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Funny Unmet Expectations of Mamahood

March 11, 2016
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Expectations are funny because they’re rarely met. It’s pretty safe to say the more you’re expecting something to go a certain way the more you can prepare that it likely won’t. Because how we envision things rarely (ever?) happen as we think. So we must learn to laugh. Laughing is good. I’m doing a lot of laughing in mamahood.

Since my current life remains a crazy swirl of packing and goodbyeing (and schooling and mothering and all the other roles), I figured today I’d laugh about some unmet expectations. Because there are many and thinking back to my pregnancy season and the first few months of mamahood has been funny.

So here are three stories about things not going as expected.

First, below you will see the pretty picture of our pristine white crib. I took this photo just weeks before Eloise was born. While I had surrendered to the fact that I wouldn’t have an official nursery, I did have a crib! And I was one proud wifey the night Mark put that crib together. I watched with glowing pregnant-mama eyes dreaming about the day I’d bring our little babe home and place her into it. Just the next day I carefully picked out the sweet sheets to go on it, laid out those dreft-smelling swaddles, and snapped this photo.

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The current reality is that Eloise is 4.5 months old and has yet to sleep in her crib once. In fact, as I write this her crib is upside down in a corner of our living room waiting to be dismantled by Mark once he gets over the fact that he will have to take apart the whole thing before she ever sleeps one night in it. Expectation of beautiful crib life straight off Pinterest definitely not met.

I also remember being so excited for newborn photos to be taken just after she was born, with all her wrinkles in full site and the falsity of a sleeping, peaceful baby beautifully framed forever. I imagined holding onto this photo as a keepsake for years to come, pulling it out to one day show Eloise of her little peaceful self captured in all its sweetness.

Real life told a different story. The day we were discharged from the hospital was the day the photographer came knocking at our door to take pictures. No one tells you that your room is a revolving door of doctors and nurses for the 48 hours you are in the hospital. Or that there is absolutely no consoling a hungry baby. Or that in your exhaustion you will likely have no idea who is before you, why they are there, or what they even want from you. But there the woman was, camera in hand ready to snap some pics. But there was also a hungry baby and deliriously tired parents. And that combo made for pictures like none other.

Here you have it, our very first newborn photo forever captured.

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And then there was the fact that somehow I never considered my own recovery after having Eloise. I didn’t have complications with her birth, so I somehow thought I would instantly bounce back to normal life. I think in reality, I had no clue the level of ibuprofen I was being dished out every few hours at the hospital.

So we came home and the next morning the weather was beautiful and I was ready to get outside. I had been home from the hospital for about 24 hours and hadn’t taken any meds, so I popped 1 measly ibuprofen and told my mom and Mark that we should go for a walk. So we tucked Eloise in my wrap and headed off.

Within about 10 steps, I noticed my mom and Mark walking way faster than I was comfortable with. I asked them to slow it on down and we continued forward. I had in my mind that we would walk a nice leisurely 1 mile. Instead we went the half block of our condo complex (50 yards?) and headed home.

I didn’t leave the couch for another 3 days.

Happy Friday, friends. Next time I write, it’s from our new home in FLORIDA!

Life

Sometimes We Simply Go

March 7, 2016
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Mark and I have been packing machines this past week with our season in Atlanta quickly coming to a close. As I pull things down from the walls and stuff them to the brim into boxes, I find myself wondering what in the world is happening. On one hand, I know in that deep place that this is what’s next. But such knowledge doesn’t keep my tears from falling or questions from coming.

In this waiting place, I can easily spin. I look around at everything that must be put somewhere and am anxious to just get it done, thinking if I do it all then somehow the overwhelming emotions that come with this transition will dissolve. But in reality, all the boxes packed in the world will not displace the tension I feel.

We’ve felt the nudge of transition for a while, knowing that the time for a change was approaching. We weren’t necessarily attached to a specific plan of where we wanted to go. Instead we had a 5-card hand of options, each with its picture of what life could be. They were all appealing in their own way.

But this one, we never saw it coming.

I’ve vacillated between excitement and terror over the move. When we first found out, I couldn’t wait to FaceTime one of my best friends and tell her we were moving a mere 45 minutes away. Her face was total shock. “I didn’t even know Orlando was an option!” she exclaimed.

“Me neither!” I laughed back. That was one of my favorite moments.

But then there’s the side of this that means saying goodbye to a whole life here. Leaving friendships I have done life with for a decade. People who are as close as family. Relationships I never imagined I would hug goodbye and physically move away from.

My smattering of emotions is exhausting, most of all for me.

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So in the spinning, swirling, I-feel-totally-out-of-control place, I keep doing what I know best. I quiet myself. Put on music. Close my eyes. And soak in God’s presence. I let his words be an anchor for my soul and pour fresh life over my weary bones. His whisper blows away my anxiety and calms my craziness. His promises for what awaits ignite me. His presence grounds me.

