In the darkness of the storm, He is the light

Yesterday, I was driving home from a work trip in a little town in South Texas. It was only a two hour drive and I had planned to spend those kid free hours listening to my Harry Potter audiobook for the umpteenth time and letting my brain zone out blissfully, because I’m an Enneagram 9 and that’s what we do best. Especially after an emotionally charged day of Suicide Prevention training.

As I started driving out of the town and I turned onto the farm road that took me through fields of cattle and hay bails, I turned off The Goblet of Fire and just gazed out the window thinking about the sereneness of the scenery before me. I’m a city girl from California who has lived in Texas for about five years, but is still fascinated with the countryside. As I was looking out the window, trying to take pictures without looking at my phone, I noticed the storm clouds on the horizon. I could see lightning flashing in the dark section that started to fill the right half of my windshield and marveled at the contrast between the clear, bright blue sky to the left and the dark, looming sky to the right.

By this time, I had turned my music on instead of my book and was listening to Phil Wickham sing soothingly, “the brightness of your glory has arrived,” as I drove knowingly, head-first into the storm that had now taken over the sky in front of me. The rain poured down during, “a deep deep flood, an ocean flows from you – a deep deep love, yea it’s filling up the room,” and I couldn’t help but smile as I sensed something stirring within me.

The road got hard to see before me. Windshield wipers frantically beating the rain back just enough that I could see a few feet of road. Rain pounded loudly, making it hard to hear the music.

Usually, I get nervous driving in this kind of rain. This kind of rain that forms fast puddles on the road. This kind of rain that brings loud thunder and flashes of lightning somewhere close by. This kind of rain that makes going forward difficult. This kind of rain that obscures the road ahead.

This dark kind of rain.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I felt peace.
I felt joy.
I felt love and reassurance.
I felt the lyrics of the song being played for my soul to sing along.
“The fullness of your grace is here with me.”
My soul felt it there in that rain. My mind felt it there in that darkness.

I drove through that storm in peace and awe of His creation.
I drove through that storm knowing that no matter how long it lasted, His presence was all I needed.
I drove through that storm and after about fifteen minutes, the rain began to lessen and stop.

The road before me was suddenly dry again and the sky was clear and blue.
I’d literally driven through the storm from one end to the other.
The contrast in the sky was once again stark.

To my left and behind me, the sky was dark and tumultuous while the way ahead was clear and bright. I kept trying to crane my neck to take in the sight through the rearview mirror, and the occasional look behind, out the back windows because my San Diegan native eyes couldn’t get enough of the weather torn stratosphere.

My music at this point had progressed to another Phil song, a favorite of mine, that just reinforced my feeling that maybe God was trying to tell me something.

Or maybe….show me something.

The song playing now was saying, “I look up to the sky and say, you’re beautiful.” Which is, of course, where my eyes had been drawn this whole drive; before, during, and now, after the storm. I kept telling myself to just pull over for a minute to take a picture of the contrast I couldn’t stop trying to view, and I kept not doing it. Finally, I saw a little ranch driveway and I pulled off onto it. I stuck my head out the window and when I turned back to look at the sky, my insides jumped a little.

I was expecting beauty and vastness.
I was expecting dark clouds bruising the bright crisp face of the heavens.
I was expecting the contrast of the storm and the clear.

But I wasn’t expecting the bright colorful rainbow shining in the middle of that juxtaposition.
I wasn’t expecting such a visible reminder of God’s promise.

And when I saw it, that feeling of peace and of joy and of love and of reassurance I felt during the storm intensified.
I don’t have these moments often. I don’t have the, “I feel God” experiences daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. I have faith in, and knowledge of, our God and His great love, but the “feeling” that people talk about, not much.

But yesterday.

Yesterday, on that country road, I did. The song sang, “The richness of, your beauty’s all I see” -and it was. As I looked back at that rainbow, and at the sky, so evident of His beauty and might, I felt Him there with me. I took some pictures, grinning to myself on the side of that poorly paved road in the middle of south Texas, and pulled back onto the deserted lane headed home. And since I don’t have these feelings often, when I had a sudden thought pop into my head of, “That rainbow was for me,” I laughed at my ego-centricism. But when I looked back in the rearview mirror, that bright rainbow I saw just a few minutes before was already faded, barely visible.

