Category Archives: Parenting

Weaning

Ten years ago this past month I began nursing my first born baby girl, and this exact month a decade later I weaned my last baby boy.  The beginning was an awkward beautiful rite of passage to motherhood and the end an emotional compilation of natural closure and necessity.  At 17 months, my baby is completely nourished by a healthy diet of solid foods and less interested in nursing.  I needed to prepare my body a few days in advance for our service trip to Honduras with malaria medication that was not okay for nursing. I left it up to him in those last few days as he was already growing less and less interested.  I was letting this natural process unfold and not offering what I knew was so good for him, unasked – a lesson I know I will come back to over and over throughout the years.

With his little “milk” fist pump sign language, he tugged at my heart and I would willingly respond.  It was emotional for me.  My husband would send me up to the rocker that we splurged on with our first, I knew out of both his sense of practicality and to honor sentiment – to get every last bit of worth out of our most expensive new-parent purchase and for me to be able to have a special moment where I first held and soothed and fed all of our babies.

With 4 children and the smart phone era, nursing has been a fairly distractible time of practicality and efficiency.  If a kid, or three, are near, there is always someone asking something of me even as I sit bound to my babe.  Or, I have had the chance to get caught up on an e-mail or a social media hit.  About 6 months in, it dawned on me how much my nursing life had changed over in a decade.  I had begun my nursing life bound to sit.  I prayed, read or just gazed at my baby in a quiet nursery for what seemed like half of my waking (and sleeping) hours.  It was soothing and sweet, quiet, sometimes lonely, time for me to think and look and smell and see my sweet baby.  It made me sad to think of my last baby looking up at a face that wasn’t gazing back at him, and for myself to not be relishing this precious time.  I knew all too quickly, my babe-in-arms days would be on the go with the boundless energy of a toddler taking on the world, too busy experimenting to be held quiet and still.  Oh, it’s already happening –  drawers are being emptied, bookshelves cleared, little feet pitter-patting to the next exploration – and my heart just hurts over the change, always hurting for what is going away and expanding for what is to come.

I put away my phone those many months ago while I was nursing, and I sequestered myself to cozy quiet(er) places in order to choose presence, and it was worth every minute.  I memorized his eyes, the gray-blue becoming brown, eyelashes unfurling, the wisps of hair growing fluffier, and I kissed his sweet baby toes a thousand times.  We touched each others faces, his small hands memorizing me and my large fingers tracing tiny features.  I remember when my first-born discovered my eyelashes and she would ever-so-gently take her little finger and brush it back and forth across each set.  My second had a thing for hair, still does.  As I’d nurse him he would splay his fingers wide and draw his hand back and forth through long cool strands.  Even now at age 8, when we are cozy on the couch or cuddling before bed he’ll say “can I touch your hair mama?” and he’ll gently stroke his hands through as he is visibly soothed by the sensation.  And my third, her thing was ears.  If you knew her as a baby you are smiling now, because she probably played with yours too!  As I’d cozy her in to nurse, her little finger and thumb would instinctively go to my earlobe and she’d gently rub the soft skin endlessly.  I miss these moments like mad.

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I took this photo 3 days after the birth of my last baby, after a decade of burgeoning belly shots filled with hope and expectation.  I was sad to see my belly so quickly diminishing.  A strange thing to miss, I know, but it meant so much more than bothersome baby-fat to me at the time.  It represented a womb that would never be full again.  Much as I am intentional about that choice to be done with 4 kids at home, it isn’t without grief.  My postpartum belly left me in shock after my first.  I remember the big soft jiggly belly that came home from the hospital with me and thinking, “hmmm, now I don’t remember anyone telling me about THIS!  What the heck? When does THIS go away?”  By the 5th, I was extremely sad to see it going.

My kids are all here now, or there in heaven, and we are all done.  Well, we think.  But we’ve decided and are so far on the track of preventing any more.  A friend recently sought advice for her 40th birthday and after a few brainstormed trips and triumphs for a good celebration, one said “I had a baby my 40th year. That’s one way to celebrate.”  And it’s the one idea that made my heart skip a beat, “Now that sounds fun!” I thought. Truly.

