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 😉
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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 😉

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 ❤

Life with Littles and Other Misadventures

Already we are to the last week of August and in some ways, it feels like the last week of summer too. Though we are still in the middle of 90+ degree days, kids are heading back to school and here and there I notice leaves beginning to change. On Monday we will celebrate Labor Day here in the States and with that, summer’s last hurrah will officially be over.

We decided last-minute, middle of the week to take one final trip to the ocean. I ran around the house tossing everything in bags and as soon as Darren walked in the door from work on Monday, we threw the kids in the car and took off for a hotel. Darren and I are both fairly spontaneous, adventurous people and if there is a trip to be had, we will gladly be taking it. But life with kids is certainly a lesson in patience and flexibility when you are used to going where the wind blows.

This was our first time staying in a hotel with both kids. Roman had a wonderful time and was especially excited about going downstairs for a hotel breakfast in the morning 🙂 Aletheia saw no real point in sleeping at all.IMG_20180828_174710_111.jpgThe more I do life with kids the more I believe two things: 1) Kids make everything more magical and 2) Kids make everything harder. As grownups, we don’t typically leap from one hotel bed to the other in excitement. Nor do we race downstairs first thing in the morning for a continental breakfast. We’re mostly just tired and grumpy. So watching the world unfold through a child’s eyes is a lot of fun and a good reminder to chill out and enjoy life a little more.

However, children are also the most difficult, infuriating creatures alive.IMG_20180828_174506_267.jpgWe wanted to walk around Portsmouth for a couple of hours before heading to the beach. We hadn’t been in years and never with our kids. Portsmouth never seems to change. All our favorite shops are just as they’ve always been. I walked through my favorite letterpress store that still sells all my favorite Rifle Paper products, got my favorite dirty chai latte at the same little German café, and had sandwiches at our favorite sandwich shop.IMG_20180828_174343_657.jpgWe walked the same loop down through Main street, by the water, and back up. Everything was just as I remembered it from previous visits. Only this time we pushed a stroller over the uneven cobblestone streets and listened to a toddler file many a complaint in the background. He did not want to go in the stores. He did not want to walk. He did not want to eat the fancy grilled cheese we bought him for lunch though it was made with his three favorite food groups (bread, butter, cheese).IMG_20180828_174242_172.jpgHe wanted to go to the ocean and that was all. So after we finished lunch, got the stroller back in the car and both kids back in their car seats, we left for the water. Once there, we figured out how to the load the beach tent, umbrella, chairs, and beach mat along with snacks, sippy cups, changes of clothes and diapers into our trusty red wagon. Everyone changed into swimwear and off we trekked to the sand.

It was approximately 2,000 degrees out and as soon as Roman touched the sand he began to come unhinged. He didn’t want sand on his hands and he didn’t want sand on his feet. His legs most certainly did not work and he desperately wanted to be carried. I was already carrying his sister and his dad was carrying everything else we own in the little red wagon.

So Mr. Roman plopped himself down in that horribly offensive sand and threw a royal temper tantrum. It wasn’t a horrible day, really, it was just another day with kids. All winter my friends talk about how they can’t wait to go to the beach, sit by the water, and read a book. And I chuckle inside a bit because that is not at all how I picture a day at the beach…and that is why I only go once or twice a year.IMG_20180828_174824_398.jpgI know this season of littles will change. Someday when we want to take a trip to the ocean all we will have to do is throw a couple boogie boards at our kids and they will be happy all day—and I will finally get to read that book. But for now, traveling with kids feels a bit more like an obstacle course and a lot less like a vacation.

But we’re not quitters, Darren and I—we spent last night on Google and Amazon trying to figure out how to get ourselves, our children, two car seats, a stroller, and two suitcases through the airport next month. We will travel, watch the world unfold before our children’s eyes, and deal with plenty more tears along the way—both theirs and ours.

Here’s to life with littles and all the misadventures along the way ❤IMG_20180828_170121_273.jpg

Broken Better: Finding Healing in Motherhood—A Guest Post by Rachel Kaye

Today I’m excited to introduce you to my friend (and also, fun fact, my husband’s cousin). I first met Rachel in college and have thought ever since that if I’m ever half as artsy and hip as she is then I’m on my way haha.

Rachel recently had her first baby and after reading some of her words about motherhood on Facebook, I knew right away I wanted to share her heart with you as well.

