He Covers

He Covers

As I laid in bed with my daughter telling her stories before bedtime, we could hear the thunder getting louder. At first it was so faint, she was unaffected by the distant rumbles.

A few minutes later, the claps of thunder got closer and louder. She stopped for a moment and held still, realizing a storm was beginning to pass over us. “Can you get closer to me, momma?”

A couple more booms and she interrupted our story. “Momma…can you get your arms and hands and hold me?”

I moved as close as I could to her and wrapped my arms around her, holding her head close to my chest. I could feel her nervousness in the tension of her little body. I hated that she so scared, but I loved being right there with her—guarding over her, wrapped around her. We finished our story and I sang our nightly lullaby. Ever so slowly her breathing softened and her muscles relaxed.

Even after she fell asleep, I laid there for a few extra minutes absorbing the sweetness of my girl’s words—“can you get your arms and hands and hold me?” I loved that I was her security. I loved that I was the one that brought her comfort and peace. I loved it because sometimes…I just need that too.

Whether it’s been one of those days, or I’m in the thick of a really challenging life issue, there are times my heart begs God, “Can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?” Some days I just need to feel that comfort and security wrapped around me and covering me completely.

God, can you please just get your arms and hands and hold me?

God’s Word says that he is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), our rock, fortress, deliverer and shield (Psalm 18:2). The entire book of Psalms is overflowing with people’s pleas for God’s rescuing, as well as declarations of God’s faithfulness.

After I lost our first baby six years ago, I laid in an ER bed trying to process the emotional and physical brokenness that I had just endured. The chaplain walked in to talk with us. He laid a mint green shawl down the length of my body, covering me. It was crocheted by a hospital ministry and given to mommas who had just lost a baby. Over the next few weeks, I held it, I wrapped it around my, and I covered myself with it. And every time I physically covered my body with it, my heart was being covered too.

As humans, we all have this need to be covered in different ways. We need shelter to cover our families. We need clothing to cover our bodies. We need bandages to cover our wounds. Maybe you’ve even heard the expression, “I’m covering you in prayer.” We are all in need of covering.

Even now, as I pray at night, I ask God to cover my life and everyone and everything in it. Cover it with his protection, his blessing, his anointing.

When it seems like darkness is swallowing the world, He covers.

When evil threatens the security of our hearts and minds, He covers.

When anxiety attempts to steal our peace, He covers.

It doesn’t mean that the pain dissolves—but He promises to cover you with comfort. It doesn’t mean that brokenness disappears—but He promises to cover with restoration.

Our God is a God who covers. He sees and knows and covers. His love covers you and it destroys fear. His light covers you and it drives out darkness.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

The Truth About My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

The Truth About My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

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My baby. She was finally here. She was healthy and in my arms…and she was perfect.

We bought a new home only 3 weeks before her arrival. It had way more space than our tiny, one bedroom condo. It was a place to finally call our own. A place where we could paint every wall hot pink if we wanted to because it was ours. There was room to grow. It was perfect.

Everything was perfect…except it wasn’t.

The immediate months following my transition into motherhood were hard. Really hard. I constantly wondered how every other new parent was able to handle it all, while I was slowly crumbling.

The sleep deprivation alone was enough to break any person into a hundred pieces. But there were also the changing hormones, the new dynamic between me and my husband, and the heavy responsibility of being another human being’s everything. And on top of it all, came the constant arguing, the deep anxiety and the paralyzing panic attacks. I felt so sad that I was almost numb. The scenarios I worried about were not only irrational, they were extreme.

It was all balled up together like a bowl of tangled, spaghetti noodles—everything intertwined and knotted. One thing seemed to affect another thing which led to another, and another and another. I couldn’t find the beginning or end. And I could no longer decipher an irrational meltdown from a logical concern. It was all the same. I was tired and empty and felt completely alone.

I resented my husband for not doing more. Not taking the baby more. Not cleaning more. Not helping me more. But when he offered to help, I didn’t even know which of the moving pieces to give him. I was juggling it all and if I handed off the baby, or gave him one task or chore or action, the whole thing would fall apart. It was just easier if I did it. I felt myself getting dangerously worn but I felt too guilty to stop. There was no solution—I either resented him for not helping or I felt gut-wrenchingly guilty for asking for help. I was the mom. I was the one who was supposed to be able to do it all. Right?

But the single working part that I had become starting breaking. One person can only go or do so much before they just…can’t anymore.

And that’s where I found myself. I couldn’t. I barely recognized the woman in the mirror. Even worse, I didn’t like her anymore.

I longed to be a momma my entire life, so needing help felt like I was failing at the one thing that I always aspired to be. Nobody told me it would be this hard. Nobody told me that parenthood would test the endurance of my marriage, challenge my emotional and spiritual condition, and make me question my own self-identity.

I had heard of “baby blues.” What a cute, non-threatening label. I had also heard of “postpartum depression.” That term sounded more medical and serious, but still, I didn’t truly know what it was. I had never even heard of “postpartum anxiety.”

My preconception of postpartum depression led me to believe that it was uncommon, and when a woman did experience it, it was within the first few weeks of having a baby. I was far passed the few weeks mark—my baby was 5 months old—so it had to be something else. Maybe motherhood just wasn’t as natural for me as I thought it would be. Maybe I needed to get away for a while. Maybe my husband and I were growing apart. Maybe I was just losing it.

