Friday, August 30, 2013

All Is Grace

"I fear our modern day Christian writers are creating a generation of parents who are scared to death that they're not parenting the right way."  -Brooke from the MOB Society

The above quote is absolutely true but also it's bigger than that; fear and guilt in mothering definitely aren't restricted to Christianity.  I think our generation second-guesses, researches, and questions things more than our parents or grandparents did.  Then, there's the oppressing implications of living in the Pinterest/Facebook/Blog-happy age.  Instead of simply getting advice from our mother and her mother about child-rearing, the whole world is roaring in your ear trying to convince you their practice is superior and how, if you're not careful, you're really going to screw that kid up.  They holler in your ear: Detach yourself from your kids!  Attach yourself!  Send them to public school! Homeschool them!  Private school! Montessori- school!  Then, YOU feel schooled with exhaustion...all from looking at a website.

Not long after, the fear of judgment sets in because You Didn't Choose The Right Thing, or you feel led to do something else and those Ever Wonderful Blog Moms/Friends/People-in-General are (you think) ridiculing you because you aren't doing it right.

Whether they are or aren't, you just "feel" these people are making assumptions about you.  But the longer I'm a mother, the more I realize that, no matter what way you choose to discipline, feed, or educate your children- they're still going to be imperfect, sinful, unwise little things- some of this might be your fault but most of it won't.

We live in a fallen world, end of story.

I think every mother eventually reaches this understanding at some point.  After I had my first child, I thought I had knew everything about mothering because I Read All the Things and I Babysat Other Kids and now, I Pushed Out a Child.  Ha.  Then he hit two.  Lord.  Then three. Help me, Jesus.  Then FOUR.  OH, the fours.  Then I had another one.  And another. And then I cried and cried and cried because every little disobedient act committed I took personally.  I wasn't doing it right.  I spanked, then I didn't, then I used time-out, but then I read that was cruel, then I used stern words, but someone said that wasn't wise, then I used kind words, and...they still disobeyed.  Then I read you're supposed to be consistent.

Well, crap.

Then I had this crazy epiphany.  I think I should probably pray for my children.  Every day.  And also for myself.  So I did.  "Lord, I can't do this. I. Need. You. Period.  Please help me.  Help me every single day for the rest of this mothering gig.  Be with my children.  Give me words of grace.  Help me be patient.  Help them grow closer to You every day because I am not capable of forcing them to do anything.  If they come to know You it isn't because of anything I did, it's because You chose them, You called them by name, You sought them and gracefully used me as a vessel somehow.  That's all.  Thank you.  Now donteverleavemealonebecauseIstinkatparenting."

Then...all was calm.  I'm kidding.  But, my heart had a peace I hadn't felt before.  Truly.  It still does.

I've loosened up quite a bit since my first was born.  With the birth of each child and the seasons and months gone by, I've come to better understand grace and humility.  OH humility.  Sometimes I think children exist merely to weaken the proud.  The minute you think you're rocking the parenting gig, your son throws an epic tantrum in the middle of Target because he can't have the Thomas bubble bath and starts screaming, "MOMMY, YOU ARE HURTING ME!!!" while you merely lifted him up with a death grip and put him in the cart.  Now every person is staring at YOU, an apparent child-abuser, not him.  Well played, son.

Oh wait, that doesn't happen to everyone?  My bad.

Sometimes you are just doing the best you can, in your current circumstances, with what you know- it may be different than how others do it, and that's okay.  So, yes, question, research, seek wisdom from seasoned mothers, and follow your parenting convictions but remember perfection in behavior (yours or your child's) is not possible.  It never will be.  Rest assured you/your kids will mess up often, but grace is ever-present.  Give them grace.  Receive His grace.  Rest in it.

Realize this and you become a more chill, I-got-this parent.  A parent who simply loves her kids, imperfections and all- and love covers a multitude of sins.  Oh, does it ever.  Like poop all over the bedroom wall sins (middle son), and peeing outside the library sins (eldest son), and not sleeping through the night consistently because he loves me and wants to eat all. the. time. sins.  Is that a sin?  Gluttony as a five month old?  Nevermind.

And you laugh when the epic-Target-bubble-bath tantrum arises.

Or just run the heck outta the store and drink a glass of wine when you get home.

Happy Mothering (in humility and grace)!  :)

"If you're a mom, what you do is nurture and protect and give grace. You do it all the time, and it's very important, because it reminds us in daily, tangible ways how God nurtures and protects and gives grace. And maybe today the one who really needs that nurturing and protection and grace is you."  -Shauna Niequist

Friday, April 19, 2013

At 38.5 weeks...HE came along!

Well, we welcomed a third beautiful little man into our family!

Samuel Elliot was born at 5:30pm April 11th and was 7lbs, 4oz, and 20 inches of pure sweetness.

I'll have to post the birth story later when I have time (ha).  But for now, here are a few pre and post-labor photos.  Enjoy!

38 weeks

"Labor" day tradition: baking cookies while contracting!

