Category: Faith

Wasn’t I Made for More than Dirty Dishes?

made for more hope hopeless life faith Moms

“We were made for more than just ordinary lives. Its time for us to more than just survive. We were made to Thrive.” Casting Crowns

Today I have felt itchy. 

Not the kind of itch thats relieved with the good scratch of untrimmed finger nails, but an itch that feels like a buzz under my skin. A holy discontentment that I can’t summarize with words.

For part time work I write ad copy. My job is to make things appealing and relatable with words. So while doing my real life job as a stay at home mom, I keep my creative mind busy turning over words and ideas, to craft something new and unexpected that convinces you life is better with (fill in the blank). Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my work that I begin to believe I need to do more, or be more to have a better life.

January has been a slow month for work, and my mind feels restless. Like a bored cat pounces at a bright ball of yarn, my unoccupied brain takes my fears captive, pulling out threads of worry and insecurity.  

When I don’t have an assignment to write, my time is freed up to blog, or write that book I’ve been dreaming about. I’m without excuse….And now…I find myself without words.

When I haven’t written something in a while I begin to wonder if my fingers still know what they are doing. Will I be able to sit before the bright blue tiles and string together a story, or poem, a blog post, that summarizes all of the joy and love; all the uncertainty, doubt and fear that twists and pulls and tugs in a confused jumble of bright emotions in my heart? Will my words still be enough? Will someone be able to really see the real me so that I can be known? I begin to believe the lie that who I am is what I do. Its what I write, its the money I make, its what I look like, or the kind of mom I am.

In my itchy, wordless, weary place I read His word:

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147
“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomea it.” John 1:1-5
“14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

As a writer I wrap my identity up in the words that I write. But then God Himself is the Word.  My own words are just a mirror to catch and reflect His light. God doesn’t want my pretty package of words, He delights in my reverence. His word reminds me that my identity can’t be written with my own two hands– no, I was made for more than anything I can create. 

If I try to follow the script the world writes, then I will never be enough. Even if I sacrifice my life to being enough, there will always be more to do, accomplish, earn, and achieve, like the incessant stream of social media updates that hunger for attention.  My worth is reduced to the next best thing. 

But then God delights in those who put their hope in His unfailing love; a well that never runs dry. A horse and a warrior will cripple with age. My words will get lost like the hundreds of unread books that sit on my shelf. But the Word who is God and spoke this spinning ball of an Earth into existence; yes the word of God that made darkness, light, and life, breathes life into my lungs, His Word reveals my purpose and Who He created me to be.

When I get itchy under my skin I think its my soul feeling how ill fitting this flesh really is. Its my heart longing to just sit at His feet and weep and laugh and rest. I get so tired of being the daughter of the one true king, deeply loved and divinely called, and yet burdened with dirty dishes and hungry mouths, with unpaid bills and unmowed lawns. I want to shout to the world about God’s love. I want to see hearts healed and lives transformed, I want to usher in God’s redemption and grace and embolden other women to let their blood burn in their veins for Him too.

Then I remember that Jesus took on burdensome flesh too.

Divine God took on human inconveniences like eating, washing, and sleeping. Jesus, Son of God, God Himself, made His dwelling among us so that He could know the discomforts of human flesh.

He came to bring us a hope that burns brighter than this pale human world- He came to be among us, and remind us, that we’re not of this world. So that we can remember that who we are isn’t wrapped up in human flesh. Its not wrapped up in the things we do in this world. We were made for more. We are clothed in Christ, Word made flesh, who exhaled, “It is finished.”

God, who submitted Himself to us, so that we could be His once and for all.

God Will Never Leave You Alone

young-free

Dear Child,

The doctor shows you to me on the black pulsing screen.
His pointer finger traces a small circle over a tiny dot and tells me
It is you.

I just want you to know, you may be a dot on a screen,
but to me you are the world.

You’re tucked safe inside me like a secret.
I wrap my hands around my belly
and whisper to God to please keep you safe.
When I feel afraid, I ask God not to leave me alone.
Because Moms get scared too, especially new ones.
But God reminds me we’re in this together.
And I don’t have to be alone.
You’re with me now.
And so is He.

pregnant

Soft and warm and squishy faced.
Bow shaped lips pucker into the shape of a pink heart.
Cries sound like a growling kitten as eyes peak through heavy lids.
A searching mouth finds me.
It is you.

