Category: Motherhood

You are Ruining Your Kids

 

Her hair was slicked back out of her face. Her eyes showed the kind of tired that one night’s sleep wouldn’t make up for. Her tears came as easily as her laughter.

She’d come over to get out of the house with her three kids under four.
“I’m just worried I’m going to ruin my kids!” She said echoing the fears I’ve swallowed back myself. The fear that formed alongside my first daughter and never left. It planted when I first laid eyes on her mustard seed shape. She was a striking white dot of life against the flat black ultrasound screen.

“I give you permission to just survive,” I said, making sure my eyes met hers.
She needed that permission. Permission to breathe—to breathe in the baby smells and soak up the belly laughs. She needed permission to turn off her “perfect parent” switch and just take it all in.

I think we all need this reminder. While I think it’s important—necessary, to be intentional about our parenting, I think it is equally necessary for our souls, for our kids’ souls, to offer them the ministry of presence.

The ministry of presence happens when we stop thinking about how we should parent, we lay down our fears of forming them for the future, we get out of our own analytical heads and we just live life with them…

…we listen to their big questions and don’t provide an easy answer

….we lick ice cream cones with them

…we laugh at ourselves

…we experience emotions in a healthy way–not swallowing them or exploding, but letting our kids see the way we work through the real and necessary emotions of life

…we cry…we laugh…we laugh-cry (it’s totally a real thing just ask my husband)

…we admit when we’re angry, frustrated, exasperated…HANGRY!

…we get dirt and play dough under our fingernails

…we experiment

…we let our kids comfort us
…we let them kiss us a thousand times
…we let them cry on our shoulder without trying to tell them what to think or try to cheer them up.

… we cry with them and ask life’s hard question

I need to slap duck tape over the mouth of the imaginary critic that lives in my head and zoom in, up close, really close to each passing moment with my children. This is scary. It means laying down my plans and my parenting books and letting our messy life unfold in an unpredictable and chaotic way.

But I find that sometimes the best parenting moments happen when I sit on top of a question mark with my girls as we ponder the world– rather than stamping our life with the tidy period that marks things as resolved.

I love a clean house as much as the next person.
I love finished thoughts. I love questions with answers.
I love when a task is as easy as a check mark on a list.

But parenting isn’t any of these things? It’s untidy and unfinished? It cannot be contained in an answer? It is ongoing? (My grammar-check is trying to get me to change these question marks?)

We need to worry about ruining our kids, a little. Just like you’ve got to smell week-old chicken, it’s important to smell our kids to make sure they aren’t spoiled—kidding. But seriously.

But we can’t stay in that place. Once we test our intentions, methods, and goals—once we seek wise advice, and heck yes, once we pray—then we need to roll with it. We need to zoom in and enjoy the messy and complicated reel of parenthood.

Let’s sit on question marks with our kids, ask them our own questions as we figure out life together. Let’s love fiercely and show up with our whole messy selves, trusting that God works in our strengths, but He also works through us in our glorious imperfections.

We will ruin our children (a bit). The Bible reminds us that we’re all cracked pots. But God remakes us and repurposes us. With Him, even our biggest (parenting) mistakes can be repurposed for His greatest good. Amen?

Disclaimer: I am writing this to the parent that is providing love, support, shelter, food, and spiritual guidance to their children but still wrestling with guilt over not being/doing enough. We all agree that our first priority is to be responsible parents that provide for the emotional and physical needs of a child in a supportive and stable home.

Keep Your Eyes On…The Road

So maybe I was breaking the law, but the text was urgent, and I was stopped at a red light. At least that’s how I justified it in my mind. The light turned green and I was startled by my daughter in the backseat.

