Breaking news: Zoe has a silly face.
After I took that picture, Zoe tried to climb the wall. Literally.
Silly face variation 2: the “closed eye”
Toddlers are fun.
Breaking news: Zoe has a silly face.
After I took that picture, Zoe tried to climb the wall. Literally.
Silly face variation 2: the “closed eye”
Toddlers are fun.
For months after transitioning from full time work to being a mostly stay-at-home mom, I mourned the loss of my work. I missed seeing the impact I had on my students’ lives. I missed the relationships I had with my coworkers, who had grown to appreciate my faith even if they did not share it. I missed having an impact on the future of an organization. I felt called to be at home, but I didn’t see how my work here as having a very large impact on anyone besides my family.
A few months ago, David, Zoe, and I were on a Sunday afternoon walk when we ran into our associate youth director from church. He and David swapped stories from the morning (“the sermon went well! I got a lot of good feedback!”) (“we had the BEST conversations in Sunday school today! Students were asking such great questions!”)
Then they looked at me.
“I cleaned poop out of the bathtub this morning,” I volunteered.
“Awesome job!” the associate youth director said.
As we walked away, I shook my head a little, thinking well, that about sums up my impact right now. I keep things going at home so that David can have an impact.
And sure, I have my moments where I think, okay, NOW I’m having an impact, because I’m being really intentional about reaching out to that person or making this charitable contribution or tangibly helping someone with something they need. But most of the time, I feel like I’m just a stay at home mom trying to fill my day and my toddler’s day with fun stuff so she grows and develops and I don’t die of boredom. My reach isn’t far.
That’s where I’ve been for months. Not unhappy with my life AT ALL, but not seeing my influence right now as very big.
A few weeks ago, though, that idea began to be challenged.
Through a series of conversations that had to be God-orchestrated, I learned that while I’ve been walking around believing my reach to be small, God has been using me in places I wasn’t even aware of.
Someone told me that they read an email I sent them every morning and that it gives them strength to face the day. My words were not that great, nor did I envision it being an ongoing read, but it is for her.
A coffee date I walked away from months ago thinking “meh, that didn’t have an impact?” The person just contacted me and wants to get involved in our church. Eight or nine months later, she’s still mulling over what we talked about.
My exercise class—surely it’s just an exercise class, right? Except it’s not. Because people are talking to me about faith and pain and struggle in the middle of jumping jacks now. What the what?
The pain and loss I’ve been experiencing in the last few months? Helped me understand a little better how to reach out to a friend when she had a miscarriage a few weeks ago.
The soup that I made yesterday, only to realize, oops, that recipe made way more soup than I want to eat? It’s going to a friend whose family could use a home cooked meal.
God doesn’t waste ANYTHING.
We are the ones that waste. We complain our way through circumstances that could teach us something if we’d only open our heart a bit more. We dream of the opportunities we’ll have in the future, ignoring the real possibilities right in front of us. We make small talk, thinking that’s what others want, when they’re actually desperately craving real talk. We get too busy and too routine oriented to look up and really see what He is doing. We say things like “my impact is small right now” or “I’m JUST a…” or “right now, I can ONLY…” when really? Every single moment of our life can have an impact.
For months, I’ve been praying that God will use my life and my story. I’ve wondered what form that will take in the future.
All the while, it’s been taking form.
And now I know.
I’m thankful that my eyes are open, albeit a bit late. I’m hopeful that from now on, I’ll partner with God in the NOW, seeing the opportunities and possibilities through His eyes instead of my own, seeing what I’ve got instead of believing the lies that it’s not much.
These slower, more family-focused moments of life? Are not a break from my real life. They are my life.
And He can, and is, using them.
Last week, I was at a party where everyone was complaining about their house cleaners. I kept quiet, because, well, I am the house cleaner at my house.
I came home and said, I wish I had a house cleaner to complain about. That would be nice.
Today, I decided to clean during nap time. As I pulled out my supplies, I thought wistfully, I wish I didn’t have to do this.
I started in our kitchen. As I dusted our espresso machine, I thought back to my college days of making myself a latte and curling up with a notebook and textbook. I’m so grateful for my education, I realized. I pictured the faces of college friends—friends I used to study with, friends I still do life with thanks to texting, emailing, Facetiming, visits, and intentionality—and smiled as I realized how long our friendships have lasted.
