thoughts converge

There’s a lime-sized baby floating around in my basketball-sized belly. I popped over a week ago, well before the end of trimester 1. Looking like 5 months at 11 weeks. Thanks, fourth-slash-fifth baby!

My fears for the lime/baby have been unreasonably large for the last twenty-four hours. The story I’m making up is that I’ll go in roughly two and a half weeks from now and they won’t find a heartbeat. Then the ultrasound will find a baby that’s been lost for a couple of weeks. And then I’ll wait to miscarry. Then I will, and it’ll be horrific and far more physically traumatic than losing Hope, because the baby is bigger than Brian’s pinky toenail this time—closer to the size of his foot.

I lost a couple months to depression after Hope, then a couple more to early pregnancy, and the three kids I DO have basically haven’t seen a fully functional mother since summer. I have no idea how long this would take me down. I’ve counted four children since shortly after Brian was born (very disconcerting in public spaces to come up one short all. the. time.) But if I lose babies four and five? Perhaps I should take the hint and take up sudoku instead, because clearly raising four children is not what I’m made for.

This is the kind of crazy I’ve been talking myself down from the last little while. Note to the several adults living in the house with me on vacation: this is why my lack of words and margin. It’s not you. It’s me.

 


 

This morning was to be my fifteenth consecutive morning run. But on my fourteenth, I recognized a twinge that, in 2008, signaled a stress-fractured tibial plateau. I pushed through then, and it set off a chain of events that mark that one stupid 5K (!!!) as the single worst thing that’s ever happened to my health.

God designed our bodies well. Some kinds of pain are warning lights that we shouldn’t ignore. So as much as I wanted to run this morning, I chose to walk a little bit instead, in order to honor the body that works pretty well for me and the good God who designed it with wisdom and warning lights. (Please note how I just took a day off jogging as an honest act of worship.)


 

On the drive between where I run and where I drink coffee that’s become part of my morning liturgy over the last two weeks, I was pondering both my Big Fears and my disappointment over not being able to run today. (Or perhaps this week, which means it may be the end of summer before I run again, based on location and circumstances.) Then, in the healing way He sometimes does, the Holy Spirit connected the two. And I wish it was assurance that the good God who designed my body to warn me before I hurt myself badly also designed my body to hold, grow, and deliver this child alive and healthy in July, but that wasn’t what I heard. No, the thing I was impressed by was His goodness, wisdom, and mercy, regardless of outcomes. Am I still nervous about this baby I desperately want to meet this summer? Oh, man. But my hope doesn’t lie in a healthy fourth (-slash-fifth) baby. My hope is in the person of God, who knit each of my five babies together inside me and numbered the days of every one of them. His goodness is no less if the story I made up about the loss of this one comes true, and it is no greater if I deliver yet another crazy awesome Chapman baby in six months.


I still wish I knew how this was going to play out. But God knows. And eventually, so will I.

 

 

 

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gifts from 2015

At the beginning of the year, my focus was on keeping first things first, with several areas within that I wanted to emphasize.

Seven subfocuses: too many. The things that floated to the top throughout the year were creative. This was the year of singing, shooting, and writing. The others (move, connect, quiet, organize) showed up in and out, but to a lesser extent.

I started singing again in the Spring (thanks to my fantastic mother-in-law who takes over my jobs at home so I can make it to practices and Sunday mornings.)

I made a goal of busting out the big camera daily. While I didn’t manage daily (I probably brought it out one day out of two… or three), I took a lot more pictures this year than I did the year before, which is a win. (I’m aiming for improvement, not perfection.) I even got a chance to share with some others by taking family pictures for a few friends!

Then in October, I held my breath and joined a writer’s group (thereby bringing writing from “casual hobby” to “actual thing” in my own head) and just that motivation (and mental shift) has meant about twice as many posts in the last three months as in all of 2014.


 

Self-care was a thing this year. I took an e-course called Replenish 365 where we spent the year making tiny shifts every week toward living well. I think the first week we focused on ways to get extra water, and we built from there… through limbic calm, nutrition, rest, movement, and then into connection and alignment, just a little at a time. And you know what? I probably currently have in play about 20% of the tools we learned, but that 20% is all stuff I wasn’t doing before, and it has me in a much calmer place now than I was in January. Also, once you take the course, you’re free to retake it as many times as you like, so I get to pick up some more of those tools this year. (If you’re interested in useful tools, Replenish is also a book.)