I wanted to be a mom and I loved my baby and I was healthy and young. I had a new home, a great husband, and beautiful healthy baby. What was there to be depressed about?

Yet, I was suffocating. I hadn’t expressed my feelings to anyone. Not to the degree in which they were exploding inside of me. All my mommy-friends looked like they had their lives together. It seemed as if motherhood was a breeze for them. They were happy and organized…and showered. I was barely functioning.

And after 5 months of feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted, I realized it wasn’t getting better. In fact, everything was getting worse.

I wasn’t just tired. I wasn’t just feeling the newness of being a momma. I wasn’t just “in a funk”.

It went deeper. So much deeper.

Finally, I met my breaking point. “I need help. I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. I wasn’t crying for help with the dishes or housework or holding the baby. I needed help with my entire life. My marriage, my mind, my body.

I called my doctor. I called my pastor’s wife. I called my mom. I talked to my husband. I went to a professional counselor. And I began to open up with the moms around me. Just saying those 3 words were freeing in itself—“I need help.”

The moment I began to feel the warmth from the intentional support of others, my hope and clarity began to restore. I had existed in hopelessness and helplessness for so long that hope felt…strange. Strange but wonderful. Like a precious friend you haven’t seen in years—you know them well, yet don’t fully recognize them.

Because there were so many different kinds of issues and struggles going on inside of me—and because new pains had mixed with resurfaced ones—it took everyone on my “team” to help me. My husband, my pastor’s wife, my counselor, my doctor, my momma-friends. Each person helped me in different, vital ways. Each contributed a level of healing.

My doctor and I came up with a 3 week plan. Three weeks of counseling, being intentional with what I was eating, how I was exercising, spending time in the sunshine, allowing myself time to be alone. After the 3 weeks, I would have a follow-up appointment to reassess how I was doing and see if there was any improvement. If there wasn’t much improvement, we would then discuss incorporating medicine. It wasn’t night an overnight “cure” but within the first few days of starting my new routine, I noticed an improvement. I could already breathe easier. Because this was an ongoing process, I remained intentional with my self-care routine and stayed aware of how I was feeling.

My senses felt crisper. I was living again, not just surviving. And it happened because I spoke out.

Postpartum depression and anxiety can vary in appearance from momma to momma. Its heaviness can gradually grow like single grains of sand slowly piling up. Or it can come on very suddenly. There isn’t a definitive list of emotions or symptoms and there isn’t an exact timeframe as to when it can happen. And I think that’s why it can go undetected or ignored for so long.

If you’ve recently had a baby—even within the last year—and you feel overwhelmed, hopeless and completely empty to the point of feeling like you can’t function as a person, I encourage you to speak up for yourself. Talk to a professional. There is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. I know that you want to be the absolute best momma to your baby. I know you may feel guilty asking for help or wanting to take time for yourself. But in order to fill up the ones around you, you have to be filled yourself. Caring for yourself—mind, body and spirit—should remain a top priority. I’m not sure why there is still such a stigma around postpartum depression but I can tell you with complete certainty, you are not alone, you are not failing and there is nothing to be ashamed about. I promise you, there is help nearby and things are going to get better.

When New Becomes the Normal

When New Becomes the Normal

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This particular feeling of transition is familiar to me. The waiting game. The anticipation. The dreaming and preparing and eagerness and anxiety. The constantly being on edge, while trying to distract myself and not think about how I’m constantly on edge. It’s e x h a u s t i n g .

Oh yes, I know this feeling well. It’s a mixture of heartache as well as over-the-moon excitement. A haze of surrealness that we are in the last days of being a household of 4—transitioning to a household of 5.

I felt this right before each of my daughters were born too—this strange place of savoring every moment of how life currently is while impatiently awaiting what will become our family’s new normal.

I can’t remember life before my youngest daughter. It is like she has always been here. And I surely can’t remember life before my oldest daughter. I am convinced life started the day she born and it is the life that I have always wanted to live.

However, these were not my sentiments right before they were each born. During the days leading up to their births it was more of an, “OH. MAN. How the heck am I going to do this? I barely have my act together right now. Like, barely. And I’m supposed to add another human life into the mix!? This is not going to be pretty.”

But sure enough, after a little bit of time (and tears and small victories and slowly conquering the learning curve) I moved from the scary newness to a more confident rhythm of life. Trust me, we still had those days. We still have those days. I don’t think the frequency decreased. I think maybe I just figured out how to handle them better. I’m not sure. Either way, I’ll take it.

And soon…it was normal. Life with a baby was normal. Then life with 2 kids was normal. And now, with faith that that truth will continue, I know life with 3 kids will become my new normal. And eventually, the details of life before our son will become foggy. Because he will be the perfect puzzle piece that our family was missing.

As I was drying my girls’ hair this morning, (there really is nothing like the smell of fresh babies right out of the bath) one was swaying back and forth singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the top of her lungs—the other one was playing a music game on my phone. And as I ran my fingers through their hair, I held my breath a little. My lungs captured that air so very tightly. And I didn’t want to exhale. Because I loved that moment. And I love our family dynamic right now. I love my full days with my 2 little best friends. And even though those full days can be hard and wearing full days, I love them just the same.

