Motherhood in the Raw

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Crazy Mom Face

 

I’m going to be flat out raw with you.

Being a mom is so hard.

From the outside, especially if you’ve not had kids yet, it’s so easy to think, “How hard can it be? You wipe noses, go to parks, cut grapes into quarter-sizes to prevent choking and post pictures of your perfect life on Facebook.

But from the inside? *deep breath*

Oh from the inside….

Recently my husband had to go away for several weeks. As in more than a month.

This meant, of course, that I would be mothering AND fathering by myself. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem because I’d look at his absence as an opportunity to do the things I’d wanted to do in and for the family (like be a die-hard sleep disciplinarian, bedtime policewoman, and dietician) that I was less able to do when my beloved was home (hey, he loves spending time with the kids until way past bedtime AND likes Doritos… gotta cut the guy some slack… he works hard!). But this time NOTHING has gone as planned. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

We had prayed that this time apart would be fruit-bearing for all of us; restful for him and great relationship-building time for me and the kids, while it HAS been fruit-bearing, it wasn’t in the way either of us expected. AT. ALL.

Instead of me being able to pat myself on the back at how awesome I did (you know that’s what I expected to be able to do), I was forced to face the fact that I can’t do this job by myself.

The first 3 nights I slept for 8 of 72 hours. TOTAL. 4 kids got sick; two double ear infections, two sinus infections…one had it all PLUS croup.

Throughout the next week we had teething, hormonal teenagers and tweens. Ants decided to take up residence INSIDE the house. The toilet broke. The power went out. The kitchen sink started leaking… but by God’s grace we made it.

After that really difficult first 10 days I was looking forward to my planned respite… getting my hair done. The first outing I’d have by myself since Phoebe’s birth 6 months ago. I had been longing for this day for several weeks and was going to relish in every minute of it…

…until the color turned out several shades darker than I had requested (chocolate instead of chestnut) and my “Lob” became a “bob”.

Read: I lost 8″ when I had asked for 4″.

*Cue the crying*

While processing the new appearance and grieving the loss of ‘Me’, I proceeded to back out of the parking spot in the salon’s garage and tear the driver’s side mirror off the van and scratch the door up courtesy of a cement pole that was in my blind spot behind the baby’s window shade.

What was supposed to be a life-giving, restful day turned into very expensive, very BAD hair day.

And I had to go home and do my job alone for several more weeks.

My house was a wreck. My car was a wreck. My hair was a wreck. And worse? SO WAS MY HEART.

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I left the salon looking JUST. LIKE. THIS. Thank you. 😛

After getting home and grilled about my new “black” hair (“Mom. What did you DO?! You look like that professor from Harry Potter!), I sat in the middle of the world’s largest laundry pile and cried. Not out of weakness, but because after all that, I had nothing left. I felt defeated.

I am NOT Superwoman.

I know you all know that already, but you know what? I kinda thought I was. I mean, I have six kids and my socks match. That’s really a big deal when washing 56 pairs of socks a week.

Truthfully, the hardest part of the last weeks hasn’t been the difficult events that have taken place but the realization that the view I’ve had of myself (fully capable of succeeding at anything I tried if I truly applied), is all wrong.

You see, I CAN’T do it all. I mean, I think I knew it at a sub-superficial level, but facing the reality of my inadequacy has been incredibly humbling in a very real and raw way.

It is painful to my heart that others have seen me “weak”. Our society only praises those who *can* do it all. The ones who can’t or express weakness are frowned upon in a major way. (Major pride issue here… I want to be one of the ones praised, but motherhood is often a praiseless job).

It has been hard on my pride to have friends offer meals, knowing full well that we all need a hand sometimes, especially with life and kids. Rather, it has been hard for me to accept the lovingkindness of those who truly want to be there for us because they LOVE us and know life is a struggle. (Again with the pride)

I’ve felt incredibly unworthy and even guilty of receiving help, gifts of dinners or coffees or even a random floral arrangement “just because“.

WHY?! It is RIDICULOUS that a person should feel guilty because of the generosity and lovingkindness of others. Why isn’t gratitude and joy my first response?

I am surrounded by amazing women who have stepped up and filled in the gaps that I have tried so hard to keep hidden… not just from them, but from myself.

I am not perfect. Not even close. Everyone has known that but meand they not only love me anyway, they want to do life with me because of and through it.

Amazing. Humbling.

Each one of the women who has stepped in to demonstrate true friendship during my beloved’s absence has been instrumental in reminding me of God’s provision.

It would be so easy for me to wallow in self-pity and get angry and bitter at my husband for leaving us for so long, even if it WAS for work, but through these friends God has lovingly shouted at me, “I AM HERE. I AM WITH YOU. I told you I’d never leave you or turn my back on you. If I take care of the sparrows and the lilies of the field, how much more will I take care of you?” (Hebrews 13:5, Luke 12:27)

That’s right. My circumstances, as difficult and frustrating and embarrassing as they’ve been, do NOT CHANGE THE TRUTH that God’s love for me is constant. Just because I’ve had some really bad days and sleepless nights does NOT mean He’s left me to fend for myself. The enemy would have me (and you) think that though.

