Labor Pain

It snowed again today. A friend of mine lives in Canada and told me once that waiting for spring feels like a woman waiting for the birth of a child. You wait and anticipate and have a date in mind when you think the journey should be done and that baby in your arms. You go into labor, or so you think, only to have everything stop…and you wait some more.DSC_1369

Spring, like babies, comes when it good and well pleases and not a moment before. But the waiting, the hoping, the thinking you’re almost there to have everything stop and start again—

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)

Life lately has felt a little like labor pains. I know there are good things on the other side. I know the wait will be worth it. But sometimes it’s hard to keep believing in all I can’t yet see—spring, answers, new life in dead places, fruit for the labor that right now only blisters my fingers and leaves me weary in hoping for a someday harvest.DSC_0732

Like a woman waiting for a baby, I know false labor doesn’t mean the baby’s not coming—it just means the baby’s not coming right now. I’ve felt those false pains before and can assure you that all the promises in the world that your baby will still come and soon—just not today—don’t make you feel any better in the moment. False labor hurts just like real labor and the waiting hurts even more.

But this is where we live this side of heaven—in the now but not yet. We carry eternity with us every single day but cannot yet enter into it. We taste it, get glimpses of what is and what’s to come—but the satisfaction of true fulfillment is not yet in our grasp. We are always waiting for something east of Eden.IMG_20170501_164343_623

Questions unanswered. Problems unsolved. Planting seeds for the promise of life and growth tomorrow in exchange for sore backs and weary hearts today. We can get around a lot of things in this life but we can’t get around time. We can’t make it move faster or slower. We can’t hold onto it or demand it leave us alone. We are made for eternity and a different kind of time but are bound here in mortality for a little while and must learn to submit to the seasons of this life—both in nature and our sojourning hearts.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Today, I wait for spring. I wait for the fruit of my labor. I know I will get answers and someday I will see all of this waiting from the other side. Just like I hold my babies and think a million times over how they were worth the waiting and the labor (both false and real). So someday I will look back on a weary season of sore backs and blistered hands and know the harvest at my feet was worth the labor and the waiting.

We journey on. Let us not grow weary, friends.dsc_1324

These are the Days

I wasted a lot of time this winter looking around wishing I could be someone else, doing something else, somewhere else. I spent too many hours looking around watching other people live bits and pieces of their lives while I questioned and struggled against my own beautiful story. I forgot for a while that this beautiful life of mine is just that—mine. A precious gift in my hands. A beautiful story to be told. A blank canvas for life and imagination to be lived out on. All mine. IMG_20180408_170242_475.jpg

Our pastor on Sunday used an illustration about how you might be running and winning a race while you’re looking ahead focused on the goal, but as soon as you start looking around, looking back to see who might be catching up, you veer, you slow down, you begin to lose ground. We need to keep our eyes on the road—our road and not on the person beside us. IMG_20180408_170617_175.jpg

I always seem to be at a different place in life than a lot of the people around me. When I was working, my friends were having babies. When I am having babies, my friends are going back to work. I catch myself always grasping for that next step—for leaving my job and starting a family when I still need to work. For wishing my kids would grow up and go to school so I can go back to work and be with grownups again.

IMG_20180408_093110_222.jpg Only I’ve started to see things differently of late. As spring slowly (ever so slowly) begins to spread frosty green fingers into these last cold days of winter, so a bit of spring has begun to bloom in my heart toward motherhood, home, and the season of life I’m in. I don’t want to run away anymore. I don’t want that job or desk I’ve spent far too long dreaming about while rocking babies and washing dishes.IMG_20180408_153147_326.jpg

For the first time in a really long time, I see what’s right in front of me—and I’m excited about it. I want to be home and “make home.” I’m happy to be “just” a wife and momma. It feels like an adventure I get to dive into instead of a to-do list to check off so I can move onto the next step.

And I find, the more I open my heart to being right where I am, the more I want to put down roots and dive deep into all the possibilities this blank canvas offers. I am beginning to see all I can do with these precious days and hours rather than all I have to do.

