Babies aren’t babies for long, so I’m gonna hold this last one a little bit longer.

My first baby and my almost-here-3rd-baby.

There’s something surreal about discovering your first baby’s first loose tooth the same week you hit 38weeks of pregnancy with your 3rd baby.

Like, that first baby tooth could fall out the very same week that 3rd baby is born.

A wide gap tooth smile meeting a gummy one- one kid already having outgrown the very tooth the other has yet to even begin to grow.

The unexpected full circle-ness hit me in the gut as I stared at my “baby”’s excited face right as I felt a tiny fist punch me in the hip.

Just one more shock to the heart and confirmation that my first baby is slowly, but much too quickly, putting more and more distance between who she is now and the day when she resided safely in my body.

That distance will just keep growing, as she starts Kindergarten the same week the new little one will go to daycare for the first time – in 4 short months.

I stare at her as she dances with so much fire and personality in our living room- with more rhythm than I’ve ever had- and see her as the couple week old baby who couldn’t keep her pudgy legs from moving to the beat.

I watch her help her two-year old sister “do gymnastics” in the backyard and clearly remember her curly little head jumping courageously from the stairs as an unusually coordinated toddler, demonstrating the fearlessness she still exhibits today.

I see these things happening as I rub my, now huge, belly and can’t help but think God knew what He was doing when he graced us with this new little guy – right when He did.

I’ll have a new tiny sidekick to rock and read “That’s not my Monkey” to, as my big girl starts to read books on her own.

I’ll experience the joy of watching wobbly legs take their first steps as I watch long, strong legs walk confidently across the balance beam at gymnastics.

I’ll have one more time of experiencing the all encompassing dependence on me, right as my first born needs me less and less.

With this almost-here-3rd baby, I’ll experience his firsts and know just how incredibly special and fleeting they are. Marveling in a way I didn’t know to with my first baby’s firsts, and didn’t have the time or energy to with my second baby’s firsts.

And as his little baby teeth start to pop through those pink gums, I’ll see a glimpse of the future as I look over at his big sister and see her first grown up tooth popping up at the same time.

I’ll see these things and feel my heart burst with pride and love and all the things a Mama heart feels as she watches her babies grow up before her eyes.

And I’ll squeeze that new little baby even harder, and hold him a little longer.

Because I know first hand how fast my babies lose that title of “baby” to everyone but me.

Becoming Mama to someone new – Can you ever actually be ready?

“Are you ready?”

They see my large, round belly and waddling gait at 37 weeks and ask.

I think about the logistical things they could be referring to and say, “Almost. We should probably buy a few more diapers. And pack the hospital bag.” Because this is the 3rd baby and eh, it’ll be fine.

“Are you ready?”

They see me loading my 2 little girls into our van and ask.

I think about adding another little to our crew and say, “We are excited! The girls are excited to have a little brother. I think they’ll be a big help. Just need to put the infant carseat in the car.”

“Are you ready?”

They hear me mention work and ask.

I think about the projects I’m passing off and the 12 weeks of unpaid time off I’m taking and say, “I’m ready to not work for a bit, but still can’t believe my company doesn’t have any paid time off.  Good thing I’ve got some time saved up!”

“Are you ready?”

They remember my previous 2 birth stories and ask.

I think about the birth course I’ve taken, the app I listen to every night, and the 300 page book I’ve read  in an attempt to calm my nerves and be as prepared as possible this time around and say, “Actually, I’m way more prepared for labor and birth than I was with the other two so I’m feeling hopeful!”

“Are you ready?”

I hear this question over and over now, and usually answer it with some half answer like the ones above.

Not quite sure what the asker means.

And not quite sure how to honestly answer.

Because this isn’t my first time buying diapers and pacifiers in anticipation of midnight changings and fussy cries.

It isn’t my first time anticipating the pain and frustration of breastfeeding during those early days/weeks/months wondering if I’m doing something wrong.

It isn’t my first time organizing tiny clothes, thinking there is no way a human could fit into anything so small, only to be surprised when it fits just right.

It isn’t my first time giving birth, or recovering from the huge physical, mental and emotional feat that is childbirth.

