The Days of Small Things.

The days are filled with small things.

Tiny milestones where the miles are more like inches and the stones the size of pebbles. Your accomplishments are written in big letters on the to-do list to make it seem like you’ve finished more (why do you feel the need to justify doing only the little things to yourself?). It’s noteworthy when you answer one email, make the bed or pack a lunch. How many times have you brewed a pot of coffee only to be called away for three hours before you get a cup? Too many to count.

The nights are hardest. Bedtime no longer means anything, it might be a thirty minute break or it might be a five-hour one – your life is lived perpetually on call (exclusively breastfeeding a baby is not for the faint of heart – if you’re not nursing you’re still needed to pump and provide the milk). Even when you’re not breastfeeding the nights are achingly long; somehow daylight makes everything seem more manageable even if you’re exhausted. Especially, when you’re exhausted.

Some days nothing works. Some days mamma’s arms are all that fix it. Some days she needs to eat every few hours. Some times the tears don’t have an explanation (hers anyway, your’s always do). Some days people get upset because they haven’t heard back from you (these people usually don’t have a newborn) – it’s hard to explain that it’s not that you didn’t have time but that your brain literally couldn’t think about whatever it was they asked you in the first place.

Some days it’s just hard.

The times when all you want to do is have a back-rub from your husband without being interrupted by sudden cries. The days when you wish there was a magic button that would promise you 3-4 hours of sleep (often the swing does but you’re worried that will create “dependency” on it because They caution against that). The days when you hope to God that you timed everything right so you can make it to small group without a hungry, tired or inexplicably fussy meltdown (then it happens anyway). Some nights your husband sleeps on the couch because he has to get up at 4:30 and, as luck would have it, his alarm will go off just as you and the baby fall back asleep. You miss him. The bed feels cold and empty. 

There are days where you second guess everything you’re doing and hope you’re not creating bad habit patterns that will take an eternity to break. You ponder everything because you’re responsible for the safety of this little person and They vehemently insist you should swaddle, should not swaddle, should lay the baby on their back, should lay them on their side, should allow a nightlight, should always cover the windows, should let them nurse to sleep, should never nurse them to sleep because they’ll expect to fall asleep that way until they’re in college, let them cry, never let them experience stress. Above all else, make the right decision the first time so you don’t do permanent damage. Mothering in the age of the internet is a minefield of opinions.

Some days you wonder if it will ever not feel like survival mode? Will she ever prefer her crib to her swing? Will we ever sleep more than 4 hours again? Will life ever resume even a tiny sense of normalcy? Will you ever be able to go out without bringing eighteen baby items (not for a long time)?

Then the reframe comes.

You remember why you’re doing all this.

For the safety and growth of a tiny little person who is new to everything in the world. For her who instantly cries more softly when she sees her mamma because she knows someone who loves her very much is coming. For the knowledge that this little person has an eternal soul that you’ve been gifted with the privilege to help shape.

You remind yourself that an unhappy child doesn’t always have a solution other than time. That their tears and refusal to sleep doesn’t always mean you did something wrong and you don’t need to spend countless hours racking your brain for a way to fix it. That people have raised children for thousands of years before they had access to the millions of opinions on the internet (a blessing and a curse) and that you can trust your  parenting instincts and love for your child.

You focus on the literally overwhelming love you have for this little person (a love that makes you immediately tear up when you think about it). The joy you get watching her nurse, when little blue eyes are fixed in wonder on your face. On the way she smells after a bath, the adorable sniff she gives when she’s concentrating on something, the spastic way her tiny hands and feet move without her control. On the gummy grins that get broader every day and the way she gives the sweetest smiles in her (rare) moments of sleep. You can’t get over her. Will never get over her. Her dimples and chunky baby thighs have permanently changed you. You celebrate every little milestone with her – laying on the floor, next to her daddy, you both watching her roll over and go cross-eyed discovering her hands. You see the utter joy in his face when he looks at his daughter and the indescribable happiness she brings both of you. Suddenly you want twelve more of these little people.

You think about the way it felt when her arms and legs wiggled in your womb and can see the same motion patterns when she wiggles around on her blanket. You remember that you’ve never seen a twenty-year old asleep in a swing and instead celebrate the fact that she now sleeps with it on low-speed instead of high and usually spends at least half the night and all her naps in her crib. Baby steps.

