October 7, 2014

holy grief

I was fifteen when I learned a solemn and irritating truth: Christians aren't super skilled when it comes to helping people grieve.

There is this skittery panic that ripples through the church pews when A Griever enters the building.
First, everyone wants to make sure that they say just the right thing to help you know that you can trust God even though you just lived through a trauma that will most likely scar you for the rest of your life.
Secondly, they want to ascertain whether or not you are "okay". They will ask you prodding and inappropriate questions like "How are you doing?" or even worse "How are you handling things?"
"Like a boss. I mean, I'm SUPER GOOD at going to my mom's funeral, thanks for asking."

The funeral was just the worst. Worse than the month before when my best friends and their mom took me to the mall to find a fancy black dress to wear to the impending funeral. I vividly recall standing in front of the mirror at the mall in Kearney, Nebraska (at a JC Penny's, I believe), making morbid jokes about my sexy black funeral dress.

Harder days followed. I had been raised in a home and church where I felt pressure to perform...and so, even as I grieved, I felt the need to keep it together, to cry the right way, to say the right things, to wrap up my sorrow with a tidy "I'm Still a Christian" bow.

A woman once advised me that it was "okay" to question God and lament - after all, even the psalmists did that. "But look at how those Psalms ended...they question God in the beginning, but they always end with praise."

I remember even then thinking that was pretty terrible advice.
We have no idea how long it took a Psalmist to reach that point of praise. 
Who's to say that David didn't start his lament as a 20 year old, and 30 years later finally decide that he could "publish" that Psalm with a praise chorus at the end?

And besides that, I want to push back a bit on this mindset of there being a Right Way and a Wrong Way to grieve.
There seems to be this unwritten code in the Church that ascribes a certain allowance of questioning, a certain level of doubt, and a certain time frame in which a person is allowed to be sad.
And then, it's time to move on. It's time to stop crying during "Blessed be your name" and it's definitely time to stop acting traumatized.

I think that this comes from a very intense level of unease that sits just below the platitudes and easy advice. I think  we say stupid things and give simple answers because we are all terrified at what the Severe Mercy of God might mean for our lives.
We are afraid that God's goodness for us might involve cancer, car accidents, miscarriages, or worse.
We want to believe that it won't happen to us.
And we definitely want to believe that if it does happen to us, everything will turn out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Here's the sucky part:
It DOES turn out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And it also still feels really terrible for the rest of your life. For some reason, this just isn't accepted by a lot of Christians. We want for God's healing to come now.

But isn't it possible that God's goodness doesn't wipe away the sorrow of death, at least not immediately? Is it possible that God's goodness, his absolute best for us, is going to feel like the shittiest thing ever for years, maybe even decades?

Is it possible to trust God, and at the same time not make it through the song Great is Thy Faithfulness?

Is it possible that there is nothing more asked of us than to grieve the effects of sin and death with every ounce of our being?

My mom died in May of 2003. I was 15 when she died. The grief was crippling at first. Vomit-inducing. Puffy eye crying was the norm. I cried at school. I wept at home. I thought about her constantly. I kept track of how many days she had been dead. I journaled my anger. I questioned God. I poured over the psalms. I memorized scripture. I tried to forget scripture.
And in all of that, I believe with all of my heart that my grief was honoring to God.

I remembering hearing a verse quoted often after my mom's death...
"We do not grieve as those who have no hope." 

And I second that sentiment. There is hope, and there is a future that does not include death. I believe that my mom's soul is not gone forever. She is more alive than she has ever been.

But does that verse imply that we are not allowed to grieve?
No, it says that we grieve differently. We grieve as those who have hope. 

I think grieving with hope does not include pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and moving on with life. In fact, I think it is very possible that all grieving - by those with and without hope - is honoring to God.

Here's why.
God did not create us for death.
He created us for life, wholeness, eternal wellness and unending relationships.
He did not create our souls with the capacity to absorb watching babies and mommies and brothers and sisters die. It breaks us. This is why we have words like "broken hearted". Do we think God created us with the intention of our hearts being broken? No.
Illness, disease, death. These are all results of the fall.
Affairs, divorce, racism, indifference. All results of sin in this world.

I grieve daily. Sometimes it is the memories of watching my mom suffer that grieve me. Sometimes, it is me wishing I could watch her hold my babies and play with Elliot. Other days, I grieve my own depression. I grieve the effects of sin on my brain, my health, my marriage, my relationships. I grieve the reality that there are new orphans every day, children dying from unclean water, adults selling their daughters into sex slavery.

