Motherhood- the box

At this time, I’m not going to get into my labor stories on this blog, but the story and metaphor I share below do include the experience of motherhood before birth. I’m still saving those memories as private sacred moments, but I would like to share many other facets of motherhood with you. If you would like to hear those stories, I’d be happy to sit down with you over a good, hot cup of coffee and share. In the meantime, just know they were crazy, beautiful, not what I expected, wreck my life, build me up, life altering moments. So special. Wild and hard would be understatements. Yet, the moment my boys were born, all that crazy faded a bit, and the beautiful got brighter. I was forever changed. 

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Locking eyes- those sweet blue eyes- all of what I had thought mattered, melted away. Whatever my needs or wants were up til that moment were forgotten. He was healthy and perfect and a new part of my story. I was ready and willing to die for him in that moment.

I’ve always been a dreamer. I look at life in wonder.  I love the ‘nexts’ of life. I’m the girl who is on vacation scheming up the next one. Starting a career, thinking about the next one. Pregnant with one child and excited about them and their siblings. I don’t just dream about things though. My parents taught me well to plan and prepare. “Things don’t just happen,” my mom would say. I think “this isn’t the life I want.” And then I find solutions to get where I do want to go. Boxes can’t hold me down.

Then I became a mom to the most beautiful and curious boy. But within our first month, I found myself trapped and suffocating inside a box called Motherhood.

Driving down the road one day, I asked Michael what he was dreaming about for life. He answered, then naturally asked me the same. And I began to cry. I didn’t know how to dream anymore. I felt stuck, suffocated. “What’s next?” I thought. Next, my baby turns one and I plan that party. Then I get pregnant again. And then I keep doing this over and over and every day is the same. Until one day they are grown and I have to reinvent myself and rediscover me.

Now, that’s depressing to think about, huh? I’m not going to sugar coat my thoughts for you. #sorrynotsorry

The very next day, I’m rolling around in this ‘box’ of motherhood adoring my children and bursting at the seams with joy and wonder for their lives. In pure bliss, and so thankful for the space and opportunity to pull back from a career so that I can spend my days raising my kids and not have to rush off to work.

And then my son goes off to take a nap, and I suddenly wonder what my purpose is and if I’m really making an impact and what is the point. Once I get through that thought, I make lunch (finally) for myself, and as soon as I finish, he’s awake. I pray he goes back to sleep, but he doesn’t and I just wilt because I’m exhausted and didn’t get time to make a pot of coffee.

Rushing through our days, nights, routines, my baby turns into a toddler, and I wonder how on earth I ever struggled with a baby. I mean it’s soooo much harder now. And I’m pregnant. I’m puking, exhausted, and this kid is having melt downs ALL. DAY. LONG. Banging his head on the floor. Screaming at me. He can barely say anything, but he’s sure got the screaming down. Other well-intentioned moms ‘reassure’ me, it only gets worse. And back into the box of suffocation I go.

Upside-down on my face, these plastic see-through walls surround me. They fog up if I breathe harder.If I breathe slower, my brain only receives less oxygen. I see people outside, but I’m stuck– or at least feel like I am.

Our second boy is born, and wow. Life is bliss. Pure bliss. And sleep exhaustion, I NEVER sleep anymore and probably will never sleep again. People warned me of this. I will not sleep for another 20 years. Give or take a few depending on how many more kids we have. We run on adrenaline and coffee and sheer will. I don’t even know how we made it through those first few months. I think my body was only half alive. Yet, we made it. Sort of. Forever changed.

And now, I can tell you, my experience says it gets better- not worse. I want to be the first person (it seems) ever to tell you: It. Gets. Better. And it gets ‘more’, but it doesn’t get easier.

The screaming might get louder sometimes, but the sleep deprived state you’re running on goes away (usually, mostly). That stretch you feel– the one where you feel inadequate and like you can’t leave the house– well you stretch and adjust and your capacity changes. You create more space. You change. You feel more. You can laugh more.

The joy you felt when you baby was born or you held them for the first time or maybe when your bond formed months later– that grows. It’s not like day one is the best and then day two, week two, year two (or twelve depending no who you ask), it suddenly gets hard, and everything leading up to it will have been easy in comparison. Motherhood IS hard work, but you’re a hard worker. You begin to dream big dreams for your family, not just an individual. Sometimes your mind runs rampant with the fears and what-ifs and way-too-scary-to-write-on-paper thoughts, but it also is wild with deep revelation and prophetic insight into who that sweet little baby is going to become and it all happens in a second. They smile and their future flashes in your mind.

And that box? That breathless feeling of suffocation and isolation? It’s not unbreakable. It’s all too common and tangible, and yes– it’s one most moms I know experience. Don’t live in that box. Break the damn box.

Acknowledge your boundaries, but don’t die in the box. Find life and joy and dance and sing and rest in the newness of life. It is a lie straight from hell that motherhood ruins women. I’m tired of hearing “before I had kids, I was fun.” I get it– I do. But what if we got rid of the metaphorical box that motherhood ties us down? What if we lived differently? Or at least thought about it differently?

