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I’m Just a Stay at Home Mom…

Please note, this post is not a stay at home mom vs. working mom debate! I like working moms. I envy them sometimes.  I have friends who work AND are excellent mothers! 

“I’m just a stay at home mom.” I’ve said that before and I’ve heard lots of moms say the same thing.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately…being “just” a stay at home mom and you know what?  There is NOTHING in this world I would rather do or be.  It took me nearly three years  and a lot of internal turmoil to come to that conclusion but I can honestly say it’s the truth. 

There are those moms out there who are natural mothers.  They are the ones who dreamed of being a mother when they were 5 and 25 and every year in between. They would not even think of  anything they would rather do than be stay at home mom. They like baking and everything Pinterest.  They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE everything about being a mother….at least that is what their Facebook statuses imply!  Is “statuses” a word? There is nothing wrong with that, in fact I wish I could be that way sometimes. Ok, I realize I am creating a stereotype here that doesn’t really exist.  Motherhood is not easy for any of us, but does come more naturally to some.

I am not a “natural” when it comes to motherhood.  In fact, I find motherhood terribly inconvenient.  It is exhausting. It was a big decision to even become a mother. I have never  been good with kids.  They really don’t do reasonable very well and I like reasonable people.  So, being a stay at home mom has always seemed like a sacrifice, not a privilege. It was (sometimes it still is) a very difficult transition.   I knew it was the right thing to do for our family but I was secretly envious of my friends who have a career and freedom. 

It’s very easy to take the day-to-day routine for granted and get caught up in all the craziness.   Every single day seems basically the same… Get up. Breakfast. activity. Lunch. Nap. Wake up. Activity. Dinner. Activity. Bed time.   EVERY SINGLE DAY!  It’s boring sometimes. It’s often lonely. It sometimes makes me feel like I may go crazy. Still there is NOTHING I would rather do or be.

As monotonous and frustrating as the day-to-day routine can be, I don’t ever want to take it for granted.  Mothering may not come naturally for me, but it is a privilege.  I have been challenging myself to step back from the routine and take time to really “see” my kids, my husband, and my family.  When I do that, I realize how truly blessed I am.  When I do that, I find moments in every single day that make me grateful for my messy life.  When I do that, I realize I married an excellent man who is an excellent father. 

 My greatest fear in life is not being able to see my children grow up.  That fear is a source of great anxiety, sometimes overwhelming anxiety.  It is something I have to continually trust God with.  It is a negative thing in my life and I don’t want to entertain it, but entertaining those negative thoughts has left me with one valuable lesson.  My family is the most important thing in my life and every crazy day is a gift. It’s a gift to be able to feed them, go to Target, run around the back yard, answer Josiah’s “why” questions a million times a day, and watch the same “Tonka Chuck” cartoon over and over again…all of it is a gift.

I’m just a stay at home mom and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Resting in the Mess

It recently occurred to me that I am all grown up.  Not sure when THAT happened!  Didn’t I just turn 21 like yesterday?  This grown-up thing kind of snuck up on me. I can try to deny it but the mirror, marriage, mortgage and babies are there to prove it.  Being the grown-up I am, I really should have “it all figured out by now.  I don’t even know what “it” is and I don’t think I ever will. 

You know what?  For the first time in my life, I’m kinda, sorta, not really but maybe a little bit ok with that.

I have spent most of my life pursuing this elusive idea of getting/having it all together.  Whatever that means.  Seriously what does it mean?   In my mind, it means all of these things and probably a few more; thin, well dressed, liked by everyone, organized, financially set, very in control, and of course very,very spiritual. Oh and don’t forget…maternal, creative, and domestic ! I really am none of those things and I am, quite honestly, tired of trying, trying, trying to be something/someone who I am not.  I’m not saying any of those things are bad or unworthy of being pursued.  They are not…except maybe being liked by everyone.  Pursuing that is a colossal waste of time. 

