Monday, December 10, 2018

the worth of her work.

She senses the worth of her work. Proverbs 31:18

I write it in chalk pen on little black chipboard discs that I’ll turn into ornaments for the mamas in my MOPS group. My husband is watching football and I tune out the game, and lean in close over my work, cursive like zen to calm my mind, my pen moving white over black, making little pools of ink in the downstrokes, each letter like a prayer. 

I think of each woman receiving this little gift. May she know the worth of her work, Holy Father. May she hang this little disk on her tree but may she adorn these words across her heart. I stack them one on top of the other and pray for each recipient. I pray for myself. 

May we know the worth of our work. 

This work you’ve called us to, this mothering that is every bit as frustrating and futile as it is holy and sacred, is worthy work. We know it in our heads, but do we know it in our hearts? The work of preparing meals and kissing foreheads and picking up and dropping off and nursing when the rest of the world sleeps. The work of calming tantrums and holding hands across streets and teaching gentle hands. The work of holding on and letting go, steering them faithfully while honoring their own paths. There is value, esteem in it all. 

And not just that, but the unseen work of maintaining a marriage and staying in touch with friends and being kind to in-laws and taking care of our own selves. All of it weighing and tipping, filling us and emptying us. May we see the worth in this burden, holy and hard as it is. 

May we know the worth of shining moments of pride when our children listen well or sleep soundly or the days feel light and easy. But may we also know the truth that there is worth in the hot flush of shame when we’ve lost our patience, when we’ve cried in exhaustion, when we’ve hung our heads in defeat. 

You consider it all worthy work. Even the messes. 

I write it so many times that I pray it like a rosary over each one of us. May we sense the work of our work. May we sense the worth of our work. 

I cross T’s and loop the H and I pray it with a heart beating fast because somehow, in this moment with a chalk pen in hand and a football game murmuring in the other room, I see it all so clearly. The worth isn't in the work, it's in the hands of the worker. Most days I grasp and claw at this truth but tonight, with these little black discs in front of me, stacked on top of each other, I know it deep in my bones and I pray it over each one of us. 

You consider it worthy work because you consider us worthy. 

You see us, mothering with top knots and too much screen time and you see esteemed daughters, not hot messes. You see our best efforts and you see our crash-and-burn failures. 

You see beauty everywhere you look when you look at us. 

You see opportunity in our brokenness. You called us into the work of motherhood to show us your heart. And your heart is the heart of a mother, lifting our chin gently to speak to us and whisper truth that shatters any doubt, “You are beloved to me, daughter. You are doing a wonderful job. You are doing worthy work.” 

As I tie ribbons, I offer it up like a benediction: May we see what you see, Father. In our homes, in our children, in our days, in ourselves. May we feel your love and grace like a warm winter sun. 

May we sense the worth of our work. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


"I'm feeling touched out." I tell R sometime in the late evening as I rock our restless newborn while we mindlessly watch TV. He takes her and assumes the automatic swing-bounce posture that every parent knows so well. He tells me to go get my computer and take some time for myself to write.

I sit down with a glass of wine and my laptop and when I stare at the blank page, cursor blinking expectantly, I find I have nothing to say. 

I'd spent all day, all of the last few months really, on an endless loop of nurse-burp-diaper-repeat. During the daytime hours, our two and a half year old peppers the monotony with a constant stream of chatter, questions, and requests, and the occasional tantrum over such pressing issues as not getting to throw a banana peel away herself. I change, go to the bathroom, do my makeup, even shower, with a background soundtrack constantly asking "What you doing, mama?" and "What's that?" This stage of parenting- the constant emotional need of a toddler and the constant physical need of a newborn- is exhausting to say the least.

The other night, when I said I was touched out, I think what I really meant was that I was losing touch. 

Somewhere in the Groundhog Day of being a stay at home mom, it can feel like I'm losing touch with the woman I used to be. A woman who had conversations that were about more than diapers and Daniel Tiger. A woman who could complete a thought without interruption. A woman who showered more and did yoga and remembered to text friends back.

blogger and artist that I love recently said, "Our motherhood years aren’t back-burner years; they are becoming years."