See, that’s the thing about the enemy; he is THE deceiver. He says, “God didn’t hear you this time. You’re all alone. God LEFT you.” But God says, “You know those friends who brought you coffee on Days 2 and 3 of minimal sleep? That was Me loving you… and those friends that brought you meals on the same day? I was providing in ABUNDANCE for you BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.”

THAT is my God.

He doesn’t leave His children; in our hardships HE. IS. THERE.

And He’s not only there, He is ACTIVELY WORKING IN FRONT and ALONGSIDE us to get through it successfully and in such a way that we are stronger and more beautiful because of it.

In this crazy-hard job of motherhood; in those overwhelming, draining, exhausting, flat-out difficult days when we just want to quit… He is right there cheering us on, equipping us to finish well.

We just need to listen. I just need to listen.

“Mama, you’re doing great. Keep running the race. The reward will be incredible. I love you…”

Your Father in Heaven

So, fellow mamas, I’m telling you too… You’re doing great. Keep running the race. The reward will be incredible. You are SO loved.

❤ ,

Summer

 

PS

After another really rough day one of my girls gave me this:

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Maybe it’s going to be alright after all 😉

“Mommas aren’t supposed to cry!”

 

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It has been one of those weeks. No, take that back. It’s been one of those months.

You know the kind… everything has all suddenly become absolutely the most important thing and must be accomplished now and guess what? Now the baby stopped sleeping 4-hour stretches at night. And the naps? Down to 30-minute intervals so GOOD LUCK cleaning or exercising or showering or feeding your soul! And a social life? Ha! I’m convinced Facebook was really invented by a mother of a large family with an infant, desperately grasping at whatever she can of the life taking place outside of her front door.

I recall this happening right about now, the 4-month postpartum mark, with my other kids. It’s like the adrenaline from birth and the miracle of life (especially this last time) has finally worn off and LIFE has set in.

Remember that? LIFE? You know… laundry. Activities. Carpools. Lessons. Marriage. Cleaning. Bills.

Life.

All of that was there before, but when I’m tired, it just seems SO BIG!

Life feels big right now. And I just feel so small and incapable of doing it at all, let alone doing it well.

Have you ever felt like that? Like you just want to curl up into bed, put a pillow over your head and block out the LIFE that is screaming at you to “GET UP! TAKE CARE OF ME NOW!”

I know you have. We all have. But we still have to get up, regardless of how appealing those covers look.

Yesterday was one of those days that, while I got out of bed and did so semi-willingly, as the day progressed I’m pretty sure everyone else wished I would’ve stayed tucked in.

I started off by nicely asking the kids to get ready for church and then hopping in the shower. (Side note: why are the worst parenting moments just before church? I mean COME ON. You’d think I could hold it together enough not to scream at my family before going to meet Jesus! Reason # 1,938,332 why I need His grace).

I came out only to realize that my kids’ breakfast wasn’t a healthy cereal, like they were supposed to choose, but Cap’n Crunch’s “Oops! All Berries” that not only stains the teeth, but also the intestinal tract (ahem… I’m off toilet duty this week).

I yelled. Not a good moment.

The kids got ready-ish and I finished up feeding the baby while doing my hair (neither done particularly gracefully, but we managed) and I came out of my room to find the house messier than a dump and my oldest back asleep in bed, unready and definitely un-showered.

I yelled. Again, though this time louder, and with smoke blowing out of my nostrils for emphasis.

Finally, after we got outside and ready to go, I paused to enjoy the beautiful, crisp, 29-degree air, righting my heart for what would inevitably be a “normal” ride to church, then proceeded to load the kids into the van.

Only I couldn’t.

The van’s sliding doors were frozen shut.

I groaned (yelled!) the agonizing cry of a mama who had worked so hard to get it all done by herself (hubby was gone) and was doing well but was at her last moment of sanity.

The kids, being resourceful (and children), piled in through the front doors of the van while I tried to manage Phoebe’s carrier through the armrests and… I just started crying.

I was done. OVER. I hated the van. I hated the cold air. I hated that my oldest and #2 were fighting over sitting shotgun while my #3 was bemoaning the fact that #4’s arm hairs were touching hers and #5… sweet #5, he just looked at me struggling with the carseat, spewing venomous words at the genius who forgot to build frost-free doors for minivans and said, “Momma, are you crying?” with big, big blue eyes filled with concern.

I took a breath and his waterworks burst forth.

“BUT-MOMMAS-AREN’T-SUPPOSED-TO-CRY!”

My heart broke.

He was sharing an absolutely innocent, heartfelt expectation about his momma and every momma on the planet: We’re not supposed to cry.

He sees me as his anchor. I am the one person (maybe daddy is too) who has it all together and when HE is crying, I can fix the problem and calm him down… everything will be alright.

If Momma is crying, his anchor is broken and he feels absolutely helpless.

But the thing is, mommas DO cry. We absolutely have to. If we didn’t cry we would be deceiving ourselves with the lie that we can do it all; that this LIFE thing? Got it covered! 

We DON’T.

We have placed such ridiculously high expectations on ourselves as mothers (let alone as humans). We seem to have this idea that we have to do motherhood perfectly; that in order to be viewed as “good enough” by others, be it peers, strangers, our spouses… even ourselves, that we can’t have moments where we just want to quit. Where we acknowledge that WE ARE TIRED. That there is TOO MUCH on our plates… that we cry.

