From Here

I can almost hear the collective sigh of “We made it out alive” as we all finally shut the door to 2017. Maybe it was a great year, maybe it sucked. From here, I’m glad I came out in one piece.

My word for 2017 was “satisfied”. I wanted to live content with what I was given instead of wishing for something else. I cannot say I lived to that standard, but I can say it was a serious push everyday to be grateful. Toward the end it got messy. It got really difficult. But from here, on the other side of it, I can see how good it was for me.

I took the last two months of 2017 off. No writing if I could manage it, and two weeks of serious preparation for Rosie, our baby girl. (By serious preparation, I just mean a lot of napping and enjoying my family. And eating.)

And now we’re a family of six (!!), and we all survived the chaos of adding to a family. It’s like she’s always been with us.

Now I’m here in this new territory. My hands almost ache as the longing to write resurfaces. This body has miraculously brought new life to this side of heaven for the fourth time, and I made it out of that alive (wasn’t sure I would there for a minute). My heart is tender from the changes.

From here, I can see how my tenderness is fertile ground for His will. I’m not tied to the routine of 2017 because we threw it out the window when November rolled around, and with Rosie’s birth came something fresh. An awakening to the birth of a new beginning, in nearly every way.

I don’t know what 2018 holds, but it’s going to be new. A whole lot of new, and “new” that I don’t even know about yet. For now, it means blogging with a baby in my lap or while I’m nursing her. It means allowing my brain to go back to the place that spins out words like a sewing machine, stitching a pattern that God needs out in the world.

We made it out alive. And I’m anticipating I’ll become even more alive as the days go by, awakening to the new, embracing the change, allowing my tender heart to be cultivated by His hand.

From here, I can see that it was good. It was all for my good, for His goodness and kingdom.

I’m looking at you, 2018. I’m ready to savor every minute.

Eleven Days with Rosie

Eleven days ago, my life got sweeter.

Babies change everything. Having babies changes us, our lives, our other kids, our hearts. Eleven days ago I was so tired and physically spent. I struggled for the last few weeks of pregnancy to be optimistic. All I wanted was to eat ice, crawl out of my own skin, and sleep. Pregnancy is hard enough; pregnancy the fourth time felt like a slow battle. Lots of waiting, discomfort, pain, and wondering if my 27 year old body was actually falling apart.

So the day came. One day before my due date. I had been walking around for nearly three weeks at four centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. I walked into my doctors appointment not optimistic and certain I would be pregnant for another five days. I also didn’t want to give birth. I was scared, and the vivid memories of giving birth in the past (all great, uncomplicated, unmedicated births) just plagued me. I spent a lot of time praying through the fear of the pain I remembered far too well.

Fast forward to twelve hours later, I was pacing back and forth in a hospital room, waiting for my midwife to arrive to break my water.

Roselyn Jayne was born at 1:12 AM on November 9, my only child born on their due date. I remember looking at the clock in between contractions trying to predict what time it would all be over. When she finally arrived and the weight of her rested on my chest, I couldn’t believe it. She was real. Not that I didn’t believe in the clear evidence that I was pregnant; it was that somehow I got this gift. We received a baby girl, and I didn’t believe it until that moment.

And now it’s eleven days later. I just said this morning how silly it is that time is cruel and slow when you’re pregnant but quickly speeds up once the baby arrives. She poops and sleeps and eats, and even when I’m so tired in the middle of the night, I still can’t get over her. I stare at her frequently and ask God, “This is still real?”

I don’t think that having a girl has been the best thing to ever happen to us. I think the best thing has been the awakening to God’s kindness to us, specifically me, on this day and in the last nine months. It is hard adding to our already big family. It is a learning curve for each of us. But His kindness in this has been how He so intricately designed even the tiny details of my life. The epitome of His kindness is in how faithful He is, has been, and continues to be in every way our life sways.

Six years ago I had my first baby boy, and I remember how new and unchartered the waters were. God has changed me, grown me, and shifted me. It is all difficult. The seasons of motherhood change and move like waves, but He has always been kind. In these eleven days, I see it even more in the faces of my children.