I just want you to know, that my stomach feels
so, so empty after the fullness of 9 months,
but my heart is so, so full.

In cries of uncertainty and pain, as you enter the world,
I shout to God to please keep us safe.
But God reminds me we aren’t alone.
You and I are together.
And He will never leave us alone.
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Teetering, and climbing, scooting, chasing, and tumbling.
My stomach is in my chest watching uncertain movement.
Chest puffed out, bottom wiggling back and forth in a proud waddle,
Up-stretched arms reach me and gesture wildly.
It is you.

I just want you to know that you give me a heart attack every minute you are free.
Out of my arms and into the big world.
I have trouble letting go.
But then you come back to me, wrapping your legs and arms around me
so I know you’re still mine.

Each uncertain step, each tumble, and surprised cry of pain
I ask God to please keep you safe.
But God reminds me you aren’t alone.
I am with you.
And He will never leave you alone.

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Blue jeans and damp hair,
Fingers that smell like maple syrup,
And two shoes with the toes pointing the wrong way.
It is you.

I just want you to know that I am not ready to be away from you.
My eyes fill with tears, buy my heart is proud.
You cling to my leg and then off you run to the arms of your teacher.

As a tear slides down my cheek I look up to the bulletin board,
With the Words,
God Lives Here,
I think, “Yes God, Please live in her heart.”
And He quietly reminds me, He’s in mine too.
He is with me.
He is with you-
and God will never leave us alone.

boy

Are You Listening?

are you listeningOn average women speak 20,000 words a day. That’s 13,000 more daily words than our male counterparts! But I would argue that as mothers, we earn every. single. one. of those extra words.

Yet, how often does it feel like our words fall on deaf ears? Especially when we’re asking our kids to put on their shoes, or our husbands to put their laundry in the hamper (not that I’m speaking from personal experience).

We all WANT TO FEEL HEARD.

One of the biggest fights I pick with my husband is when I feel like he’s not listening to me.
(DISCLAIMER: I’m totally guilty of doing the same thing!)

“But hun, I can watch Netflix, type up an email, and listen to every word you say.”

And the amazing thing is, he actually can. The man is actually able to repeat back to me every word I just spoke. And yet. And yet- I don’t feel heard. And maybe thats because I don’t just want my words to be absorbed, but I want my words to accomplish something. I think we all do.

In the past couple weeks I’ve been feeling fearful. With lots of change in our lives I’m letting doubt and fear creep into my thoughts. But I’ve had a song that I sing at the top of my lungs (when I’m home, or driving in the car, not in public-that’s just weird).

“I’M NO LONGER A SLAVE TO FEAR, FOR I AM A CHILD OF GOD”

My three year old daughter looks at me like I’m crazy. But then she looks at me like I’m crazy a lot, so I just shrug and take it as a compliment.

But then, last week my little girl was struggling with fears of her own. One day as I stirred the crackling ground beef on the stove, down the hall, I heard a sweet little voice, singing a tune I knew well. It went a little something like this:

“I’M NO LONGER A SLAVE TO FEAR, FOR I .AM A CHILD OF GOD.”

I realized, that my words really do stick. Yes ladies, our words stick

As moms we are the encouragers of our homes.

Our words shape and mold our children into the people God has destined them to become.
Our words embolden our husbands to make brave decisions, and to do the right thing.
As daughters, and sisters, and friends, our words inspire each other to keep going, even when life feels too heavy, or our bodies feel to weak.

But at the end of the day, after we’ve pushed and scraped, and given all we have to give, and still feel like we’re coming up short. When we lay our heads on our pillows with our thoughts reeling and accusing and questioning our efforts, our worth, our words– I want us to grab hold of 6 words.

“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Because God has the last word.
And He looks at us and says- “My child, in my grace…You Are Enough.