I’m so thankful Rachel took the time in this busy, sleepless season to pen these words and share a raw piece of her heart with us ❤


There’s a lot of brokenness in motherhood, I’m learning. I see it all around me. Friends who suffer through infertility and miscarriage, long-awaited children born with special needs, adult offspring who alienate themselves from their parents. It’s a joyous thing, motherhood, but it’s also the most violent rending your heart will ever experience.

My own fractures appeared early. First, there was the waiting, the hoping that each new month would bring a baby. Then, there was the expectation. A baby was in my womb. My heart was torn between excitement and fear. How could I care for this new life? Who was I to take on such a momentous task? That fear nearly crippled me.  

We lost that child. I remember hemorrhaging blood on the bathroom floor in a foreign country, far away from my home and family. I learned then just how broken my own body was. I had failed to protect the life developing inside me.

We lost three more babies after that one. With each pregnancy, I opened my heart to love. With each loss, I fled the heartache. I pretended I was a hardened whole, worn but unbroken.

After the years of uncertainty and loss, our beautiful daughter came. I thought the experience would heal me. Instead, I felt the last vestiges of control slipping away.

I saw it first in my body. The terrain of my physical self had changed, stretching to contain a new life. I wrestled with the knowledge that who I was is permanently altered. There was a child within me, and that was magical, but it was also disconcerting. That physical change mirrored emotional and mental ones. I no longer existed merely for myself but now for another too. I’ve long clung fiercely to my own independence and identity, in part because it’s taken so long for me to feel at home in my own skin, but that identity was splintering. 31351501_10155281681741426_5063599612569321472_n

My daughter is now nearly six months old, and I’m just beginning to come to terms with my bruised, torn heart. It’s scary to love this little life. At times, I’ve tried to run from this love. I fear a shattering so complete that I lose myself entirely. The funny thing is, though, as much as I fear it, it’s in losing myself that I’m truly finding myself.

Muscles tear and bones break before they grow stronger so too with motherhood. This daily death to self is where theological concepts like sanctification get fleshed out. By becoming more like Christ, I become more fully the person God created me to be. I’m more me than ever before.

It occurred to me recently that God knows a lot about parenting. He chose me, loved me despite knowing just how much I would hurt him when each of my sins was heaped on him on the cross. The self-sacrificing love I fear was embodied perfectly by the God who rightfully could have walked away.

Love means heartache. It’s an inevitable consequence. I can’t run from the heartache I’ve already experienced. I can’t run from the potential for heartache to come. At some point, my daughter will hurt me. When she does, I’ll heal, but I’ll heal a little different than I was before. That change isn’t a bad thing, though. Each time my heart stretches and tears for love, I have the potential to be made stronger if I just let God do that sanctifying work.

There’s a tendency in our culture to glory in brokenness. As Christians, we should have a slightly different goal. We live in a messed-up world. That’s not something to celebrate. But we should celebrate the God who takes the pieces and makes all things new and whole.

I was created for a purpose. I’m here to glorify God. God is love. I think a large part of glorifying him is modeling his attributes to a hurting world. True rubber-meets-the-road love isn’t easy, though. To love like that, I have to become more myself, more like Christ. I have to take up my cross and follow him. I have to fall apart in order to be made whole. I have to let my heart break in order to love again.


31318374_10155281688306426_3375813839042904064_nRachel Kaye calls Maine home but currently lives in South Carolina with her husband and daughter.

As a child, she promised herself she would never forget what it was like to be young. As she’s grown older, she’s also grown more childlike. Quick with tears and laughter, she endeavors to embrace life in all its joys, pains, and inconsistencies.

At heart a wayward, wandering, restless soul in need of a Savior, Rachel Kaye looks to Jesus, the author and finisher of her faith to direct her path.

You can follow her musings on Instagram at afreckledrachel


 

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! ❤

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

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”

God Made Me: Permission to Be—A Guest Post by Lydia Vogt

Today I’m excited to introduce you to my long-time friend and fellow writer, Lydia. Lydia is someone I’ve always felt thinks deeply through an issue rather than simply taking someone else’s word for it—and I can see that’s exactly what she did with this post. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into her beautiful heart and words ❤

thought-catalog-214785Hello, there! I’ve known Kari since the age of hide-and-seek in summer cornfields. She is my younger sister’s lifelong best friend, but Kari and I have always had the writing itch in common. It’s my privilege to meet you here, in that refreshing Outside Air.