IMG_20180408_152731_156.jpgNow of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. I find it funny that all day yesterday I had this post I wanted to write tumbling around in my mind—sharing my new love for home and motherhood—and yet it turned out to be one of the absolute hardest days I’ve had as a mom involving a lot of vomit, poo, crying babies, and one frustrated, impatient momma who had espresso for dinner. Just because it’s beautiful doesn’t mean it’s easy.

IMG_20180403_200830_145.jpgBut I’m learning to hold on, to really grab hold of these crazy days and years when life feels like noise covered in dirt. I’m so tired but time is moving so fast and I don’t want to look back and realize I wished it all away or hurried through something I’ll never get back. IMG_20180408_163644_897.jpgThese are the days—long, hard days, but also days filled with laughter, toddler hugs, and baby snuggles. Days watching my husband love not only me but our children in a way I never imagined. Days when we’re all together—sharing the same house, mess, and story.

IMG_20180408_155411_001.jpgSomeday, my children will move away and I’ll sleep through the night, have a house that stays clean, and margin to do some of the things I want but have to set aside for now. But I know when those days come, I will miss the beautiful chaos of today. I’ll miss having my arms full of family and my days filled with the noise of life and growth. IMG_20180408_192924_294.jpg

Today is a new day—hopefully a better day than yesterday. I type these words as my son sits beside me disassembling a lamp (he says he’s fixing it; it’s not broken…yet 😉 ). I see my daughter on the baby monitor, rolling around in her crib cooing and trying to make words. These are the days and I hope I never forget it in the crazy middle chapters of this story we’re writing day by day by day ❤

 

Staying Inspired as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I sit here curled up with my second cup of coffee for the day. A sunshiny morning drifted into afternoon rain and now gives way to chubby flakes of snow. Ahh, snow on the 3rd of April—perhaps I’ll cry some chubby teardrops onto my keyboard while we’re at it.

Both my babies are asleep which has become the case more and more lately. I remember when I was expecting, wondering how nap time would work with two kids and two conflicting schedules. Basically, it was a zoo for eight months but now we’re getting somewhere 😉

It feels like a really long time since we’ve had good weather here. Last summer was kind of a dud—cool, rainy, Gypsy moths stripping the trees so bare it looked as brown as winter in the middle of July. Our days outside were limited and few compared to our normal summertime routine. Summer cooled into a very sickly fall and we were still in survival mode with our newborn. Then winter came as winter always does and has sat on us proud and stubborn ever since.

We are legit stir-crazy and I find myself every day trying to think of an excuse to leave the house and escape these walls for which we’ve spent so much time over the last year. Which in turn has me thinking about this life as a stay-at-home mom and ways it can be enjoyed a little more.

I realize it’s a privilege to stay home with my kids. I know moms who would love to spend their days with their children and with enough time to really “make home.” I’m thankful I get to do what I do—but you guys, sometimes I still want to burn the house down. I like to stay busy, go places, see people, talk to adults sometimes. So being home almost all day every day between these same walls with these same crazy humans can get to you after a while.

In the summertime, I’m a rock star mom lol. We go to the park, the lake and ocean, take long walks, play in the backyard….the TV is almost never on and we’re almost always outside. Then winter comes and I curl up and cry for nine months while Netflix keeps asking if I’m still watching. Rude.

Here’s what I’m trying to say…I am (still, right now, currently) learning how to make these long days at home a little more enjoyable and I wanted to share a few ideas in case you’re curled up crying, too:

Go Places…Even if You’re Alone

I didn’t do a very good job getting out of the house this winter, in part because I couldn’t find anyone to go with. Most of my friends have jobs or homeschool so they’re not available in the middle of a weekday to hang out. But I’ve realized it’s still fun to go places even if it’s just me and my kids. We go to play places, children’s museums, Target (give your kid a bag of that Target popcorn and they’ll ride around happily for a bit while you lose your mind in the $1 section). I love bargain shopping so we go to Marshalls and Home Goods and dig around for deals. I make sure Roman gets to spend some time playing in the toy aisle so it’s fun for him too.