It isn’t my first time adjusting to an additional child, feeling torn between wanting to spend as much time with the first kid as before, but needing to tend to the new one instead.

I’ve done all these things. Most of them twice.

So you’d think, the answer to the question at hand would be an easier, “yes!”

And maybe for those things listed above, that’s true.

But…

“Are you ready?”

My mama heart knows.

It knows that those things above, while important and huge and sometimes overwhelming, are not the biggest adjustment of having a child.

Because it isn’t my first time.

Not my first time having my heart ripped from my chest to forever walk around outside my body, in the same surge of power and guttural cry that marks the end of a nine month oneness with another human being.

Not my first time feeling an instant love, almost terrifyingly powerful, mixed with slight panic as I gaze down and realize this tiny person snoozing in my arms is 100% reliant on me.

Not my first time rocking and praying in the wee hours of the night that I will be the best Mama possible to this little soul entrusted to me on this Earth.

Not my first time feeling comingled grief and pride as I watch my baby become a toddler and my toddler become a child, seemingly in an instant.

No, this isn’t my first time.

Not my first time becoming “Mama” to someone new.

And somehow, that makes me less sure of the answer to the question.

“Are you ready?

Because, my Mama heart knows.

There’s no way to actually be ready for the transformation that takes place in your heart, mind, and soul when a tiny person looks up at you for the first time –

As their Mama.

The pain and grief of Saturday amplified the Joy of Sunday

“But why is it called Good Friday? If he died? They didn’t know he was coming back, right?”

This is what my 5year old asked me this week as we were talking about the upcoming weekend and what the different days it included. I told her it was called “Good Friday” because the Sunday after was the day Jesus resurrected, so it was a good thing for us that he died. She still looked puzzled but went on and said, “Well, what is Saturday?”

I paused and thought about it. What was Saturday? Friday was full of terror and pain and injustice and weeping at the cross. Sunday was full of shock and joy and grace and incomprehensible happiness at the empty tomb and upper room. But Saturday?

I imagine Saturday was dark and heavy and full of grief. Creation itself dampened and dulled.

Mary, waking with a cry in the night with swollen eyes and a broken heart, the image of her precious baby boy crying out on the cross, forever seared into her mind.

Jesus’ disciples, feeling the weight of their dear friend’s absence as they opened their eyes and shamefully remembered their scattering of the day before – feeling lost and alone without their Shepherd.

The women, gathering to cry and make logistical preparations to pay Jesus’ body respect the next day.

Jairus, and his very much alive daughter that Jesus had reached down into death to pull back into life– eating breakfast quietly together as tears silently slid down their faces.

The leper, surrounded by family and friends, because Jesus had crossed religious and cultural barriers to touch and heal him– weeping openly that his healer had been crucified.

The old lady who had been brave and full of faith to reach out her hand and touch Jesus’ cloak – given extra years of life – sitting in her house, staring out the window, unconsciously caressing her wrinkled cheek with her fingers, remembering the feel of the material and the piercing gaze of eyes blazing with love and compassion.

And the tomb. Full. Full of Jesus’ body while he experienced utter separation from his Father as he spent the day buried beneath the weight of human kind’s sin and sadness – cut off from Love.

Cut off from Love because of his great love – for us.

As we go about our Saturday sandwiched between somber Good Friday services and bright Easter Sunday services – let us not rush past the grief of Saturday.

And as we go about our lives, sandwiched between our births onto this Earth and the bright joyful Eternity – let us not rush past the grief and pain and other feelings that come from living this human life.

Because there is room, in this ultimate story of hope, for grief. In fact, deep sorrowful grief is built into this very story of hopeful joy.

So, there is room in our stories for it as well. In fact, our stories of grace and hope and joy have grief and sadness and disappointment built into them as well. It is what it means to be human.

We are not meant to sweep our feelings aside, much like Children’s Bible books sweep past Sad Saturday, just because “this is not our home.” Jesus makes it so very clear in his life, and in his death, that when bad things happen in this fleeting life? It is ok and healthy to feel them and be sad. Jesus WEPT when his friend Lazarus died, even though he, himself was about to raise him from the dead! And God could have resurrected Jesus 5 minutes after he died and took the weight of our sins. But he didn’t. He let Saturday happen.