Motherhood brings life.

In all the sacrifice and struggle and tantrums and sleeplessness. In all the opening your heart to emotions. In saying “no” to friends and parties. In changing your idea of what your dreams would look like. In having less money for yourself. In choosing patience moment after moment. In experiencing the change children bring to your marriage and to you…

We experience something bigger.

Something a box can’t hold down. It can’t be confined.

Life.

How have you felt confined and how have you broken out of that box?

How is your Motherhood bringing Life?

 

 

 

 

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It’s worth it

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It’s 3 am and we haven’t slept yet. Swaying back and forth, back and forth. The floors creak. My body is weary, and my mind is done. You and me, we’ve been doing this dance for too long. Too many nights. Too many hours. Deep breath.

I pray, and sing, and rock, squat, bounce, lunge, Shhh…

6am comes and I can’t tell if I slept last night or not, but you’re wide awake and so, I am too.

Coffee helps with the sting of the sunlight this morning. Yoga pants, a head band, and concealer hide the after effects. Lots and lots of concealer. I’d wear sunglasses but we live in Seattle and it’s winter.

Closing my eyes, I feel the warmth of my coffee in my hands. I remember back to before you were born, sweet boy. I had this aching for you. I longed to love you. To hold you and feel your squishy body and laugh with you. But I never knew how much I would love you. I never knew. How could I? No one could prepare me. There are no words to describe the vast array of emotions and growth and madness and change and bodily fluids and it all.

Laying here with you now, reading a book, and playing with your toys, I see you yawn. We both know that’s your first cue that you are tired and nap time is nearing. This excites me because Lord know’s I’m tired and need to shut off for a few minutes. Change your diaper, swaddle you, dim the lights, pray, sing Amazing Grace, and you fight it. You begin to cry. You pinch my face, and scream. “Oh baby, please, baby baby.” Mama needs a nap too.

I feel my frustration boil up. I just want this to stop. I want life to be simple. Why do my days consist of survival? My job is taking care of your basic needs, but in doing so I completely surrender my own. WHY IS NO ONE PAYING ME TO BREASTFEED YOU?! Seriously. Farmers make money off of milking cows, where is MY paycheck!? Go to sleep, child of mine.

And then, deep breath..let it all boil out. Scrape the anger and selfishness off. It doesn’t belong inside. Throw it away. Motherhood has been so deeply sanctifying. It exposes my insides, and if I let go long enough, God helps clean them out.

We both settle and eventually you fall asleep in my arms. You refuse to let me move or put you down. Each time I try, you stir. So in survival mode, I lay there letting my arms fall asleep so that we can both rest. Thirty minutes pass and finally my mind quiets enough to begin to doze off.

Deep breath, you’re awake again. Eating, again. We start this dance all over, again.

But I keep reminding myself — it’s not about me. It’s about love. You sweet one, teach me to love more deeply each day. You stretch my heart and my capacity. You are so tiny and so powerful. Thank you.

You are worth it. No matter what, I’ll love you, little one.

 

Why I’m letting go, and you should too


I can remember the day vividly– the day I thought “this may be the last time I rock my baby to sleep.” I was newly pregnant with my second baby, and my first just over a year old. He was too busy to need mama cuddles anymore, and honestly I was tired of being so physically needed and demanded so this new independence was a relief. My body had been such a life source– growing, birthing, feeding, holding– I needed the space. And yet that gut-wrenching realization that my baby is now a toddler and may never need me to cuddle him to sleep again began to hit me. It was shockingly hard. He’d push me away at bed time and say “no mama” to rocking or singing him to sleep. That season was over.

Oh, I still feel that achy feeling everyday. I never knew this feeling before. No one can prepare you for that deep-in-your-heart-churning-bring-you-to-your-knees-weeping kind of emotion. This is the new normal. This is love.

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Mother’s Day 2015

On Mother’s day, my sweet boy had caught a little cold as toddlers tend to do all winter long, and was much more tired and needy than normal. Sick days are actually some of my favorites. My toddler finally slows down enough to cuddle. On this day, I was able to hold my sweet, peaceful warrior during our entire shopping trip. Though my arms were shaking under his weight by the end of the hour, my heart was so so full. This day, I wept in the car after that trip because I knew this may be the last time this ever happens. I was hopeful my baby would still need my embrace from time to time, but I knew this era was coming to a close. Of course he will always need me, but he may not always know or want me in the same way.

Being a parent is an incredible gift of perspective. It allows us a small peak into God’s love for us.

When we are weak, sick, hurting, small, broken, and realize we aren’t enough, we finally give up. We slow down and say “help.” We collapse into God’s arms. Why do we wait so long? Why don’t we let this be our normal?

Psalm 34: 9-11 says “9O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. 10The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. 11Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.”