Slowly we continue on. We adapt to the newness of a baby girl, and we get the great honor of bringing her with us, calling her part of our tribe, and introducing her to all of the loud, funny, and faith-filled quirks in our family. She is so dearly loved that I’m certain she’ll be one sassy, confident girl like her mom, her grandmas, and the multitude of women who surround us.

Rosie, this world is ripe for you to walk in it. Praying for you was surreal for nine months, but praying for you now is straightforward: there’s people who will be changed by you. I have been changed by you. Soon enough, I know I will have taught you as much as I could, and you’ll be teaching me.

From the Sidelines

This morning I sat down to eat my second Lunchable of the week after hearing the healthy heartbeat of our baby girl. Our baby girl. I don’t know if that’s going to get old anytime soon.

But yeah, you read that right. I’m eating Lunchables, because somehow I’ve found myself at 36 weeks pregnant and managing to keep the pace I’ve been at for the last couple of months. The lunch meant for my son sounded delicious. So I ate it instead.

The world (my world) will be turning upside down in a few weeks, and it just hasn’t hit me quite yet. It’s as though I’m in a little bit of denial. “Yes we’re having a girl…but I’ll see it when I believe it.” “I’ll be pregnant forever probably.” “Four kids is probably going to just be an insane asylum, but maybe my life already is? We could probably add a few and not notice the difference!”

But that stuff is neither here nor there. I am going into forced sabbatical for the next three months. Pregnancy is sidelining, and the days afterward are better and harder and holy and refining. It’s as if time and space don’t hold much weight for a while. And I’m not in the game. I’m not dressed for going out into the Kingdom and doing much other than waddling through my house, unsure if my water is slowly breaking or if I just need to go to the bathroom again. (It’s the latter.)

Being sidelined is not so easy. God, when are you going to ramp it up? I’m right here. Send me out. Give me the task. I’m right here.

You know what I want to do? I want to be able to vacuum and shampoo the carpet in my boys’ room. My oldest has been wiping his boogers on those lovely fibers, leaving me to step in it with my bare feet. But I can’t do it. I can’t lug the carpet shampooer down the hallway. I can’t bend over frequently enough to clean it thoroughly. My body is on a “Heck NO are you doing that” spree right now, and not listening leaves me stuck horizontal on my bed.

So I shelf my pride and ask my husband to do it. I recognize that I can’t do what I want to do because it’s in my best interest not to, and I pass it on. I do what I can. I sit on the bench and wait for a day when I’m not so limited, knowing that effectiveness is not based on me. My effectiveness is based on my obedience.

Obedience for me is shutting my mouth. Getting quiet. Sitting down and taking a break before I start stepping out in something no one but my brain told me to do. Right now, it’s sitting on the bench. Praying heavy, effective, and wrung-out prayers for the people who need them. It’s passing on the things I think are mine and giving them to someone else. It’s hands high, heart light, eyes up.

Every season has a purpose in this life. The one I’m in feels too kind. As I was driving just the other day and praying over my sons and my husband, I just kept saying it over and over: Father, You have been so kind to us. You are more attentive to my needs than anyone ever will be. Even if I can’t see it today, I will see it soon. That’s what this has felt like. A difficult kindness that I’m uncomfortable sitting in, but when I let the holy peace of it wash over me, I cry. He is kind. He knows me and my heart better than anyone.

You are only effective when you are obedient. Even if it’s sitting on the sidelines, your obedience is effectiveness. You might not see the fruit of your season today, but soon, you will.

I’m 36 weeks today, anticipating a day soon when I can share my sweet girl with you. Until then, you’ll see me on the sidelines. Hands high. Heart light. Eyes up.

The Fleeting Pain of Motherhood

They say that a mother forgets the true pain of labor, thus the reason she does it again and again. I think the opposite is true. The more children you have, the more you remember.