In the stillness, I listen. And the words remind me again: sometimes, we simply go.

God tells his people at Mount Sinai words I can’t shake. Time and again these last few years these words have charged me to move forward in all kinds of situations that have unfolded. There, at that place where so much life happened for Israel, covenant was made and broken, mess and promise happening together, God tells them that they have stayed there long enough. It is time to get going and move ahead.

Sometimes, we must advance without the plan, guarantee, or comfort as companions. We go despite uncertainties. And declare by our movement that familiarity and safety do not set the boundary lines for our lives.

Here’s the thing. We may get lost. We may even fail. But we still go because we know we will hear a voice, his voice. And that alone makes it worth it. We move forward not because of what will happen for us, but because of who we will encounter. Even when we are terrified or stretched beyond what we can handle, we go so we will find him.

And that’s enough.

As my head spins and my heart overflows with emotion, I remind myself again that we’re going because of the potential that we will find something real in this next season. The counterfeit is not worth the cost, but the real thing – the real God – he is worth everything. To find him is worth laying down our control, our familiarity, our need to sculpt our own life and live by our own plans.

Sometimes we look at what is being asked and say yes because it means one more season of trusting and believing and waiting and hoping. And there, he is always found.

Life

Learning to Love Life

February 23, 2016
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At times I can really struggle to enjoy life. It’s pretty easy for my eyes wander to what is going on around and let the goodness in my own life slip right through my hands. To compare, decide how my life doesn’t measure up, and find myself in total despair – all in the matter of three thoughts.

Sometimes I can even recognize that destructive voice in my head for what it is and still listen to it. In those moments, it’s almost as if I’m the door holder for that thief to come right on into my space and steal what valuables I have. If I’m not intentional to move myself out of that cycle, I feel totally stuck, slipping from comparison to despair to utter defeat.

I’d love to say that those tendencies don’t affect me today, but they still do. Everyday there are temptations to allow what isn’t in my life to trump all that is. And it always begins with a thought.

But the other day, the three of us were on a walk through our neighborhood. The sun was gently setting and Eloise was tucked in my carrier snug against my chest taking her short catnap. I didn’t realize Mark and I had stopped talking because in my mind I was having a whole dialogue with myself about all that makes me thankful and alive today.

Out of the stillness, I turned to Mark and said, “You know, I really love my life.”

I let out a big, thankful exhale because that statement was so true for me. It wasn’t some prophetic profession in an effort to move myself toward a desired reality. It was a declaration that I have walked into some tangible breakthrough.

I feel more secure in my skin and more thankful for my life than I have ever settled into before. I’m not as antsy to move ahead to prove something. I’m patient in the process today, where I am and what God is doing. This has been a major transition and one that certainly didn’t just happen. Thinking about it, there are some things I started doing over the last few years that have moved me to a more rested place.

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One major thing I did was take back permission from the outside world for my life. This is huge. If we are living with a set of expectations of what will make us happy based on what must happen to, for, or around us, we will never be happy. If our enjoyment is only contingent on the external, whether it be applause, promotion, or abundance, we will always feel dissatisfied and disappointed. Our permission to live and enjoy life cannot be based on external voices, but on the inner one that reminds us, “You are enough and today is a gift.”

I began really celebrating others, especially when it was something I longed for in my life. I decided to live from the place of abundance, not lack – believing there is always enough. Always. The people around me became reminders not of how I am missing out or not measuring up, but of what is possible for my life. Their victories cheer me on to believe more for myself. Their breakthroughs prophetically speak hope for what can be in my own life.

I say thank you, a lot. Thankfulness lets us enjoy what is presently happening in life.

I take control of my thoughts. I shut off that tempting voice which beckons me to make external circumstances a megaphone for my own inadequacy. Though I am still learning to be quicker in this, what’s helpful is identifying my rhythms and triggers. Knowing when it may be easier to give in allows me to be extra aware that I need to speak out truth.

I relaxed, realized time is finite, and that I might as well enjoy today for all that it is. Maybe becoming a mom did this or maybe just getting older. But I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time, the false guarantee that I have tomorrow.

And finally, I’m taking risks to move forward in some deeply planted dreams in my life. I’m breaking out of stagnancy and each step is reviving me. Pushing past my own fear reminds me not only that I am alive, but that life is exciting, risky, and beautiful.

Life

Current Thoughts on Mamahood

February 9, 2016
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As I write this today, I am tucked away in a booth in the back corner of Panera, all by my very self. No babe, no husband, just me, my green tea, and this little corner. This is rare and I am thankful for the quiet respite to write out a smattering of thoughts on mamahood today.

I wasn’t someone who grew up so readily anticipating the day I would become a mom. But I did always wonder what in the world it would be like to experience such depths of love packed into one tiny life who is part of me.