You see a day coming all too soon when she’ll say her first words, take her first steps and experience her first heartbreak. Your own heart aches to think of her feeling pain of any kind – yet, to keep her from it will make her brittle not strong, fragile not brave. What you do know is that she’ll never go through pain alone. You will be there for. Her family and the God who made her will be with her (she doesn’t know Jesus yet but you pray for it every single day).

Someday she won’t need you like this. But today she does.

Someday she won’t rely on you for everything. But today she does.

You can see a day in the distant future (and yet, coming all too soon) when you’re at breakfast with the man who cradles your heart. Time has lined his handsome face yet the same impish sparkle that you fell madly in love with still twinkles in his eye – all the children are grown and gone and, once more, it’s just the two of you.

The baby days are long gone and you long for just one more moment of holding your newborn close. For the feel of their tiny body pressed to your breast and the chance to see the overwhelming happiness on their face when all they see and all they need is mommy & daddy. You know you’ll feel that way because you feel that way about your pregnancy – just one moment more of this precious life snuggled under your heart.

But it’s not to be, the days are so fleeting (even when, in the moment, they feel eternal).

The thought is enough to give you strength to savor today, even when the taste is a little bitter. To press that child close to you and say another prayer over their sleeping body. To beg God for courage to persist in patience through the crying.

You should have been in bed an hour ago but sometimes you need to take the time to write everything that’s been bottling up for a month. So you sit, under the multi-colored light of the small Christmas tree, with the sound of the baby monitor as background noise (silently thanking Graco for the swing you hear gently clicking away). You blow a kiss to your husband who is sound asleep on the couch and thank him for his willingness to take the couch even though his back is sore and let you have the bed. You beg your beloved cat not to shred the carefully wrapped gifts (which is the only thing you’ve really accomplished in a few days).

Finally, to end the day you sit for a long time on the shower floor. The water a liquid prayer, washing away frustration, sadness, loneliness and exhaustion.

Today the little graces abound and, in the days of small things, they are enough.

Today, she does.

Ten months of time stretched thin the skin across my stomach. My womb cradled a body that holds an eternal soul. Her tiny limbs left their mark; red, claw lines running from my navel to my hip. Tom traces them gently. “These are victory lines” he says, “they are proof you held her safe until she was ready to come”. 

My body holds other scars from her birth. A narrow, horizontal line crosses under the uterus – forever marking the place where I was cut for her sake. My left arm holds a faint scar where I had an IV during our three days in the hospital.

There are other marks that aren’t visible. The terror thirteen weeks into my pregnancy when they couldn’t find her heartbeat. The fear at twenty weeks that something was wrong with her digestive system. The countless moments of anxiety when it seemed there had been too long between kicks or a decrease in movement.

The waiting.

Waiting for her to come, fruitlessly trying everything to help her come – all to no avail.

Those things mark and make a mother’s heart.

They teach that harboring a life doesn’t give you magical power to forever shelter a life or prevent everything painful. Sometimes the thing you’re most afraid of does happen and, in that moment, you can crumble or you can rise (or, more often, do both simultaneously).

The opportunities to sacrifice press in hard and fast.

Nights spend on the couch with the baby leave your back stiff and aching. The pressure mounts around the base of your neck from hours spent cradling a small body at the breast. She eats often and long – at first one out of every two and a half hours is spent nursing her. Around the clock.

She doesn’t mean to be demanding. The world is just huge and new. One day she won’t need these sacrifices but, today she does.

Sustaining her life means giving up much of mine.

Comforting her through the night when she’s fussy and growing. Accomplishing housework achingly slowly (or not at all) because she needs the only mamma she has. Forcing your eyes to stay open through another middle of the night nursing session. Holding her, in tears, when you have nothing to left to give and she, unaware of that, asks for more.

One day she won’t cling to her mamma like this, but today she does.

Sometimes mothering is sleep-deprived headaches. It’s being on call 24/7. It’s eating carefully and well so your milk supply can give both nutrients and sustenance. It’s choosing her first. It’s gritting your teeth to care for her as best you can while recovering from surgery and childbirth. It’s doing your best to navigate a minefield of mothering opinions and choose what’s best for your family.

It’s washing wriggling arms and legs, carefully bundling (or unbundling) a little person still learning to regulate their own body temperature, it’s tending to dry skin, changing diapers, washing clothes, creating a safe place for her to rest.

It’s pressing on when every part of your body feels sore and, yet, is still needed.

