Thursday, March 24, 2016

Days Gone

My Grandma turned 93 this year.  She is a personal hero of mine. The past several months she has been enduring a very big health battle.  She has been unable to eat and lost a lot of weight and a lot of independence.  She has had many procedures to try to repair her esophagus, some have made the problems worse.  It has been painful to watch her suffer.  She has been blessed with great health for so many years, this has hit all of us very hard.

Since the health problems started my Grandma has done a lot of reflecting and pondering.  She has also been planning her funeral.  Something about being a part of all of this has had me thinking and reflecting a lot more as well.

One day, Lord willing, I will find myself growing weaker, and older, and having nothing but time to reflect on my life.  What will my regrets be?  What memories will stick out the most?  What things will I wish I did more of?  Less of?  Because I am in the season of motherhood where it's easy to become too introspective and evaluate everything and feel guilty, I am hesitant to give in to this too much.  Some reflection can be good though.

The days with the kids can feel like a blur.  I can feel so burned out, so over touched, and overstimulated.  I can regrettably say there have been times my kids have asked for a hug, and I say no.  I get easily overwhelmed.  That is something that surprised me when I became a mom.  The crying, the noise, the mess, it tends to overwhelm me at times.  I want to love and enjoy these days, but find myself wanting to crawl into a corner at times and be in complete silence.

Today I really wanted a break, I wanted to nap and catch up on some missed sleep with the baby last night.  But Micah was not feeling that plan and didn't want to nap himself.  I was so ready to snap at him,  but when I looked into his eyes and saw a little boy who just needed a moment with me.  My eyes teared up as I looked into his and realized in that moment he just needed me.  I laid down with him and we talked for a few minutes and I gave him a hug.  As I was hugging him I started to remember just last year, whenever I needed a nap during my pregnancy he would snuggle up next to me and we would drift off to sleep.  It seems like just yesterday...but those days are gone.

Seasons come and seasons go so quickly.  I sometimes long to go back and have a conversation with 2 year old Miya.  So often I wish I could get a glimpse of those early days with each kid, their newness and fragility.  But other than Moriah, those days are gone.  And even with her those days are passing quicker than I would hope for.

The reality is, our days are like grass.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  I just wrote about joy -vs- enjoy and I have to walk the line between being overly introspective, but also reflecting in a healthy way to live my life to the fullest.  I want to find that balance in life.  I want to freely enjoy the "todays" but also feel free to grieve the "yesterdays".  I think it's healthy and normal to miss days that have gone.  The day I sent Miya to kindergarten and cried over her leaving.  The day Milo learned how to walk.  The day we met Moriah for the first time and I felt so overwhelmed with love for this 4th baby that we didn't think we would have.  The day Micah said my name for the first time.  The days are gone, I think it's ok to miss them a little.

I think sometimes when we grieve over the yesterdays, it helps us to enjoy the todays a little more.

Enjoy -vs- Joy

I have been pondering this a lot lately.  Joy is something we are called to fight for.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!"  
Philippians 4:4

So, with that in mind what about the hard days? The days when you wake up feeling weary from the go, and no one feels sorry for you and you just want to go back to bed and reset?  Still called to "rejoice?"  Well I had this epiphany.  We are called to fight for joy, but there is a difference between having "joy" and "enjoying" difficulty.

A few weeks ago I had one of those TKO weeks in motherhood.  It was like a volcano erupted and even though each individual thing wasn't all that bad, it was everything combined that was so heavy I felt crushed under it all.  

It started with Mo going from peaceful angelic baby to screamer like the flip of a switch.  She was screaming sometimes on and off for hours in the evening and that is enough to grate anyone's nerves.  Then she seemed to get a cold along with Miles as well which resulted in some sad whiny days, but I was still hanging on at this point.  But after a few days of the screaming I was feeling frayed, cue Micah throwing up all over the living room and I lost it.  NOT pretty.  In front of all of my kids, while feeding Moriah, looking like a crazy lunatic I sobbed. Miya being the tender one she is sobbed with me telling me it would all be ok. I don't remember actually saying anything intelligible between the sobs while Lew tried to comfort me, but I think something along the lines of "I can't take one more thing, I can't do this!"   I know it seems dramatic, but can I just say why is it that kids don't seem to know they need to throw up?  And WHY do they move around while throwing up only to spread it as far and wide as they can?  That will forever be a mystery to me.  Either way after my sob fest I manned up and we proceeded to tackle the mess and create a bunker for the sick one who I was determined to keep from the other kids.  Only I turn around and what is Miles doing but drinking out of the cup that Micah had been drinking out of all day.  More tears from me.  