As I look back on my days spent meeting the constant needs of these two small people, I wonder what I'm becoming. Maybe you look in the mirror at your tired eyes and your changed body or you look around your house at the sea of toys and messes, and you wonder, too.

I'm tempted to believe the Liar and think that I'm becoming obsolete. I hear the whisper that I've become a woman who isn't as smart, or as interesting, or as beautiful as I once was. Furthermore, I'm tempted to blame it on my children or even my husband, rehearsing the old script that if only he helped more or met more of my needs, I wouldn't be so tired and I would be able to have more 'me-time'. When I realize that every ounce of my energy in a day has been spent on laundry and dishes and diapers, it feels easy to believe that I've become someone I don't want to be.

But I can sniff out the lie and see the truth.

While it's tempting to believe I've become someone less beautiful, I know it can't be true. These two people, who wrecked my body on their way into this world, wrecked my heart, too. Where my skin used to be taut and my muscles firm, there is now roundness and stretch marks. But there is softness on the inside too- compassion that comes from seeing everyone as someone's child and patience hard won by the tedium of sleepless nights and long days. I may not be fit to model, but when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, rocking my baby and singing to my toddler, arms strong and spirits high, I feel radiant.

It's tempting to believe I've become less interesting, less valuable to the larger world because my days are filled with the trappings of homemaking. But in the blue light of early mornings when my eyelids are heavy and the whir of sound machines and the water boiling on the stove for coffee are the only sounds in the house, I can feel something happening. Instead of relying on my own competency, I've become someone who combs through the crinkled pages of my Bible, hungry for the things that anchor me down, the things that satisfy my longing heart, the things that I can hold tight.

I'm inclined to think we mothers are becoming more and more beautiful in the glory and terror of motherhood. We are becoming brilliant and lovely as we shed the pieces of our old selves that maybe weren't meant to last. Every time we provide for our kid's need before our own, every time we choose gratitude instead of resentment, every hour we spend awake while the rest of the world sleeps, fervently whispering prayers for guidance and prayers to make it through another day, we are becoming something else entirely. Oh what the world gains when a woman becomes a mother!

Maybe I am losing touch with the old me. But I think there is something beautiful to be discovered in who I am becoming. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

marie's birth story.

In some ways, I can't tell Marie's birth story without telling Eva's as well.

My first pregnancy was defined by an all consuming need to prepare for all. the. things. My first birth was marked by the reality that you can't prepare for all the things and just like that, I was a mom who had to let go of some control.

My second pregnancy was spent deep in introspection and I was determined not to get snared by the old traps of anxiety and control. The catch is, that this time around, I was trying for a VBAC. I spent much of my pregnancy carefully walking the balance between research and expectation and the reminder that things still may not go the way I want when it came time to deliver my baby.

So there was no birth plan, no childbirth classes, no stacks of books this time. There was prayer, lots of hopeful prayers whispered while my hands ran across my growing belly, and there were frank conversations about contingency plans in the case that our VBAC wouldn't be possible. And there was trust that whatever happened, our daughter would come into the world the way she was meant to.

The whole week before her due date, I was having contractions on and off. I started to try a few low-key home induction methods- clary sage baths, acupressure, and lots of very uncomfortable walks with the dog around the block. On her due date, I could feel the contractions picking up in intensity and the continued through the afternoon and evening. We decided to go to the hospital around 2AM, only to be told I wasn't far enough along to admit just yet. The nurses suggested we walk around the hospital a bit and come back when contractions were three minutes apart. I felt like I could probably rest through some more contractions, so we decided to go back home and get some sleep.

What happened next is the beginning of how God answered so many prayers for that day, a testament to what can happen when I let go of my desperate need for control and yield.

R was able to get a few hours of sleep, a big concern of his because of how long my labor was with Eva. I was able to rest well in between contractions and when they came, I was able to breathe through them in the calm, dark comfort of our room instead of being in a hospital bed. Then Eva woke up in the morning, and while my Mom and R slept, she and I had a quiet breakfast and snuggled on the couch together, all while I labored through more and more contractions. I get teary as I write this, because I prayed towards the end of my pregnancy that I wouldn't let one-on-one moments with Eva slip by as our time of just the two of us was winding down. And here I was, knowing it was my last morning as a mother of one, and I was being given the sweet gift of a slow, quiet morning with my girl. When it came time to leave, we explained that it was time to go have the baby and she sent us off with hugs and kisses while she stayed with Nana.