But eventually I had to let out that precious breath and when it did my heart exploded with these words…

You are losing nothing and gaining so much. The joy of life is going about to be multiplied. Life will look different, but it will be better.

I am settled into that place—that place of absorbing the right-now as well as the soon-will-be. And I am thankful for both, because both make me a mom.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

A Love Note to the New Momma Who Just Gave Birth

A Love Note to the New Momma Who Just Gave Birth

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Dear New Momma,

You did it, momma. You created a little piece of perfection—carrying and growing and nurturing that life for 9 months.

You persevered through morning sickness, swollen body parts that you didn’t even know could swell and Hulk-like mood swings—becoming a sacred vessel of holy life.

Then the day your heart pitter-pattered in anticipation for finally arrived…birth day.

All of heaven paused. And in one glorious moment, the child that listened to your heartbeat from the inside, now laid on your chest to feel it’s beat from the outside. And your soul was completely captured by the most beautiful being you’ve ever seen. You memorized every inch of that baby—counting fingers and toes—eager to claim responsibility for various facial features. You thought you would physically melt into a puddle on the floor from all the emotions that took over your body…and it was then that you realized what unconditional love truly was.

Maybe you were able to come home right away. Or maybe you weren’t able to come home immediately. Maybe your hospital stay was longer than what your heart felt like it could endure—just wanting everything to be ok and normal. Having to wait stabbed at your heart. The sting wasn’t for yourself, but for this new little piece of yourself breathing in your arms. And your first supernatural act of momma strength—a new selflessness and fierceness—carried you both through. And you did it. You made it. And now you’re home…

Welcome to your new normal.

At first, you will worry about whether your baby is peeing and pooping regularly, eating well, swaddled correctly, a comfortable temperature…and you know…breathing. Even the smallest of details will worry you. You are, after all, responsible for keeping an entire other person alive now. That’s not exactly a job for the faint of heart.

Don’t feel silly about worrying. Or stressing out. Or melting down in moments of I-Have-No-Idea-What-I’m-Doing. Don’t panic when all the tips and advice you’ve been given don’t help you like you thought they would. Remember, all the information and guidelines you read in those articles and books are just that…guidelines. And maybe the perfect way that your mom or your Aunt Sue or your best friend did something, isn’t going to be perfect for you. And that is more than ok.

Every human being is different. Every baby is different. All of your previous ideas and convictions and set-in-stone plans will most likely be reevaluated, readjusted or completely thrown out the window at some point. Pacifier or no pacifier? Cloth diapers or disposable diapers? Breastfeeding or formula? Ibuprofen or no ibuprofen? Yes, be knowledgable, but listen to your momma intuition. Figure out what works for you both and then go with it.

The best advice I ever got as a new, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived momma was, “Your daughter isn’t going to go off to college with a pacifier. She will be potty trained, she will be eating on her own and she will be sleeping through the night. So just do whatever works for you both right now.” The realization that choosing cloth diapers or disposable diapers wasn’t an life-altering decision, really freed me. And from that day forward, I’ve really tried to carry that “do what works for you both” mindset.

Some days you’ll flow in the new rhythm of your new life and you’ll look around and think, “Oh my goodness, I’m doing this thing.” And then other days, that rhythm will feel more like abrupt, robotic movements as you just try to survive. Both are normal.

You’ll have a tiring day and a sleepless night that blends into another tiring day and night—becoming one, unending rotation around the sun. Because momma’s don’t get to clock out at 5pm and babies don’t always sleep at night. You will stare straight at that baby monitor at 3am and pray in the name of Jesus’ that that child will just go.to.sleep.

It will get better.

Nap when you can. Cry when you need to. Eat cookies when you want. Even when you can barely keep your eyes open, go sit outside in the sunshine or stroll the neighborhood. It does help. Give the baby to daddy and go sit in the closet with some chocolate and your Bible and just…be. Ask for help when you need it. You’ll still be exhausted, that’s just motherhood. But you won’t feel so alone and maybe, just maybe, you can sneak in a nap or a shower.

There will be times you and your husband will feel like you’re not only on different pages but in totally different books…and in different libraries. And there will be moments you will want to kick him, ironically enough, in his baby maker. Don’t do it. (For one, there may come a day in the far, far future that you want more babies. So it’s a good idea to keep everything in proper working order.) Keep talking to each other and remember he’s new at this whole parenthood thing too. Ask for grace. Give grace. Keep stealing moments alone with him even if it’s for 5 minutes.

Know that you can’t do it all on your own. You weren’t meant to. That doesn’t point to any kind of inadequacy. No, not at all. You are a wellspring of beauty and life that pours out in many directions. Wife. Mother. Friend. Woman. So take care of yourself. If you want to be a good momma to your baby, then be good to his/her momma. Love her well. Give her grace and find some time just for her.

You are on one of the most incredible rides of your life. There’s hard stuff, sure. But what life changing adventure is easy? You will learn things about yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise know. That is a gift even on the days it doesn’t feel like one. Motherhood refines you, sharpens you, grows you. You will be an all around better person because of your baby. His/her heart will forever grip yours. And vice versa. Your love for them will be fiercer than anything you’ve ever known.