 

I learned I’m a pen-and-paper kind of girl. a friend got me hooked on this crazy expensive planner (though if you get the link from a friend who’s bought one, you at least get $10 off) and two things happened. First, I learned that there’s a crazy ridiculous planner girl community. There are tens of thousands of people who decorate every weekly (or monthly or daily) layout in fun and creative ways. Who knew? And then I figured out that when I merge my creative right brain with my mildly OCD left brain, the result is both fun and productive. I started getting a lot more things done with a lot less “what was I doing again?” So that’s happening again in 2016.


 

Related to that, a book I read in 2014 talked about the benefits of checklists in many different disciplines. (It sounds dry, but Gawande is one of my favorite authors. Very readable, fascinating stuff.) So I applied it and made myself checklists, then tweaked them repeatedly, and
eventually settled on these stickers that go in my planner. It’s not about filling in all the dots so much as keeping track of little things that are easy IMG_1173to forget, but don’t cost me much effort for the benefit. (Like starting a load of laundry early or taking my vitamins.) Instead of getting discouraged about unchecked bubbles for a day or week, I see how many I can do. I have yet to score a perfect week, but that doesn’t worry me.


 

This is a weird one, but I learned that Chux pads are indispensable when dealing with preschoolers with stomach bugs. Saved so much laundry. (I put them on beds or wherever the kids were.) Gross, but there’s a free little tip for the mamas. I felt like a genius.


 

Gratitude isn’t a new thing for 2015. I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts in maybe 2012, and thought, “hey! A gratitude journal seems simple enough.” The practice changed. my. life. The act of looking for things to thank God for every day has revolutionized the way I see the world around me. This TEDtalk mentions it as one of a few ways to rewire your brain for happiness, and I can certainly say it has made a substantial difference in mine. This year, I was a little flakier about actually writing them down every day than I have been, which has been negative in that once a habit starts to slip, it becomes easier to let it go more frequently. But it’s been positive to see that, even when I don’t write it down, I find myself whispering prayers of thankfulness throughout the day, and I see my kids doing the same. (And they never write anything down.)


 

And I’ll leave you with a couple “favorites” of the year.

Favorite book:

emperor of all maladies

It was a really interesting look at the disease from ancient history to now. I found it surprisingly hopeful, surprisingly readable, and not surprisingly VERY interesting.

Favorite picture:

IMG_4327

Everybody now: “Awwwww….” I love that I got this sweet moment. They aren’t frequently found holding hands, so major score that I captured it!

Favorite movie:

martian

Okay. Full discloure: this is the only movie I watched in theaters this year. Also? It belongs under favorite book. Andrew started reading it one night while I was washing dishes. He was laughing out loud. I’m like, “What’s so funny?” He says, “I just started this book and it’s AWESOME.” Me: “So… read it to me, if you just started.” So we read it out loud together. It destroyed about a week and a half of bedtimes. 11:15 every night: “Aw, man! It’s late! …One more chapter?” I’m pleased to report that the movie, while it couldn’t fit all the coolness of the book, was a relatively good adaptation. I highly recommend both.

Favorite post of mine:

This one. About the SCOTUS decision that fell on my eleventh wedding anniversary.

It was terrifying to post, because I try by best to avoid politics whenever I can. It’s not necessarily my favorite because I think it’s revolutionary or especially well-written. It’s my favorite because it shows me that I can find the courage and the words to speak my mind when I need to (even in public) with some grace and some truth. I’ve done it since then, and wound up with a bit more friendly fire when I posted about refugees, but this one was the first.


How about you? What worked for you this past year that you’d like to carry forward? What was a favorite of yours this year?

the one place grace cannot be found…

I stumbled upon this post many years ago. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. Here’s how this truth has saved my heart countless hours of struggle. I hope it lodges in your head and heart the way it’s lodged in mine. Here are the some of the ways it plays out in my life.


 

I have an ultrasound in a few days. Just an early one to date the pregnancy. No big deal. Except… It’s a big freaking deal. My mind whirls with a couple of possibilities, but repeats them over… and over… and over again. What if something’s wrong? What if nothing’s wrong and I get complacent and then lose the baby later anyway? What if something’s wrong…?

Then, rushing into my head and heart like a warm flood are these words of Elizabeth Elliott: “There is no grace for your imagination.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of looking for grace everywhere.

But I have found one place God’s grace isn’t: my worst-case scenarios.

Or, more precisely, my projection of my worst-case scenarios. Because when I’m fretting about the worst, one thing I never, ever do is count on God’s grace. I mean, I imagine a thousand different outcomes of whatever catastrophe might befall me, but I actually always forget that His grace will meet me there.

Just me?

God gives us grace enough for the day we have. Whatever situation I find myself in, I find His grace there as well. Even when it’s bad. Even when it’s my own fault. But when I start outpacing the now and start fretting about might, I am working outside of my actual situation- you know, the one He’s given me grace for.