It’s giving up hobbies, time with friends and other interests to learn about one, small person. It’s planning a simple trip to the grocery store around nursing or pumping and naps. It’s taking the carseat, diaper bag, change of clothes, baby carrier and stroller every time you want to leave the house.

Why then? Why mother?

(my list grows every day)

For that moment when a bundle of dimples and dark hair is put in your arms. The perfect blend of her dad & mom and you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, your life just dramatically changed.

For that moment when she stops nursing because she realizes mamma is there and she’d rather stare at you. For every second she nuzzles her milky face into your neck and breathes little sighs of happiness.

For the time when she feels wind on her face and smiles ecstatically at a sunbeam. It’s the love for her that courses through your veins like fire and the way she’s made your love for her dad deeper, stronger and wider.

For the knowledge that your investing your heart, soul and body into something eternal. For the feel of small fingers curled around yours and  a million discoveries and joy’s yet to come.

For the moment to come when she looks at you and says “mamma”.

For the honor of comforting her when she cries and explaining to her that makeup should be a tool not a mask.  For future lessons like courage is knowing when to stand up and when to sit down and that you can never outrun grace.

For the way it makes you feel when her daddy calls and asks to “talk” to her and the fun of blowing raspberries on her baby thighs and belly.

For knowing that she’ll exhale twice before her pout lip appears and the exact tone of her cry when she’s ready for a nap.

For the incredible joy of discovering a person and wondering who she’ll one day be.

For the chance to care for this breath of life fresh from Heaven itself.

Because today (everyday), that’s what she is.

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What if we couldn’t stop?

I woke up angry today.

On Friday a typhoon that took an estimated 10,000 lives made landfall in the Philippines. While it’s being covered in the news (kindof/sortof) do you know what’s tearing up opinion pages and headlines?

Miley Cyrus smoking a joint onstage at the MTV EMA’s.

We’ve got to stop fixating our attention on people who do things purely for attention. Those who are desperately in need of care, resources and service are paying the price for our obsessions.

I’m not going to add a caveat about how Miley is probably a nice girl – everything about her public persona emphasizes that she doesn’t want to be labeled modest, feminine, gentle or, probably, nice. Not that it matters much, nice is a shapeless, subjective word anyway.

However, what I don’t want to do is destroy with words a person I will probably never meet. What I will say is that she illustrates a larger problem in our culture – the  idea that, before young adults can become competent, independent, reliable adults, they must be permitted time to experiment with a million bad decisions and live a life free of responsibility. 

That’s a devastating lie.

Far too many of my generation aren’t available to help raise support for the crisis in the Philippines because we’re at the clubs, bars, another party or indulging a hundred different past times and….we just can’t stop (sorry, had to).

Belief that our choices don’t matter, that our actions aren’t significant is the biggest lie my generation has bought.

We’ve forgotten that every decision impacts, in some way whether big or small, the people around us. We need to take ownership of our own choices, stop leaving them to chance or whimsy and strive towards causes and purposes greater than our own desires.

How different would our world be if we couldn’t stop….donating time and money to relief efforts? Couldn’t stop sharing the resources we do have (every single person on this planet has so much to give)? Couldn’t stop serving those in need? Couldn’t stop humbling ourselves? Couldn’t stop investing in our marriages? Couldn’t stop spending time with our children? Couldn’t stop apologizing for our sin and poor choices? Couldn’t stop seeking the face of God? Couldn’t stop positioning ourselves before His throne where we will be changed?

If we couldn’t stop those things our world would be revolutionized, our relationships would be recharged and our purpose would be refined into a vision worth chasing after with every fiber of our being.

As with everything else on this blog, I write this to myself first.

I need to be reminded that every poor, selfish decision I make costs something. Whether it’s time I won’t get back, relationships that are even temporarily broken or resources that won’t be available for a cause that needs them more.

Since our standard is Christ it’s inevitable that we will fall short. Our ability to live free of selfishness, anger, pride, lust, deceit and foolishness won’t be perfected until Heaven but that shouldn’t discourage us – we have every tool we need to press on down the road and live an imperfect life that matters greatly. We have grace for our selfish choices, words to offer a humble apology, a vision of something eternally significant and grounded hope in the reality that this broken world is not forever.

Living a life of significance may not mean traveling to the far corners of the globe or making tens of thousands of dollars. Significance is defined by quality not by quantity, distance or expense. A significant life is a life dedicated to serving people, doing the small, overlooked tasks and being faithful in the mundane days just as much as the extraordinary ones.