I’m sure there is some scientific explanation that includes angles and light prisms to explain my brief view, but I think it was what I needed just then. And I think maybe God knew that and used His creation of science paired with his physical, earthly creation of the sky to show me something.

Maybe to remind me that, in the midst of the darkness of this world;
In the midst of all the pain and suffering;
in the midst of the hurt and brokenness – that I see in my friends, that I see in my community, that I see in the world.
In the midst of all that storminess, He is here.

I think that maybe He knew I needed that reminder as I drove home from another suicide prevention workshop held during suicide prevention month, a day after 9-11, during a week full of hurting friends and sadness on the TV.

I think He knew that this logical, sometimes cynical, girl needed to literally drive through a storm, turn around to face the darkness, and see His promise shining brightly back at her in the storm thrashed sky.

I think He knew.

And I’m grateful.

I’m grateful because sometimes the road gets hard to see in front of you.
And the rain beats down so It’s hard to hear the hope singing to you from the speakers in your life.
And the darkness surrounds you.
But I was reminded today that He is there in the darkness.
His promise remains in the darkness, even if we can’t see it.

Not that storms won’t come – because they will.
Not that the road will always be clear – because it won’t be.
Not that the rain will stop, because it may not.
But His promise remains.
His promise that He is still there in the storm.
He is still there in the darkness.
He is still here.

He is here with me.
He is here with you.
He is here with us.

He is here.
He is here.
He is here.

Hallelujah, He is here.

The House on the Cul-de-sac

I’m on my way back to Texas from a long weekend spent visiting my family in California. We are pretty lucky because my parents and one of my sisters and her family still live in sunny San Diego, where I grew up, so our trips consist of beach days and carne asada fries. After hours of sun, boogie boarding and sand castle building we pile into the 3 cars it now takes to transport eight adults and 3 kiddos, and make our way back over the bridge to my parents’ house.

Once back, we may scarf our fries or California burritos in shifts while people shower off the remnants of a day well spent. After sending all the sand down the drains, a board game may be played- or at least started as kids (and some adults) go down for naps and Cokes are brought in from the never ending supply kept in the garage.

Later, the grill is fired up in the backyard and dinner is had over laughter, babies being babies (i.e. puking and screaming), water glasses being spilled, and reminiscing over silly home videos and terrible roles in community plays.
Later in the evening, after littles have read copious amounts of Disney books by various adults, a game of adult sardines may ensue. Eight grown adults hiding and finding amidst giggles and chortles and the occasional groans of pain from not quite being able to fit under the table anymore.

The night ends in bowls of ice cream and one more board game that comes with more laughter before we traipse off to bed, trying not to wake the sleeping beauties scattered upstairs.

Beach, good food, games and family.

These things in and of themselves are enjoyable for sure, but this last trip I realized the uniqueness I have in getting to make these memories with my kids in the same house in which I grew up making very similar memories.

I watched my almost four year old pull toys out of the same toy box I pulled toys from as a kid.

I watched my one year old rock with her Papa Joe in the blue armchair that I remember being rocked in.

I saw my nephew do his wiggle worm crawl towards the couch I flopped down onto hundreds of times.

I laughed as my daughter pointed at pictures of me as a baby on the wall and asked if it was her little sister.

I bathed my girls, watching the sand fall off of them in clumps, in the same bathtub that I have vivid memories of me watching the buckets of sand swirl around after an especially satisfying beach day as a kid.

I saw them scampering in the same backyard, that may not have a swing set anymore but is the same that my sisters and I spent hours in, swinging and as we grew, doing homework at the patio table.

I get to eat pizza with my girls from the same little restaurant down the street that was a staple Friday night meal.

I get to walk them down the street to the playground that we used to ride our bike to back when it was just a dirt field.

I saw my girl find the bookshelves full of Disney books and watched her face light up as she pulled them all off and brought them to Nana and Papa Joe to read to her.

I got to see their faces light up as they read, probably with the same inflections, the same pages in the same chair to their granddaughter that they did with their own daughters years ago.

