When Comes the Rain.

Sometimes the most profound thoughts are whispered to the surface by the rattle of a drain pipe and the soft glow of streetlights. As raindrops knit heaven to earth God’s invitation to worship draws me outside to the porch, nearer the sky.

Maybe profound is to strong a word for these simple thoughts. They’ll likely change no one’s life  but mine and, yet, even if they only change mine they still feel significant enough to write down. For me, intentionality leads to better remembrance of Truth.

This season of life is a breathless waiting. The gathered breath of preparation before the long exhale of change.

Waiting for results, waiting for our precious son to enter the world, waiting for grades, waiting for fruition, waiting for answers.

In all the waiting it’s so easy for my eyes to be centered on tomorrow, on then. To overlook the subtler, mundane joys of today. Of right now. 

This afternoon I sat and watched Evie watch the rain.

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She heard the drops start pounding the porch roof and immediately ran to “her” green chair and with a “mama…pease” was situated in it, snack in hand, to watch the puddles forming under the eaves.

(if she only knew how much joy her delight in the rain brings her mama).

She sat there for a long time. Soaking in the muted beauty of what was without a care towards tomorrow or later.

Time passes too quickly to waste a second wishing for the next thing. 

It wasn’t that long ago that I was cradling her in my arms, a newborn who only knew milk and mama and now she sits, snuggling her baby doll, asking me for cheese and watching the rain. Her brother kicks excitedly around, nestled close to my heart for now, in no time at all I’ll be watching him awaken to the world.

Today, with every bit of its hardness, goodness, uncertainty and beauty is a sacred gift, wrapped with a hundred different bows. The satin of Evie’s cheek as she nestles down on my shoulder at bedtime, the delight in Tom’s face when he sees dinner on the table, the quietness of a neighborhood temporarily hushed by the continuous rain, the vibrant red of a cardinal brave enough to visit the bird feeder in the downpour, the quiet sense of accomplishment as Tom finishes a long weekend of class, the joy of hearing familiar voices on the phone and knowing that the Grace that sustains will be new in the morning.

We are never truly overwhelmed, never truly defeated because what sustains us, the core of our identity is Eternal and Untouchable. Unhindered by tomorrow and undeterred by yesterday.

I can face the future “ever confident” in that reality.

“Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;
Give me the fullness of godly grief, that trembles and fears, yet ever trust and loves, which is ever powerful, and ever confident;
Grant through the tears of repentance I may see more clearly the brightness and glories of the saving cross.”

I can delight in the unanswered questions of today, not because of my planning or forethought, but because I know Him. I can surrender my husband and children (far easier said than done) because I know that tomorrow is in the best possible hands. I can acknowledge the heartbreak of this world, mourning with those who mourn, because I know it will one day be overcome.

Living in today frees my soul to delight. It frees my mind to worship. It frees my voice to praise and my heart to laugh.

Lord, grant me the divine grace to remember the truths whispered to my heart on a rainy sabbath when my body trembles in fear. When the unknown is dark. When the path is shrouded. Bind my unwilling feet to rocky paths that I may glean the irreplaceable treasure of You.

Freelancing from Home in Forty-Seven Simple Steps.

1) Position toddler on recliner with books, cheerios and milk.

2) Second guess the milk as her new favorite game is “clean up” which involves vigorously shaking her sippy cup upside down.

3) Take away milk.

4) Toddler starts begging for “wawa”. Return cup and vow to watch her extra-carefully with your third set of eyes to prevent needing to scrub milk out of the recliner.

5) Sit down with laptop.

6) Realize laptop is dead and charger is upstairs.

7) Go upstairs for charger while toddler frantically waves bye-bye and dissolves into a flood of tears because, clearly, you are leaving FOREVER.

8) Bring charger downstairs.

9) Remember there was a charger downstairs all along.

10) Wait for laptop to come to life.

11) Toddler has read all of her books and is now twisting herself into the curtains.

12) Laptop is finally on. Open article.

13) Client disregarded word limit and article is 800 words above max.

14) Sigh deeply. Editing out 2/3 of their carefully chosen words always takes some thoughtful explaining.

15) Toddler is bored with playing in the curtains and is now determinedly stuffing her baby doll into an almond milk box.

16) Pause in concern that she’ll attempt to put her baby brother in an almond milk box when you’re not looking. Realize you’ll have to cross that bridge when you come to it.

