Grace to Understand

As my readership knows, this is a particularly challenging season for me.  There’s the new baby, the adjustment from two children to three, the teething, the potty-training, the sibling squabbles and the sibling love…oh! yes! and a move!  I have certainly shed my share of tears and bombarded my husband with a torrent of nonsensical descriptions of my day as soon as he walked through the door.  But in the midst of the tumult I have had a handful of God-given pauses.  In those pauses, life seemed to switch to slow motion and my mind finally grasped  spiritual truths for which it had long reached.

One of those truths involves relationships. I have been agonizing over the people I am leaving behind when I move. I want to know that they won’t forget me or I them. I want to know that our bond will only be strengthened across the miles, not weakened.  And then suddenly it dawned on me: as long as I care for these people and do what I can to stay close, I can trust them to reach back and express their love in the ways they do best. That’s what it means to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  For too long I have tried to force people to live and love the way I do because that’s what I understand best; I now realize that I can rest in my own living and loving, knowing that the differences are good. Understanding my uniqueness is allowing me to understand the uniqueness of my family and friends and embrace it.

This may seem like a very small truth in a very big world, but it has brought me great peace. I appreciate the close presence of God that I felt as I suddenly grasped the relevancy of His Word in this unsettled time.  Perhaps now I am more prepared to meet new people and establish new relationships because I understand that doing so does not mean I am relinquishing the ones I leave behind – as I have long assumed. Perhaps my new connections will further enrich the friendships that are, in fact, not being left behind; rather, they are all coming with me.  Perhaps the world really isn’t so big after all.

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Until the Last Minute

We are going to be moving soon, and as I wait on the timeline to fall into place I find myself pondering and processing the closing of this particular chapter of  my life. I want to stock up on fond memories; take pictures of the most mundane portions of daily life; and determine which items are the most precious and must be packed in my suitcase. Then I started to consider the why behind my frantic attempts to find peace in my departure. I found three reasons.

Insecurity.  I collect precious memories and items with the assumption that if I hold tightly to them I am going to be ready for tomorrow: these treasures of mine are assurances that I do matter to the people I leave behind and that they won’t forget about me. I am fearful that I won’t be happy in my future, but I can always draw up my stored happiness around me like a cozy blanket and feel comforted by that.

Denial. At the same time that I am busy gathering a stockpile of memories, I am also attempting to not think about the approaching change. I am trying to maintain my peaceful routines, to sift through my belongings as if I’m only doing spring cleaning rather than preparing to pack, to simply have fun with my favorite people. And then I remember and cry myself to sleep at night.

Regret. Those bedtime tears are often tears of regret. I had nearly a lifetime to spend meaningful time with my loved ones and now I’m trying to cram that lifetime into less than 2 months. I spent a beautiful morning at the beach with my mom and sister yesterday – the first time we have ever done that despite my mom’s persistent request for it over the years. My mom was right! It was just what we all needed. Why did we wait so long?  I don’t want my regret to multiply which is why I’m no longer putting off until tomorrow what I can do today.

I am fortunate that I have a glimpse of what the near future is sending my way; I am fortunate because I have time to confront  my insecurity, denial and regret before I leave. Rather than clinging to my memories and belongings I should cling to Christ and trust that He will equip me for every good task that lies ahead.  Yes, I want to stock up on memories but only as inspiration for how to live well in the present and not to mourn what can never be relived. This move is a blessed warning that life will not always be the same, that change sometimes drops its subtlety in order to be abrupt and searing, that making memories with my dearest loved ones is not something to be put off until the last minute.

 

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Reflections on my Birthday

My husband recently told me that he has seen maturation in my character with each birthday that passes. I sincerely appreciated hearing that since I rarely see improvement in myself; it might be true, however, because as today approached I fought the urge to cringe at the new number that is now my age. Instead, I have actively chosen gratitude that I can verbalize my age rather than have someone else inscribe it on my tombstone. I have also been pondering the hidden layers to my age.

For instance, in my thirty-two years of life on this planet (I am walking on a planet in the solar system, no less! That’s significant in and of itself!)   I learned how to walk and talk, read and write, figure numbers, ride a bike, swim, and hike in the Alps. I remember our first computer and learning how to type as fast I could; I remember when we got our first “cellphone;” it was about the length of my forearm! I remember DVDs and CDs coming out and wondering if they could truly replace video cassettes and cassette tapes. And then Ipods replacing walkmans, wireless Internet replacing dial-up, flip phones being all the rage and now look at where we are! I have flown on planes, driven in cars, learned how to drive a car, lived on 3 continents, spoken 3 languages, and shaken hands with a former president of the United States. I fought and won the battle against cancer and survived being robbed at gunpoint.

Age also means a transformation in my perspective towards other people. I believe that every significant and perhaps not so significant occurrence in my existence has boosted my awareness of others’ human experiences. I know what it’s like to have a broken heart, to feel lonely and invisible, to be disappointed and discouraged, to question my faith in God and love for Jesus, to hope and hope and hope some more, to have the urge to cry in joy and sorrow at the exact same time, to be utterly exhausted and then feel guilty for how impatient I am because of it, to want help and be ashamed to ask for it, and to feel insecurity and jealousy. I know the exultation of the spirit that comes from having the wind blowing in my face on a mountaintop; the inspirational smallness that is felt when sitting at the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean; the satisfying exhaustion that comes from a full day at home with 3 adorable little people; the enveloping love from priceless hours spent with family; the awe when I am confronted by God’s faithful provision in the minute details of life; the soothing comfort when neighbors become friends.

