The Second Time Around

I found out I was expecting each of my children on the 9th of November… two years apart. This wasn’t on purpose — I had taken several false negative pregnancy tests with my daughter before finally confirming what I had expected all along — that I really was pregnant again.

Their due dates were three years and two days apart on — July 9th and July 11th. And they were born three years and one week apart on July 14th and July 21st. Both of them decided to come after their due dates — Roman five days “late” and Aletheia had to be willfully ushered into the world by induction a full ten days after we had expected her. If I have any more children I’m going to add like a month to their expected due date ūüėČ
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On this day, the day I found out each of them was coming, I have been thinking over the last 15 months of life with two. Having babies is one of those odd situations where you know your life is about to change profoundly but because you’ve never done it before, you don’t exactly know how. Life seemed busy and full before we had our son so it was hard to imagine adding a baby to the mix. But then we did and it was hard to remember what life was like before we were a family of three.
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Then, when we knew we wanted another baby, it was hard to imagine how we’d love and care for two. Again, life seemed brimming and it felt impossible to split our affection between two babies instead of one. I’m not going to say that has always been easy; the second time around has felt much harder to give enough time and attention to every relationship individually. But in other ways, it’s hard to imagine it was ever any other way and we wouldn’t want it to be either.

Here are some of the things I have learned or enjoyed along the way about having two kiddos:

Grace Upon Grace and More Grace //

Once the dust settled after bringing my daughter home, I wanted to get right to it and tackle all the things. I remember trying to carry heavy baskets of laundry across the house and needing to sit down half-way across a room because my body was too fragile to be doing such a thing. But at the time, it all felt so urgent. I can’t¬†not¬†do the laundry — we need clean clothes! I can’t¬†not sweep and mop — the house is a mess!

I remember looking at my post baby body (which is a whole other thing the second time around) and thinking I’d never have my body back again. This was days and weeks after delivering. I remember crying into Darren’s arms, thinking he would never find me attractive again. I went to the ocean with friends a mere six weeks after my daughter was born, saw all the girls in swimsuits, and thought I’d never wear a swimsuit again.

I was way too hard on myself. Too hard on myself in all I thought I needed to accomplish. Too hard on my body in what I demanded it do and how I thought it should look. I think back to those weeks and months and wish I would have given myself and my family more grace. I wish I would have sat on the couch, turned Netflix on, and enjoyed slow, lazy days with my kids. I realize now that no matter how much laundry or sweeping you do when you have a young family, there will always be more dirty clothes and the floor will never not be sticky — and that’s ok for a while.IMG_20171107_090720_562.jpg

I look at my body now, and realize (as I did after my first pregnancy too) that though things are different, there was no need to worry or be so hard on myself. I lost the weight and feel like myself again — howbeit with stretchmarks, but myself all the same. There is nothing (including a swimsuit) that I can’t wear now that I wore before my babies.

Having a child, and then having another child — these are huge, life-altering changes. And if I could do it all again, I’d do my best to relax and enjoy as much of it as possible. And the parts you really can’t enjoy (because there’s plenty of that too), I’d give myself grace to not have it all together for a while. I’d let my body heal slowly and well rather than trying to push it hard after having done such a hard thing already. And I’d have grace on my family rather than trying to keep everything under control and make everything perfect right away.¬†IMG_20180408_192924_294.jpg

Trusting and Letting Go //

Maybe you’ve noticed — I like to control things. But a funny thing happens when you have two kids: you can’t control everyone or everything all the time anymore. I’ve had to learn to let go and trust other people — including my four-year-old son. When I need to lay his sister down for a nap, I have to leave him with instructions not to do anything crazy until I get back and trust that he will listen. For the most part, he does ūüėČ

I suppose one of the hardest things about motherhood is the letting go part. Essentially, if we’re doing a good job with our kids, we’re raising them to leave us. We’re teaching them how to do life well on their own. As my son gets older and my hands get fuller with his sister and other responsibilities, I have to learn to let him grow more and more independent. And I’m learning this with my daughter too. She’s not a baby anymore — she walks and climbs and is learning to talk. I have to fight the urge everyday to bubble wrap my kids and keep them inside so nothing bad can happen. Instead I have to let them go outside to climb and explore and test their own limitations and abilities. It’s hard to watch and it’s hard to let go but I must.¬†20181001_193529.jpg