And once it warms up there will be tons of stuff to do outside so it will be even easier to go places together. All I know is, the days and weeks get really long when you stay home all the time so even though it’s work and can be intimidating to go places alone with littles, just throw your stuff in the car and do it; it’ll be good for all of you.IMG_20170519_214606_556.jpg

Stop Hustling for a Minute

I hate the word “hustle,” just for the record. You hear it talked about constantly like the most virtuous and admirable thing you can say about a person is that they’re “hustling”—busy, getting stuff done, moving up.

It’s hard when you’re home and see both how much can be done and how much everyone else seems to be getting done (via social media mostly) to ever feel like it’s okay to sit down and not do anything. This has been a hard lesson for me because I’m a doer and like to be moving and accomplishing. But I’m learning how important it is to my kids and my days just to slow down and hold them or play in the dirt or go for a walk and not constantly be moving onto the next thing.

I think too, that telling people you’re a SAHM can feel a little small and intimidating and it’s tempting to puff your life up with something more—a project or an at-home business so you don’t feel like you’re “just” a mom or “just” a home-maker. I’ve struggled a lot with this and have wrestled with my purpose and identity as a mom. But I’m learning that filling my days with hustle and stuff doesn’t fill a void—it just distracts from what I’m actually here to do—make home and raise a family; the rest needs to fit in secondarily during this season of motherhood.IMG_20180403_161709_370.jpgIMG_20180403_161556_913.jpg

Find Time Alone + Together

Find some time alone away from your house to change up your surroundings and get some fresh perspective. My husband and I try to trade off every few weeks and let each other have a night out. I like to grab dinner (without having to share with anyone, what?!), get a coffee, walk slowly through those bargain stores undistracted, or go to a café and write. And if I can’t get out of the house alone, I try to take advantage of naps and spend some time reading or writing instead of just moving onto the next chore or mess—that stuff will always be there waiting, trust me.

Also, find some time with your husband. Get a sitter and schedule a date or order pizza and have a fun dessert after the kids are in bed. Whatever it takes, make your relationship a priority and keep things fresh.

Love Your Space + Change Things Up

Since you’re going to be spending a whole lotta time at home, make sure you actually like your home as much as possible. I’m not saying things have to be perfect but don’t be afraid to spend some money decorating if you can or shop your own home and change things up every now and then.

Our master bath has been driving me crazy so the other day I decided to move stuff around and borrow from other rooms to get a fresh look. It’s amazing how much of a difference a fresh coat of paint or moving things around can make.

String some twinkle lights up in your bedroom for ambiance, light a candle, buy a cute throw pillow, or put some fresh flowers in vases around the house. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive to have big impact.

Get Up Before Your Kids

This is the game changer for me. If I sleep until my kids wake up, the day always seems to descend into anarchy and chaos. No matter how tired I am, it’s worth it to start the day before my kids even if it means trying to take a nap later while they nap or trying to get into bed a little earlier.


A couple other things that help me are getting out of my yoga pants and in real clothes, making my bed and keeping things clean and organized, and having a hobby that doesn’t revolve around my kids (for me, writing, decorating, bargain shopping).

So if you, like me, are struggling to stay inspired during these last painfully long days of winter, I hope this will be an inspiration and encouragement to you. And if you have any other ideas, leave them in the comments—I’m always up for trying something different! ❤

Progress Over Perfection + Some House Pics

If you know me or have read my blog for very long you probably know we’ve been remodeling an 1860s farmhouse for the last five years. Five years in and we’re still not done but we’ve made tons of progress and feel like we’ll be totally finished in the next year or so. Hallelujah.

I’ve thought often of sharing pictures of our home and the work we’ve done along the way but always hesitate and delete any drafts with these projects. Yesterday I was thinking again about sharing some before and after photos and finally put my finger on why I always back out: Intimidation.