I’m almost a “pro” at having kids (if there ever were such a thing). I’ve done this a few times, and it feels familiar. I’ve spent around three out of the last six years pregnant, literally. By the time baby girl arrives, I’ll be looking for a trophy with the title “Most Deserving of an Award for Enduring 36 Months of Pregnancy”.

I have friends who long for this and struggle, and I am not deaf to how I sound. I get to do this. I get to carry children and birth them, and I don’t know how I’m so lucky. And I see you, friends. Your names are often in my prayer journals.

This has felt like the hardest pregnancy yet, in different ways than the past three. The last two weeks alone I wish to forget sooner rather than later. My own body has forced me to lay in bed for most of the last week. I’ve been crying out of frustration, but also trying to hold back tears because crying makes the pain of a migraine even worse. I’ve been confined to my thoughts as I rest, thinking of how much of an incredible blessing and burden it is to carry a child, one that we do out of pure love and most often with steadfast strength and dignity.

Those of us who get to be mothers, be it by birth, by adoption, by foster care, by a distance: this is the bittersweet work we get to do.

It is bitter and harsh and painful. Getting these children in our arms can feel like a battle. Loving them is easy, but keeping them isn’t always so. Some days we wake up and wonder why God chose us or sometimes, why He didn’t. Why we lost when we fought so hard to win. They don’t always love us back in the ways we want, and we don’t always love them in the way we planned. We say things we regret, we cringe over the bad habits they pick up, and we wonder where we failed so miserably when all we wanted was to love them in the first place.

But it is sweet. Sweeter than most any other thing in this life. Even when we fail to parent them in the perfect way to produce “perfect” children, we don’t stop trying. We don’t give up. We wake up and know the day might be painful and difficult, but we rise anyways. We kiss them and hug them hard because we remember how hard it was to get them here in the first place. We laugh with them and teach them, and we hear them say, “Mommy, I wuv you,” and it isn’t so bitter. It isn’t about us at all. It’s about pouring out the love we have, the wisdom we know, and teaching them to run. The bittersweet part is letting them go when we fought to get them here.

Often we sacrifice and often we receive nothing in return. We cry. We get angry. We anguish over empty arms or weep over the kids who have left them. But the Lord is kinder to us still, even if we don’t believe it.

Why this pregnancy is so difficult right now: I don’t know. Why our prayers sometimes feel unanswered: I don’t know. Why life and motherhood can feel much more bitter than sweet: I don’t know.

I’ll keeping going back to the Bible and rereading the scriptures until they are what is fresh in my mind. I’ll take it like medicine to ease the pain of what I feel today as I await the moment when it is no more. For this is fleeting. I don’t want to forget what matters.

 

A Worshipful Life

“Look at this!”

“Uh huh, cool.”

“Mom. Mooooom! You didn’t see!”

I look up, because he’s right, I didn’t see. I was just saying something to appease him for a moment while I finished reading an article. My thumb has frozen over the screen, and I put it to the side so I can really see him, not see him secondhand over the illumination of my phone. He does it again: he shows me how he can balance on one foot. It really isn’t amazing, but to him, it absolutely is. And I tell him so.

He’s my son. He wants my approval because he is my son. He wants my praise and attention, and he has been fighting for it his whole life because wherever I am, there my phone is also.

In my pocket lie hundreds of thousands of people and their soapboxes. It’s my contact with the outside world when I feel overwhelmed with pregnancy and motherhood as I send a text out to asking for prayer. It’s my note keeper and calendar, my venture in being a writer. It is my escape, like a numbing lidocaine after a hard day. I seek not to feel, so I scroll and get blasted with the emotions of everyone else. It isn’t an escape at all. It’s only a false sense of relief that my life isn’t as hard as everyone else’s.

Working, mothering, housekeeping, growing a human is all hard enough on it’s own. I am tired. And you know what I can’t bring myself to do on a daily basis? Get on my knees. Put the Word on my lips. Praise the God I love.