But I am done.  All done.  Four was the hope and four is our limit and we are stretched to capacity all the time. (Oh, but it’s not so bad really – what’s one more? we say.)  Friends who began when we did and ended earlier are out on family adventures together – ski trips and un-baby-friendly hikes and such.  That looks fun too, I think.  Our oldest are nearing pre-teendom, are they getting what they need from us?  Can we really be there for them when there are still diapers to change and choking hazards to constantly, constantly scan for?  Will they ever get all they ever need from us?  Of course not, and I know better to think they should.  But still, my big huge aching love for each of them is vast and immeasurable and I just wish sometimes I has a clone of them for each day they’ve lived.  I cannot fathom I will never again see my first born’s first dance hip hopping back and forth to mother goose songs on her little CD player (which of course she was so brilliant to figure out on her own at age 2).  Never again will my first little guy snuggle in my arms, head-to-feet between my elbows.  Not any more will my spunky 3rd child say “hold you me?” with arms spread wide now that she knows to say it “correctly.”  And not ever again will I nourish my baby from my body, giving life and sustenance, comfort, bonding, immunity, health, closeness and connection in the very closest way, ever, again.  This feels hard.  But this feels right.  And in some moments feels good.

Time marches forward and I dream of the day I can pursue a Ph.D. or publish a book, take ALL of my kids skiing, or walking, and know all will be safe without a hand from me.  But I pray they will always reach back to hold this hand far beyond when they will need it to stand.  I pray we will have woven our hearts together similar to the miraculous ways God knit them together in my womb.  This will take work on our part to see and know them as they need to be seen and known.  I will do my best at that commission and consider it my greatest work.

I strive for meaning and purpose in my life and faith, ask God regularly what He has for me to do in this world and who He wants me to be.  I know I am meant to be a mother, above all else.  I work at my career with a full sense of calling, but the work of my womb has been my magnum opus.  The work my body did nearly without need for the mind and will I so intentionally put to every other task of my life, has been the most beautiful work I can behold.  To have created and carried these eternal souls.  What a gift.

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Vigilance

I make my rounds each night holding my breath hoping they’ll breath theirs strong. Say last prayers with a kiss, grateful for warm cheeks meeting my lips, rising ribs beneath my palm. I brush gentle upon their foreheads, soft across hair, wondering why loving is so full I could burst with gratitude and so hard I could wilt. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to give all to these little lives, everything I’m capable of, for a life lived better than my own. Daily it dawns on me fresh how incapable I am of everything I hope to be as I strive to guide them toward what I can only glimpse they’re meant to be and it’s all a precarious too precious road.

I want them to thrive, to be kind, to know God’s love and people’s love and self love in easy ways that are hard for me to grasp. So much more than potential and success of this worlds contriving, I hope for good hearts, beautiful spirits, character that does what is noble and right. So much more than goodness for pleasing’s sake, I hope for wholeness living abandoned to what one’s been created for; ability to embrace fault and flaw within and without, see space for grace, inside and out, and the potential that shadows cast for seeing with more depth and feelings more real.

If I love so deeply then why do I live so imperfectly? If I long to be the best I can for them, why do they see my worst? When I read and study and teach and yearn to know right strategies, research, narratives, and antectodes, why then do I still lose my temper over sibling squabbles and spilled milk? When I know it is all par for the course and atleast 5 positive ways to handle it better than I do. I have patience, and good skills, and a heart so full to be sure, but shards of glass sometimes cause me to crack, laying bare how we are all so very broken.

I was having tea with a dear beloved nurturing mom friend while our children played at our feet, literally crawling under table and chairs. She watched her mature son’s rambunctious play cause a fragile dish, gifted, from another country, fall from the table to bits. As he hung his head in shame she said, “No, son” and made sure their eyes met, “it’s not things that matter it’s people. It was just a cup.” Her words were gentle and sure. I was moved because she was brave to speak what makes my heart sing. So why do I still sometimes shatter when things shatter and shatter the ones I love most when I’m tired or lonely or feeling unlovable? Having been a witness to her strength of composure and grace, I loved her even more, my own children more, and even made room for myself more to break cups on good days and bad, and hold the face of the beloved between soft cupped hands with strong seeing eyes willing to witness it all and still say, “its you, above all this mess, that matters.”

