Read to your babies, but with a twist.Read More
For when you're about to lose it all with your kid(s) and just need to dance it all out.
I have a confession to make: I've become a gleek. I don't know how it happened, but amen for Netflix because, man oh man, does that show feel like a lovely spritzer at the end of a long long day. I'm not sure if it's the nostalgia of my youth, since the show is my entire high-school experience wrapped up in six seasons; or if it's the feel-good-lump-in-your-throat kind of scenes when I just need some sprinkles of light-hearted good...but one thing I have rekindled with recently, through my new friends (Glee), is that music is powerful in dealing with the world and our emotions.
Our perfectly sleep-trained, angelically-happy, smarty pants baby has turned into a self-biting, over-exhausted, "mine (with a 't' at the end)"-screaming toddler. The reluctant transition to toddler bed has been nothing short of horrible and I don't think Will or I have slept since May. This morning, Scout arrived at the foot of our bed at 5am, proceeded with a pitter patter of tiny feet, and a mousy, but strong, "Hi! I awake!" And I laugh until I'm crying come noon.
When 10am hits, and the no-sleep-Scout is too tired to stay awake but it's too early for the nap, the tantrums come. And, here's the thing, the controlling-parenting style is just not working for this strong-willed babe and her little mama. So, I've compiled a playlist (two actually) that I can throw on in an instant and trust an instantaneous dance party to rise up. Most songs are inspired by the way Scout says words and the phrases she likes to say 96758694739068 times a day (example: Turn Down For What is inspired by "MY TURNT"). Warning mamas, some songs are explicit.
Here's the thing, only I can give my kids a happy mommy. I believe in structure and rhythms, but I also believe that sometimes, you need to pull out your inner Meredith and Christina (Grey's anyone?) and dance it out. Dance it alllll out. Let the babe dance it out with you and let your own tears of frustration and overwhelm flood then laugh, mama. Laugh laugh laugh.
So I've made a playlist for you that I've called **Dance With Me Baby (survival)** and one more called dance with me baby (mellow). One for the days of four cups of coffee and not leaving the house and forgetting to brush everyone's teeth; and another for those slower moments where you want to sing and remember, your babe is a treasure, after all. These playlists will be updated regularly as Scout and I learn each others' steps in this season and get our bearings on what life together looks like. And hopefully as she starts sleeping.
My final request to all who read this blog: love. Love your babies, your husbands, mothers, sisters. Love each day like it’s your last. All you mamas out there, you have been entrusted with the precious gift of a human life who depends on you. Enjoy your gift. Breathe in the scent of your child’s hair, breath. Let them cook with you and make a mess of the kitchen. Play hide and seek with them, build sand castles with them, take them on picnics, read to them! Listen to them, value and respect them, never shame them. Your words they will carry with them their whole life and you have the power to give them wings or stunt their growth. Motherhood can be tough but it’s worth it. It can be exhausting, boring, tedious, but never for long. You blink and they’re grown. It has been my honor and privilege to love Daisy these last 8 years. I’m thankful for every minute; the joyful and the terrible alike.
“I know The Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:8-11 NLT) —Kate Merrick
I've felt like a failure of a parent the last few weeks, maybe even months. The stress of caring for the two under two, then the desire to collapse at bedtime only being met with two little boys stampeding through the garage door in full anticipation and excitement over what's being served for dinner; mixed with my husband being gone every single weekend for a full 24-hours, leaving me alone to load and unload a double stroller and two, rather big, babies to attempt to make it through the church doors; then having one child who is dying for independence, but lacks so many skills and ability to connect—I blame myself. I lose my cool; I neglect and tire easily. I put on screens and cry in the bathroom. The fridge gets empty and I cry because....really? Not again I just can't get back to the store again. I'm so tired. And then I wrestle with the bitterness and sadness every single day as I see my friends with littles have constant companionship in their not-so-perfect-but-still-great moms. And my mind crawls down this dark rabbit-hole of darkness; because that is one thing I lack: a mom.
She can't come over and take the kids for an hour so I can just sit in quiet. She doesn't make meals or bake something, and cuddle my baby while I get a date with my husband. I'm alone in this; I'm figuring this whole mom thing out on my own.
Even today; on this Mother's Day, I'm sitting alone while my husband leads 4, then one extra, service at church, for thousand's of other moms. I try to clean and plan and work but, my heart is heavy; so, I sit.
