I have a two year old. They’re clumsy. They haven’t been walking all that long, and they don’t pay much attention to anything. Those two simple things make me wonder why EK isn’t more banged up than she already is. She’s got probably ten little bruises on her knees and shins alone. Like today, leaving the house, she bounded across the front porch and completely ignored the one step down to the sidewalk… and fell. (Cue face palm.)
But the other night, she got her second (you read correctly) black eye in her short little life. The worst part about it is that Hubby, one of my girlfriends and I were all sitting right there, hanging out and playing in the floor with her. Then one wrong move, and boom. Into the brick hearth my baby’s face went. It was so fast I wasn’t even sure it happened. But you know what came next: that crying-without-making-noise thing they do. Their face is screwed up, their mouth is wide open, air is moving through there, but no sound is coming out. Then just as you think they will possibly pass out soon, in goes a huge gulp of air and out comes a wail.
As the mama, you set the tone for what comes next. There are two ways you can play this. #1: Give in to the panic that blood will obviously be coming out of a gaping hole, your daughter most certainly lost at least one eye, and you should prepare to head to the ER. #2: Try to keep calm. Scoop her into your arms, comfort her till the worst of the crying subsides (or at least till her breathing gets a little more normal), softly ask Hubby to get some ice, and assess the damage without any frightened screams or dramatic gasps or word vomit about how nervous you are that she will have a scar the size of Texas.
Somehow, I was able to stick with #2. I was calm on the outside, no matter how fast my heart was beating, and EK calmed down fairly quickly, too. I have learned that my reaction is everything. Even more than how she initially feels, my reaction directly affects what she will do. In this case, she milked it a little for a few extra kisses, carried around her ice for 20 minutes, but was back to normal shortly with the promise of yummy dessert after dinner. It’s amazing how a parent’s body language and words are mimicked by a little teeny girl. If I make a huge deal, so does she. If I grunt when I bend down to pick something up (like when I’m pregnant), she does the same. Seriously, it’s been six months, EK. You can stop.
I am really excited to share about a new opportunity I’ve been given. I’ve been asked (and I accepted!) to be a contributor for the My Big Jesus project – a blog about our big Jesus, who is reconciling us to himself, and blowing our minds with his forgiveness and blessing. I will be writing a few times a month, and releasing the content here on We’re Only Hsuman and on My Big Jesus as well. There are several more contributors, and also features from other blogs. All around, it’s going to be a large-scale story of redemption for people and all parts of culture. It’s gonna be… big. So like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter (@MyBigJesus) and sign up for the newsletter on the blog!
I got an interesting comment the other morning. The person said, “I’ve just been reading your blog. Final verdict: parenthood sounds hard.” It was in the middle of a good-natured comment from an old friend, but still took me a little off guard. My first reaction is “Duh! An hour at my house is the only birth control you’ll ever need!” But then, I wondered if I hadn’t been portraying my life the right way. Am I posting too many things that are frustrating or annoying or hard or sad? Should I be glossing over those difficult parts and highlighting only the good? I don’t want anyone to think I have an unusually difficult time with my kids. But I don’t want you to think I have an unusually easy time, either. I just want to be real. Encouraging, but real. (My thoughts on that a little more in depth here.)
Parenthood can look like all sorts of things at different times, different seasons, and to different people. Motherhood can look wonderful. It can look hectic. It can look easy. It can look good, bad, crazy, scary, or sad, depending on the moment. There are times full of snuggles and smiles and eating all the food on their plate and going to bed on time. There are times of skipping naps, toddler tantrums, picky eating, snotty noses, poop-splosions (read about those here) and breaking down to cry. It’s ridiculous how quickly you can go from thinking, “Awesome! I’m doing it! This is great!” to “I can’t wait for Hubby to get home so I can sit down.” or “When does school start back, again?”
In the moments when my toddler has finally fallen asleep, and I’m still laying in her bed, spooning her, for fear she’ll wake up if I move, I drink in the snuggles. I thank God for the moments like this, when she turns back into a baby again, blanket in her mouth (gross, I know) and face softened to chubby cheeks and eyelashes. And maybe I cry a little bit, because I yelled when I shouldn’t have, or I had to harp on her too many times to share with her brother, or I simply was so busy with work and errands that I barely saw her until bedtime. Finding the grace to forgive yourself isn’t easy when you feel like you didn’t do the best you could possibly do. But you know what? I always make time for smooches and snuggles and she’s always fed and rested and clean. If those things are true, my day wasn’t a complete fail.