As the mom of a 7 1/2 week old daughter I need that reminder.

My days aren’t filled with global relief work, travel to the far corners of the earth or making loads of money.

They are filled with tending to the needs of someone smaller. Feeding her, comforting her, bathing her, changing her, putting her down for a nap.

Those tasks might not be changing the world but they’re changing her life and they’re changing mine.

The practice of choosing someone else first is intrinsically sanctifying, a holy occupation. We all have the opportunity, usually multiple times a day, to choose someone else first and that, not smoking a joint onstage, is what changes the world.

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If you would like to help with the relief efforts in the Philippines here’s a link to get you started. I haven’t researched all these organizations so please do your homework before donating! 

November Rain.

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Home. In every sense of the word.

Today has been a day of November rain. A soaking that holds promises of winter and Christmas, its drops swirl among the leaves that are just now turning gold and red – autumn’s overdue this year, birthed late in the season of its name.

Some days are wordfull days

This has been one of them.

Everything feels inspiring – the red highlights in my baby’s hair, the strength of my husband’s hands as he holds mine, dinner on the porch to the soundtrack of a storm, the patter of Gus’ feet as he races down the hallway after a shadow, the scent of Carolina clay pounded by raindrops. I want to capture it all, to hold this moment of life forever in my heart -stored up, pondered.

I want to remember how my baby daughter was on the Friday she turned six weeks old.

I don’t have enough words to describe how I feel about her. Watching her wake up to the world around her,eagerly turning her face towards sunlight, feeling her little head nuzzle into my neck, smelling the warm, clean babyness of her – I can’t get enough.

Her littleness is so unspeakably precious.

It’s passing so fast. The wrinkly, newborn we brought home in September has become a baby who recognizes your face and voice, smiles when you pick her up in the morning and grows more attentive everyday.  I want her to change and thrive but recognizing how fast it’s happening makes me want to savor every moment I have when she’s small enough to hold in one arm.

Some moments are long, some nights are late, many plans have to be postponed or changed because she needs something – but one day she won’t. I want to remember right now, today when all she really knows and needs is mom & dad.

I want to remember my husband’s patience.

The gentle way he rocks and calms her when she’s crying. The kindness with which he sent me to the porch tonight to enjoy the storm, knowing I was aching to write, while he took care of her.

I can rely on Tom. Everything we’ve experienced since our daughter was born has shown me new and deeper ways that I can trust him. He’s such a gift to me. I want to remember the joy of taking care of a daughter with my best friend (although, that feeling isn’t one I could forget even if I wanted too).

Next month is our two-year anniversary – we didn’t know we’d celebrate it with a child (though, we hoped we would). We’re in a different season of life now then when we married, or went to Mexico in January or had our first apartment. We’re learning the limitations of having a little one and, more importantly, we’re learning all the joys that come with loving her. We savored those moments and we’re soaking in this one.

I want to remember this night.

The pounding of rain, the green shadows under the streetlight that highlight changing leaves. The rhythmic clapping of leaves in the wind. The way the woven bench feels under my bare feet. The contented purring of my cat as he nestles on the couch back above my head. I want to remember the way the smell of rice lingered in the air after dinner, how Tom has eagerly arranged a board game with one hand while cradling his daughter in the other (he’s waiting for me to come play it now). The rain rises and falls like ocean tides. Sometimes pounding, sometimes whispering. The candles burn low.

I want to remember it all because too soon it will be yesterday.

Evie Claire: A Birth Story.

My Evie,

You’re sleeping right now.  

Snuggled up against me – happy as a clam.  I’m stealing these seconds to finish writing out the story of your birth. I want to capture it while every tiny detail is still fresh in my mind. Someday you’ll ask and I want to be able to tell you.

You’re nearly two weeks old now and, in that time, you’ve already grown and changed. We said goodbye to your birth month and welcomed in October, the days of your little life are quickly adding up. This isn’t the easiest stage, you’re dependent on your daddy and I in every possible way and, some days, we’re very tired. Yet, there are so many moments I want to cry with sheer joy over the preciousness of you. Often I do. 

The way you came into the world wasn’t how we expected it to be but it was what you needed. And you? You’ve been worth every second of the unexpected.

You were born on the cusp of autumn, Evie, under the waning light of the harvest moon.

