Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Not You

Beckett is really developing quite the vocabulary and fills our home with non stop chatter these days.


When anyone is talking or asking a question, Beckett is more than happy to respond - even if the question wasn't directed to him.

I have a habit of having full out conversations with Declan - you know what I mean, "Are you having a hard day Declan?  Is your belly hurting you?  Are you tired?" etc etc etc.  I mindlessly talk to him all day long.  Beckett, assuming all conversation must include him, generally will respond.  

And I playfully say "Not you, Beckett!"

It goes a little something like this.

(Declan screaming)

Me: Poor Declan, is your belly hurting you today?
Beckett: Yeah.  It IS Mommy, it IS hurting.
Me: Not you, Beckett!
Beckett: Yeah!

Lest you think I'm the world's worst mother, I assure you I respond with a playful tone.  In fact, I never thought much of it until one day I addressed Declan, Beckett responded and then quickly chimed in to address himself with, "Not you, Beckett!"

I don't know why but this little interaction stabbed me in my mama heart.  I felt AWFUL about him repeating that phrase.  It made me realize just how much those little ears hear and what they take in. What Beckett had been hearing was, "Not you, Beckett!"

Even though these past interactions had been playful and silly, and with absolutely zero ill intent, anger or frustration on my part - the last message in the world I wanted Beckett to internalize was, "Not you, Beckett!" - especially in the wake of a new baby brother.

This Christmas season, I've been particularly grateful for the message of the gospel.  

Tim Keller says:  “The universal religion of humankind is: We develop a good record and give it to God, and then he owes us. The gospel is: God develops a good record and gives it to us, then we owe him. In short, to say a good person, not just Christians, can find God is to say good works are enough. . . . But this apparently inclusive approach is really quite exclusive. It says, ‘The good people are in, and the bad people are out.’ What does this mean for those of us with moral failures? We are excluded. So both approaches are exclusive, but the gospel is the more inclusive exclusivity. It says joyfully, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been at the gates of hell. You can be welcomed and embraced fully and instantly through Christ.’"

Encouraged and hopeful that I am loved by a Heavenly Father who doesn't say, "Not you"

Merry Christmas, friends.  
May you find joy and peace in Christ this holiday season.  May you rest in the freedom of a Savior who offers you relief from the bondage of sin.    





Monday, December 9, 2013

taking

I'm never one who likes asking for help.

Does anyone, really?

Seriously, I'm pretty bad at it.  After Beckett was born, we had meals set up, and about a week or so into it, I shut that gravy train down.  I just felt so bad having people do all of that for our family.

This season of my life?  Oh, God is using it to humble me.  In a big way.

There is help being offered, and I am taking it.  Dinners?  We had them for a good solid month, four times a week.  Not a night went by that we didn't have a delicious dinner at our ready.  Friend at the store offering to pick something up for me? Sure.  Diapers, please.  Family at Trader Joe's?  Yes - bread and milk, if you don't mind.

I am taking the help at every corner it's being offered.




Do I feel awkward?  Yep.

Do I feel like I'm burdening other people?  You bet.

Am I doing it anyway?  Absolutely.

Why?

Because it takes me until 4:30 some days to get dressed and leave my house.  Because some nights I'm up almost until the sun rises and I'm too tired to worry about dinner or diapers.  Because my children are probably going stir crazy and if you offer to take them out of the house for me, I am going to let you.

And because I know deep down in my soul that God intends for us to live in community.  I preach it - I offer it - I have brought countless dinners to new mamas and offered to pick things up for friends if I was out.  It's easier to give than it is to receive.  But that's not what God wanted for me.  For you.  For all of us.  He wants us to carry each other's burdens.  He wants us to live in the mess and chaos with each other.  He wants us to grieve, to celebrate, to pray, to live, to BE with each other.


The kindness of other people in the last 2 months has brought me to tears several times, with utmost appreciation and gratitude.  With absolute and utter relief.

There is a lot going on right now in our lives - not just new baby stress, but things that could make me feel bitter and angry and resentful.  And I can't promise I don't feel those things - I do - but you guys.  YOU who have brought dinner or diapers or bread and milk or sent messages and gifts and cards and prayers - God. Is. Using. You.

He is using you to show me He is here.  He is using you to show me He knows ME.  He knows my heart, my struggles, my pain, my happiness, my joy.  He is using each of you in different ways and in my angriest or saddest or most overwhelmed of moments, He uses you to soften me.

Friends - always be ready to help.  Friends - always be ready to accept it.  
  
Thursday, December 5, 2013

embrace


If I'm being honest, I feel like I'm failing at life right now.

Ok, maybe not in all aspects...but in lots.

I'm experiencing a level of exhaustion that has settled into my bones and I fear if I utter the words, "I'm just so tired" one more time my husband might start to worry I've lost all ability to communicate any other feeling or emotion.  Which, I sort of worry about myself.

Anyway - what this means is...mama's cranky.  And the house is messy.  And the kids are dirty.  And we all stay in pjs more often than not.  And I am surviving on green smoothies and coffee which is about all I have time for these days - so you'd think all my baby weight would be long gone on that kind of diet, but it isn't - which is another post for another day.

