My First-Ever Political Post

Over the last year and a half, I’ve had many spirited and friendly conversations with friends and neighbors about politics, but writing my views out has always felt too pointed.  In a conversation, you can tell if you’re stepping on someone’s feelings and can quickly change the subject or address the miscommunication.  In a blog post, you can’t.

I haven’t want to hurt anyone in my family or church community by sharing my political views. I haven’t wanted anyone to feel that I don’t respect their intellect, judgment, or life experiences.  I haven’t wanted to engage in a point-by-point argument with anyone, because I enjoy simply swapping experiences and learning from one another, and don’t enjoy participating in conversations designed solely to “convert” someone to their or my point of view.  I respect others’ rights to their own beliefs and conclusions.

And so I have been silent on this space.  Actually, to be accurate, I wrote several blog posts that I didn’t post, because I value my relationships.

Behind the scenes, I read Zoe and Riley books about the political process.  I took Zoe with me when I voted a few weeks ago, so I could tell my daughter someday that she was with me when I voted for the first woman president.  Because surely he wouldn’t win.  

This morning, I had to explain to my daughter that he won.

“But Donald Trump’s not nice,” she said.  “Why is he the President?”

I don’t have an answer for you, baby.  I don’t, I thought.   

“Tell him not to be the President,” she said.  I told her that we couldn’t do that—he had won the vote.

“He’s bad!” she said.  No, I said.  I think that he’s a sad and confused man who makes some wrong choices.  And now that he’s our president, we can pray that he makes good choices.  

All morning, people have been texting me, wanting my take on what’s unfolding.  I’m not sure why, except that many people feel hurt and confused, and maybe as a pastor’s wife they expect me to be able to distribute nuggets of wisdom and comfort.  Wisdom? Comfort? It’s hard for me to feel these things about our earthly home right now.  But I do feel a responsibility, maybe, finally, to share my perspectives and a few things I’ve learned during this election season.

Here goes.

-This fall, I did not put a sign up in my yard.  However, I did plan and host our neighborhood’s first-ever block party. Twenty-six people ranging from the age of 9 months to 90 attended.  Everyone stayed past the stated end time, sitting in mismatched chairs on my lawn, chatting and laughing.  And then no one on the whole block put up a political sign.  We built bridges instead of a wall.  I am proud of my street.  I want to look for more ways to do that, and I hope others in our country take on this charge as well.

-I felt that in this election, it was more important to vote against something, than to vote for something.  It was also the first presidential election where I actually felt fear about the candidate I was not voting for, instead of thinking “I have idealogical differences from this person, but still respect him.”  I hope that our next presidential election offers more inspiring choices.

-I was surprised when men were so shocked and appalled by the sexual assault-related content in this election season.  As men denounced Trump’s actions and statements, all I could think was, where has this outrage been for my whole life? How are they surprised by his language and attitude, when dealing with this type of language and attitude has been part of my experience and the experience of every woman I know? The vast majority of the men in my life have been outstanding men who treat women with respect, but the way that Trump acted—and the fact that he was a presidential candidate—did not shock me.  My lack of shock was horrifying to David.  His horror was surprising to me.  To me, it was locker room talk—not locker room talk I CONDONE or PRAISE, but talk that was, very sadly, in line with my experiences as a woman.  It is sad to me that I was not more surprised.  We have to do better.  But sadly, I don’t feel that the outcome of this election will contribute to an advance in the way that women are treated.

-I want to thank Democrats for the fact that my daughters will never know a world in which someone who looks like them cannot be a serious contender for the role of president of the United States.  I do not share every belief your party espouses, but I am grateful that you champion underrepresented voices.

-I want to thank John McCain, Mitt Romney, and other Republican leaders who denounced Trump for taking a leadership stance within their party.  I feel badly about the situation that you—and other Republicans of similar conscience—found yourself in.  I hope you examine your role in creating this situation, and your responsibility in fixing it if you continue to attach yourself to this party.

-I have always considered myself a moderate, and have not registered or affiliated myself with a party. Although I tend to lean Democrat, I evaluate the candidates and vote for people on both sides of the aisle.  However, moving forward, I plan to register with the Democratic Party.  While I will continue to evaluate each candidate, there is no way that the greater Republican Party as it stands right now can represent my vision for America.  Numbers inform decision-making in politics, especially when you live in a swing state, and I want to make it clear that this +1 is going to a different set of ideals in hopes that this sends a message.

Plus, since our short-sighted state has closed primaries, I can now help select the candidates moving forward.  I do not think that that my newly-labeled party is perfect by any means, so as I attach myself to it, I will look for ways to use my voice to improve it. I don’t think a two-party system is perfect, either, but I feel like maybe I need to start trying to work within an imperfect system instead of trying to make a statement about its imperfections and having little voice.  We’ll see what happens.

-I want to thank Hillary Clinton for taking this job interview seriously.  You were not a perfect candidate by any means (although none of us are perfect anyway), but your debate skills and clear passion for policy have inspired me and reminded me that I can keep growing and learning for my entire lifespan, if I make the choice to stay engaged.  Thank you for supporting a peaceful transition of power.  I hope you get some time to relax now. Also, I would suggest that you avoid using e-mail moving forward.  It doesn’t seem to go well for you.

So.