The world is so stinking visual these days. Which is awesome and I love all the beauty we’re surrounded with as much as anyone. But when it comes to actually sharing your own imperfect home and life in an equally imperfect photo, it’s easy to chicken out and hide behind the more talented faces and photographers out there.

But I’ve decided that’s silly and I’m over it. My photos and projects aren’t going to compare to a lot of what you see on Instagram or Pinterest but I think I’m finally okay with that. I’ll do the best I can and hopefully learn some things along the way too. IMG_20180218_081555_117.jpg

I have this photo of our home when we first bought it hanging in our living room; it reminds me of where we started, where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come. It’s a good reminder on the days when I get frustrated with unfinished projects and all the messiness and imperfection that will always be a part of this life. I need to remember sometimes that we’ve learned a lot and accomplished a lot these last five years and I’m excited to finally start sharing some of that with you too. After all, there was a time when our house looked like this so things are definitely looking up (and I’m not kidding when I say fixer upper!).

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I’m starting with something small, the mudroom/entryway because, apart from our daughter’s nursery, it’s one of the few rooms that’s actually almost 100% done (there’s always that almost 😉 )

When we first moved in, this place was not at all done. It was kinda a hot mess. In our hurry and also being super broke by that point, a lot of stuff was finished as quickly and cheaply as possible even if it wasn’t what we were really dreaming of when we started. We were also both pretty burnt out by that point and just wanted to get stuff done and behind us.

Now that we’ve lived here for almost three years, we’ve started to put our finger on what we love and what we’d still like to change. The mudroom/entryway was one of the first things we completely redid. The picture of Darren with Roman in his coat (lol) shows what the entryway looked like for the first year in our house. We painted it a beige-like yellow, put a white shelf up and hung a metal bar for coats and that was that. It was pretty ugly and not that functional but I didn’t really have an ideas for improvement at the time. FB_IMG_1518980035424.jpg

Then we spent a few days at a rental in Quebec a couple of years ago and the entryway there totally inspired me. It was so simple but perfectly functional too—a pallet wall, hooks for coats, and a bench for seating and storage. Before we left I started planning with Darren how we could make our own mudroom look like the one there.

We researched pallet walls on Pinterest and Darren used rough-cut boards to lay it out. He stained the wood all different shades to get the look we wanted then nailed the boards to the wall. We added black hooks for coats and bags and a bench to sit on and store stuff in. We chose a blue/gray paint—the darker color is a lot easier to keep looking clean in a high-traffic area and I love how it contrasts with the white trim. The area is really small but it still works perfectly for our needs: A place to sit and put on shoes, hang bags and coats on our way in and out, and storage for shoes and hats and such in bins under the bench. There’s also a place for keys and mail in the wire rack on the wall. It’s never this clean unless I’m taking a picture and usually has the carseat and stroller jammed in the corner, just so you know 🙂

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Across from the mudroom is the entrance into the garage. We used a piece of wood leftover from the original 1860s house for the shelf and just added the brackets underneath to hang it. The mirror reflecting the light from the window makes the small space look bigger and brighter and I love these curtains for that same reason—they give a little privacy but also allow for a ton of sunlight.

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Even though these are just small nooks used mostly for coming and going, it’s also the first thing you see when you walk into the house so I’ve really enjoyed having it cleaned up and decorated in a way I love and that helps keep this drop area a little more organized than before.

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Anyway, I’m curious to know if you’d like to see more posts like this sharing our remodel and projects? I’m thinking of doing one a month if you’re interested so tell me what you think!

A Piece of the Puzzle

I’ve written a lot about how I’ve struggled as a mom—with my temper, with depression, with regret. I knew motherhood would be hard, I just never imagined how it would be hard or how I would struggle.

But along with all I’ve said about the tough times and the learning curb, I don’t want to fail in sharing the good stuff and the victories too.