You see. Saturday’s deep pain and grief? It did not cheapen the joy of the resurrection on Sunday. Absolutely, not.

In fact, the grief of Saturday amplified the joy of Sunday’s resurrection.

Just as the moments of suffering and grief in this human life we’ve been granted will amplify the joy of the Eternal Sunday we’ve been promised.

So yes. Sunday is coming. But remember – Saturday happened too.

If We Watch Our Kids, We Might Just Learn How to Make Friends

Several months ago, my (then) 4yr old made an announcement.

She was clad in one of her masterpieces of an outfit consisting of a bright green shirt with trees and little stick figure kids on the front paired with floral shorts. To top it off was a bright, multi-colored cloth headband situated atop her tangled curls in a fashion recognizable by Woodstock goers.

Right there in the Panda Express drive thru line, she propped her feet up on the back of my husband’s driver seat from her car-seat and declared,
“I made 3 new friends today. You know how you make friends? Play. And then one heart beats into another heart and then you’re friends.”

There we were in our Rav4, the smell of fried rice wafting through open windows, waiting on our orange chicken and chow mein. We had just picked up our two daughters from their second day back at daycare. They had been home for a 12-week pandemic induced quarantine where my husband and I both worked full time from home and attempted to keep our 2 and 4yr olds semi-occupied. Many of our daughters’ little pals hadn’t come back to daycare though. I cringe at the idea of going to social events where there are more than just my few close friends. So, thinking about our littles having to make new friends during a global pandemic instilled in me concern for what state their little hearts would be in when I buckled them back into their car seats.

“Oh yea? The hearts just beat into each other, huh? And then you are friends?” I asked, trying to mirror her casual tone.
“Well, no. You have to play first, Mama.”

I flicked my eyes, now the size of half dollars instead of their usual almond shape, over to my husband whose eyebrows had inched a little further towards his hair-line as he smiled a proud-dad-smile if I ever saw one. I turned, seat belt straining at my chest, and looked at this little girl of mine whose spirit drives her to dance with the same abandon of King David in the streets, yet had dropped an elegant and poignant truth bomb while waiting for take-out. I saw those bright brown eyes just looking out the window. Her lips playing catch with a shadow of a smile as she watched the red and black drive thru menu roll slowly out of sight behind us.

My 4-year old just described empathy and relational fundamentals. In a way that my graduate degree in counseling couldn’t touch, yet her thoughts were already on to those noodles she’d be eating for dinner.

Kids though. Gifted with the ability to compress the jumbled grains of sandy life into shards of truth, crystal clear and razor sharp. My daughter understood the secret of making, and keeping, friends in a simplistic way. She understood it and presented it as a truth that just… is.

If you want to make friends, you must play with other people.

Kids use play to interact with their environment and each other, it’s their form of communicating and learning. Learning how to build towers, sure, but also how they learn about each other. How they learn if their friend likes to run and jump or sit and pick flowers. How they learn who is sad when dropped off and who is sad when picked up. How they learn if their friend needs a high five for achieving something great, or a pat on the arm while they sit on the curb in silence after a fall. Playing is communication. It’s how they learn and act out empathy.

It’s how their “heart beats into another heart”.

Adults though. We don’t see strangers and invite them over for some Lego building or Frozen Castle play. Perhaps this is why we have a hard time remembering the simple yet elusive art of getting to know each other. Perhaps this is why my 60-credit hour graduate counseling program had whole classes dedicated to teaching us the importance of learning and acting out empathy. At some point, we’ve forgotten.

We need to remember how to play. Adult play involves engaging with people and learning about them; not just their political leanings or what football team is their favorite, but diving deeper into potentially awkward conversations and uncomfortable silences to discover joys and fears. Hopes and hurts. This means actively listening, without an agenda or need to flap our lips. We need to learn when to sit in silence, holding sacred space for pain, and when to shout with joy in celebration of each other’s victories. Being vulnerable with each other the way kids are naturally, before the building of walls and hardening of defenses.