In the process of peeling back the many layers of my age, I have discovered that with each passing year my life becomes ever more interwoven with other lives. The more I experience, the more connected I am to you..and to you…and to you… and to you. I can feel my critical spirit losing its grip on my heart as I traverse this unpredictable planet; pride is losing rank on my list of priorities as my energy is needed elsewhere. Becoming a wife and a mother have  made the most dramatic impact upon my heart and mind, causing the greatest transformation in my attitude and shaping my character more than anything that happened prior to these newest roles. Why? because now I am truly living for someone else. Nothing can change a human being more than realizing that other lives are fully dependent upon your very existence. Now every inch and detail of my day matters to someone else, and I need to make them count. The result of this staggering responsibility? I turn to Jesus for everything! From the strength I need to take my next breath so I can push my baby out to the restraint I need when soothing a two-year old tantrum to offering my husband an encouraging word after a long day with the kids.  Rarely are my prayers  long and detailed; usually they are a simple, “Jesus, please help me!” But I honestly believe that it’s the remembering Jesus in life’s littlest moments that matters the most.

My reflecting has come full circle. It always comes back to Jesus. He created me in my mother’s womb and is my sustenance every day that I’m alive; in fact, that IS the very reason why I am on this planet.  And that’s a very good reason to have another birthday, don’t you think?

 

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I Wanted to Be SuperMom

Growing up I never had a favorite superhero. They were all cool, but I never connected with any one in particular. However, I did have plans to homeschool my 15 kids, live in a pristine home, cook incredible meals from scratch, adopt all of the stray kids and animals that might wander into my yard, and never elevate my voice beyond normal tones. So now that I think about it, I suppose I wanted to be SuperMom! But life held other plans.

The high expectations I set for myself lowered very little with the arrival of my first child. I still kept a fairly regimented schedule for him and me; with the arrival of my first daughter, I added on a small business and soon had the 3 of us on a finely tuned routine. There were definite hiccoughs along the way with crazy days thrown in here and there, but for the most part I was satisfied with how I was managing home and family. Then came baby number three!

She is a normal newborn with all of the regular disruptions that newborns bring along when they arrive – the piles of diapers, the erratic schedule, the heartwrenching sobs that appear to have no rhyme or reason. I can handle all of that; but add that to also having a new crawler and a stubborn two- year old and I am finding that my SuperMom powers have mysteriously vanished! There are moments when I just sit, mentally skimming through my to-do list and have no idea what to do next. My daily goal is to have all of the laundry washed, folded, and put away but it has not happened since the baby was born. I start a conversation with someone and stumble over my words when I am talking or stop and start over mid-sentence (and I was an English teacher!!). I used to deep clean my house on a weekly basis, bake bread every week, make sure my kids’ faces were spotless before leaving the house, fold their clothes before putting them in the drawer, and take the dog on half-hour walks every day. What happened to me?

As I cried in the shower the other day, it hit me square between the eyes that motherhood is a pride-stripping, self-losing, humility-growing, faith-building calling. In all the glory of singlehood, I thought I knew exactly what it meant to be a parent. I had my list of “My kid will never…” and guess what? I think at least one of my kids has done everything on that list. I also had my list of “I’ll never be THAT mom…” and guess what? You bet I am! And every time I scratch one of those “nevers” off of my list I swallow a bit of humble pie. It’s not a nice feeling, but you know what is? Recognizing that He who has begun a good work in me will be faithful in finishing it. Every bit of pride that is swallowed and every bit of self that is stripped away is making me a more faithful friend, a more loving wife, a more patient mom, and more like Christ. That’s worth more than all the Marvel super powers!

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It’s Raw. It’s Real. It’s Worth It.

My postpartum convalescence has provided me with ample time to reflect on motherhood. If I’ve arrived at any conclusions it would be this: motherhood is not a hobby; it’s not part-time; and it’s most certainly NOT a joke. Allow me to elaborate.

Motherhood is raw. Childbirth is simply a foreshadowing of what it means to be a mother: the intense investment of every fiber in one’s being to deliver life that is completely driven by love so deep that it’s excruciating. And then there is the euphoria that comes when my children learn and grow and flourish, when the connections are made, and when they reciprocate my love.  It is raw because rarely do I FEEL like a good mom; it’s raw because each day is a battle to put self second or third or fourth or fifth or even after the pets; it’s raw because I know that my family often gets my very worst when I most desire to give them my very best; it’s raw because it is 24/7/365 for the rest of my life.

