to my friend struggling with infertility

This isn’t written to one particular friend. I’ve had at least three or four of these interactions in the last week or so, all with different women in my life, and plenty before that, I’m sure. So if this is you, then it’s to you. And I’m sorry.

Hi there.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. All I can say is “hi there”? I had this whole letter composed in my head last night, but now that I settle to write it, I can’t think of anything more to say.

So hi.

I see you.

I see you as a whole person and not just someone trying to get pregnant, as if “trying to get pregnant” is even a decent category to put someone in. Let me just tell you right off… you are certainly more than your struggles to grow your family. That’s something I know (or suspect) to be part of your life, but it’s just information about you. That’s not YOU as far as I’m concerned.

Just the same, it’s there.

You’ve told me casually that you’re trying to start a family, but that was a year ago and you’re still slim and lovely as ever, but no bump.

Or you’ve shared your heartbreak with me aloud.

Or someone else mentioned that infertility is a thing you deal with.

Or I suspect it based on the way you interact with me and my kids, so maybe it’s a medical thing or maybe it’s just not time yet, which isn’t so easy, either.

Or perhaps I know nothing. And you’re just someone I know who’s hurting in this particular way and I just wander clueless through your world from time to time.

Whatever’s going on, you want to have babies and you don’t and it’s messing with your heart and your marriage and your faith. (Ok, I don’t know any of that. I can’t even pretend to know what you’re feeling- those are just guesses based on a reasonable imagination and conversations I’ve had with friends who have also walked this road. But I don’t know. Because my life is different than that.)

Because I’m a breeder.

This is painfully obvious to us both, all the time. It’s only a few kids, but based on their movement and number of words, it feels a little like seventeen. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by a vortex of joyful (or not so joyful) chaos.

I’m tired. I’m 200% preoccupied with the kids. I can’t seem to find anything else to talk about, and I’m certain that’s annoying, at least sometimes.

And then the other day I complained about it.

I suspect that this is a struggle of yours. But still, I got going on yet another kid story (sorry) and I made some comment about my sleep deprivation or how I’m completely over gestating right now and I heard the words and I knew they were poorly timed but they were falling out before I could stop them and I couldn’t scoop them back up and I didn’t know how to fix it.

Would you allow me a second to back up? I honestly didn’t know what to do at the time, except to awkwardly move on.

I’m so sorry.

I know you’d love to have the issues I was just complaining about. Pregnancy and parenting are gifts. They have challenges—anything worth having does. And I’m sorry that I was being an ungrateful brat about something that you want so much. That’s pretty graceless of me, and I feel like it probably rubbed salt in a wound and I’m so, so sorry.

I don’t know why this baby-having thing is easy for me and not so much for you. It’s certainly not a value or ability thing.  I think you’ll be a pretty great mama. I can see it in the way you interact with kids that are around you. You’re kind and loving and wholehearted both with them and with me, even though I’m sure sometimes it hurts to be those things when they’re all tangled up with desires unfulfilled so far.

You’re a whole person. And you’re breathtaking. And I’m sorry that sometimes I poke at tender spots. I’ll learn. I will. And in the mean time, I’m sure glad you’re in my life. Thanks for being gracious when I’m not so good at it.

love him anyway

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Love Him Anyway in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are all mine.

Abby Banks is a busy mama of three. Then one morning her youngest, at seven months old (that’s my youngest’s age now), woke up paralyzed. This is the story before and after that morning as the Banks family (and Abby in particular) fought for a new normal within what is, rather than what should be.

I know Abby Banks.

I mean, I don’t. Not really. But as I read her words—her heart—sharing the story of her family’s last several years, she seemed entirely familiar. It took a while to identify why, but she feels like a combination of several of my close friends. Her strengths, weaknesses, neurotic googling of medical conditions, mama bear love, second-guessing of her mothering… I get it.

So I wasn’t especially surprised to find myself pulling for her and for her family about three pages into the story. Before the wheelchair, before transverse myelitis, before Wyatt even came to be, I was really hoping things would turn out well for them. I mean, I’d read the synopsis, so I knew Wyatt and paralysis and a chair were coming. But I was really looking forward to the redemption and the healing.dsc_6176-copy

I was not disappointed.

