Category: Motherhood

Loved over Perfect

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I want to walk the fine line of perfection.
I want to be one way- until I lean too far in one direction, and then I overcorrect, leaving me dizzy with indecision and insecurity.

They call it happy medium, like there’s a measurement that amounts to that, but I’m realizing that its a constant balancing act. The moment I think I’ve got it down, my illusions comes crashing down as I face my false reality.

I think this is a dance we do as parents, as spouses, as kids, and at work, with our friends and even with people we don’t really like. Pretty much, as humans, we can try to walk life’s fine lines.

As I look at the scattered pieces of false realities and loose ends, I’m challenged to look at the fragmented beauty right in front of me.

Shakespeare writes in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He asserts with bold certainty that life is scripted and predictable, as we continue to go through the same lines and choreographed movements like a carefully directed play.

But God gave us free will. He gave us the ability to move and speak and choose as we wish. When we choose the right thing purely, its beautiful and organic, and right. When the right thing is forced it rings false,
like a dripping sweet compliment or a forced apology. And that is why God made us people that are freed by his love, that freely choose to love.

Love isn’t a carefully marked path, but a stumbling journey of trying, and failing, and keeping on moving, even if you don’t know if you’re going in the right direction. The life that God calls us to isn’t a pin straight line of truth, but blind steps of trust and obedience. Never as a mere pawn or player in a prewritten play, but gentle steps that unfold our own stories.

These stories aren’t measured by their perfection or our performance. No, these aren’t stories reviewed by critics or competing to be on a bestseller list. Each story is God’s love story to us. As we fall, and get back up, as we doubt, and trust, and hide and seek, and find, our stories unravel into a picture of forgiveness, of redemption, and of imperfect progress.

I will never walk the tight rope of perfection as a mom, as a wife, a friend, or any person. So instead of training my steps to fall in perfect line with who I think I should be, I land in the soft place of grace, where I am restored and reshaped. Instead of placing impossible expectations on myself, I can live loved. Loved by God, loving myself, so I can pour love into the world around me. Because when I’m loved, being perfect doesn’t seem so important.

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love”

How to Be Content

BE

“Dove,” she crooned in her sweet baby voice.

“What? Dove? No, what did you say?”

“Dove, dove, dove,” she insisted, pointing at the mantel above the fireplace.

I thought my 18 month old daughter was pointing to the small wooden bird standing there beside the carved books, shaped in the letters “B,” and “E,” for each of my daughters. But, was it possible? I don’t remember even showing her a picture of a dove, and for goodness sake, wouldn’t she just say bird?

She was getting frustrated now, gesturing wildly, and saying the word again and again, gaining more and more confidence, “Dove, mommy. Mommy! Dove!” 

I stood and picked her up, carting over to the direction her chubby finger pointed. I left some distance from the bird, to see if she chose it herself. She lunged with open hands toward it, and so I plucked it from the shelf and handed it to her. She cradled it and gazed at it lovingly “:Dove.”

I could have missed it. This gorgeous moment with my daughter as she dazzled me with who God is creating her to be. I could haver hushed my baby’s persistent babbles, and swept her up to rush her to bed, and misplaced this moment like a doll’s lost shoe. For some reason, tonight, I lingered, and witnessed a fragile miracle.

Earlier as I sprayed and wiped my counters as my girls busied themselves with preparing a meal in their play kitchen, I prayed out loud, “God show me where you want me to be. There are so many things I love and long to do, but I want to be present with what you’re asking me to do right now. If its being the best mother and wife I can be, then help me to find joy and fulfillment in that.”

You see friends, I’ve been falling into the trap of gazing at other people’s grass. I want to do something impactful with my life. You know, something with a flash and a bang. Lately I’ve been thinking if I didn’t have the responsibilities before me, then I would have time to do something, more significant. Cringe. It sounds worse on a page before me, but sometimes I need to face my ugly truths to be delivered from them.