And I got to tuck my sweet first born into the same room, the same bed, that was mine growing up. The paint on the walls is no longer yellow with brown/maroon sponge splotches, and the bed doesn’t have the same yellow bedspread – but it’s the same room. It still has the weather proofing strip at the bottom of the door because I liked to sleep with my window open but the outside air gave my mom allergies at night. The bed is the same trundle bed that came in handy for sleepovers but was wicked to your shins if you tripped into it. My little girl was curled up on that bed, with my “big dog” stuffed animal that was my constant companion until I left for college.

The room looked different, but it feels the same.

And I guess that’s why when I walk in the front door of my parents’ house, even though the carpet has been replaced, and the paint on the walls has changed, it feels the same as it always has.

It feels like comfort and fun and love. It feels like a place you want your family to spend time in because you know of the good times that have been had in this space. It isn’t about the physical objects inside the house, it’s about the space the house held for our family growing up, and is now holding for our family as it grows into many families.

It’s why I feel my insides sigh as I walk through the door and why it gives me joy to see my kids experience the same joy of “Nana and Papa Joe’s house.”

That house on the cul-de-sac taught me what a “home” should feel like and I am doing my best to make my home in Texas have the same feeling. The feeling that will make my kids want to come home when they are grown. One that they will want to bring their kids to. One they will want to tuck their kids into and feel a twinge of sadness every time they leave.

I want my kids to experience “home” the way my parents made sure my sisters and I did in that house on the cul-de-sac.

Being #mama to my Girly Wild Child

When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to have a girl. I have never been girly and was sure I wouldn’t know how to be a “girl mom.” I envisioned pink bows and glitter strewn about the house. I pictured prim lace and gracefully crossed legs. I dreaded day long tea parties and whining about dirt. I thought of princesses and unicorns and mourned neglected dinosaurs and trucks. The list went on. And because I had all these thoughts, I knew in my deepest heart that I was for sure going to end up with all girls. Ridiculous, I know. I logically understood that there was a 50/50 shot, but I knew I would have girls.

Sure enough, that gender revealing ultrasound confirmed my fears- we were having a little girl. Now, those fears almost instantly dissipated once we heard, “It’s a girl!” because let’s be real, I was already in love with that little girl. But I was still a bit apprehensive. I saw the #girlmom attached to all the sweet, pink posts and the #boymom attached to all the high energy, adventurous posts and wondered how I was going to make it. I told myself over and over that I would be ok- I knew how to braid hair and was prepared to let my little girl be whatever version of “girl” she wanted to be- even if that meant tea parties in princess dresses all day long.

That was 4 years ago. And I wish I could tell that pregnant mama that she had nothing to worry about. I wish I could tell her how incredibly cool her girls – yes, plural – would be. I wish I could tell her that in four years, she would look around her house and see pink bows on the counter and glittery sequences stuck to the floor that had fallen off of a cheap Ariel dress-up costume — and she would love it. I wish I could tell her that along with the pink bows, she sees helicopter toys in the toy box and dinosaur stuffed animals on the couch. I wish I could tell her that the 3.5 year old practically lives in princess dresses and tutus, but wears them while running full speed everywhere, daring the world to tell her to slow down. I wish I could tell her that tooting and burping and an obsession with the word “booty” were all in her future despite the lack of sons. I wish I could tell her that the words “calm” and “prim” would never be used in the same sentence as her first-born’s name. I wish I could tell her that the daycare teachers would comment on the mixture of leadership and empathy they saw in that ringlet-headed little girl. I wish I could tell her to hang on tight because that Mama had no idea what was coming in the form of that 9lb 11ozs of pure baby girl.

I think back to that time and chuckle at the stereotypes I was worried about, even though I didn’t fit them myself as a kid. I chuckle because many of them are half true in our household, and it is so much fun. I also chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times people tell me once they know I have two girls (3.5 and 1), “Aw, two girls! Girls are so much calmer and sweeter than boys.” Or even, “Girls are a lot easier than boys.” And maybe those assumptions would withstand a wide reaching, randomized research study, but it doesn’t hold true in our house. It doesn’t apply to my 110% energy filled, adventure seeking, dirt loving, snail collecting, sister hauling, FIESTY little girl.