I don’t want to offer too many details because it’s worth reading on your own (and her account is much better than mine could be), but my heart was so encouraged by the places this story went.

As a mama, of course I was picturing myself in her place. Initially I was anxious and heartbroken as she fought for answers and waited for progress, but as she found her bearings and her hope, so did I. Do I want my children to face challenges like Wyatt has to? Not especially. But as she walked me through the backstory and the diagnosis and the treatment, I realized that there has always been enough grace every day for Abby and her family in exactly the same way there’s always enough for me and mine. The circumstances are so different, but our God is the same.


Tomorrow is the last day of the #LoveHimAnyway blog tour, and it’s closing out on Abby’s page. If you want to follow Wyatt’s journey (or just want a little bit of sunshine in you feed) I recommend following Wyatt’s Fight Against TM on facebook. Or check Abby out on twitter OR instagram: @fightlikewyatt.

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If this story sounds like something that will resonate with your heart, it’s available for purchase all over, like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christianbook.com. Or, if you’d like to save a dollar, buy it through Ambassador International’s online store and use the coupon code “LoveHim” for a 10% discount.

Better yet…

You can win a signed copy.

Click here for details.

(You don’t have to enter an email or anything. I just had a handy dandy widget that doesn’t want to work, so you have to click to look at it.) 

wholehearted

…in which we explore (somewhat belatedly) my “word” for 2017.

12:30 am. Early January. Trying to go to sleep and failing.

Wholehearted.

Wait, what?


I’d been mulling over a focus for 2017 for several weeks and hadn’t settled on anything. “Hadn’t settled” is actually wrong- that implies I had options, but I was coming up dry. I mean, I’d thought about it, but it was all kind of a jumble and nothing was resonating as a thing I specifically needed to work on.

So when “wholehearted” jumped to mind, apropos of nothing, in the middle of the night, it was kind of a surprise. It resonated immediately as the direction I should grow this year.

Wholehearted.

It’s wound through scriptures. Loving and serving the Lord with your whole heart.

I’ve also read a lot of Brené Brown- “wholehearted” is shorthand in her work for a lot of huge things- living from joy, gratitude, vulnerability, authenticity, among others.

It’s a big word.

It kind of scares me.

And I’ve spent the last month trying to figure out how to wrap words around why. I still can’t.

I assumed that at some point, I’d have a solid direction to go, but that hasn’t happened yet. I was waiting for some processing time on vacation to think all the Big Thoughts about it, because that’s what I do on vacation. I take time out and think Big Thoughts.

It didn’t happen.

So I’m learning about being wholehearted in the in-between. In the little things.

(Turns out, that’s where I live my life anyhow.)

It’s missing a lot of facebook and Instagram because I can’t afford to have my attention divided right now.

It means reading a lot of books, because reading focuses my attention rather than splintering it.

It’s spending some time talking with Lilly and watching her blow bubbles rather than washing dishes.

It’s getting thoroughly irritated at  a couple of my children, but paying attention to the part that was my humiliation at their public disobedience. It was me as well as them.

It’s being awake to things like the background noise of Lilly chatter and Magic School Bus and really loud compressor noise from the fridge behind me, along with a strong desire to read my book and the headache that comes from not enough caffeine and too many fevers and crises making their way amongst my children.

It’s looking my lovely babies in the eyes and seeing them.

It’s pondering (with no real revelation yet) how to bear the burdens of another as an empathetic friend without internalizing those burdens and making them mine.

It’s seeing my insecurities around living in shorts and bathing suits for several weeks of the last month, and being kind to myself both about my body and about my moments loathing it.

It’s noticing (and telling my husband) when everything he’s saying hits my ears as condemnation, and realizing it’s not coming from him, but from my own inner crazy.

It’s nothing huge or shocking or even slightly life-changing. I’m hoping it becomes large and it does change me this year, but today wholeheartedness means nothing more than paying attention and living life honestly.

 

A look back at 2016

It’s February, a full two months since I saw the first “looking back at the year” posts.