Perfectly held, however imperfectly loved, we are given these gifts of life so divine, so precarious so strong, praying against all wrong done to us and born within us, that we might not be so rambunctious as to shatter spirits, but rather strengthen souls. Let us be diligent to hold precious the cup up, beyond our own hands, to seek after sustenance overcoming ourselves, yet doing our part to will our wildness to love abandonedly better than we’ve ever known, so that those who go after us might better represent He who went before us.

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Bonding

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I respond to you 1,278 times in a day

See you, feed you, bounce you, burp you, swaddle you, change you, bathe you,

hold you, soothe you, sway you, rock you, kiss you, kiss you, kiss you 382 times a day

I am here,

for you

your little eyes look into me,

nearly expressionless, with so much thinking going on

we recognize each other,

as if it’s been years,

in these first few days.

we study each other’s faces,

memorizing what is forever changing

until you’re all worn out from the looking

and your body melts into mine

and then your eyes close again

and your breathing lengthens

as does mine

we are becoming familiar with one another

though we’ve had nine months growing together

separate now, we are attaching

nuances of your personality are expressed in your needs

and I’m falling in love with everything

though you have nothing of reciprocity to offer

no smiles, no words to say thanks

my gratitude and hope so big I could burst

for a life just beginning

your breathing is all I need to keep going

Thrive little one!

Eat, cry, sleep, grow, scream for what you need

I will seek to give it to you,

learn the language of your cries,

speak sweet words you’ll only understand in tones

you can trust me, sweet one

throughout long days and tiresome nights

I will care for you, give to you, know you, love you,

your whole life long

this and so much more

I am blessed to give

because you

You, my love

are the magnum opus

the great work

the masterpiece of this life

I have co-created an eternal soul

and how divine it is to be a witness and worker

in these first days of life (and forevermore)

when you are so fragile, and fully alive

hoping for decades of days

20,000 or more

with you my love


Born to Bless – Part I


We have celebrated a handful of birthdays recently of family and friends. My husband and I were born a year and a day apart. The year “birth-aversary” of our church (which in many ways was not so different than having a child) happened to fall on my husband’s birthday and my children just celebrated their half-birthdays.

Birthdays are a big deal in our house. We like to throw parties, make things festive, prepare good foods to share, and have a reason to celebrate the people we love so much. Everyone gets into it as we all buzz around preparing for family and friends and what always proves to be a joyful few hours out of our ordinary lives. I consider our celebrations a spiritual discipline (after reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline a favorite book of all time, that in the end encourages us to find reasons to celebrate as the bible does), an exercise joy when so much of life and spiritual pursuits can be so serious. The kids love to hang streamers, make the nearly famous fruit skewers that go in the flower urn to look like fireworks, and are usually busy preparing hand made presents for all the guests of their own design.

My husband and I especially love to host and as each one is scurrying to put finishing touches on things we laugh and say “I am glad I married you because I am sure all this craziness would drive many people nuts.” And afterwards, as we do the work all over again to clean up, sweeping the floors, gathering garbage, passing dishes along to be dried in the dimly lit kitchen of the now-silent house, we relish all the highlights,

“wasn’t that fun?”
“who did you get a chance to talk to?”
“wasn’t it great to see so and so?”
“how are they doing?”
“oh and weren’t all the kids having such a great time?”
“did you see this child do this, and that child do that?”

and we go to bed happy, full, blessed.

One way we show our love at birthday time is gifts. I love to give gifts, I love to get gifts. There are just a handfull of people in my life with whom I still exchange gifts and it is just a fun little love language that I speak and understand. My kids of course love gifts too (what child doesn’t) and I have to say I don’t mind a reason to indulge them on these special days of the year.

This is all well and good, and yet, there is a piece of me that struggles with the idea of gifts, doesn’t want to be materialistic or wasteful, and wonders if we really are ever doing enough to help the world with what we have been given? As faithful as we have always been in giving more than our 10% to our church and a variety of other ministry organizations, give of our time to ministries ourselves and for missions, that scene in Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is realizing he could have given his watch, his coat, his every possession to save one more life always pierces me.

Will I get to the end of my life, my cause, God’s cause for my life and regret what I held back from those in need in order to gift my already blessed family and friends? I wonder. Jesus also blessed the woman who poured expensive oil on his feet. Though others saw it as a waste he told them her gift was good and timely. I hope the gifts I give to the blessed with discernment and love in my heart is seen as good in His eyes.