17) Delete three words of article. First line is now edited. 832423641232387473289 more to go.

18) Toddler chooses this moment to remember that “dada” left for work two hours ago and is now yelling “no, bye-bye, NO” out the front windows.

19) While protesting “Dada’s” departure toddler slips on milk which she has poured under the curtains despite your (not so ) best efforts to avoid that exact scenario. At least the recliner is spared.

20) Toddler has bitten tongue. Mother needs to bite tongue.

21) Five lines edited. Word count down to 700 above max.

22) Briefly contemplate who even has time to write 800 words more then are absolutely necessary.

23) Toddler is sweetly hugging her baby . Smile at her and remind yourself to tell husband you want twelve more.

24) One entire page edited. Is this really happening? Miracles are clearly occurring everyday.

25) Toddler has dragged a bench to the window and is now patiently looking for “dada”. Don’t have the heart to tell her she’ll be waiting at least eight hours.

26) It has now been 37 minutes and you’re only 1/3 of the way through. Calculate your hourly rate to ensure this is still worth it. Realize it is…not. Wonder if your contract has a “toddler milk” clause that allows for a pay raise?

27) Hope that your hasty, highly distracted edits aren’t chopping sentences in half.

28) Toddler has spied a robin hopping down the sidewalk. She is beside herself with joy at the “brrrrrddd”. Melt a little bit at her ability to be delighted by the most ordinary things. Ask for grace to do the same.

29) Two pages down.

30) Toddler is now asking to go for a walk. Consider letting her.

31) White maintenance truck pulls into the spot where “dada’s” white work truck is usually parked. Toddler is ecstatic.

32) Sigh deeply.

33) Toddler realizes maintenance truck is not “dada” and needs a snuggle from mama. She presses a milky kiss to your cheek. Why is there milk everywhere today? No more milk for anyone ever.

34) Try desperately to remember if you called in a maintenance request. Don’t recall anything that is broken (except your ability to edit without interruption – wonder if they have a tool for that?).

35) Realize maintenance man is going to your neighbors. Thank God you can stay in your pajamas and keep “working”.

36) It suddenly starts raining. Toddler is now pointing out the window to show you the “wawa”.

37) Realize it IS a confusing world when she can’t pour her milk on the living room floor but everyone else can pour their water on the sidewalk.

38) ½ page left. The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter. Hope the light is really the glow of the Keurig’s power button.

39) Toddler is now standing by the front door with the kitchen towel waiting to go outside and clean up the “wawa”.

40) Kiss her a thousand times (despite the milkyness) because her love of cleanliness is your love language.

41) Article. Is. Done.

42) Rapidly draft email explaining to client why their masterpiece was cut by 2/3’s.

43) Try not to take it personally when your toddler points at you and inexplicably shouts “NO”.

44) Send email. Save article.

45) Announce early snack time/coffee time. Toddler seems pleased. Mom is giddy

46) Snuggle toddler on the short walk to the kitchen. Realize how grateful you are.

47) Also realize this is why you aren’t getting much freelancing done lately. Make mental note to determine what else you can cut from the budget to make up the difference. Decide on milk. Definitely milk.

These are the Moments that Make up the Days.

Life is short. 

As unromantic as it may sound that is probably the single, greatest piece of marriage and family advice I’ve read and the one that runs through my head most often in the midst of life’s trials.

When Tom & I hurt each other in the same way for the hundredth (thousandth) time. 

When my daughter pours my water bottle on her pants for the third time in a day.

When the laundry, dishes and cleaning all need to be done. Again. 

When the bills are paid but there’s nothing left for any of the other financial goals we set. 

When “date night” is, once again, in the living room instead of out anywhere. 

When pregnancy pains have me up at night before another long day. 

When the writing deadlines cycle back around. 

When Tom needs a week of evenings to finish major projects and I am alone. 

When family is all far away. 

When Evie is awake at 3:00 a.m. for no apparent reason.

When cold & flu season just won’t end. 

When sunshine and warm weather seem like a thing of fairy tales. 

When Evie is eating veggie straws off the floor because she dropped her snack cup for the sixth time. 

When life is mundane, lonely and predictable. 

When your time with the Lord is punctuated with baby drool and sticky hands wanting to help turn the pages of the “bahble”.

