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.