Broken

On New Year’s Eve I sat in the rocking chair near my bed, struggling to put on my socks, a swollen belly limiting my motion while this little miracle kicked around inside me. Tears caught in my throat. A familiar feeling these days. Another day of pain.

Across the room an unmade bed seduced me with it’s fluffy pillows and warm sheets. A place of tenderness for my hurts. A warm embrace ready to thaw my frozen soul. A hiding spot to sink into until all this was over. Voices in our house interrupted my numbness; they were both crying while he tried to settle the squabble. These children needed their mother; this man needed his wife. And I realized I was capable of being neither.

I was broken. And ashamed.

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A Vision for my Valentine

He rises in the early hours of the morning. Toes touch the cold floor, back creaking upward after a long night. He breathes, bracing himself for the day, surveying his battlefield. Planning the strategy. Calculating his moves. No one prepared him for this. No one gave him the plans, the skills, the basic training. He learned this part by committing. By investing his heart into uncomfortable places.

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Five More Weeks

Five more weeks. Likely a little less; possibly a bit more. Thirty-five weeks ago you appeared on the scene, a spec of dust now stretching my midsection to its max. What once was an imperceptible pebble now feels like a small boulder strapped tightly to my tender back. Your arms and legs press against me, testing the limits of their strength while my belly surges and hardens in response.

The time is nearing, little one. But despite my discomfort and swollen belly, I treasure these last days with you. I want for you to take as long as you need. Because when you come, you must begin finding your own way, and that seems like a lot to put on a baby.

The day is coming where you and I will physically separate. You will learn the harsh realities of a bright, loud, cold world. And though my arms will be waiting to scoop you up and hold you close, I cannot shield you from it all. You will feel hunger and the need for air. You will feel cold. Afraid. Out of control. Exhausted. You will perceive at once that you are not me, and that will be terrifying.

Right now we are linked; an intimacy so rare and so wonderful, the closest two human beings can ever get to complete oneness. We all begin this way: wrapped in another, sustained by her blood. Our identity enmeshed with her’s; our every need met by a mother’s sacrifice. It is a role I take great pride in and have ultimate respect for.

But the day is close, sweet baby. The day my role will change, and you must begin discovering who you are: a cherished creation apart from me.

You must learn how to make your needs known, how to cope without the constant warmth of my body and sound of my heart. You must learn to find sustenance, how to rest, and the value of forward movement. You must learn attachment, and then detachment. And we will be there to receive you. We will be there, ready to ease your transition; to encourage, comfort, and sustain you in your growth. But the task–the actual becoming of you–that rests on your shoulders.

It’s a severe truth to thrust onto such a raw and innocent life. I wish I could expand indefinitely, protecting you from the realities of the journey you must face. But to do so would be to deny you life itself.

So know this, my precious stone: this life is your gift. And the Giver is glorified in your soul’s abundance. I pray you learn to love Him for it, and seek to nurture what He has bestowed on you.

Take your time, baby. Come when you are ready. My arms eagerly await your arrival but my heart treasures this time.

Sparkle

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White stacks of steam rise up from the waters that stretch out from below us. Perched atop the bluff I stand watching the massive body of water sink into it’s wintery state. Candles on the table twinkle in the dim light of the early sunset. At the flip of a switch our tree comes to life, illuminating the dark corner and sending the sparkly glitter on the glass ornaments into a frenzy of show. Even the jingle bells and sprigs of holly gleam with gladness.

And in my house their small faces light up. Christmas is meant to sparkle.

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While You’re in Africa

While you are in Africa, I will be here.

I will be here.

Doing all the things here requires. Like waking up with the little one long before the sun rises. And teaching the five year old to read one letter at a time. Begging a child to eat half a sandwich for dinner, while sweeping up the half that’s been chewed up and spit out on the floor. I’ll be settling a minimum of 20 skirmishes a day, and wiping away at least a hundred times that many tears, some of which are bound to be my own. I’ll be tickling little feet, coloring pictures, singing songs, playing hide and seek. I will teach the manners, the values, the important life skills, and hug away all the bad things. I’ll be tending two lives, while cradling another inside. All day. Every day.

I will be here. I will be here.

So you can be there. Because there the children don’t have someone to make them a sandwich. There is no one to answer life’s questions, or sing them a song, or pull a thorn from their feet. No one to show them the love of their Father. Unless you go. Unless you help. Unless you give.

Somewhere out there you will be filling souls. And I will be here, filling these. In my moments of doubt, it seems like a lot. But then again, He has given us a lot. And these next several days He will make us enough to go around.

Broken-in vs. Worn-out

I’ve been feeling restless. Out of place. Like something is not right. As people we are made to flourish, designed from the beginning to thrive. To last. But for too long life has not felt alive. It has not felt wide and open and like I can breathe.

I mostly ignored it. That nagging feeling in my soul that something was wrong. That this is not where we are suppose to be. I pushed aside the feelings of frustration and prayed for endurance. Just keep going; press on a little longer. Because with two little kids, one on the way, and a man who is depending on me to stand by him, I don’t have the luxury of stopping. I don’t have the luxury of being burnt out.