We made it through that day and after 2 days I was feeling a little secure with the fact that no one else got it, although Miya wakes up with a fever.  Dun Dun Dun.  I decided to keep her home, hoping her tough immune system would begin fighting soon.  Friday comes and we greet the day of the "procedure". Lew had put this on the calendar pretty much immediately after Mo was born.  He was counting down as if it was an awesome vacation, or a sporting event he had been waiting for.  Only, it was just a vasectomy.  But still, he was so so ready to have it done.  I was hesitant.  What if one of the other kids gets sick, what if Miya starts throwing up?  How will I handle it all on my own?  I still had PTSD from the trauma of a few days prior.  I was not sure I could handle anything else.  But I knew he was not going to be ok with rescheduling.  So, he leaves for his procedure.  

An hour later Milo comes wandering down with no clothes on, not all that weird for him.  I get him dressed and we go about our morning.  An hour later I go upstairs to his room to discover chunks of orange all over his floor, all over his bed..and it hits me.  Throw up.  Everywhere.   More tears, but this time I had to think fast.  No backup meant I really had no choice but to "do".  Began grabbing things and throwing them in trash bags trying to pick through what to keep and what to just trash.  Stripping sheets, and attempting to get an idea what had been touched and honestly I think he just about touched everything, bless his heart.  At this point I am still hanging in there, probably running on adrenaline. I run downstairs to start what will be many loads of laundry to find an empty bottle of laundry detergent.  Waaaah.  I feel like this is just a bad dream. But I have some amazing friends who drop off detergent and carpet cleaner AND encourage from a safe distance that everything will be ok. 

Lew comes home and the poor guy is having to hear about all the drama of the morning and of course he is helpless at this point.  And to top it off he was using padsicles as ice packs because I forgot to buy him an ice pack.  But we made it.  By the end of the day I think we both felt like we had been through a war.  It was rough, but we survived.  The days that followed were better, but still rough.  Miya ended up with an awful case of Hand Foot and Mouth that caused sores all over her mouth and pretty much led to her feeling awful for a week.  

The bottom line, I guess, is that I think as Christians we have the freedom to fight for Joy and ask God to fill us in the hard moments or days, but at the same time admit that we are not "enjoying" the struggles.  That we can freely soak up the sweet moments for what they are, while simply enduring the difficult ones just fighting to make it through.  I sometimes think there is this intense pressure as Moms to soak it up, live every moment knowing it will go fast.  That is SO true.  On the other side of it though I think we feel such guilt when we have a hard day, or a hard stretch and we feel like we should have "enjoyed it more".  And typically, as you endure you are met with an unexplained joy.

So, I made a decision that I will consciously soak up the sweet moments, every single one of them.  But in the hard moments, when I am struggling in those "stripped bare" moments of motherhood,  I will fight for joy, while giving myself the freedom to simply endure. I know the days are long and the years are short, but I also know that for freedom I have been set free not to submit to a yolk of slavery (Galatians 5:1). I think we can easily set ourselves up to be slaves of "soaking it up" that we forget we are just humans with human emotions.  It's ok to not enjoy scrubbing vomit out of the carpet.  It's ok to endure car trips with a screaming baby and at the end say "glad that's over".  Freedom.

This verse came to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Even Jesus despised the shame of the cross. He ENDURED the cross. He didn't enjoy it. He had to persevere in joy. And because of Him we can do the same.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

On Growing Up

I can't even believe that the last time I blogged was the birth of Micah.  How does that even happen?  How exactly is it that I have 4 children (2 since that last post).  It's a profound mystery folks.  When I was blogging back in the day, I seriously felt like I was writing for an audience.  I mean truthfully an audience of maybe 10 or so (mostly made up of family) but an audience none the less.  As I have gone back this week and read those old posts I see I was really writing for myself.  Those moments, thoughts, and ideas captured, it's like a snapshot into history, and as I read them I feel like I am reading a history book of my life. These snapshots are like gold to me.  Let me tell you, when you are in the "throws of it" you naively think "I will have no trouble remembering this!".  But I am here to say that is just untrue.  You think it will stick with you, but as I look back I see how little I actually remember from years past.

Looking back two things stick out to me more than anything else.

1)  I am not the same person, not even close.