When I woke up this morning at 4:20 am (for the fourth morning in a row…Daylight Savings Time, can you be outlawed in the first 100 days of a Trump presidency?? I could actually get behind THAT), someone close to me asked, “what do we do now???”

Here’s what I did: I read news, until I decided—enough.  I made breakfast for my kids.  I gave them hugs.  We had a dance party.  I did some laundry.  I went to Jazzercise.  I talked to someone who was upset by the election and let her cry for a few minutes.  I bought an expensive latte to remind myself that fear of economic changes does not control me.  I took my kids to the park.  I smiled at strangers at the park.  I reminded myself that we still live in a free country.  I reminded myself that this tiny place I live on this tiny planet in this big galaxy is just a temporary home—that God is still on the throne.  I decided to pray for our president-elect, as I have been doing throughout this election season already.  I texted with friends, listening to their feelings, trying to offer support.

I’m not thrilled by this new beginning.  But I also recognize that disengaging isn’t the answer.  So here’s my engagement.  Here’s my voice.

And here’s what I take hope in: the president is not America.  WE are America.  We work to make it what it is.  And ultimately, each of us has another, far more true identity than our nationality—and that is our identity as a child of God. I pray that we all begin to see, embrace, and work from that commonality, for when I see God in you and live like the God who is in me, this country and this world will become a better place.

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One Year Later

This summer has been really, really sweet.  And it would be easy to write about what my family has been up to, but somehow, it’s harder to write about how I think and feel…it requires reflection and honesty and time.

But it’s good for me to make that space and time for myself to reflect, so that’s what the next few posts are going to be about—how I am, and what I’ve been thinking about and feeling lately.

Riley turned one a few weeks ago, which means it’s been one year since my “mom of two” journey began.  Man, what a humbling year.  The fatigue.  The constant feelings of inadequacy. The never-ending needs.  Laying myself down, over and over again.  Getting up morning after morning and praying for strength I knew I didn’t possess.  Messing up.  Getting it right. Messing up again.  Taking help.  Thanking God for help.  Wishing I didn’t need help. Enjoying the gift of my girls.  Resenting the burden of my caring for my girls.  Loving one moment.  Wishing the next moment would end.  I never felt one emotion for long.

As we approached Riley’s birthday, I started to realize that even though I had spent an entire year feeling inadequate and over my head, everyone was still alive and doing well one year later.  I had made it.  And that somehow, despite how hard it was, I was better than I was a year ago.  This year showed me many places where I am weak and need to grow—but along the way, I did grow, and that is something to celebrate.

photo-79So did the birthday girl! Isn’t she beautiful?!

I’m not the same person I was a year ago.  I am definitely more run down, which is a negative (I’ll talk about that in my next post).  But I’m also more focused, more intentional with my time and friendships, less concerned with outcomes and more patient with process, and less affected by worry and anxiety.  One year later, I’m more at peace with myself and my calling, even if I struggle with the implementation of that calling sometimes when the toddler moments strike and the baby needs me and the dog is barking and a client is calling wanting to talk for the eleventh time about the timeline of a grant proposal I turned in last week.

I have dreams of doing “big,” cool things for God’s kingdom someday—writing a book, doing some speaking, sharing some wisdom.  But I have to get wisdom first, and I feel challenged and encouraged that what I am doing every day in this stage of my life is the way to develop that.

I’m not a natural mom to two babies this close together.  It’s not easy for me, and the multitasking and casualness it requires is not the best fit for my personality.

But I’ve hung in there anyway because I want to be refined.  I want to do the hard work.  I want to dig in every single day with all that I have and serve and love those around me, even when it’s not natural.  I want to pursue wisdom and learn how the Lord wants me to live, and 99% of my days, I feel like I am actually doing that.  If I never get to do those “bigger” things, I’ll still be glad with how I spent my time and energy—on the biggest things there are—and I will still have lived a “big” life that I can be proud of.

I am more concerned with developing right character than a big calling.  And this year offered lots of opportunities to build character.

My exercise instructor said recently as the class struggled through an exercise, “if you’re shaking, that means you’re working.  If you’re shaking, you’re changing.”  I love this thought—that just because something is HARD doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong, or that it isn’t getting me somewhere.  How naturally hard or easy something is isn’t really important.  What’s important is how I respond to the challenge: whether I keep trying and grow, or take the easy way out and stay the same.

Each August on our anniversary, David and I reflect on and write down our highlights of the year in a special journal.  This year, we wrote: WE SURVIVED.

222014-2015: no one in this photo is dead.  That sums it up.

We’re definitely not the same people that we were a year ago, and I am grateful for the growth.  But I am personally ready to move beyond subsistence.  Maybe 🙂

More in my next post!

Where I’ve Been

I didn’t mean to disappear for almost a month, but that’s exactly what happened.  Zoe was sick, my family came to visit for a week, and writing professionally and editing others’ writing professionally seems to kill my interest in sitting at a computer and writing during my spare time.  Lent also impacted me a lot more than planned (more on that to come) and oh yeah, I have two kids and they’re both MOBILE now.

AHH!

photo 4-8

(As a side note, this post will feature even more gratuitous photos of my cute kids than usual because I have a MONTH to catch you up on.)

