Friday, October 18, 2013

The Joy of Helping

A few weeks ago, while trying to get out of bed that morning, my husband told me I looked like a turtle stuck on its back.  I laughed because that is pretty accurate as to how I have been feeling these days.  When I posted it as my facebook status, I never expected that I would learn so much.

Most of the comments I received were funny, but one made me cry: 

"Oh, sweetie...if you look like a turtle than it's probably time to get into your shell and let others help you out.  May I please bring you a casserole and a salad one day next week?..."

At first I was so touched by her sweet offer, but then the panic set in.  I still had 6 weeks until my due date, I felt like I didn't need help, I didn't want to take advantage of her.  I tried to talk her out of it.  I asked her to wait until the baby was born, because somehow I felt then it would be more justified.

But she sweetly insisted and a few days later showed up at my door with a beautiful dinner that fed our family of 8 for two nights (and a lunch!)

She had such joy on her face when she hugged me tight and made me promise that I would let her help again.

This was so hard for me.  I never ask for help, I never let anyone do anything for me.  I think it has come from all these years of not being able to go out in public with my children without hearing, "Oh, you have your hands full!".  I feel like I need to prove them wrong.  I need to show the world that you can have a home full of children and survive.  You can have joy in the midst of chaos.

But the truth's hard.  Really hard.  I don't care if you have 1 child or 10, motherhood is hard.  Don't let anyone make you think that it's not.  To make you feel that they have it all together and you are a failure (especially me!).

There are so many days where I find myself in tears, crying to God for strength to get through the day (or maybe just the grocery store).  And so many times He calms my heart with a Bible verse to encourage me or a song to fill me with joy. 

But what I have learned through this is that sometimes He doesn't give us more strength...sometimes He brings people into my life to help carry my burden, to lighten my load.  And I need to accept this gift just as freely as any other encouragement.

I thought I had learned my lesson.  And then my best friend showed up with a bucket of cleaning supplies...she wanted to clean my bathroom.

No.  There was no way I was going to let her do that. 

I fought with her over it, but then I remembered what God has been teaching me, and at 9 months pregnant I was not able to clean like I wanted to.  Every time I walked into that bathroom I would tell myself that I needed to get to it, but I never did.

And so I agreed.  I sat there fighting off tears as she cleaned my shower and scrubbed my toilet.  It was embarrassing and humbling...but I knew that I needed to accept this gift, and in the end it blessed me more than I ever imagined.

Her daughter even brought over nail polish and lotion to give me a pedicure.  Of course all the kids joined in and I think I had a year's worth of lotion on my feet, but the kids had the biggest smiles on their faces and I would never deny them the joy of helping.

And now, as I am waiting for our baby girl to join our home, I think I have finally learned my lesson...and all because my husband called me a turtle.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

36 Weeks...

I've been pretty quiet lately, life is full here.  Between homeschooling, soccer games and getting ready for our littlest one I haven't had much time or energy to write...but I wanted to stop in and share with you some of our maternity pictures that we had taken last week.

 I've never done this before with any of my pregnancies, but when my friend Elizabeth showed up on my doorstep with her camera as my husband and I were getting dressed up for a wedding, it seemed like the perfect timing...and she made me. :) 

I am so thankful that she did.

 At 36 weeks pregnant I wasn't feeling particularly beautiful or glowing...but maybe what I needed was to see myself through someone else's eyes...and camera. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Decade of Parenting

It was 10 years ago that our first child was born. 

He was born exactly 9 months and one day after our wedding, just weeks after my 21st birthday.  We were young and in love.  We had prayed for this baby, but I don't think we had any idea of the adventure we were now taking. 

We brought our sweet-smelling, 7lb 6oz bundle home from the hospital, placed him in his brand new crib, looked at each other and said, "Now what?"

The next day we found ourselves in Children's Hospital.  Our baby was covered in tubes and monitors, alarms were screaming, while doctors and nurses rushed into the room to sweep him away.  The room went silent and we sat there alone in the dark trying to process it all.

My prayers came from the deepest part of me.  I begged for his healing but I also felt that I needed to accept whatever God's will may be for his life...for my life.

The sun came up the next morning and we were taken in to see him.  His little body looked even smaller in that hospital bed.  The doctors did not know what was wrong.  They didn't have any answers.  He was moved to the NICU, where we lived for the next week.

His name means "Jehovah saves" and it was during this time that we saw God's healing hand.

