every April

I don’t remember exactly how she told me. Maybe her firstborn (just barely one then) wore a “big sister” shirt. Maybe, across half the world over FaceTime, she just gave me the wide-eyed excited-but-this-is-crazy face and told me over, “Guess what! I’m PREGNANT.” Either way, I was excited for her. We had both been awaiting positive pregnancy tests for a few months, both hoping for a close sibling pair—her first and second, my third and fourth. Her baby was a few months older than my youngest, so it made sense that she’d have news to announce first. I started dreaming about perhaps flying to Czech to see her when her baby arrived late the following April, providing I didn’t get pregnant too soon.

I did. It was literally days later when I got the faintest second pink line. But this was not my first pregnancy. I knew: a faint positive is a positive. She was one of the first people I told. We figured our due dates were perhaps a week apart. “Cousin twins!” we excitedly declared them.

And that April, she gave birth to her Sophia, and I was six months pregnant with my Lilly. There were no cousin twins. That pink line flickered and went out over the next few weeks, then my body let the baby go. That April was a weird mix of feelings: excitement at the pending birth of my niece, sadness that there was no corresponding birth for Hope, Sophie’s “twin,” and guarded anticipation of the baby girl I was finally beginning to feel moving within.

Every year, I expect grief as I pass the anniversary of the loss, and every year I’m surprised to find the anniversary is over with little feeling. I guess I see it—the prevailing symptoms of my grief when I lost her were numbness and lethargy (which turned out to be depression). I only recall crying twice that Fall; I just remember sitting in the recliner in my living room, trying to muster up a few craps to give about my three little kids’ misbehavior, and feeling generally catatonic.

But in April, it hits. This is the month little Hope would have come. This is the month she didn’t.

I’m never quite sure what to do with it. It has taken me by surprise for a third year. I remember people telling me when I became pregnant with Lilly that a rainbow baby is the best medicine for a miscarriage. My truth is a little more muddled than that. I’ve written before about the work it took to fully love Lilly and Hope simultaneously, because wishing Hope here means basically wishing Lilly gone, and celebrating Lilly means I’ve let Hope go.

To some degree, this remains.

This April, as I see Sophie’s birthday coming and picture Hope turning two just a few days later, I’m aware that it’s not really fair to picture Hope here turning two and Lilly also turning two in July. It’s not possible.

But April is a sweet month for me, too. I’m finding that, like the last two, Jesus is holding me close and quiet. The grief stings, sure. But to borrow a lyric from Andrew Peterson,

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.

The grief means she’s not forgotten. It reminds me she was here. Miscarriage is weird—life moves on like it never was, when a mama is acutely aware of the lack of a human in her body, in her family. But April reminds me she was here, and her name reminds me (as I had hoped it would) that she’s not lost, she’s just gone. I know where she is, and I will get to love Hope beside Lilly eventually.

Friend, I don’t know what your story is. I know there’s a good chance you have one like mine, or eventually you may. I promise you know people who hold little ones in their hearts that few others remember.

If this is your story, I hope you find comfort in the sadness, as I am. I hope Jesus holds you close in the sorrow and the quiet. That the aching remains, but the breaking does not.

Because the Man of All Sorrows, He never forgot
What sorrows were carried by the hearts that He bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.

If this is you or someone you love, I want to point you to a book I’m reading right now. It’s due out 5/1/2018 (so just in time for the potentially oh-so-painful Mother’s Day!) and it’s called Grace Like Scarlett. I’ll probably share more about it when I’m done, because I believe from the depths of my soul that this book is one that the world needs, but for now, I’m about a third of the way through it, and I’m experiencing it just like April: the sorrow is quiet and deep, and the presence of Christ is palpable and deeper still.  If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find it here.



to the mama with two in diapers

Hey, mama. I see you. I know this isn’t easy.

Folks always look at you in pity when they realize you have two in diapers, but they never really mention that the diapers are seriously the least of the struggles.

I’ve been there. I’m not sure how your transition to motherhood was, but mine was uncommonly easy. “Everyone told me this would be so hard, but it’s really… not bad. Yay, me! I’m awesome at this motherhood thing!” (It’s fine. You can punch me in the throat if you want to.) 

But within 48 hours of the birth of the first, my husband wanted to know when we were going to have another awesome baby. It took me a couple months to come around to the idea, but we decided to go ahead and let the next one happen whenever it happened. (After all, I’m awesome at this!) That’s how I ended up with a newborn and a small toddler and my world and self crumbling down around me.