In the midst of Valentine’s Day promotions and celebrations it’s easy to forget that love is not proved by roses, jewelry, spa gift cards, dinners out, cards, chocolate, new clothes, vacations, surprises and time away together. Love is not cemented in the moment of breathless yes that follows a proposal. It’s not sealed by the tears that stain hand-written marriage vows or finalized in the intimacy of a long-awaited honeymoon. Those are beautiful beginnings, sacred starts to a life together but they are not the proof of love.

Like love’s Author demonstrated, love is cemented by the very moments that you think it should be most absent. Arms spread wide on a wooden cross. In the splitting of yourself to serve another. In the gifting of grace at the cost of your own desires. In the laying down of your very life to make another’s life richer, more whole. More sweet.

That’s where love’s true mettle is allowed to shine. To be refined into something stronger than it was before it was broken. That’s where love is proven as the greatest of these. In every one of the moments that won’t make it on a Hallmark card.

When you’ve locked the door and your husband picks it, determined to hear the painful words you need to say. When you have been cut open in the most unexpected delivery so your daughter can enter the world and, despite the pain, nausea and blood he whispers that “you’re beautiful”. When you fall asleep in the middle of something important he’s trying to share with you because it’s late and you’re exhausted. When what he needs isn’t a romantic gesture on your part but just the chance to take a nap on the weekend. When love is stopping to fill the empty gas tank despite your own mental and physical tank being on empty. When your sacrifice isn’t noticed or thanked. When your surprise falls flat. When your hard work is taken for granted.

Those are the moments that make up the days that make up a life defined by love. A life that will be over all too fast.

Love doesn’t take a superhero’s strength. Just a willing heart. It doesn’t require trendy clothes, a model body or a full bank account. Just the commitment to empty yourself and be filled with the passions and goals of the Greatest Lover.

When the overwhelming days come; when my heart needs a reality check to be restored to its mission of love, I remember how fleeting the days are. How much I’ve been given in this life and how precious each day I get to hold my loved ones is. I remember how fragile life is, that while we are promised eternity we are not guaranteed tomorrow. I remember how sacred the role of shaping little lives is and how the most significant things you can do in life are rarely ones that are either visible or applauded.

Life is short. 

When Tom and I hurt each other I have the opportunity to be filled with a demonstrative grace again. To help him move one step closer towards the Lord by receiving grace.

When Evie pours water on her pants I can enjoy the sight of her wet little legs running for the kitchen where I already know she’ll desperately grab the dishtowel off the refrigerator and start drying her pants. 

When the laundry, dishes and cleaning all need to be done I can celebrate the roof over my head, food on my table and clothes on my back. 

When the bills are paid but there’s nothing left for any of the other financial goals we set I can rejoice that our financial obligations are met.

When “date night” is, once again, in the living room instead of out somewhere I can delight in the fact that I have a husband committed to his wife and his family. 

When pregnancy pains have me up at night before another long day I can pray for the little boy growing in my womb and rejoice in the moments I have left carrying him. 

When the writing deadlines cycle back around I can be grateful for the small amount of extra income the writing assignments bring us. 

When Tom needs a week of evenings to finish major projects and I am alone I can spend the time worshiping my Lord and finding new ways to help my family through this season of long days, short nights and limited income. 

When family is all far away I can be grateful to live in a day when communication, sharing pictures and updating each other on our lives has never been easier. 

When Evie is awake at 3:00 a.m. for no apparent reason I can delight in the weight of her small, healthy body and rejoice in the feel of her little arms clasped tightly to my neck. In that moment I am embodied love to her, all the security she needs. 

When cold & flu season just won’t end I can be grateful for the fact that my family has avoided any major illnesses and simply battled a few head colds and an ear infection. 

When sunshine and warm weather seem like a thing of fairy tales I can rejoice in a world that is soaking in its off-season. The earth is absorbing the rain and gray skies as spring incubates. 

When Evie is eating veggie straws off the floor because she dropped her snack cup for the sixth time I can accept the sweet innocence that makes her unconcerned about germs. 

When life is mundane, lonely and predictable I can meditate on three truths: joy is not dependent on exciting circumstances, loneliness is an important part of growth and predictable days are a gift in their own right. 

When my time with the Lord is punctuated with baby drool and sticky hands wanting to help turn the pages of the “bahble” I can delight in the fact that “Bible” was one of the first twenty words that Evie learned. 

