Human Mary, Being a Human Mom

My grandfather made us a wooden nativity ornament set the first year my husband and I got married and I’ve put the pieces hodge podge on our tree every year since that first year 7 Christmases ago.  Maybe I’d pause to make sure the Baby Jesus piece was somewhere it could be seen instead of hidden in the back, but maybe not. I definitely didn’t give the other pieces a second thought as I found places for them all over the tree.  This year, however, when I pulled Mary out of the box, with my 4-year-old unwrapping ornaments next to me and my 18mo old pulling the ornaments off the tree just as fast as they were going up, I paused.  I saw that figure kneeling in her nondescript robes and pictured Mary as a mom.  Yes, I’ve always known Mary was the mother of Jesus, and I’ve marveled at the obedience of her words, “let it be,” but not often have I stopped to picture, really picture, her as a mom.  Not the Holy Mother, but “mom.”  As I pulled that little Mary out of the box and found a place for her on the tree, I started thinking. I started picturing. I started picturing Mary as the human Mom that she was.  Jesus was fully human and fully God, but Mary? She was fully human. An extraordinary human, no doubt, but human nonetheless.

The verses in Luke that are read every year state quickly, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” As I have had the extreme privilege of being pregnant and given birth two times myself, I began to think about those verses and what they actually mean as a human woman, and I started picturing Mary.

I pictured that human Mary gazing at the stretch marks adorning her growing belly, tracing them with her fingers as she pictured the tiny nose she would soon be tracing.  I pictured Mary tossing and turning at night, wadding up extra linens to support her sore back as she tried to sleep.  I pictured Mary giggling like the girl she was, when the baby in her belly kicked and rolled, causing her skin to ripple like the dessert sand on a windy day.  I pictured Mary, large and uncomfortable asking Joseph to help her strap the sandals around her swollen feet as they got ready to make the 90mile trek to Bethlehem. I pictured Mary telling Joseph they had to stop so she could pee…again.  I pictured Mary feeling the first contractions, knowing it would soon be time.  I pictured Mary, slightly panicked as the pain intensified and the alarms in her brain started going off, her voice tense and choppy between contractions, pleading with Joseph to find a place, any place, they could stop.  I pictured Mary telling Joseph the stable was fine, telling him to hurry, telling him it hurt-so-bad. I pictured Mary moaning in pain as her sweaty body rocked back and forth with the back to back contractions.  I pictured Mary feel the tell tale pressure, eyes wide with fright, pain and excitement as she gasped to Joseph – “He’s coming.” 

And oh, I pictured Mary, human as I, grunt with the guttural, instinctual cry of physically pushing life out into the world.  I pictured her half laughing, half crying as she held her son for the first time on her chest.  I pictured her trying to get him to latch, and picture her wincing when the latch isn’t quite right.  I pictured her wearily waking in the night to feed her babe as Joseph lay peacefully sleeping on the hay a few feet away.  I pictured her changing his swaddling cloths in the night, shushing him back to sleep while she paced the inside of that stable, rocking him gently in her arms, feeling her heart explode with love so pure and so profound it was a little scary.  I pictured her pondering these things in that heart.

I picture all this and more. Mary tired for weeks on end.  Mary beaming with pride over her boy learning to walk.  Mary crying quietly by herself because her son was growing so fast and she knew he was destined for greatness beyond her.  Mary as a toddler mom being frustrated that her cooking wasn’t received well at every meal. Mary realizing in panic that her tween was missing.  Mary as a mom of a teenage boy.  Mary having all the mixed emotions as she saw crowds start to follow her boy.  Mary at the cross.  Human mom Mary, wailing with despair over her son.  That little baby she held in her arms only 33 short years before in the stable on that first Christmas night – being hung up before her eyes. Dying before her eyes.  Her baby.  Yes, the Savior of the World, but also, her sweet baby boy.  I wonder, did her moans of pain as she watched the life leave her son’s eyes sound reminiscent of the moans of pain that ushered in that same life?  I can’t imagine. 

Mary – chosen by God to be Mom, in all her humanness, to the Messiah. To Emmanuel. When she gasped those words to Joseph, “He’s coming” she was gasping to the World. She knew, as she snuggled her babe and breathed in his intoxicating newborn scent, that He was not hers alone, or hers to keep, and yet… she was his mom. What a profound gift and a profound burden for a human woman to carry.

May we, as humans, as women, as moms, learn from Mary.  Learn how to demonstrate humility and grace in this role we’ve been given as moms.  Learn to love without bounds and without restraint, the littles we have been given on this Earth.  And let us remember, they are not ours alone, nor are they ours to keep.  May we surrender their little hearts and big futures to the One who formed them. 

And may we trust our role of “mom” to the One who knew the pain Mary would endure as a flawed human in her role, but also knew the great capacity for love that human heart beating in her chest held and so entrusted her with His very own son sent to redeem us all.

Peace in the blurred lines between hope and heartache

Hope. Heartache. Healing.

The lines between these three are often faint and sometimes blurred. In my case, the line was a faint blue. At least on Monday. On Monday of last week, the line was faint and blue. An unexpected line that gave me butterflies of joy and anxiety all at once. A line that projected images of a growing belly for the 3rd time and questions of what kind of car we would need to buy. A line that suggested an addition to the family that would bring stress, yes, but so much joy. A line that thrust the current youngest to the middle child position in a second’s notice. A line that was filled with hope.