I proudly wear the label #girlmom, but I know from experience what an all-encompassing title that really is. I smile when I see #girlmom on the tea party posts, because my little girl does love herself a tea party. But I also smile when I see the #boymom posts about finding toy cars in the dryer or bugs in pockets, because to me, that also falls under my #girlmom status. And I think that is so so cool. I think my precious girls are so so cool. And mostly, I think it is so so cool that God made them exactly unique, and exactly in His image.How fun that the Creator of all things thought to give me, tom-boy turned #girlmom, a blond, curly headed little girl who loves to wear her batman jacket with built in mask over her pink tutu on ballet day.

How fun that He knew I would be the best #girlmom to that boisterous little human who puts snails in the pockets of her dress then stands up and straightens the tiara perched upon her head.

Whenever I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of raising a “girly wild child,” I think about this and it gives me confidence and strength. Confidence to be the #girlmom that our Creator created me to be for these specifically unique little girls.

I hope it gives you confidence too, fellow Mama. Because whether you are a #girlmom, #boymom or #momofboth, your children just know you as #MAMA. And that is so so cool.

Composing a Childhood Soundtrack of Love

As I sit here drinking my late night decaf coffee, munching warm delivered cookies that I definitely sent to myself as a treat while my husband is out of town on a work trip- I’m listening to James Taylor playing softly through the house as my girls sleep.  I told Alexa to, “play James Taylor” and she obligingly replied, “shuffling James Taylor on Amazon Music” and has proceeded to play song after song of the calming music that has been somewhat of a soundtrack to my life.   

I sing along, with nostalgia and a conditioned feeling of safety and joy welling deep inside, to “Copperline”, chuckling to myself when I hear James say, “one time I saw my Daddy dancing, was a moving like a man in a trance,” because I’ve been told countless times that my daddy would twirl me around the room as a baby/toddler, no doubt in his infamously hilarious bodily movement that I guess we can call dancing, to Copperline. Holding me close and making me giggle with glee, earning my childhood nickname of “Chuckles cheeks.”   I hear the intro to “Down in a Hole,” and am transported back to the childhood days of top bunk slumbering when I got to pick the music my sister and I listened to at night to fall asleep, knowing it was song number 2 on my favorite CD, of which I was usually asleep by the end of song number 3 or 4.  I unconsciously freeze every time James’ soothing voice mentions the frozen man that, now that I think about it as an adult, is a bit creepy and terrifying- reminiscent of my sisters and I making exaggerated freezing movements in the back of our trusty minivan as we drove from San Diego to Denver biannually.  My heart swells and eyes tingle as I hear the promise my Dad and I danced to at my wedding that has since become the lullaby I’ve sang countless times to both my baby girls,

“Well the sun is surely sinking down, 
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you.”

These songs are ones that I put on CDs I’ve made throughout the years for roadtrips with college friends, the CD I made and listened to every single day for 6months of my first pregnancy just in case I really could influence my unborn baby’s taste in music (it didn’t work…there were no Moana songs or Veggie Tales on that CD and yet, what does she want to listen to over and over??), my wedding playlist, Pandora Station at work, and I’ve rotated between the songs when singing softly to my babes as I’ve rocked them countless hours.  If you are familiar with James Taylor’s music, you might be thinking of some of his lyrics wondering what exactly I am whispering to my children at night (I don’t sing the Traffic Jam song, don’t worry) but it’s not really about the lyrics (although I am definitely learning to appreciate his actual lyrics and meanings/stories behind them now).  

Every song, it seems, is paired with a memory or feeling of warmth that goes beyond James Taylor’s obvious talent as one of the best. I think I would be sitting here in the kitchen listening to Led Zeppelin songs while gobbling cookies if my Dad had played those songs on his guitar instead of “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve got a Friend” when I was a kid.  Or possibly Cyndi Lauper would have been my road trip companion had my mom popped her CD in while we drove to swimming lessons in the summer and library trips year-round.  Music has always worked like a real life Pensieve for me (and actually there is real science that links music to memory because the brain is so cool).   I hear a song and get sucked back to the feeling or place in time I heard it.  