They Are Good For Each Other //

We want to give our kids everything and don’t want to see them struggle or do without. This is good to a point but beyond that point, it’s easy to raise kids who are spoiled and entitled. As I watch my kids play together and get into scrapes with each other, I’m realizing just how good that friction is for both of them. They’re learning to share, to work together, to say “I’m sorry.” They’re learning how to navigate life and relationships as they do life together day by day. IMG_20180903_125919_996.jpg

I worried about how hard it would be on our son to share us and everything else in his world with someone else — and it has been hard. But I’m glad he’s learning these lessons as a preschooler instead of a grownup trying to navigate life and relationships. Not to mention, they really do love each other and have a lot of fun together. We always joke that Aletheia will do anything — so long as Roman is the one asking and not us. The sun rises and sets around her big brother. And when they’re not together for some reason, Roman worries about his sister and is always asking where she is ‚̧

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Its been a wild fifteen months, for sure. But the only thing I’d change about any of it is learning to relax, love, and let go more. Life with two is good and I’m so thankful for each of them ‚̧

The Years the Locusts Ate

There’s a passage tucked away in the book of Joel that goes like this:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,

The crawling locust,

The consuming locust,

And the chewing locust,

My great army which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2:25-26 NKJV

These verses weren’t written for me; they were written for the Israelites. But like so many passages of Scripture that were contextually intended for a different time, place, and people — I find comfort none the less in the heart of God portrayed to all people regardless of time or place — including me.

I often find myself looking around at other women, some a few years ahead, some a few years behind. I see women with more children than me or children who are older than mine. I see women deeply rooted in their faith and living out well what they believe. I see women growing businesses and ministries and impacting people for good. I see a lot of things I’m not doing or if I am doing them, I feel years and miles behind the women I’m watching.
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I tend to puzzle things out. If something gets in my head, I don’t stop thinking about it until I’ve reached a satisfying end. So this whole thing about why some people seem to be so much further ahead in life — well, it’s really bothered me for a while now.

Are some people just naturally better at life than others? Were they born into better circumstances and opportunity or did they simply do more with what they were given? Does it matter how hard I work or will I always fall short of what I see?

I believe the answer to any of these questions could be yes — yes, some people are better at life than others, some are more talented and gifted, some are born into better circumstances and with that have more opportunity readily available to them. Though it’s hard to swallow, life really is not fair.

But still, there are plenty of examples of people who had nothing going for them and managed to make something of their life anyway. Sometimes the most successful people are those who’ve had to fight the hardest for what they want. So why do I flounder in comparison to those around me? Why are some women so capable and I always feel like I’m drowning in half the water they manage to swim in?¬†20181019_131947.jpg

Sometimes I don’t like the conclusions my puzzling reaches. But sometimes, when you’ve thought something out to all its various ends, you have to accept hard answers you might not like and one part of that for me is accepting this:

You’re not where you want to be because you’ve wasted a lot of time.¬†

You quit as quickly as you start. 

You’d rather plan and dream and begin than work and continue and finish.¬†

I was hoping for a different answer — like maybe one that didn’t lay the responsibility so squarely on my drooping shoulders. But here we are, puzzle solved and I’m the missing link to much of my own happiness and success.

Now don’t get me wrong — I don’t intend to leave God out of the equation and I don’t mean to say that my happiness and success are completely in my hands or the highest aim in my life regardless.¬†Sometimes, you can be doing everything God is asking you to do by his grace and help and the road is still hard and the answer is still no. We grow by this and we get to find out if our relationship with God is actually with a genie who grants our wishes or a sovereign, loving God who has our best interest and his own glory at heart.

What I¬†am saying is this: sometimes we are responsible for our own failures. We reap what we sow and sometimes that means a lean harvest. That’s kind of where I’m at right now and it’s a sobering reality to look in the eyes.

When you plant something, you don’t get to harvest fruit right away. Nothing blossoms or blooms and you are asked to trust that that seemingly dead seed splitting apart in the soil — hidden and unsure — is actually putting down lively roots that will bring forth life and beauty we can taste and see above ground.

I’m the kind of person who likes to go to the store and look at all the colorful images on the seed packets and dream about how they might look in my garden. I buy the seeds and draw up a plan for where the garden will be and probably post something on social media about this inspiring little endeavor.

