Category: Gratitude

Gratitude is a lot Like Raspberries

 

raspberries gratitude in motherhood

I hesitate to take the thin plastic container from the fridge. I bought them for eating, but then there’s the matter of rinsing them clean. They’re not always the easiest fruit to snack on either. Somehow my kids find a way to spread the pink juice on their fingers and around the corners of their mouth. My grown up toddler smashes them on her tray and then runs her sleeves in it.

Raspberries. They’re even spelled differently to emphasize their explosive nature. They look like innocent pink clumps, but under a bit of pressure they burst. Eating them is a sensory overload of texture and taste. Tart, sweet, crunchy, juicy, messy…yes…raspberries.

This morning as my kids popped them in their mouths, pleasure spreads like gratitude, all over their hands and faces…

Finish reading this post over at Fresh Hope for Mental Health!

 

Mommy I Need You

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  “Mommy I need you.”

I am a hummingbird.
Floating, deceptively still
Brain vibrating and fingers whirring
Over the keyboard.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy I need you.”
I am an ant.
Tracing figure eights about the house.
Resolutely hauling
laundry baskets and brooms back and forth.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy I need you.”
I am a tiger.
Crouching, staring at my phone screen.
Eyes tracking and fingers pouncing
On colored icons and buttons.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy I need you.”
I am a butterfly.
Flapping wildly.
Entrapped
In a net of tangled thoughts.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy, I really need you.”
I am eyes, looking in her face.
I am arms, holding her tightly.
I am the wet kiss that stamps her forehead.
“I’m right here honey.”
“Yes, here you are”

She’s A One-der: My Second Chance Baby

Happy Birthday Elyse!

In a movie called “About Time,” the character has the amazing ability to time travel back to his past. At first he tries to memorize and control every aspect of his future to get it right, but then his Dad (also a time traveler) gives him great advice. He says instead of trying to change his life, to repeat it twice in exactly the same way, “The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.” This gives the character the amazing ability to overcome fear and uncertainty, and to simply live moment to moment, soaking them up with all of his senses.
I see Elyse as my second chance at motherhood. As she grows, I don’t worry about well meaning advice, or following a book, or ticking off the milestones. I get to soak her up one day at a time and relish her living out who God created her to be, on her own timetable.

Bree is my first, and its exhilarating, and challenging and exciting. Just like my Bree. But Elyse is my take an extra moment to cuddle, nurse her in bed, cleaning can wait, take your time to grow up baby, and I’m loving every second with her.
But even though I get to have a repeat on motherhood, I love to experience how absolutely different God makes each of my girls. Where Bree is bold, my Elyse is tender; Bree is brave, and Elyse is more tentative, Bree is moody, Elyse is mellow, and yet they are both mine, full of Daddy’s mischief, and my sensitive heart.
Elyse stretched my belly beyond capacity. Now she is stretching our lives, to a point where it sometimes feels beyond capacity. But I laugh at the question I asked, just days before her birth, “Will I be able to love this one as much as I love Bree?”
God stretches us and in the process He grows us.

And the best part is He grows our hearts, so that we have the ability to love more and more.

Happy Birthday to my attached to my hip, cuddle all morning, slobbery kisses, cling to my leg, second chance baby, that makes life even richer and fuller than I ever thought possible

Open the Eyes of My Heart

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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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Dear Elyse: Your Story

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Dear Elyse

As I lay immobile on the bed, it felt as though I were on a carousel with the world spinning around me.  I fixed my gaze on one immutable point, your daddy’s eyes, as I mouthed over and over to him, “I’m okay, I’ll be okay,” as the stream of tears threatened to blur my vision.

Despite my words, despite his steady eyes, the tears wouldn’t stop pouring out of me. I heard a healthy cry and I saw you from across the room, all ten fingers, all ten toes, your pink skin and head of dark hair, and then my consciousness gave way to the hazy background.

The long summer was marked by the dry California heat, and the long wait for you. The drought caused a strict watering schedule that turned the landscape from lush green to yellowed and dead. The trees’ leaves were dry and spotted as they scattered the streets with their lifeless forms. My own body felt huge and achy; my mouth and throat were parched with an unquenchable thirst.  My days were filled with to-do’s and restlessness, as I waited  for you to make your radiant appearance, like a small pretty bud giving way to a bright and beautiful bloom.

But in my waiting and quiet anticipation, my own life and perspective began to look stale and dried up. The longer I waited, my focus shifted from living to expecting, and my days became consumed by preparation and obligation– stealing the each moment  of its own vitality.