As my due date approached, I would get lost in my thoughts of holding this little one who I got jabs and kicks from all day and night. I wondered what she would look like, how it would be to take care of her, and what I would think as she reflected my good and my bad. Then, a few months ago, our little Eloise Haven came and changed our world forever.

Some of the best things that have happened in my life since having Eloise are the smallest and most hidden from other eyes. What brings me joy with her has nothing to do with the applause of the outside. My experiences don’t need validation or participation by others. This I find extremely freeing, probably because it hasn’t always been that way. But it is incredible to experience joy that is tangible in the simplicity of a moment, not dependent on anything external or additional.

I also find that I worry less about lots. I don’t fret over certain things that I used to because I honestly don’t want to give my time away to them. I am extra aware in this season that the time I do have is both precious and finite. So I find myself more intentionally choosing what I give my thoughts and hours to, steering away from time-suckers and toward what brings life and value. And realizing that the difference is a simple matter of my choice.

On a totally different note, I find myself utterly amazed how any person could lose as much hair off their head, and yet still have hair, as I am currently experiencing. The sheer quantity is unbelievable. I am unsure when this hair-purge will cease, though I am hopeful I won’t find myself with the level of fuzz atop my head currently being modeled by our sweet Eloise. But I realize only time will determine this one.

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One daily ritual we’ve been doing since the beginning is looking at Eloise and telling her a few things about who she is. Since the world will try to tell her so much of who she is not, we’re intentionally speaking into her identity. Among other things, I tell her that she is brave, she is kind, she is strong, and she will see God’s kingdom come. I had this moment early on, though, when I found my words being a boomerang of both truth and challenge to me. As I told her who she was, I found those words channeling back to me as reminders of my own identity. But I also found them asking if I am being brave and if I am playing my role in God’s kingdom.

Out of all that has happened in our world being turned upside down, this one experience has realigned me most suddenly and drastically.

And so, today I would say mamahood has surprisingly empowered me to walk more as the person I know God has created me to be. I realize that the trails I blaze by my own bravery will propel my daughter farther into those depths of identity, intimacy, and wonder-filled adventure with God.

That is equal parts exciting and terrifying. But so freaking exhilarating.

Really, I am so thankful and so in over my head. It’s probably where I should pitch my tent more often.

 

Photo credit: Kim Daniels

Life

How to Navigate the Unexpected (Part 2)

January 29, 2016
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The sun isn’t up yet so it’s still pure darkness outside. What I love about this time of day is that though my eyes see darkness, I know that the breaking dawn is moments away. That fireball of a sun is about to peak its first breath of red over the edge and declare in its small yet bold way that a new day has arrived. Last year all I wanted to know was when that new day would come.

Some days Mark and I woke up and prayed like wild people who were confident that those seeds of ours would move mountains. We did our best to stay focused and hopeful, wondering if each day held our suddenly that would transition ourselves out of that season. Other days we didn’t talk much to God or each other. We just made it.

If you’re in a season like that, I know it’s not easy. Below are some more thoughts on how to navigate it though none of them say how to fix it. We want to be moved right out the season and sometimes we simply cannot be. We’re longing for the miraculous parting and instead feel we are merely wandering in the endless wilderness.

So how do we keep breathing and keep moving?

Get alone with God and be brutally honest. This may sound contrary to the final point in my previous post, but both are necessary. We need safe space with God where we can drop the religious stuff that makes us feel more presentable to him and allow ourselves to be honest about exactly how we feel. Days after Mark lost his job, I found myself in Nashville for my celebratory birthday weekend away. With journal in hand, I sat on the hotel bed and poured out my raw, tear-filled words on paper. This practice safeguards us from throwing our anger and disappointment onto those around us. God can handle our unfiltered truth.

Identify your pillars. Pinpoint the promises that speak to you with such conviction that you will cling tightly to them no matter how long the storm rages around you. For me, it is straight out of Psalm 27 – “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I will see. I will see. I repeated it over and over again throughout my days, reminding both myself and God. I still do.

Remember, this is a season.  A wise voice told this to me early on so I would know that this wouldn’t last forever. Mark would find another job. We would get settled in a new rhythm and it wouldn’t always be the mess it was for those months we waited. Some days, this is the best we can hold to. We may not always have the strength to hope for more or be confident of how things will turn out. On those days, reminding yourself that this is a season can help you get out of bed and keep moving forward with the day’s demands.

Take a deep breath and wait on God to bring forth life. Faith isn’t required to see what we have lost or recognize what could have been. What demands our faith is to believe for what will be despite our present circumstances. And this is the promise of God alive in our midst. That no matter how chaotic or dire situations may feel, God will bring life from within the upheaval. Oftentimes it is out of the mess and uncertainty that our breakthrough springs up. The promise of his resurrection power is that out of what we are convinced is dead and buried comes life.

 

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren