Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 ~ To Let Live and To Let Go

I switched to this blog one year ago. So many times this season I have sat in front of my tree after the kids have gone to bed and thought about how last year at this same time, I sat in front of a different tree feeling as sick as a dog...with a tiny baby growing in my belly. I knew it...but the world didn't yet. I entitled my first post something along the lines of "Good Riddance 2012." I had very high hopes for 2013. I think it is a good thing that we can look forward with hope, not knowing what lays before us. Last year at this time, I hoped many things. Little did I know that the questions would remain unanswered and most of those hopes that I had would turn into dust that demanded to be let go. I am glad I did not know on January 1, 2013 what I know on December 30, 2013. Because I didn't know and continued to hope, I was able to continuously place one foot in front of the other. And I became stronger. And wiser. In fact, 2013 rendered me two wonderful gifts...Silas Avery, and a strength I didn't know I had.

I remember going through grad school so well...getting good grades, knowing I connected well with people, having a heart for the hurting. But it wasn't until my internship, when I met real people with real pain that it all came together for me. It was during those formative months that turned into years that the questions started to roll in. I will never forget the most poignant one...the one that I replay over and over in my head. It was from a female whom had been raped over 1200 times...every day for a period of years during her childhood. And she crossed her arms and sat back in her chair...looked me square in the eyes and asked me where God was in THAT. It was in those next moments that I very quickly realized that I had to develop a theology of suffering. The nice Christianese answers that placated, didn't so much as put a bandaid on her wounds...in fact, some of them slapped her in the face. Not my own theology of suffering...but an understanding of where God is in the pain, in the chaos, and the uncertainty of this world.

Out of a number of situations like that, God was moving me to get my hands dirty. To stop with the words and start with my talents, my time, and my resources. The things that God has gifted me with...that were always meant to be used for His purposes anyway. So I did. Not for me, but because I had realized how easy it was to say something and how difficult it was to do something. And that the real message of love and care is in the doing, much more so than in the words. But then my safe little world was shattered. And I literally wanted to hole up in my house. Buy security cameras and alarm systems... and to stop caring about anyone and everyone outside of my own. I wanted to hide away from the world here. I gripped tightly to the illusion of control that I had. But it was just that: an illusion of control.

Someone told me this summer to "take control of my life." It wasn't necessarily said nicely nor was it said to spur me on to greatness. It was said in anger and with the additional slap in the face of, "stop playing the victim." If you know me at all, you know that "victim" isn't something I play. I may be many things...passive aggressive, stubborn, you name it...but victim is not a card that I play. However, those two statements, actually changed me for the better. I started to really think about some new ways that I could "take control" of my life. There are many ways that we are often unaware of so I stepped back and took a good hard look at how I could "take control." And I made changes. And I felt better. And more in control.

But it was an illusion. Control is just that. Because try as we might to do and to be, we DON'T have control. When I am really anxious...or when my life feels in disarray...I clean. Why? Because it gives me an illusion of control...its something I CAN control...something I can do with real and immediate results. And it eases my anxiety and feelings of chaos. But the reality still remains. Lets break this down:

I could feed my kids only whole organic foods, not vaccinate, follow car seat safety to the enth degree, refuse to have weapons as toys for my kids, never allow screen time, put plastic forks in all of my outlets, and hide the poison cleaners (or make my own from vinegar). But my kids could still get cancer. Or be hit by a car. Or have a tree limb fall on them.

I could hoard money...hide it under my mattress, or in a bank account. I could work and work and work, spend as little as possible...but the dollar could turn cold and it could all be worth nothing. I could invest in silver, or gold...but the value of these too may diminish...perhaps the strong investment is soy? It could all be gone in an instant...the blink of an eye.

I could live in Michigan where there are not hurricanes, and rarely tornadoes or earthquakes. No volcanoes or tsunamis here. But the lake could take my child. Or the lake effect snow cause me to drive off the road. Controlling natural disasters...try as we might...we cannot. The tornado may come, if not to my part of MI, then when I vacation at Disney. I don't really have control.

I could hover around and over my children and exhaust my energy trying to encompass them in my own private bubble. I could homeschool them to keep them close, and refuse them to partake of sleepovers or birthday parties. But tragedy could still strike. The elusive white van could still drive up my road despite my best efforts to hover around and over my children. Two years ago someone was shot in the field behind my home while my children played outside under the watchful care of adults. So long, safe bubble.

You see, it is all an illusion. I am not saying we should not try...but we must learn to call it what it is. Because when the bad things happen we tend to own it. We think it is our fault. And it isn't. Because we don't have much more control over preventing these things, then we did in making them happen. Sometimes I wonder how things happened as they did...as they have. And I start to own it. I deserved it. I failed. I made it happen. I couldn't stop it. I was stupid. I was nieve. I chose this. But the reality is...there is a little bit of truth and a lot of lies in all of it. Taking control really means...we do our best. We give what we can. We own what is ours (our feelings, successes, losses and failures). But at the end of the day...or the year...it wasn't actually all about us. Our job is to put that control Where is rightfully belongs. Where it always existed in the first place. Not in the promise of ease, or prosperity. But in the security of knowing that no matter what...come triumphant joy or bottomless sorrow...we aren't alone. And He is in it and over it and through it. And in that knowledge we find our strength. Strength to face tomorrow and the new year. Strength to let it go...to release...ourselves. And in the surrendering...the releasing...we find that is our only true measure of control. TRUST. The world will tell you that you are a fool to trust what you cannot see...that it is weak to need that faith...but when we trust, the striving ends and the fear fades. It is here that we find freedom...to succeed and fail. To live and die. To stop the illusions...and to exist in reality. To let live and let go.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. ~ John 14:27


Monday, October 28, 2013

A Decade Of Parenting





It was ten years ago today that we met our first child. Ten years ago today that my greatest dream in life became a reality. He was not planned or expected. We were totally unprepared financially, relationally, physically and emotionally. But God knew we needed Landon...ten years ago. Not on our time table. Not when everything was perfectly in place. It was the beginning of God helping me to release my tight fisted control.
When I look back on these ten years it amazes me how fast time has gone. How much life has changed. How much more confident I am in my parenting choices. How much more I am dependent on God's wisdom. Here are just a few things I have learned in ten years:

1) The peanut butter and jelly smell fades. For so long Landon ran around smelling like pbj. Now he smells like a boy. He used to hide in cupboards and place his matchbox cars or Thomas trains in the oddest places that made perfect sense to his little imagination. Now he has traded those trains for bb guns and footballs.

2) Parenting is purposeful. Everything about it is purposeful. From what we feed them to how we let them suffer consequences. We are on a quest to raise kids who buck the current self absorbed, immediate gratification, sex saturated culture that we exist in. To accomplish that, we must be purposeful. All of the time. Like a watchman standing guard.

3) Babies cuddle for a short time. Rocking them will not ruin them. Sleep training is important, but I learned to balance that with cuddling and gazing and rocking. I learned this lesson the hard way with Landon. I was so insecure in my parenting with Landon (and immature and completely clueless) that I really thought that I had to have my baby sleeping through the night by 2 months. Really...I was afraid of failing. So many of my worst parenting moments have been more about me than my child. My own insecurities. My own failing. My own sin. Me putting my issues on them. I am still learning this.

4) It won't always be this difficult. The phases come and go. Some are better than others. But it is ever changing. One day, the child WILL sleep all night. One day, they will eat. One day, not one temper tantrum will be thrown. One day they won't pee their pants or poop directly in front of the toilet but not in it. One day, they will not whine...I promise. One day.

5) Little kids demand a ton of physical energy. Bigger kids demand a ton of emotional energy. When you have both...you have no energy left at the end of the day. None. Whatsoever.

 


6) My kids will say things and do things at the worst possible times. It is a law of nature. When this happens, I need to address the issues, but remember to keep my PRIDE out of it.

7) Little kids need their mamas. A lot. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming and we just long for a break without them hanging on us, crying for us, totally dependent on us. But every day they gain more independence. And one day you wake up and realize that your child is much less dependent on you. They may not want to hold your hand in public anymore, they may wander further away to explore confidently, without you. This is a sign of success, not failure.

8) All of our little decisions, define our big ones. How do we spend our time? It shows what is important to us. And our kids know this.

9) Parenting demands more faith than I ever knew. Not faith that everything will go perfectly and without incident. But faith that God is good. And Sovereign. And that He has purpose in what seems futile and inexplicable to us.