Growing in Grace

 

growingingraceI was tired of looking at our ugly, dying grass. Like an overused carpet, it showed only patches of the green it once was. In its vibrant place was a dull and lifeless yellow and brown. I tried to lift the edge, and to my surprise, it ripped up in a long strip. As I pulled, it snapped out with a pop like cracking knuckles. As I stacked the thick layers of dead sod along the sidewalk, I sighed with cathartic relief. Before I knew it, my yard was a clean patch of dirt.

I left it forgotten. But after a quick week, my front yard had erupted in a thick garden of weeds.

Its easy to tear down, to criticize, to walk away- yes to tear out what has been planted. But even if we walk away or turn our back, the empty soil is still there.

Its impossible to leave that space empty. We have a choice. When we face a hurt, or challenge, a loss, frustration, or broken heart- a space that feels lifeless- we have a choice to leave it empty and let it erupt into painful weeds that choke out life, or we can water the soil with gratitude, with hope, forgiveness and love, and see what God can grow there. We can bury the hurt and shame, the hopelessness and anger, we can put a stake in the middle of it in the shape of a cross, and see what God resurrects.

I realized how easily ugly weeds can take over when I’m not looking. I have a choice to fill those empty places with flowers, or let them get ravaged by weeds.  Weeds grow deep gnarled roots that leave me breathless and hurting. Weeds that leave thorns that tear hidden wounds that scar me.

But I don’t have to leave hurt places empty. My weed patch in the front yard  reminds me that I can’t ignore the raw and empty places of my heart, but need to take the time to sit with God in them. To let Him  fill them up with His truth and a beauty only He can create..

God blows seeds into my life every day.. With love, patience, and forgiveness, over time, I can allow Him to grow gardens, even in the raw, empty spaces.

He can grow wildflowers, forget-me-nots, and fiery red tulips shaped like love notes. He can raise up white elegant lilies, and sweet pink gerber daisies like my baby’s pink petal lips. He can grow bushes that burst with big ripe strawberries, and grape vines that stretch out with a sigh of fullness and life. When we’re desperate its easy to think life looks desolate– but He can use our tears to grow dandelions. He can paint that cross white like a picket fence, and scroll across it the word grace.

John The Baptist in Prison Asks a Question

womanShe asks, “God what is your purpose?”

Her head pounds, making such a racket she can’t form a coherent thought sometimes. In her room with shades drawn, against her cool sheets she tosses and turns to get comfortable and asks, “God what are you doing with this?”

Her once strong and energetic legs that limbered on for miles in the morning sunshine feel wobbly as they carry her through tiresome days. She celebrates the things her agile body once did easily, like folding and putting away laundry and lifting the awkward mattress to fit and tuck the sheets.

And as she feels weak under the weight of the chores of a day, she asks, “God, how do you expect me to carry the weight of Cancer?”

Blinding shots of pain fire in her gut and pulse steadily through her body like the drip, drip, drip of a coffee pot, as she wonders if the fire burning a hole in her chest is fear, or anxiety, or something else malignant.

She can’t trust herself. Her own body has betrayed her. And though her mind remains intact, she feels her head and body are in a race together and her body is puttering out and gasping for breath while her head remains tireless as it hurdles on with thoughts spinning so fast they run her in circles. But more than the thoughts are the questions. Like a burr in her mind they attach and fester, “Are you there God?” “Do you really love me?”

Another man watches his life waste away behind the iron bars of a putrid prison cell. No longer nourished by locusts and honey, his body vanishes as his skin stretches over the contours of his bony frame.

The wild and confident man who once cried, “make straight the way of the Lord!” now bows in uncertainty, with a question instead of a declaration.  As John the Baptist sits in prison, he begins to question if Jesus is really the one.  He sends two of his disciples to ask, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Alone, hurting, confused by the unexpected path God has taken him; confused because Jesus doesn’t look like the Messiah he was expecting, John the Baptist doubts. He questions.

