Three

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been a full three years since Cora was born still into the world. Those three years have passed in the blink of an eye and have taken an eternity all at the same time.

The further we get from Cora’s birth, the easier carrying losing her comes to be. We have been blessed beyond measure to have a little boy, and are expecting our third baby early this winter. Her little brother has filled out house with mess and noise and our hearts with joy that we didn’t think was possible, and has simultaneously reminded us of what we did not get to experience with her. We in no way “deserve” children because we experienced a loss. Our God is good whether or not we have children who live because of who He is, not because of whether or not He grants us what we desire. Most of all, we have seen God’s goodness in the land of the living because of His presence.

He has met my cries for relief with His presence, and tiny undeserved gifts. A three year old that I love spent the month of May reminding me that he would be “free” in June, proudly displaying three fingers to me to emphasize his monumental accomplishment. I couldn’t tell him that I would never, ever forget how old he is. Last fall, a now almost three year old that I love demanded that I put her hair in a pony tail, and then demanded that I do it again because my first attempt didn’t meet her standards. She has fine, white blond hair and blue eyes, just like I imagine Cora would have had if she had lived. I cried when she couldn’t see me anymore, because I didn’t want her to be sad about the gift she had unintentionally given me.

May you encounter the presence of God in the loss or grief that you are feeling. He is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Happy birthday to my first baby; my little Cora Lorraine. Every day I am grateful that you are in God’s presence.

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My Rocking Chair

My rocking chair is a time machine.
I hold your nearly toddler self, hair matted from a day of play and learning, and catch a glimpse of the tiny baby boy with a furrowed brow that I brought home; you struggling to eat, me struggling to feed you and hold myself together. I could see your little neck then, now hidden under the layer of padding that God has given you to cushion your fearless falls and to fuel your exploration. Has it really been a year since you left my womb and filled our home with your presence?
My rocking chair is a metronome.
“Cree, cree”, it says over and over until we’re done. Forward and backward it rocks, on and on until you calm and are ready for sleep. It marks the slow and blinding passage of time, good days and bad days, confident and turbulent days. No matter the day, here is where it ends. Some days I ask the Lord to grant us another good day, and some days I thank the Lord that the day is finally over. My favorite tick of the metronome is when you turn, your mind full of sleep, and bury your nose in my chest. It is then that I try to slow time down by rocking more slowly and holding my breath. One day, this metronome will stop ticking and your daddy as I won’t hold you every night; you will be too independent.
My rocking chair is a battle field, stained with tears, blood, and milk.
We’ve fought so many nights on that tiny battle field. (Forward) go to sleep, (backward) now please, (forward) go to sleep, (backward) now please, (forward) go to sleep, (backward) for the love of all that is holy and sanctified now please. We’ve fought illness and pain together in that chair, fighting snotty noses and hurting gums, twice taking you to the Emergency Department for extra help; sometimes fighting invisible enemies that leave us both frustrated and in pain. We’ve fought my insecurities as a mother when you cried out for your daddy or when the way I wanted to feed you didn’t work and I took it personally. Those nights when we still fought to breast feed, your daddy slept on the floor in your room because I was so scared of my frustration but God saw us through.
My rocking chair is an altar of prayer.
Even before you were born, I rocked in the chair and prayed for you. I prayed that the Lord would be honored by your life, even if He took you before I knew you like He took your sister. After you were born, I prayed that you would grow strong and eat well, and that I would be a mother that would honor Him first. I prayed that God would use your big voice and love of music for His glory; that He would use your strength to love others, your hands to serve, your quick mind to help, your sensitive heart to love. I pray that you would know Him as your daddy and I do.
My rocking chair is a play ground.
Your chubby hands smack the arm rests as you fight sleep in my lap, making enough noise to amuse you. All your weight pushing on the front of my rocking chair makes the blanket draped over the back billow like a ships’ sail as you stand in front of it and pull on the bar in the middle to make it rock without me. The bars underneath become a jungle gym as you crawl around, under, and between them to retrieve lost toys and evade us when we’re chasing you. We read books and escape to distant lands, going on adventure after adventure while you delay bedtime.

If my rocking chair were a rocket ship, we’d have flown to the moon and back twice in your first year with all the rocking we’ve done to fuel it. One day, when you’re too big to rock, my little wooden rocking chair will be full of memories of those flights; full of memories of my tiny boy who’s all grown up. But for now, I’ll rock you for one more minute and kiss you goodnight an extra time to store up enough memories in my rocking chair so that when you’re too big to rock, I’ll have that many more minutes of rocking and kissing to look back on. I will remember when you were just a baby and I was just starting to learn how to be your mommy.