“Mom! Drive! You’re supposed to be driving!”
“I am driving.”
“No you were looking at your phone.”
“The light was red. It was important. Besides, its not your job to tell me how to drive.”
Then she threw my own words back at me. The words I’d said dozens of times as the reason I couldn’t get a toy she or her sister dropped under my seat, or dig to find the exact snack one of them wanted to eat that very moment.
“Mom you’re job is to keep us safe.”
I was stunned silent. Then she repeated the very words I say to her Father if he tries to touch his phone when he’s driving us.
“Nothing is more important than keeping your eyes on the road.”

BUT THERE’S MORE TO RULES
As a wife, as a mom, as a human, I am a walking contradiction. Even when I try my best, my ideals never match perfectly with how I live them out. I give into itching fingers that grab my phone when I should be present with the person in front of me. I sneak chocolate before dinner and I don’t eat something from every food group for every meal. There’s been nights when I’m too tired for bedtime routines, and wind up falling into bed without brushing my teeth, or even putting on proper pajamas. I don’t always say please, or thank you, and I certainly don’t forgive the instant someone tells me too.

But I don’t need another measuring stick, in the form of my daughter, ticking off all the ways I don’t measure up. I have enough reminders in the form of well-meaning Christian blogs, Pinterest, and my own critical voice, that remind me that I’m missing the mark, thank-you-very-much.

She’s right in a way, I shouldn’t bother with a text when I’m driving, but yet her words feel like stones.

Maybe it’s not about me, after all. I realize that maybe this conversation isn’t to show me where I’m falling short, but to remind me that she’s actually listening—and that I am communicating important values to her even when I don’t realize it. But I want to instill more in her than just the a black and white sketch of right and wrong, but love and faith— the colors that breathe the very purpose and life to everything she sees.

It reminds me of a God who gave his people a list of guidelines on how to live, but by the time Jesus is on the scene, He sees that many religious groups have stretched and morphed the commandments to regulate every aspect of Jewish life. The rules were very clear, but their purpose had become diluted and distorted—like a misshapen shadow of the thing it once was. But Jesus would have none of it. No, of all the religious leaders he insisted on the integrity of the law, the heart of the law, and for Jesus it wasn’t found in the bleeding hearts of self-righteous men on self-made pedestals, but in the context of love and relationship. In the Gospel, we see a drama playing out between the Pharisees living a life of impossible standards, and Jesus and His disciples, who live lives of obedience fueled by love.

I don’t make rules about driving for the sake of rules, but to keep those I love safe. It’s the same reason I cook vegetables, limit TV time, and say “no,” according to my daughter, “all the time.” I love my kids, and I wants what’s best for them, even when that means tough parenting and inconvenient rules, steamed vegetables and cranky kids that aren’t lulled to apathetic silence by “just one more” show on the TV. My love means being a mother becomes more than just a job, but a calling. A calling that flows from love, and fuels everything I do.

I want my daughters to know the difference between right and wrong, and yet, I want them to live that out in the context of loving relationships. I want them to live a life of calling because of their love of God; a life that is fueled by a faith that means so much more than a legalistic book of whats right and whats wrong.

REMEMBERING LOVE
I quietly keep my eyes on the road a minute without responding to my daughter’s directives as I decide where to start.

“Bree, thank you for reminding mommy of the rules I have for driving. You’re right, I shouldn’t be on my cell phone when I drive.”
“You’re welcome,” she responds, self satisfied.
“In the future mommy will decide when its okay for me to use my phone when we’re in the car though.”
“But…”
“But can you tell me why mommy makes those rules in the first place?”
“Why?”
“Because I love you. I love you so much that I will do everything I can to keep you safe. And do you know who else loves you?”
“Who?”
“God loves you. And thats why God gives us rules too. Because more than anything else in the world, He wants us to love him back.”

She didn’t respond, but a dimple in her brow formed like a cog in a turning wheel. I knew it wouldn’t all click into place right now, but like the rules that I repeat over and over, I want to remind her about my love, and God’s love, so that she knows that to be the most important part.