 

Last Wednesday early morning, Brian woke up needing to nurse in the early hours. While I was feeding him, for some reason it crossed my mind that we haven’t had a stomach bug in a while and we’re probably due and I hate stomach bugs. Hate them. Hate having them, hate cleaning up after kids who have them. I’m the biggest nausea/vomiting wuss ever. But as I was sitting there pondering the horror that is stomach bugs (instead of enjoying a rare wee-hours moment with my not-so-baby boy) the Holy Spirit reminded me of the truth I know: there is no grace for my imagination. IF we wind up with a stomach bug, God’s grace will meet me there and give me what I need to handle it, just like He has done every single time before. The end.

Four hours later, Katherine threw up on the carpet.

You know what? It was a good day. Katherine was basically constantly sick in all kinds of inconvenient places around my house, then I got sick, then Jenna, then Andrew. But we had a pretty chill day watching movies and giving baths. People around me loved and served me in ways that were so outside their job descriptions and my expectations that I was blown away. (Not that it took so much- I could hardly stand up straight.)

It was fine.

Now I know this is a comparatively little disaster, but it illustrates the larger reality. When the Big Fears enter my mind, the truth remains.


 

When Andrew’s on a long drive and I haven’t heard from him in a while and I become absolutely convinced he’s dead… There is no grace for my imagination. If that actually happens, God’s grace will meet me there.

When I worry that my kids will get seriously ill or injured or make terrible, destructive choices…There is no grace for my imagination. If that actually happens, God’s grace will meet me there.

When I have a weird pain and I convince myself I probably have cancer and I’ll be sick forever on chemo (see also: biggest nausea/vomiting wuss ever), then probably die soon anyway, leaving my husband and tiny children to fend for themselves… (I know. I’m kind of neurotic. Just go with it.)…There is no grace for my imagination. If that actually happens, God’s grace will meet me (and them) there.

When I worry that I’ll be forced to choose between Trump and Hillary in an election… There is no grace for my imagination. If that actually happens, God’s grace will met me there. (Kidding.) (Ok, definitely not. Thank goodness for the reality of grace.)

Do you see where I’m going? (Of course you do.) This covers an awful lot of my catastrophizing. (Isn’t that a great word? Hard to say without concentrating really hard, but a great word.) It also covers a lot of fairly legitimate fears. (And by “a lot,” I mean “all.”)

Because the truth is, if or when the worst actually happens, His grace will always be there.

Jenna’s fifth birthday

Hello again, there, my girl.

(Did you know I love the excuse to write you a big long letter? To put together many of the words that I think about you all at once? This is fun.)

Happy birthday, baby. Did you know you’re beautiful? Seriously. Inside and out, regardless of whether or not you have a twirly dress on. Your sparkling eyes, your magical smile, your lovely hair. (“Does she have a natural ombre??” Did I, the mom who only makes my children wear socks when we’re going to play at McDonald’s, spend time and money getting that done at a salon? Um, no. Yeah. Totally natural.) Your kind attitude. Your amazing sense of humor. Your sweet words. I could go on forever.

It’s been a fun year, hasn’t it? I just read last year’s letter to you, and some of the things I was looking forward to didn’t happen. The swim lessons (sorry- I can’t adequately convey my frustration with the system of swim lesson signups here), the schooly stuff (you’re learning some letters and words and can write stuff if I spell it, but… yeah. Formal schoolwork at home didn’t happen much this year. You were busy learning to be a person and I was too busy teaching you and the others how to be little people. We’ll get there.)

You know what did happen, though? You now understand God’s grace in all its truth. Maybe a month after your last birthday, you told me, on a three-minute drive, “Mom? The other night, I asked Jesus to be my leader! I told him I was sorry for my sins and he rescued me! And then K prayed after me!” I was amused that the very first thing you did after accepting Jesus’ gift was try to evangelize your sister. Also? I was a little skeptical. I mean, I wasn’t there. But as the months wore on, it became pretty obvious… You love Jesus and His Spirit is living in you.

Beautiful.

You’re growing up so nicely. I love your heart. I love seeing you become who you’re made to be. I love seeing you grow in grace. And, can I be honest? I really enjoy the hard parts of that becoming, too. You have my your daddy’s stubbornness and sometimes you just get defiant and mad. But those are golden opportunities. Oh, they’re no fun at the time, but it is so cool to me to see you really get it. You’re learning, slowly, painfully slowly sometimes, to adjust your own attitude. And you’re learning, just a little at a time, that adjusting your own attitude isn’t always fully within your grasp, but you do know Someone who can help you with it, and now and again you remember to cry out to Him.

I love you, child. I love that you’re mine. I love discovering who you’re becoming. I pray for another year of that. 