We aren’t meant to do life alone. The hardwired need for connection is biological, emotional, and spiritual – my (now) 5 year old feels it. She feels her heart calling to other hearts like a beacon in a search and rescue mission, and she knows what to do. Now, more than ever, we need to dig deep and live with childlike abandon, allowing our hearts to call to one another. Allow them to call, and answer others’ call with empathy and intentionality.

We need to find those people whose hearts will beat into ours and call us friends.

The new baby is coming soon…

This doesn’t happen much anymore.

My two and a half year old fell asleep in the car and continued to sleep as I brought her inside. She typically wakes up as soon as the car stops, but after no nap and a long afternoon at the park, she was wiped. I debated waking her up as soon as I walked in the door but I looked at her perfect cheeks and realized- the new baby is coming soon.

I sat on the couch, draped a blanket over both of us and studied the symmetry of her face. The face that still has chubby cheeks to smooch, but is transfiguring from baby to child more and more each day. I stared and stared as my hubby and five year old wrestled on the floor, amazed that she had reverted to her infant-like ability to sleep through the chaos. I traced her nose and said out loud, “I should wake her up now,” but didn’t move because- the new baby is coming soon.

This little girl snoozing in my lap, who has been the baby for two and a half years? She relishes that baby position. She adores babies but also calls herself “a big girl baby” and asks to be carried in our arms like a baby when getting out of the bath. That little lady will be dethroned in a single day, not knowing what hit her as her new baby brother is born and brought home. She’s got four short months left as the baby. So I postponed dinner another twenty minutes and snuggled her close, after all – the new baby is coming soon.

As I watched her chest rise and fall the same way I did when she was just days old, I smiled to myself. I can pretend that extra twenty minutes of impromptu snuggling was a gift from God to this soon to be middle child, but I know better. This Mama heart knows it better than any; I was the one who needed my baby to sleep in my arms one more time for I know the full meaning of the phrase on repeat in my head- “the new baby is coming soon.”

My heart will always be your home, little one.

I feel you in there, little one.

Gentle, but there all the same.

A jolt here, a tickle there – reminding me of your miraculous presence inside my body.

Soon, your daddy will be able to feel your kicks with his hand and your sisters will squeal as they see my belly rumble and rise.

But for now, you and your life-proving acrobatics are all mine.

I see you there, little one.

Just a little bump, but there all the same.

Trusty jeans not fitting, favorite shirts stretching out – my slowly expanding body evidence of your own rapid growth.

Soon, strangers will ask to feel my obviously pregnant belly, flowy shirts no longer obscuring the life within.

But for now, my subtly rounded tummy is mine to wonder over and relish in.

I imagine you in there, little one.

Your tiny facial features hidden from the world, but there all the same.

Will your eyes be expressive and kind like your sister’s? Will you have your daddy’s smile?

Soon, your face will be ooh’d and ahh’d over by family and strangers alike, the focus of much adoration.

But for now, the details of you are known by my imagination alone.

My heart beats for you all the while, little one.

From the moment I saw the tiny “+” indicating your presence, you’ve been a part of me.

My heart pumping blood through our bodies, keeping us connected and alive.

My Mama soul whispering to yours in the confines of our hearts and wee hours of the night.

We have a special bond, you and me.

So, while I will rejoice when you are here in my arms and I get to share you with the world, I am cherishing these months where you are mine and mine alone. 

I pray you feel my love, little one.

Gentle and strong, there all the while.

For now, while my body is your home.

But also for always, because as long as it’s beating-

My heart will be your home, my sweet little one.

I get it now, Mama.

I get it now, Mama.

The sad face you wrote on your menu plan for the day we all left.

The day your kids got back in their cars and drove further and further from you to their homes they no longer share with you or each other.

I get it now, Mama.

When your oldest asked if you wrote that sad face and you answered with a shy little smile, “I didn’t think anyone would see it.”

The little sad face meant just for you and your Mama heart.

I get it now, Mama.

Your excited welcome at the familiar front door as we all piled in after days in the car and months apart.

The toy boxes ready and sheets all laid out.

I get it now, Mama.

Your lack of complaint as the babies woke the house in the middle of the night.

Your willingness to rise early with excited wee ones so your daughter could rest.

I get it now, Mama.

The trips to the park and the favorite foods.

Your fridge stocked as full as the rooms in the house.