10) That the love of a parent for her child is far deeper and wider than I ever knew on the other side. I understand God in a much more profound way now than I did ten years ago. I know unconditional love. I understand reproof and correction and the purpose it serves...that it is born out of love not judgment.

I have spent ten years caring for Landon. From birth until this very evening. He has taught me so very much and I love him with a fierce love...a firstborn love. I have cared for him...and as he is getting older he is already giving that back to me. Babies do it when they look into our eyes and flash us that beautiful toothless grin. Toddler do it when they say, "I wuv you Mama." Preschoolers do it when they draw a picture of themselves holding hands with us. Landon did it last spring, when I was upset about something. Deeply upset. And he had no idea why, nor did he ask. I do not cry often, and certainly not for unexplained reasons in front of my kids. But this evening, I couldn't stop the tears. I was, at one point, folding laundry in the hallway, tears silently streaming down my face, when I looked into the kitchen. There was my Landon, wiping the counters, loading the dishwasher. Taking care of me. Loving me in the only way he knew how in that moment. That evening, he was the only person who took care of me. In fact, through that entire difficult situation, he was my biggest supporter. And he never even knew it because I never shared with him what drove those tears. He still doesn't know. He never asked me what was wrong (and I wouldn't have told him if he did ;)). He just took care of me. And the table shifted there for a moment. This child that I had cared for every waking (and in the beginning there was very little sleeping with him) moment for almost ten years, was looking after his mama. Making my world better. Lightening my load. Loving me, tangibly.

Landon has taught me so much. I am so grateful for the surprise of my life. The day I took that pregnancy test, I waited until Jon left. Then I took it, and when it read positive I almost passed out. I called my best friend and told her to come immediately, offering no other explanation. She showed up and I dragged her into the bathroom where the test was and I sat on the toilet and began to cry that  I wasn't ready to be a mom. And she just looked me in the eye and kept saying over and over, "Your going to be a mom!" Half of me wanted to punch her bc I was hoping she was going to tell me that my eyes were playing tricks on me and it wasn't really positive, but instead she just kept saying I was going to be mom over and over again. I didn't know it then, but that was the first day of the rest of my life. A future that I had not planned...but God had. Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of my Landon bear. That pregnancy set into motion everything that followed, where we moved, the jobs we got, the other children we have been blessed with. And while the ride has been bumpy, and a bit twisty at times...God continuously reminds me through Landon, that His ways are higher than my own. And that sometimes we must release our tight fisted grip on our own dreams and desires and goals and aspirations, in order to open our hands to far, far greater things that He has in store.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Time

The other day I listed the bouncy seat that I received as a shower gift when I was pregnant with Landon, on an online yard sale site. It sold very quickly. Today, the woman came to pick it up. It wasn't until tonight that I remembered that on the evening I went into labor, I was putting that seat together. We had just moved to Detroit because Jonathan had just been hired there. My doctor was still here in Holland, so I was at my parents that evening after my appointment. I remember talking to Jonathan on the phone trying to decide if I should make the 2 hour drive to Detroit or stay that night at my parents. I opted to stay. The doctor said I had a good week to go, but something told me to stay. That conversation with Jonathan took place around 7 pm, and the whole time I was working on putting that seat together. At 10pm that night, my water broke and thirteen hours later, I was a mama for the first time.

In some small way, letting that seat go feels like a moving on. But it just doesn't seem at all possible to me that was ten years ago. Just like it doesn't feel possible that my newborn isn't a newborn anymore. That I am starting to let go of all the baby gear that I have acquired in this last decade of parenting. Its like a passing vapor...the days feel long, but the time is just passing so very quickly.

The other night I could tell that Noah needed some one on one time. So before bed I suggested we play a game...and he chose his Lite Brite. So we sat there sticking little pegs in holes for twenty minutes, chatting about life, love and superheros. Studies show that boys communicate much better when they are working with their hands, which I have found to be true even at their young ages. It was a fun twenty minutes, after which I tucked him into bed and breathed a sigh of relief that 1 out of 4 was down for the night. The next day when he came home from school, he showed me the picture that he had drawn that day. It was me and him playing Lite Brite in his room, complete in detail all the way down to the color of the clothes I was wearing that evening. This is my boy who rarely pays attention to detail. Landon gets lost in the trees, Noah always sees the forest and misses the trees. But not this time. Those twenty minutes were so precious to his 6 year old heart that he commemorated them the following day on a piece of yellow construction paper. I hung it next to my bed, as a daily reminder that what I think may be insignificant carries great importance in the heart of my children. I am convinced it is moments like those that will define their memories of childhood. I want to see that picture every day so that I can remember that when the days feel long and the energy is waning...I can remember how quickly they grow, and how much they crave time with me today. If I want them to spend time with me when they are older and I am not nearly so cool as I am now...then I have to put it in today...stick colored pegs in black paper, make play doh balls, wipe snotty noses, clean dirty diapers, read stories, go on bike rides, make pumpkin bread...what feels mundane and unimportant, is so important to them that it is worthy of being commemorated on construction paper, and I bet you...if it is on construction paper, it is also written on their little hearts.

TIME. How we spend it shows vividly where our hearts are. And who we spend it with, speaks loudly of our affections.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Snapshots

Awhile back I blogged about how I see life in snapshots. Sometimes I am playing with the boys and its as if a camera goes off and the image is forever imprinted on my mind. I am thankful for those "snapshot" memories. Thankful that they are mostly all good. But it hit me the other day how judgmental people can be and how so often their judgements and opinions are based upon a moment in time...a snapshot of someone else's life. I guess I have always known this to be true, but it wasn't until I became a parent that it became so personal.
There was the time Landon was 3 years old and I was 7 months pregnant with Noah and my usually well behaved toddler decided to take off running through the children's clothing section of Younkers with his arms out. If you have ever been to Younkers you know that they have clothing from the floor up to adult eye level. So if a toddler were to run with his arms out (like mine did), his hands would hit the clothes at such an angle that they would literally fly up into the air as though the tasmanian devil were whirling under them. Since he ran from the front of the childrens section to the back and I was 7 months pregnant and unable to dodge the clothing racks to catch him quick enough, he literally left a trail of destruction behind him from the front to the back of the store. When I finally caught him at the back of the store I felt an anger I had rarely experienced before. The store clerk was standing smugly behind the desk giving me the dirtiest look. It was as if her eyes said, "You have no control of your child...failure, failure, failure!" And that look and that judgement is what fueled my anger. It wasn't what he did (although it was ridiculously naughty). It was that my insecurity was ripped wide open by the judgement of some woman whom I had never even spoken to. She simply got a snapshot of my life...and made a judgment.
Then there was the time that the UPS man dropped off a package and Everett was in the garage playing. THE GARAGE. When the UPS guy knocked, I didn't come to the door. I was pregnant and...let me just be frank...in the bathroom, unable to come to the door. Well this man decided that it was his civic duty to go discuss with my neighbors how neglectful of a parent I was for letting my child play in the garage unattended. Thankfully, one of those neighbors is one of my best friends and she stood up for me (the other one has wildly different parenting ideas than I do and fully agreed with the UPS man). But this man only saw snapshots. Snippets. He had no idea why I didn't come to the door. Perhaps he assumed I was taking a nap...or eating bon bons. But we all know what we do when we assume...right? (Hint: think about the spelling of the word).
And lastly...and this is the best example...recently, I took the boys to church by myself. Silas was asleep in the carseat, Noah and Landon beside me in the pew. The message was really good and I was very much into it. I have no idea how long I stared at our pastor before looking at the boys. It was a while because every parent knows that if your kids are being good and entertaining themselves, and you look at them...it ruins it every time. And they were being SO quiet...and not fighting...and it was just lovely. Until I looked at Landon. LANDON. My by the book...doesn't break rules or push the envelope kid. My kid who thinks way too much about what people think about him. Yes, I looked at that boy. He had taken a great big Jabba the Hut sticker out of Noah's sticker book and rolled it so that it looked like a joint. Not even a cigarette, but a joint...it was even slightly green (remember, Jabba). AND HE WAS SMOKING IT. In church. I looked at him and he took it out of his mouth (between his fingers like a real smoker) and gave me this awesome look that said, "Want one mom?" My mind raced, my face flushed...I didn't even know what to do. And then I remembered that I had conveniently chosen the seat in front of the 100 year old man who was a patriarch at the church...and he had a perfect view of Landon...of my kid who was pretending to smoke IN CHURCH. Probably one of the most conservative men in the church. Yep...he saw the whole thing, probably before I did. Snapshot.
Next time we are tempted to judge another mother for her parenting, or a kid for their ridiculous behavior, I encourage us to remember that we are seeing a snapshot. And judgements based on snapshots are not usually valid or correct. Contrary to what that store clerk said to me with her eyes...I am not a failure. And while that UPS driver believes I am a neglectful parent, I can assure you that I am not. And while it appears my oldest child has a fetish with smoking...I can pretty much stake my life on the fact that a real cigarette won't ever touch his lips (now Noah is a different story). What I am getting at is that we have to earn the right to speak into other people's lives. My mom can tell me I am doing something wrong in parenting my kids because she watches me and knows me and has earned that right. So have some of my friends. And my sisters. But so help me if that UPS driver were to report me to CPS based on that snapshot. That snippet of my life that he saw. But how many times have I judged? How many times have I written someone off in my mind rather than offered my hand to help? We judge, usually because it makes us feel better about the way we are choosing to do things. But I don't want to be that person. I want to be the person at the grocery store who smiles with knowing eyes at the mom whose child is screaming in the cart. Today at the restaurant my sister and I ate lunch, an older woman came up to our table. I was sure she was going to tell me my toddler was being too loud. He was playing with a toy snake at the table and his boy noises were a bit on the loud side and I kept trying to tell him to play quieter. But that woman...she didn't scold me or him. She told me how beautiful he was and how much she enjoyed watching him. I want to be like that woman. I want to extend grace. I want to leave a snapshot behind that stays with the people I come into contact with...and I want that snapshot to ease their burden and be like a balm to their soul.
Life is like a series of snapshots. What story are our pictures telling?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Changing Seasons