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grace in miscarriage, part two

[Disclaimer: This post is fairly long (for me) and personal. Maybe to the point of overshare. Like the first post, my goal here is not to describe the general experience of miscarriage, but rather to bring it one more small step into the light. By sharing my story I hope to make it easier for a few other women to share theirs… Even better if it is helpful for women who haven’t yet had miscarriages, but statistically may eventually do so. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, I’m not even a little offended if you head back to whatever you were doing before.]

It’s been a couple months now since my miscarriage and, while it was important to talk about it as it happened, I’ve learned a lot since then. Here’s some of that…


Grief can be slow.

I was basically numb for a couple of weeks. There was kind of a background sense of sadness, but mostly there was a sense that I had this weird dream that I was pregnant, but then I woke up. (My dream life is pretty active and vivid, so this is basically life as usual.)


There are lots of people who want to share their stories.

This was overwhelming, but in a good way. There seem to be lot of people who really want to share about their babies, but just need permission or an excuse to do so. (Even if you’re ok talking about it and you ignore the cultural taboo surrounding miscarriage, it’s not something that comes up frequently in conversation. It feels like a downer.) It was a beautiful and heartbreaking privilege to hear so many of you speak of babies that you miss.


People can be totally awesome at wholehearted compassion, given the opportunity.

I had this really terrifying realization the day after I shared the first post… I shared it Friday night, then Saturday I remembered I was singing on Sunday morning. Now, I love every second I get to help lead worship. But also, when I do, my mother-in-law watches my kids for the morning and brings them to the second service. So I’m there at both services without kids to chase (in this case, hide behind.) Usually, this is awesome. But this particular week, I was pretty anxious about the vulnerable, exposed feeling I anticipated. And, as one person pointed out, going public with a miscarriage could very well mean processing my pain with a lot of well-meaning but casual acquaintances… daunting for an introvert.

But do you know what? My church family is awesome. Kind and compassionate, not awkward or overwhelming. I hadn’t shared it looking for support (which is funny, because that seems like an obvious outcome now), but support is very much what I found. As for processing with casual acquaintances, it turns out a lot of people I know (but not well) wanted to share their experiences in a really positive way. The general sense was, “here’s what I experienced, it’s hard, and it is going to be OK. You’re not alone.” 

Also? I found out (again) that worship is a really good antidote to self-consciousness. It turns out that when I’m focusing on the greatness of God, I kind of lose track of how vulnerable I’m supposed to be feeling.


Grief is worth looking for.

So here it gets messy. Brené Brown says in Gifts of Imperfection, “We cannot selectiely numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” For a couple of weeks, I wasn’t feeling sad, but I also wasn’t feeling… anything. I started to panic that I was doing it wrong, what ever “it” was. So I went to see my therapist. We figured out a couple reasons why I was fighting the sad so hard.

First, it was easier to believe it wasn’t really a baby. When I was  a teenager, I had a man in spiritual authority explain logically why babies- born and unborn- go to Hell if they die before receiving Christ. I have no recollection of why we were discussing this and I’ve long since come to believe otherwise, based on scripture and what I know of God’s character, but the words were still there, ricocheting around my brain. (Don’t get mad at him, that’s so not the point. He was a good man trying to handle the Word accurately.) 

Then also, I had this thought (apparently a common one) that the reason I lost this baby was because I couldn’t take one more right now. I had this story in my head that one more kid would push me over the edge into psychosis and I’d end up on national news after destroying my family in some horrible way. That being the case, this loss was God’s gracious way of sparing my whole family (baby included) from some crazy trauma. It follows then that I should be thankful, not sad.

Sometimes I need someone to help me figure out what lies are circulating around in my head and point them out for what they are. I have an excellent, Jesus-loving therapist that can help me with that. (Ok, since the point of this is authenticity, I actually have two. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing.) I left her office crying. She apologized for that, but as far as I was concerned, it was a win. Once we found the lies (“it’s not a baby, because if it were, it would be in Hell” and “I would go crazy and destroy my family”) and corrected them (it is a baby and she’s not in Hell and I’d have been a darn good mama to her), I was free to grieve. 


Sometimes grief looks like obscene laziness.

I cried some, but not much. But wasn’t very functional. Six weeks. SIX WEEKS sitting on my recliner, basically. Every now and then I’d have a day where there was energy enough to do something, get out of the house, maybe clean something. We ate a lot of corn dogs and chicken nuggets. My internal response to every single thing that came to my mind to do, from cooking dinner to shopping to effectively training my children was “I cannot. I just can’t even.” My husband started getting groceries. (He keeps doing it, even though I could manage it myself now… Bless him. Shopping with three preschoolers isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.) 