Eight months ago today, our daughter was born. Eight months. How do the nine months of pregnancy feel like a small eternity while the first year runs like water through your hands? It’s not fair but here we are with a baby who is trying to give up her morning nap, crawl, pop two teeth through, and laughs at everything her brother does.IMG_20180308_145354_700.jpg

We, all of us, adore her; but that doesn’t mean the last eight months have been easy. If we struggled with our son before our daughter was born, we just about sank after. Bringing our daughter home took every last gain we’d made with our son two steps back and it was discouraging, frustrating and downright heartbreaking at times.

And yet, like so many times before, it was here that I met with God. God is seen in all the beauty and goodness He offers, for sure. But no doubt about it, God is felt and known in the midnight hour when our souls are cracked open and raw with hurt and want.

These last eight months I have needed God in a way I simply didn’t before. And while I fought and wrestled against Him at first, for a while to be honest, I have found God to be waiting with open arms on the other side of the struggle. Mostly, I just needed to realize how much I need Him and to taste and see how willing He is to meet me with hope and answers in the struggle.

Have you ever prayed a prayer and known without question that God answered you—that there was simply no other explanation beyond Him moving and working on your behalf? I had a moment like that a few weeks ago.

I have long prayed for wisdom about how to reach my son’s heart and how to build a relationship with him. I reached out for help and read lots of books and tried to be open to advice when given. But still, everything seemed to fall flat and end in more frustration and heartache. But still I prayed. What else could I do? I knew I desperately needed wisdom and help only God could give so I asked Him for it and hoped, someday, I would find an answer.

One night we sat at dinner, struggling to get through the meal as we often do with lots of, “I don’t like this food” and “sit down and take a bite.” Without ever thinking about it before, honestly, until the words were coming out of my mouth, I told Roman he should hurry up and eat because after dinner and getting his sister in bed, we could stay up and have a special time together eating popcorn and ice cream and watching a show.

I’ve never seen a kid change his speed so fast. He might not want to eat his dinner but he fo sho wanted to stay up with us watching shows. After I said it, I wasn’t even sure if we had ice cream or popcorn or if Darren would be up for him staying up late. I put his sister to bed and came downstairs to find Roman all set up in the living room with his snacks, show picked out, and telling his dad that they couldn’t start the show until I was in there too. I thought I would tidy the kitchen quickly while they started but he insisted I be in there to begin :] So we piled on the couch together and had a super fun night spending some time focused on just our boy.

It seems like such an obvious thing, spending some special one-on-one time with just him while his sister sleeps but somehow it had honestly never occurred to me how we could make that work before this moment. But here we are, a few weeks later and every single night, as soon as I start prepping dinner, Roman starts telling me about how after dinner and baths and jammies and once sissy is in bed, we’re going to stay up together watching a show and eating ice cream and popcorn—and we do. And he is such a different kid from the little guy we were struggling so hard with just a few weeks ago.IMG_20180320_122227_888.jpg

Is everything perfect and easy now? No, not at all. After all, he’s still just 3 years old and we’re all still sinners. But I can’t even explain what a difference it has made in our relationship with him, his relationship with his sister, or the overall vibe of our family. It’s a “God did this” thing for sure and an undeniable answer to my prayer for wisdom.

God knows each of us, made each of us. God knows the workings and makeup of this 3 1/2 year old who so mystifies me at times. And in that, God knew what his little heart needed— t i m e.  And that is perhaps what has moved me the most—not just that God saw and heard me and my heart but that he also saw the hurts and needs of a little boy and met even him, a little child, in his need for time and attention.

When you are parenting a small child, you are the face of God. I don’t mean that irreverently but it’s true. A child does not know or understand much about God and in fact a lot of what you tell your children about God they will believe simply because you said it. If I tell my son God loves him, as I do, and then fail to show him the love of God in my attitudes and actions toward him, what have I now shown him about this God of mine? It’s a sobering, humbling thought—that my life, for a time at least, speaks God (the true God or lies about that God) into my children’s hearts.