The night before you came to us your father and I sat at the lake watching the moonlight dance across the ripples and excitedly timing contractions – we thought for sure it was going to be The Night.

The last three weeks of my pregnancy with you were full of anticipation and almosts. The entire pregnancy we’d been preparing for a natural water birth at a birth center.

We talked about it all the time.

How we wanted you to enter the world into water, how your daddy would cut your cord, how we’d be able to bond – just the three of us. We took a birthing class, read books and your daddy wrote out a list of every tip and trick he would use to coach me through labor (it’ll be in your baby book, Evie – the time and detail he put into it make me cry).

We tried everything those last weeks to help you come, little girl. From acupuncture to castor oil we gave it a shot. Every appointment with our midwives resulted in the same outcome – no progress. You were comfortable and, since there were no signs of trouble we continued to wait on you, wanting to let my body labor on its own.

Those last weeks of carrying you weren’t the easiest part. I was tired, emotional and weary of waiting on a date surrounded by question marks. Yet, those days also hold some of my favorite memories with your daddy. His fingers traced my belly every night, talking to you – watching your legs kick. Together he & I walked along the rivers and lakes of Columbia. He patiently massaged my aching back and took me out for pumpkin spice drinks to distract from the waiting. We played cards and celebrated every small sign of labor progress the way we do most things- together.

Your daddy adores you, Evie. He walks the hallway with you at night, reads the Bible to you and whispers in your ear how pretty you are and how much he likes your outfits. It melts me.

The last ten days of my pregnancy I would lay in bed with stronger and stronger contractions – believing this was it. Every morning I would wake up up and they’d subsided. One night I was so convinced it was time that I told your daddy you were coming. Sadly, you weren’t coming just yet.

The three days before you were born were anxious ones. I knew that if I didn’t begin to labor soon we would have to deliver at the hospital. It’s a frustrating thing when you can’t force your body to do something you know it’s capable of, Evie. I prayed a lot those days and weeks – waiting for the fullness of time that would bring us you.

You were due on a Friday in early September. Instead, you came on the two-week anniversary of your due date – just three days before your daddy’s own birthday. We woke up on Friday, September 20th – not knowing it would be your birthday. We did know that since I still wasn’t in labor, and you were now a full two weeks late, we would need to transfer our care from the wonderful midwives at the birth center to the hospital. It was a hard morning for me as I struggled to accept the reality that your birth would look very different from what I had envisioned for the last several months. Your daddy was my rock. His patience and prayers for both of us carried me through a difficult morning.

The doctor did an ultrasound on you, little girl and found that your fluid levels were dangerously low. We watched you on the screen, Evie – your gentle kicks were only cushioned by one, small pocket of fluid. Honestly, we were shocked – there had been no indications that you’d lost any fluid and yet, here you were, with almost none. I’m so grateful for the protection of God on your tiny body during those last weeks that I carried you.

We checked into the hospital on Friday afternoon. I was hooked up to a monitor so your heart rate could be evaluated. Our doula sat with us as we discussed the options we had for your birth. While on the monitor you had one major heart deceleration because of your lack of fluid (you probably rolled over onto your cord)- you recovered and we watched your heart rate rise back to a healthy level.  It scared me, baby girl.

The doctor finally came in. He reminded me of the uncles from Secondhand Lions, all brusque and seemingly stern but well-meaning. He quickly told us that he’d like to do an immediate cesarean section. Your daddy asked him and the nurse to give us some time alone to talk – as soon as they left, I cried.

A cesarean was the farthest thing from how I pictured you entering the world.

I wanted you to come to us in a birth tub. I had picked out candles for the room, we packed special snacks for when I was in labor and your daddy and I had dreamed of the moment when he could catch you.

To have all of the stripped away was hard. There’s no other way to put it. To also find out I may not even be able to deliver you naturally, albeit at the hospital, broke me for a little while.

Your daddy prayed over me. Reminded me that you were still the prize waiting on the other side of everything, reminded me that he was there to walk through the journey with me. Together we decided we wanted to try laboring naturally to bring you into the world. The doctor agreed, on the condition that I stay hooked up to the monitor to watch your heart – since your fluid was so low you had no cushion around your cord and, each time you moved, you were in danger of cutting off your oxygen supply.

We decided against breaking my water – since you had so little to spare and I’d been unresponsive to all other induction methods. I was started on a low dose of pitocin and, together your dad and I, began the labor process. I’d been having contractions for days and the pitocin helped increase the strength and frequency. Your dad quietly held my hands, rubbed my back and whispered prayers for you and I. I’m crying thinking of his quiet strength in those moments when we were somewhere we never thought we’d be.