His life is a little miracle.  And now, 10 years later he stands nearly as tall as me.  He challenges me daily.  He has been my guinea pig through this decade of parenting.  But I am so proud of the young man he is becoming.

So now as he enters double digits, I am reminded that his life is still a miracle.  I may never know why his story began the way it did, but I know that God has big plans for him. 

As we start this new journey of parenting, my husband and I still look at each other and say, "Now what?", but I know that we are not going to walk it alone.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Day of Hope

 The phone rings in the middle of the night, jarring me from my sleep.  My husband answers it and within a few seconds he is dressed and out the door.  There is an emergency that needs him and as he is running to help, I am laying awake in the dark.  My mind is racing.  This is my life as an EMT's wife, and no matter how many years it has been, I never get used to it.

  I lay in bed praying for his safety, and then my heart is aching for the family whose world has just been turned upside down.

5 years ago that was our moment. 

That moment when the phone rings and the room just fades away.  That moment when fear and confusion takes over and reality feels like a bad dream.   That moment when your faith and hope is all you have and your prayers come from the deepest cries of  your heart.

And then that moment becomes that day.  The day you are forced to say goodbye too soon.  That day when your life is forever changed.  That day when you feel like you've been broken into a million pieces and there is no way to ever put you back together.

The years have gone by and it is now the day that no one wants to talk about, but nobody can ignore.
It's the day when everyone tip toes around me for fear of saying the wrong thing.  But really, it's just another day.  It is not any different from the other 364 days a year that I think about my brother, Matt.  It is no different than every other day when I can close my eyes and bring back all those memories.
Maybe the wounds are still too fresh, but it's my desire that one day June 10th will become a day of hope.
The day when we finally realize that our prayers for Matt's healing were answered beyond what we could have imagined.  A perfect healing.  An eternal healing.  A day when we cling to God's promises and rejoice in Jesus' victory.
Matt's life is not over.  June 10th is the day when his life truly began.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Knitting Lessons

This past month I had the opportunity to take knitting lessons at the most adorable little yarn shop.  I have been crocheting for 10 years and tried many times to teach myself to knit, all of which ended with a tangled mess of yarn or stitches that fell apart.

I walked into the store and my eyes grew wide at the walls lined floor to ceiling with the most beautiful yarns.  Every fiber, color, and texture you could imagine.  I just had to touch them.

The instructor sat us at a small table and demonstrated the first steps.  It felt so awkward, like eating with chopsticks (which I can't do either!).

This was so much harder than it looked.  My neck and shoulders were tense.  I couldn't talk and concentrate at the same time, but eventually my fingers fell into a rhythm.

Then another wave of morning sickness swept over me and I was reminded of Psalm 139:13

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

As my hands were knitting this crooked scarf, God is knitting a new little life within me.

My needles slipped.  I dropped a stitch.  I let out a gasp and humbly handed my mess to the instructor.  She took one look at my mistake, smiled, and effortlessly got me back on track.

Isn't that just how it is in this life? 

Just when I think that I know what I am doing, I mess up again.  I humbly hand my life back to God, He just smiles and brings me back. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Fresh Coat of Paint

This past weekend I painted our bathroom.  It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to a room...and to my spirit.

It's a tiny room.  I thought I could get it finished while my little ones were napping, but it turned into a much bigger project than I had expected.

The painted trim was peeling so I had to start with sanding.  We wanted to remove the towel bar, which left 4 large holes in the wall.  There were spots to patch and more sanding.  I started cutting in with a brush, but the room is too small for a ladder; so I stood on the counter top, then took a lunge of faith to the opposite wall.  As I reached across the room, my legs burning, I tried to keep a steady hand as I painted the line beneath the ceiling.  I was suspended in mid-air on only my fingertips and tip toes.  My 5 year old walking in was very impressed with my spiderman skills. 

Then I needed to contort myself into awkward angles to try and paint behind the toilet, wondering if anyone would really notice if I didn't.

About halfway through, a bit of panic set in.  Is this color too dark?  Did I make the right choice?

Change is hard.

The fears I am trying to conquer.
The hurts I want to let go of.
The bad habits I am trying to break.

It's all hard.  But maybe those days when I feel like I'm not getting anywhere, maybe that's all part of the prep work.  Those days when I'm filled with doubt and wonder if I made the right choice...I need to remember that change is hard.

It's easier to hold on to the familiar, even the ugly, stained walls.  It's easier to hold on to my ugly because change takes time and energy, it stretches me and sometimes puts me in awkward positions.  Change is hard...but it's beautiful.