I grieve because my heart was not made to contain the realities of sin and death.
I grieve because the holiness of God drives me to hate sin.
I grieve because I believe God. I believe Him when he says that we were not made for this. I believe that there was a better plan.
I believe that this grief is holy. And even in this holy grief, I trust Him. I fear the effects of sin at times; I fear that my babies will die, that my husband will get ill, that despite all of my efforts to prevent my mother's story becoming my story, I will someday find a lump. I fear because I do not yet know Him fully. I press on to know Him more, to trust Him more, to cling to The Promise.

And I cling to the reality - the hope - that this holy grief will not be forever.
How long, O Lord?
This is the groaning recorded in Revelation, spoken not by unbelievers, but of the Redeemed.
The Song of the Redeemed...How long, O Lord? 
I long for ultimate redemption. I cling to glimpses of The Story being woven into my story.
Someday, tears will be wiped away.
Someday, redemption will draw near and we will know fullness of life.
Until then, I grieve with a holy grief, I trust the Severe Mercy of God that uses suffering and even death to write a story that will end with no more sorrow.





How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
[Psalm 13:1-2]

October 3, 2014

just like her momma




My sweet little baby Elliot turned two years old today.

She is a fireball. She laughs loud, screams louder, and you never have to guess how she is feeling.

She is so much like me.

She looks so much like her daddy...but wow, I am just never in doubt that she is my daughter.

 I find myself resonating with her passion, her feisty "NO!", her constant desire to "GO GO GO!"
And I often wonder...will she be just like me? 
Will she suffer from thinking that God has abandoned her?
Will her brain struggle to produce enough chemicals to be happy?
Will she cry herself to sleep for a decade?
Will she feel like a constant failure?
Will she consider ending her own life?

Being a mommy is crazy amazing; it is also terrifying.

And so, on my daughter's second birthday, a letter to her, words that I hope she will never need. But if she does, I hope these words wrap her up tight and help her know without a doubt that she is loved, she is safe, and that she is not alone. 


Dear Elliot, 
You are two years old today.
I watch you running through the house, shouting "GO GO GO" and asking with excitement in your voice "Go outside? Gonna go outside?" and my heart squeezes tight. You are bursting with joy; your smile and laughter fills our house and I wonder, will you lose your love for life someday? 
I think of my own mommy, and I wonder how she would have handled my depression. I wished so many times she could have been there to love me and hold me and wipe away my tears. She made me laugh. She made everything so fun. I needed her so badly. 
If you are depressed someday, I hope I am there for you. I hope we have a relationship in which you can trust me with your pain. 
But just in case, Elliot Kaylene, please hear these words.

First of all, this is not your fault. Being depressed does not make you a failure. It does not make you less of a Christian. There is no way to pray yourself out of depression. There are no formulas to make it all better. Your brain is struggling to produce the right chemicals it needs to be "normal". That's it. It's not simple - in fact, brain chemistry is extremely complicated. But please, if you hear nothing else, please here me now: this is NOT YOUR FAULT.

Elliot, God is near to the brokenhearted... but's okay if you don't want him near. It's okay if you swear at him and tell him to leave. The reality is, He will never leave you. There are so many times in my life that I look back on and know he was near, even when I didn't want him to be. He's kind of annoying that way, like a best friend who won't leave you alone no matter how mean you are to them. There's nothing you can do to change that. He doesn't care if you're being a jerk. He doesn't care if you say the f-word in church (trust me) and he doesn't care if you don't read your Bible. He loves you because you are HIS. And again, he knows that this depression is not your fault.

On that note, let's talk about Christians. Elliot, there are a lot of Christians who have no idea how to handle depression. They really aren't terrible people...at least not all of them. They aren't mean; I think more so they are just stupid. Honestly, I'm surprised I never caused bodily harm to anyone at church. It's okay if you don't want to be around large groups of Christians right now. They aren't all bad...find a few friends who love you for who you are, who know that you are just trying to survive right now, and be with them. Let them care for you. Don't feel guilty for not attending church.

Finally, sweet Elliot, do everything you can to care for yourself.
Try to sleep as often as you can.
Be with people who make you laugh.
Be with people who understand when laughing isn't an option for you.
If you need to eat a big steak every single night for a week, do it. Add a pan of brownies too.
If you need to binge on your favorite TV show instead of going to school for a day, do it.
This is a season. This is not forever. And right now, the priority is finding joy and rest where they can be found.