And then I get bored with the work and the waiting and the process that goes into actually watching those seeds blossom into life. I fail to plant them all-together or neglect the work required to keep them alive once they’re in the ground. And here lies the analogy of so many of my hopes and dreams — seedlings, shallow roots, boredom that leads to neglect, a life perpetually distracted by the next shiniest thing.

And then I wonder why some women around me seem to have so much bounty and so much visible fruit for their labor. Are they just luckier than me or did they daily tend to deep roots even when no harvest could be seen?
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Here’s where the locusts come in. I see all the time I’ve wasted and it feels like the years the locusts ate. The years I gave away to distraction and laziness and quitting half way. Sometimes it feels like I’m so far behind now that no matter what I plant or how faithfully I tend, I’ll never get my roots deep enough to make up for the lost time. I’m almost 33, ten years into my marriage and two children at my side.

But that passage doesn’t end with all the Israelites lost; it ends with a faithful God redeeming broken things as he does best. So when I’m discouraged and feel a failure, I speak this truth to myself:

God will meet with me today, where I am, through prayer and his word //

I wish I had dug deeply into God’s word years ago. I wish I had prayed and drawn close to the heart of God. But a failure to do these things in the past does not doom me to continued failure in the future. I can start right where I am today and God will meet me here.

God is the one who makes all things new // 

Yes, you reap what you sow (Gal. 6:7-9). We are responsible for our actions and God requires that we be faithful stewards of what he entrusts (Matt. 25:14-30). But it is God — good, loving, sovereign God — who gives the harvest (1 Cor. 3:6-8). All my striving is not what propels me forward so much as the grace of God that takes my weak and failed attempts and offers all I can not create or deserve in return.

To be defeated is to doubt God; we must always be doing the next right thing and trust him with the results (Job 1:21). So yes, it’s disheartening to think about the years I’ve wasted. I see the fruit being harvested in other people’s lives and wish I had tended my own garden better over the years. But I’m thankful that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

The familiar chapter of Proverbs 31 ends with this verse:

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Prov. 31:31).

But this conclusion comes only after the thirty verses prior describing all the diligent and disciplined work she does each day throughout her life. So today I learn to keep my eye on the prize but first to dig deep and plant seeds. To tend and wait for fruit I cannot see. To be faithful in all the moments in between the exciting beginnings and slow ends.

May the Lord find me faithful.

 

You Were Always the One

Ten years ago today, I married the man I love. That number catches in my throat. Ten years — it sounds like a long time.

I woke this morning to our baby crying. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized those cries are just one piece of what we’ve built together over these years. We will spend the day changing diapers, taking our son to swim lessons, and doing some much needed laundry. Tonight, we’ll drop the kids off with my brother and get dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant. And if you read my recent London posts, you know we really celebrated a few weeks ago with a big trip and some treasured time away together.

Life turns out to be an odd, and sometimes unpredictable, mixture of all these varied moments. Romantic moments and exciting ones but also many, many mundane and frustrating moments too.

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If I have learned anything about marriage over the last ten years, it’s that life is¬†all these moments and not the highlights or big trips in between. Love and marriage are built day by day, choice by choice — by a man who got up with our crying baby to let me rest on the weekend. By small moment of flirtation and teasing and notice and delight right in the middle of washing dishes and mowing grass. Big trips and nice dinners refresh and punctuate the ordinary with an extra dose of magic, but life and marriage cannot be built on those moments alone.

We stay and grow together through compromise, mutual respect for varied thoughts and opinions, grace for our faults, forgiveness and letting go when we get it wrong. We fall down but get back up. We stumble but try again. We argue and wound but find our way back to work it out and fight not against each other but¬†for — each other, our family, our home.

These are the middle years — of our lives, marriage, work, and family. We are in the middle of everything — building homes and careers and raising young children. The responsibilities we wake up to each day are both mundane and intense. And so much of making these middle years work and still finding ourselves together and in love on the other side requires, if nothing else, just showing up.

Just choosing to get out of bed early to go to that same job and instruct once more our children in all the same lessons as the day before. We show up around the table at the end of the day and choose to share  a meal together as a family. We fall into the same bed at night and choose to talk later than we probably should so we might not lose each other in the shuffle of all the other showing up we must do to survive.

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We choose, one day at a time, one ordinary moment at a time, to do the next right thing. And on the especially exhausting or frustrating days, when all the fun and romance seem to be memories from another time and place, that showing up and trying again is the very glue that binds us together.

