October (day 1)

Things have gone a little off the rails here lately. A million big and little things have conspired and I haven’t written but a couple posts since Lilly’s birth. I know, it’s fine… I have four kids five and under and nobody really expects me to publish daily. Whatever. I can hardly make coherent sentences, let alone full posts. (And to the people who ask me if I’d ever write a book? Hahahaha!)

But I need to write.

My brain feels much better when I do. I know this. Even if it’s utter nonsense. Even the rambling words I’ve typed to now on this post are making my brain feel a bit clearer.

And this year’s minigoal experiment fell apart as well. I haven’t made one since July, and that was kind of a cop out… a goal to have fewer goals. I knew going in that August and September were going to be a little sketchy on the habits front, but it’s time to start working back toward structure now.

And then it’s October. The month where bloggers all over challenge themselves to write daily for 31 days on a single topic.

I am not going to write for 31 days on a single topic. (Remember how I said I can barely formulate sentences these days?) What I am going to do is try to write and publish as many days of the month as I can. This is probably a misguided attempt to kill all the birds with a single stone that’s a little too big to be hurling (and why am I throwing rocks at birds, anyway?) but I’m going to give it a go just the same.  I imagine the posts will be short, and probably mediocre, but it’s time to go forward. Wish me luck. Read as you wish. Don’t judge me if I quit on day four. Or, you know, two.


This post is part of the write31days challenge… I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

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all the pretty things

Today marks the day this book is officially released to the world, which means it’s the day I can share it with you and you can actually do something about it.

You guys know me. You know I share my stories because they’re what I’ve been given, and because there’s grace to be found there.

In All the Pretty Things, Edie Wadsworth shares the story she’s been given- the story of Appalachian poverty and a girl’s complicated relationship with her daddy and the Father who pursues her. It’s beautiful and spellbinding and heartbreaking and redemptive. She spares none of the hurt or the shame, and in sharing it all, she gives us the full volume of hope.

I want to leave it for you to discover, but her memoir will be rolling around in my heart and head for a long time to come. Her background is thoroughly different from mine, but we share a God who redeems, and I got to know His heart a little better better through her story.

it all passes

(image credit: Sarah Lewis Photography)

It’s a little past three in the morning. I’ve been feeding you for nearly two solid hours now, back and forth, back and forth. I put you down every time I think you might finally be ready to sleep, and you do sleep…at least for a couple minutes. But about the time I get comfortable again, you remember how completely starving you are.

So I check your diaper, swaddle you tight, and feed you again.

Do you know what, sweet girl? I’m tired. Really tired.

But I don’t really mind so much.

I mean, sometimes I certainly mind. Like the moment I’m trying to finally relax, but anxious that you’re about to wake up, and then you do. That’s not any fun.

But I don’t mind just now.


A fourth newborn comes with some perks. I can do most of this with my eyes closed and half-dead. Which is good, since that’s how I’m doing it in the middle of the night—it’s all muscle memory. Also, there’s a familiarity with the routine (and usually lack thereof) that comes with a brand new person.

There’s a bit more confidence in all of it. I no longer see newborns as so completely fragile. I’m not afraid to put a onesie over your head for fear you’ll get irreversibly injured. (What was I afraid of? I don’t recall. That your head would pop off? Who knows?) I learned that nobody will die if I go to the bathroom for 20 seconds before sitting down to nurse you for some undetermined length of time. (I’m also plenty good at toilet nursing and the subsequent pull-the-pants-up-one-handed dance.) I’m pretty sure your siblings aren’t going to break you with all the loving.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have parenting down, in a broad sense. I’m still basically winging it here. But the physical, day-to-day mechanics of caring for a healthy newborn? This I am familiar with.

And mostly? There’s gut-level perspective that it all passes.

The nursing cramps pass. The long nights pass.

But, even more importantly, the newborn phase passes.