Sometimes, when one or both of the babes has gotten up in the night, I’m a zombie, and several cups of coffee don’t seem to be giving me the boost I need, we park it in front of the tv for longer than I’d like to admit. We eat whatever is the easiest thing to scrounge up for our meals and snacks, or we pile in the car and get drive-thru burgers and fries. I do no laundry, no dishes, and the only thing I clean is baby bottoms. Talk about the mom version of an under achiever, right? But those days aren’t the norm. They aren’t even common. But sometimes they are necessary to a tired family. When we all take naps on the couch watching some awful Netflix movie like Turtle Tale, it’s not likely I’ll complain that much. Sometimes those are the days that bedtimes come a little easier and less crying jags happen. On days when I “accomplish a lot”, I’ve been vacuuming instead of playing, and there are groceries in the fridge because I lugged my kids through the grocery store… Those are sometimes the ones that there are more frustrating than rewarding.
But what’s the formula here? Is there a way to ensure that my kids have a great day every day, and sleep well every night? I bet not. I bet there isn’t even a formula to ensure that they don’t have a good day and don’t sleep well. I just do the best I can; I love on them, try to teach them right from wrong, feed them (as healthily as I can), help them get rest (even if it means napping with them), foster learning and love of learning (whenever possible), bathe them (sometimes more than once a day), and pray for them. I don’t know how it looks from the outside. Maybe it looks hard to you, or maybe it looks fun! Maybe it looks rewarding, or like something you aren’t ready for right now. All those answers can be the right one. It’s looked like all of those things from the inside, too. But from where I sit, the mama of two adorable (however crazy) kiddos, I have a blessed life, and I try to bless those kids in return. It’s looking pretty sweet to me.
This keyboard is a tool (a darn good one at that). I use it to make music, to provide accompaniment or melody. As a worship leader, I am also a tool, to be used to lead those around me into worship, into the throne room, into the presence of my God. Sometimes I feel like a broken tool, hurt or jaded or so very needy that I could never leadothers. Who am I to stand up there, an exhausted and sometimes frustrated mama who makes an embarrassing amount of mistakes, a too-busy friend, a distant stranger, and usher those sweet seekers of grace to the place of self-abandoning worship of the Most High? Who am I to hammer out the chords, sing someone else’s words, and put my heart out there, when others are surely more worthy?
But I guess that’s the beauty of it. Flawed people do great things. Everyone has a little work to do to further the Kingdom. Moses tried to tell the Lord that he wasn’t good enough. In Exodus, when God called Moses to set His people free, Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt? What if they ask me questions I can’t answer? What if they don’t believe me? ” God simply says that He has the answers, He will provide the proof… “I will be with you.” Moses will be the tool God uses to do the work, the freedom work, the work for His Kingdom.
If He can do that, then Jesus can take my half-asleep-on-Sunday-morning self, who is insecure about her abilities and worrying about what people may think, and help me let go. He can take my meager gifts and turn them into something beautiful. He takes my simple singing and playing, and touches someone’s heart. Even on a morning that I feel unrehearsed, rushed, hoarse, and hectic, someone will tell me that they felt His spirit, that they were spoken to. If just one someone grows closer to Him, I know that He has used me for His good. What better purpose is there for a person – a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend – to have than to bring forth the Gospel? To bless others? To lead my precious brothers and sisters to adoration at His feet?
And who is changed? Me. I am most affected by His use of me. I am the one who is blessed by blessing others, who grows closer to Him each time I play a note or open my mouth to sing. I am growing and changing and marveling at His love. From there, I can spread that incredible, mind-boggling love to others.
Some of my people know this story… my family, close friends, prayer warrior friends of mine. I hope that by telling it, someone will be encouraged, someone will feel less alone, someone will be justified in their anguish. This story isn’t cute or sweet, and it doesn’t leave anything out. It’s just heartache and details and sadness and redemption.
Hubby and I tried for seven months to get pregnant with EK. I am well aware that seven months isn’t very long to try to get pregnant. It seemed long going through it, but as the cliché goes, God’s timing is always perfect. Hubby and I have always liked the idea of having our children fairly close together, so when she was born, we decided to “not not try”. Pardon the double negative, but that was our short way of saying we weren’t actively “trying” to get pregnant right away, but we weren’t actively preventing getting pregnant either.
When EK was ten months old, I got pregnant. I knew early on, told Hubby, and we somehow kept the joy and excitement of a sibling for EK to ourselves for two weeks. We finally told my parents (who were visiting at the time) when I estimated myself to be about 6 weeks along. With utterly cruel timing, the following week I started having terrible cramps. Not “implantation cramping” or “stretch cramping” or whatever other excuse they give you to tell you “it’s totally normal”. I was having honest-to-goodness, menstruation-like cramps. I tried to keep calm. I tried to monitor my body. I tried to wish and hope and pray them away. And when the spotting started, I called my OB’s office, heard the nurses say it was normal, read on various medical websites that it was normal. But I knew. Somehow, deep down I already knew what was happening.