Jesus doesn’t respond in anger, but in encouragement. He points to what’s happening on the outside- the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised- as prophesied in Isaiah. But more than that, he points to John himself for an answer-who I AM is revealed in you- “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt.11:11)

Because the prophets’ riddles are made truth in him. Men are made well in him, but John, don’t you see, you are living proof of him. Living proof when you were conceived, your mother ripe and fertile at a barren age, dad stunned silent. Living proof when you made a way in the wilderness, proof in the Jordan when you dipped the head of the son of Most High and were kissed by the breath of the Holy Spirit. Living proof even now as you wait in despair, because though your body “is wasting away, inwardly you are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor.4:16 emphasis added)

Yes John knows the answer to his question. He knows it in his weary bones. He feels the burn of it in his concave belly. But in his dark prison John needs a reminder. And Jesus meets him with love, and with evidence that goes deeper than physical proof, As Emily Freeman sums up in her book Simply Tuesday, Jesus points to ” the heart of John himself,” saying, “In other words, my works are evident in the world, but my life is evident in you.”

Like John, she turns to God for for answers. The rocks of fear and doubt form a lump in her throat as she stares into darkness, her alarm clock glowing red numbers, 3:38 am. She lays and stares at the shapes and shadows of her once familiar bedroom until an acceptable hour when she can creep out onto her cobblestone patio. And in the sunrise of the morning, when the sky is a soft pink, life seems more bearable, and God feels closer. He whispers to her, as the hummingbirds kiss and flutter, and the fingers of gold beams caress her wet cheeks, He fills her up for just another day.

God numbered her days, she doesn’t know the count, but she has a groaning hope that seeps out of her like water from the cracks of a pot. It spills streams that escape and gather in corners and gaps between stepping stones, watering the clover and dandelion that sprout up wild and unbidden.

She feels small. She feels human.

But God came to earth in infant smallness. Jesus groaned in human pain. Cried human tears.

God comes to her with answers that seep deeper than the evidence she sees in the orange blossoms and the monarchs, the soft breeze that make her wind chimes tinkle and the leaves rustle. The living God that spoke to John, fills her body with His warm presence and whispers, “my life is evident in you.

Its easy to take for granted the life that we breath in. But when we’re gasping, when we’re sucking in and searching for our next breath, He breathes in us.

She sings songs of praise. Through his tears and pain he shouts in joy to the Lord. And in her story, through his life, God is living His purpose in them. God is living His purpose in us.

“For God Himself fights by our side, with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse,
Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!”

Open the Eyes of My Heart

converse-fields

Open the Eyes of My Heart 


Their feet tangled together, baby blue high tops and pink ankle socks in sequined slip ons. Their heads dipped  to share a secret as the band played a song I knew well. Squinting his eyes shut, the boy in front crooned “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you.”

I sat beside my niece for “special friend day,” and as we sat in chapel together, I had the rare opportunity of enjoying time free from my two daughters.

In the peaceful moment, I absorbed every detail like dry soil.

But as we asked “open the eyes of my heart, Lord,” I realized that God was in our midst. Because the kingdom of God was with us, five feet above the ground in these seven year olds with feet too big, and grown up teeth, uncertain smiles, and excited, stumbling steps.

Too often I wait for God to show up around the corner, instead of finding him right in front of me.

I look at my niece and her friend. I remember when friendship was made of simple things like secrets, and giggles, and swapping snacks at lunch. How easily we adults complicate it with insecurities, and judgement, and boundaries that we construct around ourselves.

How easily I find reasons to rush through my moments in a harried haze with a list of chores and to-dos, instead of opening my eyes to the kingdom of God that’s right in front of me in baby coos and delighted laughter; the smell of jasmine and strong coffee; in dancing to a good song in the middle of the grocery store and finding rocks on the sidewalk.

When we look at God we realize that he reaches us through simple means that are real, and right in front of our faces. Through the trees He  teaches us his timing through seasons that reveal a cycle of living, and dying, being pruned, and bearing fruit. He teaches us His truth through simple means of bread and wine and water. He made the entire universe and yet He took the time to craft each of us uniquely and intricately from our little toes to each eyelash.

Our world teaches us to strive and scrape and rush and push, to earn and accumulate and achieve. But when we live with our eyes and hearts open to each passing moment, God teaches us a slower pace that relies more on what He will do, and less on what we can accomplish. When we rely on God’s provision, then we can be more like the trees, and the birds, and the flowers, waiting on his nourishment, and trusting in His timing to reveal His creation through us.