I have to confess, though, that when Kari suggested I write about how I “maintain personal interests and pursue ‘things’ outside mommyhood,” I literally laughed out loud; the kind of incredulous laugh I imagine 90-year-old Sarah belted when she first heard the promise that she would give birth to a son.

I can’t write about THAT! Seriously, I don’t have the foggiest idea how to do that well! I need to read that miracle blog post, not WRITE it. Sheesh. Come back to me in 10 years.

But Kari kindly insisted that maybe I do a better job than I think I do (generous soul), and I also decided that if I truly don’t have anything to contribute on the subject, then maybe I should spend some solid QT with the question.

And I did. But I wasn’t really prepared for the web of nuanced beliefs, shame, fear, and hope it would uncover.

So I did what I usually do when something feels too big: I tabled it. I kept jotting notes, but the more jotting I did, the more complex the issue became in my heart, and internal door after door seemed to fly open, begging an attentive walk-through.

That is how this little blog post became a beginning place for me, a sort of baseline premise bolstering my personhood during this very demanding chapter of mothering.

I sincerely hope these thoughts are a useful springboard for you too, as you make space for yourself, His beautiful creation:

WHY DID GOD MAKE ME? (CLUE: IT WASN’T FOR YOUR UTERUS)tanaphong-toochinda-267381

Did you notice the subtle shift? It starts in pregnancy when people begin to swap your given name with “mommy” before the baby even arrives; when people completely bypass you to get at your bundles of cuteness as quickly as possible; when casual conversation completely revolves around the welfare of your husband and children; when people start sharing comments suggesting that your life actually began with motherhood: “Now, now you know what life and love is all about.”

Can I just stand up to all this well-intended nonsense?

Being a mother is wonderful, but it doesn’t make you more human than you were before. Hear me: it doesn’t make you more capable of love than you were before. Because love comes from God, and that means every one of his children (mother or not) has equal access to both experience and extend God’s love. That’s because God designed you to be a life-receiver before you ever became a life-giver. He cares about who you are becoming, not just who your children are becoming. If you slip away from conscious connection to His love for you as His bride, daughter, and friend, mothering becomes overwhelming, dull, and discouraging really quick (I know).

The love we have for our kids is the fiercest kind of natural affection. But true love is SUPERnatural; we need true love to empower our affection, otherwise we become the source of our affection battery, and our mom affection batteries do fritz — don’t they — but we can’t afford for them to fritz, right? So what do we do? We start sucking the life out of our relational attachments to try and get more juice back in our natural affection batteries, so we can pour it back into our relationships, but the cycle never leads back to life and true love. It leads to disappointment and desperate dissatisfaction (again, I know all about it.)

So what does all that boil down to?

How are you receiving life?

How are you welcoming the love God and others have for you?

If your answer is “I don’t know,” well, what a beautiful invitation to open! Start looking for little moments of life and love coming your way, and nourish them the same way you nourish life and love in your children. And if you feel life and love aren’t coming your way, take just a teeny step toward Him, and you’re facing life and love itself.

WHAT IS HAPPENING? BEWARE THE DEATH DECOY!

If you also happened to grow up in a circle that elevates motherhood to sainthood, in an effort to offset its devaluation elsewhere, you’ll hopefully understand what I’m about to say.

Sainthood is usually accompanied by martyrdom, literal or figurative. If your motherhood feels like relentless martyrdom, the wrong parts of you are dying.

While there is plenty of death-TO-self in motherhood, don’t confuse it with death-OF-self. To make a distinction we have to know what we mean by self, right? We always have two selves in play: flesh (false self) and spirit (true self).

God the Father made you in His image, and although sin corrupts, it could not destroy His own image in you. You are hard-wired for abundant life, and that’s exactly what Jesus is bringing you. There is plenty of sin to come to light, but your imagination, and creativity, and gifts and abilities, are not sin and are not useless. They are very good, because you are good in God. And God gives you great permissions to practice and share with Him and others all of who you are.

True death of false self (flesh), always results in more life in our true selves (spirit). 