As I cleaned our kitchen windows, I looked at our backyard, remembering when Zoe finally gathered the courage to let go of my hands on her Little Tikes slide last week. The look on her face—fear, excitement, pride—mirrored my own. My baby is getting braver and bigger every day.
I dusted around our refrigerator thinking of friends we’ve had over in the last month, the food we’ve served, and the fun we’ve had. I wondered how his trip to see his parents had gone, wondered if she’ll enjoy the last two weeks of college, wondered if the friends I am bringing dinner to tonight will like their new house.
I moved into our guest bathroom. It’s not much—the wall is water damaged and the yellow paint we added doesn’t really cover it like we hoped—but no one has complained about it. I though of the humility it takes to stay at our house on a blow-up mattress with this ugly bathroom and an early morning baby wake up call, and I was grateful for every person who comes and enjoys us anyway and tells us no, their back doesn’t hurt, and yes, that blow-up mattress is so comfortable.
I dusted our empty nursery. It used to be a mud room, then an office, then a playroom, and now it holds an empty crib, some shattered dreams, and a lot of hope. As I moved through the room, I prayed for the baby that will someday fill it. I confessed to God how impatient I am, how much I want that room filled. I asked Him to make me patient and strong in the waiting, to be with that baby’s birth mom, whoever she is, and to be with Zoe’s birth mom and sister too. I thanked Him for this room that lets us grow our family in this house, this room that can be available for Him when He needs it.
I began pulling out the dining room chairs to clean when I looked over and saw my husband sleeping on a chair with an open book on his lap. He has the day off today since Holy Week is basically an Ironman, and Easter is the marathon portion. I thought back to yesterday—the first Easter service he led on his own—and how funny it is that he is a pastor, that I am a pastor’s wife, and that I learn from my husband every week. I thanked God for my husband, for his work, for his leadership, for the opportunities God has brought his way.
And here, I stopped cleaning to let him sleep.
My house is so small that I can’t clean another room without waking him or Zoe up. For this task focused person, that’s a bummer. But even in that—there is blessing. Because of this small house, instead of the larger one I used to dream of, I can stay home with my baby. I can be here on my husband’s day off enjoying family time instead of being in an office trying to pay a mortgage. I can clean in two hours and move on to things that matter more to me.
In this small house, I have learned to offer hospitality instead of a show, and genuine conversation instead of a tour. Teenagers can lay all over my couch because it was free and I don’t care if the leather gets scratched. Kids can picnic on my rug because it was $40 at Lowe’s. I still try to make our house look nice and inviting, but the real welcome and warmth has to come from our genuineness. It’s a challenge I appreciate.
Yes, after all that, I still wish I could magically conjure up a free house cleaner.
But I am comfortable with the choices that have led to me cleaning my own house today, overcome with joy to have this little house to clean, and thankful for all the grace that a good dusting reveals.
Well, the first quarter of the year has passed, and although my life these days is more “get that play dough out of your mouth” and less “get me that report by Friday,” I still like the idea of a quarterly report and thought I’d do a Q1 check-in to see how I’m progressing on my 2014 goals.
In response to my health consciousness, Zoe learned the word “Cheez-It” last month. I didn’t grow up eating Cheez-Its, don’t buy them, and didn’t even know that you spelled “Cheez-It” with a “z” instead of an “s” until I Googled it three weeks ago. I gave them to her ONCE at playgroup because another kid had them and she was begging for them. Apparently it was an experience to remember, because she can identify them in or out of the packaging and say “Cheez-It” with perfect diction.
This quarter, I also made the hard decision to stop working for the nonprofit I’ve been working for for the last 4 years. I am still doing some consulting work here and there, but I want to be more strategic about what I do now that Zoe is down to one nap and my work time is limited. I want the projects I take on to build new skills, build new connections, and allow me to use the skills I am most passionate about, and I want to do project-based work instead of weekly work so that I have more time to spend on writing and enriching activities with Zoe. Although it was a big adjustment at first, it was a decision I made from my core and I am glad I made it.