Believe it or Not: This Time Will Pass



Dear Reader & Friend,

I’m sorry I haven’t been writing to you. Life has been full with good things and a to-do list that seems to undo itself–a house that seems to unclean itself each week. But you get it. You feel the same way, having trouble finding time to pause, and breathe in God’s goodness; time to think and ponder and dream. I pray you find time for those life-giving activities this weekend. 

I felt a pressing truth I needed to squeeze in a moment to tell you.

THIS TIME WILL PASS

This time will pass of waiting with questions, and answers that are too big for you to wrap your thoughts around.

This time will pass of mind-numbing work, wondering if you’re making a difference.

This time will pass of sleepless nights and foggy days, up round the clock feeding a needy human that pulls the life from your tired body.

This time will pass of tension in your home–thick silence as you wade in the muddy water of hurt and resentment.

This time will pass of sticky kisses, and “Mommy I want you,” and “Hold me.”

This time will pass of aching uncertainty, chest heavy with rocks, minutes passing like gravel through your tender heart.

This time will pass of “honey I’m too tired,” or “let’s sneak away,” like school children stealing a few sacred minutes together.

This time will pass when you feel called to something greater, but tied to something that’s needed. 

This time will pass of arms and legs pulled in every direction, lap always full, your body never your own.

This time will pass of childlike enthusiasm, curious questions, and “just one more” story.

This time will pass of a confusing blur of doctor appointments and medicine, side effects, and charts of numbers to explain your painful reality.

This time will pass of holding hands, and wrinkling your nose as you laugh at an inside joke, looking at each other with certain love, and fragile hope.

This time will pass of feeling breathless from a pain too big to feel at once, and loss too big to ever fill.

This time will pass of hoping and trying, and waiting, and testing–the crush of another negative, the painful push to keep trying.

This time will pass of disappointment, of resentment and hurt, of unmet expectations, and longing…

This time will pass of smallness, of innocence, of dreaming, and planning…

This moment, in its mundaneness, its beauty, its pain, its plainness–it will pass.

It will all come to pass.

So we must rub our sleepy eyes, and pay attention. We must tie our heart to the present, and offer our presence, to show up, to love, and to trust that each moment is writing a beautiful story of redemption and grace, woven into the greatest love story ever written. 

 

 

I Fall Short as a Parent…& Why That’s Good

Her face turned on itself, going a shade of red, as globe-like tears slid down her cheeks. Guilt entered and sat on the couch of my conscience, heavy and unmoving like an unwelcome guest. It was too late, the harsh yells had already ripped out of my throat, still burning and bitter in my mouth. But I saw my little girl with the wounded look in her eyes, and forgot my anger like a lost penny.

I opened my arms up and picked up her damp, warm body, her four-year-old frame was swaddled in a towel. I was the reason for her tears, and yet she nuzzled in my neck for comfort and protection.

It had been a long day stuck at home. Our family has been trying to go gluten-free and so my head hurt and I was irritable. More than that, as the girls giggled and splashed, carefree in the bath, I had been reading about the blood bath of another high school shooting in Florida. When Bree resisted getting out of the tub, after my fourth request, I lost my composure. I gave in to my temper, like you give into a donut, a satisfying rush in a moment of weakness.

My vision blurred, and I let out a command that was half growl, half yell, “Get out of the bath NOW!” It wasn’t the words exactly, but the volume and intensity that they came out of my mouth that communicated a level of anger and frustration that I show only in my most unflattering moments.

After our bath time incident, we silently went about the rest of our bedtime routine until it was time to pray together. I couldn’t just act like it didn’t happen. I didn’t know the perfect thing to say, as a mother who found myself acting more like the child. I’ve never been the kind of mom that kept up the pretense that I’m always right or perfect, rather I keep an open dialogue with my girls about how much I have to learn, and how much I mess up; even when it comes to being a mom. So I just let words tumble out, hoping God would season them with grace, like He seasons my salty soul.

“Bree, mommy just talked to you in a way that no one should talk to you. I yelled in a way that I’m ashamed of, and I’m sorry.” 