Mama, you’re just a kid with kids. You know it and I know it. Collapse into the ultimate comforter. Let go. Fearing God frees you up. God has got your back. You won’t be disappointed. Satisfaction will never run dry.Why I'm letting go, and you should too (1)

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, “Okay, but what does that even mean to ‘let go’.”

Okay, practical Sally, here’s what that means: When you are at your end, let go and let God show up.

It’s 3pm and you are exhausted. There is no energy left and yet the day is basically only half way through and you need to somehow keep the babies happy, get dinner cooked, and keep everyone safe until bedtime, and find the energy to talk to your husband in a loving manner when he gets home. And every mom knows these very simple tasks might as well be a marathon. ALL you want to do at this point is go binge on Netflix (with a box of chocolates and wine), and for no one to be crying and needing you. Yet, you get to do the opposite. Oh the joys.

So what does it look like to let go when you just want to lock yourself in the bathroom and hide from the little, wild children camping outside?

It looks like taking a deep breath, saying “God, I can’t do this. Help.” Let go of your self-dependence. Acknowledge your lack and need. And then receive God’s grace, peace, comfort, and guidance.

Here are 5 ways how letting go in motherhood sometimes looks for me:

  1. I leave the house messy. Mama, no one cares if your house is messy. This one wasn’t as hard for me, since I don’t like to clean anyways, this actually comes naturally, unless someone is coming over, then I shove it all in my bedroom. (Tell me I’m not the only one! Haha!)
  2. Order take out or ask someone for help cooking. This one killed me for a long time. I pride myself on making food for our family, and when I realized sometimes it’s just too much it was hard to swallow. Let go, Mama.
  3. Sometimes God just gives me energy and joy to get done what we need to. Strength comes from God. Let go of trying to muster up the strength, and let God show up.
  4. Turn the T.V. on. WOAH, there I said it. I know you’re not supposed to say that, but there it is. Turn on Daniel Tiger and relax for 20 minutes or get what you need to get done during this time.
  5. Get outside. Strap the kids in the stroller and run or walk. It takes me so much less mental energy to do this, and it always leaves me feeling better.

I’m still very much working on this whole “letting go” concept and applying it to life, but each time I do, it is so freeing. Are there ways that you let go that I didn’t mention here? Comment below, I’d love to hear and learn from you, Mama.

 

Hidden

Once upon a time, there was a girl on a mountain. She had climbed and climbed to get there. When she made it to the top, she could see all the other mountain tops and valleys and she stood in awe. Soon, she gave birth to a baby. Then everything changed. To protect her family, she made her way down to the valley and built camp between a river and the mountainside, so the trees would be their covering and the water their source of life. Here she was hidden. No one had warned her of the isolation, of the discontent, of the ‘what might have been’ thoughts… She had seen all the mountains, but here she was in the valley. Not alone, but hidden. It wasn’t the warm and satisfying meadow she had hoped for.dawn-nature-sunset-treesThis is part 2 of my abiding in motherhood series. Check out part 1 here.

When I started the ‘mom-gig’ I didn’t know how much God cared about motherhood and diapers. I thought moms were admirable, but that they were more sacrificial than anything.

Motherhood wrecked my mountains. The places I thought were my strengths crumbled. The places I was the worst at, were called up and forced to grow. Raising a baby was so different from anything I’d ever done, and around the same time God pulled me out of all of my leadership capacities. All of the dreams and areas that I was good at and had dreamt and grown were put on pause for me– well, all except marriage and motherhood.  The roles I swore I would never let motherhood change or get in the way of, were changed. I had to put my family first. I was stripped of the busyness that distracts us and allows us to be ok at a lot. I liked being ok at a lot. I did not like having “a little” nor did I know how to be good at it. When all of my responsibilities were stripped, I no longer recognized myself. I felt trapped. I felt bored. I thought I couldn’t dream. If you only knew how sad this made me– I was suffocating from a lack of dreaming. Oh my heart ached.

You might be thinking that I must have been performance-based and God must have been teaching me a lesson. Maybe I was, but I don’t think that was really it.

You might be thinking that I was doing it all for pride. I wondered that too. 

You might be wondering why would I ever want more kids and why on earth would I be a stay-at-home mom if I had all of these feelings and struggles. Girl, you have no idea. I wondered this a lot. 

My job and role is to spend my days with my kids, turning them to God (aka I’m a stay-at-home mom) because that’s what God told us was best for our family. I’m learning to obey God and I spent the last 2 years kicking and crying about it, but still obeying this command. I’m apparently just as difficult as a toddler.

I wondered why this transition was so hard for me. Why was each day so difficult?

I don’t think there is one answer, but I think a lot of it can be summed up in one word: hiddenness. To me, this felt like being lost.

No one else could mother with or for me. Changing diapers, washing laundry, cleaning the floor, wiping up puke, going for walks, reading about parenting, discipline, teaching them to talk, waking up, being patient, all of it. No one would see it or get it. And not only would they not know, they would not understand. Only those who are currently raising small children of their own would have a small understanding of what we were experiencing, and even then we are all comparing.