Life is short, even when the days and moments are long. The gifts are abundant, even when the wrapping is unexpected. The opportunities for joy are frequent, even when all the circumstances aren’t ideal.

The choice to accept the gift of today is always ours.  Always mine.

The Mom Wars.

Is it just me or have the mom wars been especially volatile lately?

It’s both heartbreaking and deeply disturbing to me to see the way grown women feel they can address one another, especially behind the veil of social media. Why is it so easy to forget (or to blatantly disregard) the fact that our “opponent” on any given topic is a human being with their own life story, set of convictions and love for their child? Why is it so easy to believe that our personal opinions are the ONLY way for all parents everywhere to raise their children? Why does the list of things you can’t or shouldn’t ask about without fear of offending someone grow ever longer? Why are we so willing to sacrifice someone else’s good name to make ourselves feel better about our personal decisions?

The debates over letting your baby cry, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, vaccines, circumcision, co-sleeping, working vs. stay-at-home, formula and about 101 other topics are raging on. The internet is a blessing and a curse in that regard; information and opinions have never been more accessible but, sadly, it has never been easier to find research to be used as ammunition to support any viewpoint. And the enemy on the receiving end of fire? Another mom.

I think one of the biggest sources for the mom wars comes when we allow our value as moms to be defined by our mothering decisions. Instead of choosing to breastfeed we allow ourselves to be defined as a “breastfeeding mom”. Instead of choosing to cloth diaper we are a “cloth-diapering mom”. Any decision about vaccinations will be seen as controversial by someone and, whether we vaccinate, delay or forego our choice can become a defining mark of pride. Whatever our decisions we tend to appoint ourselves spokespeople and champion them when asked (and, often, even when not). We forget that choosing differently than someone else doesn’t make us better than anyone else and far to often confidence in our parenting decisions so easily becomes arrogance towards parents who have chosen differently.

How much richer would our lives be if we didn’t enter the literally endless debates on all things parenting verbally or mentally? I don’t always say a lot about complicated issues on social media or in conversation but, I sure spend the time mentally debating the pros and cons of other parenting choices.

It can feel like an obligation of parenting to read everything, research everything, agonize over everything and consistently revisit every topic to see what you might have missed. It’s endless and exhausting.  It IS our job as parents to make informed decisions for the unique set of circumstances surrounding each child we have. The topics mentioned at the beginning of this post are so hotly debated because they do matter (though, some definitely matter more than others) but, so much of the information out there, on every side of any debate, seems to be written or spoken from a place of such fear or arrogance. I don’t want to live the one life I have consumed by it all and I know a lot of other moms who feel the same way.

Why is balance so much more difficult to achieve than extremes?

Probably because it requires us to make decisions with a calm spirit – not out of fear or pride. For me that is literally impossible to achieve without the continual grace of Christ. Obviously it’s not that Scripture holds a list of vaccination ingredients or schedule for dropping naps – but, when my heart is filled with a peace that passes all understanding is when I am best able to make parenting decisions with Tom for Evie and Miles.

In that place of peace is when I’m free from concern about other’s opinions. Free from the need to consult “one more book” and free from the need to justify my decision to everyone I meet. It quells the fear because, really, I think so many of our parenting debates are tied to our desperate attempts to protect and control our children when the simple reality is that, even the decisions we feel most confident in, don’t come with guarantees.

Part of parenting is accepting the fact that you CAN’T predict the future, protect your child from every potential accident or ensure the outcome you want for their lives. It’s opening yourself up to a very vulnerable sort of love. Accepting that reality (which is a daily choice and desperately hard at times for me) actually reframes the circumstances surrounding so many parenting decisions for Tom & I.  It takes away the fear of “what if” and it allows me the freedom to enjoy what I know to be true today with my daughter instead of spending precious moments consumed with anxiety about what the future holds. And really, isn’t today all we have anyway?

Abiding in that place of peace also helps to helps to silence my need to engage in that many mom debates.

It’s my job to decide if Evie should have a chickenpox vaccine. Yes. But it’s also my job to model the decision-making process for her as a time of careful research and thoughtful consideration – not a time of panic, heated words towards other moms and medical professionals or catty remarks.

It’s my job to decide what kind of diapers we will use. Yes. But it’s also my job to teach my children that there isn’t one right, God-ordained way of diapering your baby and that it’s ok if other moms choose to use cloth, disposables or a combination. It’s my job to demonstrate how to differentiate between major and minor decisions and how to hold convictions with kindness.