2)  The things that I considered "troubles" or "worries" aren't the same anymore

I have been shaped and molded these past several years.  I feel like I have gone through the fire and come out changed.

Life has happened.  I look back and I see a woman desperate to find her place in this world.  Trying to figure out motherhood, friendships, faith, marriage.  Looking at me now I am still figuring those things out.  What is different now is I know I don't have to have all the answers.  I have seen friendships come and go.  I have made mistakes, a lot of them unfortunately.  But I have learned what grace really is, and have learned to be gracious with myself.  I have learned that it's ok to mess up, and own it without beating myself up.

I thought that blogging would be a great way to capture my kids growing up.  But what it has really captured is me growing up.  I am no longer that 20 something girl who worried so desperately about what people thought of me, or what the future would hold.  I am no longer naive to loss or someone who views the loss of my toddlers naptime as "suffering".  I have watched and comforted friends burying their children,  parents, siblings, and have seen what suffering really is. I have been a student to these experiences and have learned a few things about God that I couldn't have learned any other way.  Life has become so raw these past few years.

I have seen a church and community crumble under tragedy and scandal, something I never thought would happen.  On the other side of it, I have seen people scatter to different churches, and different communities and be used in ways they never dreamt of.  This was all born out of tragedy.  It's a beautiful thing to see beauty come from ashes.

 My husband and I have spent the past 2 years digging ourselves out of a broken marriage.  Broken trust.  Both of us have made mistakes and the result was bitterness and an overall lack of unity.  When you are newly married you never think you will be that couple.  The ones who all the sudden wake up and say "what the heck happened!?  how did we get here?" But that is all part of the growing up too.  You learn through mistakes, pain, heartache.  We are mending now.  Stronger in so many ways, all because we admitted we are weak and need help.  All because God opened our eyes to the broken foundation we had built our marriage on all these years.  What the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good.

It's an imperfect process, growing up.  Nothing could have taught me the lessons I have learned over the past few years, other than pure experience.  No amount of reading could have prepared me.  If I could have gone back in time and told the person of the past that "xy & z" will happen, and here is how you survive it.  Not only would I not have believed it, but it wouldn't have worked.  You can't appreciate loss, hurt, or sorrow, until you have lived it.  You can't appreciate the beauty that rises out of ashes, until you experience the fire and come out on the other side.

I have never been the emotional type.  I would cry over the occasional hallmark commercial or love story, but haven't ever been one to cry easily. I even remember always mocking my Mom and teasing her when she cried over every movie and even over the news (sorry Mom)  Now, there are straight up waterworks over the most random of things.  Last night I was looking back through old letters I wrote to Miya when I was pregnant with her (more on that later), but when I began to go back through these letters I began to sob.  I know she thought I was crazy as she sat next to me and I wept through these letters.  As I read them it hit me, how far God has brought me.  How far he has brought us.  As a family.  As individuals.  We are on this journey of growing up together.  Many times I don't feel a day over 20.  But my reflection tells a much different story.  Sometimes I catch my reflection in the front glass door, or walking by a mirror and it startles me a bit.  I see a woman who has weathered a few storms, spit up almost always on my right shoulder, skin that could really use more moisturizer or even concealer, hair that hasn't been combed yet for that day or maybe event the day prior, and a muffin top that I have learned to embrace for the now.  I see all this, and I am surprised by how comfortable I have become with this woman that I see.   Not to say I don't aspire to take better care of myself when the newborn fog passes.  But I have grown to respect those hips that are wider because they birthed 4 children.  Those wrinkles that stand out more representing each passing year of life.  The spit up that marks another miraculous human that is growing right before my eyes, fed and sustained only by my body.   That muffin top that I know will eventually go away, but that I kind of don't want to lose too soon because that means my baby is getting older.

I have found myself, that person who always thought "what's next!!?", longing to hold on to today a little longer.  Longing to hold my toddler who in a blink won't want to snuggle on my lap.  Longing to hold on to that newborn who is still so fresh and who will be my very last. It pains me as I type those words.  It pains me to reflect on the passing of time, to acknowledge that time waits for no one.  These days, as hard as they are, are the most beautiful and I am certain the sweetest days of my life.  As I type this I hear my baby girl waking up on the monitor after a 20 minute cat nap that took an hour to achieve.  This imperfect life has shaped me.  I see God in new and wonderful ways.  I just kind of want to linger here for now.  I know in a blink I will be looking back and crying over these words I just typed. But for now, I will just live and try not to worry over how quickly that day will come.