When we were walking around London a few weeks ago, miles and ocean and time zones away from our ordinary and routine, I dreaded coming back to it all. Not because I don’t love our life together (I do) but because it’s easy to get lost in all of it — the dishes and diapers and bills and groceries. There are so many needs to be met and things to be done and I just wanted more time — more time to walk slowly and talk deeply, more time to gaze and see and hear and enjoy the heart and mind of this man I so love but sometimes can’t seem to grasp in the speed and intensity of our normal lives.

We are home now of course and I wasn’t wrong — it has been really hard. We talk more about the logistics of the day than our big dreams for the future. We are constantly interrupted by crying and whining and a hundred billion questions from a certain four year old.

But here’s what I know we’re doing right — we still¬†want¬†to be together, more than anyone, more than anything — I want him.¬†I struggle with the responsibilities that sometimes pull us apart because I want more time with him. I am frustrated we don’t have more time to talk because there’s no one I enjoy talking to more. Even after ten years, ten years of change and growth and plenty of challenges, he’s still the one — he was always the one.

I’m not looking for a way out after all these years but a way in — a way to find more time together, a way to see and hear and enjoy each other more no matter how crazy life gets. And that, I think, says a lot. We may not know how to make life and marriage work sometimes, but we at least want to make it work together — and that if nothing else, means we’re doing something right.

Happy ten years to my love. I hope we have a hundred more ‚̧

When Life is Heavy

This week was hard. Yes, hard in the sense that I’m an American, middle class, white girl who gets to stay home with her babies kinda hard; certainly there are plenty of people who have it harder. I know that, but still. No matter who or where you are in life, we all have days and weeks that are “sanctifying”—this was one of those weeks for me.

Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not sharing this to complain, get pity, or create drama. There’s redemption in the end and that’s the part I’d like to get to but truuust me when I tell you there were a lot of high fevers, crying babies, sleepless nights, poo (I am now referring to Monday as “poo-pocalypse”), long road trips that fell at the worst time, concerns I didn’t anticipate raised by the doctor, and the most humbling trip I’ve ever made to Target that ended with a shopping cart full of groceries abandoned while I did a walk of shame from one end of the store to the other with a baby on my hip and toddler in tow.

It was not a stellar week.

And none of this accounts for the hard conversations about life with friends and family that go far beyond just one hard week.IMG_20180413_194821_948.jpg

If I could sum life up in one word right now it would be heavy.¬†My heart is heavy. My mind is heavy. My body is heavy beneath the weight of it. And I’m weary. I’d like to say that’s all and drop the mic before I give up and walk away. But again, this story doesn’t end that way…and for that I’m so thankful.

I’m learning something right now, especially about how I pray and ask God’s help and blessing over my life. I used to pray, “please let this day go okay” or “please help me get through.” I was seeking immediate relief from immediate circumstances that felt hard and overwhelming. The only “right” answer then would be a day that went smoothly, enough sleep to manage, or not feeling overwhelmed.

But the thing I’m learning is this: Truly growing and putting down deeper roots in my faith means not just praying for a good day but rather praying for the right heart attitude, grace sufficient, and God’s work to progress no matter¬†the circumstances.

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Yes, I would like the days to go smoothly too. But the key is how I respond when everything goes awry. How do I react when, even after I’ve prayed and asked for help, the days are still exhausting and hard? What do I do when I’m frustrated by circumstances out of my control or humbling moments of motherhood that make me question if I’m doing anything right at all?

Whether or not the days go smoothly says almost nothing in comparison to how I react in my heart, mind, and attitude regardless of the circumstances. Growing in my faith means trusting in the heart of God even when life feels like a brick wall on every side. Is God a magic genie I conjure up when I want to wish something away or is he someone I love and trust even when I’m asked to walk through deep waters in order to know him better?IMG_20180510_114445_195.jpg

It’s easy to walk through life thinking everything will be okay on the other side of_____you feel in the blank. Life will be easier once my kids are in school. Life will be easier once my baby sleeps through the night. Life would be so much better if we could just move or if I could just land that certain job.

I find myself doing this in a million smaller ways day-to-day, too. I seek comfort and reprieve in an iced coffee, online shopping or getting five uninterrupted minutes to myself. I tell myself, “I deserve this” or “I just need to get through this day and start over tomorrow.”