On a Sunday morning, at 39 weeks pregnant, my slow bloated body ambled through the streets of Old Town Orange in a feeble attempt to “walk the baby out.” The Old Town  neighborhoods seemed to be the one place that hadn’t been affected by the drought.  As my eyes drank up one green manicured lawn to the next, my focus halted on an ugly brown tangle amidst the tidy landscape. The gnarled dead vines wrapped around the splintered edges of the decayed wood siding. A dusty sign on an old stake poked out of a wheel barrel in the center of the dreary scene. It had only one word in bold lowercase letters, “grow.” I snapped a photo because it seemed significant- and then I left it like an unfinished sentence, to go about my business of walking.

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That evening I went to church. My heart felt heavy with the anxious anticipation of when you would come. I hadn’t had any contractions, and I was afraid I would need a c-section. I wanted to be in control over what would happen, and I wanted to know what to expect. Yet as we sang the worship song, “The Sound of Grace,” my racing heart and worried mind gave way to an overwhelming feeling of rest and peace.

Grace, sweet grace; A fountain for my soul.                                 Grace, sweet grace; A mighty waterfall.                                         Drops of mercy all around; Everywhere the sound of grace.

As the tears streamed down my face, I looked up and smiled. For the first time in a long time I was soaking up the moment for all its goodness as God nourished me with his love and assurance. Deep in my heart I knew that no matter the circumstances, His abundant blessings wouldn’t run dry.

I awoke to your weight on my chest, your soft warm body and hungry suckling mouth. Tears ran down my cheeks as I heard the heavy pounding of rain outside the window.

You came to me like the much anticipated rainstorm that refreshed us that Tuesday morning, quenching a deep thirst and washing me with relief and gratitude. And since you’ve been here the tears flow unbidden from my eyes. Anxious tears, tears of relief, tears of fear and pain, of fulfillment, and tears of pure joy. But every drop that falls from my face, whether born out of gratitude or struggle, I collect in an alabaster jar;  knowing that they bring me the nourishment I need to grow.

Despite the gnarled vines that threaten to choke out new life; the thorny weeds of shame, fear, and mistrust, God scatters new seeds in my life; He  waters them with His grace, and grows my life into an overgrown garden of beautiful blooms.

As I rested in my hospital room, I stared at your peaceful face. Your perfect lips pushed out little puffs of breath.  My phone lit up and buzzed quietly with a text message. Auntie Erin had sent a picture, with the caption: “Look at the full rainbow over Orange today!!”

Elyse's Rainbow

My arms were full of you, and my heart was full, knowing that God never leaves us exactly where we are. Through the waiting, through the tears and the struggle and the blessings, I never stop growing and He never stops pouring down His Grace.

God gives us rainbows to remind us of His promises, but all I need to do is look into your face and I know:  God is good.

 

 

 

 

Never Lose Your Wonder

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As I sit on my crumpled bed, I watch you twirling in your pink tutu. You have a radiant smile on your face of pure joy. Earlier you got into my bedside drawer and found an anniversary card that your daddy had given to me. As you explored the white icing sparkles and traced the fuchsia embossed heart, I watched you mouth the word “wow.”

In your eyes I saw that card in an entirely new way. You see my dear, when I received it I saw it as an obligation: a mere trinket that I expected your daddy to give me on the day that marked our five year wedding anniversary. But when I see it through your eyes, I see our wedding cake, I see the rose on your daddy’s lapel, and I see a love story that has woven us together as a family.

At the beach yesterday, you squealed as we took off your sandals and you allowed the sand to explode between your toes; you giggled with glee as the foam of the waves chased our heels; you peacefully rested in utter bliss as your daddy’s arms enveloped you in a seaside nap. It makes me realize that too often I forget to indulge in life and soak it up with all my senses. Too often my prayers of thanks are the cursory things rather than taking time to appreciate the details that God has intimately placed in my life. After all its the sunrises, and morning cuddles, the smell of your hair after a bath, the taste of coffee after a bite of breakfast, red high heels, pink tutus, and sand between my toes that gives life the dimension and color that help me to see more clearly.

You have fresh eyes for everything, finding excitement and awe in the corners of life that, too often, I let collect dust. With your bright vision my own world gets bigger and I’m reminded to see the wonder in things that too easily become commonplace.