This is not your fault. You will get through this. You are an amazing person with an annoying brain. Your depression does not define YOU, it just defines a season of your life in which you had a chemical imbalance in your brain. Someday, you will look back and see the ways God was faithful even in this season. Until then, swear a little, eat a pan of brownies, and try not to hurt any stupid people.

You are loved with an everlasting love.
Mom

October 2, 2014

in sickness, health, and suicidal depression

I was fifteen years old when my mom died of cancer.
Two years later, my grief was still crippling. Tears were my constant companion. Hope was a foreign concept.
When I was seventeen, I made the best decision of my life and agreed to meet with a counselor.
We met weekly. I cried a lot. Healing came slowly.
The counseling started as grief-counseling. Two years later, my counselor felt that I needed to see a doctor for my depression. So I took a deep breath and made the appointment.

Medication did not help. My depression continued to get worse and worse.
Year after year, I struggled with bouts of depression. Even as my faith grew deeper and my heart grieved less intensely, the depression just grew more and more debilitating.

On May 19th in 2008, my heart exploded with joy when my good friend Jeremy asked me to date him. We had a wonderful two weeks of movie watching, hand holding, and late night conversations.
And then, another round of depression hit.

It was a muggy evening in June when we took a walk through his favorite childhood park.
Dandelions littered an open field. An old jungle gym stood in the distance. Traffic noises filled in the silence. He held my hand. We walked through the field. I cried silent tears.
I was so sad.

He broke the silence after a while. He said that he had been praying for weeks about whether he should continue to date me. He was struggling with thoughts of being with a woman who was suicidal. He wondered if the timing was right.

God had spoken to him, he told me. And God had asked him to commit to me now, no matter what may happen in the future. So he did.

Less than a year later, he asked me to be his wife in that same field.

                                                                                                                                             
In late summer, we stood before hundreds of friends and all of our family, and we made promises. To love, to cherish, to have and hold. In sickness and in health, we said. We promised. I choked back tears, and promised him Until we are parted by death. 

It's amazing how often death tries to part us, even when we are still walking on this earth.
We have fought for each other, clung to each other, held each other tight.
So many nights, I have wept in his arms. Panic, fear, hopelessness have threatened to choke the life, the faith, from my body. Jeremy has been there to loosen the binds.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to hear your best friend, the love of your life cry tears of sorrow, hear the hopelessness in her voice as she whispers, I just want to die...
The words have slipped from my lips more times than I can count.
My heart aches, thinking of the fear and desperation these words must have brought my husband.
But he did not waiver.

He has hoped for me when I couldn't muster the strength to dare to believe that things might ever get better. He has smiled when I could not.

He is not perfect. He is not God.
But in the darkness, the hopelessness, the depression and the sorrow, being held and cared for by my husband was the only thing that could convince me that maybe, just maybe, there was still a loving God.


[quote from Sara Groves, Different Kinds of Happy]

loving (and not loving) your baby...

Depression is not new to me.

Although God granted me a season without symptoms of depression, when I found myself sitting in a room full of people and feeling oh-so-alone once again, it felt eerily like home.

Depression is not my home. It is not where I choose to make my dwelling. But it has followed me for years...decades, demanding to sit with me, sleep with me, nestling into the deep places where all of my hurts and fears reside.

This time, after almost two years of reprieve, depression returned while I was holding a newborn.

Post partum depression.
I was not surprised.
I knew what it was.
I wasn't afraid.
But now, I sat with my thoughts, pondering this new twist.
I don't love my baby.

I sat still and absorbed the thought, not with shock, but with resignation.

Simply hours after the traumatic birth of my 2nd child, I had spoken words full of regret to my husband. In the quietness of the "recovery" room at the hospital, regret, horror and shock tumbled from my lips. I looked down at my sweet, perfect daughter, and I whispered through tears.

This wasn't worth it. 
That was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. 

Two weeks later, I thought the depression was linked to the birth. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common for women to experience after traumatic births.
But day after day passed, and the depression settled in.

I do love my baby, I insisted to myself.
I LOVE HER. 
Week after week, the panicked sadness continued.
Days of resenting her newborn cries.
Hours of wishing I could shut my toddler in a room so I didn't have to deal with her.
And the worst of all...wishing I had never gotten married, I had never had children, that I had chosen to kill myself back in college before I had attached myself to so many people.