James Taylor’s music reaches out its melodious chords and tenderly wraps them around my heart, floating me back along the melody to my childhood.  My childhood that was filled with security and fun and acceptance.  My childhood that was not just filled, but overflowing, with love. I know I am fortunate. I have always known how fortunate I am to have the parents I have, who gave me the childhood I had, and continue to be an ever-present source of support and love in adulthood. These types of parents are rare, and I know this.  And I think the reason I sit in my rocker and sing about a cowboy who, “thinks about women and glasses of beer” to, “rockaby my sweet baby May,” is because I want so bad to make sure my girls grow up and know by just hearing that first strum of a guitar, that they are oh.so.loved.

I hope and pray and work and strive to create a childhood filled with living room dance parties with my husband twirling one girl, and I the other; a childhood filled with 1000 “I love you”s a day; a childhood filled with tickle fights and lazy Saturdays exploring nature with each other; a childhood filled with car ride talks and adventures; a childhood filled with Bible Stories and Story Stories before bed; a childhood filled with learning to care for others; a childhood filled with messy, real playing; a childhood filled with the musical notes and cadences of a love so deep it cannot be forgotten no matter the years or miles.  A childhood that allows for my sweet little girls to mature into strong, confident young ladies in adulthood who sit at their kitchen table, listening to James Taylor, indulging in a treat and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that the lyrics they hear that calm voice singing,  

“You just call out my name
And, you know, wherever I am
I'll come running,”

might as well be coming out of their Dada and Mama’s mouths because they know they are so very much loved- now and for always.

A childhood that has been composed to the soundtrack of love.

You Can Close Your Eyes

Well
the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
And this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
Well
it won't be long before another day
We're gonna have a good time
And no one's gonna take that time away
You can stay as long as you like
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
  • – James Taylor

Restful Chaos

The past three and a half years have been one long busy season. Busy as in: working full time with one baby, then adding full time graduate school, then hubby getting a second job, then getting pregnant with baby #2, then buying and remodeling a house/living with friends until a couple weeks before baby 2 was due, then having baby 2 and continuing with full time graduate school and work (while nursing and pumping this past year), while being Life Group leaders and Sunday school teachers at our church for 2 of those years. There was little sleep, lots of mac n cheese, and many moments of pure exhaustion.

When I was about 6 months pregnant with baby girl 2, our oldest was 2 and we were in the middle of our house reno/living with gracious friends phase, there was a 2 week period that the exhaustion was at it’s peak. At the beginning of one week, we were at the ER with our 2 year old, and in the middle of the next week we were back at the ER in the middle of the night for my husband. I remember getting home with him, taking a quick shower, getting dressed, taking our daughter to daycare, working from home while watching over the hubby, picking our daughter up, dropping her off with a friend to watch her while I was in class that night, and stopping by Starbucks for some much needed caffeine on the way to school where I would be seeing counseling clients that night. I sat outside on the bench in the Texas February sunshine with my iced coffee thinking, “This is crazy. I can’t function like this much longer.” I opened my Bible App, and looked at the plan I had started maybe 2 days before- called “Finding Balance in Life.” It was a plan that utilized an app called “Abide” (which I fully recommend!) where there was a meditative like devotional that you listen to. I sat there in the sun (which in and of itself is one of my self-care mechanisms) and listened to the trained-to-be-soothing voice of a man saying, “Are you tired? When Jesus asks us this it makes us stop and think. Are YOU tired? Do you wake up tired?” I chuckled to myself as the perfectness of the timing of this particular daily devotional was not lost on me. The voice proceeded to repeat Matthew 11:28-29- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

It was read in different versions, and when it read the Message version (which is usually not my fav), it translated the verse like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” And that was what I needed. I didn’t need a vacation away from my busy life, or even for the busyness to end or slow down. I needed to go to the One who could give me rest in the midst of the worldly busyness that this season came with. And you know what? After that quick twenty minutes in the sun (which I 100% believe is of the ways I enter into the presence of God- enjoying and marveling at His creation), with fresh caffeine flowing through my body and the promise of rest that goes beyond 8 straight hours of sleep (what even is that?) – I did feel refreshed. Refreshed by the grace and strength of a God who loves his children. I was able to walk into my counseling sessions ready to pour into my clients with the mental energy, empathy and attention that I did not have an hour previously.