Did you know that even Jesus cried? When the burden He faced in the garden of Gesthemane was just too much, He cried out to His Father in heaven and asked Him to “take this cup from Me.” Tears that came from so deep in His heart that they were like blood. (see Luke 22:44) He also cried when His dear friend Lazarus died. This is the same Lazarus that He knew He would RAISE FROM THE DEAD that very day. Yet He still wept authentically. He was sad for His friends and He cried with them, like many of us do with our friends. He was God incarnate, yet fully human. And He cried.

Now, the likelihood of us being in the same kind of agony as Jesus before He bore the sins of all mankind on His shoulders is zero. That being said, our God knows that we cannot do this life, this one damaged by sin, without Him. He is our ABBA, our Father in heaven who is the anchor of our souls.

If His own Son was overwhelmed with emotion on more than one occasion, what makes us think we can’t be overcome too? Or that it is shameful? Or that it means we’re not enough? Or that we’ve failed?

Would we say that about Jesus?


 

My sweet #5, with bottom lip trembling and tears welling up in his eyes was waiting for my answer… “Momma, are you crying?” he said again.

“Yes, bubba. But it’s okay. It just means I need Jesus right now. He knows how to make it right.”

Go ahead, Momma. Cry. It just means you need Jesus. And He’ll meet you right where you are.

 


By the way, I found a gorgeous print you might like by Emily L. over at Maker + Ink.  You can buy it here (I don’t get anything from this, I just like the print and the artist 🙂 )

Hope Anchor

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It’s a great way to remember that WE are not our own anchors… He is. ❤

 

It’s Been a Year… and God is Faithful.

A year ago today, December 22, 2014, my husband and I were shocked with the news that we were expecting our 6th baby. Just one day after he turned 40.

I remember waking up that morning with the complete understanding that if a certain thing didn’t show up, I would need to go to Target to get “the test”.

I remember the long drive to Target, my 5 and almost 3-year-old in tow, navigating the aisles to get the test and feeling like people were staring at me, somehow knowing that 1) I was buying a pregnancy test, 2) it would be our 6th child and 3) I was less than thrilled at the prospect. All of this meant I had a right to cry. And I did.

I remember taking the test, the “+” showing up before the test line.

I remember sending my husband an e-mail (no creativity points for this news) saying, “Call that doctor. TODAY.” and him calling me within minutes and saying, “Are you okay?

He knew I wasn’t thrilled. I wept and cried and frightened the kids because I was on the phone with Daddy and was crying (“Did Daddy lose his job?” “Is Daddy Sick?” “What happened, Mama?”).

My husband tried to comfort me… “We’ll get a bigger house.” “We’ll get a bigger car.” “It’ll be okay.” yet I continued to cry and just be angry with God. I wanted to be done with the baby phase. I wanted to do something else. I had been doing the pregnant/breastfeeding thing for 13 years and I was done. I needed something to feed my soul and nourish my heart. I was tired.

Have you ever felt like that? Just flat-out spent? Not even running on empty because “empty” was too full?

That was me.

And then, as the weeks went by and I succumbed to the fact that we *would* be starting over again (after I had gotten rid of  the crib, the carseats, the strollers, the clothes, the rocker literally one month before the  “+” sign showed up), I wrestled hard with God.

I knew in my head and my heart that God allowed us to get pregnant. It didn’t just “happen”. He had a purpose for that “+” on a stick.

When I went into my obstetrician’s office that January morning at 10 o’clock I had no idea our lives were about to take a turn, and a major one at that.

“I’m sorry. Your baby has what is called a ‘cystic hygroma’. It’s indicative of a major chromosomal abnormality and you’ll likely miscarry in the next few weeks.”

Followed by, “She has less than 1% chance of being born. Most women choose termination. I’m so sorry” just a few hours later.

But as I sat there and I heard the voice of the enemy say, “No one knows you’re pregnant. You should just do it. She’s not going to make it anyway. You’ll save yourself so much pain….” I remember so very clearly hearing the Holy Spirit say, “If the enemy is trying to get you to break God’s law by committing murder, you know FULL WELL that he is afraid of what God can and will do through this. God WILL be glorified.”

We chose to obey. We were very afraid of the hurt that was to come, but we knew that God is bigger than our fear. Fear does not come from the Lord. He asked us to trust Him. He would take care of us.

And He did. Oh how beautifully He did.

At the very beginning of our daughter’s life I was so angry. Why would God do this? Why would he make us have another child when we’re spread so thin already?

Yet as I sit here, with our miracle girl on my lap, defeating every odd she faced, I am astonished at how God used her precious, amazing life to save MINE.

Because of the absolute brokenness of our girl in utero I was forced to recognize and deal with deeply rooted problems in my own heart; things that had the potential to be incredibly destructive to me and my family. What was initially about me and MY life became entirely about the absolute value and preciousness of hers.

This little muffin, who very clearly desired to be here on earth, forced me to press into God when I hurt. No, when I ACHED in such a way that was so deep that breathing was laborious. Her broken little body forced me to ask God questions about His character that I knew in my head, but hadn’t ever recognized with my heart.

And He didn’t hold back.

He showed me that He is LOVE unconditional.