Here's what I'm learning - don't EVER think, "I'd never do... I'd never say... I'd never feel..."

Because you're bound to end up doing, saying, feeling things you never thought you would.

Today was another one in a long line of days where I have basically relocated myself to our couch in the living room.  It's where I slept for a few hours the night I went into labor, it's where I camped out for the first 5 weeks of Declan's life while he screamed into the wee hours of the morning and I watched reruns of Will and Grace & Sex and the City bleary eyed and sometimes crying right along with him.  It's where I spend much of my day, holding and nursing this colicky little munchkin of mine who wants to be held and nursed all day and all night long.

Today we made it to the pediatrician, where Declan got his very first shot.  (He was a champ by the way)  I thought this might perhaps make him sleepy and that he would sleep more than his typical 20 min spurts and maybe I could get a few things done.

It didn't turn out that way, of course, and so I found myself feeling very snappy at Beckett, who knows just when I've camped out for another nursing session and takes off to create mischief somewhere in the house (Daddy's books this time...)

After raising my voice one too many times, I took a deep breath and felt this little nudge to just embrace this.

Embrace this season of my chaotic life.  Embrace the toddler who finds joy in pulling books of Daddy's shelf.  Embrace the colicky infant who only wants to be held on my chest.  Embrace the mess, the crumbs, the toys in every nook & cranny of my increasingly dirty and disorganized house.  Embrace my rats nest of a hairstyle, embrace that I haven't had my hair done in over a year, embrace the smear of dirty fingerprints on the mirrors that hang over my love seat.  Embrace that lately we see more television than books.

It's just a season.

Watching my husband send his oldest off to college this year - knowing that my oldest will be getting his driver's permit in TWO YEARS...the proof is right here in my own house that this all goes too fast.  It's gone in an instant and the chaos will be gone along with it.

So I took a deep breath and grabbed the kids for a cookie making session.  It was messy and took longer than it needed to, and even resulted in a temper tantrum over raw cookie dough.


And honestly, at one point Beckett was crying because I'd told him no to the cookie dough and Declan was crying because I wasn't holding him and Logan was crying because (just kidding, Logan wasn't crying...just seeing if you were paying attention still)...I almost threw in the towel.  But when Daddy came down the stairs just a few minutes later, I heard Beckett go running across the floor and excitedly exclaim "Beckett help Mommy make cookies!"



In the chaos and the crazy, I am reminded that these moments really are fleeting, as cliche as it sounds, and even when I feel like I'm absolutely drowning in exhaustion and short on patience I need to embrace it.  I need to embrace my children in every season of life they are in.

And I need to embrace myself for every season *I* am in.  It's ok to cry when I've hit a wall.  It's ok to feel frustrated when I step on yet another toy train.  But it's also ok to decide not to cry & not to be frustrated and bake cookies for dinner instead.

Not only do my kids deserve it, but so do I.  It's ok to cut myself slack.  It's more than ok to soak in every second of my children - the good, the bad and the ugly.  They all create memories that I know I will treasure for years to come.


Cookies for dinner.

Followed by a banana - that's a complete meal right?


Here's the recipe in case you're interested!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1 package chocolate mega morsels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

  1. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add oats and stir well to combine.
  3. Add to butter mixture and beat on low-speed until mixed in. Gently stir in morsels and pecans.
  4. Drop by rounded tablespoons on prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool on pan for several minutes before placing cookies on wire rack.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

New

Is there anything so satisfying as your first sip of freshly brewed coffee, first thing in the morning?

I drink a green smoothie almost every morning - and though it goes against all health and nutrition 'rules', I have to have a mug of coffee before I have my glass o' vegetables.

This morning, I was extra exuberant about my morning cup o' joe and as soon as my mug was full, I took a huge gulp, not pausing to think about just how hot a freshly brewed cup of coffee is.

I don't know what came over me - generally I let it sit, blow on it a few times, sip slowly to savor.  But this time?  A gulp.  You've been there - that moment when your mouth and tongue are scalding and tears are practically streaming out of your eyes and you have a split second to decide whether to keep going and see your gulp through to the end or spit it back out and hope it saves your poor mouth from feeling funny all day.

Socrates said:


I could've stood there, with my mouth full of burning hot liquid and tears streaming down my face, and waited for it to cool down.  I could've fought the urge to spit it out all over my living room.

I didn't.  (of course)

I spit the coffee back into my cup. And then I threw it out and got a new, freshly brewed cup of coffee...

Sometimes things that seem like they should be good for us can cause us pain, even if we have enjoyed those things a hundred times before.

That cup of hot coffee still had value.  Really, there was nothing wrong with it except the gulp that caused me discomfort and pain.  But, sometimes the best thing you can do is to cut your losses and move on to what's next. Get a new cup.

Change is hard.

Redefining yourself, your direction, your path and destination can feel overwhelming and uncertain.

Don't spend your energy holding on to things that are old, in the past.  Redefine, redirect - let go of fighting the old and instead, build the new.

I love this.

Build the new.  

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness,
and streams in the wasteland."

~Isaiah 43:18-19


Friday, November 29, 2013

six weeks

Declan has been a part of our family for six weeks now.  