But the truth is, no change in circumstances, no temporary pleasure or comfort is actually going to fix anything if I’m not already surrendered in my heart and present situation. Troubles will resolve, one season will change into another, what feels impossible today will nearly be forgotten tomorrow. But where one weed is pulled out in this life to make room for flowers, so more weeds will continue to pop up.IMG_20180503_211214_754.jpg

The truth of my heart and nature is this: The more comfortable I am, the easier it is to drift away from God. Knowing I need God every waking moment also draws me closer to his heart. So while I’m thankful for the simple pleasures that dot this life—the iced coffees and spring flowers—I’m learning to be thankful too for all the hard things that draw me nearer to my true hope and help.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, which makes me laugh a little considering how this week has gone. In truth, all I want from the day is Chinese takeout and maybe a nap. But regardless of how the day actually goes, I hope I will remember where my hope rests and carry that truth with me into a new week—regardless of the circumstances.

 

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.

This Was Not the Plan

My life in many ways looks exactly like I hoped it never would. I had a different plan in mind. I was going to be important. I was going to do big things for God. Early on, I had my eyes set on full-time ministry— serving overseas as a missionary and turning the world upside down for Jesus.

Only it wasn’t really for Jesus. It was for me and Jesus was just my ride to impact and fulfillment. I remember very clearly in college, when trying to decide if I should marry Darren, saying, “I wasn’t just going to end up sitting in a pew somewhere.” My motivation wasn’t all bad. What I meant was I didn’t want to be complacent, apathetic, or uninvolved in what God wanted to do in the world. I didn’t want to show up to church on Sunday, do nothing but take, and head back into another week on Monday completely unchanged. That’s all good.

The problem was I viewed anything other than full-time, frontline ministry as inferior. I didn’t understand depth, foundations, roots, or the long road we must sometimes take to grow into a person God can actually use. I didn’t understand patience or humility or self-control.¬†I saw the world through a very self-centered lens where ultimately, I and not God, was at the center of my story. All the things I wanted to do “for God,” were really for me and my own pride.dsc_1313When it became clear I wasn’t going to be in the ministry as I had hoped, I consoled myself in believing I would still do big things if I could just find the right job. I had a degree in counseling and thought I knew quite a lot about helping other people with their big problems at the ripe age of 22.

Once Darren and I settled in Massachusetts, I started applying everywhere for work as a counselor. I started with the glitzy positions and slowly lowered my expectations as I waited for call-backs and interviews that never came.

My first job was working in retail at the mall. I hated exactly every minute of it. I hate sales. I hate being sold to and hate even more trying to sale to others. I didn’t want to tell people what I did; when I had to, I was quick to point out that I was the Assistant Manager and not just a sales girl—it was all the same in the end.

Eventually, I quite that job. If there was one thing worse than sales, it was explaining to people that I had no job at all. I lived in a tiny apartment and had no kids so there was no explanation as to why I would be unemployed. Meanwhile, Darren was rising in his career, having started at an aerospace company and quickly being promoted. I felt like a dud. All my big plans and preparation had come to naught. IMG_20171217_132251_180.jpgAfter a couple more dead-end jobs on my end, Darren started at a new company and got me a position as well. I liked telling people I worked in aerospace; it made me sound smart and successful. Truth be told, I was sitting at a desk filling out routine paperwork and running to the office supply store to keep things stocked. Glamorous it was not.

We had been married five years now and five years had equally passed since I walked that stage, diploma in hand, ready to change the world. But I wasn’t discouraged because I knew my “highest calling” was just around the bend.

Though I had no deep maternal desires for a baby, we decided it was time to start trying for a family. I believed having a baby would at last give me that sense of purpose and fulfillment I was longing for. I wouldn’t have said those words to you at the time but looking back I realize that’s how I felt.

So we had a baby. I left that job I liked telling people about and stayed home to raise a family…and got knocked right on my butt as you might imagine. That first year of motherhood was hard for a lot of reasons but my expectations about finally finding “my thing” and feeling important certainly didn’t help.

We have another baby now and I no longer hold onto any glowing ideals of motherhood. Raising children is the hardest, most humbling thing I’ve ever done. My son is not good at making me¬†look good at all. He’s the kind of kid people stare at in the grocery store and I’m the exhausted, stressed-out kind of mom I used to judge.