I wish I could say that throughout the next year and a half until I graduated this past month, I faithfully abided in the One who could give me the rest I so desperately craved – during midnight feedings with a baby who, despite all efforts to sleep train with allll the different methods, still wakes up at a few days from being a year old; or after a day of 8 clients back to back; or during the late nights of studying for my licensing exam that started after the girls went to bed; or during the monthly trips to the pediatrician or urgent care for chronic ear infections- but I am human and so my Bible app stayed closed many days and I tried to manage on my own. Let me tell you, those days of trying to be strong on my own, while I managed to physically do it, were not restful. But the days that I did at least try to enter into the restful presence of the ultimate Counselor, while I still felt the physical tiredness that comes from little sleep and lots of expelled energy, my mental/emotional fatigue was lessened significantly.

Jesus didn’t say, “come to me and feel ready to run a marathon” or “Pray and all your troubles and responsibilities will go away.” He doesn’t even say that he will give us physical rest- He said, “Learn from me and you will find rest for your soul.” For your SOUL. Often the stressors of life, even good stressors like babies and opportunities to pursue a career you feel is using the talents and gifts given to you, go beyond physical tiredness and cross into “soul exhaustion.” This “soul exhaustion” is what Jesus promises to help carry and alleviate- and all we have to do is go to Him. I think that going to Him looks different for all of us. For me, it means spending time meditating on the Word, listening to calm music, going for walks with the family, laughing with (at) my goofball husband, basking in the sunshine, or spending late hours at the local ihop with good friends who Jesus uses to pour into my soul. These are things that God used during these 3 years to help my soul find rest while I did hard things that I’m proud to have accomplished, but am glad are over.Since I graduated a few weeks ago, I’m done with night classes and homework assignments, and after next week I’ll be done nursing/pumping (which seriously takes a lot of time and energy!). This means that the busyness of the past 3-year season has diminished significantly. However, I’ve still got a marriage, a very spirited toddler, a baby who still wakes up at night, church responsibilities and a full time job. So, I’m going to continue to do my best to find a new balance in life while abiding in the One who can help me stave off the soul exhaustion that threatens to creep up in the busiest of seasons as well as the everyday chaos that is what we call Life.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”- -Matthew 11:28-29

Chalky Free Time

“What are you going to do with all your free time now??”

I’ve heard this question several times since graduating from grad school a couple weeks ago.  And it gives me pause. Coming out of a 3-year season where all our days and most of our nights were full of work, school and various other responsibilities- this has been my normal.  It was normal to leave the house at 7am and return at 9:55pm.  Normal to start homework or studying at 8:30pm after the girls went to bed.  Normal to realize David and I hadn’t been out by ourselves in at least a month. Normal to know that Saturday was the only day of family time we had, but it was also the only day we could run errands or try to be social.  Normal to blink and see that our newborn was 4 months old and our 3 year old could tie things. This was normal.  So now that I’ve graduated and no longer have night classes, or homework, or just the mental knowledge that there was something else I should/could be doing for school- there has been an adjustment to a “new normal.”

A new normal of going to the same job every day and coming straight home afterwards with time to play before dinner.  A new normal where Friday night movie nights do not end with me studying.  A new normal of being home for all bedtimes. A new normal of being able to write for fun on a Saturday morning while the baby naps and Dada and Brynn are out riding bikes with friends. A new normal of being able to hang out with our sweet sweet foster nieces and nephew and their incredible parents.  A new normal of prioritizing date night at least every other week.  So when people would ask during those first couple days/weeks what I’m going to do with “all my free time” there was a little voice inside saying, “should I be doing something else besides working full time and actually spending my evenings coloring the sidewalk with chalk and attempting to actually cook some dinners?”  Should I pick up a hobby? Should I enroll Brynn in a community dance class? Should I join a gym (ok, I probably should exercise)? Maybe I should volunteer more?  Should I start driving for Uber to make some extra money? People kept saying I had all this new free time so clearly I should be doing something more…right?