In your desire to keep them safe from harm and heartache, learn to trust Jesus more. Let Him show you His heart and character in deep, profound ways. As you worry, know that He loves them even more than you do. (Can you even imagine that?) And He knew the exact mom that your baby needed…and it is you. You are equipped with everything you need to love that child well and point him/her to Him.

You did it, momma. And you’re doing it.

And remember you’re not alone—we’re in this momma journey together.

Love, The momma standing next to you

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

To the Momma I Overheard Talking to Her Son

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I saw you holding your little boy’s hand as you briskly walked into the store. How old is he? Maybe 4? You both looked like winter pros as you braved the cold weather and harsh wind bundled in thick jackets, scarves, gloves and boots.

My girls left the house with coats and boots and gloves too.

But my 1 year old refused to keep her boots on. And only 70% of their other winter apparel could be accounted for before we even got out of the car.

So my littlest one was just wrapped in a fluffy blanket like a pink burrito.

Motherhood is all about improvising and going with the flow, don’t you think? I do. So I counted the burrito wrapped baby as a total win. But just so you know, my mom-experience appreciated how put together you both were. Not one element of your assemble resembled a food item. Impressive.

You stopped at the end of our aisle and said something to your son. I was slowly browsing towards your direction in search of a cutting board and knives. (I love to cook and make amazing dinners every night. Just kidding, I hate cooking and they were for my chef of a husband.)

I noticed you take both of your son’s hands abruptly and bend down right in front of him, getting right on his level. You leaned in and literally couldn’t get any closer to his face. His eyes immediately honed into you and his attention was all yours. I couldn’t hear what you were saying, but I assumed by his short little nods and your very intentional tone that he was being reprimanded. So I looked away and tried to give you both privacy and space. Well, as much privacy and space as possible in a crowded store during the height of the Christmas season.

I scanned the shelf trying to decide which cutting board was the prettiest—because I’m sure esthetics is the most important feature of a cutting board and I wasn’t going to let my husband down. (You’re welcome, babe.) As I spotted the one, I took a couple steps forward and bent down to grab it. As I reached out, I could hear you. Very clearly. And what you were saying brought me to tears.

You were right in his face. You even gave your son’s hands a few shakes. “I am so incredibly proud of you. Do you know that? You are amazing and that was just awesome. Man, I’m proud of you!”

He was staring at you, shaking his head. Absorbing it all.

I was absorbing it all.

Right there in the middle of the retail chaos and the hustle and bustle, among all the speeding carts full of “stuff” that won’t last and “things” that just don’t matter—you were giving your son the most beautiful gifts. Things that will last. Things that do matter.

Affirmation. Appreciation. You were giving love.

And your son wasn’t the only one that walked away from that conversation with a fuller heart. I did too.

Oh, momma. In a world that can feel so cold, so harsh, your words warmed my very soul.

You truly are changing your part of the world.

Keep speaking words of life to him. Keep telling him how amazing he is. Keep telling him how proud you are of him. Keep taking the time to stop in the middle of life’s chaos to show him how appreciated and loved he is. You’re affecting him. And you’re affecting those of us lucky enough to be standing in your same aisle.

You’ve challenged me to stay focused and chase what matters. To stop in this moment and find what is right and beautiful and good—and openly acknowledge it. And I am forever grateful to you.

Merry Christmas, fellow momma. Stay warm. And stay you.

Seasons of Savoring and Suffering

Seasons of Savoring and Suffering

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Here’s some honesty for you: A few months ago I lost my makeup bag. Not misplaced it. Not set it down somewhere I don’t usually keep it. I straight up lost it. I couldn’t for the life of me remember when I had seen it last (meaning I couldn’t remember when I had actually put makeup on last.)

I sometimes very often find myself standing in the middle of my kitchen just staring at the overflowing sink full of dirty dishes and wonder, How? How can 4 people make all these overnight? And how in the world are there 47 dirty sippy cups in here!? We don’t even own 47 sips cups, yet here they are.

And my bedroom almost always has at least one pile of laundry in it that’s just begging to be folded and put away. My reaction to its pleas are always the same. I kick it out of the way to show it who’s boss and sternly remind it that it’s lucky it even got washed.

Ok, ok. My examples of missing makeup bags and condescending laundry piles may not totally resonate with you, but hey, I’m a mom to 2 littles (and one on the way.) So my makeup-less days really are filled with wiping, scrubbing, changing and washing. And an occasional, “Spit that out of your mouth!

But I’m not just talking about housework or mommyhood. This happens to me as a wife. And a friend. And a woman. And a human being in general.

I feel like I’m constantly moving—yet not going anywhere. Like I’ll be stuck in a certain place with a certain routine forever.

My days become this constant, repetitive spinning cycle. And if I let it, I get caught in its rotation and forget to…you know…breathe.

My point is this. It’s so easy to just do routine. To get what needs to be done done. And one day, you pause and look around and think to yourself, Where am I? How did I get here? I used to have the energy to put on makeup everyday. I used to have time to finish things. I used to be so confident as to what direction to go in life.