When we got to the hospital around 10AM, we headed up to Labor and Delivery to check in. Contractions were still five minutes apart and, in a show of trust in my own body and instincts, we decided on the way up there to just let them know we were here at the hospital, but that we were going to walk awhile instead of get settled into a room. This ended up being an important decision because the restriction of being in a room, being monitored continually (a contingency of VBAC patients at our hospital), and being under the watching gaze of nurses and staff, I'm fairly convinced my labor would have been a lot more drawn out. Instead, we did laps around the first floor of the hospital for an hour and a half or so until my contractions were about three minutes apart and too intense to walk through anymore.

(Also, for all you folks wondering about a little taste of military life- there is nothing quite like laboring through the lobby of an Army hospital. As we walked the long hallways, it was clear we were the only ones there not in uniform that day. I got lots of "Ma'am, are you okay? Do you need anything?" from young, concerned looking soldiers and even a, "You got this, Mama!" from a fatigue-clad woman who didn't even need to ask to know why I was walking so slowly with tears in my eyes.)

When we got back up to L&D, I didn't even make it to triage before my water broke and they were ushering me into a room. From there, things moved so fast I needed R to debrief me after the fact. It felt like moments later, I was holding my baby. In reality, in the span of about two hours, I got to my room, got checked to see how far along I was (9cm!), had a few powerful contractions, told them I was ready to push, got checked again (complete!), and started pushing.

I'll spare every intimate detail- you'll have to get a drink with me if you want to hear all the good stuff- but I will say that the pushing stage of labor was simultaneously the hardest and most incredible thing my body has ever accomplished. And with my husband by my side, encouraging me through every tearful moment when I thought I couldn't do it, it was a sacred moment in our marriage.

Just when I thought I really could not push through the pain any longer, an incredible thing happened. The midwife said, "Okay, she's almost here! After you deliver her head, do you want to reach down and pull her out the rest of the way by yourself?" I knew this was it. I was going to meet my daughter and I had brought her into the world by the power of my own body. I was instantly motivated and deeply at peace. Every birth is beautiful, but if you have ever felt the sting of disappointment from having had a birth not go according to your plan, this feeling was like a salve on an old wound. I could feel the beauty in it even through the pain.

The midwife guided my hands down to my baby and with one mighty push, I brought her into the world. And with a loud cry, our Marie made herself known.

My recovery has been much more straightforward compared to my cesarian recovery. Marie is, so far, a calm, easy baby who is affording us a gentle transition into being a family of four. I'm choosing to approach these first hard postpartum weeks with the same yielded heart and big picture perspective that I lacked with Eva. I have next to nothing figured out still, but I'm trying to right some of my old mistakes and lean in to this messy, beautiful season in a way that I didn't before and it's making all the difference.

[If you have any questions about the specifics of my VBAC or want any encouragement as you plan and think about your own VBAC, I would love to connect with you! Send me a message on Instagram.]

Thursday, January 25, 2018

a word for the new year: yield.

I started and deleted many drafts of this hopeful beginning of the year blog post. 

I love New Years and resolutions and fresh starts, and this year, I’ve needed one badly. I was looking back at the year behind me and desperately trying to write something that would help me to package it up and tie it up with a pretty bow. I wanted to march triumphantly into this year with a declaration and a word and a new resolve. But every time I’d write that post, it felt counterfeit. So I’m writing this post instead. 

Because that’s the thing about hard years. They expose you. 

In 2016, I looked back and saw that I had been refined by motherhood. I’d fought hard against what God was showing me about sacrifice and the rawness of a mother’s heart. I spent a year stomping my feet and declaring it all unfair until finally I relented and only then there was peace. ‘I don’t want to fight so hard in 2017’, I wrote in my journal this time last year. I thought I really meant that. “Selfless” was my word for 2017. 

If you don’t think God appreciates a little irony then you’re not paying attention. 