I get it now, Mama.

I get why you wrote that little sad face at the end of the trip.

Your babies were all home. Under your roof once again – laughing and joking like days long gone.

And then they all left.

Now that I have babes of my own- I get it now, Mama.

The sadness that must still bring – to see your babies buckle their babies in car seats and drive far far away.

I get it now, Mama.

And some day, if my babies are grown and live 1,000 miles away, I know I will prep and plan for their visit to make it the best of the year.

Then when they all leave, I’ll write a little sad face as my heart twinges inside no matter how proud I am of the lives they all lead.

Because once you’re a Mama, your heart is no longer your own. A piece goes with each baby no matter how far they go.

So, I get it now, Mama.

The little sad face.

But don’t worry, Mama.

I’ll always come back. To your house that was my home.

Because that piece of your heart that lives within mine?

It’s a tether of souls that continues to grow. And as I get older and my own babies grow, my understanding of your love for me as my Mama deepens and expands.

I get it now, Mama.

The love so great and so pure it makes you write a little sad face when your babies are all gone.

Oh Mama, I get it now.

A prayer for my kids on Election Day 2020.

Jesus,

Please help me to teach my children, and lead by example, the way of Love. Your Way.

Let me raise them to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
Let me raise them to welcome the stranger and visit the prisoner.
Let me raise them to tend to the sick and give drink to the thirsty.

Jesus, please.

Let me raise them to love their neighbor as themselves and let them understand the vastness and inclusivity of the word ‘neighbor.’
Let me raise them to take care of the widow and the orphan.
Let me raise them to strive for peace and humility while giving a voice to the powerless.
Let me raise them to know that the Kingdom is greater than one country.

Jesus, please.

Help me to show them how to use their words to instill hope and healing, not division and hate.
Help me to show them how to love their enemies and recognize that all are your image bearers.
Help me to show them that faith apart from works is barren.

Jesus, please.

Show me how to raise lights in this darkness.
For this world has been, and will continue to be, dark in the hours, days, weeks, months and years to come – no matter the outcome of this election.

Please, Jesus.

Help me be the kind of Mama that points her children to you and your ways with my words and actions.

Today, and every day.

Amen.

Mamas. If we profess to love Jesus with our lips, let us remember to act like Him as well. Especially when/if the election does not go the way we voted.

Let us remember that God chose to send his son – the King of Kings and Lord of all Lords, as a helpless baby, who grew up to be a humble man, not living in a White House, but who traveled around with nowhere to call his home, spreading love and the good news of salvation to everyone.

Let’s be careful to remember that we are members of a Kingdom not bound by this Earth first, and citizens of this country second.

Please, exercise your right to vote. It is a privilege many do not have. But please, please. Let us remember our calling and mission – to love God and love His people… all of His people… all of the time.

Little eyes are watching us and it’s our job to show them how.

Let’s be the rain this world so desperately needs.

Rain.

It cleanses and renews.

Bringing life back to dry and cracked ground.

Washing away decay and brightening the Earth.

Oh God does this land need rain right now.

We need cleansing rain to bring life back to this ground cracked with hate.

We need washing rain to pour down on humanity and revive decaying and hardened hearts.

Oh God do we need rain right now.

But, the rain isn’t going to come in a flood like the days of Noah.

The rain isn’t going to come in a downpour of holy water to change hearts and minds.

No. No. No.

The rain we need – and the rain that will start to heal?

That rain has got to come from us.

We, who have been tasked with fighting for “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

We, who claim to want to walk in the way of the man who was the ultimate champion of the oppressed and beaten.

We, who have been given grace upon grace from He who was without fault and still slain.

So yes, pray and pray and pray. We serve a mighty miracle worker.

But also – do and do and do.

Love and love and love.

Because guys- He’s not going to flood the Earth again with water.

He’s already filled each of us, who have asked for and received the forgiveness we do not deserve, with the Living Water needed to be the cleansing rain.

It’s up to us to start raining down – raining down empathy – raining down hope – raining down cries for justice – raining down fights for the oppressed- raining down generosity…

It’s up to us to start raining down radical, transformative love.

Because Jesus? He was, and is, radical and transformative.

And He is Love.