But what the Lord has been showing me recently is that life comes and goes in seasons. Nothing lasts.

And when I grasp that perspective, it makes it a little easier to push through the hard days and causes me to more fully savor the good ones.

I’m sure there have been seasons of your life that have felt endless, but looking back at them now, you can see they didn’t last forever.

There were times in college where I literally thought a class was going to kill me. The work was hard, the professor sounded like the guy from the Clear Eyes commercial except not as interesting. (I probably just dated myself with that reference. If you’re a little young thing, please smile and nod…then watch them on YouTube so we can be on the same page.) I had to work my tail off in those classes just to make an average grade.

But that time didn’t last. The class really did end and eventually it became a faint memory that still makes my eye twitch. It was a season that passed.

After college I went through a huge emotional shifting. I had to figure out life very quickly when my entire world felt like it was crumbling around me. I didn’t know what to do or where to go or if I would make it out in one piece.

But I did make it—more whole than I ever could have thought possible. In that dry land of unknowns, I cultivated strong friendships. I learned more about myself in that season of difficulty than I had in any previous season of ease. That time didn’t last. It became a season that passed.

After my husband and I got married, there was so much to figure out and get used to. Thank goodness he put the roll of toilet paper on the right way, so that wasn’t one of the battles. (The correct way is over…not under. Ever.) But we still had a lot of other important decisions to make. Jobs, moving, finances, transition. And then there was the general settling in to our new married roles. There were many times that we didn’t know what was around the corner or if our rent would even get paid.

But we made it. The hardships sealed us together in the most beautiful way. We had to lean into each other and rely fully on God during that season. It was scary and wonderful and life changing. I wouldn’t want to do it over again, but I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Because we learned to quiet ourselves to hear His voice when we desperately needed direction, we recognized His voice when He called us into the next wonderful season. And every year we’ve gotten strong and stronger.

Four years ago and 2 years ago, I miscarried babies. We went through a season of grief and rawness. I ached for my babies and I cried every day. There were no answers to the whys or guarantees for the future. But those times changed me. My losses stirred up strength. The brokenness brought wholeness in some ways.

And although the scars will always be there, the initial sting lasted a season.

Life is not a solid line stretching from point A to point B. It’s fluid—constantly moving, changing and shifting.

If you are grieving deeply and feel like nothing will ever resemble anything close to normal again, remember—there will be life again. There is a future and it is filled with more seasons. Healing is on its way.

If you find yourself in a place of confusion and you’re wondering whether you should move forward or hold still, remember—this is a season. Listen to His voice. Clarity is coming.

If you can’t find your makeup bag for 4 days because you barely have enough energy to do anything besides chase adorable little people around the house and wash their 47 sippy cups every night, remember—little people grow up and one day there won’t be sippy cups to wash. So savor the chaos. Forget the makeup. It will soon be a season that passed.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Lookin’ like a Sloth

Lookin’ like a Sloth

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I looked in the baby monitor and saw my 2 year old stirring from her mid-afternoon nap. And then, crying. My heart dropped because it was the “something hurts” cry.

I raced to her room, picked her up and immediately felt heat radiating off her body.

“I so hot, momma.” I didn’t need to grab the thermometer to know she had a fever.

I took her to the living room and kept a close eye on her. We cuddled and watched her favorite show. Within hours her little sister had a fever too.

I took a deep breath, bracing my heart and body for what I knew would be a restless night.

The length of the night felt multiplied times over. If one girl was asleep, the other one was up. My husband and I spent the dark hours tag-teaming bedrooms, swapping kids back and forth. It was an exhausting rotation.

After a couple days of feeling yucky, the girls seemed to be over it all. A deep sigh of relief.

I went a full 24 hours thinking our house was well. Then I woke up the very next morning feeling like I had been body slammed into a brick wall all night long.

My first thought was, “I can’t be sick. I can’t do this.”

I slothed around the house all morning – in action and appearance. No, slothed isn’t actual a word. But I bet you got the visual, didn’t you? A hairy, greasy, animal slowing making it’s way around the jungle floor. Beady little eyes, scrunched up face, lookin’ like it was hit by a car, drug down the road for a couple miles, but somehow managed to survive.

Yeah, that was me.

I gave myself a quick pep talk. If I can just take it easy for a couple days, it’ll be ok. I can do this…I can do this. And then round #2 hit our girls. All 3 of us were sick. Not “cough-cough” sick…we were sprawled out, snotty, crying messes. I called the doctor and was told that this bug was going around and hitting hard. Yeah, no kidding. There was nothing to do except wait it out.

This thing lasted 10 days for the girls. TEN…DAYS. Which of course included 10 restless, uncomfortable, yucky nights.

But even after the 10 days, I was still slothing it. On the 14th day, I went to the doctor and found out I had a sinus infections and a UTI.