In 2017, I was refined by my marriage. And I fought even harder. I dug my heels in so hard against God’s invitation to make more of my marriage by making less of myself that it almost broke us. I declared that I wanted to be selfless in 2017 and when I was given the chance to do it, I answered with a swift and resounding hell no. 

Sometime around the late fall, I caved out of sheer exhaustion and gave up fighting. “Fine,” I threw my hands up to God, “I’ll do it your way.” I’d like to tell you I said it with a peaceful and beatific look on my face and joy in my heart, but I’m not a liar. I let go of my cause the way my toddler eventually runs out of steam after a tantrum- defeated and tired. 

Like the good dad he is, God waited patiently for me to stop fighting and he responded fiercely in love when I did. And there was peace. Peace in my marriage and in my home. 

So I limped into the new year with a simple, but hard learned lesson under my belt that if I stop fighting God on what he’s inviting me into, peace is waiting for me on the other side. 

Real peace. The kind that surpasses understanding. The kind that heals broken hearts. The kind I watched my mom sing about while she buried my dad, her lifelong love. The kind I thought was only available to the really spiritual people, the people who went to seminary and preached from stages, but I now know is waiting for all of us, just on the other side of an invitation that is frustrating in it’s simplicity. 

The invitation is to yield. 

For two years, God has invited me to yield my expectations and my need for control. He’s asked me to surrender my agenda and hand over my battles to him. He’s beckoned me to serve and give freely and lay down the desperate need to look out for myself and allow him to look out for me. He’s asked me to give up the need for approval and acceptance from anyone but him. I’ve fought and fought and fought and it’s gotten me nowhere. I’m accepting the invitation finally and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still take up my cause out of fear and uncertainty. Much like my toddler, I still push back to find out if my Father means what he says when he says I can trust him. But I come back around because it is the only way I’ve known peace so far. 

My word for 2018 is “Yield”. I have it written in my journal and written on my heart as I make my way through another year of marriage and another year of motherhood. I’m not pretending like I have anything figured out over here. My hope though is that if you’re resisting that invitation in whatever corner of your life God is beckoning, you might join me in yielding and see what happens. 

I’ll let you know how it goes for me this year. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

the unseen.

It had been a long day. She’s been sick and we had flu shots and the park was just what we all needed to get some fresh air. But then we left the park and the epic meltdown ensued. She didn’t want to come in the house, so she stood in her stroller and screamed on the front porch for a solid ten minutes.The rest of the night was like land mines were exploding all around us- everything set her off into heaving, sobbing tears. 

By the time bed time came, I felt like I’d lived five lives in the span of a few hours. We endured one last pajama induced tantrum and finally she laid her wet, still trembling head down on my shoulder as I sang to her. 

Every night, I turn off the light, turn on her white noise machine, and stand next to her crib, holding her while I sing her lullaby. The whole routine takes only a minute or so. That night though, I lingered for a few moments longer, just long enough to realize that no one but me will ever see this goodnight ritual. 

No one will see the way I spoke calmly this time when she fought me on every thing from pajamas to dinner to the way I sliced her apple. No one will applaud my gentleness when what I really wanted was to scream back at her and grab the keys and run. No one will give me a positive evaluation for trucking us all to the park when we’d been cooped up for days with a cold and commend me for for counting just the way she likes on the swing. No one will take stock of how how I went above and beyond by indulging her fascination with collecting acorn tops and arranging them for the squirrels to find. 

So much of motherhood goes unseen, doesn’t it?

I crave affirmation. I struggle almost daily in craving acknowledgment and praise in the things I do. I’ve been this way my whole life. I remember once, when I was eight or nine, my Dad telling me how witty he thought I was and days later, after thinking about it almost non-stop, I approached him to ask him to expound on that a little. “Give me an example, Dad.” It’s not that I didn’t understand, I wanted to savor the sound of praise; absorb the unexpected feeling of admiration, coming from his mouth again and again. I bloom under the light of positive feedback from employers and authority figures and I will collect accolades from friends like little treasures. 

And then God saw it fit that I should be a wife and a mother- two selfless roles that are built on the assumption that the best work will go undetected and unseen. 

And that’s been hard. Really, really hard. 

But it doesn’t go unseen. Not really. 