The Earth is His

Have you ever walked outside and felt your body relax in an involuntary sigh? Like something in the essence of your soul was reunited with a missing part?

Me too.

I have been privileged to have had the outdoors be a huge part of my life. I grew up in San Diego, California and relished the feel of the sun upon my skin pretty much year-round. We took annual trips to Colorado and would spend parts of the summer backpacking in the Rockies. Hiking in the pristine woods and sleeping in tents nestled in valleys at the base of mountains. In college, I spent a semester “abroad” in the Sierra Nevadas where part of our curriculum was to spend a week backpacking with friends; hiking miles and miles a day then sleeping out under the stars and swimming in crystal lakes. The rest of the semester was spent kayaking at midnight and studying the classics outside with the meadow as a classroom. My husband and I spent the first year of our marriage teaching English in China, which allowed us to explore the great outdoors in a different country. Floating down rivers accompanied by water buffalo and sleeping in huts with lizards as bunk mates. Grand explorations of the great outdoors.

However, now that I’ve lived in South Texas for almost 6 years, and have two littles of my own, we don’t go on grand adventures much anymore. We’ve tried to make it a habit to go on walks and hikes in nature (yes! There is some in South Texas!) since we’ve moved here, but I won’t lie, it takes a lot of effort. More effort than it ever did growing up, being in college, or being newlyweds without a care in the world.

Since mid-March, that has changed a bit. My husband and I both started working from home and the girls stopped going to daycare. We’ve stopped having other commitments and started having less places to go. We’ve started going on walks around our neighborhood every-day after our work day ends and have stopped spending hours on commutes/drop-off/pick-up routines. We’ve gotten out the water toys and beach towels and have started having to de-clutter the backyard at night. We’ve made Saturdays a day for hiking to the local hidden gem of a lake along the city greenway. Arms are tanning and hair is lightening.

And ya know? So are spirits and attitudes. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of screen time and whining and throwing of snacks to small children to stop said whining while conference calls have to happen for work. We’ve had bad days and stressful days and hard days and mad days because that’s life right now.

But we have been spending more time outside, and it is without a doubt, good for all of us.

Last week, after a particularly enthusiastic water fight in the backyard after work, the girls had gone to bed and my husband looked at me and said, “You’re in a really good mood. It was being outside, wasn’t it?” I guess after almost 8 years of marriage, he knows me pretty well.

“Yup.” I said, “I love the sun.”

It’s true too. Growing up, I used to go outside and just lay on our sidewalk in the sun. In college, when I had a sort of freak out and called home crying one day, my mom (also a sun lover) told me to “go outside in the sun for awhile.” And it worked. I have journal entries from my semester in England (where the sun did not shine practically the whole time I was there) that say, “the sun came out today. It was a good day.”

The sun. Being outside. It energizes me. I know the sun saps some people of energy, but for me, it gives me energy. Some of my best and most profound memories and moments have happened outside, either in the sun, or under the stars. Because for me, being outside… it’s life giving.

Vitamin D is good for humans. Fresh air is good for humans. We know this. You’ve heard it during this COVID-19 crisis – spend time outdoors while you are quarantined. We have all heard that being outside is good for us at some point in our lives. We have all probably encouraged someone else to go outside because we know it is good for the mind, body, and soul.

But I personally think it is more than just Vitamin D releasing neurotransmitters in our brain.

Nature, God’s first creation – is in a constant state of worship. God is the ultimate Creator, and His creation of the Earth was not a one-time event that happened and is now over. No, He continues to create – trees continue to grow, creatures continue to multiply, waters continue to writhe – all because of Him.

So is it any wonder that standing in the midst of creation; standing in the midst of all the trees of the fields clapping their hands, we should feel awe and a sense of peace?

When we go out into nature, we are standing in the masterpiece of our Maker.

We are standing in the middle of life being breathed into the Earth.

When we go and spend time in that sacred space, we are spending time with He who created, is presently creating, and will continue to create long after we are gone.

As we continue in this time where sickness is spreading and our contact with other humans is necessarily limited, let us not forget that we still have access to the active, and very much alive, creation by the hands of our Lord.

Let us not forget that no matter what, this Earth is His.

“The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1