The doctor was a cute little thing. She seemed too young to be a doctor and the whole thing felt a little too Doogie Howser (please tell me some of you remember that show). Anyways, she told me to get plenty of sleep…and to kick the kids out of the bathroom 3 times a day to be alone and run a hot shower for my sinuses. Sleep? Is that the thing some people do at night when they close their eyes for more than 2 hours at a time? I’ve heard about that. Private time in the bathroom? Like, alone? Like, with no kids? No, I always have an audience. If I manage to shut the door before my entourage follows me in, I immediately hear pitiful pterodactyl screeching and see little fingers wiggling underneath the door. In theory, the doctor’s game plan was what I needed. But the execution was impossible. I just smiled and nodded…knowing one day, when she has babies and hasn’t peed alone for years, she may remember the unrealistic orders that she gave to that weary, sick momma who looked like a pitiful sloth.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been brought to a place of such mental exhaustion. It easily outdid the sleepless newborn stages.

After the 2 weeks came to a close, my mind, heart, and body were depleted. Totally depleted.

I broke down and prayed, “Oh, Father. I can’t do it. I’m so exhausted. So sleep deprived. So worn out. So…empty. I just can’t do it. Please, Holy Spirit refresh me. Refresh my mind, body and soul.”

I was desperate. Desperate for supernatural refreshment. Desperate for living water to rush through my veins and pump into my heart. Desperate for holy air to fill my lungs and for clarity to purge my mind.

It was through that new perspective brought on by my desperation, that I realized something. Normally when I start to feel empty or dry, I “do” something myself to fix it. Rarely do I stop and ask for the Lord to renew me first. 

And in my depletion and desperation, there was a beautiful submission that took place within me. It was a breaking of my own mental and emotional strength. I had nothing in me to “do.” I could just lay there, close my eyes and ask for the Lord’s strength to renew me.

And you guys, He did.

I woke up the next morning feeling revived – like angels had sung to my soul all night long. My spirit had fresh air. My body didn’t ache. My thoughts were clear.

It truly was a supernatural renewal. I was so humbled and grateful that I cried in thanksgiving for days. Thank you, Father.

Far too many times I rely on my own ability to try and improve the way I feel. Sometimes I will “do” and other times I use distraction to divert my emotions and thoughts until I feel better. But when my emptiness extended beyond my own reach and ability to fix it, I was reminded of my constant desperation for God.

And when I think back on things that have happened in my life, it’s always in those times of brokenness, emptiness and depletion when I see the most transformation and power in my mind, body and life. It gives me a little deeper understanding about what Paul is talking about when he says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

There are many good things I can do to keep my heart, mind and body healthy. But nothing compares to what Jesus offers. Nothing changes a life like His grace and power. When I acknowledge my need for Him and ask Him to refresh me, then make the conscious decision to release my own grip on control, He can work inside me freely and fully.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Maybe you’re in a place of emptiness and getting through just one more day feels impossible. Maybe you’re desperate for physical energy or emotional renewal. Wherever you are, no matter what you’re going through, no matter how empty you feel, God wants to work inside you, freely and fully. Let Him renew you. Let Him refresh you. Let Him revive you.

He’s faithful to do it.

How to Keep Your Home Immaculate While Living with a Toddler

Clean-House

For years, I struggled. I worked tirelessly to have both worlds – children and a clean house. As someone who struggled with keeping an organized and clean house before kids, those cute little ones added a whole new element to the already impossible task. I would do what I like to call “The Run Through.” That’s where I would speed around like a wild woman in each room, picking up as much as I could in the least amount of time. If I made good time with “The Run Through” (my best time being 7 minutes, 48 seconds), I would even begin on the laundry. However, 9 times out of 10, I would turn around and see what looked like a F5 tornado (also known as a toddler) had hit the entire house again when my back was turned. Well, the struggle is over. I have discovered 9 Simple Tips that solve every momma’s clutter problem and if you follow them, you too can have an immaculate house while living with a toddler.

1. Carpets

The cleanliness of your carpets are threatened by a few things. But one of these things surpasses them all. Oh sure, at first glance it seems harmless…pretty even. But looks can be so deceiving. Glitter. Once the little bottle tips over, that stuff flies through the air and it looks like a shimmery atomic bomb went off. You will find it in the carpet for the rest of your life. And just for good measure, stay away from all crafting and messy projects. Glue sticks, Play-Doh, markers, paint. I shudder to even think of what they would do to the carpets if left in the hands of a toddler.

2. Clean Windows

To keep clean windows, it is imperative to keep curious little hands and inquisitive faces from being pressed against the glass. If a firetruck drives by, a flock of birds lands on the patio, or it begins to snow, discourage the child from looking out.

3. Furniture

To keep the furniture spotless, restrict all eating to the dining room table. This includes sippy cups, suckers and all snacks in general. And no jumping. No shoes. Only sitting.

4. Living Room

The living room is the most important room in the house because that is where you will most likely socialize with your guests. As awesome as it would be to throw all the cushions on the floor and pretend that they are boats floating down a raging river, don’t. Dragging in the dining room chairs and placing them in a circle, then covering them up with sheets and blankets would make for an epic fort. But then your toddler will want to have fun. And fun is messy.

5. Laundry

Use the time that your toddler is quietly reading books or practicing algebra to make sure all laundry is separated, washed, dried, folded and hung.

6. Bath Time

To keep the floors dry and the bathtub looking neat and tidy, keep bath time simple and uneventful. No bubbles. No toys. In and out.