We all long for significance. To be known. And often in our culture of mega blogs, self publishing, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, we think the way to prove our worth is to be known by a thousand of our closest friends. We have platforms, and events, we want more likes, and shares, and followers. Church ministries count the number of heads to measure impact. We want to be fabulous, popular, right, knowledgable, and valued instead of simple, humble, open, seeking, and small. But when we look to be known in the way our world packages it, we can miss being known by the person right in front of us.

Life on life, hand in hand, sip by sip, we find that the heart of what we really crave is in the sweet moments wrapped in friendship, and motherhood, lost in moments we rush by looking for the next best thing.

This afternoon I met a friend for coffee and told her secrets. We watched our kids dig in the dirt and plant imaginary seeds.

I came home and danced with my girls. Watching Elyse learn to move again is a tiny wonder. Bree copied my goofy dance moves and helped me make waffles for dinner. 

And each moment was significant. It was beautiful, and small, real, and meaningful.

I long to be known, but then, time and time again I hear the dull thump of a hollow dream as God reminds me that nothing else but Him will fill me. 

The dove is in the story of Noah’s ark. It returns to Noah with an olive branch to show him that there is dry land. The dove represents peace to show God’s reconciliation with man after the flood. The dove is also the form the Holy Spirit takes over Jesus during his baptism in the Jordan. A dove could be another bird, but in the Christian faith, it isn’t. Its because of faith, that we see something more- we believe in more.

Elyse could have seen a bird but she didn’t. In a simple wooden bird, she saw a dove. I could chalk this up to a weird coincidence, but I don’t. I see my baby girl reminding me that I am already known, and I see God using a simple moment, to remind me that He is in our midst- among clumsy ballerinas, golden brown waffles, and a carved blue and red dove- perched beside the word “BE.”

A New Reality

 


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Its not often that I’m without words, but recently I have felt quiet and contemplative. The two words that have been on my lips most, are a diagnosis I struggle to pronounce, let alone understand: Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM).

These last few days since we’ve been home have felt like I’m underwater holding my breath. The same house, the same rituals and to do’s, the same family, but a very different reality.

I’m preparing myself to emerge back into the world with Elyse. It almost feels like when we introduced her to the world as a newborn, watching her every move with careful optimism, wanting to keep her within arms reach.

When you see her it might seem like you’re meeting any 18 month old toddler, her belly pooched out as she marches with a proud waddle. She makes one word declarations, wearing the world on her face with exaggerated expressions. When you see her, she’ll probably say “Hi” three times with her wide smile. You’ll notice her face is fuller and less blotchy,  her big wide eyes reflecting her enthusiasm, the shadows beneath them hint at tiredness . She might make wide circles around you, gaining momentum and confidence with each step as she clucks and coos with glee.

In these moments we get to celebrate life with her as it should be, an energetic baby enjoying and exploring the world around her.

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At home we also deal with another, new reality.

Each morning and evening we give her Prednisone, a steroid with undesirable side effects such as insomnia, weight gain, aggression, blood sugar changes, osteoporosis, and stomach upset. To counteract unwanted effects we give her Calcium, Vitamin D and Zantac. Prednisone suppresses her immune system so we have to protect her from being exposed to unwanted cooties- meaning avoiding crowded enclosed places or large groups of children. 

Because the sun can worsen the effects of JDM we need to avoid the sun during peak hours, and be vigilant about protection. E is embracing the hat as her new accessory.

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Once a week, we give her a shot that is a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate. We have to wear gloves to avoid contact with the very liquid that we inject into our baby’s skin. This is designed to work with the cortisteroid to quiet the overactive immune response that is attacking her skin and muscles .

The needle is tiny and the dose is very small.  Though difficult, we agree these are the steps we need to take right now. After 30 minutes of practicing on fake plastic skin, Nate played the brave daddy and gave her the first injection (I played the pregnant for 9 months card).

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Once a month we will go to the hospital for Elyse to receive a 6 hour IV drip of Intravenous Immune Globin (IVIG) which is a lot like a blood transfusion, but IVIG is made up of the plasma of up to 15,000 blood donors. Our nurse calls it liquid gold. I keep telling Elyse that it makes her sparkle.

E gets to play with a Physical Therapist twice a week until she rebuilds muscle strength and mobility, She thinks its pretty cool to have a personal trainer that gives her undivided attention, and beach balls.

