Category Archives: Parenting

Day 27: The Hardest Grace (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsThere is no one in the world more difficult to show grace to than myself.

I can make allowances for your weaknesses, cover your flaws, forgive your mistakes. I can believe the best in you and speak to the good God sees in you again and again and again. I can tell you to not be so hard on yourself, to give yourself space to learn and grow and fail and try again.

It’s hard to show that same grace to me. But I’m learning.

Today I took deep breaths in the hard moments. I made space for reading stories even when it was inconvenient. I left some chores undone. I adjusted the hours I could spend working and the hours I needed to spent on homeschool.

It wasn’t a perfect day. There were definitely some rough patches. But it was mostly peaceful, and I was mostly not overwhelmed. And that is progress.

Here’s to showing ourselves more grace tomorrow.

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Day 21: The Hard Days (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsSo, I read this post from Lisa-Jo Baker tonight and promptly dissolved into tears.

This has been a ROUGH parenting week. And it’s only Wednesday (Lord, have mercy on my soul!). It’s one of the those weeks where I feel like I’m screwing everything up and utterly failing at motherhood. How on earth will I ever prepare these little humans (who I so fiercely love and who are so fiercely making me want to pull my hair out right now) for life? How can I possibly do this when I feel so unprepared myself? When I mess up on the very thing I was just trying to teach them?

There are a lot of moms in my life who make me feel insecure, but really it’s my own fault for falling into the comparison trap. What I want more than anything is to be fully confident that we are doing the best we can for our kids, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. We’re not responsible for their families, only ours.

I am the worst about admitting when I am un-fine. And I am definitely guilty of finding something to criticize about other mothers so I can feel like I’ve got some edge up on someone, somewhere. I try really hard to reserve these thoughts for strangers, not friends, as if somehow that makes it better. (Um, no. I promise to encourage the next stranger-mom I’m tempted to criticize in my head.)

Sometimes I am afraid to voice the struggles because I’ve heard single or newly married friends say that all the honest, tell-it-how-it-is mommy blogs out there have made them terrified to ever have children. I get this. I have kids and it scares me that some day I might refer to them as chaos-causing little monsters who are turning our home into a frightening, trashed-out wasteland. At what point do we lose our minds and cross that line? Please, God, don’t let it happen to me!

But no, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because my kids most certainly aren’t monsters and they are most definitely treasures. Still, it’s hard right now. Really, really hard.

But first I am reminded that I am not alone. And then I’m reminded that suffering in silence is no good for anyone, ever. And finally, I’m comforted by suddenly recalling a conversation I had at the beginning of September with a sweet couple, now retired and in their 70s. They raised a few kids and lived to tell about it. I shared with them about our upcoming move and other changes on the horizon, and the man smiled at me, eyes twinkling, as he said, “This is a season for surviving. Some seasons are just like that, when surviving doesn’t mean you’re failing and barely scraping by, but it means you’re do something right and pulling the family through a hard place. There will be time for establishing standards, raising the bar a little, but right now, you just have to survive and keep loving each other through it. And that’s ok.”

So I take a deep breath, maybe shed a few more tears, and maybe a few more tomorrow too. But it’s ok. Because we are surviving, and this too shall pass. And we’ll be a healthier family on the other side of it.

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Day 20: Date Night (31 Days of Simple Truths)

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(Obviously, we’re not watching NCIS here. But we’re cute anyway!)

Tuesday nights are probably my favorite night of the week.

My husband and I have been fans of the show NCIS for all of our marriage. He actually introduced me to it on the flight home from our honeymoon—awwww! It’s been our weekly ritual for our entire marriage (except during the summer, the annual State of the Union address, a few random by-weeks, and severe weather tracking—so sad, although we do have a funny story about the weather tracking one. Maybe another time!).

But there was a small wrench in the plan once we had kids who were big enough to not sleep through the whole thing or go to bed at 7pm. It’s not a kid-friendly show.

Separately from that, we were living far from family, he was working crazy hours, finances were strained to the max, and date nights were extremely rare.

So Tuesday nights became our thing. We told the kids that we needed a stay-at-home date night. They would have to go to their beds early, but they could have books, coloring things and a toy or two until we came to tell them “lights out.”

We fiercely protect this time. No, we cannot do anything else on Tuesday nights! And we try to make it special—a bottle of wine, a special dessert, a pint of ice cream, or even a cup of tea. It’s a chance to laugh together, to just be, to not feel the weight of all the hard, life, grown-up things.

And this I know for sure, relationships—any relationship, but especially marriage—take some creativity in order to maintain connection through every hurdle that manages to line up in front of us. It is worth the effort, and it is definitely worth prioritizing.

What relationship needs a little creativity from you these days?

As a weird sort of P.S.: Over the past few weeks of this NCIS season, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of the commercials during the show are aimed at senior citizens. What does this say about Jonathan and me? Are we watching an old people show? Are we old? No one told me! Oh well! We love Gibbs!

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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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Beauty Restores

It is a wearying day.

The struggle to find a rhythm in the new season.

Sick daughter.

Rambunctious determined son.

The relentless laundry pile & meals to be made & dishes to be cleaned & dogs to be let out & work needing to be done so bills can be paid.

***

I can feel it – the cloud of Overwhelming coming to cast his shadow.  The webs of Anxiety and Stress ready to spin their traps.  I step outside to water the tomato plants – one more “to do” – and the Beauty of the day calls to me like a long-lost friend.  I know in a moment how to reclaim this day from Heaviness.

Image Source; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

***

The sick one moves slower than usual, sits for a rest more often.  But she inhales the breeze and soaks in the sun, and her smile comes.  She is healing as I watch.

The rambunctious one runs, wild and free.  The wind carries him – he is faster, stronger.  He chases stray dogs & searches for treasure rocks & sifts dirt through his hands.  He is coming alive as I watch.

And I – the weary one – I sit with words under the soothing cloudless sky.  I drink them in, I pour them out.  I rest for a moment from the doing and focus on just being.  I am refreshed as I pause, see, savor.

Today these are our green pastures and still waters.  Under the pure, undefiled blue, gently whispered to by Nature’s breath, basking in golden light – He restores our souls.

 

 

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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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