38.5 weeks with contractions 4 min apart-
heading in to the hospital
Checking the contractions and heartrate
Enjoying a hearty cup of ice chips :)
And out he came, 40 min after hospital arrival.
Natural birth.
My oldest, William, 4 years
Second-born, Alexander, 19 months
Sweet newbie, Samuel, 1 day old.
My three sons :)
Love them.

Monday, April 1, 2013

37 weeks

This isn't a full update- just a photo and a bit of commentary. 

I like to take photos each week the last month of each pregnancy.  It's always amazing to me how fast the body grows during that time...just take a look below at my 36 week shot (posted last week) and now, the 37 weeker. 

36 weeks

37 weeks

Yeah.  Bodies are so amazing.

It took having a miscarriage, going through (now) three pregnancies, and having children to fully appreciate the capacity of what the female body can do.  God designed us amazingly well.  It has also enabled me to appreciate and love my body for what it was created to do and be.  I can truly say I am far less concerned these days with looking a certain way or depriving myself of certain foods to fit a certain body shape and just loving every part of what He has given me, however that may look.  Once I accepted this, my body settled into the form and shape it was naturally inclined to be.  At this point, I am content with my physical form in a way I never have been.  Now, I'm just working on my inner person- and that, I'm afraid, will be a lifelong journey!

Thanks, Lord, for the unique way you create each of us.  I'm learning the more content I am in You, the less I seek from this world and the clearer Your truth becomes. 

Content is a good place to be.

"For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise You because I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made.  Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." 
 -Psalm 139:13-14


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

36 weeks

How far along: 36 weeks

Total weight gain: 22 lbs 

Maternity clothes: I'm in the sweatpantsonly phase.  I don't even care.

Stretch Marks:  Surprisingly, no. 

Sleep: I've been catching z's as much as humanly possible.  Both my boys still nap from 1-3:30pm so I dive into bed the minute they're down.  I also go to bed at 9:30pm and sleep until 6am.  I'm storing it up, and basking in the beauty of it- before I start injecting caffeine into my veins in a few short weeks.

Best moment this week: Well, we bought a home two weeks ago- a welcome relief.  Now onto packing, cleaning, and preparing for this little tyke (and moving two weeks after he/she is born).  Lord, be with us all...I'm not even thinking about it.  I can't.

Miss anything: Cute clothes.  Yes, I said it.  I've worn the same three outfits every day for the last three months, I think.  I also want to run, sweat, and run some more.  I miss real workouts.  My iPod misses me and my running shoes are accumulating dust.

Movement: Yes.

Food cravings: Nothing really.  Just trying to eat all the fiber I possibly can, for obvious reasons.  Those who've been preg understand. 

Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope.

Gender: Still not a clue.

Symptoms:  Pressure, jabs to the ribs, mild contractions, more pressure, thirsty (and peeing) all. the. time.  Trying not to complain too much but the final weeks are rough!

Belly Button In or Out: Depends on where the baby is positioned.  Mostly in, slightly out if a lot of movement is taking place.

Wedding Rings on or off: On

Happy or Moody:  Stressed...and trying to put the coming chaos out of my head!

Looking forward to: Meeting the peanut!  Getting the move outtatheway so we can just adjust and fall into a schedule.   

Recent photo: Here's the 36 weeker:
I'll try to post again before go-time...
can't believe it's almost here!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mending a Critical Spirit

(this was a draft from a few months ago but i was feeling it appropriate to post today, enjoy)

I had a friend who spoke truth from a podium today. 

I attended my first ever women-based group meeting at church.  I don't know why I never do these things.  I am not against them, I even long to be involved in some such thing...I've just never made the time.  And I get paranoid that they are going to break something inside of me.  Something I don't want broken. 

Except...well, something already IS broken, usually, isn't it?  And really, these things help that shattered something to mend.  Right?

I went with an open heart.  Willing.  Ready.  I have grown tired of my critical heart, weary of who I've become after all this time of "knowing" Christ.  I tend to get fed up with "Christians" and big-church and come-let's-be-friends-with-each-other-and-nobody-else.  Because, most of the time, that's what Christian activities are about.  We don't think they are, but they ARE.  They are about cliques and groupies and comfort.  Let's get together and talk about all the things we are struggling with while the rest of the world suffers from things like hunger, pain, sorrow, isolation...and we get together to eat cookies and bemoan our "busy" lives.  Or make cute crafts while chatting about Johnny's sore throat or Sally's loose tooth.

But, my friends, I left that cynicism behind this week.  I am leaving it behind permanently.

Christ is changing my heart.  He is working on me yet.  Not because I want to be in a clique, or a bubble, or any such thing.  No, He wants me to be in community.  To love others- and not just the "others" I choose.  Or the others I think need choosing.  He wants me to love everyone.  All.  And to do so with a grateful, loving, generous, selfless, WHOLE heart. 

But, oh, this is so hard.  It is.  I didn't realize until today how hard I've become.  How much I fear bearing who I am to others.  I do it on my little blog in the middle of a very big cyberspace but this little outlet still feels small enough for me.  I don't have to show my face or meet most of you in person.  I can get it out and be done with it and go on. 