The floppiness.
The yummy smell.
The impossibly soft, fuzzy head.
The milk-drunk face.
The squeaks.
The constant sleepiness.
The peach fuzz everywhere—your face, your ears, your shoulders.
The way you curl up and stick your little bottom out when you sleep on me.
The way you pull your knees up to your chest when I’m changing your diaper, making it nearly impossible to get the new diaper on, or to get you back in your jammies.

All of it passes.

Quickly.


I think you’re finally ready to sleep for a while. (Whatever that means this time. Hopefully long enough for me to actually fall asleep.) But before I put you back down, I think I’ll just sit here for a few with my cheek against your velvety head, smelling that smell for just one more minute. I can’t keep you tiny forever, and I really don’t want to. (Another perk of a fourth baby: I know that this is only the beginning, and all the stages have their fun and their challenges.) So for now, I’ll just enjoy one extra minute of your sweet self.

(…and hope that we both get some rest.)

gifts and conviction in my inability

In general, I feel like I have a semi-reasonable handle on my life.

I mean,  don’t get me wrong. I still fit into the “hot mess mom” category, but all my people are fed and we don’t live in general squalor and I even have managed to implement some routines that make life feel a little smoother, mostly. I’m not on fire all the time, but life kind of works. Occasionally, I’ll even have people mention how organized I must be. (I always look at them, kind of confused… I always, always, always feel like I’m in the center of a swirling vortex of chaos. But again, the people get fed and the chores get done, so I sort of see the point.)

Usually.

As I mentioned last week, that is totally not the case at the moment. It’s a challenging season around here. As challenging seasons go, this one could be a lot worse. The difficulty level (or rather, my lack of capacity for the normal difficulty level) seems substantial, but there’s a definite time limit. This season will change (and give way to a different kind of challenge) in about a month. That’s not so bad. I can do anything for a month.

Right?

Well. 

But even in the midst of this constant feeling of “ohmygoodness, I CAN’T,” I am finding gifts. Every day, I’m given just enough grace for today. (Frequently, it’s dispensed moment by moment.)

And I am struck by how glaringly obvious my need for grace is. It’s not optional. If Jesus doesn’t give me what I need RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. something is going to go horribly, horribly wrong. (And, because of new-every-morning mercies, He always does.)

Wait, what now? How is that different from the rest of the time?

Suddenly, my pride is revealed, just as glaringly as my need for grace.

See, I really, truly believe I’ve got this. Most of the time. All the other times. (Well, not all the other times. Because hot mess. But mostly.) How did I get here? I talked more than a year ago about “grace extravagant” when all the gifts seemed so over-the-top, and realized that every moment is extravagant grace, not just the ones where I see the crazy abundance. Now, somehow, I’ve talked myself into “grace unnecessary”? I’ve no need for grace, unless things get bad?

Oh dear.

May I walk in constant awareness of my constant need for grace and mercy. May it be part of my heart and my mind and my lens to see the world like some Eastern Orthodox believers who consistently pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.”

In addition to the desperate need for daily grace right now and the recognition of my pride in general (lovely), something else has been coming up. Repeatedly.

First in the Sunday sermon from Daniel (again) where king Nebuchadnezzar spends seven years out of his mind as a consequence of his legendary, almost cartoonish hubris, then, in his own words,

After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever.

He looked up.

And Tozer:

For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.

And suddenly, I started seeing this concept everywhere. All week. Stop looking at your circumstances, Robin. Look up. Fix your eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of your faith. Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. I could keep going. It’s been all over.

All right, then.

So here are the big ideas from the beginning of my month of total inability:

There is always enough grace for the moment I’m in.

also,

I don’t only need moment-by-moment grace when I feel unable to handle my life. I always need it, whether or not I see that.

and…

Look up. I need to pay more attention to who God is and what He’s doing than to the things going on in my life that are making me crazy.

 

 

minigoals: june: slacker edition

…in which I remember (again) some limits inherent to this season.

So this year is an experiment in adding little habits each month to see what I stumble upon that is life-giving and useful.

Last month, I picked rambling pages as my thing to do. Here’s what I learned:

It’s still useful.