I look at my seven year old niece that is often in a hurry to grow up. She can’t wait to have a phone, to wear nail polish and lipgloss, to carry a purse, and become a teenager. So often I remind her to slow down and enjoy jumping rope, and learning cartwheels, to savor every art project, and class party. As she skips ahead, I see all the lessons she still needs to learn before she can take on the responsibilities of a teen. But then, I watch her with her best friend, trying to pick each other up, giggling at inside jokes and funny faces, and I realize, I am just like her, living moment to moment, yet rushing ahead to the next big thing. As I remind her to appreciate the life before her, God whispers a reminder to me, that I have much to learn before I try to plow ahead.

How easily we believe that we still haven’t found God’s kingdom, that we still don’t know the fullness of God’s truth. We squeeze our eyes shut singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord.”

But when we open our eyes in the moment, we see life lived in the process of growing. In seven year old kids, growing in to the people that God created them to be, but living in God’s fullness in that very moment. Because God numbered our days, but He parcels them out second by second- so that we can have open eyes and open hearts in each precious moment, and so that we can see His kingdom in our very midst.

A Homemade Kind of Love

Marriage Love

He squeezed my hand as my body shook with pain. I clawed at the sheets as the fire grew in my belly. My breaths came in labored gasps. I tried to focus on the conversation through the static of my throbbing brain, as phrases like “history of anxiety” and “panic attack” jabbed at my consciousness. My rolling eyes found his steady gaze; his clear blue eyes collected tears while his brow knotted together in a question mark. As I took another heaving breath and let out a sob, I anchored myself to the weight of his clear booming voice. “You need to treat her breakthrough pain. Call the doctor and give her something now.”

1930926_618040769213_9604_nWhen your chart says “anxiety” you get other unspoken words that dangle from it like “hypochondriac” and “over-dramatic.” But as the new nurse tried to affix a label and file me away with her other patients, my husband stood firmly in her way. He knew what it looked like when I wore real pain, and he wouldn’t stand by and watch me suffer.

He put his lips on my temple and shushed and rocked me like an injured child. “She’s taking care of it, it will be better soon,” he whispered. I squeezed my eyes shut until the delaudid coursed through my veins making my arms and legs heavy and my mind numb. I drifted off into a painless sleep, my heart wrapped tightly around the man who stood at my side.

My mom always told me “don’t marry the man who makes you feel loved, marry the one who shows you love.” I felt doubly blessed when I met the one who not only made me feel adored, but proved his love by moving his life, packed neatly in his  dusty blue Oldsmobile across 2,000 miles and 6 states.

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In the beginning of our marriage I clung to the butterflies, to the dreams of the future, and the feelings that were so powerful that they fueled me through each day. But as time passes, the butterflies can slowly become dormant, the dreams give way to reality, and the feelings that were once so vibrant, become less palpable. The love that we wrap tightly around ourselves for security, can become threadbare with the trials of time and struggle, and a love once visceral, can become hidden in the fabric of everyday life.

In the happy moments we celebrate our love; in the difficult moments we just love1736_634449585813_7635_n.

What my mom tried to teach me, from the lens of 30 years of marriage, is that love isn’t what we feel, its what we do. The winsome feelings that bubble over when we love someone are light and beautiful and airy and whimsical. But just as bubbles took my breath away as a little girl, they were also illusive; paper thin and fleeting fragments of beauty that popped as I tried to grab hold of them.  What’s left is the love that digs in and makes itself at home. The homemade love thats knit together by the choices we make every day. But also, love is seeing the best in someone when they can’t find their own reflection, and love is knowing what someone needs, when they can’t ask for it themselves.

We don’t always find love in the sparkle of an evening dress  and beside a candlelit dinner, sometimes it surprises us in the warm embrace of a fleece robe and under fluorescent lights in a hospital bed.

10551015_10102951303945063_2314241828432024367_nThe “falling in love” part is easy. Choosing to love someone every day, year after year, that takes hard work and commitment. It’s like comparing new shoes to an old favorite pair. New love is exciting, it’s clean and bright; but, love after success & disappointment, life’s surprises & day-to-day monotony, after realizing dreams & enduring the sharp pain of loss–well that’s the sort of love that you want to slip your feet into after a long day. It knows your grooves, it’s leather is worn and soft, and exquisite. That kind of love is ineffable–it deserves its own place on the shelf.