Having been trained by her dad, how we can extend forgiveness to one another, she uttered in her small person voice.”I forgive you mommy.”

“Thank you. If I get angry and shout like that again, which I probably will, is there a word you can use with me to help me remember this conversation?”

A beat of silence then she answered with resolve, “Please stop, I don’t like it. Its not okay mama.”

“What Bree?”

“I’m practicing. I will tell you to stop mom, and that I don’t like it. Because its not okay when you talk to me like that.”

Her words surprised me, but they also made me proud. I was expecting some small code word, but here it was—she was doing as I asked, telling me that talking to her like that wasn’t okay.

Its not okay. She is an innocent child and her heart is meant to be loved and protected. But yet, in this moment I realized that it is in the small act of being vulnerable, admitting my weakness, that I can let God enter in to do His sacred and unseen work.

I imagine her saying those words when a friend tries to belittle her with shaming words, when a boyfriend tries to touch her in a a way that is violating, when someone treats her in a way that invalidates her, or makes her question her worth.

Parenthood is the way that we model healthy relationship with our children. But, that doesn’t mean a healthy relationship is free of misunderstanding, dissatisfaction, anger, and conflict. Rather, we live out a healthy relationship when we unflinchingly face these challenges, and still show up and love each other. As a mother I’m tempted to shush and silence the inconsistencies and imperfections in my relationship with my daughters, but in the end, I know it feels inauthentic. While small and imperceptible, I know that they ultimately create giant gaps in out closeness to one another.

For me to show up as a mom, I need to show up all the way—flaws, and failings and all. Its in this vulnerability that I trust that God will work good in me and through me. I trust that God will work good, in all the ways He’s made me good, but even more beautiful and unfathomable, is knowing and trusting that He will accomplish good even when I fall terribly short.
Its not okay. Its not okay to trade our pretense of human perfection for His ultimate perfection that is accomplished only when we realize, as parents, as children, as husbands or wives, that we can’t get everything right. Its in this admission that we’re free to be ourselves more authentically, to truly be present and honest, and to let God do the work that only He can do.

Psssst! I’m trying to grow my readership so I can get traditionally published, kind of a major feat these days. So if you like what you’re reading and think others will benefit…it really helps me out if you share with your friends! xo

Every Day Christmas

As a kid on Christmas morning, I would gaze at the pile of papered packages beneath the tree, searching for the big one—with my name on it. Biggest was best, of course, and so I would spot it, pick up the oversized gift with my child size body, and place it at my parents’ feet. I perched and pleaded for my turn to unwrap the promise contained within the bright and festive Christmas paper.

Our first year in Orange, I learned that St. John’s does “big,” well at Christmas time too. Big crowds pack in to worship within an ornately decorated sanctuary, aglow with strings of lights and candles, colored by brilliant stained glass windows, and humming with breathtaking music. St. John’s also does big outreach events for the holidays, things like hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas for kinship families, Project 23, and Operation Christmas Child. I love all these things, and more, about my church.

When I first came to St. John’s, I just stood in awe, taking it all in— all the vibrant ministries, all the worship opportunities, all the talent and history. I came from a small church, where I was the big fish, and at our new church, I wasn’t sure of where I fit in.

But like a God who would send an infant to a manger in Bethlehem, to make his grand appearance, I found my place at St. John’s enfolded in the humble and gracious fabric of its people.

On Ash Wednesday this year, we received word that our daughter, Elyse, had a rare auto-immune disease called Juvenile Dermatomyositis. It quickly spiraled, and a week later, Nathan and I cradled our 18-month old in the hospital, so weak she couldn’t walk or lift her head.

By God’s grace and provision we were able to get back on our feet, and with treatment, Elyse has been doing remarkably better. But, on Mother’s Day, a pipe burst in our bathroom, leaving our family of four displaced from our home for three months.

I thought I would find my place at St. John’s on a platform, but little did I know I would find it within the space of my greatest vulnerability and need.