So many of the topics we agonize over as moms are somewhat to fully resolved by 3-5 years of age. What remains after that is the ongoing job of raising a child into a man or women who has the tools they need spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically to make it through the rest of their lives. 

What kind of diapers were used is going to matter very little when she’s fifteen. What will matter is how I spent the 10-12 years diapers were a non-existent issue raising her. What will matter is the conversations we had, the apologies I spoke to her and to her father, the grace shown her when she made a mistake, the tone of our home (God, may be it place of peace and hope. May it be a place defined by honesty and love and forgiveness when that tone is broken). 

What am I teaching her by how I’m making decisions for her? 

It’s my job to teach her when her opinion should be shared and when it’s ok to remain silent.

It’s my job to teach her how to take fear out of the equation when making a decision.

It’s my job to teach her when to ask for help.

It’s my job to teach her to be a woman marked by gentleness and respect.

Parenting has stretched me to my limit on so many levels. Just when I think I can’t  love her more she does something new, something silly or something sweet and my heart expands to a level of affection for her that I didn’t know existed. Just when I think I’ve begun to grasp the level of responsibility Tom & I have undertaken in becoming parents I am faced with a new decision that requires me to be doctor, psychiatrist, nutritionist and sleep consultant all at once. Just when I think I can’t be more tired, well, she chooses that night to fight the comforts of her crib for no clear reason ;).

There are a lot of difficult jobs out there but the endless amount of mental responsibility, constant demands for more time and energy and complete inability to change the fact that once you are a parent you are always a parent help me better understand why there are mom wars. Being a parent is hard work.

It’s sad though; as parents, especially as moms, we have the capability to be each other’s greatest friends, most beneficial resources and sources of comfort. Can we please start choosing friendship at least as often as combat? To stand next to each other even when we disagree? To sometimes choose silence even when we have an opinion? To create an oasis of peace in a world that’s crazy enough? To choose calm conversation instead of fear-fueled attacks?

We have to. For the sake of the children we so dearly love, we have to.

Like a Weaned Child.

I’ve been mediating on Psalm 131 since my mother drew my attention to it shortly before Christmas of last year.

Like many things in Scripture the depth and richness of this passage have taken on a deeper meaning since I became a mother in September of 2013 (on that note, I am continually amazed at the unceasing richness of Scripture; it’s not that every devotional time is filled with new revelations but that this book is evergreen in its ability to speak to various stages of the human life).

Psalm 131

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; 

my eyes are not raised too high; 

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

Choosing to posture yourself in dependent humility is a decision to, at least temporarily, choose stillness and reflection. To lay aside physical, mental and spiritual busyness.  I love David’s checklist of things he is choosing not to do; engage in intense emotions, be mired in anxiety or theological debates, look ahead into the future or try to immediately find answers to every question that disturbs him.

In loving God with his heart he is delighting in his position as  God’s child. He is seeking rest.

I ran across the following, beautiful words yesterday. By some miracle my little family slept in and I woke up refreshed a full 90 minutes before they did. When that happens, my first instinct will always be to see what I can get done while the house is quiet and little hands aren’t behind me undoing it as fast as I check it off my list. I compromised a bit – I spent five minutes sweeping up cracker crumbs that Evie had scattered around the living room couch, then…I sat. I read. I prayed. I meditated. I reflected.

I entered the “palace in time” that is the Sabbath.

“The Sabbath is a reminder of the two worlds–this world and the world to come; it is an example of both worlds. For the Sabbath is joy, holiness, and rest; joy is part of this world; holiness and rest are something of the world to come.
To observe the seventh day does not mean merely to obey or to conform to the strictness of a divine commandment.
To observe is to celebrate the creation of the world and to create the seventh day all over again, the majesty of holiness in time, a day of rest, a day of freedom, a day which is like a lord and king of all other days, a lord and king in the commonwealth of time…the seventh day is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere.” – Abraham Heschel

I chose to quiet my soul.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, 

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child in my soul within me. 

David’s likening of his intentionally quieted soul to a weaned child is deeply poignant to me.

For the first fourteen months of her life I nursed Evie anywhere between 2-12 times a day. Those times with her, which are now memories, are achingly precious to me. The weight of her little body nestled in my arms as she ate, glancing sleepily (and, later on, not so sleepily) all around is something I am grateful we were able to experience together.

