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.

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

Take the blurry picture, from those moments come memories

When I think back on this season of motherhood, this season of my children’s childhood, I know I’m going to remember it like this.

Blurry. Unfiltered. Greasy Haired. Tired Eyed.

I could try to pose and pre-set, and maybe achieve a pretty feed, that thanks to technology will probably be there for me to look back at in a few years. But that wouldn’t match the memories that will be fighting to maintain real estate in my ever-filling brain.

My memories of that cheese crusted still-chubby-for-now cheek squished against mine in elated excitement to be taking a picture with Mama. My memories of that tiny arm reaching around my neck, sticky fingers tangling in my hair as the minuscule muscles flex, forcing my head up and my mouth to smile. Memories of a pure kind of joy that comes from being so unequivocally loved and adored by these little people that carry around such a big piece of my heart.

And why would I want to alter those memories? Why would I want to filter out the cheese and angle down the ferocity of the hug?

These are the little things that make this season of motherhood so messy- yes -but they are also the little things that make it so so special.

They are the things that make it memorable.

So, I’ll keep squishing the crusty cheeks and I’ll keep taking the blurry pictures.

I owe it to my future self to do my best to capture as much crust and joy as I can in both pictures and memories.

Because I know there will come a time, soon, when memories and pictures will be all I have left of this crusty, wonderful season.

Let us delight in our God like a toddler delights in her Mama

“Mama! Mama!” I got up from the kitchen table after dinner and asked my husband, “Did Brynn (our 4 year old) say “Mama” this much when she was this little?” I was wondering because our 18month old had been repeating “Mama” incessantly for the whole week of our Christmas trip to Colorado and wasn’t stopping now that we were home. He replied, “Yup, if not more.” “Huh,” I said, “I couldn’t remember.”

Of course, just because she’s four doesn’t mean I don’t still hear “Mama” out of her mouth at least 5 times every hour that we are together, but the constant repetition every time her eyes land on me doesn’t happen as much as it did when she was her little sister’s age. Now, she yells “Mama” when she needs something, wants me to be with her, or is mad about something. She will still call my name if she is hurt or sad, but she doesn’t just randomly look over at me and say “Mama!” like her little sis does with excitement and joy upon her face. She rarely cups my face with her hands and whispers “Mama,” with her eyes and attention nowhere else but my face, adoration pouring from the word into my soul. Oh, I still get some great cuddles from my 4-year old along with an impromptu, “I love you Mama, you are my best friend,” and sometimes she requests that I be the one to buckle her into her car seat, but the infatuation with her Mama just for the sake of me being Mama feels like it is diminishing a tad each year. Which is fine, that’s how growing up works, I know that. The older she gets, the more independent she gets, the more relationships outside of her Dad and me she develops, the more activities to occupy her mind she’ll be involved with, etc. I’ll always be there for her, and she’ll always need me, but the days of speaking my name just to show her affection for me are lessening.

And you know, I can’t help but wonder… Jesus says in Mark 10:14-16, “ When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.’”

Now, I have several people in my life (in my family even) who have legitimately gone to school to study scripture and become pastors, and I have not. I’m not even great at reading my Bible daily, but when I read that verse and I think of my kids, I wonder. Was Jesus calling us to become like my sweet 18month old who not only cries out for her Mama whenever she needs something, or is scared, but just because she is delighted to be with her Mama? Was Jesus telling us that He knew that adults have such a sense of independence and busyness that we tend to slip into only calling upon Him when we are asking for something or in immense pain? That we only turn to our Heavenly Father when it’s been a few months and we realize we haven’t “picked up the phone” to talk to Him?

Guys, when I am away on a work trip and my husband FaceTimes me at night, my little one is all smiles and “Mama! Mama!” while my 4-yr old is running around the house like the Energizer Bunny, occasionally poking her face into the camera to say a quick hello. She’s only 4 and already her sense of missing me when I’m gone has dissipated compared to her sister’s (also, she just has a whole lot more energy 😂). I can’t help but think about my own less-than-frequent texts and calls to my parents, whom I love very much, and cringe when I think about that compared to the doting 18month old I have following me around the house babbling, “Mama! Hugs!”

And I think, that even though this is probably not what Jesus was specifically talking about in those verses about children and the kingdom of God, that He desperately wants us to delight in Him like a sweet 18month old delights in her Mama. He wants us to be in constant communication with Him, for the ups and downs and all arounds, but also to just enjoy being in His presence. He wants us to call out to him when we are distraught and elated, yes, and unabashedly so (also just like our children)! But He also longs for us to stop, cup His face with our hands and whisper, “Abba” with all of our attention and adoration upon Him – for the sole reason that we are His children and He is our God.

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.

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