(Can I just encourage you? You are not behind. Or perhaps you are, but it’s not so big a deal.)

Anyhow.

In hopes to examine life rather than just letting it pass, here are some big things looking back…

My high and low for the year were both babies: mine, a rainbow baby born healthy in July and my sister’s born only a little too early and already gone in October. I am learning (still and again and likely forever) to walk in the tension between joy and grief. 2016 was full of both. I learned that grief is bigger than I remembered and God’s grace is bigger still.

I learned that writing makes me a kinder human, a worse housekeeper, and it’s way more fun when I am in community with other people who are better (if messier) when they’re writing. I got to meet a lot of my writer friends in real life last year, and it was beautiful.

I learned that flossing in the shower is idiot-proof. Or at least me-proof. And also that I can write things like “flossing in the shower” on the internet and hit publish and I will not actually die of the embarrassment when I decide to tell you, my sweet readers, about my dental hygiene habits as if it were of great interest.


Books

I read a bunch of books this year. Some of them kinda blew my mind. Here’s a good handful of my favorites:

rising-strong-2

Rising Strong

Brené Brown doesn’t disappoint. (Really, ever.) When we live wholehearted, sometimes we fail. This is about what to do then.

 all-the-light-2

All the Light we Cannot See

I feel like I’m behind on this, but it was a huge, fat book and I could. not. put. it. down. Or, actually, I could. (It was written in short segments, so I could read in the cracks of my day without losing continuity of the story, making it an ideal mom book.) Beautifully written story.

wild-in-the-hollow

Wild in the Hollow

Gorgeous prose, thought provoking memoir of a lady who loves Jesus and is just a little unconventional.

better-than-before

Better than Before

This fit perfectly with my year of small habits, because it was about… habits. If you’re interested in figuring out how to make changes that help and that stick, this is a good one to read.

princess-bride

The Princess Bride

I almost didn’t include this because I’ve read it before. But you know what? I’m gonna. Because it’s AWESOME. I love the movie still, but love the book even more. Hilarity and brilliance and everything fun. Be advised: if you consume any liquids while reading this book, they are somewhat likely to shoot painfully from your nose in sudden fit of uncontrollable laughter.

love-does

Love Does

Just read it, okay? I think I’ve loaned this out six times since I read it a year ago. This was my actual favorite from the year- he uses fantastic stories from his life to challenge and enlarge my ideas of what it means to love like Jesus loves.


Top posts (according to my stats)

dear Christians: Trump is not the Savior of America was written on no sleep and a lot of election night angst. Milestone: this post is the first of mine to get some actual mean feedback. So, you know. Read at your own risk. It’s evidently “poorly written and misinformed.” A few months past election and a few weeks past inauguration, I stand by it. I’m not convinced that Trump is particularly worse than Clinton would have been, nor that he’s particularly better. 2016 really was a decision between two embarrassingly awful options. But I remain certain that the “Christian Right” must not equate his policies and stances with God’s best for America.

to the girl in the dress fell out of my fingers by mistake when I was trying to write something else. I so dearly wish young me could have had the perspective of the last 12 years.

getting my body back (also, that time I was nude on the interwebs.) Every time I write about body image, my stats explode. This isn’t a comment on my writing, I don’t think, so much as on culture. We are all DYING for someone to say out loud that the expectations culture puts on our bodies are RIDICULOUS. Because they ARE. We are strong. We are lovely.


What did you learn in 2016?


photo credit: Sarah Lewis Photography

Unresolutions and minigoals: a recap

January often finds me a touch conflicted. I always can think of about a million ways I could improve my life or myself or my processes, but also I’m rebellious by nature and kind of hate the whole “It’s January, let’s make a resolution we can keep for two weeks!” trend. So in 2016 I decided to satisfy both my inner over-achiever and my inner rebel by trying a bunch of habits for a month at a time, just to see what worked to make me, my life, or my processes a little better in some way.

Now that 2016 is (long past) closed, it’s time to sum up.