Moving forward, I want to continue my success with the goals that have been going well and pick up the pace in a few areas. I welcome conversation about how these goals (or your own goals!) are going in 2014!
I have just one short thing that I want to say to the other mamas out there today.
There’s so much chatter out there about the difficulties of parenting, the tragedy of giving up your own life, the fact that your life will never be the same again. And yes, it is hard, and yes, you say goodbye to your old self, and yes, eating a yogurt in silence and giving NO ONE any bites of it is what qualifies as an amazing self-care moment now when you used to NEED pedicures and shopping and getaways with your girlfriends and significant others and none of that is part of your life anymore.
But I gladly trade all of that for the privilege of watching my daughter try to make me smile when she thinks I need a little silliness in my day.
I gladly trade all of that for the privilege of walking around a nature park with her, noticing birds and bugs I would have never noticed a few years ago and taking her little hand when she offers it to me as we traipse through uneven grass without an agenda.
And I gladly trade all of that for the awesome responsibility of showing Zoe through my actions what kindness, love, empathy, compassion, wisdom, self-control, intelligence, and self-sacrifice look like. I realized the other day just how much she copies me, just how much she looks to me as a model—just how much she is learning every day from ME. Though it’s terrifying to realize that I am her primary example, it is also exhilarating.
The emphasis I put on developing my character and living with integrity, passion, purpose, and a heart for others will have a direct impact on my daughter’s development of all of these things.
No, I’m not the ONLY one responsible for this, nor will I do it perfectly…I cling to grace and need a fresh helping daily to cover my inadequacies, selfish tendencies, misplaced priorities, and mistakes.
But what could I possibly do that is more meaningful than this?
“Christian parenting is truly a sacred journey. It invites us parents to purify ourselves, to use the process of raising kids to perfect holiness, and to do this consistently, every day, out of reverence for God. If we enter it armed with this understanding, each segment will gain new meaning and purpose-even the difficult ones. We live in the midst of holy teachers. Sometimes they spit up on themselves or on us. Sometimes they throw tantrums. Sometimes they cuddle us and kiss us and love us. In the good and the bad they mold our hearts, shape our souls, and invite us to experience God in newer and deeper ways. Although we may shed many tears along this sacred journey of parenting, numerous blessing await us around every bend in the road.”
-Gary Thomas, Sacred Parenting
If you’re just joining us, I’ve been trying to write a “day in the life” post every 3 months so that I can keep track of how Zoe is growing and developing over time. And now…15 months!
MARCH 31, 2014
6:00 Zoe wakes David up. I unwittingly stay asleep.
6:05 am I awake with a start thinking, “it’s already 6:05? David and Zoe have probably been up for an hour! How did I sleep through this?! I have to get out there and relieve him! Poor guy!”
I rush out of bed apologizing and David says “babe, I was trying to let you sleep in!” I realize that I’ve thwarted his plan AND the possibility of extra sleep. Dang.
6:15 I give Zoe a bottle with one hand while typing an email with my other hand to my friend Jaima about the color of Zoe’s snot—things you never thought you’d be writing, much less doing. [Explanation: we have a play date scheduled for the afternoon with Jaima and her son Jackson. Zoe has had a runny nose since Saturday, but still has clear snot. General mom etiquette means that you disclose potential sickness as well as snot color, which could indicate a cold (green) vs. allergies or a non-contagious stage of a cold (clear.) The more you know, right?]
6:30-7:00 I play on the floor with Zoe while drinking my coffee out of one of my favorite mugs, enlarged here for your reading pleasure:
I bought this mug when I had a job full of “MBS.” It used to make me smile before I headed to my cube for the day. I like drinking out of it even more now because what I do is NOT mundane (and it makes me feel edgy. Don’t box ME in.)
David sits down to eat some eggs and toast. Zoe suddenly develops an interest in being on his lap. I wonder why?
7:00 I make Zoe her own breakfast so she can stop mooching off of daddy. Toast with PB&J for both of us. David hangs out with us and talks. Zoe says “no no no” to yogurt and throws her bananas off her tray.