I am saying that sometimes it’s ok to just BE. Sometimes what we are striving for is not what God wants for us. Sometimes it’s ok to just “be still and know that He is God.”  Sometimes we just need to learn to rest IN the mess.  I will say it again “rest IN the mess!” That little word “in” is very important…

MAYBE there is much to be learned in the mess? MAYBE having it all together would not make me a “better” person but rather it would make me an arrogant person?  MAYBE facing my failings everyday is teaching me humility and compassion for others? MAYBE the pain, rejection and failure is a gift that will give me the ability to “hear” people in pain that others may not be able to? MAYBE this mess of a life is actually shaping me to be who I am supposed to be?  MAYBE God is, in part, the author of my mess…

NOT MAYBE.  DEFINITELY.

The last few years have been rough and it’s hard to reconcile “Jesus loves me” with some of the things that have happened. But every now and then I see the purpose in it.  I catch glimpses of how I have changed.  I see the person I would have been if I had achieved getting it all together…if things had come easy.  I don’t like her.   I like who I am…who I am becoming… I believe the mess has forced me to become more authentic in my faith and a more authentic person. 

My life is a mess….a beautiful mess and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

 

 

Peace

Peace is a funny thing.   It’s that thing inside you that says; everything is going to be ok, you are where you need to be, you are on the right path, even when everything does not seem like it’s going to be ok and you don’t know where you are going in life.   I have peace right now and I really should be FREAKING out!  I have so much peace that I am kind of freaking out about the fact that I am NOT freaking out!  I guess this is the “peace which transcends all understanding” that Paul was talking about in Philippians 4.  I haven’t felt this kind of peace in a very long time.

For two whole years, I was without peace.  Those two years, we had health insurance and a predictable income but I was miserable.  Now, we don’t have either of those things but I’ll take this uncertainty over that lack of peace any day. It doesn’t make sense and I question my own sanity for feeling this way but  I’m just not that worried.  In fact, Jaison is more worried than I am.  If you know us at all, you know that is a huge statement. Jaison is usually pretty relaxed but worrying is my hobby. I do it well. I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things that most people don’t even think about BUT I am not worried now.  Maybe I am crazy…

I think God speaks to us by giving us peace. I’ve always made decisions in my life based somewhat on whether on not I felt peace about it. I’m not sure why I settled for those two years without peace. I’m not sure why I didn’t listen to it, question it. I think I thought we were being faithful to what we had felt God called us to. I also was desiring to get established as a family. Thankfully, God moved us when it was time to move even if it was painful.

A month from now, we may not be able to pay our bills.  Our income just got cut in HALF!  We are struggling to figure out what to do.  Our plans are not working out. We thought we knew who we are and what we are called to but that’s not as clear as it used to be.  We NEED God to direct us, to open doors for us.  Don’t get me wrong,  this is a scary place to be and I want some answers but I’m not worried.

Somehow, I just know that it’s going to be ok, that we are on the right path and that God is directing us…”peace which trancends all understanding…”  If that makes me crazy, I think I like being crazy!

Beyond Surviving

Several months ago, I came across this quote; “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”- Howard Thurman.   It really resonated with me and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I started to ask myself;  What DOES make me come alive?  That has not been an easy question to answer.

In the last three years,  life has presented me with circumstances and events that I am just happy to have survived.   I haven’t thought much about coming “alive” in a spiritual or emotional sense in a long time.  My goals were much simpler; hold on to a shred of faith and sanity…don’t scar my kids for life…avoid bankruptcy…just get through it!  In other words SURVIVE!

Now, as I contemplate what makes me come “alive, ” I do so with a fair amount of skepticism and fear.  I feel like someone who survived a bomb strike peering out the door of a fallout shelter…is it really safe to come out?  What if another bomb is on it’s way? There may not be much life in here but at least its safe.

Coming out of the survival shelter is risky but life is pretty darn limited in here.

So, what does make me come “alive?” Hugs, kisses, smiles and laughs from my babies make me feel alive.  My husbands warm touch, selfless actions, unconditional acceptance and understanding heart make me feel alive.  But, what is it that I do that makes me come to life?  What is it that I do that transcends being a wife and a mom?  What is it that I do that has potential to be a ministry to the Lord and the hurting in the world?