He showed me that He is CONSTANT and unchanging.

He showed me that He is GOOD and His goodness doesn’t depend on my (or any) circumstances.

He showed me that He KEEPS His promises.

He showed me that HE is the Author of our stories and of creation and that  as the author, He doesn’t have to abide by the “rules” here on earth. Statistics? Odds? Chances? Yeah, He doesn’t have to work within those confines.

He showed all of us that He is the God of MIRACLES. Flat-out miracles.

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Less than 1% chance of living outside the womb, yet here she is, 100% alive and extremely healthy. Hallelujah!

Friends, we NEED this God. This God loves us powerfully and wonderfully.

When life happens, when the really hard stuff of this world is thrown at us, it is easy to listen to the voices that tell us God doesn’t care. It is easy to say, “If He was a good, loving God, then WHY does this happen?” and to just be mad at Him. But it is right there, right after we cry “WHY?!” that the enemy wants us to take up residence. When we sit and are angry at God for what has happened we are blinded from seeing what He is actively doing. When we focus on the “why”, we are not focused on the “Who” that has the power to bring us through it. “Why?!” is hopeless. “WHO?” offers us hope. Jesus. Jesus is who.

I beg you, if you are asking “Why?!” and are hurting in ways you can’t describe, I beg you to trust Him. In His word God says,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Tell Him, “Lord, I am AFRAID. I am HURTING. I DON’T want to be going through this. BUT I TRUST YOU. I trust your character, your promises and in your absolute, unfailing love. I will follow You.”

The words might not be true of your feelings yet, but ask Him to help you get there. He will do it and your load will be lighter for it.

Have you gone through something so incredibly difficult that even acknowledging that there is a God seems ridiculous? May I challenge you to ask Him to reveal Himself to you? If you are willing to open your heart to Him, He will show up. He says so.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

–Revelation 3:20

He’s already there, waiting for you to invite Him in.


One year. 

It’s only been one year, yet everything is different….

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” –Job 42:5


“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” –Ephesians 1:18

I. QUIT.

The Transparency Project

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Can I just say something?  I am tired.

After having a handful of kids and trying to do everything right by them for 13 years… I. AM. TIRED.

Tired of feeling pressure to make 100% healthy lunches that are cut out in shapes from Frozen or Thomas the Train that my kids will want to eat.

Tired of trying to have birthday parties that blow every mom’s socks off (kids don’t care if their party is Pinterest-worthy… they want presents).

Tired of feeling pressure to have a Lululemon-type body so that when I put my comfy clothes on (read: yoga pants and a sweatshirt) I look like I actually do yoga.  (Which I don’t.  I fully embody the activewear for the inactive lifestyle ideal).

I’m also tired of this unspoken mandate by magazines, websites and who knows what other types of media that tell me the Jones’ really do have…

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PRAY.

Pray Without Ceasing

I don’t even know where to begin with this post.  My thoughts have been swirling and trying to process what’s been going on in my heart, a desperate plea, for a long while. I hope I articulate it well.

We HAVE to change.

As friends. As a society. Most certainly as a church.

Over the past few months I’ve learned of several friends who have been attacked by various illness or disease. I’ve learned of marriages falling apart. I’ve learned of addictions to medications and pornography. I’ve learned of horrible abuse and deep depression.

I’ve heard of all of these things before and I’ve done what we’ve all done in response… “Oh no. That’s just horrible. I’ll pray for them.”  I shoot up a quick prayer to God and go on with my day.

Or I just shake my head in concern, move on and do nothing.

As we navigated the horrible pregnancy with Phoebe, we were blessed to be prayed for by thousands of people. Literally thousands. Some once or twice, others daily for months. We were (and are still) overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for our family by  every person who involved themselves in our story.

They prayed for peace. For healing. For safety. For God’s will to be done.

PEOPLE PRAYED. I prayed too.

In the Bible we’re told this about prayer:

 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. –James 5:13-16

Prayer is powerful and effective.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” –1 Timothy 2:1

We are to pray for each other.

 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”–Hebrews 4:16

We are to pray BOLDLY with confidence.

When Phoebe was sick in my womb, my husband and my children prayed boldly, reminding God of His plans for her, asking for complete healing of the little girl who was given .3% chance to live. They prayed every day.

We approached the elders of our church and asked them to pray over us, interceding on Phoebe’s behalf. And they did.

We asked YOU to call out to God and lay this burden at His feet. And you did.

You approached the throne of grace with confidence that God would hear your heart’s cries and answer accordingly. And He did.

We have seen what happens when people gather in the powerful name of Jesus Christ to pray. We live daily with the knowledge that the Body of Christ stepped in on our behalf and we bear the marks of love because of it.

Here’s where I’m frustrated.

A pastor friend recently posed this question to his congregation:

“How many of you either HAVE or have had to deal with cancer?”

ONE-THIRD of the people raised their hands.

One-third.

Did those people have thousands going before God on their behalf? I don’t know. What I do know is that most don’t even have a few.

Why not?

What has happened that we’ve decided (mostly by our lack of participating in it) that prayer is our second line of defense against the crud of this world? Or maybe that it’s not a valuable tool in our arsenal at all?!