After six hours of laboring your heart rate decelerated suddenly and significantly. It dropped from 180 bpm at the peak of a contraction to 50 bpm – normally your heart averaged around 140 bpm. The nurses put me on oxygen and palpitated you to move you off your cord. It took three minutes but slowly your heart rate rose back over 100 bpm.

I knew then.

Knew we would have to have a cesarean.

Evie, before this weekend I’d never been hospitalized and never had surgery. I was afraid but, in a paradox only possible by the grace of Christ, I was at peace. I knew that, for you to enter the world safely, it had to be.

Your dad held my hands, tears in his eyes as he said a final prayer and encouraged me to picture your face. The precious face I would be seeing so soon.

I was prepped for surgery, given a spinal block, strapped to a heart monitor and what felt like a thousand other machines. As we finished preparing your heart rate dropped significantly again – you recovered but it was further confirmation we were making the right decision for you.

You were born at 11:31 p.m. on Friday, September 20th.

Your daddy watched the whole operation (I wanted too but wasn’t allowed) and whispered updates to me. I could feel the pressure of you coming, the suddenness with which you were pulled out and then, then you were here. Everyone cheered and wished you a happy birthday, baby girl.

They held you up so I could see you.

You were a perfect bundle of dimples and dark hair and I cried. Cried with relief that you were here safely and cried that you weren’t already in my arms. Your daddy went with you to the other side of the operating room and watched you be cleaned and wrapped up.

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(SO grateful for these pictures of the first moments of your life outside the womb. A kind nurse ran back to our room and got my cell phone so your daddy could take pictures. I was taken to the OR so suddenly that we didn’t even remember the camera).

About three minutes later (though it felt like an eternity) you were snuggled into my arms. Your little mouth opened wide, already wanting to nurse and your beautiful eyes glanced around, trying to understand what on earth had just happened.

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Lemonade from lemons.

Our new family.

Our new family.

Your daddy went with you to the nursery while my surgery finished. The anesthesiologist patiently listened to me ramble about how much I loved you and how pretty I thought you were (he agreed).

I spent 30 minutes in the recovery room counting the seconds until I could see you again.

The nurse called your dad so he could come with me to our new room. He wheeled our bags in and, just ten minutes later, our little family was reunited. I fed you but it was your dad that changed your first few diapers because they wouldn’t let me get out of bed until the next day.  He swaddled you up and we sat and stared at you. Relieved you were here, relieved you were safe and in awe of the speed with which our lives had changed. We couldn’t stop kissing your little face.

We spent a day and a half in the hospital and went home on Sunday afternoon. I dressed you in our favorite striped sleeper and we welcomed you home on the first day of Autumn. A change in seasons and a change in our lives.

The last several days have been full of little moments with you.

We’re learning what you like (snuggles and being held close) and don’t like (being naked) and how to best care for you. It’s overwhelming some days, you’re so tiny and so new at life but I know two things; you’re precious to us and, together, the three of us will make it through.

The new normal we’re discovering has knit your daddy & I even closer together. Watching him fall in love with you is incredible. You’re the “for better” we promised each other almost two years ago. The way your story unfolded reminded us both that so much of life is unpredictable and unexpected – in accepting that and trusting in the strength of God’s grace there is sweet freedom to adapt to hard situations. Thanks for reminding us of that, sweetheart.

We pray over you every day, baby. Know that. For protection, for wisdom, for all the days ahead, for patience through the long nights and need-filled days, for your little heart to one day know Jesus.

You’re an incredible gift baby girl and I’d do it all over again.

Love,

Mamma

(We’ve listened to this song together through many late nights of nursing, Evie Claire. I’m so glad I get to be your mom).

The River’s Walk.

Last night, close to sunset, we wandered along the river walk. Letting our steps follow the water’s meandering path.

The most honest intimacy always seem to come after a disagreement.  I think love’s true power is most visible then, in between the breach and resolution, the separation and the reunion.  The gift of marriage is that, even in conflict, you’re never truly alone, you still fight for a common goal. The “us” you promised each other.

After a misunderstanding that led to a disagreement we found ourselves perched, barefoot, on river rocks. The water was high, less dancing and more racing over hidden boulders. I never realized how much dark water looks like syrup, black like molasses. It tore along the riverbed, thick ropes of liquid twining over and around the rocks, brawny and untamed. I could stare at the river all day and always find something new to see.

