Friday, September 12, 2014

Groundhog Day: A Day in the Life of a Mom

I wake up to the sound of a little one in her crib, and then, lay there for a minute hoping maybe she will go back to sleep.  Nope.

Mommy is up to get her ready for the day and start breakfast.  Let the cat in.  Feed the dog.  Get that coffee started.  Breakfast.  Dishes.  Play time.  Lunch.  Nap.  Try to get some work done around the house or for my job during nap...or maybe get a shower.  Up from nap for a snack and play time. Daddy comes home, and I'm out the door to my part time job.  Try to make it home for dinner.  Give her a bath and get her to bed so Daddy can get to sleep before he gets up for work at 3 a.m.  Wind down time or straight to sleep.  Depends on the night!

Do it all over again the next day.  

Lately, I've felt like Bill Murray in the movie, Groundhog Day.  I wake up most days and the routine rarely changes.  I know all too well that structure is needed for my growing toddler.  So, I try to make sure she has that structure.  Yet, somewhere between wiping off her high chair for the 3rd time and giving her another cup of milk, I'm not really there anymore.

I wonder if I'm losing myself?  I used to see the results of my contribution in this world more when I worked full time.  There were other adults working on the same issues with me.  I saw what my work meant in people's lives.  Of course, I realize my consistency in my daughter's life is an amazing contribution.  I know the long term benefits are more than I realize.  

But, in the here and now, it's hard not to start feeling like a robot who washes the same dishes, cooks the same meals and folds the same clothes day after day, week after week.  It can be a very lonely place.  A place where you give constantly every day, and before you know it, your well is depleted. 

Yet, that precious little being still needs you.  Your partner still needs you.  Your family still needs you.  And friends... Well, you want to be there for them the few times a year you actually see them. There seems to be no time or room for you to be filled up again.  That's the challenge.  How do we find balance, so that the well is filled back up?

I think we have to start saying, "No."  We have to schedule time for ourselves, and time with other people with little ones.  Others that are in the middle of trying to figure out what to do when their little one isn't sleeping, won't eat certain foods, is biting other kids...others who know the challenges of juggling finances, work schedules, friends, family and a marriage.  

I think my identity has changed.  I am a mom now.  That does mean I have to sacrifice a lot more.  It also means, I need to make time for myself and other relationships.  My daughter will suffer if I don't.  Her mother will become a numb robot that she won't respect.  

Hopefully, I will see, like Bill Murray did, the blessing of the things right in front of me.  The beauty in what is in my life.  Who I am is not determined by the results I see. This is a season. 

It is a season full of joy as I see my little girl growing every day.  It is also a time when the person I am could be swallowed up in the to do list.  No more last minute decisions to trek off to Europe.  No more last minute anything. 

Right now, I know I have to find my adventures in the sameness.  What I see every day is my daughter learning new things.  Discovering the world.  That is so amazing.  That is what makes all of this worth it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Hurting Heart After Miscarriage

My heart aches, burns.  I feel I can barely breathe.  My chest is a fiery furnace of smoldering embers.  So, tired.  Pain that returns, twice as strong pounding from the inside.  I feel it pushing behind my eyes.  Pushing against my ears like hot steam about to explode under pressure.

I don't want to feel all of this again.  Just go away.  Do I have to feel all of this?  Won't it be the same? The same as when my dad died?  The same as when my step-dad died, or my grandmother died?  The same as when our other baby died?  Because that was like all the rest combined.

What more must I learn, God?  What more?  My heart has been tenderized to a bloody pulp. Please, have mercy on me.  I have no energy right now.

I know what lies ahead.  Tears that well up until they burst out like an angry flood.  Silent but screaming nights.  Lonely days where the world keeps going, but I haven't.  I just don't want to go through it all again.

I still have hope.  I still have faith.  Please help me to ever see your face- no matter this pain.  I don't understand.  I really don't get it, but I believe in your plan.  One that is good no matter what happens.  Please, help me keep my eyes on you.  Help me be a better person, wife and mother.  I know this is an opportunity for me to be more like you and to love you more.  I really want that.  I don't want to get caught up in myself so much that I reject you and those that love me.

Water.  I'm just asking for a drop or two.  Just enough to take the sting away for a moment.  So well acquainted with grief am unwelcome visitor that I cannot refuse and whose length of stay is unknown.  I cannot control the veil that covers me now, but I know you want me to see things I have not before.

Separation from the world.  To better understand just what this life is all about.
To sit in the stillness with you.

God, my God.  Come sit with me here as I am shrouded.  Heal my heart again.