There have been precious moments.



There have been anxiety filled moments.



There have been laugh filled moments.


There have been tear filled moments.  (His, and mine)


There have been tender, love filled moments.


There have been tense, short-fuse filled moments.

There have been moments where friends and family have stood in my kitchen, leaving meals and hugs and encouragement.

There have been moments of boy - wrestling, poking, laughing, sweating, yelling, running.

Every day that I look at his face,  I know I was meant to be his mama.  I remember each and every pleading, prayerful word said to my heavenly father, begging for a healthy baby to bring home.

He is mine, and I am his.  And every time his eyes lock with mine and a sweet little smile creeps onto his face, every scream filled minute we have endured seems to melt away and I forget the stress, the anxiety, the pure helplessness I have felt about not being able to make him feel better.  

We're figuring each other out.

This Thanksgiving week, I give thanks for my children.  The crazy, rambunctious boys here in my home and the girl in heaven I never got to know. All of them make me a better person.  




Friday, November 15, 2013

Provision

For a long time I drove a car that had a broken driver's side window.  The power window feature was faulty, and it wouldn't roll all the way up and it wouldn't roll all the way down.  There was a a pretty substantial gap in that window.  My commute to work in those days was about an hour one way, and on the days it poured down rain, I used my left arm to hold up a folded towel at the top of the window to shield myself from getting soaked.

Some days I really, really hated that car.  I hated its faulty window, I hated the fading paint.  I hated that it told the world I was a nobody, a nothing, a person who didn't have it together.  I thought bad thoughts about the car, but mostly I thought bad thoughts about myself.  That car was tangible evidence to the world that I was BROKE.  It felt like a scarlet letter.

L for Loser.

Looking back, I can see how silly it was to give so much power to a car.  A car that got me from point A to point B.  A car that allowed me to commute an hour one way, so that I could keep a job that paid me enough to provide for my son all by myself.  A car that at the very least kept my son dry in the back seat and kept us safe.  It was not a symbol of my status or lack thereof - it was a symbol of provision.  God's provision to me, and in turn, my provision to my son.

Ten years as a single mom taught me a lot about relying on God for our 'daily bread'.  I'd actually gotten really good about shelving the stress and anxiety that come from being the sole provider.

I trusted God to provide, and He did.  There was never extra, never a surplus, and it was never easy - things were tight, things were hard and as my car story proves, my life was hardly glamorous.

If there is one thing the last year or so of life has taught me, it's that things can change in the blink of an eye.

Death.

Life.

Love.

Loss.

Happiness.

Pain.

It swirls in and out of each chapter of our story, and some days it seems there is nothing we can do except ride the wave and try with all our might not be carried out to sea.

This season of our lives has taught me about grace, about forgiveness, about love, about trust, about compassion, strength, loyalty, friendship, anger, disappointment, fear, reliance, happiness & sadness.

It has taught me that God's provision rarely comes in the form of a fully loaded, brand new $35k vehicle with working power windows.  In fact, I have found that His provision is more like the car that you aren't entirely sure will get you from point A to point B because it doesn't have good shocks or struts, the power windows don't work and you might as well forget about power steering.

It's a rough ride.  It's downright terrifying at times.

But somehow, despite broken windows and sketchy brakes, God does get you from point A to point B.  And sometimes you aren't sure how you got there because your teeth were clenched and your knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so hard and you were sure that you weren't going to arrive in one piece.  Sometimes you arrive soaking wet because you had a faulty window that allowed sheets of cold, pouring rain to pelt you along the way.

But.

God does provide.  It's probably nothing like you were expecting or even wanting and it may end up altering the course of your life forever...

...but His plan is good.  He is good. 

Facing uncertain circumstances with 5 kids, the youngest just 4 weeks old is definitely a lot different than doing so as a single mom of 1.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't secretly hoping a big ol brand new plush Cadillac Escalade could be our vehicle of choice on this journey - but I know deep down a 15 year old two door Honda will get us there, even if we acutely feel each bump along the way.  

By the way, eventually some really generous people at my church stepped in and got my car window fixed for me. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

#operationredcup

No, this isn't a secret mission from the latest episode of Scandal.

Let me tell you about my day yesterday.

Actually, let me show you.  This pretty much sums up my entire day.


One cranky newborn.

One toddler cutting his molars and under the weather.

One very messy, chaotic, out of control house.

One very overwhelmed mommy.

I was pretty crabby yesterday.  I'm not going to lie.  So tonight, when my friend sent me a link to this fun little pay it forward game circulating through Instagram called Operation Redcup, I knew I had to join in.  (#operationredcup)  I needed the boost in my mood that comes from paying it forward!

Someone started this by loading their Starbucks card and posting the card number to Instagram with encouragement for people to have a cup of coffee, on her.  And then a few other people jumped on board with this fun idea - and then strangers started reloading her card so that even MORE people could have free cups of coffee...do you see where I'm going with this?  It's like a big giant pay it forward movement with the Starbucks Red Cup...which, as we all know, kicks off the start to one of the best times of year.