I notice it with each changing season...the tiring of one, the slow entrance of the other. And yet its amazing how fast it goes. I can hear it every August...the sounds of summer getting tired. One weekend I am packing the kids up to swim at Great Grandma's and eat hot dogs and cool whip desserts, and the very next weekend there is a coolness to the air, a scent in the breeze that is ushering out the old and bringing in the new, and the house is filled with the smell of pumpkin bread. Its hard to let go of what we had, and yet we can't experience the new if we hang on too tightly to what has passed.

Isn't it like that with our lives too? I often reference my college years as "the best years of my life." But that was the last season of my life before this ten year parenting era I am currently in. And it represented everything that I don't have now...complete freedom, time and energy to explore and learn and play with my friends all of the time, and a support system next door, and down the hall, and everywhere. My newly married season was so short I don't even remember it (thank you surprise pregnancy). And now I look back at having just one child with a sweet longing. Longing to go back to the simplicity of those days. But I forget how lonely I was back then. Thats the cool thing about the human brain...we tend to remember the good and forget the bad.

I have lived through enough transitional phases that I can feel them coming and going. And I have learned to try to embrace them for whatever they are because I know that whatever the season is...it will change. And most likely, I will long for that time back. One day I will be older and my kids will be on their own...I will browse Target guiltlessly for more than 3.5 minutes and I won't have to drive my shopping cart like a race car. I will go out to eat with my friends and we won't have to meet at Chuck E Cheese. My house will stay clean for more than 1.8 seconds. I won't have to cook every night for 6 people, or cut up fruit every single stinking day. I won't have to start a train of thought only to be interrupted 400 times in 2 seconds and completely forget what I was thinking about, let alone have a real conversation with anyone. My "guest bathroom"(aka the boys bathroom) won't always have a faint smell of urine to it (despite my multiple times a day effort), and sickness and fatigue won't constantly follow me and mine everywhere we go. One day. But on that day, when it comes, I am guessing I will miss, even long for, the days when my kids sat at the kitchen table and threw (I mean played) play doh. The day will come that I will sit on my neatly arranged couch and stare longingly at the floor remembering how each and every day, the couch cushions were strewn on that floor representing some action packed game the boys came up with. I doubt I will ever miss stepping on legos. But I will miss the imaginations that built ships and airplanes.

I am exhausted. I have one more week of maternity leave. I am already teaching my Cedarville class, and between that and life, I literally feel like each day is a marathon. It works until it doesn't. Then I get stressed and irritable and short. Then I feel like a failure. Then I think my kids hate me. Then someone posts a link on vaccines and I second guess and doubt myself and wish I had 2000 more hours to research all of the questions in my head, and I wish I could learn to grow my own food and make my own bread. Then someone else mentions how their 2 year old knows the entire alphabet and can count backwards from 100, and I wonder where I went wrong. Then someone else tells me about their hot yoga classes and the 579 mile marathon they trained for and I wonder how they squeezed that kind of time out of our allotted 24 hours in a day. And just when I am about to go crazy wondering how everyone else does "it," I realize that I do "it" too, and I start to settle back down into my normal...what works for us.
I can see it all changing...the seasons passing. Landon is inching ever so close to his tenth birthday. The conversations I have with that kid blow my mind. And demand so much emotional energy. And Noah is on his heals. I see it. I feel it. He IS a changing season. And Everett needs me to play garbage trucks and get down the play doh and take apart the vacuum for him. And then there is Silas. And I want to bottle him up. Because he is changing before my very eyes. And I get upset sometimes because I can't just sit and soak him up. I try to be purposeful about it and steal as many moments as I can...but the truth is, I want more time. And as much as I want this crazy, exhausting season of my life to ease into something a bit less demanding, I don't. Because one day I will look back with longing and wish for this very season. And it will be gone. Just like college is gone. I will never forget when Landon was 4, he pointed to a picture of himself as a baby and asked me, "Where has that baby gone?" The baby had grown into a preschooler, leaving only a trail of beautiful memories behind.

Every single choice, every day costs something. We choose one thing and let another go. I think that is why so many of us second guess so much. Doubting ourselves and comparing our normal with everyone else's does nothing but add guilt to our already over-filled plates. So the marathon mama...she chooses that at the cost of something else. And the natural mama...she chooses that at the cost of something else. And the mama who has a clean house...it comes at a price. And the mom who is involved in every single area of her kid's life...it too comes at a price. So does working outside of the home...so does being a stay at home mom. At the end of the day, the question we must ask is if we can live with the price of our choices. Many of us criticize people who choose differently because it makes us feel justified in our choices. That is insecurity. Confidence is the courage to do your thing, your way, aware of the price but ok with it. Because the season is fleeting, always fleeting. I had a friend stop and talk to me in a store parking lot this summer for 45 minutes. Her ice cream melted in her car because she chose me. It cost her something. But it earned her something intangible. Little choices, big choices...they make up our lives by flavoring and sometimes determining our seasons. The winds of change are ever blowing. Our normal is the sum of our choices.

When I look back, I want to know that I was there for the big things, and noticed the small ones. That I tried to make happy memories (although many times to be honest the fun things have bittersweet mixed in...arguing children, melt downs, bad attitudes).  But at the end of the day, no matter how many times my voice raised too many octaves or my words were poorly chosen, I want my children to know in their hearts that they were loved. And wanted. And cherished. But life is a balance and while I try to make choices that will stamp love on their little hearts, I also know that I cannot be everything to everyone, including my kids. So I cut myself some slack when I just can't do it all or when I fail miserably, and even when I sit in the back bedroom and cry because I never thought having a family would be this difficult. Then I wipe those tears away and go cut up some more fruit or change the 50th blow out diaper of the day...and try again...and again...and again. But at the end of the day, as much as I want to be for my kids, I can't do it all. And I thank God that I can continuously point their little hearts to Him, as the only source of perfect love. I am grateful I can ask for forgiveness and teach them to be humble. Its amazing all that I am learning about my own poor way of dealing with emotions as I am teaching them to properly sort through theirs. The other day I told Landon that if he kept perceiving a certain situation in the way that he was, that it would lead him to feel very sad and he would end up believing a lie. A short while later, he turned that around and said those same things to me...and he was absolutely right.