We watched it rise over the next hour, creating waterfalls in miniature on once dry rocks. Our communication rose with it – fighting towards our vowed goal – honesty and kindness.

Breakthroughs are sometimes subtle.

You blink and realize your perspective has changed. Where there once was discord, you now have harmony. The rewards of quietly pressing on. The sunset shades His silhouette pink, tinged with a splash of goldenrod. Could anyone’s face be more dear to me? I know every line, the way his hair curls more on the right than the left. How it moves from blond to fire. The freckles on his neck, way his mouth tenses in hurt or widens in joy.

Why does conflict so easily mute kindness? With resolve the depth of love we share comes rushing back four-fold – I can’t get enough of him.

There’s a baby at the river.

Nestled in her father’s protective arms. One, tiny finger points desperately at the water, gesturing, communicating perfectly without words. She’s wonder struck.

Tom smiles and points her out to me, envisioning days to come with his own girl.

Dusk lengthens – its shadows creeping over the river and under the bridge. The water darkens further and rushes on. Tom helps me off the rocks and we begin the walk back hand-in-hand; visible proof of reconciliation.

Halfway there I pause, feeling a contraction. Tom’s eyes light up with hopes that this could be it, the start of a new season of life. Time will tell.

We stop for coffee & cards – unwilling to acknowledge the soon arrival of his work week. Laughter replaces tension as he wins two games in a row. We leave for home, contented with the time spent together. Life’s routine will resume in a few short hours but nothing can erase new memories of the night at the river.

Nothing can undo the rewards of managed conflict – deepened intimacy. Night life races up Gervais Street, calling to itself. Below its vision the river races on, invisible in the dark, winding its shadows around rocks until dawn.

The Maze and Must of Multi-tasking.

For the last year and a half (i.e. almost our entire marriage) Tom and I have both worked full-time.  We’re out the door by 7:15 (me) or 7:30 (him) and finally make it home around 5:30 (me) and anywhere between 6:00 -7:30 (him).

By the time we eat dinner and clean up we have about 2-3 hours before we’re zombies and ready to curl up in bed. Since we have so little time at home we’ve learned (are learning) to streamline our schedules as much as possible so we can maximize the time we do have together.

A post on the glamorous topic of …. time-management may seem a bit out-of-place since our lives will soon be taking on a whole new schedule. However, I thought I’d take a minute to record what we’ve been doing for the last 19 months – I’ll need the reminder once the temporary chaos of a tiny person fills our days ;) .

Despite the busyness, the last several months have been a wonderful season of intimacy, growth and working out some of the differences in our marriage.  We’ve laughed a lot, traveled a little and just enjoyed our time together.

I’m greatly anticipating the new season of life we’re about to find ourselves in. I have 2 1/2 weeks left at my job before I transition into a mix of freelance and volunteer work from home and anywhere between 5-7 weeks before we become mom & dad. Like I said, I know our carefully integrated schedule will be thrown out the window for a while – though, I think some of these things will still apply as we create our new normal.

((If you’re reading this – what do YOU do to manage time and get everything done (or close to it)?))

Choose your commitments carefully: Let’s be generous and say that Tom & I have four hours a night together (which, with third-trimester pregnancy fatigue is pushing it). We’ll add in eight waking hours on Saturday (Tom often works from 7:30-2 or 3) and 15 hours on Sundays (I love Sunday). That gives us a total of 43 hours a week to spend together either talking, taking care of paperwork, watching a movie, reading etc.

Looking at our time THAT way has made us incredibly selective about what we say “yes” too. We try to spend at least every other evening at home – opposite evenings are spent at church, small group, errands/grocery shopping (which has gotten a lot more difficult to do by myself) and, occasionally, with friends and family.

I know that, with a newborn, we will again be evaluating our commitments; striving to find a balance between serving outside the home and nurturing our family.

Write it down: LISTS ACCOMPLISH A LOT. I keep a grocery list and a to-do list (which is more of a “Tom-do” list, haha) on my phone. It saves us the agony of trying (and failing) to remember what we needed to do or buy.  Tom keeps track of vitamins, cat supplies like litter & food, garbage bags and outdoor maintenance items – if we’re out of any of them he writes them on his grocery notepad on the refrigerator than, I add it to my list of groceries, toiletries, laundry things etc. BOOM, the hardest part of grocery shopping, the planning, is done.

