but the little one I carry is his child. Encourage the scared pregnant mamas out there with this news because it can be an especially challenging time to bring life into the world.

 

Through the Eyes of an Amateur Assistant Soccer Coach

I had the opportunity this week to coach my son’s soccer team. It was my first solo coaching gig (is “gig” the right word for this?). I volunteered to help the other two dads on the first day of practice. I always seem to have two other boys in tow (where did they come from anyway?) and I’m never sure I can balance being mom and coach during practice and games. The commitment level of an assistant works well for me at this time. This week, however, both dads would be gone. Coaching duties were all on me. Having helped out with practices and few other games already I have found that I am LOVING this.

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I should let you know, soccer is my favorite sport. I was a late comer as I started playing around age 12, but never stopped. I only took a break in college because I tore my ACL three times. I mean, some things in life just really slow you down. I helped coach a JV high school girl’s team where I taught for one year and when I moved to where we live now I found an adult woman’s team and joined. I haven’t played since I’ve had kids though, for fear of another ACL tear and slowing down mom life. But it seems this sport just calls my name every time I get close to a field. 

So here I am, coaching solo (honorable mention to the mom who helped with the bench players and Thomas the husband who made sure to back me up with eyes on the field and gathering kids when needed) on a week night, with 11 third and fourth grade boys all telling me what position they want to play at once. Thank heavens I had already mapped out positions for each 12 minute quarter ahead of time. Demands and decisions like that could have sunk me before the game began.

I won’t give you play by play of our hour long game but I will give you some of my favorite teachable moments of the evening.

Coaching, much like teaching, makes the person in charge the biggest learner of all. To stay one step ahead of the team I had to be prepared and a bit practiced. You can’t know exactly how things will play out, but you have to prepare for responses win or lose. 

There’s one player that constantly looks over at me on the sidelines, checking to see if his positioning is right. I give him lots of direction and encouragement when he looks over but when he’s deep in play, he doesn’t hear me at all. It might be because he knows just what to do in those times.  

One of our teammates was playing his first game, and he was the most confused about positions. He kept trying to take thrown-ins on the opposite side of the field that were meant for another of his team members. I kept telling him to come back towards the center so the boys would have a pass when needed. Its exhausting to cover the whole field.

A couple of our kids played goalie for the first time. Goalie is an intimidating position. It seems pretty laidback until the ball is barreling down the field right in your direction. Once it hits that large goalie box, you’re like a cat with hair standing on end trying to decide the best plan of attack. Not only that but everyone is yelling at you to get it out of the box. Once that ball gets past the line though, the goalie feels the weight of loss. But a save is the exact opposite. There is elation and pride that they did their part and kept the team safe. 

At one point of the third quarter we had a 3 pass succession and almost scored! What does that mean? Listen, at this age in rec soccer, a majority of the kids are just trying to take the ball away and keep possession themselves. They are only just beginning to learn that there is team around them, looking for space and trying to help out. Too often the kids don’t look up long enough to see the teammate’s location and get in that quick pass. So 3 passes in a row was a huge step.

We lost 1-4. To our fans it was a hard game and maybe even disappointing. But from where I sat, I watched kids play in multiple positions, put together some plays, goalies punt balls better than I’ve seen yet, and nobody let on defeat. Most of them just wanted to keep playing and running more. 

Now, take a halftime break here and breathe. 

If you would, walk back through these moments with me, and put on my glasses. There are some amazing connections I need you to see. 

When I’m in a position of leadership like coaching, I may make plans, practice and try to train my team, but I have to trust God to teach me bigger lessons in flexibility and giving us all what we need in the unplanned moments. Also everyone has ideas about what they want, but I have to keep the bigger picture in mind. 

Like the player who kept looking over at me, don’t lose sight of God and his ways. Reposition as needed. Then when it’s time to engage, do so with vigor!

Like the new player who was playing both sides of the field, we can’t do it all. We’re not meant to and it often takes the joy of playing away from others. We have to mind our positioning while helping where we can. Exhaustion trying to play all the parts hurts you and the people you’re trying to help. 

There are some that are the protectors. They are the last line of the defense like the goalie. Think Parents. Rescue Workers. Doctors. Law Enforcement. Military. Leaders in Churches and Organizations. They have a huge weight to carry. We should acknowledge the protectors and speak out encouragement for them. Sometimes when things get past them, they will feel so very heavy. Remind them it is not over and they have not let the whole team down. Everyone is working together. They are not alone. 

Like our well played intentional passes, look up. Look up. Just like the goalie, you are not alone. This life is meant to be lived as part of a community. Likely there is someone close by waiting, maybe even longing for the pass. But first you have to move your eyes off your own two feet and look up.