I went in for an ultrasound, because my OB wanted to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. He was able to rule that out but said it was too early to tell much else. I went home. Cried a little lot. Rested. Tried to pretend everything was fine. Hubby was preparing for a ski trip with his brothers and some buddies, so I tried my best to put on a happy face and not share my darkest concern with him. But two days later, I knew for sure. My worst fears were all but confirmed. My cramping was a lot worse, and so was the bleeding. Even though my head kept wanting to hope, my heart was resigned to the loss.
I had gotten up at 4:00am that morning when Hubby got up to leave for his trip. He had offered to stay, but what good would it have done? Whether he stayed or went wouldn’t change anything. As I sat in the bathroom, weeping, I could even tell the moment that was the peak. It was done. Over. There would be residual damage, of course, but the event was finished. When I was hugging Hubby and sending him on his trip, I told him it was over. He held me for a long time, and left. I knew asking him to stay, like I really wanted to, would be ridiculous. I had already seen that he felt helpless, and was miserable for me much more than for the situation.
Later we would talk at length about this, about how he was excited at the idea of the baby, but it was just that – an idea. For the partner, it’s just an idea until they start to see the belly grow, feel the kicks, see the movements. For the woman who is pregnant though, the motherhood starts the moment you know that baby is there, just a microscopic little bean. Your feelings in that moment, combined inevitably with your hormones, overwhelm you. You start thinking and planning, praying and seeking wisdom from those other mothers in your life. You love that little thing… that little nameless, shapeless thing, because that’s what the Lord created you to do. You begin to neglect other things in your life as you start to wonder what the baby will look like, how far along you (actually, officially) are, whether it’s a boy or girl, whether you’ll even find out until the birth. It’s incredible how quickly you love that little thing, and every possibility it has.
But to have that little thing taken, snatched from you without reason or ceremony, that will break your heart. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?” The answer is probably nothing. The poor little thing never had a chance. And neither did your heart.
In the next few weeks that seemed to drag, I held onto my first baby, my sweet Ella Kate, so tightly. I thanked the Lord for her, tried to believe that it was still possible for me to have a second such miracle. But if there wasn’t, EK was perfect, and I would do my best to be happy with only her. But I wanted her to have a sibling! I wanted her to experience that bond. I know many only children who wish they had shared their childhood with another. I didn’t want to keep that experience from her. I couldn’t help but wonder, no matter how hard I tried not to, if I had lost the only chance at another little miracle.
After the miscarriage, my doctor told me it could be 4-12 weeks before my cycle would start again. You guessed it – all that stuff about every woman’s body being different and all. He also said we should wait till the cycle started back to try to get pregnant again. And oh, did we ever want to try. I didn’t know there was a gaping, second-child-shaped hole in my life until I glimpsed it and lost it. But we waited to “try”. We took it slow, went about our busy lives. Then one day, chatting with two of my girlfriends, I started to count. I counted the days and weeks since my sadness had begun. There were so many… thirteen weeks, to be exact. How long had my doctor told me to wait? 4-12? Well heck, there ought to be something wrong with me if I haven’t started at this point. What could be the hold up? This girl needs to get pregnant!
When I got home, I found out what the hold up was. I was pregnant, there in that very moment. In the midst of my anguish and waiting and wallowing and praying, I got pregnant. Without trying, without stressing over dates and temperatures and wives’ tales. I couldn’t believe it – women don’t get pregnant like that, right? Our bodies need time and healing and rest, right? I guess sometimes not. And when I called my doctor’s office, the nurse I spoke to estimated (based on my miscarriage date) that I got pregnant about eight weeks after the miscarriage, and made me an appointment for when I should have been abut eight weeks along. At the appointment, the ultrasound tech (the same sweet Kayla who had walked with me through both my pregnancy with EK and my shorter, sadder one) burst out laughing and said, “You’re 10.5 weeks pregnant! Due before the end of the calendar year!” What an incredible surprise, to be that near the baby’s arrival! I was almost out of my first trimester, and I hadn’t even known I was expecting.
Part of the beauty of my story is the way Joseph obliterated my raw sadness. His appearance showed me that my body wasn’t broken. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. A few short months later, he arrived the day before his due date, round and pink and perfect. He’s the symbol of redemption in the story. The proof that something blessed and sweet was on my horizon.