So to celebrate six years we’ll get a sitter and I’ll wear my heels and he’ll wear a tie and we’ll gaze at each other in the glow of a candle with wine warming our bellies. But I won’t just see my husband’s cleanly shaven face, I’ll also see his boyish smile at the altar, his worried frown as I curl up in a dark room, his awe at holding his two girls, and his tired face after praying with someone for their last time. I’ll know that he’s with me to delight in good food and butterflies, but by God’s grace, he’ll stand watch at my bedside during the seasons when pain intrudes. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9

 

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Our Life is a Beautiful Mess

dandelion

dear b

I see the trash bag sitting on our flagstone patio and I’m filled with the dull ache of dread. I hate the small trek from my back door to the side yard where the trash cans are kept. Releasing a sigh, I step outside and sling the heavy white bag over my shoulder as I plot through the mounds of dirt and rock. My chest tightens with anxiety as I take in our yard in all its desolate glory. Holes and capsized trees litter the landscape, their stalky roots jutting out like the masts of sailboats.

I hate messes. From a small pile of coffee grounds on my kitchen counter to the chaotic scene of strewn toys and crumbs left behind from one of your playdates, messes make my skin crawl and trigger an immediate impulse to obsessively clean.

But I especially hate in-between messes– the untidiness that comes with an unfinished project. Your dad has the logical thought that there’s no point in cleaning up when a project is “in progress.” We should save the overhaul cleaning for when the job is completed. Part of me agrees, but then there’s the compulsive-anxiety-ridden-super-clean me that can’t stand leaving it. We’ll just say “under construction” is not something I do well with.

Since the birth of your little sister, it feels a bit like our life is under construction. Everyone says, “just survive the first six weeks and things will get better.” As I cocoon her in our home, I anticipate the days we can go in public, the nights when I can sleep, and the morning I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans.

You’re struggling with sharing mommy and daddy and making your feelings known in the only way a two year old knows how. With temper tantrums and visits to our bed at night, you ask again and again, “Do you still love me?”  And as we give you love and reassurance, people tell us, “just give it time, when the baby can interact more they’ll get along great.”

So we wait away the days for a moment that our lives will fit the happy family snapshot in our heads or on our Facebook page.

But if I’m honest, isn’t all of life kind of an in-between mess? If I took a snapshot of this moment it would show me, tired and unshowered, you in your underwear and a face smeared with food, and your sister in a spit up crusted onesie, and in desperate need of a bath.

There will always be manic Mondays, grocery lists, and smaller size pants to fit into. And as you and Elyse grow there will always be another milestone to check off, from rolling over, to giggling, to starting kindergarten, going to sleepovers, driving a car, kissing a boy, and graduating high school. But the reality is that life is really the sum of those moments in between. Too often I fix my eyes on the next big thing instead of pulling up a lawn chair and settling down right in the moment I’m living in now.

We’re ripping out the bushes and trees to lay sod in our yard. I dream of the day when the two of you can have a tea party in the grass, or lay on your backs and look at animal shaped clouds. But as I walk from the trash cans to the back door, looking down to carefully avoid tripping in a hole, I see a single dandelion standing proudly in a  mound of dirt and pebbles.

The summer after we were married, your dad and I went to visit his family home in Michigan. As we went through boxes of his old memorabilia, I found a square of crumpled paper that he had thrown discreetly into the “throw away” pile. I smoothed out the angular folds and read the small, boyish writing. It was a poem about finding a person who could look past his imperfections to love him for who he is:

“I’m just a dandelion.                                                                                                     But one day in the distant future,                                                                                    I will sit across the table from the one,                                                                  She will see a flower, when others saw a weed.”

Precious moments are hidden beneath the dirt and pebbles of a life that is under construction. They’re under piles of laundry, and dirty dishes, and unpaid bills if only we have eyes to recognize them. As I sit here in the quiet dawn of morning, I leave an unmade bed and a pile of dishes in the sink. I run my fingers through your hair and watch your sister’s chest rise and fall, her warm little body tucked snugly in the crook of my arm– and I thank God for my garden of dandelions.