It was in these circumstances I experienced St. John’s story through eye to eye relationships, through humble and heartfelt generosity, and the love that spills into the cracks of ache, like a trickle from the altar.

In my deepest pain I encountered the sweetest mercy, through loving home cooked meals that tasted like grace. The Haiducs can make a mean lasagna. One day a box of “busy bags” showed up from an army of St. John’s moms, with toys and crafts that lifted Bree’s spirits and kept her busy, and scraps of Bible verses to keep me going. One day a bouquet of dandelions and ingredients for smoothies was dropped on our doorstep. A check arrived in the mail to meet the amount due for an overdue hospital bill. The Friendship Quilters made a quilt sewn and tied with hope and prayer for our Elyse.

I shared on Facebook one day that Elyse’s sun sensitivity had gotten worse, and two days later, someone showed up with a princess parasol for her. While the teachers at St. John’s gathered hand drawn Bible verses and other inspiration in a book, for our family. Classes of kids drew cards of encouragement, and bowed their heads in countless prayers for a baby girl they knew only from pictures.

When our house filled with water, St John’s families showed up with towels, and buckets, strong arms, and hot boxes of pizza. As we tried to get our house ready to move back in, two high school students from church, volunteered to watch our girls, as a St. John’s life group of 6 people arrived in work clothes, to vacuum, mop, and organize.

I love big gifts. This year I’m thinking about getting my girls a Barbie doll house to unwrap on Christmas day (Shhh! Don’t tell!). I love sitting in a magnificent, century old church, and feeling small, as I join my voice with an overwhelming chorus of worship. But lately, God is helping me to appreciate small gifts too. He’s giving me eyes to see the small gifts of handmade love and outstretched hearts that tell the story of St. John’s through community, and relationships.

I think thats the story God was teaching us with Christmas too. Instead of a big platform, God sent his son in the helpless package of soft, baby flesh—displayed for shepherds to worship in a wooden manger surrounded by livestock. Immanuel, God-with-us, came to Earth completely dependent on relationships, for a mother to love and nurture, and a Father to guide. Jesus began his ministry by becoming close friends with twelve other men, by touching, by healing, and by serving people.

Tonight I’m grateful for my baby Elyse. I’m grateful for every smile, for every step she takes, and when she twirls, I watch in awe. I’m grateful that God uses babies to remind us of who He is. I’m grateful that, through her, God has taught us what St. John’s is all about—God sized love—in human packages.

So I guess this Christmas, the question I’m left with, is how do I continue the story?

Can We Stop and Sit Together?

This morning I sit, like a fixed point in the center of a storm of distraction. My house is messy, I still have a project due, and my girls have been watching a show–maybe longer than they should. But my heart feels full of so many things I want to share with you. I wish time and kids would allow for me to sit and savor conversation with you over hot coffee that grows cold, because there’s too much to say between us.

Lately I’ve felt tired. In this marathon of life we’re on, I feel like we’re in a season of endurance. Our fight against Elyse’s JDM isn’t following the easy arc we hoped it would, we’re back in our house and yet so much is left undone.

I’m not naive to think we’re alone in these struggles. Everyone has some sort of battle they face on a daily basis, whether its cancer, rebuilding a home that was disassembled by flood and fire, or fighting back the darkness of anxiety and depression. Maybe its just overcoming the small annoyances life throws at you, like to do lists that never seem to get done, or small disappointments that add up, and grow burdensome, like the loose change in your wallet.

Sometimes the biggest struggle we face is isolation and weariness–the feeling like there’s too much to do and we’re doing it alone. Sometimes we feel like nobody sees how much work we’re putting in. Sometimes we just wonder if anybody sees us, if they really care.

If we were having coffee, I would put my hand over yours, I would look into your eyes and tell you: I care. Others care too. I just think that our culture has become so bogged down with performance, that we’re all battling this fog of busyness, the fog of being seen, but never really feeling fully known., 

Maybe this isn’t you. If it isn’t, that means you need to pull others out of the fog. Take them to lunch, listen to them, and encourage them.