While the cotton candy pink of your baby blanket,  that I unwrapped from the white paper tissue before you were born, has dulled to a pastel; days and life experiences will soften your vibrant spirit and your bright eyes. Its hard to believe, but in time, your figure will ease into gentle curves and the skin on your face will relax into subdued lines. Like the fabric on your blanket has become soft with love and washes, this softening of your spirit is part of becoming a woman.  But, as you relax into your different roles as a friend, a professional, a mother and wife, I pray that you don’t lose your wonder. My prayer is that your laughter, enthusiasm, and face splitting smile don’t get dimmer, but richer as you grow into the beautiful woman that God has created you to be.

Letters to B.

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dear bIn quiet moments, I find myself talking to you. I tell you about our day together, I tell you about the lessons I’ve just learned or the hopes I have for our future together. But in my inner ramblings, I’m not talking to the B with scraped knees, a button nose, and a gleeful giggle, but a vibrant and beautiful teenager, a young woman anxiously waiting to find love, a nervous and glowing bride, a swollen and radiant mother to be, and an exhausted, yet blissfully  content wife and mother. I imagine myself stringing together lessons, ideas, memories, and snapshots that can hang on your neck like a strand of pearls, giving you a piece of me, and helping you navigate the milestones of your life. I realize there’s nothing I can say that will develop the wisdom that is earned from bad breakups, betrayal, reckless love, and all the moments that mark how beautiful and sometimes how heart wrenching life can be.

I imagine myself stringing together lessons, ideas, memories, and snapshots that can hang on your neck like a strand of pearls, giving you a piece of me.
But I smile as I see you reading my words at sixteen and rolling your eyes, then again at 23, as you think you know better, and then finally at 34 and beyond, as you savor them, like the morsels of dark chocolate I keep hidden from you and daddy at the back of the pantry.

So while you nap soundly, covered in flecks of sand and salt from a morning at the beach, here I am with my laptop, putting off my zillions of chores to bang away at my keyboard, and try to distill all that I want to impart to you in the meager words I’ve been given. I’d like to think my thoughts to you could touch and benefit others, but maybe they’re intended for an audience of one–and that’s okay too. Because that’s the crazy way that God works, calling us to plant a seed that could fruit beyond our wildest imagination now, or lay dormant in the ground for years and years and then miraculously sprout up in a new and unexpected place.

My dear B as I share my thoughts with you in these letters I’m going to tell you what you’ve already figured out. I am only human. I’m going to fail you a million times before you ever sit down to read my words. Just last night, I kissed your face and my tears wet your cheeks as I apologized for raising my voice at you–you were refusing to go to bed and I was impatient and tired. But my dear, I hope by now you know that that’s what makes our world so beautiful–that God takes our shortcomings and messes, our half efforts and good intentions and wraps them up with lessons and forgiveness; He ties a ribbon of grace around them and transforms  them into the beautiful gifts that our lives are made of.

 

I’m Mediocre and Happy

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Blogging Barbies Move Over–I’m Mediocre & Happy!

We are surrounded by images on TV, in movies, magazines, and ads of women that seem to show no signs of “real life.”

Somehow in print, and on screen, celebrities have managed to avoid the ravages of child bearing and aging.

At 31, I have a pretty good self image, but I can’t help but notice the lines around my eyes, the stretch marks on my hips, and well, the other imperfections that come with babies and age.

But as if “keeping up with the Kardashians” isn’t enough, I find myself facing another group of women that challenge my sense of reality.

I will dub them the “Blogging Barbies.” Like Barbie, they manage to spin a reality of their domestic life that is shiny, and seamless, and pure plastic perfection. From their designer decorated homes, perfect pantries, down to their immaculate underwear drawers, these bloggesses (no auto-correct, not blouse, I’m inventing a word here!) seem to have every stitch in place of their effortlessly homespun life.–And don’t forget their gorgeously dressed and beautiful children with sweet and original names like Harlow and Dax–who also manage to put their toys back in the adorably labeled toy bins tucked away in their color coordinated closets.

I’m not dissing women who love pinterest, and are crafty, and have cute homes. I know quite a few, and I hope someday some of their talent will rub off on me!

But as I browsed the black hole of pinterest today, and fell deeper and deeper into my own black hole of negative thought, I’m so disorganized, my house isn’t cute, what do I do with all my time, why isn’t my bathroom matching down to the toiletry bottles?!

I decided to take a step back and celebrate that my house is relatively clean, my pantry is 65% stocked, and my kid and husband are fed, smiling and their clothes mostly match.

So today, instead of worrying about a reality on blogs that I will never achieve in my real life, I’ll celebrate giggles, sticky hands, and overall domestic mediocrity!

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