Life just feels like an endless series of sucker punches.
And I find myself looking around and wondering, how is it that we are all still somehow surviving, somehow clinging to hope, somehow still grasping for meaning.

This season of depression is different than it was seven years ago.
In the past, part of my depression story included trying to figure out who I believed God was.
Now, there is a settledness to this depression; I know He is good.
But wow, life is still just so shitty.
Depression takes my mind so quickly to The Worst Possibilities.
I imagine deaths, illnesses, accidents, and I grieve these sorrows.
 I can taste the salty tears, feel the tightness of my throat, hear the despair of my soul.
My God, My God, why do you continue to forsake me? 
He has not forsaken. I remind myself, over and over, with tears slipping down my cheeks and onto the head of my newborn. Not Forsaken, I rise. I push thoughts of death from my heart, and I preach.
God's goodness has never forsaken you, I insist.

But the reality of death, the deep ache of sorrow, and the painful piercing of God's severe mercy follows me through the quiet hours of being a young mom. Toddler Shrieks and Baby Wails go in one ear and out the next. I wander through life in a trance, washing dishes, throwing toys in a basket, arranging blankets, and in the quietness of my despairing soul, I grasp for God, for grace, for mercy.

glimpses of grief, depression, and the severe mercy of God




I am joining the blog world in writing for thirty one days this month (October, 2014).

It has been a while since I have chosen to write on a public forum about my journey with grief, depression and bipolar disorder. It's hard to open up those deep feelings on a regular basis. It's even harder to stop myself in the midst of a busy day to ponder the questions that ache so deep within...

If you have friends who struggle with depression, or if you personally have battled depression, I hope this blog is a place of solace, a place where you can relate to, learn from, and cry with me.

There aren't easy answers, but sometimes the greatest comfort in the long journey of grief and depression is knowing that you are not alone.


1: loving (and not loving) your babies

2: in sickness, health and suicidal depression
3: just like her momma


September 27, 2014

the birth of Quinn Calista

My due date with Quinn was June 30th.
On July 1st at 11:45 pm, I was uncomfortable, unhappy, and I desperately wanted a good night's sleep. I had been fighting restless leg syndrome for months, sleepless nights for almost my entire pregnancy, and had been experiencing contractions almost all night every night for 3 weeks.
I was 80% effaced, her head was in a zero position, but I was only dilated 1 cm after 3 weeks of contractions.
At midnight, I took a tylenol pm and laid down hoping to fall asleep for a few hours.
At 12:30 am, labor started.
Let's just say that the Tylenol PM was not the best way to start labor.

Although labor was not as intense and fast as I had experienced with Elliot, we knew it was the real deal and we got to the hospital around 1:30 a.m.
Hannah (my younger sister) met us at the hospital.
Holly (my beautiful friend and the photographer) arrived around 2:30 a.m.
This is where I was when she arrived.
































photo credit: Holly Goertzen

health, wellness and Essential Oils

I didn't grow up in an au natural family.
And although I was raised in a well-educated environment, I didn't learn very much about the human body, health, or nutrition.

I used to drink a lot of pop. I'm surprised some of my friends didn't have an intervention for me. It was bad. And I'm going to tell you how bad, just to make a point. By the end of my Pop-Drinking Career, I was drinking a can of pop every class period at school. 7 pops at school. Plus probably more in the afternoon and evening.

I used to eat out a lot. Sugar, additives, preservatives...I never thought twice about it.
I honestly never really thought about what I was putting into my body.

I also used to be on a lot of medications.
For migraines I took excedrine migraine plus a prescription nasal spray.
I used to get strep throat every year at least once. Antibiotics, over the counter throat sprays, cough sytrups, the works.
I used to have terrible acne. I was on antibiotics for 3 years for that, plus topical cream.
Toe nail fungus.
Tooth decay.
Sore throats.
Dry skin.
Oily skin.
PMS.
Depression.
Restless legs syndrome.
Nausea during pregnancy.

There are so many various ailments the average person deals with, and in our culture today, the solution can easily be found in the multiple aisles at your local drugstore or even at Target!

A few years ago, I had reached a place of desperation. I was 25 years old, and my health situation was awful. I was rapidly gaining weight, depressed, exhausted, constantly stressed out, not sleeping well, and getting sick all the time.