We are told clearly in Scripture that it is not only a tool, but the MOST valuable one, binding all the others together…

 “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. “

–Ephesians 6:13-18

We are to take all of the tools; the belt of Truth, the breastplate of Righteousness, the Gospel of Peace, the shield of Faith and the helmet of Salvation and PRAY in the Spirit.

This is the same Spirit who the Apostle Paul tells us “also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

When we pray, we’ve got the Holy Spirit speaking directly to God for us.

We’re also told we should pray TOGETHER, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”– Jesus (Matthew 18:20)

You guys, why aren’t we praying for and WITH each other more often?

We’ve been tricked into thinking that our troubles will be a bother to others, that we’ll impose on their lives if we tell them what’s really going on in ours. That we’re not worth their time or energy.

That is a LIE.

It is of the enemy.

Do you know what happens when we share our burdens with each other and bring them before God together? GOD GETS the GLORY.

That makes Satan mad as heck. Nothing ticks him off more than his archenemy getting the positive, beautiful recognition He deserves. In fact, the devil will do anything to stop it… lie to us (“They’re too busy for you.“), entice us with busyness, making us too and tired overwhelmed to call out to God. He’ll make you feel ASHAMED of your problem (“If they knew how this happened they’d never think of you the same again.”)… the list goes on.

LIES.

God designed community and prayer. He WANTS us to go to Him in good and bad times. He wants us to share our burdens with each other and to come to Him together.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”–Galatians 6:2

And let us NOT. GIVE. UP.

In Luke 18 there is a parable (short story) Jesus told about a widow who kept nagging the local judge to give her justice against her adversary. For a long time he refused but she kept coming and coming. Finally he said to himself, “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!” 

Jesus says this next:Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. –Luke 18:7-8

“Jesus told His disciples this parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up”. (Luke 18:1)

PRAY.

PRAY FOR EACH OTHER.

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.

DON’T. GIVE. UP.

So I ask you: What do you need prayer for? No fear of being a burden. No shame. No judgment. Just prayer. Invite your community to pray for you. If you don’t have a praying community, shoot me a message and I will be more than glad (and honored) to lift you up before the throne of grace. The devil wants you to hide. Fight back. You CAN be set free from whatever you’re up against. Because friend?

GOD.

Let’s invite God back into our stories and give Him the glory for what He is about to do in our lives. It might not look like anything we’d ever expect or maybe even hope for, but you guys? This is a battle. And our God? HE WINS. Let’s do this.

It Takes a Tribe

It has been eight weeks.  EIGHT WEEKS since our little miracle girl arrived.

The days have run together in such a way that I have forgotten it’s not summertime except when my 3-year-old is dancing outside in the pouring rain at a football game with no rain boots on and not even a jacket on his back. Oops.

Surprisingly the fluidity of the days has not been bad AT ALL.  We’re all eating, our home is clean and everyone’s homework is getting done. Because I’m supermom.  HA!  Not even close.

The eight of us have truly enjoyed the last eight weeks because we have been blessed with an incredible support system that has eased the transition from 7 to 8 in a beautiful, natural way.

Before this whole thing with Phoebe, I had no idea just how much I needed my community.  I mean, I was raised to be a strong, capable, very independent girl who could do anything by herself.  “People will fail you. You’ve got to do things yourself if you want them done right… or at least done at all.”

At least… that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

So what is a girl  to do when she CAN’T do it all? When she can hardly breathe for fear she’ll shatter into bits?

Like most of the world, I have been blessed to have friends, and good friends at that. And a friendship is never tested like it is during a crisis. People either panic and run or they press in and  pull you through.

Praise God, we have been blessed by people who have pulled us through.

A bit of back story…

When the hubby and I first found out about our pregnancy with Phoebe, our tribe laughed with (and at) us and rejoiced with us. When we found out that our pregnancy would be exceptionally difficult, they stepped in and held us up when couldn’t even move.

I remember sitting in my living room with a couple of my girls and crying. They cried too.Then they acted…

Meals were brought.

Cards were sent.

A housecleaner was hired because I physically & emotionally could NOT do my job.

They encouraged me to laugh through the tears, helping me acknowledge my sorrow but not to take up residence there.

They checked in regularly.

They prayed daily and encouraged their families and others in their separate communities to do the same.

My tribe… I am awed by them.

The Bible talks about the fellowship of believers (what I will call “The Tribe”), as being the Body of Christ. It says:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” –1 Corinthians 12:12, 26.  

What happens when a piece of the body is broken? The other parts suffer with and compensate for the broken piece until it is healed, well enough to resume its duties…. and then they celebrate  when what was broken becomes whole again!

When Joshua and Israelites were at battle with Amalekites, a semi-nomadic nation who continually attacked Israel, Moses, Aaron and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held his hands up toward the heavens Israel prevailed, but whenever his arms grew tired and began to fall, the Amalekites would begin to win.

This is where Moses’ tribe comes in:

“When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” –Exodus 17:12-13

When one of their own grew weak, the tribe stepped in and took over until the battle was done.

Oh Lord Jesus, THANK YOU for my tribe.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” –Job 42:5

This past weekend we got to celebrate with our tribe; REJOICING in what God has done in and through our miracle baby. The hubby, kids and I were overwhelmed by the complete love that was poured out on our family, both during and now after the pregnancy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry about it on the drive home. Heck, I’m teary-eyed even now.