You know what I can do, what I do instead? Scroll. Read my newsfeed. Worship the god of information and push away the God of redemption. The reflection in the mirror starts turning somber, disappointed again and again by a world that will never be perfected, and discouraged by our inability to shut up. We become the teachers Paul writes about, spreading some form of our own Gospel and Truth that Jesus doesn’t want the world to hear.

And we yell. We fight. We argue. We see disaster, cringe, then rally, but it’s never enough. We keep reading. We keep being outraged. We keep feeling like the world is an absolute failure, and we’ll never be able to fix it.

We aren’t the hands and feet of Jesus. We’re all just a bunch of mouths, spewing our interpretations of Christ.

Maybe the world would be better if we weren’t so interested in being heard. Maybe the Gospel would really do the work if we stopped trying to argue about it and change it. Maybe if we disconnected from the thousands and thousands in our pocket and started listening to the ones right next to us, we might not be a bunch of mouths. We might start doing the work.

I was driving home the other night while the sun was setting. The word “worship” came to mind, and I started to toss it around in my head. What kind of woman would I be if my knees were perpetually to the earth, doing every action with my hands, feet, and the words of my mouth in constant worship? What would that look like?

I didn’t expect it to rattle me. Thinking about this stuff doesn’t normally bring me to tears, but I felt them hot behind my eyes. It was like God swept up this thought in my head and this simple little word and said, “Sweet girl, you were made for that. This world is awful, terrible, difficult, and grim. You will see strife. Worship still. Get your knees to that earth. Every detail of your life, make it into praise. Imagine the outcome.”

What kind of people would we be?

As I’m typing this, my two youngest are performing a song right in front of me. Loudly and terribly. They want me to stop writing because they want my attention. My praise. They want me to hear them and smile. So I will. I will stop worshiping a god who never loved me back, who produces a somber woman, and who can never free me.

Here’s to being the hands and feet, no longer just mouthpieces. Here’s to being loud when it’s necessary but primarily silent so we can listen. Here’s to disconnecting from what doesn’t serve God and giving the people in front of us the attention they deserve.

Here’s to making every detail a form of praise.

The Legacy We Leave

I remember only a few parts of my first day of kindergarten. I remember walking to the bus stop with my brothers. We sat down, my brothers sitting close to their friends, and me sitting quietly next to someone I didn’t know. And that’s it. That was 20 years ago.

Tomorrow I get to walk my firstborn down to the bus stop for his first day of kindergarten.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “It goes so fast,” or have been told to enjoy the moments we have with them. I tend to ignore it after a while. But the past week? They weren’t joking, you guys. This all would probably be a bit easier if I weren’t 28 weeks pregnant and crazy hormonal. But this is hard. This feels like the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time.

As I’m sweeping my son in my arms for the next 18 hours before he leaves for school, I’m also acutely aware of all the stuff happening around us. All the world and its chaos. All the posts we’ve been sharing the past few days of, “This is not what Jesus is about.” I agree. The Church is not racism, white supremacy, bigotry, or any of it. We are not that. And while the posts are great, I’m hoping we’re less talk. Far less talk. So much so that we shut up and go out and do the hard work ourselves.

I’m sending my son out into the world tomorrow, and he won’t have me to hold his hand. He always holds my hand when we walk together. My other boys aren’t like that. They’ll run ahead. But Liam always finds his way back to me. He always grabs my hand and holds on tight, waiting for me to lead him.

Tomorrow he will go without me, without my hand, and slowly edge into becoming a person who isn’t so attached to me. I’ll let him go, and I’ll return to my home and remember where the rest of our nation and world is at today. How broken and frustrated people are. And how the next generation is at my feet.

The change isn’t in this post or whatever I share on Facebook or Twitter. The change isn’t in following other Christians who say it better than me. The change is in the way my feet are walking. The things I teach my kids. The way I tell them to treat people who look and act in a way that they don’t know.

You want the world to change? Be it.

I’ve always written about the woman and mom I want to be. I want to leave a legacy for my sons that reminds them how imperfect we all are and how perfect and good God is. And yet, we do our best to love people–all people–because that’s what was done for us.