So, to combat my crabby mood from yesterday - tonight I decided I would do the same thing.  I'm posting my Starbucks card on Instagram & here on the blog in the hopes that a few people will grab themselves a free cup of coffee and that someone will pay it forward by reloading it, which you have to do from your computer:

https://www.starbucks.com/card/reload/one-time

And maybe I can convince one or two of you to join in and do it too!  Just show the barista this picture on your phone, or give them the card number.  

It's the perfect time of year to pay it forward.  A free Starbucks drink in the signature red cup will make someone's day!

Do it!



Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.  ~ Deuteronomy 16:17 

Looks like someone used the entire card in one purchase.  Kinda bummed about the dishonesty BUT it's a chance for someone to reload it...who'll take me up on it?



Monday, October 28, 2013

Sinking

Back in 2007 (ish) I first heard the song How He Loves. (If you've ever felt really, really angry with God, you should totally check out that link by the way) It was during this song that I prayed to receive Christ for the first time.  I was moved to tears by the lyrics, by the imagery, and by this verse in particular - 




How beautiful a concept is that?  

Todd and I try to make it a priority to see the ocean once a year, and I am never more in awe of God's creation as I am when I stare out at the ocean.  The vastness, the expansiveness, the beauty of it  - it's magnificent and inspiring and awesome.  

Hearing that verse, and imagining God's grace in that way was - and still is - an incredibly powerful way for me to view Him.  To know that He is a God that offers all encompassing love, all encompassing forgiveness, all encompassing compassion.
English theologian Richard Sibbes once said, "There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us."

Don't you just love that?

It's easy to keep score.  In our own lives, in the lives of others - to pull out that invisible little checklist we all secretly keep in our heads.  To record a black mark when we screw up, when our friends screw up, when people we trust screw up.  And if you've been immersed in a religion or culture that pushes works as a value over grace, that's a hard habit or thought process to get past.  

But the truth is we ARE all sinners, each and every one of us.  And the even greater truth is that God knows us intimately and He still offers each one of us that all encompassing, as big as the ocean kind of grace, love and forgiveness.  

One of the things I love most about being a parent is the real life glimpse I get into what God's love must be like.  

I've held, nursed & cared for 3 newborns in my life and here's what I know.  Babies need their mothers. There is something primal about a newborn's need to be held close by a mother.  In the last 10 days of Declan's life, I have observed - again - how he is most easily calmed simply by me stopping what I am doing to nurse him, tuck him inside my shirt for a little skin to skin time, or wear him in a wrap close to my chest.  

In Isaiah 49:15 it says:

       “Can a woman forget her nursing child
           And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
           Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
16           Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
          Your walls are continually before Me."


I love the imagery in this verse - how God compares His love to that of a mother and then takes it a step further by explaining that even if a mother's love fails her child, His love will not. His love never fails, He will never forget us and He will never give up on us.  

How powerful is that?  How incredible a promise to consider.  It's hard for me even comprehend that, because the love I feel for my own children is a crazy big kind of love and God's love is bigger.

There aren't many times in life that 'sinking' could be thought of as a positive.  If you're sinking, it's usually a bad thing.  But sinking into God's grace, into His love can offer you peace and rest.  It can and should calm your fears, your uncertainty and your guilt.  Sink into it and embrace it.  Offer it to those around you.

And remember the promise that God has given you - He knows you more intimately than a nursing mother knows her child and He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands.  He will not forget you.  

  




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Declan is here!

It's been awhile!

Things have been kind of crazy round these parts, but we are settling into a new normal and I gotta say, loving it.  There is a quiet peace that has enveloped our house over the past month as we have focused on preparing for Declan's arrival and this week, welcoming him into our home.

As my due date approached, I started to feel a little depressed.  This is par for the course with my pregnancies - I have never suffered from post partum depression, but the weeks leading up to my children's births have always sent me into hibernation mode where I lay around, cry and feel overwhelmed.  There was no exception this time around, and when my due date came and went, I started to feel really sorry for myself.

Although my pregnancy had been easy for the most part, the emotional toll it was taking on me - fearing another loss, worrying about his health and wondering if I would actually get to hold a healthy baby at the end of it all was getting to me.  And carrying an 8 1/2 lb baby inside of me was taking its toll on my physical well being.  I hurt from head to toe. I couldn't sleep, couldn't roll over in bed without tearing up at the pain.

Honestly?  In the effort of full disclosure - I started to get a pathetic little attitude.  I even scheduled an induction on Thursday, October 17th - only 2 days past my due date because I convinced myself that I just couldn't do it anymore.  I was uneasy about inducing though - after all, I let Beckett cook an extra 9 days because I felt so passionate about not putting myself through it.  So after discussion and prayer with my husband, and a toddler who was slightly under the weather, I cancelled my induction first thing Thursday morning.

I'm so glad I did.

Honestly, it amazes me how God has things all worked out without us even knowing.  I had been praying so hard for Declan's arrival, for the timing to work, for the labor to go smoothly but I also knew that praying about it doesn't mean it will happen.  Let's be honest, I've had a lot of requests for things these last few years.  Some of them God says yes to, and some He says no to.  Todd & I joked that with our luck, Declan would pick the most inopportune time to arrive.