God intervened in pretty amazing ways, but it started with small realizations.
I watched a few documentaries about food and wellness.
I started to think about getting the vitamins my body needed and avoiding harmful toxins that were hurting me.

We don't eat a perfectly "clean" diet, and there are still a few bottles of Windex in my cupboards, but for the most part we are making conscious decisions about what we bring into our home, and what we put in our bodies. It has been a complicated journey at times, but I feel so at peace with where we are in the process right now.

And man, we feel good.
Well, we feel better.
But the reality is, after twenty five years of toxins and very poor diet, my body still struggles a bit. Jeremy's body struggles. And our kids do still have various minor ailments.

That's why I am so excited about essential oils.
I don't believe that essential oils will fix every single ailment you can possibly face.
I think that your diet matters.
Your lifestyle matters.
Are you sleeping?
Are you eating well?
Do you have a healthy rhythm to your life?
All of that matters. But in my home, even with a conscious pursuit of health and wellness, we still face minor aches and pains. And in situations where I don't want to immediately go to the doctor for a prescription drug, essential oils have become a very positive alternative!

I had really bad restless legs during pregnancy. Really really bad restless legs. 
A friend recommended an essential oil for my legs. And lo and behold, it worked.

Then, I had a really bad tooth ache. Actually, make the tooth achesAn infected root canal, an infected crown, and three cavities. Nausea during two pregnancies turned into a whole lot of calcium deficiencies.
I am in the process of getting those teeth taken care of, but until then, using On Guard on my teeth has helped SO.MUCH with the tooth aches!

Quinn was breathing really thick at night. It sounded mucousy and I was worried. So I used a little bit of Breathe on her chest and her feet. And I kid you not, within 2 minutes she was breathing completely differently. It really opened up her airways and the heavy snoring sound went away completely!

Jeremy was having chest pain. He was born premature and his heart has always been weak. He has occasional flutters or irregular heartbeats, but this was different. It was really worrying us, because it hurt him really bad and it wasn't going away. After 3 weeks, we did a bit of research and from what we could tell, a virus had settled in his heart.  We decided to try On Guard since that has been known to fight viral infections. And after 3 days, his heart pain was gone.

The stories just keep coming. And doesn't it make sense?
If you think about it, God created plants and herbs with medicinal qualities because he knew we would need them! Why we ever got away from using them, I don't know. But I am finding so much joy in returning to a natural way of treating the things that I used to treat with Nyquil or Tylenol!

dōTERRA's essential oils are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade, which means that they test every single batch of oils several times to ensure quality and purity.

I can't promise that essential oils will fix every single ailment in two days or less.
But I can tell you that we are on a fixed income and every single penny counts. We would not be spending any money on essential oils if we were not seeing positive and meaningful results.

We are investing in oils because we want to provide health and wellness for our daughters in the safest and most natural way possible. Based on my research and experience we believe that the best way to prevent illness, treat minor issues, and help maintain overall health and vitality is through the daily use of essential oils.


:: I am a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate who receives Bonuses and commissions from the Company. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. ::



September 8, 2014

no regrets

​Dear Future Me,

First off, you look so healthy and alive... are you finally sleeping again? How long did it take for the corpse-like dark circles under your eyes to go away? And how are those stretch marks looking? Still funky and crinkly? Oh well. You look SO HOT and its very obvious you now shower on a regular basis. You probably even shaved your legs this week. Nobody needs to see your stomach.

Future me, I am writing today for the sake of all young moms you will encounter ten years from now. I am also writing for you, Future Me. Because I know that you look back on this season I am in right now, and you feel regret. Regret and wistfulness and nostalgia and perhaps (Lord help us) baby fever.

(Side note: Future me, you are 37 years old, and it is not time for you to have a baby. Buy a puppy. Or a goldfish, since you really don't like pets and I'm sure that hasn't changed. Wait, We don't have a dog in 10 years do we? Please tell me it's an outdoor dog. Oh Lordy, Future Me, you are really stressing me out.)

Deep breath.
Okay, back to the topic at hand: regret.