To begin, I want to finally admit “out loud” that having two kids so close together is way more work than I ever thought it could be.  There are so many joyful moments, but I do not think I would use the phrase “tons of fun” to describe the last 8 months.  Perhaps “overwhelming,” “surprised I didn’t die,” and “just ordered powerful under-eye cream” sum things up better.  As each one of David’s and my parents have independently observed when coming to help, “wow, someone always needs something.”  

It has been hard to hang on to the Sarah that isn’t just a need-meeter, but a person with her own needs and interests.  Sometimes I have done a good job of planning and anticipating my own needs, and sometimes I have pushed past them and wound up angry at everyone else.

Thankfully, I am growing and learning at the same time as my girls, and I feel like I am getting a little bit better at taking care of myself.

Here are some of the things that have helped me be “Sarah” lately.

Sleep.  I mentioned a few months ago that we were starting to sleep train Riley.  I am overjoyed to report that after 6-7 weeks of effort, the plan worked, and my big girl has slept through the night almost every night since.  I go to sleep with a smile on my face now knowing that I will probably sleep from 9:30/10 until at least 5 am.  SLEEP IS THE BEST.

photo 1-11Kisses for sleep.

Joining the Jazzercise studio down the street (and using its childcare).  Zoe adores the kids’  room, prays for the childcare worker and asks to go every day.  Riley hates it.  Too bad. I’m going 3-ish times a week, which gives me 3-ish more hours per week where I don’t have to be in charge and instead get to listen to cool music and get my cardio dance on.  Awesome.

Walking the dog: Thanks to the later daylight patterns brought on by Daylight Savings time, I can now walk our dog alone after putting the girls to bed.  I watch the sunset, clear my head, enjoy the silence, and/or call a friend.  It’s a great 15-20 minute exhale.

Working.  I’m busy and I’m good at it, and it makes me happy.  As a bonus, David and I now meet at Starbucks to work together one afternoon a week (which reminds us of our sweet college selves and is a great investment into our “fun away from the girls” tank).  When I’m not at my Starbucks office, this is where the magic happens:

0409151421

In related news, I dream of a designated office space…

The girls’ babysitter.  She brings craft ideas for Zoe and even folds our laundry, which keeps our house going and lets me have some rest time in the evenings.  She is the best.

A continued break from social media.  I did not rejoin Facebook or jump into daily blog reading after Lent.  My free time is very limited, and I have realized that I want to spend the little time that I do have on activities that really, truly refresh me or that bring me a step closer towards the person that I want to be.

During Lent, I read 6 books and reconnected with my love of reading the news.  I made nice lunches for myself during nap time instead of eating Zoe’s leftovers.  I reached out to friends more often via phone or text because I couldn’t just open my news feed and know what they were up to.  I found myself more productive with my work time.

I want to be a lifelong learner, an aware citizen, a person who honors herself, an intentional friend, a productive and focused worker—and I feel GOOD and refreshed when I do these things.  Many people can use social media responsibly, and I may return at some point, but for now, it’s just too much information to process and respond to, and is not the most valuable use of my energy or time.

photo 4-9After all, it takes a lot of energy to direct this motorcade.

Riley’s nap time.  Thanks to the sleep training program, Riley now takes a 1.5-2 hour nap every morning.  At first, I resented this because it basically chains us to the house.   After complaining for a few weeks, I felt God pressing on my heart that these mornings are my best opportunity to teach Zoe and fill her little love tank with one-on-one attention.  With that perspective, I’ve grown to love and cherish this time.  We planted a few container gardens, and we water and check our seeds’ growth every morning.

Zoe gardenAfter checking on our seeds, we play outside, read, do crafts or a workbook that I got for her, clean the house (“mommy, I do dust pan”), play with her dolls, build roads for her cars, etc. Throughout our time, I engage her in uninterrupted conversations about her feelings and viewpoints.  I feel our hearts connecting, and I’m so grateful to God for giving me the perspective that this is a time to give my best to instead of wish away.  One of my biggest desires is to be an intentional mom, and this is my chance to do this with Zoe.

Honesty.  I’ve really been working on being more honest with myself and with God about my feelings.  More to come on this in a later post, but here’s one snippet of that honesty:

When I got married, I knew that marriage (and eventually, my role as a parent) was a commitment to something deeper than my personal feelings of happiness.  Parenting a toddler has challenged me to understand this principle on a new level! It is NOT all fun and it does not always make me happy.  But I am learning to emotionally detach from the tough moments—because they are fleeting and not intended as personal attacks anyway—and lean in to the good ones.

Girls in the backyard

An older woman once walked by as I loaded a defiant Zoe into the car while wearing Riley and said, “I remember when my children were exactly their ages.  Those are such great memories!” I literally cried right then and there because I was so glad that someone who had been in my shoes looked back and remembered the good things first.

That’s my goal!

The last 8 months have felt hard, but I can see where I have grown and gotten it right, too.  I can’t go back to a stage of life where things felt easier and I can’t skip ahead to a time when my girls’ needs will be less intense; instead, I’m doing the hard and worthwhile work of learning to be Sarah where God has planted her now.

IMG_4207And I’m thankful to have been planted here.

Quarter One Report

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.