 

 

 

Watching You Grow with “No” and “I Love You”

Disciplining in Love

Disciplining in Love

Your smile eclipses your face with sunshine. I want every day to be sunshine, filled with secret giggles as our heads share a pillow; filled with drawing Crayola hearts and walking with your hand in mine, with shared baths overflowing with bubbles and your face poking around every corner asking “mommy whatcha doing?”

I anticipate years ahead when we will go out to lunch and share french fries and inside jokes. When I will squeeze in the dressing room with you and zip up dozens of prom dresses to find the perfect one, and the late nights we’ll sit on the kitchen counter, barefoot in our pj’s as we eat chocolate chip cookies from the pan as you tell me about boys, and mean girls, and teachers with smelly breath.

I dream of the day you call to tell me that you met the man you are going to marry, and the day you dial my number with trembling fingers because you’re holding a test with two pink lines.

Right now I see a little girl smile with baby teeth and chubby cheeks, but I know that the radiance of your smile won’t fade as your face softens into the angles of an elegant woman.

But as much as I relish your brilliant smile, I know even now, that every day can’t be all sunshine.

I realized in that moment, that this is just the beginning of our game of tug of war as mother and daughter.
I look back on earlier this evening when I yelled at you for plucking every dress off the hanger and piling them into a messy heap of pink tulle and lace on the floor. Your little body pantomimed a perfect pout, with your arms crossed and lower lip jutting out. As my gaze traced a tear running down your face,  you pelted my chest with the wounded words, “Mommy, you make me so sad.”

I realized in that moment, that this is just the beginning of our game of tug of war as mother and daughter.

There will be days when I say “no” more times than I can count. When you will think I am the meanest mom in the world. When you will keep secrets from me. There will be days when we will fight and you’ll throw hard, angry words at me.

I remember, with a lump in my throat, the harsh, jagged words I launched at my mother. Words like “you’re stupid,” and “I hate you.”

Despite your sadness and anger, I will need to set boundaries that guide and protect you.

But no matter how many times I tell you I love you, the NO’s will echo louder, leaving you feeling stifled and frustrated.
Right now, you want to eat chapstick and wear the same Minnie Mouse dress until I peel it off your sweaty body. At six you’ll probably want to subsist on Doritos and Pop Tarts. At 13 you may want to wear short skirts and watch R movies. Maybe at 17, you’ll want to stay out past curfew with a boy or drink a beer at a party.

And as your Mom I’ll shout and whisper “No!” and “I love you.” and “No!” and “No!”and “No!” and “I love you,” “I love you,” “I love you.

But no matter how many times I tell you I love you, the NO’s will echo louder, leaving you feeling stifled and frustrated.

But when you want to turn on the music and drowned me out, just remember the persistent whisper, “I love you.” And when it feels like my “no’s” are like  the bricks of a cement wall, also know that I don’t want to wall you in, but to protect you from decisions that will take away your freedom.

If your smile fills my heart with light, then your sadness creates the dark clouds that threaten the sky on a rainy day; .your tears have a way of pounding on my chest with a dull, persistent ache. But as much as I hate to see your tears, I know that without them you wouldn’t grow.

In the same way, God delights in our smiles and laughter, but He loves us enough to also allow seasons of struggle and tears that help us to grow.

In shouts and whispers, He answers our prayers with “no’s” and “not right now,” and “wait.” We become frustrated at a God that loves us too much to let us subsist on mediocrity and compromises.

But in the quiet moments as we struggle with a tug of war in our heart whether to trust in what He is doing, we hear His quiet, persistent whispers “I love you,” “I love you,” “I love you.”

 

Thank you for reading “Disciplining in Love.” This is one in a series of letters I am writing to my daughter with the goal of compiling them into a book. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prenatal Depression: How I Survived My Pregnancy

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My Journey in Overcoming

Prenatal Depression

Dear Daughter,
All I could think of was becoming pregnant. Every month as I waited to see if my test would be positive,  I’d become like a helium balloon, puffed up with excitement and hope, and in the days following my period, become deflated and weighed down with another missed opportunity. When I finally saw the faint pink line I was in such a state of disbelief that I made an appointment with my OBGYN right away to confirm the result. They did an ultrasound and spotted the embryo–the miracle–that was you. I saw the mass on the screen that looked like scrambled eggs, and tears of joy streaked down my face, because no matter what it looked like, God knew, and I knew what it meant.