What am I getting at? The emotions you feel as a mom...the ones we never talk about. Yep...those. Your not alone. I feel them too. But just as summer is fading to fall, this season of our lives too shall pass. Sink into your normal today. As messy as it may be. Its ok to wish some of it away. Lets just be real...we really are not going to miss the pee smells in the bathroom or the legos digging holes into the bottoms of our feet. But get grounded in the beauty that is your season right now, find something and let it be your calm in the midst of the storm. Because they will stop saying those cute words, and they won't always need you, and for heaven's sake...one day they will cut their own fruit. You want to know you were present. Whether your season in life right now is good or bad, its your life, you need to be present. That is what I want to leave you with...be present. That means real...experiencing the highs and lows and all that lies in between. And if that terrifies you for any of a thousand reasons, then know you are not alone. If you can be present on the mountain tops, it will carry you through the valley. And if you are present in the valley, you will find the strength to hope and to travel to the mountain top. If you refuse to be present, you will miss it all. I will miss it all. And that would be a shame.
                                            

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fighting For...

The other day I was shopping for the perfect gift for this amazing girl I know that is headed off to college. She is moving into her dorm tomorrow, and this is the culmination of almost two years of her fighting for something different than she grew up in. Yearning for something more. Except she, unlike many people, had the courage to turn that yearning into action. She took all of the difficult steps to shed the dysfunction, the dead, the poison, and to seek and to search after life, love and for what she knew had to exist outside of the life she had known. I met this girl when she was 17. It happened to be at the darkest time of her life. I helped her start the ball rolling, walked with her through the darkness. At the same time, someone else also came into my life. Someone else who was hurting and alone. Someone I felt God had called me to show grace to...tangibly. So for a time, I did life with these young women.
So back to yesterday... I was in search of that perfect gift. And I found it. But in the process...I also stumbled upon this sign. And like most people who come to my town (tourists), I pulled my camera out and snapped a picture. Not because I am a tourist, but because these words are the fabric of who God made me to be. They are the motto by which I chose to live, for as far back as I can remember. These words are what drove me to get involved with these women in the first place. To take chances. To show grace. To offer hope. The one...has had her entire life change before her very eyes. It has been a grueling and difficult process...not easy by any means. But she starts her sophomore year of college at Calvin tomorrow and I could not be more proud of her. If you knew what this girl has overcome, you would feel the same. She made so many difficult decisions, overcame so many obstacles, and has come SO far. The story of redemption is just beginning, but her story is to the point that you can't wait to turn the next page to see what happens.
The other story did not end that way. It did not end well. At all. In fact, (using the words of the sign I saw yesterday), my risks were not "safe", and the care I offered hurt me a thousand times more than any help it gave her, and the dreams were not real, and my expectations for this girl which everyone told me were crazy...really were. What I thought I saw and hoped and offered came back to bite me full circle. Now when I read the words of that sign, all sorts of memories come crashing back like angry waves in a hurricane until I am knocked flat and the last thing I ever want to do, is live those words.
Since then, I have so often wondered what we ARE called to. I have believed my entire life that we are called to love tangibly, to give grace freely, to get our hands dirty, to give more than we think we have. But in small ways over the past two years, and then in a huge way a year ago, this belief became my demise. I am a therapist. I preach boundaries. And I have them. But with these people I literally felt God calling me to go further. To love radically. To get my hands dirty. And I did. And I risked a lot. One story is beautiful. The other a mess. And the mess was so damaging to my heart that it has largely caused me to back pedal away from the beautiful. For fear. That binding awful fear. So many times I have fallen prey to the idea that if we do what is right...what we are called to do...that everything will work out and the story will end beautifully. And when it doesn't, then what? The few people I was able to let in on the details had a miriad of responses. Most were the threads that wove together to help catch me as I fell. But a few said things I had heard other times in my life that are very damaging. Things like, "Well its such a mess, you must have heard wrong or you must have rushed ahead and done your own thing...this can't be God." These messages threw me back to my core beliefs on God. And you know what I found? I found that most often in the Bible, when God asked something of someone, it did NOT end well. In fact, many times the person ended up dead, or suffering in some way. Which in an earthly sense, we look upon and ask what kind of God rewards His people like that? But we fail to see beyond this life. We don't realize that the greatest grace ever extended to us...is heaven. So what we view as so awful (death), is in fact the very entrance gate we must walk through to get to the greatest victory.
But here is the thing. I still feel stupid. And weak. And vulnerable. And while I want to be true to the person God made me to be, I am so much thicker skinned. So much more cynical and jaded. So much less trusting. So much. And terrified of getting involved or getting my hands dirty with anyone else's life. I know the right response to all of this is to go forward, smarter. To be who God created me to be, but with better boundaries and more wisdom. But I haven't yet found the practical landing spot for that. I am at war within myself. I gave so much, and it could have cost me everything. In fact, my last time speaking to this person, I told her that I wished she "had stolen every dime in my bank account, because what she had taken from me was far, far more valuable." I knew that then...even in those early days.
A few months later I was pregnant. And lots happened the months before that, and even more the months after that. And I spent the last year feeling weak and vulnerable and insecure and depressed and utterly alone. And sick, both physically and at heart. At one point I remember laying alone in my room and feeling lost on so many levels. This was a year of deep loss....friendships, relationships, ideals, faith, and lots more that I can't share. And as labor neared, I viewed it as an opportunity to start something new. That if I could just have my physical health, perhaps the rest would start to fall into place. And here is where the natural labor thing fell. I know for many women it makes NO sense. Why would I ever put myself in a position to feel such pain when I could dull it? Why dip my toes into more hell, when I could avoid it? But I FOUGHT this entire pregnancy. I fought on so many levels. And I felt so weak by the end. For so long I had let people make me feel weak and I desperately needed to feel strong again. I wanted to FEEL and to fight back. So many people dull their emotions...its the American way...easy and fast fixes. I don't want to dull.To grow, we must feel. I don't want a bandaid. I want to heal. I am fine with the scars left behind, but I want new flesh to grow. I want something new.
And that something new started August 3, when I labored to bring my youngest son into this world. The labor was a picture to me of how I had been fighting for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, my sister stayed up ridiculously late one night to finish this amazing slide show (link to follow at bottom of post). She sent it to me and I loved every.single.second of it. I cried as I relived it all. But no one really knows all I was fighting for the past ten months, or those three hours in that hospital room. But I see it in these pictures. And it reminds me to keep fighting. I hesitated to share this with the world because it felt too personal. There is nothing inappropriate in the pictures...but the emotions captured are raw. However, it tells a beautiful story. Child birth...new life...is a redemptive story.  We go through the worst pain to gain the best gift. And its so easy to get lost in the pain. While my redemptive story is still being written...my hope is that by sharing this slide show, you will see your own redemption story. The things you have fought so hard to let go of. The things you  have fought so hard to keep. The memories that haunt you that you fight so hard against. The lost dreams, relationships, failures, and hurts that you fight against every day in the hopes that one day it will make some measure of sense. I hope you see that story. Your story...and that you find hope in the midst of it to lead you out of the darkness and into the Light.

Labor...a Redemptive Story
Courtesy of Brennigan Gilson-Burnett of BgPhotography
http://bgphotographystudios.com/

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Birth Story

Women in my circles love a good birth story. I think we all live vicariously through each other, remembering the times that we first met eyes with our own precious children. So I promised to write it out, and here it is. If your a guy, or aren't interested in this sort of thing, I encourage you to close this link right now and go play Words with Friends or something much less emotional and personal then the words I am about to put to paper (or screen) ;-)