  • Goal Area One: Gracefully serve my family and be a hands on, present, thoughtful, intentional mom.
    • Intentionally structure our weeks so that Zoe and I spend time each week in music, learning about/experiencing nature, physical activity, reading, and social activities.  Take weekly field trips to the children’s museum, zoo, parks, etc.
      This is going really well.  I kept track of all of Zoe’s activities and experiences in March.  The list of experiences filled up a front and back sheet of paper (and I didn’t write any experience down twice, even if we repeated it) so I think I am doing a really good job of this.  We’re also doing a lot of sensory play activities and art projects.
      photo 4-3
    • Swim lessons in the late spring or early summer
      I am still trying to convince David that this is a good idea.  Chime in with your most horrific drowning stories, people! I also discovered that a nearby dance studio offers baby ballerina classes for Zoe’s age group and has a summer session.  BABY BALLERINA CLASSES.  Now I’m torn about which to tell you to lobby for…make your own decision, I guess.  (Or stay out of our marriage.  You know, the healthy option I should have been advocating to begin with. )

    • Create a good eating plan for Zoe as we phase bottles out.
      It would help if Zoe would eat something besides the same 20 foods over and over again, but we ARE phasing bottles out and she is down to two a day now.  She is more adventurous at snack time than meal time, so I am trying to make sure that I provide healthy and mostly homemade or very low processed options for her snacks…unless we are on a beach trip.  Then she gets ice cream 🙂photo 1-3

      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.

    • Build on Zoe’s “rules” as needed to keep her safe.
      Added to the list: 1) we brush our teeth in the bathroom—not while running through the house and 2) no playing in the trash can.  Added to my life: a pouty face.

    • Begin to introduce spiritual concepts to her at an age-appropriate level (“pray,” etc.) along with concepts of basic manners (“please,” “thank you,” giving hugs and caring for friends, etc.)
      She loves to pray! She insists that we do it before dinner and gets mad if we forget.  She claps when we are done.

    • Continue to give her lots of time with her extended family and help her learn their names through FaceTime and photos.
      I want to make her a photo wall to help with this goal, but I don’t want to just tape photos to the wall (nor do I want to put a ton of frames on the wall.)  Does anyone have any cool Pinterest-y photo projects to share?

    • As the one who spends the most time in a caregiving role, do my best to create a family culture that is loving, peaceful, gentle, & fun, where Zoe feels safe, secure, loved, & valued.  Zoe won’t benefit from a ton of formal instruction on faith and values this year—but I want these things to be so obvious by the way that we live that she has a foundation for the future.  I’m with her the most, so I have to live it the most.
      I feel like our home has been very peaceful and loving lately, and we just took a family vacation to the beach which helped make some fun family memories.  The biggest threats to me achieving this goal are fatigue and being distracted by less important things that feel urgent.  I pray that I can focus on what matters.
      photo 3-3
  • Goal Area Two: Be a thoughtful, loving, present wife who prioritizes David’s needs.
    • Pay attention to what he says.
    • Purposefully save energy for him.
    • Make dates a financial priority.
    • Continue doing devotions together each week and pray together more often.
    • Speak his love language.
      The last few months have been a sweet time for our marriage as we have grown closer and more tender towards one another in our shared grief.  I think we are doing a great job at loving each other.  That being said, our last date night involved going to a worship service (#pastorswifeprobs) so we need a romantic evening out stat.  I also want to pray more together before bed and make sure we do our couple devotion most Sundays.
      photo 2-3
  • Goal Area Three: Physical Health – I want to care for myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Physical health isn’t the most important thing in my life, but the way that I treat my body affects the other parts of my life, my emotions, and my ability to have the energy I want to have for my family.  I want my physical state to enable me to confidently tackle everything else in my life…not to distract me or slow me down.
    • I want to be intentionally active most days of the week.  Ideally, I would attend my stroller fitness class 2x/week and work out 1-2 other times per week at our gym or walking 2-3 times per week.  I feel the best physically and mentally when I do this.
      I have been doing a good job attending stroller fitness classes twice a week, but I need to utilize David’s babysitting services more so that I can go to the gym on the weekends.

    • Eat healthfully because it gives me the most energy…but still eat dessert regularly.  I unintentionally lost weight when Zoe was born and spent a good part of the year struggling not to lose more weight and to put weight back on.  I am back at a healthy weight for me and need to continue to eat more than what I am actually hungry for so that I can be as healthy as possible for my family.
      Success.  However, I am ready to begin eating a bit more mindfully again.  
  • Goal Area Four: Spiritual health and personal passions:
    • Continue daily morning quiet times.
      I have had to adapt this goal to “doing a daily quiet time.”  Some mornings, I am able to get Zoe to sit quietly for a few minutes while I do it at my preferred time.  Other days, I do it during nap time or read scripture while spooning yogurt in her mouth or cooking dinner.  Flexibility isn’t my strongest skill, but I’m working on it 🙂

    • Continue listening to sermon podcasts when I get the chance during the day.
      I have done this all of twice in 2014.  Note to self: do it more!

    • Use my new prayer journal a few times a week to be more organized with my prayer life.
      This fell by the wayside because I got mad at God and seeing my old prayers was making me more angry.  I’m back to praying, but not in my prayer journal.  I did make a prayer bulletin board that helps me visualize the people that I am praying for, which has been neat.