After canceling my induction, I decided to just go with the flow.  To wait on God to bring my sweet baby into the world on His terms.  I couldn't sleep that night so I took a hot bath, cleaned my living room and kitchen and bounced on a yoga ball.  (true story)  Around 2am I dozed off on our couch and woke up at 3 to a gush of water.  Never have I had my water break on its own in pregnancy so I laid there in a daze for a second, trying to figure out what was going on.

Would you believe that even with me being overdue, we still weren't ready for the hospital trip?  I assumed this labor would be much like my last two.  Long.  Labor with Logan was 24 hours, and even with Beckett it was 17 hours from the first contractions to his arrival.  I assumed I'd have time to finish packing, get the car seat installed, take a shower...

Not so much!

We rushed off to the hospital and I realized on the way that this baby was going to make a very quick entrance into the world.  Contractions were coming very close together!

Todd and I arrived at the hospital at 4:20 am and he was born at 6:43am, weighing a healthy 8lbs 9oz and blessed us with rosy cheeks and healthy screaming.

The entire experience was - dare I say - enjoyable almost.  At least as enjoyable as labor can be!

The timing was perfect.  Yes, we were hoping for perfect timing with this delivery.  Balancing 4 other kids, family out of town, Todd's writing and work schedule - we were praying for perfect timing.  And God delivered.  Everything fell into place, obligations were all met, and a healthy little boy made his way into our world, our hearts and our family.

We are so grateful for everyone who stopped by the hospital to see us and love on our little one.  When Beckett was born, he went immediately into the NICU and we never got to experience the stream of visitors that come with a new baby.  It was such a fun and amazing few days of sharing our joy with so many of you.

And now that he's here, a week old tomorrow, I am soaking up every second of this newborn phase that I can.  I was created to be a newborn mama.  I love it.  Curling up on the couch with a sleepy little newborn on my chest, scrawny little chicken legs tucked underneath, tiny butt high in the air, I am in my happy place.

The kids have all adjusted well to the littlest.  I knew the older kids would be fine, but even Beckett has taken to his new role with enthusiasm.  He gained an independence in the 2 days I was gone that continues to surprise me.  There will be ups and downs for sure, but I am in awe at how smoothly this entire week has gone.



It was impossible not to feel some sadness in those first few days in the hospital about Lilia.  As can be expected, everyone who found out about our growing basketball team asked if we would try for a girl next.  People told me over and over again how fun it would be to have a closet full of girly, ruffly things.

I don't know why we weren't able to make a place in our home for our daughter.  But, during a nursing session early this morning, I was quietly asking Declan if he knew he was the baby that I prayed for.  I whispered to him that I had prayed for him - specifically for him - and was so grateful to be his mama.  His little eyes locked on my face and a sleepy newborn smile stole my heart.  You can tell me it was gas all you want, but I'll forever believe that in that precious moment Declan was telling me he knew how hard I had prayed to be his mother.

God is good.  Really, really good.








Thursday, September 26, 2013

World Changer

My mom posted this video to Facebook.  It's worth a few minutes of your day if you're a woman, know women, have a daughter, a mother, a sister...

But if ain't nobody got time for that - there's a part in the video where he talks about strong and courageous women in the bible.

He says,  "Esther, Ruth, Martha, Mary - These women changed the world forever.  And inside of each and every one of you is a woman with that same power, and that same strength, and that same world changing capability and your responsibility is to find that woman and to set that woman free."

I stopped for a second to consider what it means to be a world changer.

After all, these days, I'm a woman who can barely make it through the day with her emotions intact.  I'm huge and pregnant, tired and sore, achy and exhausted from 9 months of tossing and turning and 3 weeks of a toddler who is on sleep strike.

And it's more than that.  Since the day Todd & I got married, behind every nook and cranny, around every corner of our lives I feel like one or both of us have been putting out fires. Ministry, a blended family, raising children, unexpected pregnancy, pregnancy loss, pregnancy after loss, financial stress, personal tragedy, family tragedy - at times I feel like life will not let up.  Like God will not let up.  I know pretty much anyone reading right now can identify.  We are no different than you.  Ever hear about spiritual warfare?  Some days I feel like Satan has an arrow pointed directly at us.

With all that going on - how can I be a world changer?

And then I remembered two stories - I remembered two moments in my life where I felt God speaking directly to me.

I'm not the kind of person who has those types 'interactions' with God.  I have faith and I work on my relationship with Him - but I'm not having experiences where I HEAR him very often.  So these have stuck with me.  The first involves sitting in a church service and God whispering something to me that told me I was to marry Todd.  It's personal and it's not a story I share often but I knew Todd would be my husband from pretty early on in our dating relationship.  It actually even involves one of those world changing women from the bible that was mentioned earlier.

The other time was one night, not long after we'd gotten married.  Like I said - we've had a rocky go of it.  The beginning was tough.  I never believed in a fairy tale romance or wedding or life - I'm not that kind of girl - but I was not expecting the battle to be raging from the moment we said "I do".  And no lie - family tragedy occurred the night before our wedding.  So one night, I remember lying in bed crying out to God for relief, for understanding, wanting to know why.  (You guys see I do this a lot, right?)

I was confused.

He told me marrying Todd was the right thing to do.  So why were things so hard for us right from day one?