I don’t need a medal for all of my hard work. I’m quite confident that I’m working hard each day. I want to not be so hidden. I want to be known. To be seen. To not have to explain myself.

I wanted so badly to collapse on the couch at the end of the day and be like “Oh man, work was rough today.” And for others to just get it. Instead, I often get glazed-over looks filled with misunderstanding and  “Why?”  Or I get the “It must be nice though to do whatever you want all day right?”  “Not having a 9 to  5 must be really freeing.” And I’m like “Yeah, I get to wake up at night every two hours and it’s considered abuse if I don’t. It’s so fun!”

My strengths — leading, influencing, pioneering, bringing together and connecting, teaching, listening — would not be as helpful with a newborn. Newborns need to eat, poop, and sleep. They don’t need a whole lot of influencing. They don’t need me to talk to them about their dreams and listen. They just need me to sit with them.

Little by little, God began to push me to question all of this unsettledness. He would tell me to just sit down. To enjoy. Yet, I still felt hidden. Was that ok?

Sitting here, aching with the big “there might be more” thoughts, I find myself unknown. Unseen. Misunderstood. My home covered in loads of undone laundry, my hair unclean, my strengths unused, my heart unsatisfied.  All of my ‘mom-work’ doesn’t compare to the promotions of others. My saying “no” time and time again is misunderstood. Literally every parenting choice I make will be judged.

But here, under all of the to-do lists, away from the glamour, hidden from others’ minds, is God and I.

Back to the abiding we go.

Hidden is right where I need to be. But it’s not what I think it is.

God and I — that’s abiding. Now I get it…but does God understand what I’m going through? Does God see me? Is God with me? Does God know what it’s like to be hidden?

Motherhood has brought me to a new layer of understanding the gospel. I’ve been stripped of the ‘outer’ things. No promotions for me. Little praise. Rare and precious are the moments of, “Look I taught him that.” It’s a whole lot of ,”Sorry my kid bit yours. I thought we worked on that.”

A few years ago, after crying, I soberly told Michael that God doesn’t really know how we are feeling or what we are going through, but that the Holy Spirit does comfort us. I reassured him that that was ok though because that was enough for me. To have a God that comforts IS an amazing thing.

I was right that it is an amazing thing for God to comfort us, but I was so wrong. When Jesus was killed, he took all of our grief and pain on himself. He carried our sorrows. And then after dying, Jesus CAME ALIVE AGAIN. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS?

Not only does God comfort us, he carries our pain and dreams and fears and it all. And rising from the dead into glory, we will live with God forever in beauty and full light. All of my unseen days, all of my pain and loss, all of my dreams on pause, all of the next’s and “there must be more” thoughts, all of the sacrifices, all of the shut doors, all of the “no’s”, all of the I give myself up, the dying to self, is carried by God. A God who is good. A God who comforts me. A God who gets it and never leaves. A God who, at the end of the day, you can collapse on the couch and say “Today was rough.” And God gets it.

I may be hidden, but I am not alone. I am not unseen. My dreams are not dead. Someone does get it.

God and I– that’s abiding. Seeing my life in the gospel–that’s abiding.

 

Winter

lilacThis is part one of my series on abiding. I kept trying to complicate this because much of what I’ve read on the topic is maybe too ‘mature’ for me. Then I remembered that this is my process and sometimes the most simple revelations are just as deep as the others. I hope that this simple finding runs deep and wide for your life. 

Shy and young, she wouldn’t admit to wanting a baby, but she found herself deeply desiring one. The moment she became a mother was not a picture you want to have. It was cold. It’s wasn’t pretty. It was invisible to everyone besides her husband. Not many would know or understand. It was real and brutal and honest. It was pain she never knew possible. 

Maybe one day, in the light– light like we’ve never known– this moment could even be beautiful. Not today, but maybe one day.

If you asked her how she was, you’d see tears welling up.  Holding her breath she’d quickly say “fine” or “not good.” Then turning her gaze away to save you from further discomfort, she would quickly switch her thoughts to something safe. Anything else.

Becoming a mother opened this dear one’s heart. She became a doorway.

Arching up and over life, her insides were  carved out intricately. It’s just how mothers are made. They are made to carry life. It is an exquisite thing. It never looks quite the same. It’s nearly an impossible feat. And yet it happens every minute. Sometimes through physical conception, sometimes through signing documents, sometimes it’s a dream far far off that they wait for. Never the same, but always breathtaking, mothers are born and so are babies. 

Her motherhood was hidden. No one could meet her baby. Her doorway was built, but nothing could come through.

Loss. Pain. Fear. Aching…

And then it happened again. The carving, the building, the forming. Then the loss.

Pain. Fear. Aching…

Time passed.

She found herself crouching under a glass box watching the world go by. Simultaneously wanting to be a part of it, but never again to be touched by anything. This left her suffocating.