There will be some losses. But total defeat is not our destiny. If you walk with the Lord, the war is already won. Don’t focus on the score, but learn from the fight. Learning how to play well, fair, and as a team is way more fun than just scoring mercilessly anyway. 

I can’t wait for another chance to coach these 9 and 10 year old players. After all, who is really taking away more? 

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A capture by one of the parents. Our team gathered in front of the sunset.

New Beginnings

I am sitting in Atlanta International Airport right now, having just arrived from St. Louis. Those speaking Spanish are slowly starting to surround me. We board in about 45 minutes for a plane headed to Panama City, Panama. My nerves from this morning have subsided…slightly.

I woke up at my in-laws house tired this morning, but my husband was holding me, very much what I need right now. I got up and showered and returned to Thomas saying, “ while I get ready, you tell Jaime.” I wasn’t sure what to expect but our TV was on with breaking news. My mother-in-law told me that security had arrested many terrorists in London, England at Hartfield Airport. Many of them were headed to major cities in the U.S. like L.A., New York City, and Washington D.C. The plot was uncovered early that morning. Already family was calling us from other areas to make sure we knew what was going on. So what did that mean for us on the day we were flying out of the country to where we would be serving for a year?

They changed security to not allow any liquid, gels or pastes in carry-ons. Thankfully we were prepared enough before arriving through the lines. I missed one item but was able to give it to my in-laws and then go through security again. Arriving in Atlanta and settling at our new gate, the overhead speaker announced they were out of tourist cards and that we can purchase them when we get to Panama. I wonder how that will work? I look outside and see the dark skies and storms. I wonder how a lot of things will work. My best, though, is under God’s care. He’s already prepared the way, and that is my peace. 

We were delayed about 3.5 hours in Atlanta due mostly to the bad storms. When the airport re-opened for flights, we were 40th in line. We moved along quicker than I thought, however, and the flight was thankfully uneventful. We filled out our tourist cards, or visas, after we arrived (about 12:30am) and then went through customs. Thankfully our missionary host family, Henry and Ruthie were there waiting for us after we gathered our piles of luggage. I wasn’t sure what we’d do or how I’d hold up if they weren’t there. Arriving in a strange city, in a country where you don’t speak the language, in the middle of the night, is quite unnerving. 

This beginning is taken straight out of my journal when my husband and I were sent to Panama with LCMS World Mission in 2006. We took this call with excitement. We had both served in our post-college jobs for about 2 years and felt change coming. We either were looking at a transfer for Thomas’s job or this move to the mission field. The mission field was where our hearts felt led. We started the process 6 months before we left the country. 

New beginnings are filled with a sense of adventure and wonderment. In something completely new, you can’t visualize what it looks like on the other end. To some, this is scary, while to others it stirs up their inner explorer. I land on both sides of that coin. I love the new, but on those first days, I’m anxious and full of emotion. 

Why is new scary? Because it’s unpredictable. Because it might be a complete bust. Because what’s waiting on the other side might not actually fill my expectations. Because I don’t even know if I will know what to do.

Why is it exciting? Because it brings new life to areas of myself that needed fresh starts. Because adventuring shows me I’m stronger than I thought. Because with other things out of the way, I see God a little more clearly. 

Notice how our beginning to Panama was full of both the scary and the exciting? How in the world were we traveling on a breaking news day that involved air travel and terrorism? Really? On our first day headed to the mission field for a year?

Sometimes new beginnings are like that. You know it’s a good move. You have consulted with others, and with God in prayer. It’s right. But as you move forward, you run into obstacles. It gets scary. Not every beginning will be clear of all the hardships. Actually it might be the opposite. It might feel like you’ve made the complete wrong choice as you stumble and push through the discomfort surrounding you. 

I don’t know what your new beginning is like right now or if you have one coming up, but I would encourage you to push through and not be scared off by the initial storms. There will be time to reevaluate once you have given it a fair shot. But I think those challenges in the beginning can be addressed like the adventurer seeking new land. Something was left behind and you did that on purpose. Because there is something ahead that you need in your life.

For us, the first year and a half of marriage was hard. We needed a change and this was an opportunity to share our greatest purpose with others around the world. In hindsight, we learned so much about what mission work is and what it isn’t. We gained a greater worldview. We learned another language and the sweetness of our own heart language. But I think what we knew we needed most was growth. I can list hundreds of ways we grew that year. The bonus was we got to purposefully share Jesus along the way.