But God is good and gracious. He answered me in one small way for now at least. And in doing so, He is showing His heart and love to both my boy and his needy momma ❤IMG_20180321_130404_078.jpg

A Quick Question…

I’m trying to find that sweet spot between sharing more than you’re interested in or have time to read and being MIA. Would you help me out by answering the poll below? Thanks, friends! :]

I’ll Be Outside

It was 70 here Tuesday and Wednesday—70 degrees and a warm breeze in February is pure magic if there is any such thing in the world. The kids and I spent almost all of both days outdoors—Roman in the mud, Aletheia on a blanket with the wind curling her soft baby hair, and I chasing the sunshine around the porch and yard and breathing so, so deeply for the first time in months; I felt almost like myself for a minute.

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After we got the kids in bed Wednesday, I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my reflection for a moment; “I know that girl,” I thought. My hair, normally pulled up tight (to keep my daughter’s hands out of it) was a tad windswept with a couple shorter locks in the front framing my face. There was dirt on my flowy white shirt from playing with my son—a bit wild and untame—like the landscape, like the weather.

IMG_20180221_162934_494.jpgI spent a good bit of time Wednesday surveying our yard and dreaming up plans to clean things up and landscape it into something really beautiful this spring. Five years ago when we bought this place, both the house and yard were in complete disarray. While we’ve made huge gains on both, the yard and wooded tree line have certainly lagged behind.

Darren spent the fall building a rock wall out of fieldstone that will wrap around a patio area by the backporch. Right now that whole area is a mud pit (Roman’s favorite place….he will be so sad when we clean it up). We plan to finish the wall and patio this spring, add a fence around the backyard to keep the kids in sight and away from the road and dream of nights with friends around a campfire under the stars, grilling out, letting the kids play in a green grassy yard, and swinging on the porch swing in the sunshine.IMG_20180222_142957_295.jpgLast summer, while my family was here waiting for our daughter’s birth, my dad worked tirelessly on our tree line—removing brush, trimming trees, and opening the area up into a beautiful park-like look instead of an overrun jungle. Roman still talks about helping papa with the trees and I still love looking out my kitchen window at the area he cleared. But there’s still so much to do and I’m chomping at the bit waiting for warm weather so I can get outside and start working.IMG_20180222_143314_684.jpgI have plans for a small vegetable garden, a clothesline to let our laundry dry in the sun, and a sandbox for Roman to replace the mud he loves. We will be finishing and screening in our backporch so I’m watching for just the right pieces to turn it into a cozy little boho, plant-loving, Persian-rugs-everywhere corner where we can sit and soak up the breeze and sunshine (and hide from the bugs—I forgot about the bugs until they woke back up with the warm weather).

IMG_20180222_143114_009.jpg{Baby feet and chubby thighs forever please}

It snowed yesterday and today and we are back to the white winter landscape we know to expect this time of year in New England. Darren is home today and I came downstairs this morning to a fire in the fireplace and a baby asleep in his arms. As I write these words and sip my hot coffee, I’m reminded that everything will be okay, will keep moving forward, changing and growing—me, the weather, my kids, even the yard. None of us are done yet and that’s okay.

20180221_170753.jpg {On our walk to the lake Wednesday}

I know this isn’t my normal kind of post. But the truth is, I wasn’t planning on sharing anything today. I’ve felt so weary and dreaded the thought of writing yet again about struggles and learning. I know the challenges of this particular season of motherhood will pass. I know winter too will pass, and sooner than it feels right now. But while I’m in the thick of it, it’s hard especially in my writing which tends to be so honest, to pretend all is right and well. So rather than complain and turn this space into something dark and dreary, I’m tempted not to write at all until this period of baby blues and winter weather is a memory.

But for today, I’ll meditate on the goodness—the warm breeze in February, the dreams enlivening my sometimes weary heart, and the hope for tomorrow. Things will get better; I know they will. And until they do, I’ll be over here pulling weeds both in my heart and in my backyard, dreaming of sunshine, and looking for a reflection I recognize in the mirror.

