If you heard the sound of Taps being played about half an hour ago, it was coming from my house. I opened up my laptop just now to finish editing next week's post and realized that my charger had fueled it's last battery sometime in the night last night. Until Amazon delivers my new charger, I'll be patiently waiting to finish my edits and get my newest post published. It'll be at least a few days until it's delivered. For now, I'm posting via my iPhone which is about as effective as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. So please- dust off your black arm bands and wear them today in memory of the years of service our brave little charger gave our family. We'll miss you, MacBook Charger. But we'll miss our Email and Blogger and Pinterest and Netflix even more. Fly away to your Apple Store in the sky, sweet friend. You've earned your reward. And may all the docks charge forever in your favor.
I recently had a friend from back home come over and visit us for a few days and it was so nice to be able to get together and catch up. (Even while three rambunctious kiddos ran around like wild animals most of the time. Hehe.) She is incredibly talented; the type of person who has lots of hobbies and is quite adept at all of them. She can whip up all sorts of homemade jams and jellies and pickle just about any vegetable you give her. She takes incredible pictures because she "dabbles" in photograpy. She makes her own lotions and potions like the one she left with me called "Peach Verbena Cream". It is divine and I will be hoarding every last smidge that's in the bottle. She has an Etsy shop, Painted Timbre, where she creates custom hand painted wooden wall art. And they're amazing. Seriously. I already have a list a mile long of favorite verses that I *neeeed* her to create for me. God has given her the gift of creativity and she uses that gift extraordinarily. I'm blessed to consider her a dear friend. Her visit was like a breath of fresh air and a wave full of adult conversation. And for a SAHM, those are invaluable sometimes. We spent three days laughing and talking and eating and catching up. We were both raised in rural parts of Louisiana so there was lots to reminisce about. For all intents and purposes, we were raised in the country. Where clotheslines were a staple in everyone's yards and your towels always smelled like sunshine. Where homegrown vegetables were on the menu 7 days a week and you didn't realize how much of a luxury that was until you moved away and had to buy storebought produce. Where meat came wrapped in white packaging with a "Not For Resale" stamp on it. Where picking blackberries taught you that somethings are just worth fighting for. Where a bush hog is used more often than a mower to cut grass. Where you measure your land in hundreds of acres. Where the roads are dirt, the trees are tall and the sky is huge. Where most times, cows outnumber people. Where the eggs are fresh. Where any animal is fair game when they're in your flower beds. Where you travel distance in time, not miles. Where food was cooked on gas stoves and in cast iron skillets. Where leaving the house for anything requires a trip into 'town'. And where we learned lessons we never knew we needed about living and loving and leaving. We've both moved away and started separate lives with our families away from our hometown heritage. We may live in cities now, but at the end of the day, we will always be grateful for the time we spent growing our roots and wings in the country.
(Be warned. I'm forcing myself to write this only so I can reference it in the future when I need a pick me up. Like when I put on my jeans and they *still* won't button. So if your pants fit perfectly and you've never felt the soul crushing blow that comes with a post-baby muffin top, skip this post. It ain't for you. Go eat a donut. You win.)
165 days ago, my body did an incredible thing. I gave my youngest child a birthday. After 41 weeks of growing and grumbling and gaining; I welcomed an 8lb. 8 oz. bundle of perfection into this great big world. I greeted Nathan with open arms and endless jubilation. It was one of the best of days of my life. Initially, in the days immediately after you have a baby, you feel fantastic. The heartburn: GONE. The back pain: GONE. The never ending need to go to the bathroom: GONE. You hold your baby in your arms for the first time and you feel like you could conquer the world for them. You've never felt better. You're slimmer than you have been in weeks, you can finally see your feet again, and you can actually roll out of bed without a push start from your husband. You rock. Then a few weeks pass and that euphoria fades. In it's place comes grim reality. And it starts in your closet. You've got a boatload of maternity clothes that are too big and an even bigger boatload of clothes that don't seem like they will ever be large enough to slide over your recently widened child birthin' hips. You've got a belleh/back fat combo that's big enough to be illegal in 17 states. When you stoop over your baby's crib to pick them up your stomach just sort of haaangs there, like congealed gravy waiting to glob off the back of a spoon when you stir it. Ugh. Clothes. And as if that weren't enough, your hair starts falling out. Like whoa. You could weave a living room rug with the amount of hair you shed during your shower. You actually start to legitimately wonder if you could rock a head wrap. You may even search Pinterest for "cute head scarf styles". (You may even cut your hair in the worst Justin Bieber style imaginable like I recently did.) Either way, your hair betrays you. Bleh. Hair. It abandons you at your weakest because even it can't stand to be attached to the same face that is now covered in mounds of post-baby