7. Walls

Because children’s hands are always sticky (regardless of whether or not they’ve touched something sticky) your walls will inevitably have little handprints on every wall of your home. These smudges are at exactly hip level and come in a variety of colors and textures. To avoid your walls looking like your toddler gave 6,000 sticky high fives to your home, have your toddler wear gloves at all times. No exceptions.

8. Potty Training

There’s no getting around it…this is strictly an outside-hire job. If the carpets, furniture and bedding are to stay clean, dry and poop free, potty training can not take place within the house. If the potty training child has to stay on the premises, the majority of said training should happen outside. Laying down newspapers in the child’s playroom will also work as an absolute last resort.

9. Organization

One word – Pinterest. Not only will your DIY organizers be functional, they will also be gorgeous. While you’re watching your toddler in backyard having the time of her life painting rocks, (with water, not paint of course) pull up your Organization board and get sewing! The projects are so easy and cost/time efficient. You’re sure to nail every project every time and walk away feeling really good about yourself. In only four hours, voila! You have yourself one fabric-lined, shoebox-sized organizer. Thank you, Pinterest. Thank you.

Ok, ok. So these tips are…ridiculous, to say the least. But really, I think that’s what I would have to do in order to have an always clean, always organized home. If you’re like me, you struggle to keep clean underwear washed for your husband, much less perfectly clean or organize anything in your life. There are always at least a few dishes in the sink and toys are always strewn around the house. I can’t see through the bottom half of any window or glass door of my home because the toddler handprints, face smudges and dog nose marks have fogged them all. 

But you know what my home does have? Giggles. And lots of them. We laugh and we play and make messes. Our adventures are unrivaled and I know our playtime together will not last forever. One day, my little people will grow up. My windows will be clean and the house will be more organized. My heart aches to think about it.

Oh, weary momma. Don’t feel guilty that you juggle playtime and housework all day long and feel like you have nothing to show for it. Don’t measure the success of your day by the size of the dirty laundry pile. Don’t worry that your bed is always unmade or the sink always has dishes in it.

You try so hard. You work so hard.

Did you and your child giggle today? Then you did today right.

Are there handprints still on the kitchen table from working on today’s masterpiece? Then you did today right.

The giggles. The adventures. The dance parties. The glitter explosions. Those make up the memories that your children will carry for the rest of their lives. They won’t remember how clean the windows were. They will remember all the fun you had taking turns making each other laugh by smashing your faces against the glass.

You’re awesome, momma. The mess is just for a season. So enjoy this season.

Now, go make that epic fort.

Because You Are a Momma

Because You Are a Momma

smelling-flowers

It was Mother’s Day. My very first Mother’s Day.

And I felt lovely. Not because of what I was wearing or how my hair or makeup looked.

I felt lovely because I was growing life.

Seven months prior, I had lost a baby. One well-intentioned comment I received was, “I’m sorry for your loss. You’ll be a great mom…one day.”

One day?

I already was a mom. My baby’s nursery was just in heaven. I hadn’t changed a dirty diaper yet or rocked tired little eyes to sleep, but I…I was a mom.

I knew what the woman was trying to say. She was trying to comfort me and give me hope. But not being acknowledged as a mom, a title that was forever imprinted on my soul the moment I conceived, definitely stung.

So this day, my first Mother’s Day, was sacred to me. It was sacred because I was doubly celebrating being the mom; to a precious heaven baby and to the sweet little girl who was using my bladder as a trampoline.

We walked into the church sanctuary and found seats. As everyone was greeting one another, the lady seated directly in front of me “awww-ed” over my round tummy. She shook my hand and said, “Just think, next Mother’s Day you’ll be a mommy!”

Excuse me? Next Mother’s Day? What gives, lady? You do see the bulge under my shirt? Yeah, that’s a human being. She’s made me almost pee my pants twice since I sat down. But tell me, when do you think I’ll become a mom? After she’s born? When she actually calls me momma? When she can spell the word momma?

I said none of that and politely smiled and sat down. However, over the course of the next hour, I debated whether I should extend her grace like Jesus wanted me to, or if I should stick my gum in her hair.

And before you get all judgmental on me, the Lord already knows that I debated…for an hour…in the house of God. Gum or grace? Gum…or grace? Gum…or…grace? I confessed it and chose grace. But I was chewing that gum hard, I’ll tell you that much.

What I think so many people don’t understand is that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. And you don’t have to be holding a child in your arms in order to be a mom.

Sometimes motherhood is born from a woman’s body. Sometimes motherhood is born from a woman’s heart.

No matter what form that moment came in, you are a momma.

If your baby was born in your heart and you’ve experienced the miracle of adoption… you belong here …because you are a momma.

If you have lost a baby and your heart is heavy and your arms are empty… you belong here …because you are a momma.

If you are struggling with infertility and your motherhood feels invisible to the world… you belong here …because you are a momma. I see you. And so does God.

If your arms are eagerly waiting to hold the little person that your tummy is growing… you belong here …because you are a momma.

If your arms are as full as your days, chasing busy little people around the house reminding them not to play in the toilet water…you belong here…because you are a momma.

If your children are grown and live far away and you would give anything to rewind the clock, kiss their little foreheads and tuck them in bed one more time…I celebrate the love and hard work you’ve invested for so many years…you belong here…because you are a momma.