One day David said something to me out of blue along these lines, “Don’t feel like you need to rush into picking up something new now that you’ve graduated..” I forget the exact words, but I realized it was true. I needed to give myself permission to laugh when people asked me that good intentioned question and respond with, “oh you know…keep working full time and being a wife/mom.”  Give myself permission to enjoy this “new normal.”  To enjoy my kids being little. To enjoy laughing with David at the craziness that comes with parenthood.  To go to Costa Rica for a week with no kids purely because we can and we want to. To go see friends on a weeknight. For David to be able to go see friends on a weeknight. To build forts in the living room. To catch caterpillars and watch my girls’ faces light up with wonder when they pop out of their chrysalises as butterflies. To make silly houses of straws. To have dance parties DJ’d by a toddler-controlled Alexa after bath time. To cuddle with a Mama-infatuated baby, not to spoil her, but to cherish this time where she still wants to cuddle with Mama.

My parents were visiting a couple weeks ago and my Dad said, clad in his famous proud-dad face, “You should be proud of all you’ve accomplished these past few years, Kiley. It was hard and you did it.” And my mom said in her experienced Mom voice, “And now, you can experience being ‘just’ a working mom, instead of a working, going to school Mom. You really haven’t experienced that before.” And they both were so right. I have been taking inventory and reflecting on the past few years and dang it- I AM proud of what I did. What our little family did. I am very proud.  But I’m also so very glad that season is over.

And I am so very excited for this next season of Motherhood. 

So very excited for this season of creating memories dusted in sidewalk chalk and love.  

Sweet Baby May, Don’t Forget Your Mama’s Heart Song

My Sweet Baby May,

As I rock you to sleep, I feel your soft, still squishy cheek pressed against my chest. I feel my heart beating rhythmically inside that same chest and imagine the sound waves bouncing soothingly off your eardrums in a familiar sleep inducing pattern.  It is the same pattern that composed the soundtrack of your creation.  From the time you were just a tiny cell, my heart beat was there, pulsing with nutrients and blood, giving you life.  When your little ears couldn’t yet hear, my heart beat was vibrating in the fluid cradling you, lulling you in a cocoon of safety and love. As your tiny ears started working, my heart beat was the first and constant song playing in your head. 

Your Mama’s heart song, playing for you.

Oh my love. Do you remember that song now as you lay sleeping?  Does it still comfort you now that you have officially been out in this great big world longer than you were held in my womb? Now that you have heard many songs and rhythms more complex and loud?  As you learn to scoot and crawl, I see you look back at me as if questioning if it is ok that you are moving further from me. Are you listening for my heartbeat little one? Seeing if it will reach you as you cautiously venture further away?  Is it what causes you to reach your arms up to me when I walk by? Is it what compels you to cry out for me in the night?

Are you finding your song, my love?

I think you are.  I think you still remember and still feel the song within you. I can tell by the way you look at me in that special way that is just for your Mama.  I can tell by the way you fall asleep fastest when it’s me rocking you.  I can tell when you reach your little hand up to feel my face, eyes still closed, while you nurse in the middle of the night. I can tell by the way your face lights up when I walk in the room, and by the wails of despair when I walk out.  I can tell when we cuddle in the rocker and your eyes flutter trustfully.  And I think, when you pull your head in close for snuggles after daycare that you are checking to see if your song is still playing for you.

And oh, is it playing.

Your song will forever be playing, sweet one.  Long after your soft pudgy cheeks have thinned and you no longer press your ear against my chest to fall asleep.  It will still be playing when you no longer look back but bravely venture full force into the world.  I know there will come a time when you no longer remember how much it comforted and surrounded you in the early months of your life- both inside and out of the womb, but it will still be playing.  I know there will be a day that snuggling with your Mama is a thing of the past, but it will still be playing on that day.  You see little one, your song is my life force.  That heart beat keeps me living, just as it kept you alive when you couldn’t survive on your own.  So my sweet girl, while you will grow up and forget the lyrics of your song, I hope you will not forget the rhythm of love it has been beating for you from the beginning.  I hope you will know that no matter how big you get or how far you venture, those sound waves are reaching out for you from inside my chest.  I hope you feel the vibrations of safety and love surrounding you even when you are far away.  And when you feel down or troubled, I hope that rhythm of your song is what plays in your head and in your heart.

And oh sweet baby May, know that for as long as I live, your song and the memories of us listening to it together will be playing on repeat in my heart.  Know that your Mama will always be here playing your song, welcoming you with open arms to come have a listen.