Future Me, ten years from now, I have a feeling you are are looking back on this season and feeling regret. You sit around a table at Mum's with all of your 37 year old friends, 3 years away from a mid-life crisis, and you go around the circle saying things like:

I wish I would have held my baby more often.
I wish I wouldn't have stressed out about keeping the house clean.
I wish I would have gone on more dates with my husband.
I wish I wouldn't have felt like I needed to always be working side jobs.
I wish I would have soaked in those early years...they just grow up so fast.
And you are going to cry, because Future Me, there is no way 10 years will have changed the fact that you cry about everything. No chance.
You say "Elliot is 12 years old. She's almost a teenager! Why didn't I take more time to play with her?" And you and your friends all shake your collective heads and sigh and share all of the reasons why you feel like you didn't savor Young Mommyhood.

Future Me, here is what you need to know. It may feel like you have a lot of things to regret, but the truth is, there's a lot you have forgotten. You don't remember soaking it in because right now I/You/We are FREAKING EXHAUSTED and our brain Does.Not.Work. You may not remember soaking it in, which is why this letter is so important.

Future Me, You DID love your life. You DID take time to play with your babies. You did SO MUCH to love your family well.  You did hold your babies - a lot. You held them while you cooked. You held them while you pooped. You held them while you ate. You held them at church, at mums, at Usborne Parties, even when you gave that talk to the Women's Group last week! You wore them in slings, you toted them around, you rocked them, you snuggled them, you kissed their yucky unbathed faces. You did NOT bathe your children, but you DID hold them and kiss them and snuggle the living daylights out of them every.single.day.

Future Me, the reason you wanted the house clean was because YOU LIVED IN IT. ALL DAY. From 7 am to midnight, you were in that house. You needed it to be clean for your own sanity. You didn't scour the house. You barely swept it. All you did was pick up toys occasionally, do laundry, and once in a while clean the mirrors with your toddler. It wasn't overboard. You weren't OCD. You just wanted to maintain a tiny bit of peace and calm in the chaos of having 2 babies in 2 years.  And also, Future Me, you cleaned with your daughters. You let Elliot play with water while you did dishes. You let her unfold your laundry while you raced ti fold it faster than she could unfold it. You let her help you vacuum. You swept together. You took out the trash together. You do not need to regret basic cleanliness.
Future me, here's the deal. You and your husband were not poor. Not in the global sense. And you knew that. I LOVE MY LIFE, Future Me. I wouldn't change a thing. But sometimes I eat oatmeal twice a day to save money. And sometimes we don't go on dates because we would rather support missionaries than pay for babysitters. And sometimes your health isn't great and your husband chooses to buy you doTerra oils instead of taking you out to a movie. It's FREAKING SEXY to have healthcare, Future Me. Don't forget how sexy your husband was when he worked so hard to pay for your chiropractic care. And don't regret all of the hours you sat on the couch watching the Office with your Best Friend. Remember that episode when Jim pops into the interview room and asks Pam on their first date? Remember how Pam gets tears in her eyes, and you and Jeremy looked at each other and were both crying? yeah. That's a sexy free date and you loved it. Don't forget that you loved couch dates.

Future Me, you don't regret selling Usborne Books. You don't regret working side jobs. You don't regret substitute teaching. It's hard sometimes, and it's definitely busy. But Future Me, I am fighting SO.HARD. to stay home with my babies for as long as possible. I'm building a home library for them so I can hopefully be a homeschool mom. I'm trying to make a difference for the Kingdom. I'm busy, and somedays I hate it, but even when it sucks, I love it. I love it, Future Me, and we don't regret any it (except maybe the oatmeal...)

Future Me, you are soaking in the early years. You play with "agua" with Elliot ALL.THE.TIME. You sing songs in the car. You speak Spanish to your girls. You laugh. You steal glances in the rear-view mirror and make her giggle. You snuggle Quinn all the time. You co-sleep with her, even though it's hard sometimes. You nurse her in the middle of the night. You get her to smile and coo. You and Jeremy are constantly telling each other how much you love your life.

Future Me, some of what you remember is true. You watched a lot of PBS, and barely ever showered, and ate a lot of hot dogs. But Future Me, you were awesome. You did a great job. And you have nothing to regret.

So when you're talking to young mommies who are in the middle of this chaos, who are fretting about potty training and cosleeping and mucousy coughs and whether or not to use antibiotics, please, for the love of St. Peter, do not say "Oh, but it goes so fast, just soak it in because these years will be gone so soon!"

It's true, the years do go fast. But young moms know that. They cry about it all the time.
Here's what mommies need to hear when they are IN IT. Here's what I need to hear.

