Category Archives: Motherhood

Day 7: Magical Breakfast (31 Days of Simple Truths)

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This one’s for all the weary mommas out there. Or anyone who is tired of making dinner or struggling with picky kids.

Breakfast for dinner is magical. It makes the day feel like a special occasion. It makes the mundane feel a little more bearable. It can be fancy or it can be simple. It just works.

We had quiche, fruit salad and cinnamon raisin toast for dinner tonight. And lest you think I spent the day working hard in the kitchen, I had some pie crusts in the freezer from another day when I was going to make quiche, but the oven broke. Further, I forgot to take meat out of the freezer to thaw. On top of which, I had a really intense work day. Basically, I completely didn’t have it together, and breakfast saved my tail. The kids declared it the best dinner ever! I win!

In stark contrast with the intensity of yesterday’s post, I invite you to take a deep breath, let go of everything that feels so serious and complicated, and go scramble some eggs.

31daysOfSimpleTruths

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Cooking, Motherhood

Pausing for Gratitude

The final days of January are dwindling down—a month I went into with a lot of question marks and a strange cocktail of dread, anxiety and hope. But here I am on the other side, happy to report that I survived. We all survived. (I know most of you never doubted we would, but I did.)

In marked contrast to the swirl of emotions I carried into the month, I find myself with only one overpowering everything else now: overwhelming gratitude. Deep, deep wells of thanks.

IMG1565My daughter had surgery the very first week of the year. Of course, there are so many emotions that come with something like this, but there was one I didn’t allow myself to voice in all the weeks leading up to it. I was really afraid of being alone. We were expecting to be in the hospital 2-3 days, but my husband was only going to be able to be off work one day. And every time I thought about sitting there alone, I cried. But I didn’t want to say anything because I knew we couldn’t afford for him to take any more days off work, and I didn’t feel like I had anyone else I could ask to come be with me.

On New Year’s Day, my dad mentioned to me that he was planning to be at the hospital the day of the surgery, to be there for his grand baby and in case we needed anything. And I finally had the courage to ask, to say that I was more worried about being alone the day after her surgery and if he could only come one day, could he come then? He didn’t hesitate, just said, “I’ll be there.” I could have sobbed with relief.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect. Would he come for just a little bit? Would he only come one day? I didn’t know, but it was enough knowing he would come.

We ended up in the hospital a total of 3 days, and my dad was there for each one. He came in the morning, and he stayed until my husband came in the evening. One night, he stayed even longer because his granddaughter asked him to stay and watch a movie, and of course, his abuelo-heart couldn’t resist! He made sure I had coffee, and he made sure I ate. His mere presence was so indescribably calming to me. There were so many little things, little moments that might not have meant anything to anyone else, but they meant everything to me.

IMG1571He was the first one to coax a smile out of my baby girl post-surgery when he showed up with this balloon whose picture bore an uncanny resemblance to our dog.

When she wouldn’t eat, he’s the one who thought to buy some strawberries from the frozen yogurt place, and she devoured them—practically the only solid food she ate for 3 days. He helped me get her to move and get around so we could actually be released from the hospital.IMG1568

But more than anything else, he was the presence and nearness of God to me in a situation when I desperately needed my own heart to be seen. And because my Papa saw me, I knew God saw me. The intense comfort of this has lingered with me even to this moment when my eyes are blurring with tears yet again over the wonder and unconditional love of it all.

When we finally got home, I started to get overwhelmed with the thought of needing to not only take care of my recovering child, but also my son who would still be full of energy. And everyone would need to be fed. But when my mom showed up to bring my little man home, she came with bags of groceries—things to put together easy, healthy meals for a few days. She had already sent a container of soup with my dad one day, thinking ahead and making a double batch one night as she’d fixed dinner. And just like that, another burden was lifted off my shoulders.

My son can still be quite clingy to his mommy, and I was worried how the separation would affect him while we were in the hospital. But my mom and brother loved him on so much, so extravagantly, that he was more than fine—he was so secure and so seen. He came home bubbling over and amazingly prepared to be patient and gracious to his sister.

I am still in awe of the way my parents wrapped my little family in so much love. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise; they’ve always been pretty wonderful, and my own mama-bear heart would do anything for my own kids. But still it humbled me and touched me in a way I don’t even really have words for.

I am reminded all over again of the sustaining power of love. My parents didn’t have any power to change what we had to walk through, but they loved us through it. They saw the needs, and they did what they could do. And it did more than keep me surviving; it challenged and inspired my heart to new depths of loving people.

IMG1575If that wasn’t enough, women from my writing community—some of whom I’d never even met or interacted with much before—showered my daughter with art supplies so she could do what she loved while she went through her recovery. Daily, when she pulls these things out, she marvels that people who don’t even know her loved her enough to do this; she is also getting a glimpse of how far love can reach.

So here we are, on the other side of it all. And I am grateful that we were not alone, that love appeared in extravagant and unexpected ways. I thought I’d be trying to mostly block this month from my memory, but instead, I am tucking it away to treasure.