God does not intend for your spirit to be crushed alongside sin, so if “death to self” in your mothering is leaving you fearful instead of free, and paralysed instead of purposeful, it’s man-made religion whispering in your ear, not the true Lord Jesus.

 TEMP PLACEMENT: PREPARE FOR THE END AT THE BEGINNINGjenna-norman-292397

We are eternal beings on temporary assignment with eternal beings.

Erich Fromm says it well, I think:

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.”

Motherhood is not a permanent place for me, even though part of me refuses to even “go there” emotionally. My boys are already taking baby steps further away from me, as quick as they can. Because living always means growing, doesn’t it?

They will always be my heart beating outside my body, but I will not always be their everything.

You know what comforts me with that pending heartbreak looming in the distance and keeps me from making them the perfect little love gods of my mama heart?

God doesn’t love children more than adults.  

Wait, what?! What in the world? How does that have anything to do with anything?

Well, we love puppies more than dogs, and kittens more than cats, don’t we? At least I do! Babies are precious and trusting, children are filled with light and wonder. We can still trace innocence and generosity in them, before the broken world and cursed sin-seeds begin to really entangle them, mandating bloody redemption and restoration.

Do you think God loves children more than mothers? I did. I didn’t know I did. Until I did. Do you think he sacrifices you, for them? He sacrificed Himself for you.  

To accept my motherly responsibilities as a temporary investment with eternal dividends, I need to believe God will love my boys as young men just as much as He loves them now. And to believe that, I first must accept that He didn’t stop loving me, or withdraw from me, or resent me for growing up broken.

The crux is this: we can only pursue things outside mothering when we know our children are safe. And we can only know that when we trust that they are safe in Him. We can only incrementally release them from a place of freedom. And we can only give freedom that we’ve first received.

What does it look like to walk in that freedom? It’s beginning to look like me living out of my true self while engaging my little lovelies. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what will begin to form and take shape as I continue to pursue personal growth and joy opportunities in my life, but I am learning that I have so much more internal space and permission to be me and a mom, than I ever knew.

So let’s be mothers and babes growing up together in love, shall we?


lydia_vogt_200pxLydia Vogt is a Kansas City native living in Northern Virginia with her husband and two little boys. She is a Jesus-loving former HR professional who has been writing for the joy of it since she could hold a pencil. Lydia is a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope, a self-professed second-hand interior decorator, and a sorry-not-sorry Pinterest party planner. You can find her arranging words about life and love on her blog: BeforeTheAfterBlog

Follow along on Instagram and Facebook to see more.

On Being an Angry Mom

I’m soft-spoken, reserved, shy even. I’ve never thought of myself as an angry person or someone who yells. But motherhood has a way of breaking down all your walls. Both the walls you build around yourself with other people and the walls you build up inside to hide the things you’d rather not face.

My first year as a mother was really good—hard on the outside with difficult circumstances in life, but good on the inside with quiet days spent at home with my son. I didn’t understand then what all the fuss was about motherhood being so hard. Sure, I was tired. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do when he cried and I was very lonely staying home after leaving my job. But motherhood itself seemed pretty magical. I spent that first year with my son almost constantly in my arms or asleep on my chest and I loved it.IMG_20141112_195626Then he turned one and decided he was the Roman Emperor. He had always been busy but now he was defiant too. No problem though, I knew what to do—I had heard all about it and read all the books so I was all set, right? Hahahah. Tears. No.

I did all the things I was told and still he disobeyed and defied me. I didn’t yell at him then because he was just one and still basically a baby. Everything would straighten out once he was a little older and understood who was really in charge.

Then he turned two, terrible, TERRIBLE two. This is the part where I started yelling, where I exhausted all the stuff I “knew,” and started hating being a mom. I remember more than once when he sat on the floor and cried and I sat on the floor and cried with him. I didn’t understand. I had done everything I’d been told to do and still it felt like everything was falling apart.

That year started to break me down but eventually we made some headway with him and the terrible two’s seemed to be officially behind us. So I decided to have another baby.

He turned three. I brought his sister home. And everything went to hell in a hand-basket. I started yelling again, more than ever, actually. He pushed me harder than ever before and I pushed back every bit as stubborn as he is—determined to establish my authority and let him know who was in charge.