The line was faint though. So faint that my head told my heart to not let the love grow yet. So faint that I tried to not let any ripples disturb my dearly sought after, tranquil, inner lake of peace. A line faint enough that the ever-ready rational side of me stepped up to the plate and said – “Wait.” Wait a day or two before you teeter off the ledge and plunge headlong into hope. Because that line is faint and if you plunge into hope too fast, heartache may be the outcome. Just as it was when that faint line came and went the month before we became pregnant with our second child. And that heartache disrupts the calm. Heartache ushers forth not just ripples, but waves, to crack that glassy surface wide open, allowing the deep waters to spill forth in wet droplets that then leak down faces in messy trails. And to me, an Enneagram 9 who prides herself on being calm…collected…stable…unperturbed… at inner “peace” – these messy trails of emotion are to be avoided.

Ah, but the mind. The mind doesn’t always win out in these scenarios, does it? No, as much as I may like to think that my mind is in control of my pesky feelings, it does not always win out in these scenarios. Especially when it comes to thin blue lines that act as a tightrope between hope and what could be, heartache. No, my preverbal feet slipped off the tightrope and landed on the side of hope. All day Monday and all day Tuesday, I found myself planning for a third child. Planning with hope, the move of my two little girls into the same room so the new babe (probably a 3rd girl in my mind) would have a place to sleep. I found myself grinning in secret about the life I had started to believe was growing inside me. I found myself involuntarily thinking of our family as a family of five. I found myself hoping that when I took a second test on Wednesday, that faint line would be a dark blue line, confirming life.

But, that’s not how life always works, ya know? I got up Wednesday morning and that faint blue line that had been there Monday hadn’t gotten darker. It didn’t show up quicker like I expected it to. In fact, it didn’t show up at all. The line was gone. A clear white circle blinked up at me. And just like that, the hope had vanished. Gone were the concerns of fitting three car seats in the car. Gone were the internal bets of whether or not there would have been 3 blondy little girls in the family. Gone was the hope that in nine months, I’d have another baby to cuddle and rock. I hadn’t been planning on this unexpected hope to come on Monday, but it came anyway – and despite my desperate attempts at not letting it take root. It had. And so, when it was gone, my inner lake was disrupted a bit. Like a pebble had been dropped in the middle and tiny waves started to ripple outward, leaving me teetering in my own internal boat rocking back and forth on that lake of feelings.

I don’t know if the faint blue line 2 years ago or last week had been faulty tests (although a 5 day “lateness” both times would suggest otherwise), or chemical pregnancies, or real pregnancies that ended before they truly started – and I won’t know. But seeing those blue lines sparked hope and so the absence both times stung.

Because I’ve learned recently (through some therapy, through some reading of good books, through some intentional introspection, through some late night chats with good friends) that my tendency is to avoid – or stuff – these “negative emotions” to maintain the inner peace I value so much, I have been trying to at least give them a passing glance before sweeping them away with an easy smile, a shrug, and the words “I’m fine.” But it’s hard. It’s not comfortable – and admitting that this fine line caused a disturbance in my “peaceful” countenance is difficult for me. Which is why, when this same thing happened about 2 years ago, I told a few people in an off-hand way, but kept the sadness I felt down. Deep down. For the most part, I maintained my “peace.” Yesterday, I was listening to, “The Road Back to You” and heard some words that resonated deeply. He said, “what looks like peace, is just your desire to be unaffected by life.” Yikes.

My favorite Bible verse has always been, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” but how silly I’ve been in my understanding of Paul’s words to the Philippians. He wasn’t speaking about learning to be content when things are good and hopeful and joyful. He wasn’t talking about ignoring the not-so-pleasant aspects of life, or convincing himself that they did not bother him. He was saying that he’s learned to be content because he had experienced hope and heartache and had found the answer to true peace in God. Not the superficial peace of a calm, cool, collected demeanor, but “peace that passes all understanding” because God is with us. Peace that can be had in the midst of heartache and the midst of hope. Peace that is a tranquil state of a soul WHATEVER the circumstances. As a peace (little “p”) seeker and craver, this true Peace is what my soul needs.

It’s what your soul needs as you allow yourself to hope and inevitably, sometimes end up on the side of heartache.

I know Jesus, but I am far from living in this Peace daily. I cling to my little “p” peace when the inner waters get rocky, (and truly by God’s grace, I haven’t yet experienced the tsunami like waves many of you have in this life) instead of riding the waves while clinging to the One who is Peace himself in the midst of the storm. It’s hard and uncomfortable for me, but I’m trying – I’m practicing – by texting friends the words, “You know, I’m kind of sad about this” that Wednesday, and by writing this post for all the world to read, to let go and let those messy trails of emotions leak out. Because by allowing them to leak out, I am allowing myself to admit that I do not have the peace needed for this life. I do not have the strength on my own in this life, much as I’d like to think I do. I have nothing in this life if I don’t have Jesus.

So, as you walk the fine, faint lines between Hope and Heartache – remember – in the midst of those blurred lines can come Healing from the one who offers us Peace that surpasses all understanding.

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.