To counterbalance the me-focused gift wish list of birthdays (that I recognize I fully encourage by enjoying the giving), I had an epiphany for half-birthdays. We also want our kids to be generous and giving and thoughtful of the needs of others (so far they really are – I think God hardwires us that way, and it is our job as parents to encourage it). Last year we started this new tradition with my then 4 and 6 year olds on their half birthdays. On this day we would celebrate them with affirmation and favorite foods, but no gifts (so don’t ask). Instead this would be their day to gift the world. The kids’ earn allowance money and give some to the church, we participate as a family in saving up for special campaigns, regularly donate our time and money to causes we feel will honor God in a way our kids know about, but I wanted to instill in them the value that they can be mindful of what God places on their hearts and respond in a way that makes the world a better place. They get to decide what they think God would want them to, what matters to them and then we as a family help them carry it out.

Last year my 4 year old son wanted to make a treat for the hardworking staff at our seasonal business. My 6 year old daughter wanted to donate her gently used things to people in need. This year it was cupcakes for the summer staff (made from scratch with strawberries we’d picked) and granola bars in our car to give to homeless or hungry people we see on the streets. The kids come up with the vision and make all the decisions about how to carry it out. They always ask what the signs say that people hold on the streets and they want to do something to help, so we went to Costco and they picked out the biggest package of granola bars they could find so our family has something to give. We end the day with a favorite dinner and one by one we go around the table and tell the half-birthday person what we love about them. Much as I love giving gifts and having parties, half-birthdays rival the real deal for making some pretty meaningful memories.

Every year we will do this and my hope as they continue to grow in wisdom and maturity that their sense of vision for what God places on their hearts to help a hurting and broken world will be carried out with passion and purpose throughout the year – that they will know not only that they are loved and treasured by God and in their family, but that they are able to make the world a better place. That is better than any gift I can ever give them that would bring any meaning to their lives.

I have to mention a children’s book that speaks to this idea. Books are just a great way to encourage values as well. A narrative often goes a lot further than any explanation. Miss Rumphias by Barbara Cooney is a great book for young kids that tells about this idea of being intentional about discovering your gift for making the world a better place.

If you have creative ways of instilling values in your children I’d love to hear them!


Boy on the Brink

I took my two oldest children to a middle school performance of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tonight to cheer on a kindergarten aged family friend who had a role in the play.  We sat near the back on the right hand side where the chairs angled inward so that the end seat had the best view up aisle to the stage.  This is where my 4 year old son sat with his 6 year old sister between us.  He turns 5 in just a few more weeks.

As he sat mesmerized by the show, I was mesmerized with him.  In a million wonderful, sometimes exasperating, full-of-life moments this baby of mine has become a little boy and is on the brink of that full blown big kid stage where R’s and L’s are pronounced with clarity, carrying him on my hip is a short-lived feat of supermom strength and toddler impulsivity is making way for calculated reasoning.  While a game of baseball or a star-wars-style sword fight would be his favorite mode of play, magic and make-believe still top his list of worthy pastimes.

The story unfolded on the stage and I glanced over at my sweet boy, too far away to hold his hand or wrap an arm around his shoulder. I took in his joy as a sentimental observer.

The adventure of the 4 siblings and the magical animals of Narnia, the dilemmas faced, the dramatic climax, and celebratory resolution, all kept his attention throughout the two-hour, past-his-bed-time performance.  He practically jumped out of his seat to shout “hooray” a few times, but mostly he sat leaned forward on his chair, feet dangling above he ground with his hands folded tightly, prayer-like, in front of his chest under a big grin.  His eyes never turned away from the action.

I was enchanted too, but by a far more amazing story of a little boy’s life.  I wanted to capture and keep him like this forever.  It felt symbolic that I couldn’t quite reach him to snuggle him into my arm and share his joy.  He was having his own experience, as he is in so many ways already in life.  I knew we would do the play-by-play talk we always do after a special event on the way home, but I would never fully know what was in his head all that time.  The enactment of this great story originally penned by C.S. Lewis was weaving itself into the fabric of his thinking and feeling as all great forms of art do to us in life.

With a baby in the picture now, I’ve been thankful for my son’s abilities and burgeoning independence.  He was slower to say “I do it” than my oldest daughter was and there were times I lamented his whiny “you do for me” as he sat capably choosing to stare helplessly at a pair of socks just past his pudgy bare feet.  With two children not quite two year apart, self-reliance was a sanity producing cause, but tonight I wanted to stop all that progress and hang on to my little boy.  I love him so very much that I don’t want to think about the day when he will no longer need me for so much of his care.