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Filed under Love, Motherhood, Presence

Entering in with Trembling Faith

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My Prissy Missy at 9 months old

I cried myself to sleep last night.

Most of my day was hijacked by needing to take my daughter to the doctor, something that pushes me to the brink of my emotions every single time. I don’t handle it well even a little bit. And there’s a reason why.

***

When my baby girl was born, we didn’t get to hold her right away. The nurses had been cleaning her up, weighing her, all the usual post delivery stuff, when another nurse came over to my husband and me and said she needed to talk to us.

I will never forget the fear that gripped my heart before she said a single word.

She told us our baby had a little skin tag at the base of her spinal cord, which could be no big deal and easily removed or could be indicative of spina bifida. Which has varying degrees of severity ranging from relatively harmless to the inability to use her legs. They needed to be very cautious since spinal cords are a pretty serious thing, so they needed to take her immediately for some sonogram pictures to determine what we were dealing with.

And just like that – a huge black cloud over all the joy and anticipation. I was already nervous about becoming a mommy, completely overwhelmed by the whole delivery process and the craziness I was already feeling in my body as the post-birth adjustment began. I remember feeling something go frozen inside me. All I could hear were those words, “worst case, she would not have the use of her legs” and all I could see were all the lovely ballerina things I had set aside for decorating her room. It felt like a cruel trick.

But I mustered up some smidgen of faith, asked people to pray and waited for them to come back and say it was nothing.

We waited for forever, it seemed, before they brought my baby and I actually got to cradle her close for the first time. Apparently she’d been kicking her legs and squirming the whole time, so they were fairly certain movement wasn’t going to be a problem. For now. But still, it wasn’t nothing. My disappointment was intense, but I did my best to tuck it away, to be strong.

What followed were visits from specialists and the process of finding a pediatric neurosurgeon – a practice so specialized that there are only 5 of them within a 100-mile radius of Dallas/Fort Worth. And lots of calls to the insurance company to get it all sorted. On top of the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn who struggled so much to nurse because she did not get to eat for a long time after she was first born.

When she was one month old, we had to take her in for an MRI. And since you have to be perfectly still during an MRI and she obviously couldn’t do that, they were going to have to put her under anesthesia. I was brought a waver specifying all the risks of anesthesia, plus the extra risks of giving it to a newborn, and all I remember is not being able to see as I signed my name, my eyes blinded with tears prompted by the last line of the waver, which said something about “while not common, death is a possible outcome.” It was too much for my new mommy heart.

But I mustered up another smidgen of faith because lots of people were praying that everything would come back normal, and we could finally move past all this, no surgery required.

And so it was with a crumbling heart that I sat in the surgeon’s office for the follow up visit, clutching my husband’s hand, listening to the surgeon explain how she needed the surgery sooner rather than later, before she grew too much, because she had a tethered spinal cord which could either cause no problems or lots of problems and it wasn’t worth taking a chance. I remember my husband saying, “We were praying everything would be fine, that it would be just a skin tag.” And I remember the surgeon’s almost mocking reply: “I could have told you that wasn’t going to happen. I’ve seen plenty of these and they always require surgery.”

My smidgen of faith disintegrated. Why on earth did God not answer this prayer? Why couldn’t He have proved the smug all-knowing surgeon wrong? Why did we have to subject our tiny baby to surgery?

But we did. When she was 3 months old. They had to do the whole thing under magnifiers because she was so tiny. What was supposed to be a two hour surgery turned into a four hour surgery, partly because she was so small, partly because they also discovered a cyst on her spinal cord that they needed to remove.

When we met with the surgeon afterwards, he said the surgery had been successful, they’d managed to get “most of” the cyst, there was only a 20% chance of her spinal cord re-tethering, all we could do now was wait for her to grow.

Wait, what? It’s not over? Just a “wait and see”? They told us potty training would be an important time, that if she struggled to get the hang of it, it would be a possible indicator that all was not right.

I can’t even begin to tell you how stressful potty training was. It’s hard enough as it is – but were the problems normal or due to complications that would mean more surgeries? We managed to navigate that season, but it was not without many, many tears and lots of fear on my part.

***

Which brings me back to Monday in the doctor’s office and me crumbling. They couldn’t quite put a finger on what was going on with her and due to a recent infection she had and her medical history, they decided they’d better order a round of x-rays/tests on her kidneys and other organs. It’s probably nothing, they say, but just to be on the safe side.

And they don’t know what those words do to me. I realize many people have gone through much worse medical issues with their children, at times have even lost their precious treasures in the process. My heart aches for them with a measure of empathy. And just because there are worse situations does not make our struggle any less valid or real – something I am only just accepting and why I am only just able to fully admit my wrestling.

All I want is certainty, to know this issue is no longer an issue, no longer even a faint question mark on the horizon. I want to be able to take care of my children when they’re sick without having to lock myself in the bathroom and weep because I am so afraid.