Five minutes was doable (I did it 4 to 5 days per week on average) but most days, if I wasn’t super pressed, I would do 10 or 15, because there is WAY more than five minutes’ worth of crazy.

The inside of my head is sometimes a dismal place. Frequently, the rambles would turn into me dumping insecurities and frustrations out on the page. This was a little depressing, but also allowed me a chance to see and examine some of the negative things I think regularly and examine them in light of Truth… and realize that nobody thinks about me as much as I seem to believe they do.

The less sense they make at the beginning, the more likely I am to learn something at the end. I have no idea why this is true. But if they start out saying, “Let’s see… what happened today… I don’t really know. The kids were normal. I need to start making some meals for the freezer soon, I wonder what I have planned tomorrow…” there might be some sort of epiphany at the end, if I push through the random.

That was all great… until about a week ago, when I stopped being able to adult.

Suddenly, real life is just a lot.

Maybe it’s not sudden. Maybe I just fought it for a while.

Whatever happened, when I think about a minigoal for July, the only phrase that comes to mind is…

“CANNOT. EVEN.”

Because the last month of pregnancy is not a joke. I know this, of course. But knowing it and experiencing it yet again are different, and here we are. There are a great many things that I’m obligated to do throughout my day that, ordinarily, are not a big deal, but currently rate somewhere on the spectrum that goes from annoying to unpleasant to unbelievably painful. Things including (but in no way limited to): breathing, lying down, getting up, trying to be asleep, trying to be awake, and eating.

It sounds like whining. (Sorry.)  I am unbelievably grateful I get to do all of these things, and overwhelmingly grateful that the reason they’re hard is a living child in my body who will be coming out shortly.

And also, that gratitude doesn’t change the physical (and hormonal) difficulty level.

So I’m opting out for the month.

Well, not actually.

My goal for July is to give myself a little bit of grace.

Or, you know, a lot.

I’m not supermom. Not superwife. Not super anything, except super rotund.

My goal is to be kind to myself like I’d be kind to a friend.

To remember that I’m keeping a lot of little people alive, and sometimes that is enough.

To get by in survival mode without getting grouchy with myself about the things I’m letting go.

To find things that are life-giving right now and do them. (This is why I write, take pictures, sing, and read for fun. It’s why I play with my kids and why I don’t bake with them.)

To slow down and be okay with not being productive.

To let the girls have screen time so I can doze (or just not be a grown-up) for a while without fretting over long-term damage and what a crappy mom I’m being.

July is about taking things off my daily list.

Here’s my daily list, updated for the month. (Probably at least through August, if we’re being realistic.)

  • Get out of bed.
  • Read the Bible and write down a thing or two that I’m thankful for.
  • Get a load of laundry through
  • Wash dishes
  • Make sure all living things in my house eat something.

(This is down from about 20 items. Some of the other 15 will get done some  the days, but only these are on the “really try and do it every day” list.)

This month, I’m connecting with my people. More importantly, I’m going to try to keep my heart and body in a place where connecting is an option. I’m doing the things I must, and I’m letting the rest slide. Without guilt.


I’d love to hear what you think. What are your survival mode tricks? And the big question: how do you let the rest go without making yourself crazy?

a love story for your Sunday

…a story that concluded (but mostly began) beautifully twelve years ago today.

Once upon a time, there was an 8-year-old girl living in Southern California.

For reasons nobody remembers anymore, she was talking to God about the far-distant future.

Dear God, I would really like to be a wife and mom someday. But I don’t want to do the whole date-and-break-up thing. That sounds hard, and I think I’d give up pieces of my heart that I would rather keep whole to people who don’t deserve it.

I don’t know if this is an option, but I’d really like to just, like, be best friends with a guy. And then get married to him. I have no idea if that happens, or how it could. But that’s how I’d really like it to go. If that’s what you want. Amen.

(I know. She was kind of a nerdy kid. But that really is the conversation, as best she remembers.)


Shortly after the above conversation with Jesus, her family moved from California to Alaska.

Now she’s about 13.

As the oldest of five, she needs to find creative and free ways to spend time out of her house, away from her family. (Because THIRTEEN.) 