Now is the time to be her: the woman who isn’t afraid. Who feels like she’s losing her baby, but trusting that God has got him in His hands. She walks in grace and love and knows she is called to act higher. She isn’t intimidated by race. She isn’t afraid to be told she’s grown up privileged. She is teachable, moldable, and incredibly imperfect.

I am her. I am struggling to be her. But I will fight nonetheless to be better, for the sake of the disciples at my feet. And where I fail, I point to Jesus. Where I mess up, I will admit it. And where I am weak, I remind them that it is Jesus who makes me strong.

I am reminded of 1 John 4:18. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

No fear in love. Given perfect love by a perfect God. He drives out our fears. He makes us whole.

It is the legacy we must leave. You want change? Be it.

Prune, Restore & Improve

Frequently, when I seem to be in a rut, I ask others for prayer. In anxiety, stress, frustration, fear, I often seek others for their prayers before I ever force my knees to the earth.

A couple of weeks ago I was challenged to change my ways. Rather than seeking out the faith of others, I would put my own faith into play.

At the beginning of this year, my husband and I both agreed that this year felt catalytic, as if something were coming on the horizon we probably wouldn’t be prepared for. Maybe it was the news of a little girl coming into our lives come November. Maybe it’s the growth we’ve seen in work. But none of those things (although wonderful and good) seemed to be the “thing” we were awaiting.

I get this way about life. I set my mind to the idea that circumstances, situations, our current dealing of life will come to a head, and then things will change. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it takes us stepping up to the plate.

I felt a serious pressing. The Holy Spirit was not going to allow us to walk through our life and this year as though it was just a passing. Just something to endure. God wanted change from me. And I was ever so hesitant.

So He pressed.

The “thing” I’ve been waiting for in this year? It isn’t there. The catalyst in this year is within ourselves, changing the way we think about our life, our purpose, our work, and our goals. Rather than inflate ourselves, God is asking of us, “Is all this for Me? Is the Kingdom getting major glory, or are you just satisfied with everything you have?”

When frustrations hit, I’m not going out of my way seeking the prayer of others. Not that I don’t want or need it, but God wants to hear from me. And I’m getting on my knees a lot more frequently, praying, “Improve me. Show me how to be better. Fix the sin in me. Show me how to walk out my set apart life and give you all the glory for it.”

He’s pressing us in these last five months of 2017. He’s challenging the way we talk. The priorities we seek. The conversations we have, and even the way we serve, love, and treat others. He’s pressing in, pruning off the parts to get us out of the rut of satisfaction in the world rather than in Him.

I often return to the day three years ago when I knelt in front of my bathtub with tears streaming down my face. Evan was beginning freelance, and I was pregnant with a baby I was not prepared for. It was God and I, not anyone else actively praying on my behalf in that bathroom. It felt like hell and heaven colliding, and I didn’t have any solid ground to stand on except for His commands. I prayed until my tears stopped. I remember the words coming out of my mouth sounding like pleas and fears mixed together. I knew I needed nothing more than His reassurance that our lives were never outside of His palm.

In the relatively short life I’ve lived so far, God has been kind to me. He has always heard me. He has always given what I needed and never what I didn’t. He has withheld, and He has sustained. If I’ve learned anything, it is that He must become more.

Sometimes I wake up, and the devil is waiting outside my bedroom door. He tells me my house is too small, our paychecks too little, and our life sub-par. Even worse, sometimes he tells me that there’s no need to grow, there’s no need for change, and there’s no reason to be teachable.

But the Lord. He presses.

So I wake, and I walk out the door demanding the devil to leave with Jesus’ name on my lips. I ask for improvement in the little things and small steps in the big things. I ask for less of me, more of Him. I ask for the Word to stop being a book and instead become fresh water. Over and over, I pray until He invades the parts of me I hide and the places I fear the world to see.

The thing of 2017? It is the Lord changing us and us being a people who responds.

Prune us, Jesus. Restore us, Jesus. Improve us, Jesus. All for Your glory.