God sees everything. He sees what goes unnoticed, what gets taken for granted. He saw every kick, every hiccup while she was still nestled inside me. He saw every contraction the day she came into the world. He saw every latch in the long, tedious season of nursing. Every dish I wash, every diaper I change, every tantrum I deescalate. He sees each of us mothers as we bustle around each other in the library or at swim lessons and as we encourage  our toddlers to share and use gentle hands. He sees every book read seven times in a row and every request to sing something “again peese?” 

He sees what no one else notices but he also see what no one else could see. He sees when my eyes open in the dead of night because I thought I heard her stir and he sees my frantic Googling when she’s sick. He sees the mornings that begin too early and the nights that stretch on far too late. He sees what our spouses and our own mother's miss when they look at us. He sees the mental load, the endless lists. He sees my racing heart because this little person who is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh is loved so fully that sometimes the fear of messing her up lights up my nerves with anxiety. 

And the thing I’m only just now starting to realize is that what God sees is good

When he look at us, he is pleased. He isn’t some jerk boss who stands over our mothering and evaluates us. We have an enemy who does that and we are sure to come up short and filled with guilt by his measure. No, our Father looks on our efforts as moms and deems it all well done. He laughs with us at the silly moments and grows our hearts in the tender moments. He covers us with grace in the moments when we yell or slam doors and our answers are biting and laced with frustration. He pulls us in when the nights are long and the fevers spike, when the tears are plentiful and the pain stings fresh, showering us with the peace that this too shall pass. 

In the Old Testament, it’s a mother who gives God the name El Roi, “the God who sees me”. She knew the gift of being seen. So, be encouraged, Mama. If you’re reading this today and you feel like it all went unseen, unnoticed, unappreciated, take heart; I’m inclined to believe that none of it does. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

on firm ground.

Two years ago this week, I wrote this post. I was riding the roller coaster of post-partum emotion, giddy with love and oxytocin one minute and crashing from exhaustion the next.

Two years later and I find myself writing a different, yet similar post.

We just celebrated Eva's second birthday and it was perfect. R and I made a last minute decision to skip even a small party and just celebrate with my Mom and sister who were in town for the week. We stayed in our pajama's all morning and ate birthday pancakes and spread the gift opening throughout the whole day. It was relaxed and sweet and I may never throw another birthday party ever again.

The lazy day gave me the time to remember everything I was doing the day she was born and in the weeks that followed.

In those first few days of Eva's life, I was caught in the riptide of joy and fear, exhaustion and awe. A constant ebbing of emotions that felt bigger than me kept knocking the wind out of me. From where I stand now, two years later, those same emotions are ebbing up and crashing, but I'm thankful to be standing on firmer ground now.

I'm standing on ground made firm by confidence. I don't have to wonder if I can keep this little person alive or if I have what it takes to be her mom- I have 730 days of proof that I can and I do. Every day that she doesn't get scurvy from eating only Goldfish or I don't empty my bank account and drive off to forge a new kid-less identity is a day that reminds me that we're going to make it. And so grows my confidence.

I'm also standing on ground made firm by God. In the first weeks and months of motherhood, my whole identity was wrapped up, swaddled if you will, with being Eva's mom. If I did that well, then I was okay. But if I messed that up, then I was a failure. The problem with that thinking was that the potential to mess up was lurking literally everywhere. You only have to be pregnant for approximately 12 minutes to know how much pressure exists to "get it right" as a mom. I believed the lie, hook line and sinker, that there was a right way and a wrong way to mother and I went about the task of figuring out the right ways. I talked a little about kicking that to the curb. And I found my way back to the truth that my worth does not hinge on my success or failure as a mom. It was a life giving change. It changed so much about the way I mother.

But also much has remained. I think it just two short years, what I've come to know about motherhood is that you just keep circling back over the same ground in a different way, made with new insight or new humility. My own mother who has been mothering for nearly four decades seems to concur.

There is still joy like I couldn't have predicted in my wildest dreams. Her delight at new discoveries and budding friendships. The way she says "Daddy!" when R walks into the room, even when he's only been gone a little while. Her laughter, deep and unhindered. The feel of her growing body against mine as I sing her our goodnight songs.