 

It’s Supposed to Be Hard

I’ve been wrestling with God lately—pushing hard against him as he pushes right back. I’ve asked him why things have to be so hard. Why, if I’m doing what I believe to be right and best, am I struggling so much? Being where you think God wants you to be and doing what you believe he’s asked you to do is supposed to bring peace and joy, right? Well, yes and no.

I didn’t recognize the answer to this wrestling until I said it out loud in a conversation with my husband. We were talking about parenting—about all the well-intentioned advice we get and all the books we’ve read looking for answers. So much information is available saying, “Do A, Get B.” Only none of those formulas work on our son and we’re starting to wonder if we’ll ever figure any of this parenting stuff out or if we should just start saving bail money now (I’m kidding…sort of 😉 ).

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I told Darren I knew parenting would be exhausting and a ton of hard work—and I can handle that part of it. It’s all the not knowing what we’re doing and fearing that we’ll never reach our son’s heart that really scares me.

And that’s when it hit me—I can handle the hard work and exhaustion—so God gave me a little more than just that to remind me of my need for Him—to draw me close to his heart as I turn to him for the help I’ll find nowhere else. I need wisdom that’s beyond me and the advice others offer. I need strength beyond my physical ability and fortitude. I need hope and encouragement beyond the easy answers and quick fixes people offer to make me feel better. I need Jesus and struggling with my son reminds me of that every single day.

There was a time in my life, before I was a mother, when I very clearly remember thinking, “I can do this without consciously needing the Lord’s help.” I didn’t mean it to be an affront to God; I was simply in a place in life where I could ride the waves and do my job and everything went pretty smoothly whether or not I chose to include the Lord in my day-to-day. After I thought, “I can do this on my own right now,” I also thought, “but God’s not going to let that last forever.” I knew my comfortable status quo would change and I would likely come into a place of need that I didn’t really want to experience.

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Enter motherhood.

From his incredibly difficult birth right up until today, my son is God’s hand of change in my life. Every single day I’m made aware of my failings, weaknesses, and need. Every day I fight to start at the feet of Jesus because I know how much I need his help to get through each hour before me.

So why does it have to be so hard? Probably because I’m stubborn and self-sufficient and can handle a lot of pain. Probably because God knew this level of frustration and insufficiency is the only thing that would get my attention and draw my heart close to his.

So its not punishment or God mocking my efforts as I have sometimes felt. It’s mercy, it’s grace, it’s God reaching into my life, grabbing me by the shoulders and saying, “I’ll help you every step of the way but first, you need to know you need me.”

As I’ve wrestled through these thoughts, I’ve pictured myself not so very different from my son. Struggling against God as my son struggles against me. Twisting and fighting and demanding my own way. I see God’s arms around me as constraining and confining—just as my son sees me. But God is not constraining me; he’s fighting to hold me close. Not crushing my will or spirit but leading me to surrender willingly out of trust and obedience. All the same things I try so hard to communicate to my son only to have him fight back in anger—yes, how very much we’re alike and how profoundly patient is my God.

I see his Father’s heart now and finally, I think I’m learning to be at rest in his arms—not twisting and fighting his power but seeing his good plan for me; his love and care in not giving me my own way. My need is my greatest asset because it opens my heart to the all-powerful, all-sufficient God who loves me and desires good things for my life. Just like I want to give good things to my son if only he will listen and trust me, so God desires the same and so much more for me. So my prayer remains, “Lord, help me trust when I can’t see. Help me hold on when I don’t understand. Help my unbelief”

Mercy for Today

As I stand at the beginning of another week, I want to remind myself and anyone else reading this of one thing: If you are saved, you are covered, redeemed, and set free. Yes, we will sin this week. I will stagger and fail. I will struggle with my thoughts and attitude. I will war against apathy and discouragement as I start each new day facing many of the same battles as the day before and the day before that. I will get tired and in my exhaustion, it will be hard to be patient and kind even to the people I love most.