I am your servant.  I am but a lowly girl with nothing to offer, but I accept your gift of love and peace.  I can do nothing apart from you.  I can change nothing apart from you.  All is not lost.  I am but a blind child who has limited understanding.  I must trust you to hold me close when it is dark, damp and scary.  I must trust you to lead me by still waters when all I hear are raging seas.  I must follow you when I don't know where the path will lead.  I know in my heart the path will go to a place far beyond my dreams.

You are my God.  You are Father, Savior, Spirit, Truth.

I will see my babies again.  I will hold them and kiss them just like I do our baby here.  They will be in their perfect bodies.  What a sweet reunion!  What a blessed day.  To meet my Savior and babies all at once!

God is good.  He is just.

Hallelujah to the great I AM.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Lessons from Parenthood

Being a Mommy, is nothing like I thought it would be.  I really didn't think about the daily ups and downs when I was dreaming of holding a baby in my arms.  It's true that you really can't fathom parenthood until you are smack dab (the southern girl is coming out) in the middle of it.

I sit here refreshed after a long shower where I didn't hurry and actually shaved my legs.  It was heavenly.  It has been several days since I showered (tmi?), and my body reeked of dried throw up since my daughter was sick yesterday.  That part of parenthood, may have been spoken of before we had our little one, but the reality of it was nothing I could understand at the time.

It sounds disgusting to be a parent, huh?  I was taking care of her by myself since my husband was working, and it was mostly great.  It hurt my heart to see her sick, but holding her, stroking her hair and loving her brought me so much joy.

I was recently asked what it's like to be connected to a little one her age.  I gave some type of answer about loving it when she rests her head on my shoulder.  I thought more about it later, and realized there are no words.  Nothing can describe the moment you first lay eyes on them, when they smile at you for the first time and belt out a little giggle.  No words can measure the burning love you feel for them while you hold them, rock them, sing to them, feed them...while you love them.

I have learned so much in the past year.  The most valuable lesson is that I can do nothing in my own strength.  Raising a child has taught me that only frustration will come if I don't bow before the author of all when I have no idea what else to do.  For now, it's trying to get her not to be such a picky eater, but I know in years to come there will be so much more that is out of my control. And I can't fix it.

It's such a great privilege and responsibility to be a parent.  I know that my responsibility is to always pray for and with her.  It's to teach her the way she should go so that when she is old she will not depart from it.  That means I need to step up my game.  I need to be mindful of my own faults and limitations and lay them before the throne.  I need to ask for what I lack.  God gives so graciously if we only ask.

Sometimes, I tell my husband, "I'm afraid I'll mess up our daughter".  I am limiting the power of God and the redemption of Christ's blood.  When I say that, I am thinking of my faults and not the God I pray to.  He is the one that gave us this beautiful child, yet I seem to forget he is here to guide us as we raise her.

I am grateful for this moment of cleanliness and quiet while she naps.  I am grateful that God is so patient with me.  May I learn from him-especially if she wakes up grouchy!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Am I Teaching my Daughter to Hate the Way she Looks?

As my daughter was splashing and laughing in the bathtub tonight, I found myself looking at my reflection in our medicine cabinet mirror.  I'm not sure why I was staring at myself for so long.  But there I was, analyzing the person I seem to just be getting to really know.

The first thoughts in my mind were critiques as I stretched my neck closer to analyze my thirty something face.  "Ugh, those laugh lines don't disappear."  "How many more gigantic pores can I get?" " Why did I have to stay out in the sun so much when I was younger?  Now I have sun spots."  "Is my skin starting to droop under my chin?"  I would smile and frown over and over again watching the crow's feet around my eyes stand their ground.  I stared into my eyes looking at a woman starting to age, not the girl that once stared back at her.  Gazing at my reflection, I began to see more than time marching across my face.  The woman staring back was someone I realized I respect.

As I looked at her, I saw maturity that had never been there before, and that's not because I have gray hair (not yet, anyway).  There was wisdom there that was missing a decade ago.  There was more composure, grace and confidence.  I thought to myself, "I like this me a lot more."

What a foolish woman I can be!  I get so obsessed sometimes over what I look like.  My husband gets tired of hearing me fret over wrinkles and dress sizes.  I tire of it.  And what bothers me most is that I will be teaching my daughter to hate the way she looks if I don't stop the nonsense.  She imitates me every day.  It would break my heart immensely if she were to one day look in the mirror bashing herself like I do.

I know that most women do this to some degree.  Looking like the women on television and in magazines becomes our goal.  Isn't that what the articles in the magazines at the grocery store check-out are about?  They tell you how to lose weight to look like your favorite celebrity, and how to get your hair, make-up and clothes to look like people that live in Hollywood.  Because if you are just like them, you will be happy and accepted.  Right?