But not at a group-meeting.  A gathering.  Face-to-face interaction with real people.  Eek.  And you know what?  It was great.  I met women my age, some much older, some at very different places in their lives.  But we are all women.  All struggling with something.  And while there were cookies (and yes I had one), there was truth and love and respect and honesty.  All things I hold dear.

The icing on the cake was my friend, the one who happened to be speaking at this said-meeting, chose the topic of community.  Ha.  Ironic much?  No, that's God.  He knew just what I (and all of us) needed to hear.  I needed to know that I need not fear community.  Genuine community.  People who will love me as I am, encourage me (and I them), women who won't judge or scorn or criticize. 

Women who love.

Oh, how I long for this.  I didn't even realize how much until today.  But I do.  I long for relationships, and not the superficial kind.  The Godly kind.  The take-me-as-I-am kind.  The Jesus-kind.  Not the slander, snark, criticism, or complaining... no, none of that boasts of Him.  But I've let myself dive deep, so deep, into these kind of relationships that I didn't even know how far down I was until I was up to my neck.  Stuck.  About to go under. 

God is calling me back, pulling me out, cleaning me off, showing me what is right and true.  I don't like who I've become but I can be redeemed.  I have been before. 

Lord, create in me a clean heart.  Make me white as snow.  I am yours and yours alone.  Help me be an honoring wife, a loving mother, a devoted friend- and help me do all of these things with You on my lips and your words written on my heart.  I'm tired of the bitterness inside, the critical spirit.  Please forgive me for not representing You well in my words, actions, or thoughts. 

Renew my life, grow me into a woman who honors You.

Another friend had beautiful words in a blog post recently that slammed me in the gut.  She said,

I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism any more, I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath.  
(source: http://deeperstory.com/in-which-i-am-practicing/)
Yes, she speaks from a kindred heart.  I feel this straight to my core.

Thank you, Sarah, for being a kindred heart.  Thank you, Emily, for speaking truth to a woman who desperately needed to hear those words.  Thank you, Lord, for loving me despite my failures.

Thank you, Jesus, for showing me what it means to open up and let go.

And now, as we look to move to a new town, in a new city, with an entirely different group of people to live in community with, I pray that I can start anew. 

Fresh.  Willing.  Honest.  Open.  Bold.  Non-Christiany.  Real.

And maybe with just a teensy bit of snark and a shared glass of wine.


Monday, February 25, 2013

32 Weeks

How far along: 32 weeks

Total weight gain: 18lbs, no gain from my last appointment. 

Maternity clothes: I'm rebelling.  Lately I'm only going with maternity pants.  Extremely stretchy shirts under cardigans are my go-to.  So tired of my maternity clothes this third time around!

Stretch Marks: Nope.

Sleep: Pretty good.  Going downhill from here, I bet!

Best moment this week: Selling our house...after only 8 days on the market!  In total shock and so thankful for all the prayers from friends and family.  Now onto looking at homes!

Miss anything: At this point, I'd take no skin breakouts and shirts that don't ride up/pants that don't fall down, no change from last time.  SO want a margarita lately too :)

Movement: Yes.

Food cravings:  Nothing unusual lately...I've gotten really into Sriacha.  On eggs.  That probably explains the baby's movement.

Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope.

Gender: Still not a clue.

Symptoms:  Some variable pressure in the lower region, some Braxton Hicks, puffy fingers, itchy skin.  All that fun stuff :)

Belly Button In or Out: In

Wedding Rings on or off: On

Happy or Moody:  Happy

Looking forward to: Finding a new home, preparing for the baby. 

Recent photo:  Here's the 32 week shot! 
We are down to the 2 week appointments...
baby'll be here before I know it!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

30 weeks

How far along: 30 weeks

Total weight gain: 18lbs

Maternity clothes: Mmmhmm.

Stretch Marks:  Nope.

Sleep: Sleeping really well, actually.  Not overly uncomfortable yet.

Best moment this week: Hmm, can't think of a specific moment this week but this baby is still a mover.  Love the movement :)

Miss anything: At this point, I'd take no skin breakouts and shirts that don't ride up/pants that don't fall down ;)

Movement: Oh yeah. 

Food cravings:  Guacamole.  On.  Everything.  It's kind of gross what I've put it on...I'll spare you.

Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope.

Gender: Still not a clue.

Symptoms: A little tired.  Ever-ever-ever growing bigger.  My first ever experience with Braxton Hicks (never had these with my other two pregnancies).  I have quite a bit more false contractions/cramping this time around...just the natural progression of a third pregnancy, or so I hear.

Belly Button In or Out: In

Wedding Rings on or off: On

Happy or Moody: A bit of both.

Looking forward to: Getting through selling our house and moving to the next one...all while in my third trimester.  With two tinies running around underfoot.  Nothing is crazier that having two littles, being huge, and trying to clean at last minute to prep for showings.  Boooooo.  Sell house, sell!

Recent photo:  I'm thinking the belly is bigger this time around at this point.  Just compare...the first photo is with Will, the second with Alex, and the third with this one! 

Will, 29 weeks

Alex, 28 weeks
Baby #3, 29 weeks

Yup.  Bigger.  And 10 weeks left of growing!