My answer to those questions is I write. It doesn’t matter if I am awesome at it or if a lot of people read it.   It is what I do that makes me come to life. It is how I connect with the Lord. It is how I pray. It is how I process. It is how I heal.  Maybe in the future it will be a venue to minister/encourage/teach  Who knows?

For now, this blog and writing in general is all about being “alive.”  It’s me stepping out of the survival shelter and saying safe or not, I’m getting out of here!

What do you do that makes you come “alive?”

Beauty for Ashes…My “Agnostic Days”

In the past several years, I have seriously considered the possibility that God doesn’t exist.  I’m not talking about just having a bad day and thinking God doesn’t love me…in a tantrum of self-pity. I’m talking about really wrestling with the possibility that everything I have ever believed is just a bunch of made up stuff.  For someone like me, who has built my entire life around my faith, that is a really awful place to be.  It’s like removing the foundation from underneath a house. It would crumble to the ground.

I’m a skeptic, doubt comes naturally and it is something I have battled for most of my life.  I’m like the guy in Matthew 9 who tells Jesus “I believe, forgive my unbelief.”  I struggle with doubt even when life is going well and it seems like God is near.  Over the last 6 years or so, life hasn’t always gone well and God has been kind of silent.  Doing the right thing no longer guaranteed getting the right result.  Dreams were replaced with disappointment and loss.  I could no longer find purpose in the events in my life.  My prayers seemed to fall to the ground. I could no longer convince myself of God’s existence through my circumstances.

It’s in this context that I have been forced to face my doubts honestly.  I’ve read books, watched debates, and studied philosophy.  I have honestly examined both sides of the argument on God’s existence and decided that Atheism does not suit me.  I just can’t embrace the idea that everything randomly came from nothing.

Agnosticism on the other hand…well, that’s an idea I can get cozy with.  It can somewhat answer the question of where we came from; we can’t really know but maybe some impersonal designer.  It answers the question of my suffering and THE question of suffering; it just is what it is, there is no purpose or reason for it.  It lets me off the hook; no one in particular to obey.  It’s easy and sometimes I want easy.  So, I have what I call “agnostic days.”  They usually coincide with my “whatever, I don’t care anymore” days and my “I give up” days.

Then, every single time, there is a quiet voice in my heart that says Nope, this isn’t right…remember when…?  I do, I remember when…  and all of a sudden I am reminded that I’ve experienced too many “coincidences” to not believe in God.  So, my faith in God and my hope in Jesus live another day.

For years now, I have been comparing my current weak  faith with my former strong faith and beating myself up over it.  Well, the clouds have parted a little and for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to see more clearly.  I catch glimpses of the purpose behind the pain and I am realizing that my faith is not weaker than it used to be,  it’s more real.

My foundation has not been removed like I thought, but the big, poorly constructed house that was built on it has burned to the ground.  There’s not much left, not much at all, but what’s left is real, tested and proven.

Beauty for Ashes…

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:2-4

Empowering Motherhood

Please note: This post is not meant to be a value judgement or a response to any person or idea. It’s just something that has been stirring in me since the days after Josiah was born…

On June 13th 2009 I was all set and determined to have a natural birth.  Little did I know, that by the end of the day, I would have experienced everything but that.  At Noon, I was in my kitchen making cookies.  By four o’clock, I was under anethesia, having a lifeless baby boy cut from my body.  The interventions necessary to bring him back to life made all those birthing interventions, that I was so afraid of and apalled by, seem like a walk in the park. 

The days that followed were full of guilt… “Did I do something to cause this?”  “I should have done such and such differently.”  “I feel so detached.”  “I’m not producing enough milk.”  I could go on and on.  Guilt then turned into grief… “I wasn’t there when he was born.”  I didn’t get to hold him for four days.”  “I will never experience natural child birth.”   Guilt and grief walked with me every moment of the time that we spent in the NICU.