I’ve been through all the prayer classes and read the books and learned the Scriptures and I know how I am supposed to pray over my children. Full of faith and confidence because ultimately they are God’s, not mine, and He loves them and has a plan for their lives. I try. I do. I declare the things I’m supposed to declare, I reach down deep to find that mustard seed of faith . . . and so many of my prayers for my children end up with me sobbing, pleading with God to please just take care of them, let them be all right. They are not confident prayers; they are desperate prayers.

Because He didn’t heal her before. Because the money for the insane medical expenses was not miraculously provided. Because the surgeon could not say “We got it, she’ll be fine.”

Here is my raw, vulnerable truth: I massively struggle with faith for miracles, especially healing miracles. I work for a prayer ministry, for crying out loud. I hear the voices of a lifetime in church, explaining unanswered prayers as the result of a lack of faith, and I wonder what that means for my prayers over my children.

But then I wonder if maybe, just maybe, God understands my quivering mother-heart. Maybe He sees it as faith that I am still praying at all, in spite of countless disappointments. Maybe He sees it as faith that I keep trying to trust Him with my most precious treasures again and again, even though it is so hard. Maybe He sees it as faith that I am coming to Him every time with all my tears and uncertainty, still reaching and looking for Him in the fog.

Maybe that is faith after all.  So I enter in again and again – into my own heart and into what I believe to be true about God’s heart, that He is far more gracious than we have taught Him to be, that He measures faith far differently than we think. And I wait.

 

*Linking up today with Marvia Davidson for Real Talk Tuesday.

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Filed under Faith, Miracles, Motherhood, Parenting, Uncategorized

Speaking About God

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Mommy, a few weeks ago at church, all the kids were saying that God sets us on fire to clean us out.  And I said He didn’t.  I was the only who said that.

Her sweet face looked up at me, those wide eyes seeking to understand.  I hear more than curiosity in her voice.  I hear the bewilderment of being the only one with a differing opinion, the sense of being too little to know how to speak up.  And just ever so slightly, the tinge of fear.  Could this be true?  Would God do this?

I look at this precious one, so like me that it absolutely terrifies me some days, and I begin to explain, slowly, pausing so she can ask more questions if she needs to.  I explain that, no, God is not going to light a match and literally set her on fire. (Lots of relief in her eyes here.)  And I explain that it is a picture to help us understand.  We talk about gold and how it has to be cleaned up and how they use heat to bring the impurities to the surface.  And I tell her how the Bible says God is a consuming fire – a picture for us to understand how He shapes our hearts. (I do realize there is more to that imagery, but she’s 4, so one thing at a time.)  When we come to Him, He helps us remove meanness and selfishness and other “icky things” from our hearts.

I see the understanding set in, and I am about to leave the conversation there when I feel that familiar nudge in my spirit.  What is the one thing above all you want your daughter to carry in her heart all the days of her life?

In a split second, I remember all the years of striving – trying to be pure enough, right enough, worthy enough, good enough.  Somehow the messages of needing to be better outnumbered or at least out-shouted all the messages of being perfectly loved just as I am.  It has only been very recently that my heart has been able to truly understand grace, and even then, it is an uncomfortable process at times to let the wonder and simplicity of it fully consume me.

So I look at my treasure and say, “Do you know the most important thing you can ever know about God?”  I see the longing spring into her eyes.

“He is love.  [Referring to a previous conversation we’d had] Do you remember how the devil wanted to be powerful?  He wanted to be God? [She nods.] The devil doesn’t understand that love is most powerful of all.  And even when you mess up, God loves you so much.  You can’t do anything to change that.”

The smile that breaks across her face is like the sunrise.  And she says, “Let’s sing about love.”  So we do.  And she runs off to play with her brother.

This exchange with my daughter (which her brother also sat there absorbing) has left me thinking a lot about the language we use to speak about God. How much have I said over the years that has actually made people afraid to know Him?  How much have I said that made people feel Christians must have a secret language, one that is bizarre and difficult to decode?

Not that everything Jesus said was always perfectly clear to every listener, but He most certainly was not out of reach to anyone except those ignorantly certain of their own rightness – something I absolutely do not want to be.

So I am seeking a new language, first so I can be a healthy part of the spiritual process for my children, and then so I communicate about Him to the world around me in a way that represents Him as He truly is, a way that brings them nearer to His heart, His “fire” and not farther.

 

 

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The Depth You Never Knew

Motherhood took me by surprise in so many ways.

There’s the very literal aspect because neither of my children were really planned.

I was never the type that just loved kids or was really great with kids, so I spent most of my first pregnancy in silent anxiety, crying tears alone, ashamed because I should have been excited but instead I was terrified.  Not because I didn’t want her, but because I was certain I would fail her.

But there was that last push after 24 hours of working on her delivery, and I could not believe that miracle had just come out of me.  They laid her on my chest, and I fell in love.

Today I am sharing on a dear friend’s blog as part of a series on Creativity & Motherhood.  Join us?

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