Happy first birthday, #littleman. I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be your mommy.

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Minimal

The month of January is usually full of resolutions and thoughts about a new year and new goals. Most people want to lose weight, be a better person, read the Bible, be a better friend, write that book that we’ve always wanted to write, to exercise, the list goes on.

I love the start of a new year. The cold air whispers hope into my mind that swirls with new possibilities and ideas. I have longed for the last few months to make a new start with a right focus.

I have been so distracted. I have spent valuable time on social media that should have been spent on more meaningful pursuits. I have spent time watching random YouTube videos that both dull my mind and make me feel mildly like I’m missing out on life somewhere else while I miss out my life right here and right now. I have avoided dealing with painful emotions and stress by eating and watching Netflix instead of sitting down, studying my Bible, writing, and praying. I have muted my struggle with self-image by purchasing new, “exciting” items that give me a rush when I buy them that wears off within days.

While Husbandman and I were on Christmas break, we watched the documentary “Minimalism” that sparked a lot of conversation. (I’m so thankful that we both work in higher education and get such generous breaks.) The movie follows two men and their associates who have dedicated their lives to sharing their journey to actively pursuing less in a quest to find satisfaction in their own lives. According to their website, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important- so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” (source: https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/). They say that they’re ultimately pursuing happiness while they work to keep their material possessions to a minimum of the most useful tools.

At first glance, that sounds perfectly sane. Happiness is nice. I like being happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

In her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to discard items that don’t “spark joy”.

Possessions “sparking joy” sounds great.

But is the root of true happiness or even joy what I possess or what I do not possess? Is it seeking my happiness?

Minimalism and decluttering to pursue happiness joy on the surface sound Biblical. Christ Himself didn’t put effort into accumulating material possessions but trusted God to provide for His daily needs. But in modern-day culture, the main impetus of minimalism seems to be on wanting less things in order to live a more personally fulfilled life. That fulfillment is still self-centered. These are not inherently bad things, but they encourage people to pursue their own happiness and satisfaction outside of Christ.

I am a Christian; I have committed to following Christ. The root of my decisions to keep an item or discard it should not be my own happiness or perceived fulfillment. I want to determine how to live my life while pursuing a right-ordered heart. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered:

“37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40( ESV)

My greatest calling isn’t to pursue my satisfaction, even if that comes from service to others. I am to love God with all I am, and to love my neighbor as myself. I am, however, not exempt from living a personally intentional life. As a Christian, I should be careful in my consumption of financial and material things; not dulling my senses to the emotions and needs of others and myself.

So how do I pursue a life that honors God and doesn’t fall into the trap of minimalism for self gratification?

That’s my plan. That’s what I want to pursue this year “out loud” with you all: examining the motivation of my heart in light of God’s truth as I seek to live with minimal distractions. There is so much joy in pursuing the Lord. There is so much freedom.

As John the Baptist said about Christ when discussing his role in Christ’s ministry, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).

Imperfect Transitions

When I begin a journey, I have a clear picture in my mind of the destination. Sometimes this is a strength, and other times, it’s a weakness. Driving home from my parents house always approaches its end with a clear view of the foothills of the Appalachian mountains right before we exit the interstate and ends with another view of my beloved foothills as we turn into our neighborhood. I feel a sense of home when I see the mountains that watched over my journey into adulthood. When I plan out a project, I have a clear picture of the end product and often get frustrated when what I produce is less than Pinterest perfect, which is most of the time.

When I started writing this blog, I had delusions of grandeur of a book contract within six months of my first published post. The Lord has chiseled away at my imagined perfect endings over the past several years, regularly redirecting me to being present and grateful in the process instead of in the end product. More than two years ago, this blog provided an outlet to process my grief after losing my daughter Cora. Grief is a funny thing; it stays part of the very fiber of your being but eventually, it blends into who you are and doesn’t remain a healthy thing on which to focus. Over the last year and a half, I haven’t been able to share or process “out loud” for all to see. Processing things in private has been a gift to me. Grief informs my motherhood, but my son’s life isn’t about the short life of his older sister. The Lord certainly has a mighty purpose for His life, and I can’t wait to see how He moves in Littleman’s life.