As I read back through my journal from that year, within those first 3 days we set up a bank account, visited 4 of the 7 Lutheran churches, grocery shopped, cleaned and prepped our new home, met everyone in the mission office, went to a woman’s house for Bible study that had 10 excitable, Spanish speaking kids, met church youth members that would eventually become some of our favorite characters, took the bus across town to teach English class with another missionary, and so many more things. It was so full we could hardly stop to take it all in. I’m thankful I have this journal to read it back. I’m amazed at how God worked in our lives when it was such a crazy beginning. 

If you are at this beginning, it means something is coming to an end. Bittersweet or not, I encourage you to turn and face the beginning with bravery. You may be shaking in your boots. You may feel the surge of excitement. You can be like me and wonder just how things are going to work. We can’t see the future. But our best is under God’s care. He’s already prepared the way, and that is our peace.

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My hubby exploring the beach of Taboga Island, just a quick ferry ride from the canal opening by Panama City. He was the best partner for me and our new beginning.

 

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In front of our Panama house in the old US Canal Zone
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Climbing the greased pole at a church fest just a month after our arrival. Thomas is at the bottom!
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Close up of the greased pole: Thomas holding the weight of the team.
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Anselma teaching us how to make arroz con pollo at our house.
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One of my big assignments: Training young youth leaders in a day long seminar- in SPANISH!
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Those spunky kids we met upon our first days of arrival.

 

Hitting the Reset Button

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I was about to take off with my mom for our girls’ weekend away. The sun was shining and warm, the convertible top was down, we had just finished watching all 3 boys play baseball and we would be on our way to our free afternoon of whatever we felt like doing in the city. 

I put in the name of our hotel on the phone for directions and the screen went into a white blank search. I waited, but not too long. 

“It’s not pulling up. Ugh! My phone has been acting up lately! Nothing. It won’t load much at all!” My husband was still just outside the car and I was yelling that out for his benefit too. Like it was my desperate plea to please fix this annoyance in my life. It had been doing this for days and I was sure I would be shelling out money for a new one soon. 

At the same time he and my mom say a version of the same thing. 

“Power off and on again.”

Every time someone says that to me I feel 2 things. 1. How could I have forgotten to do something so simple? 2. How can something so simple really fix this?

I listened, turned the phone off (but not for long, I had places to go), and sure enough, it worked like a charm. GPS was up and moving along with all the other apps that were holding out on me. *Sigh*

Could it all really be so simple?

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Daddy’s one way commute went from 1 hour to 10 minutes! This was one of our favorite changes.

Last time I told a story at the fire I recounted my husband’s deployment. It’s been almost 4 months since he’s returned home. 4 months! In that time he has done nothing but transition from one change to another. He was home for a month, went back to his old job in the civilian world for a month, put in his notice that he was leaving in a month, then immediately started his new job on base for almost a month. Count ’em up. 4 months of change.

My boys moved along from their basketball season to baseball, and Thomas (husband) is even coaching the older boys’ team. He also joined the church softball team so he could play too.IMG_5964

 

I started a local writers group with some moms from our school and meet with them twice a month for encouragement and learning. Then I mentioned to our Moms group leaders that I could write some curriculum for them and they took me up on it. We found out we were approved for a trip to Orlando for work and so I spent a week learning and planning Disney for our family’s first trip there this summer.

Now its May and apparently any and every event in school, church, and life needs to happen these last few weeks. Every time I finish one activity, I turn around to realize that a volunteer assignment or field trip is quick on its heals. Fast food is too commonly our dinner plan and juice boxes are strewn across the floors of my minivan. 

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My 5 year old assumes his position for eye drops and a warm compress.

All the sickness that stayed at bay for my boys and I in January when daddy returned, came to cash in this month. Seriously, we have had random vomiting, pink eye, fifths disease (we had no idea until the rash came and then its not contagious-go figure), itchy feet, sore throats, and a current fever and cough that won’t relent for my youngest. He had to miss his last days of school. My voice was completely gone on Mother’s Day weekend and my husband who almost never takes a sick day had to come home early from work because he’s struggling with the same thing as my 5 year old. 

We are CRAWLING to the end line folks.

I usually welcome the end of the school year because it’s a nice break. This year, I feel like a marathon runner who’s going to straight up pass out over the finish line.  

The Holderness family nailed it with their “Maycember” music video. If you haven’t seen it, its worth a few minutes of your precious May time. It reminds me I’m not alone and makes me laugh instead of cry. When I ask a friend if they heard about an upcoming event, it’s not unusual for me to receive a blank stare as they search their files. If they are even willing to search. It’s like the blank white screen of my phone. We’ve got little to nothing left and our circle is just spinning while our page remains blank. 