No, this is not how I saw my life. I didn’t plan for the days being so long or the nights so short. I didn’t prepare for the dishes or the diapers or the epic temper tantrums. I sit in that pew on Sunday, if I’m lucky, but just as often I’m home with a sick little one or working in nursery. For the girl who said she’d never warm a pew, there are few things now that seem like a greater privilege or luxury on a Sunday morning.¬†IMG_20171217_132251_179.jpgMotherhood is not what I thought it would be. My life is not what I thought it would be. And I’ve been grappling with God about these very things of late.

Why, God? Why did I go to college if you knew I’d never use my degree? Why did you once move me to do big things for you only to tuck me away in a dusty corner of life? Why did you give me this burning desire to write if my words will never be read? Why give me a love for creativity if you never intended to use me in that way?

My frustration is only magnified by watching the world around me. I might comfort myself by saying, “Well, it’s just a season; things will be different when I’m not so busy with little ones.” But I see plenty of moms with littles, a hundred times busier than I am, already doing all those big things I once dreamt of.

I feel with God that I’m up against a wall. I try to take a step forward and he pushes me back two. I try to use the giftings he’s given me only to see my efforts fall flat. I want to quit. I want to tell God, “Fine. If you don’t want to use me then I won’t be used. I’ll stay out of your way. I’ll do the grunt work and forget about anything of substance.”

I’ve prayed these hard prayers to God lately and asked him to show me what he wants. I keep thinking he doesn’t hear me and he’s not going to answer but twice now in the last two weeks of these prayers, he’s surprised me.

First, I was reading through Lamentations and just when I thought the story couldn’t be any more heartbreaking or bleak, God gives a glimmer of hope in chapter three:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Lamentations 3:21-27 (NIV)

I have quoted and rehearsed that one line to myself many times over the last year, “His mercies are new every morning.” But I had never read or understood them in their proper context until last week—which is exactly when I needed that understanding the most.

Again today, I was doubting God and his work in me. Maybe he doesn’t like me. Maybe I’m an extra he doesn’t really need. I ate my lunch with one hand and spooned baby food into my daughter’s mouth with the other. I decided to listen to a podcast featuring one of my favorite Christian authors, Ruth Chou Simons. Her words caught me off-guard and once again reminded me that God does, in fact, see and hear me when I question him.

You can listen to the podcast yourself by clicking on the link above, and I really hope you will, but her story and words were exactly the reminder I needed today that though I feel silent and invisible, I’m actually right where I need to be.

What I’m learning is this: I may or may not ever get to do “big things” for God. It doesn’t really matter either way. What matters is that I be faithful. Right here, today, with my children, in that church pew I never wanted to sit in—this is where God’s asking me to grow deep roots and wait quietly for him. The point is not what I accomplish for God but how well I get to know and how deeply I love God and people along the way.

Yes, I’d like to be good at something. I’d like to be useful and successful. But before I can really be anything, I must be God’s. I must be humbled, submitted, and deeply rooted. I’m learning to be faithful when I see no growth or blossoms, when I see only another long day, week, or year ahead of me that looks so very much the same.

I get tired and discouraged. I struggle to see the point.¬†But I sense God asking me to hold on. To believe in what I can’t see, because that’s the essence of faith after all—until our faith is sight.

I needed Ruth’s words today. And most of all, I needed to be reminded yet again, that God hears my most honest prayers and loves me through them. I choose to believe God will complete the work he’s begun in me and that’s really all I can offer here today.

On Jesus and Motherhood

I open the¬†dining room curtains to a pink dawn and crisp pre-fall morning. Espresso simmers¬†on the stove top—admittedly¬†the only thing that gets me out of bed some mornings.¬†Laptop and coffee in hand, I slip away into the guest room hoping to eek out a few minutes¬†of writing before my babies wake up.

I think about Jesus, His twelve disciples, motherhood, and social media—a mixed bag of old and new, of timeless truths, and human nature.

The world we live in today begs for attention and thrives on the affirmation of virtual likes, comments, and shares. Likely, people have always looked for this sort of approval in one medium or another regardless of the day in which they lived. But this need for notice and approval seems so very quantifiable¬†today with actual numbers of “followers” and thumbs up to tell you just how popular (or unpopular) and noticed (or unnoticed) you¬†really are. IMG_20170716_093307_819I follow a lot of moms on Instagram and read many a word written by moms of littles just like me. But they aren’t really like me at all, are they? Most of them run their own creative business on the side, are publishing books,¬†homeschool half a dozen children or more, pull the weight of a public ministry, or simply rock life as a domestic diva¬†with a perfectly curated home and gourmet meals on the table. That’s not exactly where I’m at, no not really.