7:20 David goes to our bedroom to get dressed for the gym. Zoe trails him. I pack our bag, water bottles, and snacks for our stroller fitness class and begin cleaning up our breakfast dishes. Meanwhile, back in our bedroom, David tells Zoe where she and I are going. No joke—she finds my exercise pants, gets David to help her put them on, and comes out to get her stroller.
Just like mommy! Oh wait, I actually strap my child into the stroller correctly…
…and thankfully have not had this type of wardrobe malfunction during class.
We are dying laughing.
7:30 David leaves for the gym. I toss a load of dirty laundry into the wash and begin getting Zoe dressed. Today, this involves a tantrum about shoe choice.
“But mom, I don’t want to wear my brown shoes. I want to wear my red shoes.
I mean, my silver shoes. I mean one red one and one silver one. I mean no shoes.
Oh, the tragedy of my LIFE!!!!!”
8:00 Zoe is dressed. Finally. I throw contacts in my eyes, my hair in a messy bun, and some exercise clothes on. We sing a few songs and take a quick selfie before we begin heading out the door.
8:20 We are off. Usually, we listen to upbeat and peppy worship music. Today, we’re listening to our Christian radio hosts share some profound truth about grief and faith. I find myself sobbing.
8:45 We arrive and meet up our friends Heather and Quinn. We also meet a new friend, Caitlin, and her little son as we all unload our strollers and workout gear.
9:00-10:00 A great workout. Zoe happily sits in her stroller enjoying the songs, movement, and an organic cereal bar. I had asked Heather to take a photo during the workout, but she (and I) are too distracted by the burpees to remember. (Fun fact: Zoe LOVES recreating all of our moves at home and burpees are her favorite.)
10:10 Heather, Caitlin, and I have taken the babies to the “family bathroom” to change their diapers. I don’t usually talk about diaper changes when I do these posts, but this one was notable because all three kids were hysterically wailing as we changed them. House of pain, party of 3.
10:20 Play time at the mall play area. I love this place because everything is sized well for a toddler, there are no hard edges, and it’s carpeted and climate controlled. I eat a Greek yogurt as I chase Zoe around, and as usual, she wants some. Heather DOES capture this moment.
During our playtime, Zoe makes friends with a two year old. They chase one another around giving “high fives” for a while. Then the two year old teaches her how to fist bump. Classic.
11:15 Quinn has his one year photo shoot this weekend, so Heather asks for help finding him an outfit. She has made an inspiration board for his photo shoot on Pinterest, which impresses me. We find an outfit right away.
11:25 Zoe is looking sleepy, so we head towards the car, pack up, and hit the road. She falls asleep about 10 minutes into our drive.
11:45 We run into a minor car accident outside our neighborhood. We sit there for a few minutes waiting for the traffic to clear. I can see one of the drivers—a teenage girl. She is hysterically crying, but is being comforted by a bystander. The woman is holding her, rubbing her back, offering her a phone, and generally reassuring her. I am too far away to do anything helpful, but I pray for the girl and thank God for sending this woman to help her and for letting me see this glimpse of humanity outside my door.
11:55 Home. I wake Zoe up and head inside.
12:00-12:15 I take a few minutes to clean up our toys from the morning and switch some laundry while Zoe plays.
12:15 I put Zoe in her high chair and begin her lunch courses: green beans, cheese, multigrain crackers, and cherries. David comes home and I tell him about our morning. He says, “you had some deep car rides today.” Oh, my poor husband.
12:20 My friend/mentor Jennifer from Rochester calls during the green bean course. I talk with her as I make and eat my own lunch (spring mix with goat cheese, almonds, apple, and poppyseed dressing and some multigrain crackers) and bring Zoe her courses one at a time.
“Stop talking on the phone. I should be your sole focus.”
12:50 Zoe drinks her bottle while I check emails.
1:10 Zoe throws down her bottle and begins running around energetically. The car nap has invigorated her. We play, then I read her some books in an attempt to wind her down. I tell her to pick the “last time” book. She chooses a 150 page Curious George treasury. Nicely played, Zoe.
1:35 I put her in bed and leave the room. She shouts “NO NO NO” for a while, then says “Dada? Dada?” hopefully. I giggle and hop in the shower.
1:45 I get dressed, and begin to clean the bathrooms so that I can meet my goal of cleaning them 3 times in March. It’s the last day of the month and I have no excuse not to meet this goal beyond “I hate cleaning the bathroom with every part of my being.”