It is a such a strange thing we take on as moms.  We give our bodies and then all the physical and emotional energy we can muster completely over for the care and love of the most dependent animal on earth.  And then slowly over time, their need for us unravels to reveal what we hope will be a capable human being.  Then, before either of us could possibly be ready, we are to launch them into the world, out of our careful sight to experience and endure whatever comes their way.

My son’s name means “Vigorous” or “Battle Chief,” a little more intense a meaning for a name than I would have probably gravitated toward.  Yet my body began laboring and bleeding 8 weeks too soon when pregnant with him putting me on bed rest for a while and introducing fear into conception.  So this meaning for his name became a well-fitting prayer for him to hold on and grow in strength and vigorousness.  Plus, he was active and wild in there, so it fit.

The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe had come out in theaters that winter of my 2nd pregnancy.  With a year and half old toddler at home, it was a privilege to see it on the big screen on a rare date night with my husband.  I remember the climactic battle scene when the eldest brother Peter led the charge to save Narnia.  He did so with courage and integrity.  He had been a gentle, kind boy up until that point of the story and I was moved by the strength of character he showed in boldly following a call to action.  I caught a vision for how this name that meant “Battle Chief” could personify my sweet son of Adam.

After the play, on our drive home I told my son this story of his name and it’s meaning.  He smiled and I could see the stories playing out in his mind, the one I described and the ones he was conjuring up.  He is an infinite pool of imagination and energy.  With a fully formed story of dragons and Knights and magical lands far away, he’ll often race through the house with his cape flying behind him, foam sword poised and ready and pause near me to say “I’m off to save the day!”

“You go for it!” I cheer with a smile, and know that he will indeed change the world.

Lord I pray that you will guide my son and that your love will always feel present to him.  That he too may lead with courage and with kindness.  That he will be true to the calling you place upon his heart and will become everything you had in mind when you created him.  Thank you that he is mine too and I get to be a witness to all this.  Amen


Leaving and Cleaving

As I was sorting the stack of ongoing clutter in the corner of our kitchen counter, I came across a year-in-review letter I’d yet to read from a family I knew and loved when we lived in California.  I can’t stop crying.  The letter was a simple detailing of the ins and outs of bits and pieces of their lives; a few highlights fitted into the standard one page Christmas letter that I know just scratches the surface of all that is really going on for them.  It is a letter I look forward to every year, partly because I love them and partly because the love they share for each other that is evident in the letter is such an encouragement to me. They are a family I look up to and have sought to emulate in the ways they care for each other, their kids, in how they celebrate life, and live out their faith.

Jim and Angela were a couple with young kids when I was a newlywed-grad-student-young-life-staffer in California.  I was too busy, and not quite ready, for my own kids, but hopeful.  Their kids were the ages mine are now and though I have seen them growing up in this yearly letter and our facebook friendship, my mind holds onto them as little boys.  But the thing is, they are not little boys, they tower over me.   And the thing that is cutting me to the core is that their oldest son is in his senior year and will be graduating, and leaving to go to college, and really, I just can’t bear it.

He will be starting out on his own life adventures that I could so easily encourage in the teenagers I worked with when I was a Young Life leader there.  Oh how naive I was that it was all so very wonderful.  I was closer in age to them than their parents and having a wonderful time living out my newly adult adventures.  So yes, go do wonderful things with your life!  Hooray!

But now I am the parent.  And so now, I can’t stop crying, and I know the reason is partly because I know what the future might bring all-to-soon for my little ones, but also because we are in our own season of transition.

I am returning to work after a much extended maternity leave. I have spent months preparing in my heart and mind and in our home and gathering the support people we need and making a good schedule so that I am still with my kids for a majority of their hours.

Change though, as prepared for, prayed over, and good as it might be, brings up feelings of loss and worries of future regret, and I am one to fret and weigh, and consider and reconsider big decisions.  In the end, there are many reasons it makes sense for me to return, but the thought of missing one single moment with my kids, knowing that someday I would give anything to have these moments back is almost unbearable.