Driving down the freeway, Jesus whispered “Let go,” and so she did. Right into God’s hands she placed her control. She placed insecurities. She placed the fear of loss.

With open hands, Jesus laced his fingers with hers and spread a healing balm over her heart. She wasn’t fixed, but she was mending. God allowed her to feel love again.

She found safety and rest. Nearness. Intimacy. She could breathe once more.

Eventually, God placed dreams back in her heart so she could carry them – hand in hand with Jesus- to life.

My story is I’ve always found God when I’m the most broken, or God finds me there, or I finally see God. I’m not sure which. And I think this is where abiding starts.

When I’m undone, which takes me a while, that’s when I listen, maybe.

Motherhood showed me how broken I was. I always thought I was strong– Nope. I’m broken. I’m weak. I was carved out beautifully and intricately and it hurt.

Oh sweet one reading this, I know you’re thinking about your hurts. I know that ache– not like you do, but I know that…

Then I found Jesus. God finds me in my achy suffocating state. When I opened my box so that Jesus could hold me, that’s when I started abiding.

God and you– that’s abiding.

Dear Tired Lovely Mama,
You’re not strong. You know it. You don’t have to carry it all. Let go.

God with you– that’s abiding.

Lavender fills the air, as she whispers “I love you” to her sweet new baby. It’s raining outside like usual, but the sun peeks out every now and then. Hot coffee in hand, she lays there gazing into his eyes, stroking his hair, cooing.

 

Digging in

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I’ve always prided myself on my ability to just dig in and get things done. Ya know, the whole “sleep when you’re dead” notion? I have owned that phrase for most of my life. I’m very good at not sleeping and doing all the things. This can be helpful in certain situations. However, I lack this helpful meter most people have where they can gauge their energy level and slow down when it would be helpful. I’m doing good and can operate at a high capacity until suddenly “it” is all gone. I have adrenaline and stress figured out. The whole slow thing doesn’t come naturally.

Through college, I was able to keep up with taking 22 credits, hours in the practice room, working part time, interning in schools, fully engaging with a church community, maintaining a serious relationship, and living with 8 girls fairly well. When I would get tired, I’d just tell myself to get through the day and then I’d get more coffee. And then waking up at 5am to catch the bus, I’d remind myself to just get through the day and grab a latte. While this was helpful (sort of), as soon as something out of the ordinary came up, I would crash. My last two quarters of college had some unforeseen curve balls like a challenging boss, not enough money to buy groceries, and a wedding to plan. My controlling, stress-addicted nature helped me to just get through it, but did not set me up for success. I cried almost every day. I figured out it is possible to live on $40 for groceries a month. And all of this further cemented my way of operating. You can do a lot with a little. That summer, I crashed hard. I slept a lot. I was sick a lot. I binged on tv. My whole body shut down. Friends, don’t do this to your body. Trust me.

After the “shut down” summer, I fell in love with the Bible. It was amazing. I never really liked reading, maybe especially the Bible. I think it was because I always felt pressured to read and I don’t like obeying. I like to do what I want.

I came across this passage:

John 15:3-5 

3“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.…

What?

I passed through that quickly because who knows what that means. It’s definitely not practical. Nor is it applicable to me. I already know I can’t do anything without God. Duh.

Fast forward to becoming a parent, and this idea of abiding keeps sneaking back into my mind. I am slowly starting to try and figure out how to do this thing. And by slowly, I mean it’s taken me the past 4 years to learn and I’m not sure what I’m doing yet. Maybe that’s the point? I’m not supposed to be “doing” something. Hmmm…

When I came home from the hospital with Evan, life slowed down, and that rocked my world. My measure of worth, success, value, and time shifted until I began having anxiety attacks. The walls were crashing in on me. I could not breathe. What is happening?

My days were spent stuck at home due to the constant eat, wake, sleep pattern of my newborn. I had about 15 minute increments of time during which I could get outside and then back to settling the baby asleep. While he would sleep, I would clean and research what to do with a baby. Then eat, wake, sleep and I’d spend the next nap-time washing and folding cloth diapers. Rinse and repeat.

I spent a lot of time figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing and making it ‘worth’ it for me to stay home. We did sensory activities, reading, tummy time, getting outside, cloth diapering, elimination communication, exclusively breastfed, eventually we dabbled in infant-led weaning, and of course sign language. Most of the time this worked for us, but here’s the problem: I was bored and anxious. We did these things in part because we felt they were good for our child, but unfortunately, it was also to fill some sort of a control void and to allow me to validate motherhood as a job.

I was focused on me.

This left me tired, empty, bored, lost. I couldn’t find purpose, and joy, and dreams, and fun, and Jesus. Does God really care about whether I use disposable or cloth diapers? Most of my day is spent breastfeeding and cleaning up my kids re-flux, so how am I glorifying God and advancing his kingdom?

These questions have plagued me and I wonder if they are on anyone else’s minds? Instead of answering them right now, I’d love to hear what you think. How have you found God glorified in your motherhood?