I knew having another baby would shake things up and be hard. I never imagined I would sink so fast or so deep in not only frustration, but FEAR. Fear that I actually had no idea what I was doing and that my children were going to grow up hating both me and God.IMG_20171107_090720_562.jpgThese last four months since I had my daughter have been hard. But the feeling of total loss and helplessness is actually what helped me see my true need and the source of my true help. A few things happened to help me leave anger and yelling behind:

I Prayed for Wisdom

Not just a quick, trite prayer for wisdom in general but a humbled, “God, I’m lost. I can’t do this. Please help me before it’s too late” kind of prayer. I’m not even sure if I actually expected God to hear and answer me or if it was just a desperate plea from the bottom but God did enter in and respond.

I Opened my Bible

Not just here and there when I had the time as I have off and on all my life. But every day with a heart searching and seeking wisdom and direction from the heart of God.

I Asked for Help

I got over myself a little and reached out to some moms I look up to and started asking for help and ideas on what I was dealing with.

I Read and Read

It’s amazing when you’re seeking wisdom how you realize how many resources are actually available. I started reading books recommended to me and listening to podcasts and sermons from people who have gone before me or are right in the trenches with me and can offer wisdom and insight into what felt like a hopeless situation.

I Learned to Deal a Different Way

One of the things that helped me the most was this post by Allie Casazza. So much of what she said resonated with me and helped me stop and think about why anger and yelling had become my knee-jerk reaction to stress and frustration. She gave me pause and helped me understand that learning to react differently actually takes practice and a very conscious choice every time I’d normally lash out in anger.

She also helped me understand that trying to gain control and demand respect by yelling was completely counter-productive. Yelling only shows my children how out of control I am of myself. Demonstrating unkindness and disrespect through raised voices and angry words is never going to produce kindness and respect in my children.

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20 (ESV).

I Began to Grasp How Dangerous Anger Is

This podcast by John Piper and the Scripture he shares was a big help to me in realizing that anger isn’t just a “struggle” or a “weakness”—it’s deadly serious. Not only is it sinful to lash out in anger, but if unchecked, it could destroy my marriage, home, or relationship with my children.

I Saw the Difference in my Family

Not that I master this perfectly all the time even still, but the difference in my relationship with my son in particular, and my family overall, is massively different when I leave anger and yelling out of things and deal with issues in a controlled, loving manner. Wild and busy as he may be, my son has a soft heart and my anger and yelling did nothing but shut him down and teach him to react with plenty of anger and yelling of his own.

I Saw the Heart of God

A passage I often run over in my mind is Lamentations 3:22-23

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (ESV).

His mercies are new every morning—are mine? I have a patient, loving, forgiving God who greets me with new mercy for every single day yet how easily I forget to be merciful with the people I love most.

The heart of God towards me demands a loving, controlled response from me towards the people he’s so graciously placed in my life—including my children.


This was a hard post to write. I thought several times about sharing something else today instead but my heart and mind kept coming back to this not so pretty topic. I don’t like to admit I’ve lost my temper or especially that I’ve yelled at people I love. But I share all this to offer hope to anyone else, mom or otherwise, who’s struggling as well. It’s easy to feel alone in this. No one wants to admit they freak out, lose control, and take anger and frustration out on other people, especially our own children.

But trust me, you aren’t alone. And there’s hope.

One thing I’m learning every day as a mom is if God requires something of me, he also enables me to do it. If I’m expected to deal with the stress and frustration of raising children without anger, then God will give me what I need to do that. I may need to humble myself first. I may need to slow down, dig deeper, or ask for help—but if I’m required, I’m also enabled.

While I don’t like what I found in my heart as a mother, I’m thankful it was brought into the light because only there could it really be dealt with and rooted out. God’s not through with us yet. Don’t lose hope in the struggle.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV).


And if you’re looking for resources to help, the following are some of the best books I’ve read on parenting (no affiliate links, just helpful resources). And if you have any recommendations, I’m always looking for good books and podcasts so feel free to leave those in the comments as well.

Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend

Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard

Love Lives Here by Maria Goff and Love Does by Bob Goff (not parenting books but deeply influenced my perspective on living out love in our home in both words and actions).

Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (a strange recommendation for parenting books, I know. But this book helped me think through the myriad of ways Satan would like to hinder God’s good work in my heart, home, and family and I have thought of it often when struggling through hard days as a mom and homemaker).

❤ ❤ ❤

 

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.