We all have the weapon to fight back the fog, and it is love. Love quiets the raging voices, love calms choppy waves of uncertainty, love transforms gnarled nail shaped wounds into marks of sacrifice and forgiveness. 

If you’ve forgotten how to love well, if you’re feeling too alone or weary, I invite you to visit your local classroom. Its a place you may have to kneel, ask questions, get messy; but in this place you will forget yourself enough to let joy overtake you. Are you ready to hear where it is?

Its in the park, with wood chips in your shoes and dirt under your nails. Its in a classroom that smells of syrup and play dough. Its on the floor with toys strewn around you, and gleeful screams in your ears. Surround yourself with children, and let them remind you that life is about reckless abandon, its about reckless love. Because a child’s love breaks through the walls of isolation and apathy.

I get lonely. I feel like everyone knows who I am, but few people know me. It feels like too much work sometimes to invest in friendships when my life takes so much work as it is. But when I need to feel known, when I need to take a break from the pressure to perform, I get on my hands and my knees and let my daughters climb all over me. They knock down all the walls I’ve been putting up around my heart, and remind me that love is easy, if I just let it in. Love is loud, and messy. Its hands on. Love shows up and knocks people over and disarms them with tender grace.

So when the world feels like a confusing place. When we feel alone and unknown, lets love like we dance when no one is watching. It means throwing open our arms, closing our eyes, finding the joyful rhythm, and throwing ourselves in. God will always catch us. 

There’s an awkward silence between us now. Tears in our eyes. We both feel like we’ve been a little too vulnerable. We stand up, we hug each other–the kind of real hug, where we really hold on and squeeze our arms tight. We look at each other and smile, then head for the door–ready to keep plodding forward, ready to face the day knowing that we’re not alone.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1

Loved over Perfect

fullsizeoutput_126b

I want to walk the fine line of perfection.
I want to be one way- until I lean too far in one direction, and then I overcorrect, leaving me dizzy with indecision and insecurity.

They call it happy medium, like there’s a measurement that amounts to that, but I’m realizing that its a constant balancing act. The moment I think I’ve got it down, my illusions comes crashing down as I face my false reality.

I think this is a dance we do as parents, as spouses, as kids, and at work, with our friends and even with people we don’t really like. Pretty much, as humans, we can try to walk life’s fine lines.

As I look at the scattered pieces of false realities and loose ends, I’m challenged to look at the fragmented beauty right in front of me.

Shakespeare writes in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He asserts with bold certainty that life is scripted and predictable, as we continue to go through the same lines and choreographed movements like a carefully directed play.

But God gave us free will. He gave us the ability to move and speak and choose as we wish. When we choose the right thing purely, its beautiful and organic, and right. When the right thing is forced it rings false,
like a dripping sweet compliment or a forced apology. And that is why God made us people that are freed by his love, that freely choose to love.

Love isn’t a carefully marked path, but a stumbling journey of trying, and failing, and keeping on moving, even if you don’t know if you’re going in the right direction. The life that God calls us to isn’t a pin straight line of truth, but blind steps of trust and obedience. Never as a mere pawn or player in a prewritten play, but gentle steps that unfold our own stories.

These stories aren’t measured by their perfection or our performance. No, these aren’t stories reviewed by critics or competing to be on a bestseller list. Each story is God’s love story to us. As we fall, and get back up, as we doubt, and trust, and hide and seek, and find, our stories unravel into a picture of forgiveness, of redemption, and of imperfect progress.

I will never walk the tight rope of perfection as a mom, as a wife, a friend, or any person. So instead of training my steps to fall in perfect line with who I think I should be, I land in the soft place of grace, where I am restored and reshaped. Instead of placing impossible expectations on myself, I can live loved. Loved by God, loving myself, so I can pour love into the world around me. Because when I’m loved, being perfect doesn’t seem so important.