Finally, we got to take him home.  Being the new mom that I was, I read a lot, looking for anwers to all my new mom questions.  I read books, articles, blogs and comments.  In all of those, I read a lot about how empowering natural childbirth is, how important it is to hold your baby those first moments, and how “breast is best.”   More guilt, more grief… Then there were the comments… “formula is SOOOOOOOOO nasty”  “how could someone feed that to their baby”  “You don’t know what is in that stuff”  “It’s full of toxic chemicals”  More guilt, more grief, and now fear…

Then there was the expectation that everything would just be “normal” after we brought him home.  Nothing was “normal.”  I read sleep training books but couldn’t follow them because of the complications with breastfeeding. I watched him anxiously to see if he would smile, laugh, roll over etc… We had been told that he could be severely developmentally handicapped.  Despite all the experts advice I held him all the time and let him nurse whenever he wanted because I wanted to make up for lost time. According to many experts I was letting him manipulate me.  More guilt, more grief…

Looking back, I realize that all of that made me feel like I was somehow “less than” the mothers who had a natural childbirth and who could breastfeed normally.  I felt like I had missed out and that my relationship with Josiah would never be right because I didn’t bond with him immediately after birth. I felt like I was giving him poison by feeding him formula.  I experienced so much unnecessary guilt and grief.

The reality is that I did my very best.  I sacrificed a lot physically, emotionally and materially to be a mother.  I was stronger than I every could have imagined.  I should have felt empowered by THAT!  The birthing experience is important but it is a very small part of motherhood .   Breastfeeding is wonderful!  So is the fact that we live in a time where babies can thrive despite their mothers inability to produce enough milk.  I thank God every day for formula!

I’m telling you all this because now I honestly believe that every single journey into motherhood is “empowering.”  Regardless of how that baby gets out of your body, YOU grew a HUMAN in your body! That is truly amazing.  If you did not grow that little human in your body, and you adopted him/her instead, YOU labored in a way that most of us will never know. You labored in time, heartache, finances, and grief. You had to be stronger and more determined than I can even imagine.  That is truly amazing!

We have all seen what we are made of in our journey to motherhood.  We all have made sacrifices.  We have all made mistakes. Most importantly, we have all been stronger than we ever thought possible and we should ALL feel empowered by that!

A Fish Bowl Kind of Life

When Jaison was “let go” from our church, we decided that we are DONE! Done with ministry as a “career.”  Jaison has had a long time desire to finish his MBA and start a business.  I am, quite honestly, just too tired and beat down to feel like I can go on.  I have come to the conclusion that you have to either have a lot of emotional strength or have some awesome acting skills to be successful in ministry.  Actually, you probably need a little of both. I have neither.

I’m weak and sensitive.  I don’t have it all together.  People see this about me.  Sometimes I blame myself…maybe I am the reason that Jaison was let go? It was my weakness that he had to compensate for…my sensitivity that made him question things….my lack of being “together” that made people see us as less than worthy of ministry.

You see, ministry is a fish bowl.  Everyone is watching…many are judging…a few are understanding.   What people may see when they look in my “fish bowl” is a messy house, piles of dirty laundry, lots of disorganization, Josiah watching too much TV, some questionable financial decisons, and me fighting anxiety, depression and my weight.  There is not a sticker chart or memory verse to be found anywhere and my “quiet times” are often few and far between.

When I look in my “fish bowl,” I see two healthy, happy and deeply loved children,  a marriage that is growing despite so many challenges, a spiritual life that is recovering from some deep wounds, and myself overcoming A LOT of junk every single day.  Yep, I see the mess too but it’s not the most important thing right now.

I really wish that more people had taken the time to look into our “fish bowl” and see what I see.  I believe it’s what God sees too.  I believe that in some ways it qualifies us for ministry rather than disqualifying us. It makes us more compassionate.  More able to do that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.  I know that from now on, I will try not to judge other peoples “fish bowls.”

All that to say, we have been revisiting the possibility that our time in ministry is not over.  My reaction to that possibility goes something like this…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON’T WANNA LIVE LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  I NEVER WANT TO FEEL LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  NO! NO! NO!  Alas, we will do what we feel God is asking of us.  If (big if) we go into ministry again, I will approach it very differently.