The needs are incessant. One baby took all my time, but I was able to stay pretty well on top of her needs. With a second newborn came the realization that 1.) the newborn stage is way less demanding than the toddler stage and 2.) it doesn’t matter because there’s only one me and I can’t possibly do all of this, no matter how easy the little one seems.

I don’t remember a lot about Katherine’s first year except this one crystal clear moment: Katherine was about eight weeks old. Jenna was roughly 19 months. We’d gone out shopping in the morning, but (as is typical) we didn’t leave as early as I’d wanted, and everything just took longer than I’d hoped. By the time we were driving home, two babies (and one mama) were losing it. We were all hangry and in need of a nap. I put my toddler on my left hip, the baby in her car seat in the crook of my right arm, diaper bag over my shoulder, and all the grocery bags clenched tightly in my hands and hauled the wailing children (and everything else) up the flight and a half of stairs to my living room. Katherine came out of the car seat and got propped in the recliner; I put Jenna in her high chair. I looked from crying Jenna to shrieking Katherine to all the grocery bags on the floor around my feet. I was hungry to the point of feeling ill, but they needed to eat, too. The noise was deafening and I couldn’t quite decide what my next step was.

One need at a time.

I don’t know why this was such a revelation, but their needs collided with my limitations in this one moment of absolute certainty: we all have needs and I can meet exactly one at a time and I will keep doing that until everyone is okay.

This concept basically sums up that whole year. I was tired and my house was noisy, but if I could just keep doing this, we were going to make it.

It gets easier.

I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me then, but I really like having the first two so close. I like it so much, in fact, that I waited a beat and then had a second pair a couple years later. I found myself again with a newborn and a toddler last year, along with (then) 4- and 5-year-old girls.

I wasn’t as bleary this last year as I was Katherine’s first year. I am more relaxed and happy  and successful now than I was then, even though I find myself in basically the same situation, but with a pair of strong-willed, homeschooling kindergarteners. I’m sure it’s partly having kids big enough to be helpful (sometimes), partly my own substantially lower standards, partly better systems borne out of necessity, and mostly a lot of grace, but I wanted to tell you it really does get better.

When I had two, I remember looking around at moms of three and four and more, wondering, “What the crap is my problem?!? She has herself together and she has WAY more kids than I do! Why can’t I get my stuff figured out?!?” I’m realizing now that it may just be part of the process. Yes, she had more children than I did. But also, she’d had a few more years to figure herself out. I used to think if I could just get it together, my life could be as (relatively) calm as hers, but I’d neglected to consider her messy middle part. I was looking at seasoned mamas and wondering why I couldn’t manage, but I was only a year and a half in. (Not that I’d say I have it all together NOW- I’m still kind of a mess. But it’s definitely less stressful now.)

It takes time, friend. It’s going to be okay. This season is dizzying and exhausting and beautiful and messy, but it really does get better. Give yourself grace and time to figure it out.

(Also, it’s fine to leave the kids in their car seats while you haul groceries into the house. Really.) 

grace for stomach bugs

Warning: probably going to be rambly and incoherent. If you want a trip inside my weird head and day today, by all means, continue.

The last couple days have had plenty of challenges and failures. Yesterday, I broke my seven week streak of getting 10k steps per day, which doesn’t matter, unless you’re an obliger and live for perfect, unbroken streaks. I also didn’t blog, which was sad.

Instead, I got suddenly and violently ill.

And then about the time I felt better, everyone else but the baby started up. (She still hasn’t shown any signs of illness. Hoping that holds.)

Andrew was incredibly kind as I was down. He took up all the slack. At one point, I asked him, “Is it okay if I’m a giant wuss for just a little while longer and ask you to give me a back rub?” He responded, “You can be a giant wuss as long as you need to be.” That’s real love, friends. 

And then as the bug took him, I was just getting over the fever phase and able to take over the constant round of clean-up early this morning. Good times.

Stomach bugs are the worst.

We’re buried in laundry. (Mostly clean now, but certainly not folded.) The girls wound up supervised only by Miss Frizzle for the entire afternoon while the grownups tried to recover from a really rough night. We’re about to adventurously test pasta with butter in all the kids’ tummies.

But, for all the crazy, there have been a lot of gifts.

The baby didn’t get sick.

We’re together.

We live in the future and have a fridge that dispenses ice chips.

It was a really short bug. It’s over.

They’re all asleep now.

And, hey! I lost five pounds! (Winning!) (Just kidding. Not worth it.)

There’s grace enough, even for stomach bugs.

This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

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spilling communion

This post was originally published in April of 2016, but it felt like a good fit for this month’s theme.