    • Try to carve out two times a week for writing.  Improve my writing and clarify my sense of purpose for my writing.  Read writers who inspire me and encourage me to be better. 
      I attended a writing class in February and have been doing plenty of reading.  I’ve been trying to write twice a week, even if I don’t publish it, and most weeks I meet this goal.  In the upcoming quarter, I want to clarify my writing goals further. 

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.

IMG_2013Moving 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!

 

2014: Bring It, Part III

I’m sure you have all been waiting with bated breath for the conclusion to this short series, right? 🙂

But really…I continue to have interesting conversations as a result of sharing my goals and goal-setting process, and I LOVE knowing what my friends are working on and where I can pray for, encourage, and support them.  In that spirit, here are my 2014 foundations and goals—the things I’m hoping to build the year on and around.

  • Gracefully serve my family and be a hands on, present, thoughtful, intentional mom.
    • Intentionally structure our weeks so that Zoe and I spend time each week in music, learning about/experiencing nature, physical activity, reading, and social activities.
      • Take weekly field trips to the Children’s Museum, zoo, parks, etc.
      • Swim lessons in the late spring or early summer
    • Create a good eating plan for Zoe as we phase bottles out.
    • Build on Zoe’s “rules” as needed to keep her safe.
    • Begin to introduce spiritual concepts to her at an age-appropriate level (“pray,” etc.) along with concepts of basic manners (“please,” “thank you,” giving hugs and caring for friends, etc.)
    • Continue to give her lots of time with her extended family and help her learn their names through FaceTime and photos.
    • As the one who spends the most time in a caregiving role, do my best to create a family culture that is loving, peaceful, gentle, & fun, where Zoe feels safe, secure, loved, & valued.  Zoe won’t benefit from a ton of formal instruction on faith and values this year—but I want these things to be so obvious by the way that we live that she has a foundation for the future.  I’m with her the most, so I have to live it the most.
  • Be a thoughtful, loving, present wife who prioritizes David’s needs.
    • Pay attention to what he says.
    • Purposefully save energy for him.
    • Make dates a financial priority.
    • Continue doing devotions together each week and pray together more often.
    • Speak his love language.
  • Physical health: I want to care for myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Physical health isn’t the most important thing in my life, but the way that I treat my body affects the other parts of my life, my emotions, and my ability to have the energy I want to have for my family.  I want my physical state to enable me to confidently tackle everything else in my life…not to distract me or slow me down.
    • I want to be intentionally active most days of the week.  Ideally, I would attend my stroller fitness class 2x/week and work out 1-2 other times per week at our gym or walking 2-3 times per week.  I feel the best physically and mentally when I do this.
    • Eat healthfully because it gives me the most energy…but still eat dessert regularly.  I unintentionally lost weight when Zoe was born and spent a good part of the year struggling not to lose more weight and to put weight back on.  I am back at a healthy weight for me and need to continue to eat more than what I am actually hungry for so that I can be as healthy as possible for my family.
  • Spiritual health and personal passions:
    • Continue daily morning quiet times.
    • Continue listening to sermon podcasts when I get the chance during the day.
    • Use my new prayer journal a few times a week to be more organized with my prayer life.
    • Try to carve out two times a week for writing.  Improve my writing and clarify my sense of purpose for my writing.  Read writers who inspire me and encourage me to be better.

There are a few categories and goals that I am keeping private for now, but those are some that I felt comfortable sharing online.  I am already really enjoying 2014 and am so excited for the rest of the year to unfold.

Photo on 1-4-14 at 6.31 PM #2

 

 

On Mom Guilt & Forgiveness

A friend told me that I always “make motherhood sound so good” when I blog.

And being a mom IS my favorite thing ever, but really, it’s not a 24/7 walk through fields of sunflowers and rainbows.  I don’t ever, ever, ever take it for granted because it is a HUGE gift, so I don’t complain very much.  But, in the spirit of keepin’ it real…

Motherhood lately has been fun.  And scary.  And messy.

It’s been FUN, because Zoe is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.  She’s bold and she has spunk and she will not sit still & quiet.  Last week, I took her to the playground and she wanted to walk over and over again into the splash pad to get wet.  I took her to music class at the library and she waved her arms, clapped, and screeched to the music, screaming and clapping when each song ended.  We took her to a birthday party on Saturday and she didn’t want to make small talk with anyone—she wanted to cruise around the playground holding onto our fingers for support.  She gives hugs, screams for joy, rips through her toy basket, and generally lives life to the fullest.  I love it.

IMG_1549It’s also been SCARY, because, well, Zoe is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.  She tries to kill herself multiple times a day, totally by mistake, and it is SO scary to think that her safety and security hinges on my close supervision.  I used to nanny and could give my sole attention to the child for the hours  I was there because it was my only responsibility.  As the mom, though, I have multiple things to manage.  I can’t watch her every moment and I can’t predict what zany idea she will think of next (eating carpet, pulling heavy toys on top of herself, yanking the dog’s ears, trying to pull the shower curtain down on herself, putting a twig I didn’t even notice into her mouth…my mind does not work the way hers does and I can’t always predict her next move.)

There’s a lot of pressure on me to, you know, keep this child alive and sometimes that pressure feels choking.   I try tactics to work through my fear, like praying or reminding myself that I used to be in charge of 24 middle schoolers on a daily basis, but in the amount of time it takes me to give myself that mental pep talk or lift up a prayer she usually has come up with her next Evel Knievel idea and terrified me again.