Every time I walk into that bathroom I smile.  I love the beautiful coffee and cream color of the walls, I love the fresh feeling in that space, and I remember all the work it took to get there. 

I know that I am going to get there too. 

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."  ~Philippians 1:6

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Little Years

This week I held a friend's newborn baby.  All the beauty of new life wrapped up in pink.  Her tiny hands moved in slow motion and wrapped around my finger.  She slept in perfect peace.  Her newborn smell, the softest skin...there is nothing sweeter than a baby.

Then I looked over at my baby.  Walking and climbing and full of personality, he will turn one year old this month.  Where did my sweet newborn go?

Recently my husband and I made this growth chart for our children.


As I transferred their measurements to the new chart, I found myself holding back tears.  It was like watching them grow up all over again.

It was hard to remember my older ones when they only came up to my knee.  I looked at my little ones knowing that they are growing just as fast.

Every day the kids back up to the chart and measure each other to see how much they have grown in a day.  All I want to do is hold on tight and keep them little.

Yes, these days are long, but the years are flying by.

My husband and I do talk about the future.  We dream of the days when the children are independent and it's just us again.  But we also want to live fully in this moment.  These little years have been overflowing with joy and laughter.  They have kept us busy, running non-stop on little sleep.  But these years have taught us so much about ourselves and our love.

I know they will be over before we know it.  There is so much that I want to teach my children, so much I want for them.  I find myself scrambling, feeling like this precious time is slipping away.

But that's where I cling to grace.

I fail them.  I don't have the answers...or the patience.  I may run out of time before they fly.  But I'm holding on to God's promise that His grace is enough.

"All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children."  ~Isaiah 54:13

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Everyday Fairy Tale

We don't celebrate Valentine's day.  We used to and I don't really remember when we stopped.  Our anniversary was always much more special to us.  It was a day to reminisce and remember why we chose each other.  A day that was just for us, that we didn't have to share with all the other couples in America.  And so, Valentine's day just became less and less important.

I honestly never thought about it until this year.  This year I threw myself a big ol' pity party.

My friends were sharing all their plans with me.  All the extravagant dates and romantic getaways.  I cringed at the thought of all the facebook statuses with photos of their gifts and nights out.

I complained to my husband. It didn't seem fair.  Everyone else was getting swept away to the ball and I was left at home to scrub the floor.  My night would be just like every other night: big, messy and loud with our half-dozen running around....

He cut me off.  "Do you hear yourself?!", my eyes grew wide, "Do you really want to be like them, do you really want their life?  Because this is our life and I love our life together.  I don't want what everyone else has.  I want you."

He always speaks the truth to me.  He has a way of holding up a mirror to my heart and showing me all the ugliness that doesn't belong.  He knows me.  He knows who I really am and he knows when I need to be put in my place.

The truth is he spoils me.  He spoils me so much that I have taken it for granted.

 He gives me flowers...just because.  He brings home little surprises all the time.  He tells me I'm beautiful every day and kisses me like he means it.  He writes me love letters, though words don't come easy for him.  He holds my hand every time we sit together, no matter where we are. He prays for me and cherishes me.

I was jealous of how others were spending one day and forgetting the beauty of my life that is full of love.

Our love story is so precious to me.  It may not always be pretty and over the top romantic, but it's ours.  It's an everyday fairy tale.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Year of Change

I was standing at the kitchen stove stirring dinner when my husband came home.  He walked up to me and started playing a voice mail on his phone.  There was a crazy woman in a screaming rant.  My eyes widened.  I recognized the voice.  It was me. 

I remember that moment.  I was standing on a stool trying to fix something on a shelf above my head.  I was frustrated and when my daughter had interrupted me, my words flew at her like arrows straight to her heart.  She had been trying to call daddy, but when the call went straight to voice mail, it recorded every poisonous word. 

I was embarrassed and humbled.  There is nothing like seeing your failures caught on tape.

That night I cried to my husband.  There is so much that I want to give these children.  So much that I want to be.  I am failing daily. 

I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do believe that this year is going to be a year of change for me.  A year of letting go of even more and finding joy unspeakable.  Something new is being stirred in my heart, but for the real work to begin I need to be laid bare. 

I think that ugly moment was what I needed to see.  I am thankful that it was recorded, as much as it hurt, as much as I wish my husband hadn't heard it... it needed to be brought to the light. 

I am weak.  I am a mess.  I can't do this on my own.  But His grace is enough.  His power is made perfect in my weakness.

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