These women¬†challenge and encourage me with their lives and words—that’s why I follow them. But who am I kidding if I don’t admit how small I feel in comparison as I just keep my head above water and am thrilled if I post¬†a few¬†words here each week.

The numbers tell me I’m not like them, that I’m not seen or heard, that in a world screaming for attention, I am silent and invisible, unseen and unheard.IMG_20170808_222639_248 This is¬†where Jesus comes in.

I get stuck in my own head sometimes. Stuck filling my heart with lies instead of truth. I go to social media and try to quantify my purpose and meaning with little thumbs up and numbers of followers. But then I’m reminded, Jesus only had twelve. Twelve “followers”—the small group of men he¬†invested in deeply with his time and words and the few he would send out to further the story he had to tell. Just twelve men.

I look at my life, my home, my husband and two children. It doesn’t seem like much sometimes, my impact in this life and world. What difference can I make when all I can do is keep four people (including myself) alive each day? If I were just one of those women who does¬†it all and is followed by many, then I could make an impact and do something lasting. Then the numbers would tell me I have purpose and¬†influence. The numbers would tell me I matter.

But Jesus…

He invested for a short time in a few, not many. He had twelve followers and that was enough for him. Jesus saw the impact deep investment in a few could make on many. Those twelve men went on to turn the world upside down and spread the gospel message to numbers unquantifiable. My world is small but my people matter immensely. I’m learning to look beyond numbers and to invest deeply and completely in the people and work before me. This isn’t easy, feeling small and unseen in a world shouting for attention. But who I am and what I’m worth is defined by Christ and not my sphere of influence on social media. Social media is fine. Having tons of followers is fine. But numbers are only helpful when they point us to Christ and his work rather than our own fame and glory.

So help me, God, to see you in the people and work before me however small and invisible my life may sometimes feel.

Soli Dio gloria.

The Moments Unseen

Tiny fingers laced through mine in the dark. A warm little body snuggled against me. Some of the most magical parts of motherhood go unnoticed and undocumented.

When my son comes to me, arms lifted, asking to “hold me” (really, he means for me to hold him)—I don’t pull out my phone and snap pictures of the moment; I simply pick him up. His arms wrap around my neck, head rests on my shoulder, and I tell him I love him, that I’m so thankful he’s my boy. It’s a quiet, unseen moment we share a thousand times amid a world marching on around us. And it’s the part of motherhood that fills my heart with new energy and devotion for the often far more public tantrums and tears that might make me wonder why I decided to be a mom in the first place.

IMG_20141029_114548In a world so photographed, documented, and publicly shared via social media, these quiet moments can at times feel less than simply because they weren’t seen or shared. It’s tempting to¬†try to¬†keep up with the flood of gorgeous images I see each day by trying to snap and document each of my own magical moments.

I want enchanting images of my own to share on Instagram or to punctuate my blog posts. But…

But

Sometimes the act of trying to document a moment destroys the very magic itself. Like a bird perched delicately on a branch in the morning light— you can stand quietly and admire or go closer and¬†chase the moment out of existence.

We have to choose when to pull out our phones and cameras to capture our days and hours— and when to simply sit in the moment and let it be. This is not always an easy choice. Photos carry our memories when our busy minds would forget. But cameras and selfies may equally rob a moment of the very beauty we’re trying to store up and hold onto.

So sometimes when my son climbs into my lap and pulls my arms around him or asks me to lay beside him holding his hand until he falls asleep at night, I leave my phone alone. I soak up the memory in my heart and consciousness rather than my social media and try to remember some of the most magical parts of life and motherhood are the moments most unseen.

It’s Good to Be Home

Life has been a little cray around here lately—and by lately, I mean for months. I spent most of last fall and this winter either not feeling good or trying to catch naps whenever possible thanks to pregnancy. I’m excited¬†to be expecting again so it’s fine and definitely worth it but it also feels like a chunk of my life is missing from those hazy months.

IMG_20170509_103347_440Spring rolled around and we got busy with travel, lots of company coming to visit, and all kinds of miscellaneous crazy. It’s been a fun couple of months packed full of people and places I love—but oh my word, I’m ready for some down time with my boys.