But…

But I am covered, redeemed, set free.

Christ has already done the work on my behalf and reached down into my darkness with the light only He gives. There is hope, grace, and mercy already in place to catch me when I fall. pexels-photo-250609.jpegA couple of days ago Darren and I had a moment with our son where we were trying to follow through consistently on something we had said. In the end, we messed up. We handled the situation poorly and wished we had done things differently. I felt bad. But even in my regret, I felt relief—relief that though I will mess up as a person, wife, and mom—I am covered by God’s grace and his work continues in me day by day. Yes, I wish I could hit rewind and do things differently at times. But even in those moments, I need not sink in self-loathing or a sense of total failure because how well I perform in any given arena is not ultimately what determines my standing or success. Who I am in Christ and the work he has done and continues to do on my behalf is what matters.

Sometimes, when I’m struggling against dark thoughts of failure and discouragement, the words to this song wash over my mind bringing sweet relief of my standing in Christ:

 Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
a great High Priest, whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

 When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.

 Behold Him there! the risen Lamb!
my perfect, spotless righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM”
the King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by His blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ my Savior and my God.

Before the Throne of God Above by Charitie Lees Bancroft

Keep your eyes today not just on who you are but whose you are. We are covered, redeemed, set free—that is our hope and mercy for today.

Unraveled

After a night of winter rain, I watch the dawn break in pink clouds and sunshine. The morning sky deepens into cobalt blue set off by gray clouds moving fast to the east. I’m thankful for the sunshine; for the hope of a bright, clear day to contrast the dead winter palette.

All day I watch the sky shift moodily from crisp blue to heavy gray clouds. The changing light plays games in my living room, dancing across the floor where my children play. It feels like life—sunshine and rain, sunshine and rain.IMG_20180131_223914_609.jpg

I’m an orderly person. I like to see everything in terms of black and white—manageable, predictable. The good times purely good. The bad times purely bad. The two never mingling together to confuse or interrupt the other.

Only life is not at all that way. People are not at all that way.

Winter is a hard season. The cold, the gray, being cooped up in the house with restless, unhappy little ones. Everyone I’m close to is busy with work and school and I’m doing my best to pass the long days and short nights with heart and mind intact. I feel frayed, unraveling—like my hands are full of beads falling all over the place and I’m unable to gather them back up before they roll away.

I don’t want to wish this season away—the days when both my kids mostly just want to be in my arms and half the battle is figuring out how to meet all the needs for attention and affection. The days when my three-year-old climbs on everything and walks around with his toy moose ever tucked under his arm, feet dragging on the ground. I don’t want to forget the stories he tells or the way his big brown eyes look so wild and intent as he does. He sits beside me as I type these words, intermittently trying to push buttons and asking a million questions about the words I’m writing and why.IMG_20180207_203806_458.jpgWhy? Because these days are hard and I’m tired and these words are scribbled in a fog that settles over my mind after one relentless night after another of almost no sleep. But still I want to remember. I want to record these words and this gray season so I might look back and remember these days gone by and the lessons I learned and the ways I changed when I thought I might never be myself again.IMG_20180122_190739_449.jpg

Motherhood is the hardest, most humbling thing I’ve ever done. Sunshine and rain. Never could I love more. Never could I be more discouraged, unsure, or afraid. I want to read a book and know the right answers but instead I find a million times over that the answer remains: Watch, wait, and try again tomorrow. I will get some things right; I’ll always get some things wrong too. I don’t know anymore if there is a right answer or if the answer is simply to trust and pray and grow through all the hardness of these years.IMG_20180125_161516_767.jpgPerhaps the best lesson I can teach my children after all is simply obedience one step at a time, day by day, doing the next right thing. Maybe this lesson will teach them more than having all the right answers packaged up and tied with a tidy black and white bow. They will see me struggle; they will see me fail. But I hope in all of it they will see God’s relentless mercy and grace. I hope they will see me get back up and learn to do the same.

That’s all I can offer for today in this hard season of gray.