When Jaison and I were dating,  I kept telling him how crazy I am!  I would tell him all about my insecurities, dysfunctions, sensitivities etc.. I did not put on an act for him…I needed him to know who I REALLY am, so that I could know that he was marrying the real me.  After we go married, he realized I was telling the truth!  I told him “I told you so! You are stuck with me now! Ha Ha”  Thankfully, he is happy to be “stuck” with me 🙂

This is how I will approach ministry if we do it again. I just might invite the whole church over to look in our closets, check our bank accounts and read my journals. I will tell them just how crazy I am. I will invite them to tell us if they see something they think is questionable and tell us promptly.  Whatever the outcome, at least we will be able to say “we told you so” and just maybe we will find some people who are able to overlook our “fish bowl” and are happy to be “stuck” with us.

Some Thoughts on “Entitlements”

The last week has been a whirlwind of sickness, doctors, and ER visits.  In less than a week, Josiah had an asthma attack and a neck pain episode that mimicked the symptoms of meningitis…terrifying!  Thankfully, the asthma attack was easily relieved and the neck issue turned out to be a muscle spasm…I was surprised that a two-year old would even have such a problem.

My one goal for today is to make it twenty-four hours without needing any medical assistance!

The irony of all this, is that it is happening at the one time in the last four years that we don’t have health insurance.  So, because we can’t afford the nearly $10,000/year for decent coverage, we now have about that much medical debt.  God help us!

It’s very humbling to walk into a hospital or a doctor’s office and have to tell them that we don’t have insurance.  I am so grateful that they will treat my child anyway.  That is not the case in a lot of places and a child could literally die because their parents can’t pay.  I am also grateful that there are financial aid options such as Medicaid and hospital charities, which will hopefully help us to avoid financial ruin.

I’m too busy with my children to follow much of the political debate but I hear a lot about “entitlements” when I do listen in.   I tend to fall into the conservative category on most issues and I don’t think that living forever on government welfare programs is the way to go…most liberal people probably don’t think so either.  All that to say, I am so grateful that those programs exist for those of us that are ” in between.”

I can’t offer any solutions for the cost of health care or the cost of providing health care to all. However, after going through all this, I can say that I am more sympathetic to the idea that health care is a “right.”  Not because we are somehow “entitled” to it but because God values life…unborn life, illegal immigrant life, 100-year-old life, ALL life!

There has to be a way to make health care affordable, accessible and profitable.

Dancing In The Rain

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

It’s not a Bible verse, but it is Biblical. Trials and suffering are part of the Christian life.  They have certainly been a significant part of my spiritual journey.  It has been “raining” for a long time now. Lately,  I have been challenged to press through it.  For awhile now, I have been waiting for the storm to pass.  Looking for optimal conditions to really live life and be what I am supposed to be.

What if the storm never passes?  Then, I will have wasted my life.

In nature, little grows in places where the sun shines all the time.  It’s places that get lots of rain that flourish.  I think the same applies spiritually.  I tend to think that a spiritually “blessed” life, is one that does not see a lot of adversity, rejection and grief.  Maybe it’s just the opposite?

We keep praying for God to take away the “storms”.   They keep coming.  I have to believe that they are producing growth, that we can flourish through them.  Somehow, they are molding us into the people that we are supposed to be.

For years, I have been thinking of writing about the REALITY of my spiritual life.  Not about the highs and great accomplishments but about the lows.  The doubts, failures and imperfections.  I have been afraid of what people will think and how it might affect our position in ministry.  I’m not afraid anymore…

It’s time to start “dancing” in the rain.

Josiah’s Birth Story

The day Josiah was born was the scariest day of my life…

June 13th 2009 started out as just an average Saturday. We had no idea it would be one of the hardest, best and most significant days of our lives.

Jaison got up early and went to the park to play Cricket with a group of Indian guys. I had a headache so I took some Tylenol and slept in. At this point in my pregnancy, I was 9 days away from my due date, so I was very uncomfortable and not sleeping well at night. After Jaison came home, I got up, we got ready and went out for a late breakfast as we do every Saturday. After breakfast, we drove around and casually looked at garage sales, not looking for anything specific just passing time.