The idea of tiny habits had been percolating (stewing? fermenting?) since early 2015 when I read this article. The idea of aiming low (like really, really low) resonated with me… There’s a lot that I simply can’t handle for lack of capacity. But aiming low? I got that.

Some of the monthly goals were about aiming low (like the article’s single pushup) and some were just about aiming for something else.

Here’s how it all went down…

January: get up early

I did this really well in January, because I was on vacation and my schedule was all different anyway. It had an amazing impact on my life in general. Also, it was super hard to sustain at home, so I have had to keep coming back to it.

February: leave food on my plate at meals

Catastrophic failure.

I just couldn’t remember.

Mindful eating was a struggle that popped up more than once in 2016.

March: floss in the shower

Total win. Still works.

April: scripture memory and photo processing

I did both pretty consistently, and neither stuck.

May: take “big camera” pictures every day

I like the results. I go in phases. Right now, I’m careful to take pictures, and I really enjoy watching my children grow and noticing beauty this way.

June: write “rambling pages” for five minutes a day

This one was (is) hard to work in, but it’s one that I’m currently revisiting because it is helpful to my mornings.

July: give myself some grace

I had a baby toward the end of July, so the whole thing was taken up by the worst part of pregnancy and the most bleary part of birth recovery and newborn life. I effectively slacked off! I had mixed results in my attempts to give myself grace. (And for the last six months, that remains true: great at not meeting goals, okay at grace.)

August: drink water

I built this freebie in when I started in January. I expected Lilly at the tail end of July/beginning of August, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle much and also knew that in that first month of breastfeeding, there simply isn’t enough water in the whole world to satisfy my thirst, so water drinking was a safe bet.

September: seriously nothing

Oops. I just missed it altogether. I started homeschooling which was, bizarrely, more disruptive to my life and systems than a fourth baby was.

October: post daily

That was a crazy month- I found cracks to write in. My housework slipped (a lot.) My bigger two watched a lot of Wildkratts while the little two napped so I could write. It was amazing to try. Also? Ain’t nobody got time. I love writing. I love it enough to post every day. But I can’t squeeze it in. I’m still working on finding my rhythm.

Novemeber: practice authenticity in my interactions

Um… Smart people say you should make SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound.) This goal was not SMART. It’s hard to know how I measured up in November. I know I did well during the first part (I was out of my normal rhythm and circles.) It was really difficult after that, though. I was fighting my normal habits and the structure of my everyday life (I tend to live a little overstimulated, tired, and without enough margin, so fully showing up is really hard.) But it was excellent to try, and I continue to work toward bringing my best self to my interactions and relationships.

December: no seconds

This year’s OTHER epic fail. Both my eating goals went really badly. I had a hard time remembering both this one and February’s goal. If I had to guess, I forgot about 80% of the time. Of the remaining 20%, I cared enough to follow through about half of the time. So 10% of dinners in December, I did AWESOME! (That’s three. THREE dinners.) So last year, I learned a couple of approaches to mindful eating that absolutely don’t work for me this season. I really want to be someone who eats both mindfully and intuitively, but I’ll have to find another way.

Way to finish strong.


So what did I learn?

I like the principle. A month at a time seems to be a reasonable way to test habits. 30 (or 29 or 31) days was enough time to figure out if a practice worked for me and whether it’d stick. Turns out, I’m not the only one with this idea. Alexandra Kuykendall did a similar (but far less random) experiment in this book I finished last week. Bonus? Dental floss was not involved at any point.

I think I’m going to keep the monthly habit experiment going. If I find anything super useful, I’ll be sure to share!

the drug of doing

Productivity is a drug. An idol.

For me, at least. I forgot this for a good, long while because I basically haven’t been especially productive since June. I don’t mean to say that I haven’t done things. Oh, I’ve worked, and hard. But this switch to four is still (five months later) proving tricky. So on my very best days, I’ve managed to keep up with at least most of the things needed for basic functioning. I show up almost on time to the places I have to be; I get some laundry and dishes done; the little people eat the food and receive the love and the correction that they need… mostly. So at the end of my very best days, I’m only a tiny bit more behind than I was at the beginning.