acne. When you do emerge from the shower to look at your fresh, make-up-less face, you shudder in horror at what you see. You're sure you've traveled back in time because you are confident that a grown woman should NEVER have this much acne. Your face looks like it did in your 7th Grade yearbook photo. It's baaaad. Pshhh. Acne. So, you've got the muffin top/back fat combo down, a receding hairline that makes Nicholas Cage's hair look voluminous and enough pimples to turn your face into your own pepperoni pizza. Feeling fabulous yet? If you aren't- don't worry. I don't. I don't feel thin. Or sleek. Or coiffed. Most days, the best I can muster up to feeling is 'sorta OK'. But you know what- I'm fine with that. I'm fine with a middle that has giggle. I'm fine with a terrible hair cut. (Most days. I'm still working on figuring out how to un-Beiber my current cut.) I'm fine with my newly adopted 'throwback to Jr. High' skin care routine. Wanna know why I am satisfied with this newer, heavier, not-as-stylish-as-I-used-to-be self? Because my kids don't see ANY of it. They don't see me that way at all. They're the ones who put me in this position and they don't care a bit. They don't see my weight or my hair or my skin or my clothes. They just see me. Their Mom. Their WORLD personified. They see me as the One who rushes into their rooms at night when they're sick. They see the One who pours chocolate syrup in their milk and makes them homemade waffles in the mornings. They see the One who buckles their car seat belts and draws (really terrible) sidewalk chalk pictures. They see the One who plays chase in the backyard or builds blanket forts in the living room. The One who lets them make messes in the kitchen sink while she cooks. Or lick the mixing bowl once it's empty. I'm the One who can heal wounds with a single kiss. The One who remembers their favorite books. Their favorite pajamas. Their favorite plate at suppertime. When they look at me they don't see a number on a scale. They see the One who holds them, carries them, rocks them, and snuggles them always. They don't care if I'm back into my pre-baby clothes or not. They don't care if I've got a million tiny pimples covering my newly exposed hairline. They don't see me that way because their vision is clouded. They see me through grace-filtered glasses. They're oblivious to these traits because these traits DON'T DEFINE ME AS THEIR MOM. Wearing my skinny jeans on won't make my hugs tighter. Thick hair won't make my kisses sweeter. Flawless skin won't make my love for them stronger. Those things don't matter to them and they shouldn't matter to me. So, the next time I pause to scrutinize my reflection in the mirror, I'm going to see myself through their grace filtered glasses. And I'm going to be happy with what the mirror shows me. And if I'm not, I'm going to give myself a little more grace. Because grace is just what mommas of youngun's need.
A few Sundays ago, I was standing in the foyer of our church (read: Letting Luke and Josie blow off a little steam between Sunday School and worship.) when one of our elders stopped me. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and told me how much he appreciated seeing the kids at Bible class and worship each week. He said having them at church encouraged him, and he just wanted to make sure that we knew it.
And as I sat down in our family's pew to get ready for worship to begin, I welled up. My throat got thick and suddenly it was hard to swallow. My eyes burned as they filled with tears because I realized he knew. He got it. He remembered what it was like when his children were little. His thoughtful words were just the encouragement I needed to prepare me to face the challenges that inevitably arise when have a young family of 5 crowded onto a pew.
Going to church is hard work. Don't get me wrong, Sundays and Wednesdays are good days: they're filled with worship and learning and fellowship and friends and children and laughter- but they're also the most exhausting days of the week. They're filled equally with sweat and stress and shushes and 'be quiets' and whispers and power struggles and trips to the foyer for "talks" with Mom or Dad.
And if you've ever experienced a church service as a mother, you understand. You understand the flushed feeling you get when you're desperately trying to soothe a fussy, teething baby who only wants to cry in the middle of a prayer. You know the heat that overtakes your entire body as you escort your screaming two year old through the back doors of the sanctuary to discipline them for repeatedly attempting to stand up/lie down/undress/karate chop their baby brother during the sermon. You've felt the humility that comes when you return from a bathroom trip with your three-and-a-half year old and they joyfully announce to everyone within a four pew radius that "Daddy! I-a pooped in the potty! I was bea honessst, see?!!" You can see how, after 90 minutes of antics like these, the closing prayer is the sweetest sound you've ever heard because it means that you've SURVIVED.
In between going through this never-ending revolving door with my crew, I'm spending the rest of the service explaining to them what it means to be in worship. I'm holding babies and blankets and Bibles. I'm reprimanding the unwanted behavior and rewarding the good. I'm teaching them to pray. To listen. To sing. To glorify Him. I am showing them what it means to be reverent. To be humble. To be forgiven. To be a child of His. And when they see their first baptism I tear up because I can't wait to have the privilege of seeing them make that Great Confession of their own one day. To be baptized into His body and to join me in a faith that is no longer one that they have through me, but one that they have made for themselves.