If you find yourself waking up exhausted, turning to the coffee pot instead of the voice of God, and just pushing through pulling up energy from who knows where, I’d love to sink into something deeper with you. I’m planning to start a 4-part series on abiding in God in motherhood. Stay tuned and hit subscribe so you can take part. Let’s find Jesus in this mess. I think we are in for something good.

It may be winter, but springtime is coming.

 

The Affair

12656249_10153959456673566_480351092_oLike a sweet seduction in the middle of the night, he crept into my bed. Laying there naked, he wrapped himself around me, engrossing me in his thoughts, whispering into my ear. I heard the things he saw in me. He saw my accomplishments, those things I’m most self-conscious of, the details I thought no one could see. Grabbing my face, he showed me some things beautiful– my hard work that no one else had appreciated. Then lurking into my imagination he painted the scene of how he saw me better than anyone else. How he saw, but no one else could. I began to see that my friends saw all my blemishes and lumps. They were staring at me, laughing at my home. They talked about how dirty, and awkward, and uncool I was. Then just like that, he kissed me and showed me it would be alright– I just needed to work a little harder and tomorrow they would see. He would help me, right by my side. I’d never be alone.

I knew this affair needed to stop, but why? It seemed everyone else I knew had the same thing going on.

When I woke up that morning, he was still there– reminding me of all he showed me the night before. Prompting me to eat less food, so I could look like her, and to clean my home to be like theirs, and to make sure my kids were better behaved because that’s what good moms do. Good moms have good kids who listen and obey.

At the park, he held my hand as my kids ran out to the swings. He assured me I looked fantastic and that as long as I had showered and put my make up on, I was doing much better than most moms. When my oldest took the toy truck from the baby in the sandbox, I saw so clearly how the others hated me– the other parents saw that I hadn’t done enough. He held my hand tighter. Since all my positive reinforcement and training hadn’t been enough, I knew I needed to crack down harder from now on; my child wouldn’t do that again. Tears started to fill my eyes, but he wiped them away. He said it would all be OK. He’d remind me each day of what I could get better at. Show me the ways to grow. Show me examples of how I could improve. And I knew that would motivate me.

Standing with my perfect friend– you know the one with the flat-ironed, non-frizzy hair and porcelain skin, who somehow makes everything look beautiful– and she shares about her ‘mom-fail’ of the day. He nudges me to make sure I respond with mine. So I quip back with something like, “Oh, Girl! You have no idea. I do that all the time. That’s nothing. Just today, I did this REALLY awful thing.” She laughs, but somehow doesn’t seem comforted. And neither do I.

I walk away sulking in insecurity and lies. This feels like a disease. Why can’t I shake these thoughts? This affair has got to stop.

Later, I chatted with my friends about marriage and left so excited for them and their families. Their husbands had just brought home flowers the night before and surprised them with a spontaneous date night. One of them got a massage and the other an hour alone to spend doing anything that refreshed her. What great spouses they had. They worked so hard and they definitely deserved these gifts. I thought, “Wow. Maybe my husband will surprise me tonight.”

Except instead of gifts or spontaneity, I was greeted with a “Hello” and then a hurried retreat to our room to change out of work clothes. I knew he didn’t love me as much as my friends’ husbands loved them. It wasn’t his fault though. If I just made our home a more refreshing space to be in, then he would see how hard I worked. Besides, this isn’t as bad as the marriage down the road.

During our nightly family worship time, I’m torn. I’m struggling to find God. I can’t seem to surrender. What is right and what is real? I feel misunderstood and unseen, and so afraid. Moments of pride followed by deep inadequacy. I’m alone.

Maybe you’ve been in this same spot before. He’s creeping around corners, closing in on you, or possibly you even welcomed him into your space. He confuses you with blinders of how you are not. He steals your joy. He speaks lies and death. His name is Comparison. Have you heard of him?

That night I had a dream that broke through it all. It was short and simple. I hope this sweet dream breaks through your confusion as well.

I was staring into a well at my reflection. It was so dark and blurry, but the sun began to break through the haze. Quickly I realized there were many other people around me staring into their own wells. Then the kindest man standing beside me embraced me. He was warm and jovial. His eyes like water– a reflection. His name was Jesus. And just with that touch, and with that look, the scales fell off my eyes. He said to me “Daughter, you are my beloved.” Suddenly, I could see who I was.

And that torrid affair was over in a flash. And a new love story began. To be seen by Jesus, to be loved by Jesus– that is enough. That is peace and joy.

 

 

 

The ‘m’ word

12108781_10153721278398566_2247440993826651143_nThere’s a word that I hate maybe more than any other word. I don’t think it’s appropriate. Swearing doesn’t really bother me that much, although I don’t do it out loud– well, except for once in labor and that seemed very fitting. Word choice is important to me. I believe language is powerful. It somehow tries to convey so much of what we feel, see, sense. It says a lot about us.