There have been some hard days around here lately.

Actually, there has been kind of a rash of them.

I can’t tell if it’s the standard third-trimester rage I’ve come to expect, but it’s kicking in several weeks early? (Oh good! Only sixteen or seventeen more weeks of this!) Or perhaps I’m just kind of worn down from a long run of a lot of hard work. I don’t know. In either case, I’m kind of mad at everything.

And guess who gets the bulk of it?

The little people who are with me and needing me all. the. time.

Those ones.

The ones I adore with my whole heart.

I’ve kind of turned into a stereotypical Walmart mom. (No judgment on the moms in Walmart yelling at their kids and everyone else. Just walking into the place makes me want to yell. Seriously.) I keep catching myself snapping or growling at them through my teeth. And I know it’s me. I know it is. The space I’m in right now is one where I don’t have a lot of ability to pay focused attention to discipline. Pregnancy makes me stupid, honestly. I forget the thing I just told my kid to do (or not to do) and then don’t think to follow up. But at the same time, I have greatly reduced patience to deal with badly-disciplined children. So…


Bad days.

Take, for example, this past Sunday.

It started out very much like the rest, in that I didn’t get up early enough to get through all the things I try to finish before I need to before the girls get up.

So I tried to plow through my list and my devotions while they were supposed to choose one of a few (quiet) options.

Instead, I spent a solid hour correcting them while trying to read the Bible. It was awesome. And then they finally decided to choose one of the things on the list of sanctioned activities (they chose putting away dishes over quiet reading time and some other option I don’t recall right now.) Within two minutes of finally choosing to obey, there was one Corelle dinner plate EXPLODED all over my entire kitchen. Seriously. I have no idea how that happens. But it was on every surface and covering the whole floor.

I had to get them out of the kitchen, clearly, and keep them out while I handled the mess. It killed me… the thing that effectively earned them a time out (despite all my qualifications- I wasn’t mad and they weren’t in trouble, I just needed them not to get hurt while I cleaned up the shards everywhere) was the choice to be obedient. It should never go down this way.

But whatever. You do what you gotta do.

So I cleaned it all up and Brian got up and everyone ate and got dressed and we made it to church (miraculously early?) and settled in.

Anyone reading this who attends the second service at my church knows this (because we are conspicuous), but the girls attend the “big service” with me (rather than Sunday School- some backstory there, but basically they don’t want to go and I’m philosophically in favor of having them learn to sit through the service with me) and we sit in the very front. (That’s where Grandma and Miss Amanda and Miss Kat sit- since Andrew’s in the back, it’s handy to sit near grownups who like them and are happy to lend hands if needed.) Sometimes it works out well. Sometimes, well, they’re preschoolers and kind of squirmy. And occasionally they’re naughty. There is usually a spectacle of some sort. (If nothing else, Katherine worships by twirling, which is adorable and also highly conspicuous and sometimes dangerous.)

This was a naughty Sunday.

The littler one was removed for disobedience of the disruptive variety. Twice. (The first time, on our way out, she grabbed the back of the empty first row of chairs across the aisle and dragged the whole row back a couple inches. Yay!)

We handled it (twice) and made it back into the service (again) just in time for communion.

Both girls have “asked Jesus to be their leader”and both really look forward to “juice and cracker days.” (I kind of cringe writing that. Yes, we talk at length about the meaning of it, why we do it, why they get to do it, what they’re supposed to be remembering, and still, it’s “juice and crackers!” they look forward to.) Our church’s practice is to hand out each element, then wait and take it all together. Katherine is still kind of figuring this out. She’s not quite yet four, so if you give her a cracker, she wants to eat it. We’re working on it.

And then the teeny tiny cups of grape juice come by. And, since we sit in the front, Katherine has a LONG time to hold that tablespoon of Welch’s in her squirmy little hands. And I’m whispering to her about Jesus making the sacrifice for the things we’ve done wrong and how that makes us right with God. Reminding, reminding, always teaching. They’re so small. And I’m grateful beyond words that the girls each truly love Jesus and are trying to learn to follow him, and I pray that Brian and the new little girl also love Jesus at an early age. But also there’s some abstract symbolism that’s kind of hard to convey to the under four set. Jenna gets it a little better. I’m hoping Katherine catches on soon. But at any rate, during my attempt at bringing the truth of it to her in a way that made any sense at all, she was fiddling with this bitty cup and…

Of course it spilled. Of course it did. And naturally, she was wearing the only fully white shirt either of them own right now.