In my story, I just have one. Just one little being I lost and will one day meet in heaven. But I know there are countless women who have lost more, much more, more than even those little babies that should have been. I count myself lucky to have two healthy children, and just one comparatively brief time of sadness. I don’t sit here thinking I’ve had it the worst you can have. But every miscarriage hurts. It still hurts. It is such a deep sadness, in your bones. But look for the redemption. I won’t tell you the redemption will look like mine. It might not be a child at all. But it will be there. Every situation can and will be redeemed. Let yourself believe it.
10 Promises for Parents. Gospel promises. Gospel promises to mend your aching heart and give you hope. Hope that you aren’t totally screwing it up. Hope that you can keep on moving forward.
On the heels of a particularly horrific afternoon/evening (which coincidentally followed a truly lovely morning) these Scriptures brought tears to my eyes, conviction to my heart and healing to my soul. There is grace for the anger. There is grace for the tiredness. There is grace for the sadness. There is grace for the mistakes. There is grace for every possible situation in which you find yourself.
Specifically, this verse spoke to me: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
How much did I need to hear that?! I have a headstrong toddler. I don’t mean just a toddler. I mean a headstrong, outspoken, defiant, my-way-or-the-highway toddler. She comes by it honest (I’m from a family of just such people) so I can’t hold it against her. But I am butting heads with her over so many things I can barely keep up. Choose my battles, you say? I’m choosing, but she isn’t. I have to keep her safe, clean, fed, watered, and rested. Often, I keep feeling like I have to choose between those because she refuses to give in.
So I needed this reminder of grace. I needed to be reminded that my messy evenings of torturous bedtime routines that drag out for hours can be redeemed. I needed a reminder to speak softly, because my harsh words are thrown back at me from the mouth of my babe. She can be pushy because I can be pushy. She’s loud because I’m loud. Sometimes it’s funny – imagine a rousing rendition of “Let It Go” – but sometimes it’s awful. I needed a reminder that this little one just needs love. She needs patience and grace and love. I realize I’m human and I’m short on all of those things, but there is a fountain of them, flowing out onto me and through me. It’s my job as a mommy (not to mention as a wife!) to channel the flow of patience and grace and love onto my inexplicably wailing, exhausted (and exhausting) two-year-old. Even when I don’t know what to do, there is Someone for me to call on. And God, I’m calling on you. I need that grace, that patience, and that love. I need it desperately, for myself, and for my family. And praise the Lord, it’s coming.
How often do you pray for what you want? A friendship to mend. A job opportunity to work out. A boyfriend to pop the question.
I bet those things don’t work out like we plan as often as we wish. We lose touch with the friend. We don’t get the job. The boyfriend says things “aren’t working out”. And we are left hurting.
It sucks down there in the pit… the pit in which we feel we’re stuck after every situation that ends a different way than we plan. How will you ever forgive that friend? What will you do since you couldn’t get your dream job? Will you find a love as good as the one you had?
Friends, these are valid questions. I won’t tell you they’ve never crossed my mind, or that they shouldn’t cross yours. It’s the human experience, wondering these things. But listen to this: That isn’t what God has for you.
There are incredible plans for you. He knows what you need. Isn’t that comforting? What a relief! Even when you’ve had the wrong idea all this time, He’s had the right one. God has fashioned a perfect journey, and you’re already on it. It might not be easy. It might not be safe in our personal bubble. But it is GOOD. His highest for you is so much more wishing and wondering. He has a perfect place for you to be. He has the perfect way and time for you to get there. He will lead you to the perfect brothers and sisters in His name.
There are so many clichés that non-empathetic people love to use… mostly ones that we don’t want to hear. God’s timing is perfect. Hindsight is 20/20. When God closes a door, He opens a window. Blah blah blah. Of course they’re true. They wouldn’t be clichés if they weren’t true. But who wants to hear that?! I want someone to say, “Yeah, that’s an awful feeling. I’ve been there.” and then pray for me. I know that God has a plan. But that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t hurt. I know an amazing future is ahead – but that doesn’t mean I’m not totally impatient waiting on it!
Take heart, right now. His best is on its way. I promise. He promises. Pick your head up, trudge up from the pit, and shout to Him, “I’m ready! I want to trust You and move on!” He will pick you up and help you onward. And if you need a sister to pray with you and for you and hold your hand, I’m your gal. Or connect with a church. Or find a fellowship. Reach out. I can’t do it for you (believe me I would if I could). If you can’t muster up the faith that He has your best, call on someone to believe it for you. He has it. His best. For you. Always.