Early on though Tom & I learned something interesting: he was able to comfort Evie in a way that I was not.

When Evie was in my arms her instinct was for food. Immediately. She would squirm, cry and nestle closer and closer until she found what was looking for: nourishment.

When was she was in Tom’s arms her head would drop to his chest and she would snuggle, pressing closer and closer until she found what she was looking for: comfort.

When Evie weaned at the beginning of December there was a dramatic and immediate difference in her contentment in my arms. For the first time I was able to hold and comfort her without her looking for anything else. She was stilled by the simple fact that she was in my arms, enjoying her mama as a place of safety and peace.

How often my time with the Lord mirrors the same frantic need for something (often many things). I seek guidance, provision, direction, answers to prayer, discernment and patience – all well and good but how often do I just seek Him? How often do I allow myself the gift of simply receiving his comfort without asking for anything more?

Not often enough and the loss is my own.

Lord, grant me patience and grace to actively quiet my soul and receive the comfort I need.

O Israel, hope in the Lord

from this time forth and forevermore. 

I wonder what David’s conclusion would have been had this Psalm been written from a place of active study, questioning or action?

“O Israel, take up your weapons, fight from this time forth and forevermore”.

“O Israel, study your texts, defend truth from this time forth and forevermore”.

“O Israel, open your homes, host your neighbors from this time forth and forevermore”.

I don’t want to negate the importance of any of those; part of loving God is challenging our minds, speaking what is true, serving our neighbors and working with diligence.

Yet, after his time of stillness with the Lord David’s conclusion is equally simple – a whispered afterthought to a Psalm breathed as a quiet prayer; an ode to the sacredness of silence.

O Israel, hope in the Lord. Always hope in the Lord.

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The Wholly (and Holy), Transformational Role of Sacrifice.

Yesterday I woke up to a lengthy list of items that needed to be accomplished: four loads of laundry to wash, fold and put away, grocery shopping requiring loading groceries into the cart, onto the belt, into the shopping cart, into the car, into the house and finally…into the pantry (when you’re pregnant every step counts), cleaning and organizing the pantry and refrigerator, meeting the maintenance man to change the air filter, grating soap to make laundry detergent, endless diaper changes, sweeping and vacuuming, cooking dinner, packing a lunch and preparing Tom’s work uniforms for the week, bills to pay and paperwork to catch up on.

On top of everything I had a little one coming down with a cold (her second – third? – this winter. A consequence of the fact that she LICKS EVERYTHING. Ugh) who needed extra time and attention and sometimes who just needed mama to stop and hold her.

Somewhere in the middle of the day, in the midst of many blocked goals and limited accomplishments, I re-read my life quote;

“To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life” (From An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor).

In that moment I was reminded (by the Holy Spirit of God….because I definitely did not have the resources to remind myself) that life is not measured by the amount we accomplish but by the attitude in which we do it. Times where sacrifice is required present us so many opportunities to cultivate a spirit that resonates embodied grace to others and to ourselves. That, that is the holy, transformational role of sacrifice that is available to us if we open ourselves to it.

There are many roles and opportunities in life to sacrifice beyond what you feel you have capability to give. A lot of what I write is drawn from the context I am currently immersed in, mothering, a present tense, action verb that’s ever-evolving in definition and ever-deepening in opportunity for sacrifice.

Evie’s sleep was interrupted often last night. She went to bed at 7 and woke up at 9, 11, 1 and 5. At 1:27 a.m I sat with her on the edge of the bathtub with the shower on its highest setting. The steam filled our small bathroom and swirled in the glow of the nightlight. Evie’s forehead was pressed into my shoulder and her small arms were wrapped firmly around my neck. She breathed in the steam and I felt her little body relax in the warmth of the room and the warmth of knowing mama was present for her.

In that moment I realized I had a choice (again, through Holy Spirit grace).

I could begrudge her repeated need of me through the night; caring for her physically but being emotionally distant. Sometimes I think that’s ok; the amount of sacrifices required of a mother mean that each one will likely be met with a varying level of emotional attentiveness. Mothers are human too.