There is still exhaustion. Even when I get 8 hours of sleep, there are still battles to be fought all day long, boundaries to be pushed, rules to question and break. The care and keeping of toddlers is enough to wear down even the most well-rested parents and our headstrong little wilding is no exception. I sigh heavy when I finally make it to 7:30 after the longest days and the mental exhaustion whirs along still, long after bedtime.

There is still fear. Not the kind that took my breath away in the first weeks and months. As I said before, those chains are broken for me- the kind of fear that made my chest feel tight and my heart race and my palms sweat. But there is still fear. Am I doing enough to stimulate her mind? Is she getting enough iron and Vitamin A? Are we watching too much TV? Are we using discipline and boundaries well? Each question opens the door for thirty more questions and before you know it, I'm having to talk myself back down off the ledge.

But there is still so much awe. Somehow, in two full years, that feeling hasn't waned and I pray it never does. I still look at her just like I did the moment they handed her to me and marvel at this little person that is both my flesh and blood and also completely separate of me. I'm in awe of watching her brain grow and make connections and discoveries about the world around her. There is awe as R and I stumble and stride through parenthood, with absolutely no guidebook or precedent, and somehow we all remain intact and alive. Once in a while, we'll all be piled into bed in the morning, even the dog, and I'll feel like my heart could burst open wide at the awe that I've been given these lives to love.

Photos by Melissa Yates Photography
Two years have both flown and somehow crawled by and I'm humbled by the journey of motherhood almost daily, especially as I write this with a whole new little person nestled inside me. I'm sure I'll revisit this ground again, the awe and the fear, over and over with her as well.

As long as I'm standing on firm ground, let the waves crash.

Monday, September 18, 2017

telling stories.

I recently read this post by Sarah Held Evans and it struck a chord in me. 

I've long wrestled with blogging and it's purpose. I started this little blog when we set out on our first move after college as a way to keep our parents and friends updated about our travels. I don't even think I put the address on Facebook because I figured, "Who else but my mom wants to read my ramblings about life?" 

Somewhere, that voice hasn't really left. All these years later, I still find myself asking when I sit down to write a post, "Who even wants to read this?" 

Even when people do read it and say they really liked what I wrote. Even when I read other bloggers who share their hearts and my heart is changed and made better for it. 

Some other voices chimed in over the years, as well. The voice that said, "You have to blog like this to get noticed." And the voice that said, "You can never really say it as well as she already did, so why bother?" And lately,  the voice of hesitation that wonders if maybe what I've written is too honest or too spiritual or too personal. Or maybe it's not enough; it's not funny enough or not relatable enough. Then some competitive voices started urging me too look at how many page views I was getting and how many followers I had and I was comparing myself to other bloggers and getting more and more unsure and discouraged. 

A lot of voices joined me on my blogging journey and I lost sight of why I started. 

But I read that post and I remembered. I thought back to before I listened to all the voices and I was reminded that I used to get an idea for a blog, I'd sit down and write it, and press publish without much hesitation. I wrote about serious things and I wrote about not s serious things. I wrote about how I was feeling about moving and my career and I wrote about my car breaking down. I didn't think too hard about who was reading it or whether or not they'd like it or page views or followers. I just wrote what was on my heart. 

I wrote my stories. 

And I wrote them because I love to tell my stories. I love to hear stories and I love to tell them. It's just that simple. Rachel's post reminded me that there is power and comfort in telling our stories. Our stories are the way we know we're not alone. They are the little filaments that connect my heart to yours. C.S. Lewis said it best when he described the power of that connection this way; " born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself..." It's the sharing of our stories that ushers in those moments. 

I want to tell the story of my marriage and how after more than a decade together, we're relearning everything and its hard and wonderful and I need to hear about how you made it through the tough seasons, too. I want to tell my story of motherhood, the beautiful mundane moments that are making my heart crack open wide and the moments that are so tedious and exhausting that I think I might run away from home and I need to know I'm not the only mama who constantly keeps a glance between love and frustration. I want to tell the stories of my successes and cheer you along in yours and I want to tell the stories of my heartbreak and be reminded when I hear yours that we aren't really alone in anything.

So, I'm quieting the voices that would tell us otherwise and I'm telling my stories and encouraging you to tell yours too.

Thank you for reading along as I do.