E will have good moments, and moments when she is uncomfortable and fatigued. We hope the good days will be more and more. 

We’re still taking time to absorb our new reality; to figure out how our lives will be the same and very different.

Right now the words Juvenile Dermatomyositis taste bitter and unnatural. The doctor confirmed she’s the youngest child he’s seen with JDM, as the average age of onset is 7 years old.  I know that God lets us taste the hard things in life to help us appreciate the good. As we learn about suffering, we learn more about love. There is no turning back from this road that we’re on, and so we will trust God through this journey. We will celebrate God’s goodness; we will taste His fullness as you feed us; His faithfulness as you pray for us and walk beside us;  we will grow to understand how wide and how deep, how long and how high His love is, as we love our daughter, knowing somehow He loves her even more.

John9:1to3

 

Love In The Details

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Mommy where was I when God made the world?
You were a promise in the stars.
Mommy where was I when you were a girl?
You were my imaginary friend.

Mommy where was I when you married daddy?
You were the blush in my cheeks and the dimple in daddy’s smile.
Mommy where was I before I was born?
You were the flutter in my tummy.

Mommy when I grow up where will I be?
You will be God’s answer to someone’s prayer.
The best friend with a box of tissues and good chocolate.
You will be the pink cheeked bride,
and the Mommy wrapping her hands around a growing belly.

Mommy where will you be?
A hand to hold; an ear to listen.
The point of your chin, the curve of your brow,
Bedtime stories, eskimo kisses,
“I love you mores”, And flowers dressed as dandelions.

Mommy we’ll always be together?
In all the ways that matter.

 

How Babies Are Made

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Two people wanted a moment to last forever,
So they curled together in the shape of a heart,
and made a promise,

No matter what happens, for this moment, we aren’t alone,

Some people carve their love on a tree, to watch it grow.
But they planted a seed to grow something new.

And in their frail whispers and uncertain moments,
God with his great power used small intimate hands,
to gently knit together an answer to their questions,

A growing promise that breaks through the temporary into eternity.

And as they whispered to one another a question “I love you?”
He said, “Yes,” with a gift of love, a baby; a girl; a man; a name,

A branch that shoots from a stump, and burgeons into a wild green tree.
Reaching its feet deep into the Earth, Stretching its fingers up into Heaven.

Elyse 1 hospital

Christmas Blues

 

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My daughter was playing with the felt heart on our advent calendar. She held it up, closing one eye to inspect it in the ray of sun filtering through the window.

“Look mommy, this heart means love.”

“Yes, because love came down at Christmas time.”

“Where is love Mom?”

“In Jesus”

“But how can I see love?”

“Hmmm…I see love in the Christmas tree we put up together. I see love in the pictures of us on the wall. I see love when I look at you. Can you find love in this room?”

“I see love in the water in that cup on the table.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we need to drink water to live…right mom?”

“Absolutely.”

The conversation I had with my three year old reminds me that I’ve been going through the motions of Christmas, but I’ve been forgetting the most important part, the love. 

As a busy mom, I can go half the morning without downing anything but black coffee. My body eventually reminds me it is desperate for water, with a foggy brain and pulsing pain at my temples.

I’m terrible at drinking quickly. If I was ever challenged to a chugging contest, I would forfeit, because, my body doesn’t even know how.  Chugging hurts my throat and makes me feel suffocated. So, when it comes to water, I’m forced to drink it slowly, sip by sip. 

Love slows me down too. When I live in love, I sip up each moment with relish. I don’t realize how desperately I needed it until I start to take it in.

Its easy to go through the motions of Christmas without the feelings. Sometimes we hope that the feelings will catch up somehow. We can feel dried up and numb of emotion, or flooded with unexpected melancholy and sadness. Its not always easy to teach our heart to feel the right emotions- it can misbehave like an unruly child. But love is patient with us. It sits there and waits like a glass of water on a table, ready to be picked up and sipped in.