But there’s this word that is fairly well known, though it’s not said often. It gets used in low hushed tones in sentences with despair in our eyes. Those who hear it often don’t know how to respond. And when they do, it’s just to diffuse the awkward moment. But their response is never quite what it should be. Eyes shifting away, unsure of what to do, where to look. Lofty thoughts and cliches and solutions disguised as hope get thrown out because we are afraid to sit in that sadness.

It’s a word we shouldn’t even need, but for some reason we do. This word fails in so many ways and accomplishes all the wrong things.

December 22, 2013. This was when our first baby was assumed to be born. Instead she was born on the 6th of May-the day after we told all of our closest friends we were expecting. Of course we had only spent maybe 8 weeks with our baby at this point, and I’m not sure if they were a “she”, but that’s what we called her.

I don’t use the word people typically ascribe to this order of events- even though I know you’re thinking it right now and honestly that makes me angry because really, I hate this word. I won’t even type it here on my blog. Why? Because I did not fail. I did not mess up. I did not “dance too much” and “squat too much” like that one person suggested. I do not need to just “relax more and let it happen.” And this was not “for the best” like others said.

The truth is, our baby was born. Our baby is alive. You won’t meet them until we reach heaven, but our baby IS more alive than you or I. They – both of them now – are dancing and laughing and playing with Jesus. As a mother, this both makes my heart ache more than any pain and gives me more joy and hope for what is to come. I will never worry about them.

When your friend shares this secret that they have experienced and they use this horrible ‘m’ word (or any other word they decide to use), please sit with them. Do not tell them to “move on” or that “all things happen for a reason” or that they did something wrong. It does not help to know the statistics. Sit with them. Spend a little time with them in this sad space. Their baby was born–just away from them. And they won’t get to see them for a while. So be sad with them. Be angry for them. And in your heart know they will see their baby again. Just please, don’t make them get better. You really can’t. And even if you could, that’s not what they need right now. Bring them food or drop it on their porch if they aren’t answering their phone. Bring them wine. Hold them tight. You don’t need to say anything. Don’t run away from them. Being you with them is all they need.

And for goodness sake, please don’t use the ‘m’ word. It’s not a word worthy of our children.

Mom-buzz

There’s this thing I like to call the “mom-buzz” that no one told me about before having kids. No silly, it’s not the kind when you drink too much wine during nap-time. It’s this mix of adrenaline, sleep deprivation, a lack of adult interaction, caffeine, no food, and sheer determination to keep everyone alive. My brain and body literally started buzzing after kids. I can feel it. I can hear it. It doesn’t go away unless I’ve slept all night and someone else has the kiddos. I’m constantly on. Here’s what it looks like…

It’s 7 am, I’m 3 cups deep, already staring at an empty coffee pot, and my toddler is screaming for more yogurt and pancakes. And my brain is buzzing. The little warrior has stripped down, painting his body with yogurt. What is going on? I need more coffee. I can feel the adrenaline surging through me. I can barely think it’s so loud. I’ve got a 2 week old, a 20 month old, and myself to keep alive right now and we are struggling. Today we’ve decided to go and visit our friends. I just keep staring at my coffee and then at them. Back and forth. My head is pounding from not having time to eat and I don’t know why we decided leaving was a good idea, but we did.

First of all, this was a silly adventure because walking after you have a baby and lots of stitches is the worst idea. So is sitting. Don’t do it. Lay down and take some Tylenol — the strong kind you need a prescription for. Call people and tell them to bring you coffee.

Second of all, getting a toddler, a newborn, and your stitched-up self into a car all by yourself is a marathon, people. Not only do you have to get in the car alive, you also have to get out of the car.

We all got in the car safely. I don’t even remember how. I think I blacked out somewhere during this process, but I know we made it because we were buckled in and I was driving down the road. However, I couldn’t even sit correctly, so I had to kind of lean to the side and sit on my hip- because, well, stitches. When we got to our friends home, toddler had stripped himself of his shoes, socks, and his shirt was on the way out, so I got to re-dress him. And by now it’s raining like Seattle likes to do. It’s always really fun to try and clothe a wild banshee in the rain. I try to keep him from running away while I grab little peaceful sleeping newborn from the car, which of course wakes him up.

Then the real fun began. You see, the mom buzz is loudest when you first have a baby and also when others are watching. So naturally, today, it was bad.

When we finally got inside, we were of course welcomed with open arms by our lovely friends. They clearly knew we were struggling, but for some reason I try and pretend like we aren’t because that’s all I know how to do at this point. Sweet baby keeps crying, so I try and feed him. Except it’s very hard to breastfeed a floppy new baby, who doesn’t quite know how to do that yet, all while trying to look like you know what you’re doing and pretending you didn’t just get spit up on because it’s your second and you’re supposed to have it together. And you have to keep your wild warrior of a toddler from a) falling down the stairs, b) breaking something, or c) hurting the other child. We attempt to have a semi-coherent conversation, which makes me feel like I’m a sane human being. Even though I’m not.