Friends, I’m not telling you about my people to make you jealous. On the contrary, I long for everyone to be a part of a tribe that will take over when they’re too weak; to step in and carry you when you cannot move another inch. No, I’m sharing about my tribe because I want you to identify YOURS!

There was a time when we were not a part of any community. We had friends of course, but not any that would be able to recognize when we were desperate for help and step in when we couldn’t even identify what we needed. Do you have friends like that? Those who don’t ask, “What can I do?” but just DO?

Are YOU that friend to someone else?

Someone once said, “Be the friend you want to have.”

Brilliant.

Building community in friendship takes a lot of time and work and “doing life” together. It is so worth the investment.

We will never, ever be able to repay our friends for the blessings they’ve poured out on us. But they’d never expect us to. Theirs was a gift of friendship and true agape love.

Dear friendship is a beautiful example of Jesus’ unconditional, unbreakable, self-sacrificing love for us. It is what we all desire but are sometimes afraid of investing in for fear of being wounded or abandoned.

MAKE THE INVESTMENT…

…in friendship of course, but especially in Jesus. He will never leave or turn His back on you. He will fill your every need and meet you where you need Him to…. often through dear friends.

Friendship

“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10

To Mommas of Specials

Autistic Tantrum

I saw you the other day.

You were taking deep breaths while other people were staring and smirking at you.  They whispered comments under their breath about how you need to discipline your child. Some didn’t whisper, but loudly commented about how they’d parent if that was their child as they walked by in disgust.

You kept breathing, speaking in hushed tones to your beloved, special child.  A tear fell out of the corner of your eye as you tried to navigate your baby, who is now nearly as big as you, through the chaos of the store, helping her feel safe when the lights and sounds and smells were overwhelming her senses like bombs going off inside her head.

You gently held her face and her eyes looked away while her body flung wildly and her voice grew louder. You long desperately for her eyes to look back at yours, to show that she understands that you’re in this together.

You still feel the stares of strangers boring through your back like daggers, “How is she going to manage this one?” “What’s wrong with that child?!” “I bet it was vaccines.” “If only she didn’t feed her processed foods.”

Their daggers are filled with judgment and stab your heart. You long to shout back, “She isn’t like YOU! She’s NOT your child! I DO EVERYTHING I SHOULD!” but you know it doesn’t matter. People say stupid things because they don’t know. They’ve not walked this road.

But you’re walking it. You’re walking it day in and day out, 24/7 and will continue to walk it as long as you have the privilege to.

That’s right, you count it a privilege to be your baby’s Momma, because while there are days like today, oftentimes many times in a day, your baby is special and so dearly loved. 

Those people? They don’t see what you do in your beloved child. They don’t get the privilege of laughing at the unique habits and quirks that bring absolute joy to your baby; their gift for organizing their toys by height and color or how they can immerse themselves so deeply into a character that you can go a year before they allow you to call them by their given name. They don’t get to feel the depth of satisfaction when your baby reaches a goal she wasn’t “supposed” to meet. They don’t get to come home to “surprises” that were left for them in love from a child who isn’t “supposed” to be able to connect emotionally.

Momma, YOU are doing a fantastic job. Your job is really hard. You are fighting for your child to succeed. You are advocating. You are defending. You are teaching. You are LOVING your child.

On those days you may be crying out, “Why did God choose me?!” you can rest in the knowledge that your child, the one who is stretching you to the brink, who, even though she can’t express it with her mouth, knows that you, and the heart, soul and strength that makes up who you are, YOU were chosen for her. And that makes her feel safe and loved.

And Momma? You are a gift.

I am sorry that you have been judged. I am guilty of looking on and thinking “I know better.” Now I do know better because I see that YOU have gifts and talents and depths of patience and self-control that I do not and I am learning from you.

Mommas of specials? Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep showing us what it looks like to love hard, to love deep and by all means, to love with determination. People are watching.

31 Days of Stuff I Wish You’d Stop Saying; Day 8 “We’ve been up all night vomiting…”

All I have to say about this is: YES!!! Good gosh, for the sake of the planet and all who reside here!

Source: 31 Days of Stuff I Wish You’d Stop Saying; Day 8 “We’ve been up all night vomiting…”

A hilarious read from a like-minded, barf-hating momma.

Confessions of a Helicopter Parent… in Denial

What? Are you saying you don't do this?!

What? You don’t do this?

Our oldest is 13.

THIRTEEN YEARS OLD.

In Judaism that means our boy is a man, now fully responsible for his actions (or lack thereof).

We are not Jewish, therefore my 13-year-old is still an infant.  At least he is to me.

For the last 13+ years of raising said boy, we… mainly I, have done very important things to prepare him for life: cleaned up his spills, done his laundry, picked up his room, arranged play dates with quality children of good families, made sure he doesn’t climb too high or run too far away and BY GOLLY, I’ve done my darndest to make sure he turns in his homework.

I’ve done all of these things because I love him.  I don’t want him to get hurt physically or to endure the pain that comes from feeling a teacher’s wrath if the assignment isn’t turned in. Come to think of it, I don’t want him to hurt at all… only to feel “good things” because feeling good doesn’t feel bad 😉

But now that he’s 13 and our boy is a man by some standards, I’m coming to realize that he’s anything but and it’s kind of my fault.  Yikes.