The problem is, it's never good enough.  You can never have a perfect body that never ages or changes as you have children.  Once you have the perfect outfit, someone else has one more perfect.  We aren't Barbie dolls.  We are humans that are most beautiful in our original form, without the make-up to cover our flaws.  We aren't immortal.  We will not stay forever young.  We're fallen creatures in need of our God to make all things right.  That's why even the stars in Hollywood, with all of their money and botox, still need God.  Nothing apart from Jesus Christ will ever truly make them know joy.

With this in mind, I am making a conscious effort to model for my daughter an appreciation for the way I was made in hopes that she will appreciate herself.  Though wrinkles reproduce, I will embrace them as a reflection of life lived.  I will remember that God made me, and what He sees is what I caught a glimpse of in the mirror tonight.  That's what I want my daughter to learn about beauty.  You may not recognize it until it is revealed.  And that's the life of Christ I want her to see through me.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to Be a Good Parent

As parents, we are flooded with information these days.  There is always new research telling us what foods we need to feed our children, how to get them to reach developmental milestones faster,  how to succeed in school and the list of things to avoid grows every day. There are websites, blogs and Pinterest boards with nifty ideas to keep your toddler occupied and talk to your teen.  Google provides a seemingly endless list of articles on the pros and cons of just about any parenting technique there is from infancy through adulthood. But it seems like all of this information is just a way to feel like we are in control of the way our children's lives turn out.  We try to protect and nurture them so that nothing bad ever happens, but the reality is that the world will never be safe. They will know pain; our best course of action is not to shield them from that truth, but help them prepare.

You hear of children being abducted constantly.  Not only is the world around us not as safe as it was when I was a child, what's in our homes isn't either.  Now we know things that are harmful that our parents had no idea about like second-hand smoke and lead based paint.  We hear of bad parents all the time who left their child in the car or home alone...but didn't our parents do the same things?  I know that I would be out playing for hours, and my mom didn't think anything of it.  No one ever got hurt aside from getting hit by a ball or falling and skinning their knee.  Now, you can't take your eyes off of your children, because of the fear that something bad might happen. And also because of the belief that you're a bad parent if you don't always have your eyes on your child.

There is so much pressure from the time you conceive.  There are choices about whether you want a midwife or doctor to deliver the baby, home birth or hospital birth.  What kind of stroller, car seat, crib and other baby necessities are the best? Will mom nurse the baby or bottle feed?  Who will be best to watch the baby? What is the right decision about going back to work?    Of course, there are articles that will convince you of what is best until you read an opposing one and then get thoroughly confused.  This is just the beginning, of course.  As the child grows, there are decisions to make about school, extracurricular activities and how to handle relationships they form.  It sounds exhausting, doesn't it?

It seems that our society has become one in which parents no longer feel support from family as they once did.  Now, we Google it.  We find the answers on discussion boards and social media sites where we get answers from people we haven't seen in years or complete strangers.  Grandparents often live in different states as do extended family.  Our own broken families have left us with few family members that we are close to.  Friends provide support, but they are often busy with their own families.  

I look at my little baby and wonder; will we be able to help her navigate the world without fear? Will we be able to give her the freedom she needs to try and fail?  Will we be able to let go of our need to protect her in times when God gives her opportunities to fly?  If we are fearful something bad will happen to her, she will be, too. 

 I think of John 16 when the thought of her being hurt pierces my heart.  Jesus told the disciples his time with them had ended.  They would face death, but the Holy Spirit would be with them.  He told them they would have trouble in this world, but he has overcome the world.

I know our time raising our daughter is short.  There will be times when we need to step back.  She will need to learn that no matter the troubles she has in this life, Jesus has overcome.  It is in his name she will suffer.  Who are we, as parents, to stand in the way?  Jesus didn't protect the disciples from ever knowing suffering or pain.  The Father did not protect Jesus.  And it was all because of love.  It was all because God loves us so much, he knew hell itself must be endured to save us from the destiny we deserve.  

I hope that we raise our daughter to be confident enough to say she would die instead of deny the name of Christ.  We can't save her from every uncomfortable circumstance for that to happen.  We have to allow her to face her fears.  I would walk through fire, stand in front of a firing squad or lay on train tracks if it meant saving my child.  What is much more difficult is to know she is going to get hurt and do nothing about it. 

I think we need to stop worrying ourselves so much  over what we need to do as parents and focus more on what we need to stop doing.  We may need to stop working so much so we can spend more time with our kids.  They want us more than they want stuff.  We may need to enjoy our children in the middle of the mess and chaos and stop trying to make our lives look like our Pinterest page.  We need to just stop trying to be something we aren't.  God loves us stripped of all of our stuff, status and make-up.  We need to reflect that to our kids.

Children really are a great example of Christ's love.  They are born loving us parents unconditionally, warts and all.  It really is amazing what they teach us if we stop all of the activity and give them room to be.  Sit in the classroom of your child.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stopping to See the Joy of Motherhood

This evening, I sat outside in the grass watching my baby girl put rocks in a Tupperware container and throw them out over and over again.  She squealed with delight like it was a new celebration every time.  I looked over grinning at her as the sun crept down into the sky.