But… sometimes depression looks like obscene laziness, too.

Another blessing of everyone knowing was that I periodically had people message me just to see how I was. One friend that I like but don’t get to talk with a whole lot did this several weeks in… I gave her the line about grief looking like laziness. She responded, “It doesn’t sound like laziness to me, from what little you said, I thought depression of sorts.”

I laughed out loud.

Not because it was ludicrous, but because it was so obvious. If I heard anyone else talking like I was talking, all the bells would go off in my head, too! But it was me, so I didn’t see it. And neither did the people who were in my life daily. It took someone outside the situation to point it out.

The way God decided to handle this ahead of time was fairly simple- I was already on an antidepressant for postpartum anxiety that showed up after #3 came. (Side note: That’s a thing. And it’s only just now getting any press, but it’s apparently more common than postpartum depression, and, untreated, it sucks the joy out of everything.) The way it was written, I actually had some leeway to tweak the dosage a little while remaining compliant. So I did that. Shortly after that, I was back! Magic! It’s not a forever thing, but it sure is nice to be able to show up to my life again. I’ll take the support.

Hope really does make a difference.

Haha! Now it’s a little confusing that we named this baby Hope. The hope I’m talking about right now is the hope of Heaven. It had been a long time since I’d had much drive to look very deeply at the reality of Heaven. And, honestly, it took a while to come around to it. But (again) a friend who’d been through it sought me out and we talked while our kids played and she talked in great detail about what she’s learned about it, and the reality is, no matter how big and how great and how beautiful we imagine it, there’s no way we will be disappointed. I mean, it’s HEAVEN.

And it’s not just my grand imaginations. Scripture has some pretty great stuff to say about the place, too. There’s lots of light. Better than Fairbanks summers. Also, no more curse. It’s spectacularly, unimaginably beautiful. Jesus is there. Heaven isn’t the entire focus of my existence- that spot is ideally reserved for the God of Heaven, though saying so gives the false impression that I have anything that resembles an undivided focus. But I’d be lying if I said verses that involve it didn’t hit me a little deeper these days.

The loss gives me the ability to fully “weep with those who weep.” Sharing it gives me the opportunity.

A friend sent me this print not long ago. She’s also experienced loss and she’s one
 of many who has known how to grieve beside me.

Here it gets sad again… A few weeks after I lost Hope, my sister-in-law (who was so very supportive through my miscarriage) lost her first baby, a little guy they named Jeffrey. (She also decided to share her loss publicly and gave me permission to talk about it here.) Despite living thousands of miles from Amanda, the freshness of my experience gave me the opportunity to be fully, viscerally there. With some actual, useful information. (Side note: for some reason, very few of the mamas I’ve spoken with have gotten really good information from their doctors’ offices about what to expect when you’re no longer expecting. This is crap. The biggest source of information seems to be other moms who’ve been there.) I hate that we both lost babies. But, given that we did, I’m really grateful for God’s timing and the ability to walk with her. 


God gives grace and redeems tragedies. And since he is redeeming mine, I can trust him to redeem hers, too. 

The prospect of another pregnancy is utterly terrifying.

For reals, yo.

What if I lose another? What will that do to my heart? What does that say about my body and the ability to carry more children? What if I keep this one? It feels like total betrayal to “move on” from Hope! I mean, she’s mine! How can I possibly grieve her *and* be excited for #5 at the same time? I don’t have a clue in the world how to hold both of those things at the same time. And I’m hesitant to be emotionally engaged with this pregnancy because the prospect of loving and losing another baby is so daunting. But also I want to be as “all in” as possible, in case I DO lose this one, so I can love it as long and as well as possible, however long that might be. 

(Yes, I’m pregnant. I figured I already broke the rule about talking about a miscarriage, so…)

Somehow pregnancy went from totally routine for me to reallyreally complicated. And that’s kind of sad. I suppose it’s good to have a more realistic view of my theoretical chances of miscarrying again, but mostly I hate that, on top of the standard scramble of emotions that usually goes with finding out I’m pregnant (Yay! We make awesome little people! and Oh, crap! What have we done?!?) there’s all this other mess.

As before, I don’t have a good, clear way to end this post. I’m still working that part out. Praying for grace and God’s protection. Trusting that, however this winds up, grace will meet me there. 

refugees-in-quotation-marks

Um, guys? We need to talk.


Since the attacks on Paris last week, I’ve seen an alarming amount of talk about refugees-in-quotation-marks. How we can’t let “those people” in or “they” will wreak the same kind of havoc here. In my circles, this opinion is being voiced by a minority, which is good. 

But that minority is from among those who vocally follow Jesus.