In all my trying to protect my kid from experiencing failure, I have unwittingly caused him to be unprepared for life and independence and prepared him instead…to FAIL.

You see, until this week, I’ve woken him up (not the alarm clock), made his lunches (does he even eat them?), “assisted” with his laundry (he loads and starts the machine), checked the status of his homework online (more on this later) and pretty much have not trained him to be independent of his parents when the time comes in a mere 5 years.

FIVE YEARS.  In just that small timeframe my son will be a legal, voting adult that can get a credit card, live on his own, heck, he can go to a dealership to buy a car if he wants!

I have not done him any favors by picking up his slack and it’s starting to show.

So, after much encouragement by my amazingly wise husband and some (okay, lots of) resistance from me, this week I am forfeiting my helicopter parenting license.  I have been grounded.

And it’s terrible.

Every day at 6:25am I have sat in the kitchen and waited for him to get out of bed.  He has an alarm clock and knows how to set it so SURELY he’ll come out by 6:30, right?  :/

No.

By 6:45 every nerve in my body has itched to walk down the hall, pop my head through the doorway and remind him gently that it’s time to rise and shine. And because it’s hard to be grounded I caved and DID give in… Monday through Thursday.

Today, however, I did not. I can’t tell him “You’re now responsible for yourself” and then do everything for him.  Nope, today at 7:10, after every other member of the family was up and eating breakfast, our #1 wandered down the hall, sleep crusting over his eyes.

He saw the clock and immediately yelled at me for “messing with” his alarm… Um, NO. Sorry dude, if you don’t set it, it doesn’t go off.

He quickly showered and shoved a banana down his throat and just barely made the bus.  He would’ve had to walk 3+ miles if he missed it and I was determined to let him.

And that was just getting to school. Once there?  Oh Lord have mercy.  There is HOMEWORK at school!  Projects! Tests!  How will he fare without me?!

Well, apparently there are other parents out there like me because NOW there’s an App for that.

At school there’s this crazy app thingy that allows teachers post all assignments and grades online. I see the value in it… sort of.  But when I’m told, “Mom and Dad, you can even select this part of the program to send you a text or an alert if your son or daughter has a missing assignment or a test coming up”… I want to scream.

I do not want to have to keep track of my child’s homework from his SEVEN CLASSES in addition to the homework of my other 4 school-aged kids.  My gosh, my CHILD should be keeping track of his homework!  *Gasp!*

It hits me: my role is changing.  I am graduating.  We’re both growing up.  I’m learning to let go and he’s learning to lean in and do it himself.

And that will mean he’ll fail.  Or does it?  What if I let go AND HE SUCCEEDS?!

It’s up to him. That scares me because I don’t want him to fail. I want him to succeed and to know the joys of accomplishment and reward and praise that come when a job is done well.

But he’ll never know any of that if I do it for him.  Besides, what am I telling him about my confidence in himself and his abilities if I’m rushing in to take over all the time?

“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” –Revelation 3:19

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”                                                                                                 –Proverbs 13:24

All this time I thought I was showing my son (all of our kids, actually) love by sparing him the pain and discomfort of failure.  Instead I was doing the opposite. While my intentions were good, I have been doing him a disservice by not preparing him to fail and teaching how to get up and try again.  I’ve been creating the very entitled attitudes that I loathe so much and fight against daily.

Ugh.

Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking something about “learning from other people’s mistakes”?  Well, it turns out that sometimes the best way to learn a lesson is by going through it yourself.  Who’d have thought?

Mistakes have consequences, some of which are painful, others less so.

What I do know is that I want my son, and all of our kids, to become the very best SELVES they can be.  I don’t want them to become another “Me”.  That means I have to train them up and direct their steps but I also have to gradually let them go so they can become who God created them to be. That can only happen when they experience hardship, pain, remorse, guilt, want… the list goes on and on, because when they go through those things they’ll learn for themselves how best to avoid feeling that way again, and instead experience the joy that comes from succeeding by oneself, healing, forgiveness, grace and more.

Isn’t that what we want for them anyway?

This parenting gig is hard and not for the faint of heart, but as I’m teaching my son, we can learn from the mistakes we make and try again.  Who knows, we may even be surprisingly thrilled with the outcome.  We’ll never know until we try! ❤

Note: It should be said that our oldest is an amazingly wonderful young man.  All comments about lack of preparation are a reflection of MY faults, not of his character or skill set.

The Mile Markers of Life

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I am still blown away by this little miracle girl. And her hair. My gosh, THAT HAIR!!!

One month.

It has been a whole month since we’ve had our miracle baby.

This little muffin who has impacted our lives and the lives of countless others for months before she was born, is now here in the flesh and doing all the wonderful things babies should do: eat, sleep and poop.  Perfect. ❤

I never thought I’d be so glad to get woken up six times at night to be an on-call chef or a professional tush-wiper.  But every night as Phoebe’s cries wake me from the ever-coveted slumber, I, albeit groggily, do my jobs with a grateful heart.

There is nothing like the sweet sound of a newborn’s cry when you’ve been told you wouldn’t hear one.  Phoebe’s cry is so beautiful to me.  That may change as she gets older and louder and more demanding, but for now it’s ironically comforting.

