Category: Faith

Our Life is a Beautiful Mess

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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

 

God: Where are You Taking Me??

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“Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Back in January, God planted the word “thrive” on my heart. I told the hubs about it; basically my convo went like this, “God wants me to do something in ministry with moms that somehow surrounds the word thrive. I don’t know what it is, I’ll let you know when I know more,” and he responded as he usually does to my bizarre tangents, “okay cool.”

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your purpose.” Aristotle

It’s not the first time that I’ve felt God give me a glimpse at what’s to come. However, it doesn’t come in the form of a road map or a lightning bolt, but more like an itch I just can’t scratch. It started when I told hubs I would be leaving the salon and working in children’s ministry–even though I had no reason or desire to leave my current job.  Six months later in a  twist of events I went from giving blowdries to wiping snotty noses as a preschool teacher. The most unnerving was when I told him we’d be moving and he’d be getting a job that was more missional. A year later he interviewed for a position as pastor of missions and outreach, and we accepted the call at our new church  and moved six months later.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I don’t share this because I want you to think I’m gifted, and certainly not that I’m psychic. It really has nothing to do with me at all. For reasons I cannot explain, God has chosen to give me these small glimpses into what he has in store for me next.  There have been other times I’ve been dead wrong, like when I insisted I was having a boy, and we now have a very healthy 2 year old girl.  The difference is when I try to make a prediction for my own benefit, its as hopeless as dowsing for water in a desert. Rather, these ideas enter my life as a thought in the middle of an ordinary day. Before I know it that thought has found it’s way into my chest where it rattles around insistently. Then at inconvenient times, like when I’m trying to sleep, it knocks hard on my heart.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”         Proverbs 3:5

This brings me back to “thrive” and my deep conversation with the hubs. Everywhere I turn, the word finds me, in books, in devotions, even in blogs and social media. Lately the clattering  in my chest has gotten louder as I hear about fellow moms who are feeling loneliness and / or hopelessness. They love their families, but struggle to find a sense of identity and community in their role as a stay at home mom.  As women, how can we grow and thrive personally  in a world where our children, our husbands, and our responsibilities are constantly clambering for our attention? This is a question that I grapple with as the wife to a busy husband, mother of a toddler, and mother to be of another beautiful girl.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me.  Erma Bombeck

I don’t have the answer, but this word and this calling will continue to knock on my heart and awaken me at night until God reveals what He has in store. I wanted to let you in on the process so you can pray for me, mentor me, or share the things that keep you up at night.

A Belly Full of Butterflies; A Heart Full of Hope

“Because butterflies mean God is doing a new thing…”

As we signed the final documents for buying our new house, I felt a flutter begin in my stomach. No matter how much I do to prepare for a changing chapter of my life, it all usually boils down to a moment where my new reality crystallizes, and I lose every grain of control that I’ve scraped and grasped tightly onto. With clenched fits, and butterflies doing their practiced flight within the walls of my tummy, I close my eyes and leap to the next blank page of my unwritten story.

“…although my life story isn’t written, He knows the ending.”

But as I walk to the bank to transfer our life’s savings into what feels like thin air, the familiar butterfly dance I feel, fills me with excitement. I remember the last moments I felt butterflies: when I found I was pregnant with baby E, when Bree was born, and when I vowed my life to my husband. These butterflies mark something new and exciting. I realize as a grown woman of 31, butterflies mean I’m still growing up, and I hope when I’m 85, I still get this fabulous and unnerving flutter in my stomach. Because butterflies mean God is doing a new thing, and although my life story isn’t written, He knows the ending, and He’s written my name on the palm of His hand.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” Revelation 21:5

 

Blessings Always Come with Responsibility

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17

Blessings always come with responsibilities. The greater the blessing, the greater the responsibility. When I was a kid, if my pockets were full of a few quarters and a couple cubes of bubble gum, then I felt blessed and other kids felt jealous. But when I got my first car, I quickly learned that cars don’t run on quarters and bubble gum. The blessing of a car meant the hard work of babysitting and odd jobs to earn enough money to fill the gas tank.

When I became a mom, the blessing of my daughter came also with the heavy weight of responsibility. Not only do I receive the pure joy and pride of being a mother to my gorgeous, stubborn, and independent little girl, but every time I look at her, I’m reminded of the great calling God has put on my life to care for her, to teach her, and to love her, even when that means the tough kind of love.

A person can respond to responsibility in a few different ways. We can resist it or even grow to resent the extra work that comes with responsibility. We can become a slave to it, allowing the responsibilities to run our life and become an obsession. Or, we can embrace it and lean on God to strengthen us in fulfilling our responsibilities.  When we remember the blessings that are attached to the extra work, it’s easy to see that it’s worthwhile, but our perspective can determine  whether we treat our blessings as gifts or burdens.

When we think of the James verse, it’s easy to think that a perfect gift means something that is lovely, flawless, and uncomplicated, like quarters and bubble gum, but in life we quickly learn that the most perfect gifts come with responsibility and sacrifice. We can choose to embrace God’s gifts and draw closer to him, or miss an opportunity for God to touch our hearts and lives with His call to greater responsibility and trust.

How Often Do We Ask for What We Want?

After two days of battling naps and bedtime with my two year old, I was fried. That afternoon I’d walked nearly a marathon pushing a stroller (minus 25 miles) trying to get B to go down for a nap. Finally, tired and frustrated, I looked her in the eye. I said “Mommy really needs time away from you. I’m going to put you in your bed with a bottle of milk, and your job is to fall asleep.” She looked at me earnestly and said, “otay.” I layed her down, left the room, and a miracle happened…. she fell asleep.

It occurred to me then, how often do we ask for what we want? So often we either play the martyr by going without, or we expect others to be mind readers and meet our needs without communicating our expectations.

How often do we ask God for things we want? He may be better than a husband, He can read minds, but God still calls us to pray to him about our wants and needs.