My life has kept moving at an almost blistering and simultaneously slow pace since I stopped writing regularly. We walked through a healthy pregnancy closely monitored by the best medical team I could ask for, we welcomed a Littleman into our family and have started the lifelong process of parenting a baby that we get to know, and Husbandman finished his masters degree. (GLORY, HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE LORD. Let’s not do that again.) All “big” things that take forever until all of a sudden, they’re done. I play ukulele now, sort of. More importantly, the Lord has been growing my desire to study His word and speak hope rooted in truth into other people’s lives.

I want to write again, through a new lens. As I told Husbandman the other day, the lens through which I want to write is still being incubated and sharpened. It’s too new and squishy to tell the world about yet, but I’ll share soon. While it incubates, I’m going to keep working on my PowerSheets for 2018. (More info on them here. They’re the bomb. You should do them.) If you’re in a goal-setting sort of mood too, listen to the Goal Digger Podcast interview with the creator of PowerSheets, Lara Casey.

I can’t wait to see where this process takes us, friends. I’m glad to be back. 

Kind

Oh, my friends.

We all need a hug.

Why?

Because, collectively, we are terrible at being kind. And it’s a particular sort of kindness that we lack. We are not kind to ourselves. We work so hard to have grace with the children in our lives. We work so diligently to have grace with our spouses, loved ones, coworkers, friends. We pray for grace and kindness with pets, with inanimate objects.

But when I’m dealing with myself? I have less than zero grace.

Last week, I almost caused a car accident. I cringe as I think about it. We just moved, and the entrance to our new house is tricky to navigate. If you time your turn wrong and can’t see the four way stop not twenty feet ahead of the left hand turn, you can easily pull out in front of someone else. Which is exactly what I did. And instead of speeding up to get out of their way, I stopped and honked my horn. I have no earthly idea why I did this. But I did. And I have beat myself up about the incident time and time again. Because in my head, I should know better. I almost hurt my car. I almost hurt myself and someone else. I almost almost almost almost. And I feel ashamed.

I am even less kind to my body. I’m almost 19 weeks pregnant, and my middle is growing. I have turned into a teenage boy on the hunger scale. And I see myself gaining weight. And it’s so hard to accept that gaining weight is a good thing in this context. Because in my mind, it’s always been a bad thing. I already have stretch marks. I have this fun hip pain at the end of every day that keeps me from unpacking as much as I want to. I cry all the time, even more than I did before. And I expect myself to not need any extra rest. I expect myself to have a super energetic pregnancy. My expectations are unrealistic, and I am holding myself to a standard that I cannot and should not be able to achieve.

The other day, an unsuspecting friend asked me how I was doing. And she got an earful (via text) about how dumb I was being because I’m emotional, I’m not handling things well, and so on. And she was quick to point out how many times I used the word “dumb” in reference to myself. And then this lovely friend told me “This is normal. You’re pregnant. You’re doing a good job.” And I just about cried. (Lie; I actually in-real-life cried.) She had kindness for me when I had none for myself. And I want to pass that nudge along to you.

You’re not perfect. You’re not supposed to be perfect. God created you, and knows all of your flaws. He’s not surprised when you mess up. He’s not surprised when you don’t do well. Now, that’s not license to stop trying. But it is license to be kind to yourself. Sometimes, kindness is asking for help or encouragement. Sometimes, kindness to yourself is accepting a failure, dusting yourself off, and trying again. And sometimes kindness is giving yourself permission to take a break and rest. Sometimes, kindness is working to accept who you are and where you are in life.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV).

Praise God for our failures and weakness. Praise God for His grace and kindness.

Be kind to yourself when…

  • you’re pregnant
  • you’re a momma
  • your heart struggles with wanting to become a momma
  • your heart struggles with not wanting to be a momma
  • your children ate sugary cereal for breakfast because that’s what’s in your house
  • your husband ate Ramen noodles for dinner (again) because you didn’t cook anything
  • you need a nap
  • you lack patience
  • you make a mistake
  • you don’t measure up to someone else’s standard of “beauty”
  • you don’t measure up to your own unrealistic standards of “beauty”
  • you’re only human

be kind to yourself

How do you need to show yourself kindness?

Let’s start here:

Dear self:

Please, be kind to me. Work to show me as much grace as you work to show others. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, and I deserve kindness.

Love,

Me