Pick a day, any day: I clean the house on Saturday, Tom changes the cat litter on Monday, trash is out on Tuesday. Assigning a task to a day has simplified our scheduling – we do the same thing when it comes to jobs like taxes or important phone calls. Pick a day, do it.

Make lunches the night before: Packing lunches is the bane of my existence. At the beginning of each week I hard boil a dozen eggs, chop fruit for the week (Tom loves strawberries), open boxes of granola bars (whatever saves a few minutes later on) and make sure lunch meat for sandwiches is pre-sliced (I usually buy a ham or bake a pan of chicken instead of buying actual lunch meat – less salt and preservatives).  However, the best time-saver for our early mornings is just to do the work the night before – pack the lunches, fill the water bottles and have some idea of what’s for breakfast. 

Care for yourselves: So, SO important. At least once a week we have “early -bed”, we take quality vitamins, probiotics and bio-dent. We drink almost only water (sometimes, due to the manual labor intensity of his job in the summer, Tom will drink Gatorade). I try to keep our meals balanced with protein and veggies at each dinner, we eat whole grains/whole wheat pasta and bread. We try to juice 1-2 times a week (current favorite is carrot, cucumber, apple, orange, mango juice – when it’s chilled it’s delicious!). We have “stretching-time” almost every night – Tom has to drive a lot for work and I sit at a desk so making sure our backs, arms and legs stay limber and free of knots is important. It’s rarely convenient to prioritize health but, it’s a gift you only get once and the time it takes is so worth it.

Choose a happy alarm ring-tone: Sometimes this helps start the day off right, sometimes it’s irrelevant. For a long time Tom had “Let’s Make Love” set as our alarm. At 6 something in the morning it sounded like the worst idea ever – but was enough to make our busy day start with a smile.

Swap chores: This has been a significant part of getting everything done. I’m grateful for Tom’s willingness to take on household chores and his patience in learning how to do things he might not have been familiar with (i.e. he now knows how to make a roux, haha).  We both make the bed, he usually does dishes and trash, I often handle the laundry, cooking is a tossup (he usually does breakfast while I get ready for work/I make dinner because I get home first). We’re both willing to swap out chores if need be though – I think that’s a huge part of accomplishing the day’s list. Forget gender stereotypes and just get it done.

Have a place for everything: I don’t have much time to spend cleaning the house. Often a few hours on a Saturday is all there is time and energy for. However, neither of like clutter – I literally can’t think if the house is a disaster.

So, to cope, we have systems in place to handle….life. Dirty clothes are immediately sorted into waiting laundry baskets, books and magazines go in the magazine rack (positioned perfectly next to reading chair), remote controls have a basket under the television, throw pillows are easily tossed back on the bed, each towel has a place in the bathroom. We don’t have a lot of stuff (I hate stuff). We’ve found that staying organized is much simpler when you stick the bare basics of what you actually need.

(It’s a mindset that, for us, has even carried over to things like grocery shopping – we buy one kind of tortilla chips, one kind of granola bars etc, (we rotate what kind each week).  What we lose in options we make up for in sanity and simplicity).

There are a few things that fallen through the cracks of working full-time. In the few weeks before Evie’s born (after I finish at work) I plan to tackle our closet and the catch-all cabinet in the kitchen. I’m oddly excited about both.

Do the same things at the same time: One of the best ways we’ve found to maximize our time is to try to streamline what we’re doing. If Tom’s going for a run, I’ll do my walking DVD. If he’s doing dishes, I’ll fold laundry.  If he’s showering, I’ll shower (we’re big on….water conservation). That way we can both check something off our to-do list and have the same block of time free to spend together/be out doing something else.

Check-in on your spouse/ Do happy things: At least one night a week we prioritize “fun things”. It may be as simple as rounds of cards sitting on the living room floor, a trip out for frozen yogurt, watching a movie, trading back-rubs, reading books, praying together. Find what makes you happy as a couple and take time to do it. Tom & I both thrive on spontaneity, travel, the unexpected and people – which makes nights like these important to break up our routines. Balance is key.

Close the door: Sometimes, everything just doesn’t get done. You know, we’ve found that life still goes on? ;) In that case, closing the bedroom doors (where most of the clutter collects), helps. There’s always another day – sometimes sitting with my husband is more important than cleaning the kitchen. Again, balance.