Yet, in that moment I knew I had more to give her than physical care, something that would also be a gift to myself in the work it would do to transform my own eternal spirit. By grace I gave her the gift of emotional presence in her need. I engaged my senses with hers, put myself in her shoes (err, sleeper-clad feet) and allowed myself to soak in the beauty of her trust without wishing for a different set of circumstances (particularly a set of circumstances that had me still asleep in bed).

Emotional presence is what renders the same situation either mundane and forgettable or eternally transformative. Emotional presence is what opens our eyes to the deeper realities of our everyday situations and the significance they could have to our eternal souls should we allow it.

We each  have every ingredient we need to live a sacrificial life. To be changed by the ingredients of our lives right now, today.

The key is what we do with the painful, unexpected  and altogether mundane aspects of our lives.

The building blocks of trials, difficult circumstances, low-income seasons, relational disappoints, job loss, miscarriage, transitions, loss through death, children leaving, loved ones making choices you don’t agree with (to name just a few) are present in some way and degree in each of our lives. Each of those larger difficulties, and the hundreds of small inconveniences that fill our days, are composed of a thousand, little chances to be emotionally present in the pain, trial or annoyance.

The chance to be transformed just a little more through the sacrifice being asked of you. Of me.

My day rarely holds news-worthy stories of change. I haven’t been called on for any groundbreaking political contributions, made any life-changing medical discoveries, published anything that has changed the world or single-handedly altered the course of a third-world village.

Yet, every single day I have the chance to communicate tiny lessons of grace and responsibility to a little woman-in-training. I have the change to cool a meal, wash a dish, make the bed, say “I love you” and whisper a prayer in a way that communicates the innate value of the people I am serving and the eternal weight and transformational value of each seemingly mundane task.

I can be changed for a little more eternal good on this rainy, cold sick day in early December. So can you.

Sanctification, transformation, is not a separate mission from our earthly responsibilities. Those simple, everyday tasks are how we can be changed into His likeness – should we emotionally present to the wealth of opportunities they hold.

God, grant us eyes to see and the courage to be emotionally present in both the mundane and the groundbreaking moments of our lives. 

The Wild for the Wonderful.

To get the full feeling of this post you should probably turn up this song like I did while I wrote it.  Or this one – which I switched to after I listened to the first one 3748943651923 times. 

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Today is a soaking wet day for introspection. For soul-searching melancholy. For the open-mouthed baby kisses my daughter specializes in. For the whole-body hugs Tom gives me that are actually more like our souls touching. For texted “I love you’s” without punctuation – the most honest kind. The kind that, in that moment, aren’t concerned with periods or exclamation points but with relaying the message.

It’s rain and clouds and the silhouettes of umbrellas marching steadily past my windows and the front of the coffee shop where I’m now writing. It’s the rain-slicked cobblestones that make my town perfect and the hunched shoulders of each dusk-weary passerby bracing the continually pelting rain.

I left home tonight.

For the first time since in months l left with no agenda. I’m not grocery shopping, going to a church meeting or on a planning committee. Instead I’m curled up, barefoot, at the local coffee shop (the kind of place with dinged furniture, crooked menus and perfect music that makes you wonder why coffee shop chains exist). I’m sitting here writing.

I didn’t come with a pre-planned topic just a thought I’ve been mulling over for the last few months.

Self-care, specifically mother-care.

Mothers need care too. Mothers need to reminded of who they were before littles came along because those truths remain a definitive part of who they are as mothers. If you’re reading this and you’re a mom – take care of you. Take the bubble bath, drink the coffee, steal the ten minutes outside at night to just sit.

Nights out like this one help me remember who I am as a woman. As a wife. As something other than a mom. Going to the coffee shop with my laptop to write used to be the norm for me- it has now been so long that I actually forgot where to plug my headphones in on the laptop.

Time away, perspective, is crucially important and life-giving to help ensure I continue to fulfill all three of those roles well; wife, mom and woman.

I think of it as The Wild.

I’m not someone who needs to get their hair done or go for a massage (though I certainly won’t turn it down if you’re offering). I don’t need a shopping trip or time at the mall.

I need the freedom to stand in the pouring rain and stare at things uninterrupted.

I need to breathe in a southern night full of humidity and possibility. I need to have  a quiet moment to daydream without the weight of dinner menus, diaper changes and bills that need to be paid. I need the bliss of doing one thing at a time.

I need to feel the unbridled wonder of nature. To feel the rush of possibilities that come with staring down an open road and seeing the way it winds with abandon. I need to stand on a beach at night and hear the crash of invisible waves pounding an ever-shifting shoreline.