My entire pregnancy was an exercise in releasing control. It always is to a great degree, as I am never weaker than when I am pregnant. And I hate to be weak. I hate to need, to have to ask, to not be able to keep up, but apparently God knows that because He has allowed me to learn the hard way four times now, that in our weakness we can be made strong. But this pregnancy was different. The ten months I carried this baby were different. Person after person, thing after thing, circumstance after circumstance was a continuos releasing. By the time the baby was full term I was holding very loosely to this final birth experience being what I wanted it to be. I wanted to do it naturally again. Not for any truly great, selfless reason other than I wanted to be in control. I felt so out of control of so many areas of my life, that this was one I could hold. And so many people had succeeded at making me feel weak (and I had let them) that this was my chance to prove to myself that I was strong. I know it doesn't make any logical sense...but psychologically and emotionally, it made sense to me. But as delivery neared, a few problems began to arise and it appeared that I was going to have to be medically induced. I hadn't had pitocin with Noah or Ev, but I did with Landon. And I remember it well. Pitocin puts labor on steroids and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it naturally if it did to me what it did with Landon. But again, I had learned to hold things loosely and mostly, I just wanted a healthy baby. So the induction was set for Friday Aug 2. Initially it was supposed to be a morning induction, then it got moved to an evening induction. I changed child care options around a bit and rearranged my expectations (when you are knowingly facing labor, a 12 hour change is no small thing). I spent the morning chasing my kids around and purposely tried to savor nap time. I read Everett his story and rocked him for an extra few moments knowing it was the last day he would be my baby. Then I went to Noah's room and tried to read with him, but the nausea crept up and he kept asking me if I was going to throw up on his bed, so eventually I just kissed him and let him go to sleep. I tried to sleep for an hour, but knowing what lay ahead I was too anxious and excited, so I just laid there. Another crazy control aspect that I know came from my psychological/emotional deficit, was for things to be in order at home. I could control that. I had steam cleaned the carpets and furniture, deep cleaned the bathrooms and our bedrooms. I had swept ceilings and wiped baseboards and cupboards. I knew a baby didn't care about any of that. But I did. It made me feel like I was doing something to prepare, something tangible. So fast forward to Friday Aug 2, when I was trying to take that nap, I remembered the van wasn't clean. So I pulled the steam cleaner out and steam cleaned our vehicle. I was on my hands and knees doing that for a couple hours. Then I ran Noah to a birthday party and my mom and Jon met the rest of us at a restaurant for dinner. The hospital called and told me my induction may be bumped, and that they would let me know by 7:30-8. Enter anxiety. I was so ready to give birth at this point. But the call never came. So I jumped in the shower by 8 and was ready to kiss my kiddos goodbye at quarter to 9.

Then we began that monumental trek to the hospital. I was quickly checked in and in a gown. When they did the initial check I had progressed to a 3, with some other progress, AND I was contracting on my own. I knew that, but the contractions didn't feel much different than I had been feeling all week. Anyway, since my body was doing something on its own, we decided to wait until Sat morning before doing anything medical to bring on labor. At 6am Saturday morning they checked me and I had progressed to a 5-6, all on my own. No need for pitocin, I was in active labor. Thank you, Lord. My doctor broke my water at 6am and by 7, the contractions were very intense and very regular. Jonathan and my sister Brenn were there with me the whole time. I remember at one point they were conversing and I was alternating between sitting on a ball and leaning on the bed, thinking my body may rip in two, when I couldn't take listening to them talk anymore and asked them to please (I am not sure I said please) stop talking. At any rate, the room went silent ;-). By 9, I was convinced I was dying. I was still in good control but was wearing down. I asked the nurse to check me and she said I was an 8, and entering transition. Sure enough, it started. That whole awful transition thing. And the baby was sunny side up, so she had me lay on my side (excruciating) during the contractions in an effort to get the baby to turn. It took 6 or 7 contractions but he flipped and it was most certainly time to push. This is the part I lost control at with Everett, because no one had ever prepared me for the feeling that happens when the baby crowns. Let me tell you now, in case you don't know: it is as though a pressure bomb goes off. It absolutely panicked me with Everett, and I lost a lot of my "control." This time,  I knew what to expect but the agony was still ever present. When you are in that much pain all you can think is that if you push hard enough, it will all be over. You can make it end. So push I did. With all of me. And Everything. And it didn't take long. Three hours after breaking my water, I was holding my beautiful boy.

At our 20 week ultrasound I saw big, huge hands and feet, which tipped me off to this baby being a boy. And I had imagined him with hair the entire pregnancy. Most people I told that he would have hair laughed at me bc Everett is still practically bald at 2.5 years. But I knew this boy would have hair. And while I don't remember much that was said while I was pushing him out, I do remember the doctor saying she could see his hair. And I knew I was right. He was exactly as I imagined him. I gave one last push for all I was worth and she lifted my baby boy to my chest. He didn't cry at first, but I knew he was going to be ok. They eventually got him to cry a little on my chest and then took him to the warmer to look him over. The doctor got him riled up and crying and that helped to pink him up. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces which was one ounce shy of his older brother (Ev was 8.8, but seemed MUCH bigger than Silas).

So in the end, I had my unmedicated, natural birth experience that I had very much wanted. Perhaps it was the steam cleaning on my hands and knees or maybe the raspberry leaf tea or evening primrose, or the extra 12 hours that I saw as a bad thing, but may have been the best thing. Or perhaps God just decided to give me this one. I am just grateful. Grateful it is over. Grateful to have a healthy baby. Grateful to eat food and have it taste good and not have to wonder what it will taste like after I eat it. Grateful to have my strength back. Grateful to shed the nausea that had become a way of life. Grateful to, at the very least, not feel physically weak any longer. In the days since having Silas, I can't help but stare at his every perfect feature and marvel at the miracle he is. That each baby who becomes a child who becomes an adult, is. The worth and value and intricate details that make each one of us precious miracles. The process of creating a life and sustaining it, and then birthing it into this world and watching as that life becomes independent of the mother testifies to God in undeniable ways. Knowing how my body changed to sustain life for my son, and then watching as my body shed those very things necessary for his life and he and I became independent of one another, and his own little body took over, is like witnessing a miracle.

I am just so grateful. Blessed. Four healthy sons. Silas is exactly who he was meant to be. Now we have the privelege of watching that unfold, that story be told. Welcome to the family, Silas Avery...you are so loved.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Waiting with Pregnant Expectation



The past few days have been an exercise in waiting...with pregnant expectancy. Contractions that come and go have me thinking one minute that its time, only to be doubting myself the next. The days and weeks before you meet your baby are absolutely full of an array of emotions. I find myself vacilating between  excitement and nervous anticipation (of labor). I lay here and see my belly rolling like waves on a sea, and I know that my baby is living and fully formed, ready to greet this place we call life. There are pictures to be taken, stories to be told, eyes to be met, tears to shed, smiles to glisten. And it could happen anytime. Anticipating a first child is an experience unlike any other. But so is anticipating future children...because you know the magic that is about to happen. You know the pain, you know the depths to which you are about to go to bring this child into the world. You know the smell of the beautiful newborn. You know the feeling the first time you meet his eyes. You know the feel of that tiny body scrunched up on yours, fully dependent on the one who carried him for nine months, only now in a more tangible way. You know. You know that infant so quickly changes into a smiling baby. And that baby into a crawling, walking, running toddler. And that toddler into a boy who like tractors and trains and says the silliest things. You know that boy turns into a middle schooler who still, on occasion flashes you that same look you saw in the delivery room, the first time your eyes met. You know. You know to treasure those moments. You know to let criticism roll of your back, and you know to trust your instincts. You know its ok to spend a little extra on that bottle of Dreft, and that its ok to open and close the drawer containing the baby clothes at least 400 times in the week preceding birth,  just to drink in the smell of impending baby. You know the miracle about to happen.

And when it is your last...I have found...you want it to happen so badly. You cannot wait to greet those eyes, and to write those stories, to take those pictures, to live that life, to meet that baby. But part of you, a tiny part is almost afraid for it to happen. Because you know that once it happens, its fleeting. Its so magical that you want it to last forever. I already want to savor each and every moment with this new child. I have given all I had to bring him to this point, and once he is born, every moment is a step of independence on his part. And a process of letting go for me. I know that. I have been through this three times prior. And even the letting go, is a beautiful story, an amazing process of hope and fear, success and failure, a blending together of life and love and grace, the continued process of the creation of a life. We as parents have that amazing responsibility. Its not just the carrying of the baby...it is the raising of the child, the creation of the adult. God gives us a part in it all. Its sobering and scary, but beautiful and redemptive. Just like birth.

It is a crazy feeling to be on the cusp of meeting a person who is going to change your life and family forever. And to know it is coming...any moment. It is as though life is literally pregnant with expectation...every moment of every day. Watching my children anticipate this event is magical too. Their eyes light up. They are each preparing in their own ways, and while I know they each grasp a little of what is about to happen to them, I know the truth. That they are about to gain a friend for life. A sibling who will share their experiences and secrets, who will laugh with them and cry with them. I know the gift they are about to receive. I know the sacrifices it will cost them, but I also know the gift. Because I have siblings. And for all the bad we may have endured (JASON ;-) ), when I look back now I can see the incredible value of the fact that we had each other. That our histories are intertwined in a way that no one else can understand. That Brenn and I can commiserate because of our shared life, and that Kelly and I have a lifetime of memories and Jen taught me all I know about the important things in life from all of our basement bedroom discussions, and that Jason and I had each other when life was tumultous and uncertain. My children are about to gain a sibling. Its an incredible gift.