And since my blog is read mostly by friends of mine who follow Jesus, I’m going to talk to us for a minute.

Stop it.

JUST STOP.

For the love of the God who bought us at a very high price while we were still his enemies, we must stop.


Here are some Syrian refugees.

(source)

(source)

(source)

(source)

Oh wait. Nope, that last one is my kids. My little dude’s brown eyes don’t look so different from the eyes of those Syrian babies. 

And seriously? The thing that separates my babies from the ones above them is geography. That’s really all.

You guys. According to WorldVision there are upwards of 4 million refugies and half are kids. My math degree came from UAF, but I’m pretty sure I can work this out… two. million. children. So of the 4 million, most  are families. Like mine. And yours.

So when we talk about refugees-in-quotation-marks, the sneering implication is that “refugees” is just a cover for “terrorists.” As if these babies had anything to do with the carnage in Paris. 

If we’re going to follow Jesus, we need to listen to what He says.  Here is what he didn’t say:

Avoid risks at all costs. Insulate yourself from the possibility of danger. If that involves turning away millions of sheep to keep out a couple hypothetical wolves, by all means, do that. (Notinmybible 38:4-5)

You know what he did say?

(And here’s where you DON’T get all sidetracked by the fact that not all of these were said by Jesus while he was on Earth… They’re said by God. In the Bible. Jesus is God. Settle down.)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Psalm 146:9) 

 Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31, among others.)

[Important edit: In the interests of handling Scripture correctly, I have to note that none of these deal directly with American Christians being hospitable to Syrian refugees. The reason that I mention these scriptures is because they teach us something important about God’s heart- He is FOR those who are in need and have been mistreated, both of which describe the Syrian refugees.]

These are people. Made in the image of God. They need him. As his followers, it is absolutely despicable for us to tell them, “we don’t want your kind ’round here.” Because your kind is our kind.

Are they all good people? Nope. None of them are. Neither am I. Do they deserve grace? Um… No. Did you get the part where it’s called grace? Do they need Jesus? Absolutely. So do I.

Now, I get it. There are all kinds of very real questions here. And I’m just a mama. I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

Can the US absorb 4 million refugees? Of course not. But it can absorb some.

Will there be economic consequences? Yes.

Is security an issue? Yes. Of course it is. But almost all of these people are running away, at  great peril in the fleeing, from people who are terrorizing them. 

Yes, most of them are Muslim,and the terrorists are terrorizing in the name of Islam. But the fact that they are Muslims and the terrorists are Muslims does not mean that they are terrorists. That kind of logic is ignorant crap. 

And do you realize that Jesus loves them like he loves you? That he paid just as high a price that they might come, too? How can we possibly show them his love while curling our lip at these refugees-in-quotation-marks?

We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus while outright rejecting millions of people, millions of children, who are made in his image. 

good taste

You guys.

Have you seen this quote?
Go ahead. It’s long. I’ll wait.

I’ve seen it pop up here and there lately. And I love it.
 
It’s hugely encouraging… Much of the work I do feels a little disappointing to me. At the beginning of the year, I took inventory of the things that were life-giving to me: the things that, in a very real and basic way, are what God has wired me to do. And I’ve been at least a little bit intentional in making more space in my crazy life to actually do those things. But when I look at the finished product, it never quite lives up to what I’d envisioned.
And then I am tempted to quit sometimes. I mean, not quit quit- because I really like  feeling alive and living from who I was made to be, so I always come back… eventually. But I frequently find myself kind of moving away from the creative and distracting myself in all the details of keeping my life and my home moving. I can always find somewhere to put my attention… my to-do list is months long.
For me, this idea, the need to push through the work until reality matches the vision, is just the excuse I’ve been looking for to just go ahead and do my thing, even when I don’t love what comes of it. Because maybe it’ll get there. (Ohmygoodness, is that quote the longest possible way to say “practice makes perfect”? Maybe. Don’t care. Still love it.) So I’m going to write more. Shoot more. Sing more.
And yeah, maybe it’ll stay kinda… meh. Maybe I’ll always be frustrated by the difference between what I made and what I wanted to make. Maybe the words won’t always come out as well as I wanted and the pictures will still fall far short of capturing the glory I was hoping for. Maybe the high notes are always going to be out of range. None of that’s fully within my control. Not all small things become big things. (…to shamelessly rip off Emily Freeman. Again.) This is fine. But it will always be mediocre if I don’t go ahead and do it. And while I’m putting in the time, waiting to see if I’m ever actually happy with what it is I’m making, I get to do the stuff I love. 
As I write this, it occurs to me that I worship God in my creativity. The God who created me made me in His image, which includes, among other things… wait for it… creativity. In living that out, I agree with him that the ways He created me to reflect Him are good and right. Offering that back is an act of worship. And it’s the creating itself that reflects Him. Not necessarily what comes of it. Do I want to do lousy work? No. But is my best a good offering to him? Absolutely.
This makes me think of my girls. (Like usual.) They’re only 17 months apart, both preschool. So they’re each learning to draw, and the developmental difference that 17 months makes is pretty clear. I can see my oldest concentrating hard on drawing whatever she’s drawing. She’s focusing on doing it “just perfect.” But I honestly don’t value her attempts at perfect any more or any less than the picture that her little sister colored “all rainbowy.” I can see them getting better, even when they can’t. And the thing that’s valuable to me is the effort they are clearly putting into creating, and the joy I see in them as they do.
So maybe it doesn’t matter if I’m a little frustrated at the scribbles I make. I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep improving. Only God knows whether my drawing of a dog will ever look like an actual dog I have in my mind. That’s not really my concern right now. The thing that’s mine to do right now is simply busting out the crayons and printer paper.
So how about you? Are there areas of creativity that you dabble in, but kind of distance yourself from? Is your desire for perfection and inability to attain it keeping you from being the creative that you were made to be? Please don’t let it. We need your gifts. The world isn’t the same without them.
Here’s to good taste and good-enough art.