Those things reach deep down into my soul and bring it to life.

They stir me to remember the Big Picture. To look beyond the days of little things, of the mundane chores and list making and to remember. Remember who I was created to be, to remember that life in all of its unbridled wonder, unexpected pain, fragile joys and moments of sheer delight is worthy of being lived with my eyes wide open even when I’m tired, overworked and weary of reading “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?”.

Sometimes it seems that out culture wants mothers to believe they can and should have it all. Freedom and babies, personal time and time with their littles, self-actualization and self-sacrifice.

Yet, on that last one maybe they’re right – we find our truest selves when we surrender ourselves and sacrifice is as intrinsic to the definition of motherhood as love is to the character of God. Plenty of opportunities to lay aside your own desires and, in the process, learn who you are – for better or for worse.

I knew that before I became a mama – as best as you can know something that you have to live to learn. Sacrificing in practical ways for my daughter is something I will do every single day. Same for her dad. Some days it’s hard, that is true, but it’s also something I find extremely fulfilling. I love preparing healthy meals, hanging clean, fluffy towels in the bathroom, putting clean sheets on the bed, making my own laundry detergent, gathering her in my arms to nurse, packing lunches, straightening carpets and filling our home with light and love.

Those things aren’t the true test for me of sacrifice.

It’s surrendering my freedom in The Wild.

The ability to go and do and be anything I want to be at any time. The freedom to hoist a sale and catch a ride whatever way the wind is blowing. The ultimate escape, into a book, for an uninterrupted six hours. Traveling to Mexico with my love. Last-minute road trips just because.

Those things aren’t a definitive part of my life right now. My days are extremely predictable and scheduled. Up at 6:30, naps at 9 and 1, three meals, three snacks, two cups of milk, two nursing sessions, 18 books read, five block towers built, one lunch packed, one dinner cooked, the living room vacuumed, the mail gotten, the bills paid, the calendar updated, the articles written, the cleaning done, groceries unpacked, menus made for the week, phone calls returned.

Repeat.

Every day. All day.

Motherhood is trading much of the wild for the wonderful.

And you know something? As I’m continuing to adjust to that new normal, I’m learning something key. Something that is encouraging me through the busy and often lonely days of mothering and transition as we attempt to build a new life here.

The wonderful can be just as fulfilling.

The wonderful is in my baby daughters eyes when she feels a raindrop on her face. It’s in my husbands smile when he suggests doing something crazy and taking a family walk in the woods. It’s in the companionship of friends who share your journey and in the solace of fellow mothers who are willing to swap jealousy and competition for authentic friendship.

It’s in a whirlwind hand of Dutch blitz with your husband before bed. It’s in the sudden smiles of a one-year old drinking in every bit of life she possibly can before her bedtime. It’s when you hear your husband and daughter playing hide-and-seek upstairs and laughing so hard that the floor is shaking. It’s in those moments that you know, that even though they’re filled with mundane tasks and small things, these are the best days. 

That, that discovery of the wild hidden in the wonderful, starts with the  unmatchable joy that shoots through every painful, bruised and broken part of your body when your child is first handed to you; breathing their first breaths of air and looking for something familiar, the only thing they know- you. 

Someday the freedom of the wild will come again in full force and, you know, I can’t help but think that, when it does, I’ll do anything to trade it back for one more day of wonderful. 

Time will tell. It’s incentive to live the days will a grateful heart knowing that each season is temporary.

And, for now, this season of freedom at the coffee shop is drawing to a close. My husband, who patiently handled bathtime and bedtime for the little, awaits me. He has grown even more dear to me as we continue down this road of life (how is it even possible that we’ll be married three years in December?). There is a lunch to be packed and a final load of laundry to put away before night falls on our home.

Tomorrow is a new day.

A day for making stew, muffins and bread. For cleaning the house and for taking Evie to library storytime. It’s a day for ironing Tom’s work shirts and finishing a phone interview for an article. By God’s grace it will be a day laced with prayer and moments of meditation. A day where I show grace to an eager, active little girl who’s desire to explore her world doesn’t always match my neat plans. A day where I am patient when Tom gets another late call at work and needs more time in the evening to do homework. It’s a day I only have the chance to live once.

And, by grace, tomorrow is a day for wild wonder.

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