IMG_1462Think fast, mom.

And it’s been MESSY, because (what what?!) she is independently moving and is the most fun-loving kid ever.

Now, I’d already made peace with the fact that as a mom, I am messier than I was as a non-mom.  I have a certain level of acceptance for the bags under my eyes, the ponytails (a few months ago, Zoe became terrified of the blow dryer, so I can only blow dry my hair once a week or so when David is available to distract her,) and the mom uniform (I now own the same shirts, pants, and shorts in multiple colors so that I can get dressed in three minutes or less.)  I’d gotten used to life without jewelry (Zoe breaks it) and heels/platforms (who knew I was 4’11? No one, apparently.)  That’s messy, right?

Oh well.  Totally worth it.  “Polished 24/7” has never been my identity anyway, and  I love Zoe way more than straightened hair.

And I’d already made peace (or so I thought!) with the fact that life isn’t just about me, that this season is a little messy, and that’s beautiful.  Deeper meaning understood! I’m so well adjusted, right? Nothing should phase me now!

BUT GUYS.  In reality?

My house?

AHH.

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I’m phased.

Zoe is in a phase of development I’m referring to as “learning through mess-making.”  Or “MAKING MOMMY LEARN NEW COPING SKILLS.”

And she’s loving it.

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(That photo was taken at 6:15 am.  She had already consumed a bottle & taken every toy out of her toy chest.  Time for sunglasses.)  

I’m forcing myself to allow the messes because she NEEDS to make messes to explore and learn about the world.  If, for example, I insist on feeding her so that it’s less messy, she’ll never learn how to do it on her own, and she’ll be a two year old or twenty year old that still needs her mommy to feed her.

But giving her control?!!

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IT’S SO MESSY.

I know, I know…this is parenting.

I know, there’s a deeper lesson…that you have to let go of control and let them mess up because that’s how they learn.

And I know…these are the easy messes to clean up.  We have youth group parents that talk with us all the time about the harder ones so I should appreciate the avocado on the wall and poop in the bathtub while that’s all I have to contend with.

But AHH.  The stickiness.  The repetition of cleaning up the same messes over and over again. IT NEVER ENDS.  And that is the spot where I break, the spot where I am vulnerable, where I suddenly think: you deserve more than this.  You are too smart to be a full time housecleaner.  Maybe you should go back to work. You just spend your whole day serving your family—who serves you? When was the last time you got time to yourself during the day when you weren’t working? August? Why is your husband at work right now? What has he given up? Does what you’re doing right now matter at all? 

And I hate that these lies come.  I want to love and honor the people in my life, not despise them and feel weighted down by untruths about them.  I want to live joyfully and purposefully. Silently muttering to myself as I slam bottles into the sink and clean up toys for the gazillionth time that day doesn’t really fit into any of that.

I want to live authentically.  Pretending to clap for my daughter’s joyful exploration of our toy chest while I secretly think you are making work for me feels like a betrayal of our relationship, a betrayal of the kind of mom I want to be, proof that she deserves better than me.

I want to live sacrificially, because there IS more to life than my whims and wants and unmet needs, but sometimes the deficits feel so overwhelming.  I think, I have nothing left to give you.  I am empty.

So no, motherhood is not all sunflowers and rainbows.  Sometimes it’s visible sin that you can’t deny and frustration with yourself and guilt and hiding tears from your baby as you implore God to change your heart.  Sometimes it’s growth.  Sometimes it feels like stagnancy or regression. Motherhood is good—like I said, it it seriously my favorite thing ever—but it is refining and it is revealing and it is not something you should do if you want to feel successful and good about yourself all the time.  Because motherhood can create your best moments, but it also shows you your weakest spots and takes you to your most vulnerable and defeating places.

But you don’t have to live there.

I’ve always felt grateful for God’s forgiveness of me.  But since becoming a mom, I’ve awakened to how grateful I am that He enables me to forgive myself.

My sense of responsibility for this precious life is so high; my mistakes and failures are so numerous.  It would be easy to sit around in shame and frustration and guilt—not because I let someone else down, but simply because I want to be better than I am.

But He keeps me moving along, unencumbered by yesterday’s mistakes.  And so I sweep the floors and pick up the toys and wash the bottles again, knowing I am forgiven, loved, seen, and chosen even in my imperfection and (yes) messiness—knowing that He picked me for this job and that He can equip me to do it a heck of a lot more efficiently when I hold up my empty hands instead of trying to do it all on my own.

It’s humbling.  But it’s freeing at the same time.  Fun.  Scary.  Messy.

Hope that was real enough for you, friend 🙂

My Dream

Growing up, I never really identified as “white.”  I knew that I was white, but it wasn’t of real interest or value to me and so it wasn’t a characteristic I defined myself by. My parents never had a sitdown discussion with me: “hey, so, just FYI, you’re white. Here’s what that means in our society and here’s how you might be treated because of it.”

Despite my disinterest in my own racial identity, I was interested in the history of race relations in our country.  I studied and talked about these issues a lot in high school and college, but everything felt pretty theoretical.

Until.