And so I wait. With pregnant anticipation. Six days or less and the story begins. A new story. And oh how we can use this new beginning with all of its ups and downs. I am pregnant with anticipation at the joy and wonder I know is a breath away. Literally, a first breath away.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Search for Redemption

Its July 23, 2013.  It was close to this date last summer that the beginning of the end began. The signs that inevitably led me where I had no idea I would end up. The beginning of the end of a plot line that I had no idea I was taking part in. A story with an ending that didn't exist. Will never exist.

When I started this new blog I mentioned that I felt I would forever hate August because of the association it had with what happened. But that this baby was due in August. And that felt redemptive. And it is. And I have hope for that. Because so much has gone wrong since August. What I thought was the end, was really just the beginning of more. I remember running every evening last August and September to the tune of Tenth Avenue North's song, Worn.
I would try to pound out on the pavement what was haunting me throughout my day.  Its July 23 of the following year...I am still looking for that redemption. Still waiting for life's circumstances to get better, not worse. Someone asked me today if the hardest things I have been through in my life make sense to me in the now. I am close enough to this person to be honest and I had to say that no, most of them, certainly everything from the the past 365 days have yet to be redeemed. I am so glad that I didn't know then what I know now. I wouldn't have wanted to know that life would make less sense now, a year later, than it did in the thick of it. That August was just the beginning of a whole series of unrelated and yet life altering events. There isn't one area of my life left untouched. I feel like this year was meant to crush me. To change me. To attack the core of who God made me to be. And it has, at times. And I have changed. But I don't know how it will end. The story is still being written.

I told my friend today that I am weak. She told me that I am strong because I am not hiding or dulling the pain. I don't feel strong. Its not just what happened, it is the emotional wreckage that has been left behind. The fact that these things were fashioned with pointed tips, specifically for my heart. The fact that try as I might to sift through it all, I can't find a place to land. I am not fully confident what the ramifications should be for my faith, my life, my calling, my relationships, my heart.

I know most of you who read this don't know what has happened, and very few know all that has transpired. I can't share most of it, for various reasons. Its not about the details anyway. I hate when people "vague post" and it is clear that they are really just hooking us making us wonder on so many levels what in the world happened. I promise I am not trying to do that. I ask that you don't ask me what happened. That you respect the fact that I will share what I can with whom I can, when I am ready.
I guess as I listen to Worn now, a year later, I am also reminded that we are not promised that all will be redeemed (make sense) this side of Heaven, nor that we can tie difficult things up with a neat little bow. I think Christians (humans) are so quick to look for meaning and "the lesson to be learned" that when we can't figure it out, or when we are unable to name the silver lining, we panic a bit. As though our trials are worth nothing. They are never worth nothing. But sometimes, sometimes, you just have to hunker down and cling. As I teach my Stress students, there are times that you don't have to keep swinging to stay in a match...you just have to stay upright. You just have to keep that tiny seed of hope so that you don't give up. And as tempted as I have been, I think I have learned that times like these are NOT the best time to give up on all you have always believed in, lived for, stood for. Those things may have been taken, I may have handed some over, but I am clinging to what is left for dear life. Choosing with my mind, when my heart fails me. Do I know that God will redeem all of this? Yes. But I am not certain it will be this side of Heaven.

Nine months ago I said that God redeemed the month of August by choosing that as the month of birth for our new baby. I think there is some measure of truth to that, but it doesn't take the flashbacks away. The questions still come. The tears still spring up. I am distracted by the waiting...the beautiful expectancy of a new life. That helps tremendously. But to think that this whole year (or really almost 2 if I go back to the start of the unravelling) will make sense is perhaps a bit unrealistic. I think perhaps the redemption comes in the laughter of my two year old, the sense of adventure I see in my almost 10 year olds eyes when he tries something new and exciting, and the endless zest for life that exudes from my 6 year old. The glimpse of a setting sun, the rising of a new one, the timely encouragement from a friend, the promises of Truth that I am choosing to believe in the face of trial.
So I face August with an aire of expectancy. The pregnant expectancy of the new life moving within me. But not with the expectancy that this month will be easy. Or the one to follow. I will take a day at a time. If I have learned anything this year, that is it. If nothing else, as this baby enters the world I will gain back my physical strength and I have a sense that hope will come with that. I will labor this child into the world, as a symbol of the fight I have for life, as it was meant to be. What that looks like, I am unsure. But I will fight. I will stand. I will hope.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Perspective

Last night I had an awful dream. I dreamed that we were at a pool and Everett was a the bottom of the pool, struggling, but unable to get up. I jumped in immediately and swam down to get him. He was crying audibly in the water (not possible) but in my dream, it struck me how odd it was that he could cry under water. Anyway...I got him up and out and he was crying really hard and saying over and over, "Mama, save me?" Questioning me and longing for the right answer. And I kept telling him, "Yes, Mommy saved you. Mommy got you out, its ok!" I woke up and everything in me wanted to go get him out of his crib and just feel the warmth of his body and feel the rhythmic breathing of his little body. I literally ached for him. And then I thought of what it would be like if that happened and I didn't get there fast enough. It happens to millions of parents every year. And if it isn't drowning, its something else. Some tragedy that flies in unexpected...always unexpected...and changes every part of life as you know it.

So today was one of those days where I cherished moments instead of hurrying through them. The terrible mess of corn on the cob and baked beans and turkey burger crumbs strewn all over the kitchen didn't look like an hour long mess to clean up, but instead it looked like my kids ate well and enjoyed themselves. I savored watching Everett shove the corn in his mouth by the fist fulls. Even the poopy underpants...I can't say I savored cleaning them out... but I thanked God for the boy who could soil them. When I found Landon's "potion" concoction under the sink, instead of thinking of all the ways it could spill or cause a mess, I thanked God for the ten year old creative brain that concocted the science experiment. When I went to vacuum Landon and Noah's room and found it full of army men strewn about every flat surface...I felt a sense of contentment that my boys could create this play world in the safety of their own home, flexing the muscles of their creativity. When Noah dumped an entire bucket of leaves on my kitchen counter declaring that they were salmon that he caught "fishing off the deck"I left them there all day...telling him I would "cook them up" and "oh how good they would taste." These little "inconveniences" that we often bemoan as parents because they make our jobs that much more difficult are actually the gathering of beautiful memories. It is all in the perspective.

And oh how I have lost perspective lately. I am just done with pregnancy. Done. All I can see is that I have another day, another night (those are long too due to pregnancy insomnia), another week. I want to feel healthy, have energy, not fight constant nausea, not be a slave to food, be able to bend over, have mental and emotional energy for my existing children. I want my life back.

But that perspective thing. My body, although it hates pregnancy and causes me great problems with nausea and vomitting, has housed and nurtured and birthed (almost) 4 human beings. Four beautiful souls. And I am about to meet this one. I am on the cusp of receiving the fruit of my labor. I have lived every one of these ten months in agony, but it all becomes worth it in an instant. When I see that face. And meet those eyes. And feel the quick little breaths as that new baby sleeps on my chest. I would do it all a thousand times over for the children I have, and this one is no different.

Anyone who has a child knows how difficult it is. The relentless work, the bickering, the monotony, the snot and poop and puke that we clean up and clean up again. But in an instant, truly a fleeting second, my children can make it all worth it. A smile. An eyebrow raise. An extra cuddle. Watching them learn, create, imagine, make right decisions, be kind, care about another soul, love. They exhaust me, regularly. But they fill my life with everything that means the most to me. And I thank God that for this moment, I have three sleeping children in the safety of their beds and one in the safety of my womb, my uncomfortableness a daily reminder that the child is growing and healthy. Perspective. I will lose it again...possibly even tonight. But my quest is to keep it ever before me. To be thankful more and critical less. To enjoy more than complain. To love more than judge. And to seize the moments that make up the days...because this life is ever so short and none of us know anything beyond this very moment.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My How Time Flies

I have sciatic nerve pain radiating down my leg and I am so tired I could cry and the cereal I just ate to help my vitamin go down may or may not come back up, but I HAVE to take even just five minutes to document this night.