So, when you hear some noise coming from my direction, please don't glare over your shoulder at us. If you think that the commotion from my pew sounded loud to you, I can assure you that it sounded much, MUCH louder to me. I can tell you that every squawk, every squirm, every squeal feels like a vise around my chest. There's a reason that we sit in the far back of the sanctuary and this is it. Did you know that as my baby cried, I sat on my pew analyzing the difference in the disruption that letting them continue to fuss would be versus the one I would cause by standing up and taking them out. That to me, every second my baby cries feels 5.3 times louder and longer than it actually is. Did you know that sometimes I just feel like a failure when my child tries to crawl under the pew in front of them? That some Sundays, I'm not sure if I should take communion when it is passed because I haven't had a chance to focus my heart and mind on it? So when you see me hauling one of them out through those double doors with a tight, forced smile, please don't sigh that I am out of my pew AGAIN. If it's been a particularly rough service and things just went terribly, please don't roll your eyes in our direction. Why don't you take that time to lift up a prayer for me? Stifle that sigh and send me a smile instead. Because that's when I'm in the thick of things, and a supportive look is just what I need to see. So please, give me some grace during these training years that I'm in. Give me some words of encouragement. Give me some hugs in the foyer after services are over. And please- pardon our progress. Building God's next generation can be loud, messy, Heaven-building work.
Welp, y'all, last night was another long one. It started with Nathan getting up around 10:00 crying and teething. (After I had just laid down, of COURSE.) I went in and out of his room about 32 more times, but finally got him back to bed for good around 11:30. Luke and Josie were up intermittently twice after that. Somehow they know how to synchronize their sleepless nights. Sibling solidarity for the WIN. Josie woke up for the last time around 4:30 and I finally just threw in the towel and peeled back my covers for good. Anyway, I was reading through Psalms this morning and I came across several verses that stuck out to me in my sleep deprived state.
"God is our (my) refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1
"Cast your burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain you..." Psalm 55:22
"Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge..." Psalm 57:1
The kids will all be up in about an hour, but for now, the house is all mine. It's dark and quiet and calm. I've got my Bible and my fuzzy blanket and a hot cup of coffee. These are the moments in the day that sustain me. When I can sit at His feet and just....rest. And when things get hairy and hectic and stressful, I try to remember this feeling. This moment that I had in the calm that I spent with Jesus this morning. I find my shelter in the gracious, gracious shadow of His wings because I know that He is with me. He is with me when I make chocolate milk, and pay bills, and clean toilets and break up sibling squabbles. He sees me when I cut the crusts off peanut butter sandwiches and wipe faces and noses and diapers. When I'm pacing the living room rug with Nathan because he's crying, He is there. When I'm frustrated with Luke and Josie for bickering over a broken piece of crayon, He is there. He is holding my hand as I hold theirs. He is the cooling breeze that refreshes me when I am overwhelmed. When I reach my breaking point, my soul finds refuge in His grace. Because, for me, there are days when His grace is all I have left to give.
And I reckon I hope that He gives y'all that peace, too.
Transitioning into life with three children has been an...adventure. Don't get me wrong, our days were busy before Nathan was born. But now, they're not just busy. They're hectic. Like CRAZY hectic. On most days, I'm lucky to have my teeth brushed before 5pm. And on those days when I do get to take care of my oral health before the rush hour traffic hits, I feel like I've accomplished something really stupendous.
So here's a quick rundown of things in our lives that have changed since we've welcomed the newest member to our family back in October:
Toilet paper usage: INCREASE
Personal showers: DECREASE
Amount of pet hair on the floor: INCREASE
The time it takes to accomplish anything: INCREASE (by like 17x)
Social outings: DECREASE
Cans of Lysol: INCREASE
Hours of consecutive sleep: DECREASE
Minutes spent sitting in the pew at church rather than standing: DECREASE
Dishwasher cycles: INCREASE
So things have definitely changed now that there is an infant, a two year old AND a preschooler running around our house. After I potty trained Luke while Josie was a newborn and was eating during approximately 49% of my day, I promised myself that I would never that again. And there was my crucial mistake. Never.say.never.... So, true to form, when I was mere weeks away from delivering Nathan, Josie decided to potty train herself. Perrrfect timing, Sis. I put her off for as long as I could, but I had to start the potty training journey with her approximately 17 seconds after I arrived home with Nathan. Challenge: accepted. And Josie's been such a hard worker about it. We still have accidents every now and then, (mostly in public, of course!) but all things considered- she's doing wonderfully. I'm insanely proud of my big girl.
[ASIDE: It is a fact of nature that IF a potty accident is going to happen, it WILL occur when you've stopped to nurse your infant baby. It doesn't matter if you've just taken your older child to the bathroom and they've filled that little Baby Bjorn potty to the brim immediately before you sit down; somehow- they KNOW. Their bladders are rigged like tiny, ticking time bombs set to go off precisely when their youngest sibling settles in for their 30 minute lunch break. They can make another puppy puddle on your living room rug without blinking an eye. It's like they're equipped with a reserve tank earmarked specifically for that purpose. Also, have you ever stopped an infant while they're eating to clean-up bodily fluids from household surfaces? You haven't? Well, it ain't pretty. Trust me. They do not appreciate interruptions, no matter the reason. This is why, after experiencing this tremendous joy once before, I vowed never to do it again.]
People have asked me how I'm managing things now that I have three kids at home by myself all day. And my response is always the same: I'm doing great. I'm exhausted 80% of the time, but in the best, most blessed way possible. And that's the truth. It really is.