Motherhood is real. At this stage in the game my days mainly consist of potty times, feeding times, nap times, refereeing sibling play times and cleaning the house just enough to keep it from disintegrating. I have a detailed plan for what I would like to teach my little ones; I have a vision for the kind of human beings I would like them to become. Yet when I sit back and evaluate my average day it doesn’t seem like I’m making any progress on the meaningful things since my days are filled with keeping these small people fed, clean, and safe. I even have to follow a detailed routine to ensure that I take bathroom breaks and complete my own personal hygiene before the day is done. And don’t get me started on my house! I love a clean and organized house yet lately it has been anything but that. And my marriage? Well, my husband and I have noticed that parenting seems to overshadow everything right now – even our relationship. We are taking active steps to reconnect as best friends again.  All this to say that real motherhood isn’t ONLY the Facebook highlights, the Pinterest crafts, or the model nurseries. It’s a blending of big imperfect people seeking to raise small imperfect people and that gets messy.

Motherhood is absolutely, totally, beyond a shadow of a doubt worth every moment. I don’t mean to be cliche here, but it’s true. The raw reality of motherhood is what makes it perfectly priceless; it’s my weaknesses that cause me to turn to Christ and to other moms for help. In the 3 weeks since my third child was born, I have reached out to a few mom friends and been indescribably blessed by their loving words of wisdom. One told me to not compare myself to other moms; another told me to remember that I’m not perfect, but I’m exactly the mom my babies need and to rest in that; a third friend shared that I need to accept that I can’t be a mom in my own strength and absolutely need Jesus each and every day (something I had grown lax in). And then there is my very own mother: she has spent several nights at my home, helping with the older kids and the housework and the meals and making sure that HER baby gets time to rest and recuperate. What precious memories I am collecting and treasuring in my heart from our visits together!  I am listening to my baby breathe on my shoulder while I type this. To think that she and her siblings are my daily responsibility to raise, refine, and rejoice over is truly a beautiful thought. I am thankful that this imperfect mom has a perfect Savior who sees the raw, real me as worth it, too.

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Essential Oils and my Birth Story

Eighteen days ago our little daughter made her debut. This is our third child, and it was my prayer and goal to be able to have a med-free delivery. I had inductions the first two times, requiring an epidural each time. I wanted to do everything I could to avoid an epidural, reduce, bleeding, minimize tearing, and hopefully remain infection-free in order to not require antibiotics.

Beginning in my 34th week, I started going to a chiropractor for adjustments and to learn a variety of stretches and exercises that brought me more comfort during those last weeks of pregnancy. These ended up being extremely helpful in managing contractions during active labor.

Starting in my 37th week I began two important oil applications:

-A blend of ylang ylang, helichrysum, cypress, white fir, geranium, and clary sage applied every night to my low back, ankles, and ankles to reduce bleeding.

-The Immortelle blend applied to my perineum every night to minimize tearing.

My water broke the morning before my due date. Contractions didn’t begin immediately so I began applying clary sage to initiate them. When we arrived in the delivery room, we began diffusing clary sage as well as applying it to my abdomen. I am so glad that we did because my body kicked into gear right when they started the pitocin drip. Thankfully, I didn’t require more than the minimal amount of pitocin!  Once active labor began, we started to diffuse wild orange for energy and a positive mood (the nurses loved our room!). My husband continued to apply the reduce bleeding blend every hour. As the pain increased, he massaged basil oil wherever the pain was the most intense. It is a warming oil so it helped my muscles relax; I also found the scent to be calming as well.

I was in active labor for 5 hours and delivered our daughter 14.5 hours after my water broke. I remained infection-free and only had one small tear; my doctor was pleased by this and also said that my bleeding was minimal.  This was my first time of actively using essential oils in my labor and delivery and as I compare this experience to my other two labor and deliveries I can honestly say that they made a  difference. My body, mind, and spirit were all positively impacted by the application and diffusing of the oils. I would encourage all of my mommy-friends to give them a chance and to also consider seeing a qualified chiropractor in the last month of pregnancy.  It’s a wonderful feeling to be in tune with your body and discover it’s full potential.

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The Adventure Begins

This new year is new in more ways than just a number. The sixth day of the year concluded with a tiny bundle of joy in our arms: 45 minutes before her due date. This was my first labor and delivery without an epidural so in some ways it felt like my first time of giving birth, despite it actually being my third. The pain was excruciating and shocking yet I would not have changed a thing; I found myself much more in touch with the journey of life that my body and my little daughter traveled together.  Ten days after her birth I still wonder at the fact that she grew from microscopic to nearly eight pounds in a mere ten months  – and it all occurred inside my own body! Incredibly miraculous! I do not want to lose that wonder with any of my children because that wonder nourishes my joy.

And abundant joy is the theme of my new year. I know that a home with 3 small under the age of two and one-half years is going to be a challenging one, but I pray that it will be a peaceful and joyful one.  The past week and a half of stretched me more than the past three years have as I seek to meet the unique needs of each of my little ones, making sure that each one is assured of his or her special place in our home and my heart. I can only imagine what it will be like when the baby no longer sleeps quite as much and the middle child becomes mobile!  But as long as I seek Jesus first, I know that He will fill my heart with joy each new day and provide me with the wisdom and calm that I need to care for my precious family and home.

I plan to blog a couple of times per month about this new season in my life as a way to reflect and rejoice. I am looking forward to it!

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