2:15 Zoe is still chatting in bed, which is super unusual for her. I decide to give her 5 more minutes before giving up on the nap and going to get her.
2:20-3:45 Zoe is asleep. I finish cleaning the bathroom, unload the clean dishes and load our dirty dishes from breakfast and lunch (the pants incident distracted me earlier,) clean the kitchen, send our friend Cailin some soy, dairy, nut, beef, and wheat free recipes (her baby has developed allergies and she is nursing, so she has had to dramatically change her diet,) check Facebook and a few blogs, write back to some emails, order some stuff on Amazon, and do my quiet time. Around 3, I eat half of a Larabar ALT bar and drink some green juice. Ahh. This is nice.
3:45 Jaima is not scared of the snot. We had planned to meet at 4 at a park, but Zoe is still sleeping. Jaima graciously agrees to drive over with her son who is awake so that we can still catch up (I mean, so the BABIES can socialize. Right.) In preparation, I go outside and clean Zoe’s water table.
4:05 Zoe wakes up. She is not happy.
4:10 Our buddies arrive. Zoe is so excit—oh wait. She’s throwing a tantrum.
Eventually, Zoe calms down (although she remains prickly towards me and our visitors and refuses to eat her snack of craisins and kamut puffs.) Jackson remains unphased and plays with his favorite toy at our house—Zoe’s wooden work bench.
We play inside for a few minutes before heading outside. Zoe and Jackson love our backyard. As we play, Jaima and I discuss her latest reading—Happiest Toddler on the Block and Leaning In.
5:05 Zoe cries because David is home (THE HORROR!) and cries again when J&J are leaving. Transitions are a little hard for her right now. After warming up to David and getting over the tragedy of our friends leaving, she runs to grab the dog’s leash and walks to the back door calling “DOG!” with the leash. I guess she understands our routine. We call David’s best friend/Zoe’s honorary uncle Kenny to see if he wants to join us for a walk (he does.) We take the dog for a 1 mile walk.
5:40 We’re back home. Apparently, it’s “help yourself to a snack” time around here.
Since Zoe skipped her afternoon snack, I let her eat her second organic cereal bar of the day. I also put the box up higher in the cabinet 🙂 I pour a glass of wine for David and me, put out some hummus & carrots, and snuggle with David for a few minutes enjoying our happy hour.
5:50 I begin cooking.
6:10 Zoe eats some dinner—quesadilla, carrots, grapes, and avocado—while David supervises her and I cook.
6:30 David and I scarf down dinner—a pasta and roasted chickpea recipe from Real Simple served with some asparagus. It’s pretty good, unlike my last Real Simple creation which literally tasted worse than my own vomit during my recent stomach bug (I should be a food critic, I know.)
While we eat, we give Zoe some “discovery jars” we made for her yesterday during nap time. These are a Montessori/Reggio Emilia idea that I got from our church preschool and Heather, who used to teach there. Basically, they are bottles filled with interesting things to explore. I try to plan a few new sensory learning activities each week. This one is a hit.
6:50 We eat a dark chocolate square for dessert. David gives Zoe a bath while I do the dishes.
6:55 I realize that Java is suspiciously quiet and find out why.
“Oh, hi! Nothing to see here. Just chewing on some very appropriate dog toys—
one of Zoe’s farm animals and one of her hair bows. Carry on…”
7:10 David has wrestled Zoe into her PJs. She comes to see me, then runs into her closet to hide. We play “where is Zoe?” for a few minutes.
7:15 David and Zoe enjoy their nighttime ritual: sports and a bottle.
7:30 Zoe, David, and I sit on her bedroom floor and read three books together. Then we put her in bed, hold her hands and say a prayer, and leave her room.
7:50 I switch the laundry and begin writing a quick summary of our day. David makes some popcorn.
8:10 I show David some research I did for a project we are working on.
8:30 We watch last night’s episode of “The Good Wife” on the couch, then spend some time chatting about where the writers of the show can go from here. I still can’t believe Will is dead. I put the last load of laundry into the dryer.
9:50 Bed time!
Brianna turned two months old last weekend.