Jesus didn’t wait for ready hearts to come onto the scene. He certainly didn’t wait for a room twinkling with candles and strung up with garland and lights. The stars and stable were enough. Announcements didn’t go out, Bethlehem was busy and bustling with a census. No, shepherds and livestock would do as an adoring audience. He surrendered himself to the care of a scared new mom who cried out in pain and felt the sharp sting of love mixed with uncertainty and fear, pure awe and wonder. Jesus came down as love that first learned to breathe, and suckle, to eat, and toddle, walk and talk and live as our flesh.

So easily, I simplify love as the warm fuzzy feelings. I want to wrap Christmas in tinsel and tradition, and happy thoughts, but the truth is Christmas is about a Savior who patiently endured pain and struggle to be among us. True love is enduring the good and bad, and the tedious to be with someone. Love is waiting and walking alongside someone. 

I can find love in decorating a Christmas tree, or the happy snapshots of memories as a family. But my daughter reminds me that its in everything. Its in shedding tears as you say goodbye to your brother, or dad, and hold out the hope that one day you will share a table with them again. Its in watching those you love grow older, its in forgiving, and washing dishes, in sitting with the pain of loss and still getting up to make breakfast for the family. Love is quenching our thirst, our need for more than what this world can offer. Love waits for us patiently. It puts on our flesh and learns to walk with us. Yes, love comes down in an infant, is lifted up on a cross and buried in the earth. Love rises again, to draw us home. Love sustains, it fills us up, it overflows and it quenches our thirsty souls. Love makes everything complete.

 

 

Gratitude is a lot Like Raspberries

 

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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!

 

I’m More Like Jonah than I thought…

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Her quilt swallows her tiny body. A large pink gingham mouth envelops her head to reveal her three year old face.

“Mommy I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” I bend down and kiss her brow, creased with a comma.
“I’m afraid because Jonah keeps getting swallowed again and again, because he doesn’t listen to God. He keeps ending up in the whale’s belly.”

My trained words respond “No.” “No honey, the whale spit up Jonah,” but in my head I’m shouting “Yes.” Exactly yes. That is the truest thing I’ve heard all day.

As my body sits there with her, my mind is deep, deep underwater, in the warm, dark, damp insides of a giant fish.

I’m afraid. I’m unsure, and my mind is lonely, but my body is flooded with touch and affection from two little bodies. My mind feels overwhelmed and bored. My heart feels lost and found, and achingly empty and spilling over full, all in the journey of a day.

My body puts away laundry, washes dishes, and cleans sticky hands and faces. While my thoughts float, and dip, and sink into the noiseless depths of obscurity, weighed down by fear and questions.

Do I love my children enough? Am I going to be enough of a mom to form them into good people? Am I the wife my husband needs— the sister, the daughter? What if my people weren’t mine anymore? Or worse, what if I blinked and they disappeared?

These questions flood my mind and steal my identity. I become a hungry whale that swallows and fills myself up with people, and approval, and validation. So full, and sick, and empty again.

I turn out the lights in my daughter’s bedroom and find my way to the living room in the darkness. I fold my body into the corner of the couch. A lamp seems too bright for my mood. The wind whips the branches of the trees and rain beats a dramatic tempo overhead. I wake up my sleeping computer and pull up the story of Jonah and the whale. I read these words from the Bible. Funny, I never noticed them before.

“Notice all through this story that, although Jonah was God’s servant, he was always thinking about himself. God protected Jonah and saved him, not because he was such a good man, but because he wanted to teach him a great lesson.”

A heart turned in on itself is rendered useless. I think of my fifteen month old, how she wobbles from foot to foot, eyes affixed on her bloated belly as she walks into whatever is right in front of her. Sometimes I am so unsure in my own skin that I clumsily stumble through the world, oblivious to the needs of others, rendered useless by my own fears and insecurities.

As I read these words about Jonah, they resonate with my soul. Maybe I keep entering into the same dark places so that God can teach me a lesson too. A lesson about how to resurface. How to look up.

But maybe a fish’s belly is where I need to be sometimes too. In the depth of uncertainty, to be alone with my creator; letting Him form and reshape me.

I think about how God himself entered a woman’s belly to reshape the world- and I crack a smile like the moon. My daughter is smarter than she knows.

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