Tonight started the baseball season for us. Landon hasn't played since Kindergarten and this is Noah's first year. They both had their first practice at different fields and an hour apart...and Jonathan came home with a migraine. So that meant dinner was done by 5:15 and the next 4 hours were spent driving back and forth to the fields and home, dropping kids at intervals. It was great fun. But here is the part that I have to get down into writing...in case I forget, and how easy it is to forget.

Noah's t-ball practice is at the same field that Landon played at when he was in Kindergarten. It was like deja vu going back. Watching Noah play in the dirt and miss the fielders, watching the little boys swing mercilessly at the t, missing almost every time. But the real kicker was when I took Everett to the play ground at the field. You see, three years ago, Landon was in Kindergarten and Noah was not quite 3 years old and playing on that same playground. And Everett was a gleam in my eye, albeit soon to be growing in my belly. As I watched Everett climb the dragon shaped stairs and sit at the top of the slide I kept having flashbacks to Noah doing the same thing. As I watched Noah running and playing on the field...I kept flashing back to my white blond haired 6 year old Landon doing the same thing. And it hit me. Just how fast the time has gone. How much growing up these boys have done. How they have switched places in the blink of an eye.

And then I went to Landon's third grade team practice...the one with the fast paced pitching machine. And I watched as the boys took athletic stances and nice strides into the ball when batting. How tall and old my boy looked out there on the field. And I knew in an instant, that I will blink and it will be my red haired, freckle faced Noey out there on the 3rd grade field. It happens so fast.

As I walked back to my car I couldn't help but breathe in the air and flash back to my days on the field. And how they felt like yesterday. How the sound of the bat against the ball made me automatically want to reach for the ball. It went so fast. Its been 14 years since I was a senior in high school.

And that is when I decided I had to write this down. Because SO often I want to rush my children out of a "difficult" stage. I yearn for more freedom and independence. When the days wear long and the kids are sick, or Everett won't eat, or Noah gets over tired...I see myself just wishing the day to end. But tonight I was reminded of how fast all of these days turn into weeks, and literally in what feels like the blink of an eye...years. How kids change places and grow up while we watch unaware because we are so stuck in the day to day. I don't want to forget. I don't want to wish them grown. The white blond haired Kindergartner turned into my tall, loving, wonderful almost 10 year old overnight. And the red haired, pudgy almost three year old...he turned into my tall, slender mischievous joy boy who can read and do math problems at the speed of light. And that gleam in my eye...he talks and climbs stairs and goes down the slide all by himself straight into my arms and laughs all the way. So much before them. So much behind them. I was reminded tonight...just how fast it goes. And I needed that reminder because the day to day can be wearing. But its the day to day that makes up the living...our life...our memories...and they change in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Silenced

I like to write. A lot. It helps me to sort out what I feel inside. And I feel a lot. Too much. I sometimes wish I was one of those people who could just go about life without the inside turmoil that I often feel. But then I wouldn't be me. Which doesn't seem so bad sometimes, depending on how I feel inside. ;-)

But I feel silenced as of late. For awhile I guess. Something happened (obviously) last summer and nothing has been right since. I can't discuss the details of what happened, nor am I ready if I could. For months, I couldn't blog. I had to actually lock my blog as it was an access point for this person. So until I got everything switched over to here and made this blog as anonymous as I could (no personal name, info, etc), there was no blogging. I like blogging better than journaling. I am afraid to journal, literally terrified of what may spill out onto the page. But blogging requires a certain filter and having that in place makes me feel safer and the writing is somehow more therapeutic.

And yet there is so much I need to say. Its not just this person who silenced me. It is the expectations. People expect me to have it together. Always have. And when I don't, it makes me want to hide in shame. Truth is that people don't like messy. When something is wrong, the first question people ask is what happened. We want there to be a cause, a series of events that we can walk through and tie up with a neat bow. But what happens when so many things run together that it all becomes a tangled mess. When up and down appear in the same direction. When you don't have an answer for the question, or when you feel if you even began to try to explain, you would get stuck three words in. Time moves on. People expect us to move. And I have moved. I have always looked for the silver lining. Reframed. Sought to grow. Looked for the lesson. Hoped. I have moved considerably in the past 9 months. In the past year and a half. But the questions were never answered. And its as though they demand an answer because life keeps hammering on and with each defining event the questions echo louder and louder.

But our Christian culture, in particular, doesn't like questions. Questions mean doubt and that scares people. Its a chink in the armor. But is it? Christians have silenced me. Its not about last summer. Its about the deep, raw pain inside that has always been there. Its about the questions that have arisen as life has continued to happen the past 11 years. The questions that cliches just don't touch. That platitudes just make worse. When will we wake up and realize that people are going down all around us? Going down in depression...yes, but also in disbelief, in tradition, in selfishness, in guilt, in fear. When will we choose to be courageous enough to sit with someone who is there? And not feel the need to open our mouths with neat answers when none really exist. When there aren't words or easy explanations. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. He knew He would raise him from the dead, but he still wept. Why? Why didn't he just turn immediately to joy? I think it is because so often to feel the joy, we have to learn to experience the grief. Experience...not just feel, but EXPERIENCE. That takes time. Stop running from it. Stop bandaiding it. If Christians could be honest we would sit down together and say the real stuff: "I am apathetic." "I don't understand where God is in all of this tragedy." "I want to feel loved so badly I am afraid of what I might do." But we don't. We go to church, with this mirage that we are ok. So everyone else does the same. And no one is really real. And when they are, we call them struggling. We should ALL be struggling. Living in this world which we were not meant for, should be a struggle. We see half the picture here. This life is all about the struggle. Admit it. How much encouragement and growth could actually occur if we could just admit this and meet together in this place. People could be real. Instead of fake. You can't deal with fake. It isn't real. We need to learn to speak to real needs. But first we have to stop denying that they exist, or worse, judging those that have them. We judge out of fear. Fear out of what is lurking in our own souls.

I would love to just put it all out there. But experience has taught me to keep my mouth shut. To keep on keeping on with the mirage that it all fits together nicely. People have continuously taught me that they cannot be trusted. Not that everyone lies or gossips. But have you ever asked yourself why it is so difficult to be honest with someone about the reality of your heart? Very few people are able to deal with the reality of a pain filled heart. And those that can...are those that have been there. That stopped denying. That stopped faking it. That asked the difficult questions. That persevered. That aren't afraid of others pain because they know the raw darkness from personal experience. They have been there, so journeying with you through yours doesn't terrify them. They know that the night is darkest before the dawn, but that sometimes the dawn doesn't come when we think it should.

Emotion is not sensationalizing. It is real. It is God-given. No we should not run our lives based upon emotion or feeling. But good grief. Can we please admit that it has a place. Sometimes that place is that it needs to be controlled (anxiety). But its still real. Sometimes that emotion is related to something physical (clinical depression) but the emotions involved with depression are absolutely real...hopelessness, sadness...so real in fact that people describe severe depression/anxiety as absolutely hellish. And how could it not be? Many people experiencing it end their lives rather than enduring another day of it. Pain is absolutely universal. Every single person reading this has experienced pain. Our sources are all different, but at some point they intersect. And that point is where real relationship has the potential to grow into something beautiful.

Stop hiding. Stop judging. Admit and face your own. And then use it...to join someone in the trenches of doubt, fear, hopelessness.

You know why I love people who are "struggling" so much? Because they have the courage to admit it. They are the few who are real. And only when we are real, can anything truly happen. Everything else is just fake. Like most of us. I thank God for the real people in my life, and I hope that I have the courage to continuously admit that I don't have it all together, and that I question, and that I don't understand, and that I have done a lot wrong, and that I have known darkness, and that I fear the judgment of others, and that I am not ok. Its the very fact that we are not ok, that makes us need saving, often from ourselves. Someone offers that saving, but to accept that, we must be real. And to be real we must stop judging everybody else and take a look at what lurks within.

And with that I hit submit...heart pounding, and the safety of silence begins to feel more and more appealing, albeit it incredibly lonely.




Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crisis of Faith

So it is no secret that we went through a crisis this summer, and looking back it was as though the event at the end was the crescendo. So many little things led up to it, and then BAM. I had so many deep questions coming into the summer, but going out I was most certainly in a crisis of faith. You know that spot, I am sure. Where nothing seems certain anymore. Where nothing makes sense. Where you feel like you can't voice anything to anyone because they will certainly write you off as a heathen. Or you will cause someone else to stumble because of your own unbelief. So for the most part, you hold it in. Except I had these amazing friends. People that know me so well and that saw past the hurt and the questions and the crisis of faith, to my heart. They encouraged me, loved me, blessed me, talked to me endlessly, cried with me, told me truth in the face of lies, and refused to let me give up on what God had called me to. I will forever be grateful for these people. I want to be what they were to me, to anyone else who is ever in that spot. It was as though they were the hands and feet of Jesus. Really...they made Him feel tangible to me...His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His grace, His tenacity...all of it.

During that time I listened to truth at every chance I had. Christian music spoke more to me than anything else. One of those dear friends made me a mix cd of songs that she thought were for her, but ended up being meant specifically for me. I have everyone of them memorized. But as I started to come through, I have stopped listening so intently to music. It began to remind me of the person and the season that was last winter, spring and summer. I realized this in the past few weeks. That I had developed an aversion to the very thing that got me through because of its association with the person who put me in that spot. And then I realized that if I let that person take my music, it was just another victory for them. Yet another thing that they stole from me. Because God has always used music to speak to my heart. So I put Pandora on this morning...on the docking station. And I even turned it to the old channel that meant so much in August and September and then grew so cold in October and November and December. I turned it up LOUD, and Everett and I listened all morning. The memories did pour in, but I pushed through. These songs were meant to encourage my heart. And they did.

I remember going through a tough time in high school around the time that Twila Paris's song, "I Will Listen" came out. I think I may have just seriously dated myself, but ah well. Anyway...the lyrics of that song ministered so greatly to my heart during that time. Recently, someone posted about the song on facebook. I had all but forgotten about it. So I jumped on itunes and bought it, and as I listened to it, the words had the same exact effect on me that they had all those years ago.
Hard as it seems standing in dreamsWhere is the dreamer now?Wonder if I wanted to tryWould I remember how?
I don't know the way to go from hereBut I know that I have made my choiceAnd this is where I stand until He moves me onAnd I will listen to His voice
This is the faith, patience to waitWhen there is nothing clearNothing to see, still we believeJesus is very near
I cannot imagine what will comeBut I've already made my choiceAnd this is where I stand until He moves me onAnd I will listen to His voice
Could it be that He is onlyWaiting there to see?If I will learn to love the dreamsThat He has dreamed for me
Can't imagine what the future holdsBut I've already made my choiceAnd this is where I stand until He moves me onAnd I will listen to His voice

See...I am through the crisis, but the wreckage remains. I recently had a dear friend ask me how I came through that crisis of faith because she is in it. I think about her question every day, and have yet to owe her an answer. At the end of the day, I just made a choice. Either Jesus is Who He said He is, or else everything is meaningless. All of it. Everything. I would rather be deemed a fool for believing, than live my remaining years in the hopeless meaninglessness of this life being just about me and my 75 measly living years. So much does NOT make sense. It never will. Which is, I guess why He asks us to have faith "like a child." If we could answer every question, there would be no reason for faith. I know that it is so much more complicated than that...but there is a peace in my soul that God is Who He says He is, in the face of the uncertainty of this world and the confusing, earth shattering, death and dying tragedy that occurs in this world. I don't think God causes it, but I choose to believe that He is in it and over it. I have made my choice. 

Can I encourage you today that if you know someone questioning, or hurting, grieving or in pain, to MEET THEM THERE. Don't lecture them, or inundate them with should's. Support them. Love them. No matter how long it takes. Speak truth in love, but show them tangible grace and mercy and love. In so doing, you may have the awesome privelege of being part of the bridge that crosses the gap for them. No matter where you are today, listen to His voice, in whatever way that comes through for you.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Its Worth It

I had grand intentions of enjoying this pregnancy to its fullest extent. I wanted to cherish it, knowing that barring something totally unexpected, this will most likely be the last time I will ever experience this. I never thought I would be ready to say that, but as the pregnancy sickness started rolling in, the deal was pretty much sealed. I have decided, I just can't do this again. And I don't want to. I feel inexplicable peace with 4. I am SURE I will have baby fever again, but to the greatest extent that I will ever feel done, I feel done. But then again...I am in the throws of barfing...

So yeah, the enjoying went out the window...oh, around a month ago. The first week of being sick (started at 5 1/2 weeks), I tried to talk myself out of it. But after a week of it, and week after week getting a bit worse, I just succombed. I am not enjoying this. I am a slave to food. If I don't eat it, I get sick...but if I do eat, the wrong thing (and I have NO good foods this time), I get sick. I can't even hear Jonathan getting a glass of water without having the urge to gag. So, I am down to drinking white cherry gatorade and cranberry juice. And I fight myself to get those down. I have only lost 2 pounds, but with Everett I was able to gain in the first trimester. I have been hibernating in my home for this entire break and its made this manageable. But the kids go back to school tomorrow, and reality is going to quickly settle in as I start work the week after next. My busiest semester yet. Yeah, I didn't exactly plan this beautifully. But again, I dropped the control aspect, so it is what it is. I am teaching 17 credits this semester, and that includes my first time teaching for Cedarville, online. If your a praying person, I can use the prayer. At this point, I know I WILL do this, but I have no idea how. I have already talked to the school about barf bags hiding outside my classroom, and a closer parking spot. I wish I was kidding. I also wish I was like normal women and this would be over in three weeks. I can't even imagine. I am still holding a shred of hope that it WILL go away after the first trimester, but if my last three pregnancies were any indicator...I am in this for the long run.

The good: I am so thrilled to be pregnant. I know this is a privelege not to take lightly. I also know that this will pass. After 39 weeks, I will get my life back and a precious baby to boot. I am not fighting for my life, and I have the privelege of carrying a life. That is a lot to be thankful for. So I am trying to savor the little moments...like when I wake up in the morning and for the first moment, before I move...I feel nothing. I treasure that minute. Or moments like this picture I just posted on facebook where Everett and I say "Cheers" and knock our squeezable applesauces together while cuddling in my bed. Yes, I wish I could feel better, but for now I am still able to bask in the awe of what my body is doing, and the privelege that I have been given.

So we didn't make it to church today. Instead, we listened to my favorite pastor, Alistair Begg on Truth for Living. He gave a great message on Jacob and his personal encounter with God. Got me thinking. So often when we encounter God, it is NOT a great, amazing experience that we want to live through again and again. Most often, God uses suffering to get our attention. Note, I did not say causes suffering...but uses it. So often, this year I cried out wondering where God was in the events of our lives. It felt like so much was crumbling. And in many ways, I feel like I was on a crash course headed straight for what came my way. So many different things played together to make the awful crescendo that finally occured. We don't know that we are in on the brink of crisis, until that moment when it happens. So often I have gone back in my mind to the moment before I knew what I now know. It was as though I was on a cliff and had no idea that in 2 seconds I would step off. I have debated, sought counsel, and read so many books on the source of pain and suffering. Who causes it, what the purpose is, where God is in it. I decided that Satan meant it all to destroy me. And it almost did. I almost gave up on nearly everything I believed to be true. It was an attack on the core of who God made me to be. For a few weeks, I even decided that I didn't want to care about people anymore. It felt so much safer to only love those closest to me. And that even felt risky. But God showed up. He met me in the darkness. He didn't let that which He gifted me with, to be stolen. But He did prune me. I wrestled with so much (and still do). I wrestled with God. I wrestled with myself. What am I getting at? Well, I am not sure who caused what and how much human free will played into it. But this I am sure: God used it. And He got my attention. And I am different because of 2012. I don't want to relive it. I would do it all VERY differently. But that is because I learned. Pain causes us to move. Jacob came through his struggle with God a changed man. Everyone knew it. He was changed on the inside, but it came at a price. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. But it was worth the change. And I felt that this morning as I listened to Alistair. I felt that it was worth it. And that, my friends, is huge. If your not there yet, its ok. I needed people to remind me of that when I was in the throes of disaster. Be patient. Your only responsibility is to be obedient. Whatever that looks like in this moment. Moment by moment.
I by no means have this all figured out. I am largely still in the middle of the mess in my head and heart. But I wanted to share the little tidbit of encouragement I received this morning while laying on my couch. After all, its the little things that keep us going...like sharing applesauce with your almost 2 year old while listening to his sweet voice saying, "Cheers Mama!" Yep...its worth it. ;-)