The reality for me though, is that I enjoy my work.  I feel called to it, created for it and find immense meaning and purpose in doing it.  The other reality for me is that I get restless in my role as mom and wife and homemaker; roles I also feel very much called to and created for, but my mind takes me other places and I long to do other things too.  As much as I seek to capture the moments of these sweet days and live content, aware of how precious and fleeting they are, I find when I take time for intellectual and creative pursuits I am rejuvenated.  I return to my family energized in a unique way that seems to actually make me more aware and intentional about the sacred time we spend with one another.  Not always, of course, because work can be hard and taxing in it’s own right, but often enough to matter.

And so this morning, with our 4 year old son snuggled between us in bed, our baby girl waking to nurse at an hour I’d rather be sleeping and our first grade girl bounding with excitement for what her school day brings, I am weepy and sentimental about it all.  I can’t seem to capture them enough in my heart to make them stay this way forever.  Because in a moment, my infant will be taking her first steps, my pre-school son will not have leisurely mornings with me building blanket forts, and my oldest will be off to college too.  My heart will be full and broken because I love them so so so very much.

My hope is that we will have created a family so saturated in love that we are free spring forth into the world to be who God has created us to be knowing we are able to return safe to welcoming arms flung wide open, emulating our Savior who delights in relationship with us.

There is a wall in Jim and Angela’s house that is lined with frames, floor to ceiling.  They are the kind of frames with many openings and are full of photos from their family activities and vacations.  When I last visited I pored over those frames, a privileged witness to all that love.  I put it into my mental to-do’s to surround our house with visual memories of our family memories too.  It is New Year’s time two years later, maybe this will be the year.  But is is not because the memories haven’t been created that the pictures have not been hung yet, I just haven’t had or made the time for the visual aids.  I do have to give myself credit for the intentional time that has been spent, both in the everyday moments and in the special experiences.  We don’t live this existence everyday, not at all, we have our very normal, chore-filled, carpool toting, budget conscious, every-day lives, but we are constantly processing and pondering how to be intentional about capturing these days, aware of how quickly they will pass.

Still, I am choosing to work, for a snippet of time. I will leave for my first day, and possibly my 30th day, back to work and I will be excited and I will cry.  But my kids will be in good hands and we will spend special time together when I get home, and when we go to the park or on a vacation or cuddle in bed after stories and talk about who they want to be when they grow up as they try to comprehend what their mama and papa do outside of their most important lives.

There is no perfect formula to all this.  Sometimes I will wonder if I made the right choice, in the right time, and things will go wrong, hopefully little solvable things, because that is just the way life is.  I am thankful to worship a God who has given me the free will to pursue Him in this life with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength.  May I honor you Lord as I walk the path before me and cleave to You above all, Amen


Crumbs

Sometimes, sometimes, it is enough to just do the mundane chores of the day.

I returned to the sink tonight to wash a few more dishes for the umpteenth time this day, the 4th return this evening.  I’m on my own with my husband out of town and I just want to get every last dish washed before falling into bed, to start fresh tomorrow with one area of my life complete.

I am exhausted, falling asleep while I cuddled with my kids.  This long day follows a long night with a coughing boy and a wakeful baby. I hear all the sounds at night.

As I squeeze in every last plate and each small cup to the over-full dishwasher and open the lunch boxes to pull out remaining bits of food from eco-friendly travel containers that must be washed each day to be ready for the next, my thoughts went to the places where my children’s lives are lived; the playground and the lunchroom (did they laugh and eat well?), to our dinner table (did they feel loved and full?), to the days’ stories and smiles, and bits of nourishment we offer one another in everyday moments.

I am overcome with gratitude for these leftover crumbs, these remainders of my children’s day that let me know that their bellies were full, that they took life in and were fed, cared for.  It is one reason I exist.

The sounds of them breathing deeply, peacefully asleep, safe, alive and beautiful, in the background of my running water and quietly placed silverware, their soft skin still warming my cheeks, I breathe deep, knowing, it is all so very good.