Sunday, my parents packed up and headed home after a two-week visit. We had a great time with them (and everyone else who’s come to visit over the last couple of months). But when Monday rolled around and I sat alone in my quiet house (as quiet and alone as things ever are with a two-year old running around ūüėČ ), I have to admit, it felt nice to watch the dust settle on my life for a bit. IMG_20170508_204442_403I sat down with my day planner to figure out what’s next and it was really nice to see that nothing major is on the agenda for the next few weeks. I even cancelled a couple things I had planned on doing just to free¬†up the weekends and spend a little extra time enjoying my boys before the next wave of activity hits. IMG_20170509_094322_351These next three (hopefully) quiet¬†weeks feel sacred and I’m doing my best not to add anything unnecessary to our days.

This week its felt nice just to catch up on¬†laundry, go grocery shopping,¬†cook a meal in my kitchen, and sit¬†around the table with my little family. Sometimes I get tired of the¬†routine that comes with being a wife and stay-at-home momma—the endless cycle of laundry, dishes, meals, errands, and diapers. IMG_20170508_204110_747He’s a cute little imp but trust me when I tell you, he’s a holy terror to grocery shop with ūüėÄ

But the exhaustion and busyness of the last few months have shown me how valuable and peaceful these little routines can be. When we’re frantically moving from¬†one¬†thing to the next, just trying to keep our heads above water, it’s easier to recognize and crave the value of quiet days at home with the people who matter most.

IMG_20170508_204252_318So for the next few weeks, I’m savoring the quiet and the routine. I’m enjoying the time with my boys and preparing for my baby girl. Life will change tremendously in a couple months when our daughter is born. So until then, I’m holding onto and enjoying life as it is—and not allowing guilt or¬†the American¬†obsession with busyness to distract and pull at me.

Our days are numbered and short. Our people are precious. These are the things I’m keeping in mind and wrapping my heart around today ‚̧

Bittersweet.

The world is wrapped in night and quiet. I hear only the sound of the fan whirring outside my son’s room and the occasional car driving by. Darren is gone late and I sit tired and uninterested at the computer clicking around. I want to be inspired by something so I¬†scroll through blogs and pins and look at new clothes online; nothing amuses me.

Without any purpose or direction, I begin clicking through old photos on the computer—album after album neatly organized by season and year.

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My son used to be so tiny.

Look¬†at the¬†progress we’ve made on the house.

My hair was longer then.

That was the perfect day.

I’m lost in ocean depths of memory—of days and years, of snuggles and kisses, of adventure—and the occasional twinge of heartache or regret at something now changed or lost from a time and memory before.

I lot can happen in a couple of years. I lot has happened in a couple of years.

DSC_0369When I think back to the¬†year my son was born, I often associate that time with negative memories—tremendous change, loneliness, stress and strain, drowning.

IMG_20140723_090418And yet the photos I scroll through tonight do not tell that story. What I see is joy, baby snuggles, new parents finding their way, excitement, daring endeavors, love stretched and grown, beginnings.

IMG_20141224_170812I see stepping-stones and two people learning to grow beyond themselves and the small world they had always known. And instead of remembering the hard and bad things from those transformative days, tonight I’m reminded of all the good. Of all the love and happiness and hope that filled those¬†times too.

IMG_20150821_175427887How can I forget what it was like, holding my son almost constantly that first year? He napped on my chest every single day and together we saw the world for the very first time—he with eyes brand new to all things and me with eyes opened anew as I watched the world through his lens.

IMG_20141126_150546Yes, I was very lonely. It was a difficult time of life in relationships, in adjusting to motherhood, and to staying home. It was stressful financially with gigantic projects undertaken. There are things I regret.

But I’ve made a mistake in remembering only the hard parts. While the hard stuff changed and refined me, it shouldn’t sum up and take over all the good that came out of that time as well.

IMG_20151011_161353386It was good to be reminded tonight of all the sweetness those years held. Of the baby giggles and kisses. Of the growing as a person and finding my way. Of the marriage that made it and the house now built. To remember all the love and joy I felt along the way even in the hardest of days.

11357354_10152890497526517_1028607213778821759_oThis life is a bittersweet journey. We ebb and flow through heartache and hope and there is rarely a clear divide when the two don’t somehow mingle together in our story. How good it was to be reminded tonight of all these things ‚̧

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