In a truly ironic twist of events, I’m 23 and teaching a lesson on discrimination to a roomful of non-white middle school students who have never had a choice about whether their racial identity mattered or not because for whatever reason, being non-white is a defining characteristic in our society.  Their parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles have all had “the talk” with them: “you’re black/Mexican/Puerto Rican/mixed/whatever and here’s what that means and here’s how people will treat you because of it.” And because they’ve HAD to have that talk and I haven’t, these students are staring at my white skin and saying that I can’t possibly understand their lives.

And they’re right.

For the first time ever, I really understand that I am white.  And in this moment, I hate my skin color.  I am so much more than your stereotype, I want to scream.  I want to understand.  I want to be understood.  See past the skin color that I don’t care about to the real me. 

This teacher becomes a student.

From then on, I live with a “double consciousness” (my apologies to W.E.B. DuBois for appropriating his term.)  As I work with class after class of largely non-white students, I am constantly aware that I am white and that I have to work harder to prove myself to my students because of my skin color.  Over time I learn not to resent this because anything I experience is just a tenth of the prejudice and judgment they experience on a daily basis because of THEIR skin color.

I’ll tell you what’s humbling–being the only white person in a room of 6th graders who have grown to trust you when they bring up how upset they are about Trayvon Martin.  And you don’t know who he is yet because there hasn’t been a national uproar yet, so you look him up and then have no words for your students–your students who regularly walk to the convenience store down the street for chips or a slurpee or, yes, iced tea at night.  Your students who cut through neighbor’s yards because they’re KIDS and it’s safer to walk on grass than the streets.  Your students who might look suspicious to someone who hasn’t bothered to check their biases.

What do you do in that situation? Here’s what I did: I threw out my lesson plans for the next 7 days.  We studied Trayvon Martin, Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges, and Rosa Parks.  I brought in articles on the Martin case from a variety of sources and we analyzed them.  We talked about racism and bias and prejudice and my students’ experiences with being judged.  We listened to one another.  We created posters challenging students to get to know one another instead of judging each other and we put them up around the school.  And I acknowledged that I had privilege, that no one would suspect me if I was walking in a neighborhood at night or shopping in a store, and that I was sorry that these things happened to them.

I felt a lot of things.  Mostly powerless.

Flash forward a year and a half.  I now have a biracial daughter who I think is one of the most beautiful and precious beings ever created.  And I still feel powerless.

Here’s why.

I have specifically chosen to have a biracial daughter instead of a white one.  When I say I “specifically chose” her, I mean that I checked a box indicating a “mixed/African American” child on our adoption application.  There are boxes like that because there are people who don’t want a non-white child.

I begin to think about schools for my daughter and realize that we may someday need to move out of our district so she doesn’t fall into the role of “token non-white person” in her class.  I realize that finding a more diverse school likely means moving to a worse school.  Systemic racism is alive and well.

George Zimmerman is found “not guilty” and I see people celebrating.  CELEBRATING.  Regardless of  what happened that night or your views on “stand your ground” laws, a high school aged boy who was out for a walk is dead because someone thought he looked suspicious and people that I know feel satisfied by this outcome.  This will sound super judgey, but to me, that shows that they see a black teen as an “other”—not as someone that could be their own son.  When someone dies in a tragic accident, no one wins.  Hello.  Let’s use this tragedy as an example of why it’s essential for us to examine and challenge our biases and work together to have a more understanding and less judgmental society.  Not as a celebration.

I hear comments with racist undertones several times a month.  I usually (nicely) challenge the commenter to explain what they mean by their comment.  Discomfort always follows.  Apologies never do.  Often, I’m told that I’m supposed to “know what they mean,” presumably because I’m white.  I DO understand what they’re saying; I just feel sad that they’re saying it.

CNN.com has a headline: “50 Years After King, Racism Lives On.”  It’s been 50 years since MLK Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and CNN writes that racism these days is “more relegated to the private sphere than it was King’s day.”

I watch “The Butler” and sob because people were beaten and murdered so that my child could be secretly judged and discriminated against instead of overtly.  Sure, she can vote, but can she walk through a grocery store without judgment?

We have so far to go.

I haven’t written or spoken much about my multiracial family before before because I’m not close to being an expert on race issues–I’ve taken a few race-related college classes, worked with mostly non-white populations in inner city schools for a few years, and had a biracial child, and those are all of my qualifications.  The world needs less uneducated commentary and noise, not more (“White Person Discovers Racism, Is Appalled” sounds like an Onion article.)

But in “The Butler,” there’s a scene where Miss Annabeth sees mistreatment happening and says nothing.  You can tell she disapproves of what’s happening, but feels powerless to address it in any real way.  You hate her in that moment.

But what if I am her? What if my silence about the topic of racism (which comes from feeling overwhelmed and underprepared to address it…NOT from not caring about it) looks like compliance and agreement with the status quo?

So, I want to go on the record as saying: I very much care about this issue.  I just find myself at a loss about what to do about it in any public way.

Here are a few things I am doing in my personal life:

-Trying my best NOT to be one of the 40% of white Americans who have no friends of another race.  Thank you, awesome non-white friends for bearing with my total lack of awareness about your experiences and for being open to our friendships.  They bless me tremendously.

-Reading.  A lot.  Today’s arrival from Amazon: “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.”  There are some GREAT blogs out there about understanding racism, too.

-Going to see movies like “The Butler.”  Not closing my eyes during the difficult scenes and the truth they represent.