Many, many times I find myself tracing the outline of her face, burying my nose into that nook between her neck and hair and just smelling her special baby smell.  Sometimes my eyes fill with tears of gratitude for her, then I see my other 5 kids and the tears flow more quickly at the sheer knowledge that I, we, have been entrusted with the job of caring for and raising six beautiful kids, none of which we deserve.  I mean, I got fired from babysitting at 14 for talking on the phone instead of playing with the kids… yet here I am now, with a volleyball team of a brood under my care.  It’s humbling and terrifying and amazing all at once.

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Biggest, Number 2, Banana, Princess, T-man and Miss P. These are my heart!

Many times in life I’ve been given jobs WAY out of my scope of talent or skill.  Raising kids has definitely been one of them.

Has that happened to you?  Have you ever been given a task that you were certain you couldn’t do but someone else thought you could?

What were the things that helped you succeed in accomplishing that task?  For me it’s been many things, but most of all 1) asking for help, 2) getting equipped and 3) checking in with the boss… a LOT.

The apostle Paul describes life as a race, and a long one at that.  There are times that we run, times when we walk and others when we can barely crawl toward the finish line.  But when we keep our eyes focused on the joy at the end… mmmm-mmmmm!  That’s where our God is.  He’s the one who knows what’s on the other side of the hurdle and the best way to get us over it. We NEED to invite Him in and on our journey because He’s what keeps us going!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the JOY set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not lose heart.”                            –Hebrews 12:1-3

We know that none of us will escape life without hardship. Not a single person in all of history has had it “easy” all of the time.  So if you knew you’d be facing something really hard, wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with people who could help you through it and lighten the load a bit?  If you knew you were going to to face something major… job loss, illness of yourself or a loved one, financial ruin or something else… wouldn’t you want to equip yourself with all the tools necessary  to help your mind, body and spirit press on and not be “squished” by the overwhelming nature of the burden?  If you KNEW you had direct access to the ONE person who could help you succeed, wouldn’t you want to build on that relationship?

Jesus did that!  In looking at His life, He surrounded Himself with a core group of beloved friends in the form of the disciples.  Those friends stood by Him thick and thin and offered great encouragement for the three years they spent together.  A few of them were a bit zealous (ahem, Peter and the ear thing… John 18:10) and also screwed up (again, Peter… the rooster, see Matthew 26), but they encouraged and loved Jesus.

Jesus was FULLY EQUIPPED for the journey set before Him.  He knew Scripture in and out, up and down, backward and forward.  He armed Himself well.  When He was tested in the desert by Satan himself (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus was able to resist all the temptations and combat false accusations because Jesus KNEW the character of God (it helped that He IS God, but He was also fully man and felt the depths that temptation can take us to).  He had studied Scriptures.  We are called to do the same thing: “Put on the FULL ARMOR OF GOD so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

Jesus was also in constant communication with His Father in heaven.  All throughout the New Testament we see Jesus wandering off to pray.  That was and still is the way we get personal access to the Creator of the Universe.  Each of us has a direct line to Him… all we have to do is pray… to talk with God.  Not just when we need stuff, but when we’re excited, scared, rejoicing, thankful… anything.  Prayer doesn’t have to be stuffy and filled with “thee’s and thou’s” either.  God just wants us to call out to Him and share our hearts with Him; to invite Him in to our lives.

Because here’s the thing: Life. Life is inevitably going to have times when stuff happens that can make it seem unbearably difficult and long and drawn out and just exhausting.  We NEED the hope that only Jesus can provide; that hope that says “there is more than just this”.  Because there is!

During the first half of the pregnancy with Phoebe I just wanted it to end. Not her to end, but the unknowns of what was coming and the anticipation of heartache and all the other stuff that weighed SO HEAVILY on my heart even when I wasn’t thinking about it. Those? I craved for those to be over.  Every moment when the child you’re carrying in your womb has been given a death sentence is just awful because you don’t know when the “inevitable” will come to fruition and an immeasurable pain will begin.

So during that time I knew that I had to build up my reserves. I had to press deeply into my friendships and rely on them for emotional strength. I had to press deeply into the Word of God because I needed to know down to the core of my bones that He is in fact good in spite of what the prognosis was. I had to plead with God for strength and help and to just cry with Him when the feelings of my heart couldn’t be formed into words.

I can say with confidence that I could not have made it through the first half of the pregnancy had I not done those things.  And God?  He made Himself known to me in ways I never ever hoped or even imagined possible.  Again.

You see, our Phoebe, is just one of the many mile markers of God’s joining us in the race of our lives. She is a tangible, kissable and snugable reminder to us of why it’s so important to keep running the race….

Because God hears.  And if He hears, He is real.  And if He is real, what He says in His word is what He wants of and for us… He wants our love for Him because He loves us and is cheering us on as only a perfect Father can, through each of the twists and turns, peaks and valleys of our life’s race.

Perhaps you’re in a place where the race is just too much.  You want to quit.  You want to lie down on the side of the road and just stop running.  I plead with you, reach out to someone else who is running.  Surround yourself with those who can help you up and walk with you until you can run.  Fuel yourself with God’s Word.  There is no substitute. Call out to Him.  He is already cheering you on!