"Young Mommy, You're doing great. You might not remember all of the small moments that feel so repetitive and insignificant, but they mean so much to your children! Watching Daniel Tiger with your 2 year old matters. Shielding your 2 year old from Calliou matters. Rocking that baby that won't take a nap if she's not 2 inches from you boob... it matters. Picking grapes and granola out of the EFFING DINGING ROOM CARPET (kind of) matters. And you are a ROCK STAR for doing all of the little things 200 times every day. Your children love you. Your husband loves you. You are a great mom, and I can tell you are doing everything possible to love your babies well. You won't regret it."

May 30, 2013

my story, His story

today I was reflecting on where I was one year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago, and felt so much wonder at the beautiful things God has woven into my story, which really is His story...

20 years ago, I started praying [every.day] for a little sister. my parents weren't planning on having any more children, but my mom [by faith] prayed with me about it anyways.

16 years ago my baby sister entered the world. I was thrilled, but not surprised. I had prayed, and God had answered.

10 years ago, I held my mom's hand, and watched her earthly body, wrought with disease, release her soul into eternity...she entered into True Life, and I am so honored to have been able to walk that journey with her.

8 years ago, we moved to Lincoln. I didn't know why, but I knew it was God's plan for our family.

7 years ago, I met my counselor, a woman who God used to help bring true healing to my weary soul.

6 years ago, I met my husband, though we didn't know it at the time. He thought I was Very Young, and I thought he was a Super-Nerd. We were both kind of right.

4 years ago, I was planning my wedding to my Favorite Super Nerd in the world.

2 years ago, we had just realized that getting pregnant was going to be very complicated, due to my severe depression and need to be on medication.

1.5 years ago, I went off medication (by faith) and we got pregnant (!)

1 year ago, I started praying that God would heal me from my depression. I so badly didn't want my daughter's story to include my sadness.

8 months ago, my daughter was born. Joy entered our lives in ways we never dreamed possible.

Today, by God's miraculous grace, it seems that I have been granted healing. Perhaps not forever, but for today at least, my feelings of depression, hopelessness, and sorrow have not returned. And my husband and I are so aware of the gift that this is, and we give so much thanks to the Giver of all good things.

A bit ago, as I peeked in at Elliot sleeping, my heart was filled with so many emotions.
Sorrow, wishing my mom could be here.
Peace, knowing that all that feels lost will one day be restored.
And joy. So much joy. Because, in the end, it's not the loss of a mother, a marriage to my best friend, chronic depression, or the birth of a daughter that defines my life.

This has been long journey, made up of small, often painful, steps of faith...Steps that, in the end, were leading me to know Jesus, to truly trust Him.

Maybe that seems simple or trite to some, but for me, the nearness of God is what my soul has truly longed for. And when my mind ventures toward the future, particularly towards fear of what may come, I am learning to rest in the truth that, no matter what the future holds, He will be there. 

December 11, 2012

dear elliot: a labor of love

"We worked so hard to get you here."

Those were your daddy's first words to you, and they were spoken through choked back tears. He was right. That moment when the midwife said "Grab your baby!" and I reached down into the water to scoop you into my arms...it was hard-earned.

We prayed for you. Our hearts ached for you, before we knew you would one day be ours. I cried, night after night, wondering why God had given my heart such a longing for motherhood, if His plan was not to fulfill that desire.

I think God made my heart ache for you, because He knew you Elliot. He knew you before you had even come to be. He knew you, and the beautiful story He had planned for you. And so He didn't take that ache from my heart.

So we prayed. And then we stepped forward in faith. And we worked so hard to get you here.

I was sick for the entire pregnancy, Elliot. But God provided. Every single morning, I woke up and said "I can't do this." And God said, "My strength is made perfect in your weakness."

Every night, I fell asleep fearful that something was going to happen to you. And God said "In quietness and trust will you find strength."

We worked hard, Elliot...but it was not truly of us. It was a labor of trust, a labor of daily submitting our story to the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

And now, when we hold you in our arms, we marvel at the blessing of your story unfolding before us, and still, we labor. Every day, we strive to submit our hopes and fears, our triumphs and failures, our weaknesses and strengths, to Jesus.

Someday all too soon, you will be leaving home. And your daddy will hold my hand, and we will both know in our hearts those same words, spoken through tears...we worked so hard to get you here. But we will know, in that moment, that it wasn't our work or striving that wrote your story. He is the One who is writing your story. And we are so blessed to be a part of whatever He has in store for your life.