Score! There’s a program at a local Christian summer camp where teens can come and wash dishes for a week at a time. For free.

A funny thing about camps…

Camp crushes.

The next year, there’s a boy. He’s fairly good-looking. Lots of girls think so. She thinks so, too. But also, she’s hopelessly awkward basically runs away from him at every opportunity and he has no memory of her at this point.

A couple of summers pass like this. She’s now 15.

She sees him and is awkward. As time progresses, they both spend a little more time at camp in the summers and eventually start talking. She attends a church that began as a plant from the church he goes to. Occasionally, the youth groups do joint activities or she’ll just go join his group, because it’s bigger and they do more.

They talk on ICQ. (Kids, ICQ is kind of like facebook messages without the facebook. Say it out loud. I-C-Q. I Seek You. Very clever. All on computers, of course. Smart phones weren’t a thing, and nobody even had cell phones. If you were REALLY cool or, you know, a drug dealer, you might have a pager. This girl was neither cool nor a drug dealer, so she was stuck messaging on the computer. Late at night when nobody would be getting any calls, because the internet was actually the phone line. It was very cutting-edge in the mid-to-late-90s.) They share a little more deeply. She especially prefers this, because she writes far better and more comfortably than she speaks in person. And high school is hard.


Spring of Junior year.

She is in JROTC and in charge of planning a military ball. Because she has an official position at the dining-in, she needs a date. She has never had a boyfriend. She hasn’t had any offers. (Remember, awkward.) But she does know a guy that she’s become reasonably good friends with…

Awkwardness and hilarity ensue.

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And again the next year.

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Also around Senior year, without talking about it, they both decide to go to the same tiny one-year Bible school in Oregon for a year. Weird, right? They’ve also become friends with each other’s immediate and extended families.


They go away to Ecola Bible School after graduation. It’s October ’00.

They naturally hang out a lot. People ask with some frequency if they’re siblings or just good friends. Their stock answer is “yes.” Occasionally, someone will ask if they’re dating. This is awkward because he is actually dating someone else from school. So that would be a definite no. She still has a latent crush on him, but realizes this is never going to happen and ignores it.


Fall of ’01, back in Alaska.

He is single again. They are taking classes together. And they both work with the youth group at the church he grew up in and they lead worship together and his car died back in Oregon, so riding around together just makes sense.

Over the next years, it becoms increasingly (sometimes painfully) obvious that they’re going to end up together. They continue as friends, though… With all the stuff going on in this season, who has time for dates? They’re too busy hanging out and doing life.


December 22, 2003.

He says “I love you”for the first time. (So does she.) This is followed immediately by “Will you marry me?” (she says yes, after a solid minute of All The Thoughts, mostly trying to find a more articulate way to say “yes” since “heck yes” seems inappropriate at this moment) and a first kiss.

Later, they figure out this date is actually one year exactly since she caught the bouquet at his best friend’s wedding. And he caught the garter.


They endured the longest six months ever as they planned and waited for their wedding.

But then it finally happened.

And they lived happily ever after.


The beginning.

The years since that beginning have been amazing. It’s not perfect… One sinner married another sinner and that presents issues on a regular basis. Even after all this time. But it’s good. He is God’s good gift to me.

This is my favorite love story, partly because it’s ours.

But it isn’t only about a love story between him and I.

It’s also a story of a little girl (not so much older than my firstborn girl) who asked God for something ridiculous that she couldn’t possibly understand then. And, for reasons I can’t quite fathom,

He said yes.

He hasn’t, by any means, said yes to every ridiculous thing I’ve ever requested. For instance, I somehow never made the US Olympic gymnastic team. (Shocking.)

I have a friend who talks about these as “bread crumbs” of God’s faithfulness. (She’s on her own divinely romantic adventure now!)  This trail, the abridged version I wrote here and all the pieces I couldn’t include because it’s already far too long, is full of those.

And I know the God who was faithful to answer the prayers of an honest little girl will be faithful to continue the work he started in both of our hearts decades ago.