I have since learned that very rarely is doing the right thing the easy thing.

But on that night, God made something very clear to me about marriage.  Anyone reading this that has been married for a long time will probably already know it.  But it was a revelation of sorts to me.

He told me that marriage was not designed to make me happy.  Marriage was given to us because it's one of the most perfect ways to learn to become like Jesus.  My job as a wife and mother would be to mirror Jesus in my day to day dealings with my husband and with my children.  To view these precious gifts from God the way that He does.  Unconditionally loving, patient, understanding, and unbelievably filled with grace.

CS Lewis said, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you"

This has been a challenge that I have remembered OFTEN in my marriage.  To look across the dinner table at the faces that join me there and see them just like Jesus does.

I promise I haven't gotten off on a tangent here.  What I'm trying to say is - that right now, in this season of life - my ability to be a world changer happens right here, in my home.  It happens at the dinner table, in the car with my kids, in late night conversations with my husband.  It starts with hugs and kisses and smiles and reassurance that these people who share my life are loved by me, imperfections and all.

Am I perfect at this?  No.  Am I even good at it?  Probably not.  No one ever said being like Jesus was easy.  And it's not.  But it IS something I remember often and try to put into practice as much as possible.  To change MY world - the little world inside my four walls - as best I can.  And as a result, these people that I pour into on a daily basis can take that outside these four walls and start a domino effect that just might change the world.


So if being a 'world changer' overwhelms you, start with a spouse.  A child.  A friend.  Pour into them, see them as Jesus would.  Change your heart and it WILL change the world.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Protection


(Yes, that is me on the bottom left - younger, thinner, tanner, blonder.  Heh.)

 I'm the oldest of four.  I have 2 younger sisters and a younger brother - and my brother was born with multiple medical issues.  I won't get into them all here because they are complicated, and even after 30 years of being his sister I'm not sure I understand them all but I will tell you this - he had brain tumors and has been through multiple brain surgeries.  He dealt with seizures for most of his childhood.  Behavioral and impulse control problems resulted because of the tumors, surgeries and endless medications.

As a child, I remember our house almost always being in a state of emergency.  My brother was, in many ways, a normal highly spirited and impulsive little guy.  But a lot of that impulsivity was exacerbated by his condition.  Sometimes I'm not sure how my parents made it through those years.

We have legendary stories to tell about my brother, but this is one that always strikes me. I think he was maybe 3 or 4 years old and disappeared one afternoon.  This was pretty common - he was a magician at finding ways to sneak out of the house and take off from a very young age.

On this day, my Mother got into our car to head out and look for him.

In the city we lived in at the time, there was a busy intersection at the bottom of a big hill.  And when I say big, I mean BIG hill.  It was a 4 way stop, 2 lanes at each light - heading into a busy shopping center.  She recounts her experience of sitting at the stop light, waiting for the light to turn green so she could head into the shopping center to look for him.  I believe it was around rush hour, because she tells of how busy the intersection was.  Cars whizzing by, constant movement.  As she sat there, she noticed in the rear view mirror a blur coming down the hill that was my little brother.  Perched on his big wheel, and completely oblivious to the absolute danger that awaited him, he went careening down this hill full speed towards a busy intersection during rush hour traffic.



I can't even BEGIN to fathom how her emotions took over at that moment.  I can almost feel the dread in my own stomach as I think of one of my little ones heading full speed ahead towards such obvious danger and destruction.  As she sat in her car, panicked, stuck in traffic and unable to stop the tragedy that she was sure was to unfold, I'm sure she could do nothing but pray.

The second my brother hit the intersection, it was as if time stood still.  The road fell silent and cars seemed to vanish.  No cars whizzing through the lights, no cars turning into the shopping center.  Just a happy, oblivious little 4 year old boy on a big wheel flying through at break neck speed.  He made it through that intersection without a scratch and as soon as he hit the sidewalk on the other side, my Mom will say how almost immediately traffic picked back up and cars began whizzing down the road again.

I think of that story often - the way he was protected as he unknowingly careened towards what should have resulted in certain death or at least severe injury.  I think of our Heavenly Father looking over him at that moment - seeing my Mother in the car, fear grasping her heart.  I think of Him casting a tunnel of protection over my little brother in the moment he flew through that busy intersection, keeping him safe.

I wonder to myself how many times I have been like that oblivious little boy on a big wheel - without knowledge of what certain destruction was waiting for me.  I wonder how many times my Heavenly Father cast a tunnel of protection around me and let me fly gleefully through what should have been a terrifying and devastating moment.

It is easy to focus on the moments we know went wrong.  It's easy to be angry over things we KNOW caused us pain and despair and tragedy.  Those are tangible, in your face experiences.  I, like so many of you, find myself crying out to God demanding to know WHY He put me in this place.  I want to know WHY He wasn't there to protect me from it.

But the truth is, I am sure He has been there countless times before when I had no idea.  Deep down, I know He is always there, always with me. I will probably never know just how many times he paused life around me and let me experience happiness and pure oblivion.