And then this week happened, and my husband left for a night on a work trip and took our biggest girl and this meant that bedtime went a bit better than normal and I had HOURS in the evening.

So I did All The Things. All of them. Like, I had a dorky post-it system on a piece of furniture in my living room. The daily tasks were yellow post-its, the funnish tasks were blue, and the BIG tasks were red. Y’all, those four big tasks on the red ones have all been on my list since before Lilly was born. Really, before that last ridiculous month of pregnancy. So for half a year, they’ve moved from one page of my planner to the next, week after week, taking up brain space all the while.

I got them all done over the course of Wednesday and Thursday. And then I added things—red post-it things—that I hadn’t dared to put up, and I did them, too. And it felt GOOD.

This seems worthy of a rest, right?

Not when you’re living like an addict.

Tonight, I got a process night.

I was antsy. I texted a friend. “I want to have words to write or drive to plan or something, anything, that feels like getting something accomplished or setting myself up for better days, but I have no words and no drive. I will read.”

(Even in my reading, I was ill at ease and ended up going to change my sheets because I just had to do.)

It’s the tail end of the year, and I should be taking stock of lessons learned in 2016 so I don’t miss them (and potentially need to relearn them later.)

I read a couple goal-setting posts today, like this fantastic one on Ann Voskamp’s blog, and I could be looking ahead.

Or perhaps I could write an nice, grace-filled post on how I always take the whole of January and sometimes into February to do any vision work for the upcoming year (or, as it happens, the year that’s begun already) and if you don’t have plans or your One Word or some resolutions figured out now, that is OKAY because (duh) that’s what next month is for.


And all of those things are good and I will look over 2016 and I will cast some vision for 2107 (next month) and it’s fine. 

The problem was how absolutely hell-bent I was on forcing out the words and the plans.

…and my complete forgetfulness and minimizing of anything I had already done.

…and the way I felt like I needed to prove worth to myself by doing just one more thing.


Earlier this week (roughly the same time as I was kicking my to-do list’s ass) I had a text exchange with my sister-in-law about doing and shoulding and finding freedom. “Doing and shoulding are HARD. I’m glad you’re making space for BEING days.”

Don’t I sound wise and full of grace and like I’ve fought and won this battle already? (Sorry, Julia.) 

Sigh.

I want to remember, have to remember, that this is not a thing fought once and done. Doing can become an idol at really any point. Being takes intentionality and practice. (I mean, I think it does. It should, right? Seriously, how the heck would I know?)

Now the dilemma is what to do to stop being so addicted to doing. (Open to suggestions, as usual. What do you do to… not do?)

 

 

Emmanuel: with us

Some days are just a struggle. Nothing major is going on right now, but some combination of sleep deprivation and the 4-hour days of December have blended into a pervasive lethargy- everything just takes so much effort. Yesterday, I had a short list of things that needed to get done before I could reasonably snag myself breakfast. I got them all done and then made me a protein shake… at 2:30pm.

Today I did better, but but still. The list is longer than my motivation seems able to handle.

I’m weary. It’s not a huge deal, just the season I’m in.

Do you know what other season I’m in?

Advent.

The season of waiting, watching, remembering, anticipating. And stuck in my head all day is the name that embodies Advent for me: Emmanuel.

GOD with us. 

God WITH us.

God with US.

He came as a baby, both to rescue and to be with.

So whether I’m in a weary season or an energized one, He is with. 

It doesn’t change my weariness, but (as is so frequently true) it changes me. His with-ness gives me the moment-by-moment grace to do whatever I need to be doing, and I’m grateful.

What season are you in right now?

Tired?
Stretched thin?
Joyful?
Empty?
Full?
Busy?
Lonely?
Quiet?
Broken?

Friend, he is with you. 

That long-prophesied, angel-announced baby wasn’t just any baby. (Seriously. I’m still working on announcing my baby from July. Pretty sure when angels announce a baby, it’s a bigger deal than a regular baby.) He was (and is) the Rescuer. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Emmanuel.

Take a minute to be present with the God who is WITH US. It won’t change your season or your circumstances, but He may change everything else.