We came home around noon to bake cookies for a picnic that we were supposed to attend at Mahoney State Park that afternoon. Before starting baking, I was talking to a friend on the phone, making plans for the evening. We all wanted to hang out one last time before the baby was born. Just after talking to her, I noticed something that felt like I had wet my pants a little bit. The possibility that my water had broken crossed my mind, but I dismissed it, thinking that it was too early. Then, I went to the bathroom to check what was going on and I noticed a very small amount of blood. At this point, this was exciting because it meant that I was getting closer to going into labor! Now, I was wondering if my water had broken and was leaking just a bit. I called my mom. She said to call the doctor’s office, so I did and left a message. A few minutes later as I was baking cookies (still intending to go to the picnic) a nurse called me back. After a series of questions, she suggested going to the hospital to get checked for amniotic fluid.

We knew that if my water had broken, it was going to be a LONG day and night. So, we took our time getting ready to go. We slowly packed our bags. I cleaned up the kitchen and put the cookies away. We called people to let them know we wouldn’t be making it to the picnic.  On our way to the hospital, we even stopped to take a movie back.  When we reached the hospital, we parked the car instead of using the valet parking.  We even took the steps up to Labor and Delivery instead of the elevator! I was doing everything I could to avoid spending any more time than necessary in a hospital bed. I was planning a natural delivery.  At that point, I had no idea how grateful I would be for being in a hospital bed…

The nurse had called the hospital, so they were expecting us.  They took us to a delivery room, I put on a gown and they hooked me up to the monitors. The monitors let us know that Josiah’s heart was beating normally and that I was having very irregular and insignificant contractions.  In other words, I was not in labor.  We still did not even know if my water had broken.  There was some delay before they could do the test.  So, we waited nearly and hour before the nurse finally took a sample.  The results came back quickly and it was confirmed that my water had broken!  We were excited so we began to call family and friends to let them know we were having a baby soon…we had no idea how soon it would actually be!  At the same time, the nurse called my doctor to find out how they should proceed since I was not in labor yet.  I was laying there hoping that they would let me get up soon and walk around.  I had been laying there for nearly 1.5 hours at that point.  I am so happy that I did not get my way…

Suddenly alarms started to go off in my room and about five nurses came running in!  We had no idea what was happening but they started to move me around and adjust the monitors.  Josiah’s heart rate had dropped significantly and they did not know why, so they were taking measures to bring it back up.  Thankfully, at the same time this was happening, they were still on the phone with my doctor.  He left and came straight to the hospital. The nurses were not able consistently get Josiah’s heart rate back up.  My doctor arrived quickly and told me that I would need to have a C-Section because they did not know what was causing his heart rate to drop and they did not think he could make it through labor. T he anesthesiologist was on her way to give me an epidural…

All of a sudden I felt a gush of A LOT of fluid. Since this was my first baby, I had no idea what was normal, when I looked and saw that it was blood I was very concerned. I lifted my gown and asked my doctor “is this normal?”  I don’t remember him answering me.  Within moments my bed and I were on our way to the Operating Room!  The anesthesiologist was following me asking lots of questions and I quickly realized that I was not getting an epidural but I was being put under a general anesthetic.  I was having an emergency  C-Section.  I was scared. I remember having the thought that I may not wake up.  I prayed and surrendered myself to the Lord.  The last thing I remember was hearing my doctor say “tell me when we are ready” and thinking “wait, I can still hear you!”

I honestly was not concerned for Josiah because I somehow still thought that they were just being overly cautious.  I was wrong!

I woke up less than 2 hours later… I was in a lot of pain and disoriented.  The squirming baby boy that had been part of me for so long was gone.  I had no idea where he was.

I could see Jaison talking to a doctor off in the corner of the recovery room.  I heard the doctor say things like “he is very sick” and  “you are very lucky.”

Soon, they came and told me that Josiah was very sick and would need to go to Children’s hospital.  I had a sudden and severe placental abruption.  My placenta prematurely tore away from the wall of my uterus.  This caused Josiah to be completely deprived of oxygen. It also caused me to bleed heavily into the uterus.  Josiah breathed a lot of blood and clots into his lungs.  Placental abruption is one of the leading causes of both maternal death and babies born “sleeping.”

We were both “lucky” to be alive…