I was aggravated a little (because, seriously, how many times do you think I’ve told her to hold it carefully?) but honestly, what struck me was the poetry of it.

Spilling communion. 

Making a total mess of the thing supposed to be pointing us back toward Jesus right this very second.


Monday morning, I finally, finally got up in time to read the Bible (and most of the other stuff on my morning checklist) before my kids needed any attention from me. And this is what greeted me.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Dear children. Imitating. If there is one thing in all the world that I know, it’s how “dear children” imitate. Adoringly. Relentlessly. Often impeccably. And, more often, completely imperfectly.

Imperfectly is certainly how I’m imitating Christ’s example of love and sacrifice right now. I do love my kids. And I do try to serve them. In fact, I sacrifice most of my time and (limited) energy doing the things they need me to do these days.

Right now, they are the ones, in this passage, pointing me back toward Jesus.

And I’m making a total mess of it all.

Snapping. Growling through my teeth. Sometimes just out-and-out yelling.


Except when I don’t.

Make a mess of it all, that is.

Because, while none of this “imitating like dear children” had been fleshed out on Sunday, here’s how it went down.

“It’s okay. Let’s try to be more careful.”

“Spills happen. I know it was an accident.”

“I’ll take care of your shirt when we get home.”

And that’s what happened. OxiClean spray does a remarkable job with grape juice, among other things.

It’s fine.

And, while my own words and thoughts convict me frequently, as they did on this Sunday and on the one before, now and then the Spirit whispers grace back to me in the echoes of my own words as well.

“It’s okay. Let’s try to be more careful.” 

“Bad days happen. I know you love your kids, and My grace covers you now as well.”

“I took care of this on the cross.”

It’s gonna be fine.


Still no idea what to do about the rage issues besides take it one day at a time and ride the crazy hormones out. Any ideas? I’d take them.

How about you? In what way does God use your words to either convict or bring grace to you?

This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

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giving up coffee…maybe

So… I’ve been talking a lot about Lilly’s sleep the last couple days. I love her and stuff, but she’s been the most challenging sleeper of my four. I do all the things I know to do to help her sleep just like I did with the others, but it’s still been hard.

I was so excited yesterday  because I recognized early that my lack of sleep was supercharging my hypersensitivity, but that wasn’t the only brilliant discovery I made yesterday.

Somebody mentioned, sort of peripherally, caffeine sensitivity in nursing babies.

Oh, yeah.

I think my first was sensitive to it, so I quit coffee for a while (which is brutal.) Then the second came two months after the first was weaned, so I decided I’d just keep… not drinking coffee. I reintroduced it occasionally, once she was big and not nursing as much or often. Number 3 was such an easy sleeper that I hardly needed coffee and, when I had it, he slept just as well as always.

For number four? I don’t know. I just didn’t even consider it. Ever. Also? She slept pretty rough, so BRING ON THE COFFEE. And fourteen months later, here we are. Considering for the first time that this could explain a lot.

I have no real idea if caffeine is Miss Lilly’s problem. Maybe skipping morning (and after-breakfast, and elevensies, and lunch) coffee will help. Maybe it won’t, and I’ll spend a week not sleeping AND not having coffee. Either way, it’s a brilliant reminder that four kids’ worth of parenting experience doesn’t always make me the pro I think I am.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s my first kid or my fourth, I feel like a willingness to learn and to not have the answers is one of the really important parts of parenting. (Oddly, for the most part, I think I’m more willing to be wrong now than when I was mothering just the one—I was much more convinced then than I am now that there’s a Right Way and I have to find it or I’m a bad mom.)

Still figuring it out. And that’s fine.

This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

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like a nameless servant

Last night, I went to kiss my oldest before I headed to bed. I expected her to be asleep, but she wasn’t. She groggily asked me to reheat her rice sock.* “Of course! I’d love to do that for you.” I went to the kitchen, nuked it for a couple of minutes, and returned it to her.

Me: “Goodnight, sweetie. I love you.”

Her: “Can you put some ice in my water?”


Suddenly I cannot even.

I didn’t go all Hulk on her at that moment, but the anger and resentment were overwhelming. I was JUST in the opposite corner of the house to kindly get her something to improve her comfort. WHY COULD SHE NOT HAVE ASKED FOR ICE THEN?!?

So I sighed. (Huffed.) “Babe, next time mention that when I go to the kitchen the first time.” Off I grouched to the kitchen to get her some freaking ice.

When I headed to my bedroom, I was trying to be curious about my crazy response, but I was still a little too pissed to think very clearly. Over ice cubes.