And I scroll through the IG I said I would stay off of today: blessed daughters with great moms and blessed moms with kids; and I cringe. If I didn't have my kids, would I be considered less blessed? Am I less blessed and favored because my mom is an addict, who tormented me, who torments me still? Blessed is not the word I want to use today. Because my privilege of being able to carry two healthy babes and then adopt three more does not make me better. It is a grace to be treated and handled tenderly; that I take far too much advantage of each and everyday.
So, dear Daughters, dear Sons, I take today as a day of marching orders, a Command; not of flowers and notes and appreciation (but thank you for all of it, I treasure them forever). I do not take today lightly because I know there are many out there who would do anything to have what I have; and this is grace.
Here are my promises; my parenting manifesto:
When you push, I will pull. I will pull you in and hold you close. Whether you're stinky or sweaty with tantrum tears and tired eyes. I will pull you in and stroke my hands through your hair. When you're too old for that, I will never stop bugging you with texts checking in, and calls to see where you are at, who you are with, and why you are where you are. I promise to bug you even when you try to shoo me away.
I promise to learn. I will read and seek and pray. Because I want you to look up and see less of me on screens and more of me quietly reflecting in a journal or a book. I want you to know that, ya, I might not have all the answers you need and this mama still has a lot of questions for herself and parenting feels like a crazy tornado but I will seek out those who have gone before me and those sages who have wise thoughts and words to offer. From weaning to potty training to speaking with honoring lips, yes, even to you my child. I will learn for you; and I will be open to learning from you, too.
I want to listen; to champion and to laugh with you. I want to feel when your heart is aching and celebrate those triumphs with you.
And I will be there with you. There will come a day where I will no longer be the expert in everything for you. But I will never stop walking alongside you—cheering you on as you choose your path and directions. There will be forks in the road and I may see a little farther ahead than you, but Sons, but Daughters, I need to let you choose which path you will take, and be there for you all the same. I will be there with you. In the fields, in the flood, in the fire, in the wilderness and drought and rain. I will be with you. As you then enter the passage of parenthood, as you experience loss and defeat, and anticipation and joy—Oh Daughters, Oh Sons, I will not leave you as orphans, because Christ has not left us as orphans.
Lastly, but certainly not least(ly...)—I will love your Dad. I will love him fiercely. I will be honest to him about when he bugs me, but in ways that bear fruit. I will hold his hand and kiss him when you're around and in secret. I will love him tenderly, I will love him fiercely; and I will treat him as a soldier who deserves all my respect, because he is fighting for us every single day.
You are a Grace. You are mine to borrow. And I am grateful for the duty and the call.
So, what's there to say? It's been silent on this side of town lately. It feels like a lot is happening all the time. On the outside, it looks normal: soccer games, graduation preparations, potty training, weaning, tuck in kisses and goodnights followed by the familiar, "you don't need more water goodnight" style goodnights. It may look normal on the outside.
But, insert the confused stares at graduation meetings and I'm sorry, are you in the wrong place? Oh...these are all yours? Oh... types of questions (innocent, but intrusive and confusing for little ears who know no other normal); insert juggling a side writing business and a full-time wife-type of business, and then the tantrums, some normal, some triggered, and the questions about birth certificates, five hour home studies (systems terms for interviews by social services) and adoption talk.
There's a surface layout of what our lives look like; and it might even look a bit like yours. But then there's an under-layer, like long johns, that is scratch, scratch, scratching the surface that we have to attend to every single day.
Yes, God doesn't give you more than you can handle, until he does. Until you are done working out your neck muscles and the Hallelujah can't seem to escape your lips and your arms are drooping and dragging, barely at your side. Do you know the feeling?
I don't think God holds back what we can't handle. Because, truth be told, there's a lot I can't handle. But I do think he carves a dirt road straight through those unmanageable seasons where we find Him walking along with us day by day. In the mud created by the rains of the sorrows, in the heat of the blaring sun that comes out on the days where we feel burned, failed, and injured by people, in the snow where we've reached a point of feeling numb...at the end of the beaten path, we will find Him waiting for us, ready to embrace. And, I do believe, He will turn us around and say, Dear Daughter, I was with you.