his first birthday letter

Hey, little dude. You don’t know it and you won’t be able to read for a while, but every year, I try to write you a little letter. This is for you, so you can look back and see how I’ve loved you over the years. It’s for me, because I have All The Words and sometimes there’s an overflow and it all just needs to come out. And, for now, I share it, too. Because you have lots of people in lots of places who love you and sometimes it’s fun for them to see this side of who you are.

So here it is. You’re one now, and I get to write you your very first birthday note.


and… I can’t quite think how to start. 

There’s so much.

Here’s the biggest idea:


You are my third baby. By the time you arrived, our family had a rhythm of its own. With J, and then somewhat with K, the family rhythm formed around who they were.

But you didn’t really have that luxury. 


And you know what? 

If I had the option to special-order you from God, the most perfect possible child for our family, I could not possibly have done as well as God did. 

You fit. You fit perfectly. You are exactly the piece this home needed. You add so much joy, I can’t even begin to express it. I adore you. Everyone does, actually. From your big brown eyes that are smiling all the time to your perfect, delicious little toes, you are awesome. I frequently describe you as “as laid-back and delightful as babies come” and I’m not exaggerating. This is excellent because when you were born, you had two sisters under the age of four, and sometimes their adoration looks like assault. But you just handle it. You handle it so well and so often I had to give the phenomenon its own tag. 

You are patient. 


So very, very patient. There’s a lot of mom guilt that can come with having a not-first baby… there are so many needs and only one me and sometimes, it’s the smallest who’s going to have to wait. Because, for example, early on when all three of you needed lunch right now, I could get your sisters lunch in five minutes or less (if I was quick), but feeding you could take 45 minutes. And you needed it more, there’s no question. But I could let one wait for five minutes, or I could let two wait for 45 minutes (probably disrupting your meal the whole time), so… you had to wait. As a teeny, tiny baby. And your needs aren’t always last. I try to work things so you’re not always getting the short end of the stick, but the fact remains… you do. A lot more often than the girls did. But do you complain? Not usually. Why? 

Your left thumb.


Oh, my goodness, do I ever love your left thumb. 

So do you. 

I know there may come a day when you and I struggle mightily against your thumb-sucking habit, but this year? It’s been perfect. I can’t even tell you how much I love that you’ve always been able to soothe yourself. I love that you let me know that you need me for a second, then you find your thumb and wait patiently (even happily!) while I try to get through whatever I have to before I can get to you. Obviously, it makes my life easier. But you know what? It makes yours better, too, and not just because you’re calmer during the wait. Because, whether you self-soothed or not, I would still have to meet all the needs of all the little people, and you’d still need to wait sometimes. But instead of yelling at me and raising my stress levels while you wait, you make it easy. So when I finally get there, I’m not frustrated or anxious. Instead, I’m really, really grateful. And a grateful mom is a better mom for you. 

And speaking of anxious…


Something else that surprised me was how much you calm me down. I remember when you were weeks old. I was struggling with postpartum anxiety for the first time ever, and it was sucking all the fun out of my life, which was a bummer because I knew, even then, that my life was a pretty good one. But one morning, when I was ridiculously overstimulated and on the verge of completely freaking out, I laid a swaddle blanket on the floor. I set you on it. I grabbed some coffee and just… sat. And the toddler chaos continued around me and it was loud. But somehow… you and I? On that blanket? We were OK. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that a newborn would become a calming influence, but there you were. 