Of course none of these things really happened for me. Want to know why? The “mom buzz” got in the way.

It is so fun and exciting to get out of the house and have adult conversations, but we are barely holding it together. Just swimming frantically beneath the surface trying to stay afloat. On this particular morning, I believe I peed my pants, had a power struggle with my wild warrior son about cleaning up the magnets (he won), spilled water down my shirt, and said a lot of things that made no sense. All in the presence of our friends. This, dear ones, is how life goes now. Clearly, we are rocking life.

For any moms, or moms-to-be reading this, I want you to know it does get better. Eventually you sleep (despite what “they” all tell you). Soon the buzz is more of a hum. And well, you just get better at letting things go and breathing through it. For now though, my body is still buzzing.

We bring life

Mexico SunsetAs we pull up to a stop, I take a deep breath for the marathon that is anytime we leave the house and verbally prepare my toddler for the playground rules of kindness and obedience and dealing with our anger. I manage to tie my newborn onto me in our wrap, all while reminding my oldest what waiting patiently means and asking him to stop throwing cheerios on the ground and then realize he’s just eating the bag. By the time I push the stroller over to the playground, coffee has foamed all out of the cup and onto my hand, and I’m really just praying there is either a sweet older kid who will kindly play with mine, or that no one is here so I don’t have to play referee because I’m just that tired.

At the swing sets, a sweet grandma who is using sign language with her granddaughter catches my eye and we smile because that’s a language that crosses it all and somehow her’s is so disarming, and I breathe.

Then she says “Isn’t this the best job ever?”

And I pause.

Simultaneously smiling and thinking a million thoughts, I really didn’t know how to answer her honestly in that moment. All I could muster up to avoid total awkwardness was a laugh.

That one interaction shifted the rest of my thoughts that day. The best job ever? Is it?

I mean it doesn’t feel like it. At least not normally. But should it?

To be honest, right now I’m in the thick of some of the hardest and least fun things- sleep deprivation, two kids under two, post-partum depression, the rainy winter season, both kids cutting teeth, both are sick, nap schedules rule my life, squishy post-baby body, and all the social and professional sacrifices…

And yet, somehow I love it. Or at least wouldn’t trade it. Why?

I sit here nursing my sick and teething 3 month-old and am enamored by his chunky thigh rolls and deep blue eyes and the way he holds my hands and scratches them. My two year-old cuddles in for some physical contact that he never needed before his brother was born. And I think, “Ah. This. This is good. Please, let this never end.” These moments are the best.

And then, just like clock work, my toddler is up and running, throwing toys, screaming for more TV and cake and play dough. And then he’s in his room ripping socks out of the drawers because he knows I’m stuck here nursing. And next thing I know, he’s taken his night light and thrown it into the bathtub, jumping in after it. And I think, “This. I do not like this. 5 o’clock can’t come soon enough.”

If it’s all these things that make this parenting gig “the best job,” I don’t think I’m winning at that.

In motherhood, we feel hidden. We say no to our needs for sleep and deep conversations and clean clothes and nice furniture. We embrace (or succumb to) silliness and messiness and chaos. We wear our yoga pants and messy buns with pride.

Because somehow in all of this, we bring life.

In each moment, we find the strength to say “yes” to our kids. We let our bodies and hearts be stretched in every way. We grow too, but mostly we let go of our control. We find ourselves different and I fight that. It’s uncomfortable and I swore I wouldn’t let myself change. These small, wild people have made me something else. My priorities have shifted. We spiraled into a new realm. And we accept it. We sink into the here and now. And in this all encompassing submersion of newness, I am realizing this maybe is the best job ever.

Motherhood is powerful. It is not weak. It is not lazy. It is not a “less than” job. It is powerful.

Mama, you are powerful. And brave. You are powerful and brave. Regardless of how you feel right now, you are here and you are making it.

When I was in labor my first time, my doula grabbed my face and said “You are here and you are doing this.”

Mama, feel me grab your face right now. Hear me say to you “You are here and you are doing this.”

You are rocking those yoga pants and that “haven’t showered in days” look. You do make that petunia picklebottom bag look incredible. And I do want to be your friend. You haven’t lost it all. You are kind and patient and fierce and strong. You are raising world-changers. You inspire.

Every day you wake up. Every day you bring life whether you want to or not. Whether you feel like playing pretend, and singing itsy bitsy spider, and making cool sensory games, or have done any laundry this month, you bring life. Every day is a marathon, and somehow we are making it.

We didn’t train for this, but we are here. Sinking in. Finding our rhythm. I haven’t found my pace yet, but I think I’m closer.  My kids haven’t gotten easier, but I like to believe I’ve figured some things that work along the way. And at least I’ve got that. You and me and a million other mamas today and yesterday and tomorrow. All doing it together. We aren’t alone despite how it feels. We are an army. We are powerful. We are shaping the world forever.

So make another pot of coffee. Drink it up. Breathe. At least, that’s what I’m doing while telling myself this today.