T. D. Jakes once said, “That thing that is not coming to you may seem good. But either the timing is wrong, or from His position He can see that the future of it is bleak. I have always believed that people who thank God only for delivering them from what happened are just scraping the surface of praise. The real praise comes when you start thanking Him for what could have happened but didn’t because of His swift grace!"

Today, I choose to praise God for his unending grace, love and protection.  I have no doubt it has been rained down upon me in moments that I was completely and utterly unaware.  

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Measuring Grief

Yesterday, I got a 5:45 am wake up call from Beckett.  It was a long but productive day, ending with a much much needed night out with a friend where we gorged on bad for us food and shared good, encouraging conversation.  These days, I have to all out exhaust my body in order to get more than 2 hours of consecutive sleep.

I woke up only once last night to use the bathroom, a far cry from the standard 5-8 times.  And when Beckett awoke a little after 7, I opened my eyes and felt dread.  A pit in my stomach.  Nauseous.  Something was wrong, I knew it.  I couldn't figure out how I'd slept so hard all night, not noticing the usual Declan kicks.  I laid still in my bed, willing him to move but felt nothing.  I felt very very NOT pregnant.

I actually had to reach down and make sure my belly was still there.  This is ridiculous - if you've seen me in person, there's no denying that belly.  It's growing at a rapid pace and even if something was wrong with Declan, the belly doesn't disappear overnight.

But I woke up with fear in my heart and absolute panic.  After laying there for about 20 minutes, I finally felt him move.  Relief flooded my body and I felt like I could breathe again.

Those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss dance around our grief, almost feeling as though we don't deserve to be sad.  There are those who lost babies early in pregnancy - who apologize for feeling sad over a baby who was lost at 4 or 5 weeks.  And then there's my category - 2nd trimester losses...some of us forced to experience labor, some of us not - and we apologize because we can't imagine going through it in the 3rd trimester.  And then there are the women who give birth to stillborn babies at 35 weeks, at 39 or at 41.  Tragic yes, but there are apologies for sadness because they can't imagine what it must be like to lose an older child.

Why do we measure our grief?  We would never say to someone newly engaged - "Congratulations on your engagement, but try not to be quite so happy ok?  Because Lucy up the street got a much bigger diamond ring than you did.  SHE'S the one who really deserves to celebrate.  Your little ring is ok, and worth some celebration - but move on quickly and let Lucy live it up."

We don't do that, because it would be ridiculous.  Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that there are losses that hurt far worse than others.  I have no doubt that if I'd given birth to my baby girl and lost her at 40 weeks, it would have been a much more devastating experience.  However, it doesn't change the grief I felt and still feel over her not being here now.   When we were at the beach last month, almost a year to the day we found out we were pregnant with her, I thought of how we should be driving in the car with another child in the backseat.

Todd shared this video on his Facebook page a few days ago.  It's the story of friends of his, who lost their baby boy at 18 weeks.  Watch it.  Even if it makes you uncomfortable.  It needs to be watched, their story needs to be told and their baby deserves to be remembered.  Pregnancy loss, miscarriage - it's a subject rarely talked about.  I was shocked at the number of messages I received after our loss from women who have been through it.  Overwhelmed at the number of families who have been affected by this, because I just never knew.  Statistics say 1 in 4 women experience a loss.  I have to wonder if it's even higher than that.

It's easy to think you know what a grieving family or mother might feel or need after the loss of a child.  And each person/situation is different.  But the more we talk about it, the more we allow ourselves to truly grieve ALONGSIDE someone else, the more Christ focused, real and intimate our relationships become.  So again, I encourage you to watch.  Even if you cry, which you probably will.  So much of this story is my story, and the story of so many other women.  I'm grateful to Sarah and her family for being brave enough to share it.


Matthew: The Story Of Sarah Henderson from Renovatus Video on Vimeo.
Friday, July 19, 2013

Beckett's Announcement

Beckett's making the big announcement!

The littlest of brothers will be Declan McKay Hahn.  

Declan means "man of goodness, man of prayer."  McKay is my mother's maiden name and I'm excited to pass it along to one of my children.
We love you little boy!  You are already kicking me so much and with such force, even the doctor remarked about it at today's appointment.  I have a feeling I'm going to have my hands full!  Blessed to be reminded of the healthy and strong life growing inside of me.  Can't wait to meet our little guy in 88(ish!) days.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Highlight Reel

During our recent vacation to Oak Island, I posted this picture on Facebook and Instagram:


My caption was: "We put the kid down early."  I think it was around 6:30.

I mean look at us!  Don't we look like the absolute picture of beachy calmness? Big smiles, beachy waves in my hair.  We got a lot of comments on this picture - a lot of nice, positive comments about how great we look, what a great time we must be having - even some people expressing jealousy that Beckett was in bed so early.

There's a quote floating around from pastor Steven Furtick that I felt compelled to share after reading through the comments on the picture.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” 

So here's my truth telling for the day:

Beckett at the beach was EXHAUSTING.  He never stopped, never sat, never played in the sand.  He ran everywhere.  He runs FAST.  He had no fear of the ocean and was very ticked off to be told he had to hold our hands in the water.  He threw a lot of tantrums.  He didn't nap that day.  I can't fully remember, BUT I imagine the reason we put him to bed early that night was not only because he was overtired but probably because we were snapping at each other.  