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love”

How to Be Content

BE

“Dove,” she crooned in her sweet baby voice.

“What? Dove? No, what did you say?”

“Dove, dove, dove,” she insisted, pointing at the mantel above the fireplace.

I thought my 18 month old daughter was pointing to the small wooden bird standing there beside the carved books, shaped in the letters “B,” and “E,” for each of my daughters. But, was it possible? I don’t remember even showing her a picture of a dove, and for goodness sake, wouldn’t she just say bird?

She was getting frustrated now, gesturing wildly, and saying the word again and again, gaining more and more confidence, “Dove, mommy. Mommy! Dove!” 

I stood and picked her up, carting over to the direction her chubby finger pointed. I left some distance from the bird, to see if she chose it herself. She lunged with open hands toward it, and so I plucked it from the shelf and handed it to her. She cradled it and gazed at it lovingly “:Dove.”

I could have missed it. This gorgeous moment with my daughter as she dazzled me with who God is creating her to be. I could haver hushed my baby’s persistent babbles, and swept her up to rush her to bed, and misplaced this moment like a doll’s lost shoe. For some reason, tonight, I lingered, and witnessed a fragile miracle.

Earlier as I sprayed and wiped my counters as my girls busied themselves with preparing a meal in their play kitchen, I prayed out loud, “God show me where you want me to be. There are so many things I love and long to do, but I want to be present with what you’re asking me to do right now. If its being the best mother and wife I can be, then help me to find joy and fulfillment in that.”

You see friends, I’ve been falling into the trap of gazing at other people’s grass. I want to do something impactful with my life. You know, something with a flash and a bang. Lately I’ve been thinking if I didn’t have the responsibilities before me, then I would have time to do something, more significant. Cringe. It sounds worse on a page before me, but sometimes I need to face my ugly truths to be delivered from them.

We all long for significance. To be known. And often in our culture of mega blogs, self publishing, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, we think the way to prove our worth is to be known by a thousand of our closest friends. We have platforms, and events, we want more likes, and shares, and followers. Church ministries count the number of heads to measure impact. We want to be fabulous, popular, right, knowledgable, and valued instead of simple, humble, open, seeking, and small. But when we look to be known in the way our world packages it, we can miss being known by the person right in front of us.

Life on life, hand in hand, sip by sip, we find that the heart of what we really crave is in the sweet moments wrapped in friendship, and motherhood, lost in moments we rush by looking for the next best thing.

This afternoon I met a friend for coffee and told her secrets. We watched our kids dig in the dirt and plant imaginary seeds.

I came home and danced with my girls. Watching Elyse learn to move again is a tiny wonder. Bree copied my goofy dance moves and helped me make waffles for dinner. 

And each moment was significant. It was beautiful, and small, real, and meaningful.

I long to be known, but then, time and time again I hear the dull thump of a hollow dream as God reminds me that nothing else but Him will fill me. 

The dove is in the story of Noah’s ark. It returns to Noah with an olive branch to show him that there is dry land. The dove represents peace to show God’s reconciliation with man after the flood. The dove is also the form the Holy Spirit takes over Jesus during his baptism in the Jordan. A dove could be another bird, but in the Christian faith, it isn’t. Its because of faith, that we see something more- we believe in more.

Elyse could have seen a bird but she didn’t. In a simple wooden bird, she saw a dove. I could chalk this up to a weird coincidence, but I don’t. I see my baby girl reminding me that I am already known, and I see God using a simple moment, to remind me that He is in our midst- among clumsy ballerinas, golden brown waffles, and a carved blue and red dove- perched beside the word “BE.”

A New Reality

 


Elysecloseup

 

Its not often that I’m without words, but recently I have felt quiet and contemplative. The two words that have been on my lips most, are a diagnosis I struggle to pronounce, let alone understand: Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM).

These last few days since we’ve been home have felt like I’m underwater holding my breath. The same house, the same rituals and to do’s, the same family, but a very different reality.