The reminder comes. I need to POWER OFF.

Isn’t it funny that we can relate ourselves to a piece of technology? Aren’t we more complex than that? Is it really so simple, and if that’s the answer, how do I even do that?

Jesus was having a “May” himself throughout much of his ministry. It wasn’t his entire life. He spent the first years growing up in a family and learning the trade of his father. But when it was time to start his journey towards the cross, it became MAY. Open your nearest Bible and take a look at the book of Matthew, starting about midway of chapter 4 and then glance across the black letters (if your Bible has red letters they’re used to show the words of Jesus) that describe the setting at the tops and bottoms of each titled section. Scan through chapter after chapter. Phrases like this are found:

“From that time on Jesus began to preach,”

“When he came down from the mountainside from teaching, the crowds followed him”

“When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help.”

“When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.”

“Then he got into the boat and the disciples followed him.” (This is where he was sleeping in the boat during a bad storm. After reading all this, I think I can understand WHY.)

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.”

“While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, ‘My daughter has just died,’”

It goes on. Jesus moves from one place to the next and the people flock to him. As he travels around, there are sick, hurting, confused, and dying people all around him begging for his help. As a mom of 3 sometimes I dare to think, “this is what I feel like”. But really, they are just 3. He was often surrounded by crowds of hundreds to thousands. And yet, Scripture says, “he had compassion on them”. 

Luke 5:15-16 reads, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

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Jesus was fully human. He surely got tired and felt the aches of this body and life. But we are also told that he was fully God. His personal aches were overcome with an ache of compassion. He loved people fully and gave them more than what they sought. Physical healing, yes. But spiritual life and newness? That’s a game changer. This man, this son of God brought LIFE beyond the here and now.

But he also needed a moment to power off. He slept through storms, he stepped out on boats to preach from a distance, he withdrew to be on his own and pray to God. He was showing us an incredibly important lesson in his actions. 

You have a job to do? Do it and work hard.

You have children to care for? Do the 3680 tasks that are necessary to keep them safe and growing.

You have a school, church or organization to volunteer at? Please serve with your whole heart.

You have a sickness that has taken over? Go to doctors appointments, ask for help, reorganize the schedule.

BUT, (yes a big but), in order to keep going, function properly and do so with love—take the moment to power down. 

Find that quiet place and pray. I think one of the reasons Jesus chose ‘lonely places’ is so that he could hear. Hear nature. Hear his own breathing. Hear God. The crowds and people were always around him. He needed space… 

to breathe,

to think, 

to pray, 

to hear God whisper the sweet words of encouraging life back into his soul. 

When we do this, this simple little action, our mind and heart reset. We have just what we need to make it to the next power off. When you find your mind spinning and nothing but an empty page of a heart, don’t forget that step, friends. 

I’m going to wrap this up and find a lonely place. Because if you made it with me to the end here, you and the Lord know I can use it.

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One of the kiddos catching me in a moment of powering down.
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A “lonely place” where I recharged with a friend on Mother’s Day.
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On our way to the school finish line, smiles and all!

Deployment In The Rearview Mirror

As a arrive to the fire I notice that it’s quiet still but I know many are still coming. I pull up a chair and start chatting with our friendly hostess. I’ve got a story to share with her and we talk and then she invites me to share with the rest as they start filtering in.

Hi all, I’m glad to be here and honored to be asked to share. I published this original post on my blog site about one week ago and wrote it about one week before that. Since the writing my husband and I have worked through initial adjustments of him being home and also enjoyed a 5 day trip to Jamaica, just the 2 of us.

Oh my goodness. It was AMAZING. And relaxing. Is it good or bad to get used to someone bringing  you drinks to your beach chair?

So what’s my connection here? I am Beth’s (oldest?) niece. 

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At my 8th grade graduation in 1995. We were only just beginning our relationship.

My dad and her husband Tom are brothers. I am her daughter Allie’s sponsor in baptism, I dabble in some Mary Kay and she and I both graduated from River Forest as Directors of Christian Education. We get together and can easily talk for hours. But it’s Beth. You all know as well as I that she is a stranger to no one. She changed my life when she started dating the fun uncle who was always playing around with us kids. Because of her I was inspired to look into the DCE ministry, which it turns out is a great fit for me and my gifts. 

Thanks for having me and I hope you enjoy learning a bit about the Brinkmann clan; specifically our big life challenge this past year.

Deployment in the Rearview Mirror- Original Post

 

Enjoy more of Jaime’s work at http://www.Jaimebrinkmann.com