If you could walk into the house behind us in the picture, you would hear a screaming toddler none too pleased to be in a Pack n Play bed, in a strange bedroom, in a strange house, in a strange city.  

We were exhausted in this picture.  And crabby.

But it was vacation, and we had saved and planned since last year for this vacation and by gosh, we were going to enjoy it.  And besides, what person has the nerve to get on Facebook and complain about being at the beach?  I certainly wasn't about to.  Because I knew we actually were blessed to be able to be there, despite the overwhelming amount of days that included temper tantrums and exhausting beach outings.  

However, the perception of this picture is completely and utterly different than the reality.

It was a learning lesson for me - not that I felt like I shouldn't have posted the picture, or that I should have posted a picture of Beckett screaming...but it made me realize how easy it is for us to feel badly about ourselves, our lives, and our kids if we just look at pretty social media pictures.  

I believe that social media IS a place for uplifting posts and happy pictures - honestly most of us don't want to see negativity every time we scroll through our news feed.  But it's so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to other people's highlight reels.  


We ALL have behind the scenes footage we'd rather not share.

So, next time you see a pretty picture on Facebook and assume the person in the photograph has an easier, better, happier life - remember the picture of my husband and I with the unseen screaming toddler in the background.  


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

19...

...weeks makes a lot of difference!

4 weeks vs 23 weeks.  Hi there baby boy!



If subsequent pregnancies = bigger babies, I'm scared.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

jammin'

My friend Jamie and I co-write a blog called The Pinterest Project, where we work through Pinterest one pin at a time and blog about it!

Awhile back she posted a recipe for strawberry jam that used only honey, apple and lemon as ingredients (along with strawberries, of course) and I was dying to try it out.  It's a little bit tough to find jam recipes that don't include a LOT of sugar so this piqued my interest.

After a failed attempt at flea market shopping (more like the world's biggest dollar store...), we headed to a local place called The Peach Stand to see if peaches were in season.  There wasn't much yet in the way of peaches, but we did snatch up some GORGEOUS looking strawberries.


This is a super easy jam, so if you've never canned before, give it a shot.

Check out her original post HERE.

Step 1: rinse and cut berries


Step 2: Add honey, freshly squeezed lemon juice & grated apple


Step 3: Boil and mash


Step 4: Pour jam into sterilized jars and process in a water bath.


Step 5: Listen for those awesome little pops that tell you your jars are sealed!  Mmmm, jam.




Thursday, June 13, 2013

of infinite importance



That doesn't seem like it would be too difficult, right?

Have you ever found yourself at a point in your life where you are able to find the negative in just about every situation?  Maybe you point a finger at someone else for not living up to your expectations or making decisions that you would make.  Maybe you find fault in your current situation for reasons beyond anyone's control, or maybe for reasons that ARE in someone's control.

Or maybe you're at the other end of the finger pointing, tired of feeling like you have let someone down  or tired of feeling scrutinized.  And it's easy to get angry, resentful, suspicious and just plain negative.

And the dirty truth is, if you spend the majority of your day finding fault in everyone else - it's probably time to turn the mirror around on yourself.

I've been going through some waves of this lately - you all know I like to keep it real here on my blog, so I try to share myself with you.  I am not a perfect wife, mother or pastor's wife.  We are not a perfect family, we make mistakes but we work hard at loving each other, at serving our church and most of all, honoring God.

And the moments in my life where I find that I'm the most negative or unhappy about my situation, it's usually because I've gotten lazy in my relationship with God.  I've lost sight of the one thing that is SO important to remember - keeping my gaze focused on God blocks out the rest of the junk.  That's eloquently stated, right?

I recently came across a similar sentiment online, perhaps more nicely put:

"What God knows about me is infinitely more important than what others think about me"

You can substitute other things in there - "What God knows about my children is infinitely more important than what others think about them."  Or, "What God knows about my husband is infinitely more important than what others think about him..."

Want to make it basic?  What God knows about YOU and your story is all that matters.

That's the end of it.  What God knows IS what's important.  How am I sharing my heart with Him consistently?  How am I striving to grow and to rely on Him, to press into Him, to block out the noisy chatter all around me?

It's too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you're not enough, you don't have enough, you can't ever BE enough...

And I don't know about you, but when those kind of thoughts creep into my mind (and they do, oh they do) I suddenly start to feel very cranky about myself and those around me.

But if I wake up with a heart full of gratitude and fixed towards Him, focusing on what I know to be true - that what He knows about me is the most important - I can't help but to feel a more positive outlook.  A weight lifted off my shoulders.  What happens in my life is between me and Him.  End of story.

It doesn't matter what the outside influences whisper in our ears.

Keep your gaze fixed on him.

"...never will I leave you, never will I forsake you..."
                   ~Hebrews 13:5


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Day in the Life...antique style


My husband is out of town on business, my oldest is with family in Vermont...

So I took my toddler antique-ing. 

Makes sense, right?

We found some cool treasures - all of which my husband will be happy to know I left behind.












I really wanted to load up on old mason jars and those really cool empty frames, but I refrained.

Proud times.

And this guy deserves a gold star for being so good!