The beautiful gift I’d hoped and prayed for, began to feel more like a burden.
The weeks and months following the happy news became an obstacle course of sickness, confused emotions, and irritability. The joy I first felt eluded me. It became an effort to get out of bed, to get dressed, and to even eat. As friends and family began to worry, I began to wonder if I would ever feel the same again, and the beautiful gift I’d hoped and prayed for, began to feel more like a burden. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was suffering from depression during pregnancy, or what professionals call “prenatal depression.”

We announced your expected arrival in December as the days grew grayer and colder, and my tummy began to swell with you. Members of our church in Sedona learned of our news with a picture of us we put up on the front screen along with our church announcements. The photo showed a happy couple in front of the Christmas tree, with a ribbon tied in a bow around my waist and  your daddy kneeling to kiss my bump. That Sunday morning, Barbara, a friend and mentor came up and wordlessly gave me a hug and a squeeze as tears quickly sprang to my eyes. Since we couldn’t find the care I needed in Sedona, I had been gone for the last few weeks staying with your Cece in San Diego as we tried to find a psychiatrist who would help give me the extra treatment I needed. I had spent my days as a kid would on Christmas break making gingerbread houses and ornaments, reading books, sleeping long hours, and watching mind numbing TV, as I grasped for the hope and excitement that I couldn’t seem to find. My prenatal depression left me listless.

Barbara held my shoulders and looked searchingly into my eyes. “I knew you were pregnant, but I wanted to wait until you shared the news before I said anything.” “You did?” I asked, “but how?” “Remember my best friend that I lost? I’ve told you about her before,” I nodded. Barbara had shared with me that in her 30’s her friend Candace and her were inseparable. They both had kids the same age and were involved in church together. After she lost Candace tragically to an untreated infection of strep throat, her friend had been appearing to her in dreams. She explained, “Candace told me to pray for you and your baby.” As she said this, a warmth filled my belly while a chill crept from my neck and down my arms and legs creating goosebumps. In all the grey clouds, sadness, and apathy, I had forgotten that you weren’t just something growing inside me, but a baby; you were my baby, and a child that God cared for enough to send an angel to my friend to seek her prayers.

The months following weren’t easy. God didn’t give your daddy an extra measure of patience but poured down buckets of love and patience as he shouldered the burdens of work and my depression that seemed to weigh on our house like a musty, woolen cloak. No matter what I did I couldn’t seem to find the joy and excitement that had filled me up at that first ultrasound. But, now I had something to cling to. Despite the sadness I felt in my prenatal depression, despite the void of emotions I wanted to feel, I clung to the knowledge that God already knew you as my baby, as His child, and that He had a plan for you beyond the fog of my prenatal depression and desperation.

Child, when you were born, I am not exaggerating when I tell you, you were my bright spot, my sunshine. The grey cloud of apathy lifted when I held your warm body against mine and I breathed in your sweet, milky scent. They say what I suffered from was perinatal depression. What I know is that it was a season that helped me to see more clearly. We don’t know what light is until we experience darkness–and although God let me experience the darkness of a mental illness called depression that I had never known before, He also allowed me to see His light and goodness in a way that I would have never fully grasped until I saw your face.

There are many things that can be gleaned from this story, but I think most of all I want you to know who your maker is. Mommy and Daddy dreamed of you and planned for you, but your God knew you by name before you were even scrambled eggs in my tummy. So while I will speak words to you of love and encouragement, I will try to guide you down straight paths, I want you to always know that God is the one who sent an angel for you when I couldn’t find you in my darkness. He’s given me the wisdom, courage, and strength now to be your mommy, but on the days that I disappoint you, He will never fail you.

If you or a loved one thinks they have prenatal depression, talk to your healthcare professional who can connect you with a support network. Don’t endure prenatal depression alone.

http://www.postpartum.net