This season is so far from over for us; but I guess that's what long-suffering is. That is the definition of endurance in its truest form, is it not? Long-suffering. Be weary. Be worn. Let your arms droop. But don't be afraid to let the Light lift your head from time to time. The ache of today doesn't change the redemption you encountered yesterday (or, perhaps, years ago). The Lifter of your head, the Creator and Caller of the spring is still the boss of the days.
Today might suck. Many days, this season, suck for us, but this I call to mind, and we may feel tired and worn. Hope is not a feeling (sometimes), it's a truth. It's a fact; one that we need to hold onto when our minds, our hearts, and life-state are caught up in some kind of nasty storm.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
We've had a tumultuous season—many days felt (and still feel) like we're running uphill, or, more accurately, living inside a house caught up in a tornado. Between foster care, Will's job as a worship pastor, and my work, and...oh ya...being mommy-ing and wife-ing...it's easy to get swept away in stress and exhaustion. Some nights we collapse in our beds, exhausted yet achieved. Others, we fall asleep watching our favorite shows and wake up feeling what I could only assume is what a hangover feels like (call me prude, but I've never had one...perks of not drinking).
This season is bringing a lot of change for Will and I, whether it's in my work or his, how we manage our schedules, and how we are focusing our attention. I'm (like everyone else it seems in 2017) pursuing simplicity. But I want to go beyond this just being a catch phrase or hot-for-moment word or thought. I'm chasing after it and all that comes with—intimacy with Jesus, more grateful and abundant living, a more intentional and clear home, a refuge of space for our family, and a hard lean towards generosity.
This season, more than ever, I feel called to having eyes wide open at home as my Tiny Kingdom and place of mission. I feel this pressing to make a space that my husband can come home from the beautiful, messy, chaotic privilege that is ministry and my kids to kick and scream and process whatever comes their way, whether at school, the playground, or the unique visits and dates that come with our circumstance. Here's what I'm reading, listening to, and investing my heart and mind into as I seek to do this season well, with grace and intention:
What I've read/done so far...
Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner This is the BEST book I've read in years. Get it. I promise you will not regret it.
Minimalism: A Documentary (on Netflix)
Right now, I'm reading...
For generosity and mission: This study on Acts along with More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinarbager
For my heart: The Lifegiving Home:Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sarah and Sally Clarkson **note: this book has been SUCH a pleasant surprise. Seriously, rocking me right now. It's a deep well of truth and wisdom on the theology of HOME. LOVE IT.
Simple Matters (Living with Less and Ending Up with More) by Erin Boyle
What's up next, and what's on my radar...
Missional Motherhood (book and Bible study) by Gloria Furman (I really loved Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full so I have hopes for this one, too)
Welcoming the Stranger and Adopted for Life
The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know about Raising Confident, Capable Kids
The Artist's Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
If you're in a hurry...
If books aren't your jam, or you feel like you don't have time, I'm listening to the Slow Your Home and Bravery Board podcasts when I get time, as well as reading these blogs:
Read My Tea Leaves
Mother Mag Blog —they had a series on the Danish philosophy of Parenting that was awesome. Check it out here.
**I also just discovered Sally Clarkson has a podcast (At Home With Sally)...I haven't listened to it yet, but if it's anything like her book, it's gold.
We've finally settled in and accepted that we are, indeed, a tribe of seven. There are days this is overwhelming and days where this is hard (more than I'll attest to publicly), but all of them are threaded with beauty. Whether the beauty is in the candle I light at dinner each night, or the milestones our mini is hitting, when my hair feels frazzled (more on that in a later post) and I feel like waves are tossing me around, there is always, always beauty in a small part of our day...even if I have to squint my eyes really hard. In short, my goal this year is Philippians 4:8, to focus on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. And if this means shutting off my phone and looking at my kids in the eyes just a little longer, so be it. If this means fighting 'till I bleed for an intentional coffee date with my husband, so be it. If it means giving from what we have, instead of waiting for the overflow to arrive, I will do so gladly, because life is too, too short and I'm tired of drowning. I'm dying to live—and, truth is, the place to start is just there, in relinquishing all that I had in mind for life, for home, and my world, and accepting with joy what mission has been placed in front of me—and I hope the same for you, in whatever season you are in, that you can look up and face forward towards the day that you've been entrusted. Not seeking tomorrow too soon, nor someone else's life or highlight reel, but rather pursuing the intimacy you need to live fully, today.
Thanks, Kevin Rogers for the snap!