Just minutes before this, I couldn't stop thinking about the two-week high grass that blew in the wind, our mammoth hedges and garden that sat plowed but seedless for weeks.  I was embarrassed that our yard looked this way.  I even commented to a neighbor how the grass was going to be mowed soon as she was taking a break from mowing her own yard.

Yet, watching my daughter get joy from a Tupperware dish and rocks, changed my mindset.  I thought about all of the busyness around me.  I could hear lawn mowers and weed eaters doing their jobs to tidy up unkempt lawns.  It dawned on me how my daughter has forced me to slow down.  I couldn't do yard work right now or any other work that required my full attention.  I have to watch her, and watching her has forced me to really see her.  I have seen the little person she is becoming and the discoveries she makes every day.  Really being with her and seeing who she is has also forced me to stop being so busy.  I would rather tickle her and play peek-a-boo than cut the grass sooner.  I don't want to miss one hug or kiss, because some menial task is taking my attention away.

There have been years when no little one has graced our home and there will be years to come when she will be gone.  Those are times to get the yard looking nice, the house decorated just the way I want it and to pursue career advancement.  Right now though, she is way too important to stress myself over things that really don't matter in the light of eternity.  I am a mother.  Now that statement has eternal significance.  That statement bears the weight and seriousness of a true calling.

I don't know why I am a mother and others are not, but I can assure those who yearn to hold a child in their arms; I do not in any way take motherhood for granted.  I hold each hug a few more seconds, breathe her in and kiss her again.  I hold her little hand when we snuggle and pray over her every night.  She knows her Mommy loves her.  It is a job I take very seriously.

With that being said, everything isn't done around the house.  I deemed it more important to spend the evening cuddling with my baby, reading her stories and helping her fall asleep.  My heart is full. It was a good shift.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I'm Only Human; My Journey Reconciling Grace and Works

I wish I could get everything straight in my head.  It's like a squiggly line of tangled confusion.  My view, my acceptance of God.  It is anything but clear right now.  It is anything but easy to follow or even look at.  I have for so long required God to do what I want before I accept him.  It is daunting to realize the pain I have caused him; the distance I have ensured.

It began in my infancy.  It began in yours, too.  Our moral compass began to form as we first tried to defy adults around us.  Their response to this sinful nature, began our journey.

I learned early on that being "good" paid off.  If I was good, meaning if I followed directions given to me by adults (parents, school teachers, babysitters, Sunday school teachers, the bus driver), I would be rewarded with their favor.  To me, this also translated into believing that if I were good enough, I would merit their love.  If I was perfect enough, if I was quiet enough, stood in line straight enough, got perfect grades and perfect attendance, I would be loved.  Otherwise, I was barely noticed.

Those pats on the head, verbal inflations of the heart, sustained me until I would need the next fix. Does that seem sad?  An 8 year old girl only felt acceptance and love when she was told she met someone else's expectations?  Maybe not.  I think a lot of us were never told, verbally or non verbally, that no matter what we did or didn't do...we were loved.

I learned from church that I was so bad, Jesus had to die for me, but I never quite got the memo that my "badness" was washed away by the shedding of his blood.  I heard this message, but the expectation rang louder that good kids act a certain way and Jesus isn't pleased if you don't. If I were to be a good Christian, I had to be good all the time.  That's the problem...I could never attain this. There was a distinct separation between good kids and the bad kids.  I grew up believing that being good meant pleasing others, and this was the only way to be accepted.  I became like a mouse scurrying on a wheel in a cage.  I could never quite grasp the total acceptance and love I yearned to know.

So now, I ponder the meaning of grace.  I find myself grappling with the notion that I am wholly accepted and the debt is paid.  I don't have to do anything anymore.  I keep wondering what the catch is.  I know there is none, but my heart is waiting for God to be like everyone else; waiting for the fine print to be read where I must perform so that he will love me.

I sit here trying to stop believing that even Jesus wants more from me than I can give.  How very crucial it is not to teach our children that their worth is based on works.  Their worth is in their being.  In being a human being created by an almighty God whose sins have been paid for.  Yes, flawed.  Yes, a mess at times...but forgiven.  Truly loved...when acting morally and not.

I sit here reflecting on my many works done in the name of God grieving the fact that only a handful were done graciously, in the name of Christ.  How I have squandered time and resources so that I could distance myself from God-getting my high from meeting the expectations of others and ignoring God, because he didn't do what I expected of him.  How childish.

I digress.  These misgivings are forgiven.  These sins of pride and foolishness are wiped away by the blood of the Savior.  What a blessed gift.