I’m preparing myself to emerge back into the world with Elyse. It almost feels like when we introduced her to the world as a newborn, watching her every move with careful optimism, wanting to keep her within arms reach.

When you see her it might seem like you’re meeting any 18 month old toddler, her belly pooched out as she marches with a proud waddle. She makes one word declarations, wearing the world on her face with exaggerated expressions. When you see her, she’ll probably say “Hi” three times with her wide smile. You’ll notice her face is fuller and less blotchy,  her big wide eyes reflecting her enthusiasm, the shadows beneath them hint at tiredness . She might make wide circles around you, gaining momentum and confidence with each step as she clucks and coos with glee.

In these moments we get to celebrate life with her as it should be, an energetic baby enjoying and exploring the world around her.

hospital

At home we also deal with another, new reality.

Each morning and evening we give her Prednisone, a steroid with undesirable side effects such as insomnia, weight gain, aggression, blood sugar changes, osteoporosis, and stomach upset. To counteract unwanted effects we give her Calcium, Vitamin D and Zantac. Prednisone suppresses her immune system so we have to protect her from being exposed to unwanted cooties- meaning avoiding crowded enclosed places or large groups of children. 

Because the sun can worsen the effects of JDM we need to avoid the sun during peak hours, and be vigilant about protection. E is embracing the hat as her new accessory.

Elysehat

Once a week, we give her a shot that is a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate. We have to wear gloves to avoid contact with the very liquid that we inject into our baby’s skin. This is designed to work with the cortisteroid to quiet the overactive immune response that is attacking her skin and muscles .

The needle is tiny and the dose is very small.  Though difficult, we agree these are the steps we need to take right now. After 30 minutes of practicing on fake plastic skin, Nate played the brave daddy and gave her the first injection (I played the pregnant for 9 months card).

nateandehospital

Once a month we will go to the hospital for Elyse to receive a 6 hour IV drip of Intravenous Immune Globin (IVIG) which is a lot like a blood transfusion, but IVIG is made up of the plasma of up to 15,000 blood donors. Our nurse calls it liquid gold. I keep telling Elyse that it makes her sparkle.

E gets to play with a Physical Therapist twice a week until she rebuilds muscle strength and mobility, She thinks its pretty cool to have a personal trainer that gives her undivided attention, and beach balls.

E will have good moments, and moments when she is uncomfortable and fatigued. We hope the good days will be more and more. 

We’re still taking time to absorb our new reality; to figure out how our lives will be the same and very different.

Right now the words Juvenile Dermatomyositis taste bitter and unnatural. The doctor confirmed she’s the youngest child he’s seen with JDM, as the average age of onset is 7 years old.  I know that God lets us taste the hard things in life to help us appreciate the good. As we learn about suffering, we learn more about love. There is no turning back from this road that we’re on, and so we will trust God through this journey. We will celebrate God’s goodness; we will taste His fullness as you feed us; His faithfulness as you pray for us and walk beside us;  we will grow to understand how wide and how deep, how long and how high His love is, as we love our daughter, knowing somehow He loves her even more.

John9:1to3

 

Love In The Details

feet

Mommy where was I when God made the world?
You were a promise in the stars.
Mommy where was I when you were a girl?
You were my imaginary friend.

Mommy where was I when you married daddy?
You were the blush in my cheeks and the dimple in daddy’s smile.
Mommy where was I before I was born?
You were the flutter in my tummy.

Mommy when I grow up where will I be?
You will be God’s answer to someone’s prayer.
The best friend with a box of tissues and good chocolate.
You will be the pink cheeked bride,
and the Mommy wrapping her hands around a growing belly.

Mommy where will you be?
A hand to hold; an ear to listen.
The point of your chin, the curve of your brow,
Bedtime stories, eskimo kisses,
“I love you mores”, And flowers dressed as dandelions.

Mommy we’ll always be together?
In all the ways that matter.