On With Life

I had a tough time with my most recent birthday, feeling like 35 was more near mid-life if one pays attention to averages than any other age and in all honesty suddenly feeling “old” in many ways.  The physical being the most obvious and lament worthy, the wrinkles, the grays, the aches and the pains are more pronounced than ever.  I started doing tri-athlons this year (isn’t that crazy?) and each time I trained and for days after, I HURT.  I also started playing soccer again.  After 15 years away from team play and 6 plus years of pregnancies, I started up again, and it hurts.  I grew up playing soccer!  I love soccer!  In my mind I thought I’d have so much going for me with all that childhood and adolescent experience behind me.  The reality is, I have to work hard to run fast and when I do I usually pull muscles.  (Luckily it is fun and I play with really nice people that I care to spend time with.)

Beyond the physical, I am taking stock.  A year and a half ago I lost my son at the end of my pregnancy and plunged into the depths of grief that has fundamentally changed how I experience and perceive life.  That is another story for another time, but for this time it influences my “mid-life” birthday in such a way that I feel I must get on with doing the things I hope to do with my life, because it will pass, too fast and there’s too much I want to do.

1. Slow down

Funny this would be my first goal after stating “there’s too much I want to do” but that is why it must be first.  A therapist of mine once said “you like to live a full-life, I see it as a pouring out of your intellect and creativity.”  I loved that!  What a positive spin on my active life.  That was before kids though, and there is no possible way I can pursue all my passions and still be the mom and provide the life for my kids that is nurturing and honoring of them.  I must set those things aside, for a season, in pieces if I am to be the mom I hope to be.  I must slow down, slow us all down (my husband and kids like adventure and experiences too) and make space for us to play, tickle, read, nap, go for walks, have conversations that matter.  If you have practical advice in this area, I would love to hear them.

2. Listen and Respond to God’s voice

So often I wonder what God might have me do in a particular situation or season of time and wish the map was clear before us because I swear I would follow it, free will and all.  As a little girl I prayed every night “Lord, help me to be the girl you’ve created me to be” and still I hope above all that I am living out God’s purposes for my life.  The problem is, He’s not always clear, there isn’t a formula and the magnitude of love He has for us comes in giving us many options.  I am a planner, so I contemplate and I worry, I fret and I weigh all options.  I am a slow decision maker and the concepts of God’s will and our freedom of choice can feel like some mysterious equation that I must work hard to solve.  Lately, though, I have heard God speaking, loud and clear, about some things, and felt Him pointing me in certain directions in more pronounced ways than usual.  My hopes, in this new year of my life, is to create space to listen – through reading and studying my bible, praying and times of silence – and be bold enough to respond, actually doing what God is telling me to do.  That is always scary and exhilarating for a worry wart like me.

3. Pursue Passions

In order to be the mom I want to be, I need to do a few things, outside of mothering, that feed the other areas of life that interest me.  So often inspiration will hit me, and then I look around at the dishes, the laundry, the stack of papers that perpetually piles up in my kitchen, and then a child comes into focus and there is ALWAYS a need to be met and I set that idea aside, swallow it down, hoping for a window of time, later, to pursue it.  When days go by and the time doesn’t come I get discouraged and wonder why I allow myself to hope to pursue these bits of inspiration anyway.  I can’t give up hope.

God laid it on my heart a few years ago to write.   There is so much going on in my head and my heart that I want to get out in a meaningful way.  Looking around, I realized I write all the time; I keep journals for each of my kids highlighting special moments in their lives or simply writing letters to them as they grow up,  I write in a hand full of personal journals, one in response to sermons, one for my life in general, one in my purse in case an idea or thought hits me on the fly and then there is the myriad of post it’s, receipts, random word documents that I jot down and idea or trail of thought before I lose it.  So really, it is something I already do, I want to put purpose and priority to that.  This blog is part of that.

3. Love Like Crazy

Yes, it is a sappy country song I heard the morning of my 35th birthday, but my aha moment was in the lyrics.  In losing my son I felt a huge numbness come over me that was part normal response to grief and part coping with feelings that could sear me if the numbness didn’t take over.  In grief therapy we talk about layers of our loss, and the loss of the easily excited, exuberantly hopeful parts of myself was a sad layer of my loss.  In grief therapy, I would ask our counselor when I was going to feel like “me” again and she would say that I would feel something similar, but I am forever changed by the death of my son.  This new self can is full of goodness too, but definitely different.  A piece of me had become a bit guarded, fearful I guess, of loving anyone so much that it would devastate me to lose them. This year, when I come up against the fear and numbness that stifles feeling of big huge love and joy, I will remember to love like crazy.  I invite you on this journey with me