If all your children are no longer on this earth and the only things you have are precious memories…you belong here…because you are a momma.

Once you are a mom, you are always a mom.

Time, distance, eternity, circumstance doesn’t change that.

If you feel like nobody sees you…I see you, momma. And I celebrate you.

Serving Jesus Mac and Cheese

Macaroni

As my daughter was coloring on the living room floor, she looked up at me and asked, “Momma, tan I haf some apple juice, pwease?”

“Sure, sweet girl. I’ll go get you some.”

On my way to the kitchen, I noticed a wet diaper laying on the floor that hadn’t made it to a trash can. So I picked it up and headed towards the kitchen.

As I tossed it in the trash, I noticed the can was almost full, so I decided to grab the bathroom trash cans to empty into the kitchen trash can, so I could take it all out. You know, optimize the empty space in the bag before sealing it.

After I emptied the contents of the little cans into the big one, I tied up the bag and sat it aside. Then I noticed some kind of sticky orange substance smeared across the lower cabinet door.  Sticky and orange? What do we even own that is sticky and orange!?

What. Is. That.

I walked over to the sink to grab a rag and realized I would have to go fish for it in the murky dishwater because the sink was overflowing with dirty dishes.

Instead of simply shifting around the dishes, I decided to do the responsible thing and load them in the dishwasher. I eventually found the dishcloth at the bottom of the green swamp, along with 3 others that smelled horrible.

I grabbed them, took them to the washing machine & began sorting the clothes and towels. You know, to optimize this sour dishrag load.

I designated piles into darks, lights and towels.

Feeling accomplished, I made my way to the bedroom to start folding some clothes.

And then a few minutes later…a tiny, parched voice from the living room…”Momma? Apple juice? Pwease?”

My patient, dehydrated, little thing.

I maneuvered my way around multiple piles of laundry in the hallway. When I walked into the kitchen to finish the task I had originally set out to do, I realized I was surrounded by semi-finished tasks instead.

Garbage bag laying over here. Mystery orange goo over there. Opened dishwasher waiting to be started.

Our culture has learned to juggle more things at one time than any circus performer ever has. Chairs, chainsaws and bowling pins set aflame? That’s child’s play. How about raising children, investing in a marriage, keeping the house from collapsing, being intentional with relationships, completing projects on time, fulfilling church commitments and doing everything in between? 

Downtime is now defined as the moments I can pack the little things into. Like when I can throw a load of laundry in the wash, make a phone call, wipe down a bathroom, vacuum the house or shower.

I mark one thing off my to-do list and there are 4 more to add to it.

I find myself rushing. All the time.

It is stressful. And it is  e x h a u s t i n g .

I can try to blame the constant rushing (and being late) on having to coordinate kiddos’ routines or getting an entire family out the door…on time…with clothes on.

But really, I don’t think having children changed that aspect too dramatically for me. I’ve been jam-packing and rushing most of my life. Which almost always leads to me being late. There are only so many little things you can cram into a certain amount of time before the entire thing explodes in your face.

I’m sure you probably know the story of Mary and Martha. I’ve heard that story since I was very young.

Poor Martha. She got a bad rap. I really feel for her. You know she was just trying to get stuff done.  Dinner. Cleaning.

Jesus, the Savior of the world, was in her house for goodness sakes! I mean, if Jesus was staying in my house, I’d want everything to be perfect too! I’d go so far as to actually clean out from under the stove and fridge instead of kicking all the crumbs underneath them. Which some people do…I’ve heard.

I believe Martha was busy doing good things, things that really did need to get done that day. She was juggling all this stuff alone, working herself up. And you know she was grumbling in her mind. I sure would have been.

“Oh no, Mary. You just sit there and enjoy Jesus. I’m sure dinner will make itself. And the dishes will wash themselves too. You may not mind serving Christ mac n’ cheese on paper plates, but I do. So I’ll do all the work. Just sit there and relax, you annoying free little spirit you.”

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Mary sat and listened.

Martha served and was distracted.

I heard this analogy a couple years ago and it’s as true now as it was then:

Imagine a bunch of cups in front of you that represent the different areas of your life that take your time and energy. Your marriage, your children, church commitments, cleaning the house, your projects, your workplace, etc.

Having a balanced life doesn’t mean that every cup is filled up the same amount. It means that you take 2 or 3 of the most important and fill them up.

The rest of the cups may have just a little, or even nothing, in them. You may have to step away from some commitments in order to keep the most important things and people in your life filled up.

And the most important cup of all is the empty one we come to Jesus with every single day.

Martha’s cup may have been clean, but Mary’s cup was full.

What I am learning is that a clean house, an empty sink and perfectly folded clothes will not last. The house will get disorganized, the sink will fill up with dirty dishes and the loads of laundry will once again pile up no matter how much I try to keep up with them.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus is what matters. That is what lasts. If my relationship with Him isn’t my top priority, everything else will become unbalanced because they’re not in the correct order.

Whether your busy-ness comes from being a mommy, some other demanding job or just life itself, sit at the feet of Jesus before you get up to wash the dishes. He loves it when we do and promises to give us “that which will not be taken away.”