But slowly this unsettled voice inside my soul became too loud to ignore. The Holy Spirit moved within, stirring me to action. And in the grand mystery of His ways, He softened the heart of the one closest to me. Drawing us together, uniting His vision in our hearts. Making us one.

Because deep down, we both felt it. The exhaustion of running from one crisis to the next. The mold–however innocent–that living in a nice house in a big city forces a family into. We felt the irony in loading up for a day of hiking only to sit in smoggy traffic on the way to a crowded trail. The sinking feeling of boarding a plane, saying goodbye for months on end to family we love so far away. For years we’ve justified a way around it, searching for the positives, focusing on the wins, trying out new coping mechanisms, and reminding ourselves of all the difficulties a big change would bring. But really all the positives we found were far from our hopes and dreams. The wins were a long way from our vision for this family. And all the while I wondered, where is the peace? Where is the simplicity? Where is the space and the joy and the giving?

What good is an established life if its killing you to live it? What good is the most well-intended plan if it’s not working?

So we stopped. We looked up over all the obstacles and rehashed plans, over the expectations and pressures we placed upon ourselves. And He opened our eyes, giving us courage to follow His lead. Humbling our hearts, moving us to change. His plans are far better than ours, even when we can’t see the end.

And now, in a state of flux when everything is unfamiliar, somehow there is peace. Harmony. As a refreshing wind blows us north, a feeling of rightness has settled in. It is never easy to leave the known. To say goodbye to what is comfortable and broken-in. But the line between broken-in and worn-out is thin, and we crossed it long ago.

So we thank this chapter for it’s gift. We remember the wonderful moments it has brought and the teacher it has been. With anticipation we close the door, stepping out into a wide new land with adventures and lessons of its own. The future stretches before us, calling us forward and bringing us closer to home.

On Morning Sickness

This summer was slow. The days dragged on and I felt as though I was wilting. Maybe it was the intense heat of living in the high desert. Maybe it was misery of nausea that lasted all day and night. Probably both.

Are you one of those lucky women who barely noticed just a few queasy moments the first three months? No, me either. For me the term “nausea” is putting it mildly.

Every day I would wake up to a knawing stomach growling in hunger, only to rebell at the first sip of water or bite of breakfast put into it. Some days–the good ones–it would be more like a chronic annoyance reminding me of the blueberry inhabiting my lower abdomen. But most days the nausea would turn into dry heaves (or often worse), then settle back to an all day ebb and flow of constant nausea, fluctuating between bad, miserable, and borderline debilitating. By evening I would be spent, dreading the few minutes it would take to fall asleep without a TV show to distract me from the sickening revolt of my stomach.

Ginger didn’t help. Neither did saltines, fizzy water, warm Dr. Pepper, SeaBands, vitamin B6, essential oils, citrus scents, or the two prescriptions my midwife gave me. After slogging through three preganacies of nausea/vomiting and spending a total of nearly a year of my life in what feels like the worlds worst stomach flu, I have finally accepted the fact that this awful feeling is something that I just have to endure.

But the worst part is the guilt. The feeling so bad that I can’t be a better mom, a more engaged mom. A mom who takes her kids to the park on a summer day and doesn’t dry heave the second she steps into the heat. A mom who can make a whip up a real meal and not barely manage to fill four glasses with a mixed berry smoothie for dinner. A mom who doesn’t need dad to come in a put the toddler down for a nap, or let him find the kids in front of the TV again after a long day of work with wet laundry clinging to the inside of the washer and a kitchen floor covered in spilled Cheerios.

The guilt is awful. As a mother I don’t know a worse feeling than that of letting your family down. When mom is down, the whole house just stops.

But in my laying around I have realized, I’m not a bad mom. I’m dealing with nausea that’s on the extreme end of what’s considered normal. It’s ok to be sick. It’s ok to rest. I am a better mom when I ease up on myself and conserve my energy than when I try to meet the demands of everyone. Demands that usually are not urgent or concerning. Wet laundry will eventually dry.

Someday soon this will be done and I’ll feel better. I’ll be able to cook, and eat, and enjoy my daily responsibilities again. But until then, I cut myself some slack. I take a break, not just from the chores and expectations, but from the guilt of not being able. Because the guilt and pressure to be something I physically can’t right now isn’t worth it.

What is worth it is feeling cared for. It’s seeing my five year old make his little sister a PB&J for lunch because Mom is too sick to move. Or watching the glee of the two year old when I serve up a tall glass of her favorite breakfast for dinner. It’s worth it to let my husband pick up the slack because he sees what he can do to make this baby a little easier on me.

In my misery, my family has grown. They have started to see how a new life will ask more of mom, and how they need to mature. Because nothing will be the same when the baby comes. Life doesn’t go back to normal. It grows into a new normal; a family, who as it expands, also depends more upon the others. Soon there will be a third looking to me for everything it needs. But right now, I’m looking to them. And they have not disappointed.