“Oh! Are you trying for a boy?!?”


This is the question that people inexplicably asked through the first half of my pregnancy. And, setting aside all the things that make that one of the more awkward questions people ask (besides, perhaps, “don’t you know what causes that?!?”), the answer in my own heart was “nope.” I had your sisters. I knew girls. I liked girls. I was comfortable being a “girl mom.” I was intimidated by the idea of figuring out a whole ‘nother gender. Neither your daddy nor I were really worried about “carrying on the family name” or anything, so when the ultrasound tech told us you were a boy, we were quiet. I wasn’t sure what it would look like, this whole “boy” thing. 

But then you showed up. And people still ask me, “Ooh! Aren’t you glad to have a boy?!?” But now the answer is totally obvious. “I’m glad to have HIM.” Everything, from your very special name to your shining eyes to your belly laugh and your easy personality… I like you. Not because we “finally got our boy,” but because God gave us you. 

I love you, little mister. 


You’re growing up exactly right. I’m excited to see who you become. I could go on for pages and pages about the things I want for you. (I’ll condense: I want Jesus to draw your heart to himself.) But for now? My attention is pretty consumed with who you are right now and how much I love this amazing little person.


magical dream wishcards

This is not a beat-up metal “purse” full of dud photos. These are magical dream wishcards.


I sometimes order prints willy-nilly. When they’re a penny each, sometimes it’s just easiest to order them all and figure it out later. That’s what I did last month. I ordered a couple hundred prints from the last TWO YEARS and then sorted them for distribution when they arrived. (Side note: this is not a good way to handle this. My new process involves uploading just a few from each month that I actually want prints of. But I hadn’t realized that when I was uploading photos in November of 2013. Oops.) 

Anyhow, I pulled a reasonable number of pictures I wanted to send to the handful of places I wanted to send them and was left with this huge stack of leftovers. They’re still good pictures, but I have no plans for them, so when the girls asked if they could play with them, I just shrugged and said ok.

They came up with a number of fun and interesting things to do with them, but a few hours later, J started talking to me about “magical dream wishcards.” I figured she was talking about the prints, but I wasn’t sure what, exactly, I was supposed to do with them.

“Mom. I turn all these cards upside down. You pick one and look at it. Then you take it to bed with you and you try and dream about it! And if you start to dream about something else, you just… you push it out of your head with the right dream!”

And it hit me…


Any one of these couple hundred pictures would make a reasonable dream. 


I picked one where I was introducing the girls to their brother. But it could just as easily have been one of J and her dad at the zoo. Or K at the museum. Or that one time they were decorating cookies with a friend. Or their brother making a silly face. As far as my four-year-old is concerned, any one of these would make a great dream. Far better than some of the scary ones she deals with on occasion.

I know these photos represent a highlight real of sorts. Not that all of the pictures are of the big moments- most of them are downright mundane. (Lots of pictures of kids in high chairs. Because they’re happy and they’re sitting still.) But they’re at least relatively happy- I don’t tend to take a lot of shots of my kids in time-outs or throwing tantrums or sticking their faces in pubic toilets. Mostly because I’m too busy in those moments to bust out the big camera and document them, but also… who wants to relive that? 

But at the same time, what if my kids’ memories work a little like that? 


What if your people’s memories worked a bit like that?


Nostalgia can be a bit that way, right? So maybe it’s not out of the question…

I tend to be pretty hard on myself, in general. All I can see is the times I spoke a bit too sharply or wasn’t so present with my kiddos because I needed to check out from all the incessant words for a minute (or thirty.) So when I look at our life together as a whole, I sort of assume that that’s what they’ll remember, too. And this month has been a doozy… a miscarriage and all the ways that’s affected my mothering in the weeks since. A car accident (everyone’s fine, car’s functional) and all the hours of insurance phone calls that the kids have had to wait through. I haven’t been at my best.

But my firstborn’s magical dream wishcards make me wonder… 

What if she sees our life that way? What if it’s pretty much all the things that happy dreams are made of? What if she’s gonna be ok and my shortcomings won’t send her to years of therapy? I mean… not that I shouldn’t call my sin what it is and walk toward holiness, but what if there’s enough grace to cover my failings? 

What about you?


What things do you tend to be hard on yourself about? 

What if your people paid less attention to that than you did? What if they just see you? Showing up, loving them, doing what you do? 

What kinds of magical dream wish cards might they be carrying in their heads and hearts? (Snuggles? The way you sing in the car? When you remember their favorite thing and provide it at the right moment? The time you met them for lunch? That time you went on a field trip with them?) You love your people. They can tell. These little moments matter, probably more than we realize.

Give yourself a little bit of grace today, ok?