I talked to my husband, told him I felt resentful. Taken for granted.  “I feel like a servant. And not like a beloved servant, but like a nameless one.”

I was lost in all the overwhelming mad emotions because my six-year-old asked me for a pair of favors and didn’t think to consolidate them.

Friends, the inside of my heart is ugly sometimes.

I had two options to show Jenna the love of Jesus in that moment. One would have been to get the ice water with a glad heart. The other would have been to tell her no with a compassionate heart.

Instead, I chose to do the serving thing with the demeanor of a martyr. I showed her poor personal boundaries and a bad attitude.

And it’s not like this is an isolated occurrence.

How many times a week (or day? hour?) do I do what is asked because it’s the path of least resistance (rather than because it’s best), and do it with a heart that resents the request?

It occurs to me that I’m a 2 on the enneagram, which means I’m a helper, which is great. But it also means that many of the things I think I’m doing for others, I am actually doing for social currency and self-respect. Or something. So when my people act like they’re entitled to any of my services they want, when they want them, I kind of freak out. Awesome.

So basically, I like serving. Jesus was a servant and had things to say about servants and greatness in the Kingdom. I like seeing myself as “like Jesus” and “great in the kingdom.” But, in my pride (incidentally, the sin associated with enneagram 2s), I want people to know how great and like Jesus I am. It’s a mess. And it makes me grumpy in my everyday life as a stay-at-home mom of littles, because nobody sees.

So I told you I was going to show you grace in my failures this month. But I’m still in it, so I don’t know exactly how His grace is going to unfold in my sinful heart.

Here’s what I know: It’s grace that I noticed it. Most of the time, I just huff off and continue with whatever I was going to do, but with slightly elevated stress levels. It’s extravagant grace that I feel safe to talk about the in-process and ugly parts of me with my husband. This hasn’t always been the case, so it’s beautiful to see it now. It’s grace that it was Jenna, who is the most like me. This means she triggers my crazy faster than the others, but it also means that she has and understands all the words, so when I talk to her about it this afternoon, she and I will likely be able to understand each other well.

That’s what I have, you guys. An unfinished story of failure that reveals my sin nature and the shadow side of my personality and a bunch of little crumbs of grace to help me find my way back.

*The rice sock is a sock who has lost its mate, gets filled with a few cups of rice (or other whole grain- Jenna’s is currently whole oats because we had them and they’re old), and tied closed. We heat it in the microwave for a few minutes—it depends on the rice volume. It’s great for sore muscles or chilly nights and is good until the sock develops a hole. You’re welcome.


This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

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kids are weird

This little bundle of delight woke from her nap yesterday right as I was done on the treadmill and ready to shower, so I decided to let her play in the bath while I rinsed off. On the way, she happened to grab her toothbrush and began chomping on it. That’s cool. I floss in the shower, so she can brush her teeth. We get in and I do my thing while she plays. I pay enough attention to see that she’s not drowning, but mostly, I’m just showering.

Until I happen to see her jam the toothbrush end down the drain, then back in her mouth.


Now, I can’t outright call this failure. I mean, sure, I could have been supervising her more closely. (Though, if we’re worried about supervision, the bigger failure would be the 5- and 6-year-olds out in the living room watching Magic School Bus with zero grownups, but whatever.)

I just bring it up because kids are weird and gross and I used to think there was something wrong with mine when they did stuff like this. I had about a year where every single time we went to a public bathroom, I had to repeat The Rule: “We don’t stick our faces in toilets in public restrooms, girls.” Do you know why we had this rule? Because a particular one of mine broke it every time. Face. Checking out the underside of the rim. EEW.

At the time, I was sure there was something I was doing wrong. I mean, whose kids are this fascinated by the inside of public toilets??? Turns out, mine are. And they’re okay. And their immune systems are awesome. And none of them inspect toilets right now. It was a phase.

So it’s not failure. I mean, I deal with the things that totally gross me out (apparently by making rules that are only marginally effective), but it’s just… kids. Tuesday, I heard myself say, “If you can’t stay out of mischief with a trashcan on your head, you might have to spend some time without it on your head.” They’re just weird.

The grace here has been, over the last several years, learning to roll with it rather than internalize it as some deficiency in my mothering skills. I’ve learned to chuckle at it (sometimes with a shudder) instead of internally shaming myself for it.

Friends, are there things that your kids do that you feel shame about? Is it possible they’re just… being kids? How would it feel to handle the behavior that needs to be unlearned, but without taking it in as personal failure?

This post is part of a 31-day series called “Grace in Failure.” Other posts from the series can be found here.

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