So what is grief like two months out? Three words:
Less ashamed of itself. (I know, technically a phrase.)
I’d say honest, because I am finally being honest with the Lord about how mad, confused, and upset I am about how He worked and didn’t choose to work in this situation. For a while, I didn’t convey the depth of my pain to Him because I didn’t want to say something out of anger that I would regret. I know that is ludicrous, because God knows what is on my heart regardless of whether I share it with him or not, but it goes back to how I process my anger and hurt.
I’m an emotional stuffer, not a spewer. If I talk to you about how you hurt me, I have already given the situation careful thought prior to our conversation. I have decided that my feelings aren’t temporary. I’ve helpfully reduced why I am upset to a bullet-pointed list. I am ready to tell you what I want you to do differently.
It takes me a while to get there. I have to value the relationship to even have this conversation. If I see you once a year or if I don’t like you very much, I’ll probably just let you bother me every time we’re together because it’s not worth the conflict to me.
If I love you though, I am invested and want to have the best relationship possible.
This means honest conversation.
And that’s where God and I are finally at. I’ve finally been telling Him bluntly, you didn’t work how I wanted. Why? I’m upset. I’m hurt. You could have intervened and you didn’t. Why?
And I’m less ashamed of this conversation. I realized the other day (thanks to a very helpful 10 minutes of Christian radio) that having this conversation with God, having these feelings towards God, is not reflective of a LACK of faith. Rather, it is the epitome of faith.
Starting this conversation says, I acknowledge that You’re there. This circumstance hasn’t changed my belief in Your existence.
Secondly, it says, I believe that You are sovereign and powerful and COULD have acted in a way that made more sense to me. This circumstance hasn’t changed my belief in Your sovereignty, even if I don’t get your methods.
And finally, it says, I value this relationship enough to be honest with you and to wrestle through this. I’m not walking away in my anger; I’m going to stay and fight this out. This circumstance hasn’t changed my desire for a relationship with You.
My friend Jess told me a few months ago that “being angry with God is the deepest form of trust.” I didn’t really get what she was talking about then, but I’m starting to understand it. I HATE anger; it is not something that feels comfortable for me. So talking about my anger with God is like bringing my ugliest sin to Him and saying “this is disgusting–I know–and I am ashamed to even feel this way, but I’m going to be real with You because I want you to know the real me and I want to understand You. I know that this is going to require a ton of vulnerability on my part and a ton of patience on Yours. I trust each of us to hold up our end of what is needed. Let’s do this thing, because it’s important.”
I think of Mary and Martha telling Jesus, “if you had been here, our brother wouldn’t have died.” Jesus didn’t slap them across the face for questioning His handling of the situation; He felt deeply for them and wept with them. I remind myself that the same compassionate, loving person weeps with me as I wrestle through this and try to understand—and that it’s important for me to wrestle because I value this relationship.
Finally, grief two months out is surprising. I’ve been surprised by the intensity of my grief throughout this experience. I had hoped it would be a deep sadness for a week or two followed by a level of unhappiness for a week or two, and then back to normal. I blame ignorance. I won’t question anyone’s grief again. It’s hard to understand or predict what you’ll feel, and nobody likes feeling this way but you can’t coach yourself out of it. You just have to go through the stupid process.
I’d also say, though, that the resilience is surprising. In a shorter period of time than I thought possible, I went from awful and barely functional to fully functional with an undercurrent of sadness but sense of future hope. I attribute this to God’s provision of my husband and family, counseling from our agency, and my friends Whitney, Jeanette, and Jaima, who cannot understand what an encouragement they have been.
This doesn’t hurt either:
My sweet girl.
I won’t be normal for a while still, but I am hopeful about the future. I am trusting God to take care of Brianna and show her how much she is loved and valued by Him and by others. I have to lay down my desire for a different outcome and my fears about the future and my wish for control down every day right now, but when I lay it down, I usually don’t pick it back up for the rest of the day and that’s amazing to me.
God never told us that life would be easy; He said we would have trouble in this world and yet the trouble doesn’t change who He is or the other promises He has made to us to be with us, to comfort us, and to work all things together for our good. “For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does.” -Psalm 33:4
This is grief two months out.