-Trying to be self-aware about the biases and stereotypes I have about others—not just the race-related ones either.  We all have them.  We need to call ourselves out when we see ourselves applying them towards others.

-Writing this blog post.  Asking for suggestions of tangible ways I can get involved in the fight against racism and bigotry (I’m open to ideas!)  And begging you to examine the biases you have before they affect my students, my daughter, and…you.

Okay, this is turning into a novel.  I have one more thought before I go.

One of the hardest part of “The Butler” for me was seeing the cross appropriated by the Ku Klux Klan (as I know it was historically) and used as a symbol of hatred and division.  I know the role that a perverted version of “Christianity” played in racism and slavery and it hurts my heart immensely.  I was still feeling a little raw from the movie when I read:

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”     (Philippians 2:1-4)

Basically, if you believe that Jesus and anything He said is real, then act like it.  Love one another.  Work together on issues.  View yourselves as partners, brothers and sisters even—all in this together.  And don’t just believe that we’re “equal;” take it a step further and believe that the other person is BETTER than you.  Can you imagine how our world would be if we all acted like this was true?

This is my goal.  This is MY dream for myself and our society, inarticulate and uneducated and incomplete though it may be.  I will not let myself feel powerless anymore.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.  –Helen Keller

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Never Dull

Some days, being a stay-at-home mom is joy after joy after joy.  What I feel welling up in me is hallelujah, this is such a blessing.

Other days…being a stay-at-home mom is my selfishness revealed to me all. day. long. What I feel welling up in me is crap, I have a lot of work to do in myself.

I’m thankful that I don’t have to do that work alone.

That I don’t have to be ashamed of the fact that I HAVE work to do.

That He loves me anyway.

graceMy goal and my prayer is to be able to love myself that same way—to fully accept His grace at the same time that I accept my need for growth.

Journeying with God: never a dull moment…

He Can Be Trusted

“What is an area of your life where you need to consciously acknowledge a desire to the Lord? Sometimes we wander around in our frustration and never even go to Him with our request.  Does He know the desires of our hearts? Absolutely He does.  But just as Jesus prayed to the Father, so are we to–daughter to Father.  Be specific and give it all to Him.  He is not a God who stands at a distance.”  –Angie Smith, from “Mended”

As I read this devotional entry this week, I felt my breath stop inside of me.

Right now I’m in a period of total contentment with my life, where I sometimes just cry tears of joy because of how blessed I feel.

But a year ago, I did not feel this way.  A year ago, I wanted.  Badly.

It was against my will, against my desire, against the kind of person I wanted to be.  Wanting in the midst of such a blessed life? How spoiled was I?

I KNEW the timeline David and I had been led to was right.  We needed to have X amount of money, have spent X amount of time in our jobs, have X amount of school completed before we could start the adoption process.  That was what He wanted, and I felt total peace about the decision portion of it.  But it didn’t feel good to wait, especially knowing that the adoption process would likely take a year or two once it was finally time to start.

On Saturday mornings I would leave Zumba class and walk by the 2 year olds playing soccer outside my gym.  As they ran around tripping on their oversized T-shirts I would hurry as fast as possible to my car, close the door, and cry as I looked at them wondering, would it be 2 years? 3 years? 4 years? before I could hold a child that looked like them but was mine?  

This year when friend after friend told me about her pregnancy, I would smile with joy and genuine excitement.  But after the 4th or 5th friend in a row told me, I came home and cried to David.  “I don’t want to be crying right now,” I sobbed.  “I want to be happy for our friends.  But I feel like everyone’s getting their baby and I’m never going to get ours.  I want to be a mom so bad, but I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

I have friends who are there right now—who want children and whose bodies aren’t cooperating, or who want children but need to have more money or a husband first, or who are waiting for a government across the ocean to smooth things along with their adoption process.

There’s something so God-ordained about the longing for a child.  You can’t tell yourself, “don’t want that…” because it’s a good thing to want.  You can tell yourself “be patient—it’s all in His time” and absolutely believe it and feel cognitively soothed by that, but it doesn’t stop the wanting, the emotions, the frustration of your humanness that wants when you don’t want to want—when you want to be content.

Bringing it to Him doesn’t make it easier.  But it makes you more honest.

I began telling God “I want a baby” without shame or disclaimers or apologies.  I began crying to Him, with Him, instead of  pretending He couldn’t see me.

Every Sunday at church I would stand and sing songs about His promises, His presence, His power, and I would worship and sing to Him with open longing, asking Him to fulfill those promises and use His power to bring me my baby.  I brought Him my emptiness, reminding Him that He could fill it and asking Him to.  I prayed for my baby, and I prayed for my baby’s birth family—thinking that I was praying for a baby that would be conceived in the future.

Little did I know that I was praying for a baby that actually existed—a baby that had been conceived right around the time that David and I interviewed our agency, before we even decided to choose them.  A baby that would be ours.  A birth mom who needed my prayers to make the decision she made.

We were selected by our birth mom while our family profile was at the printer.

I had literally been crying the day before saying we would never get picked. “I want to get picked, Lord.”

God is bigger than our rules, our version of how the world should work, our version of how processes “should” go.  He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts when He placed those desires there to begin with.

He can be trusted with our desires.

He does not stand at a distance.  He is here, waiting to surprise us. Waiting to humble us with His goodness.

Needy

The two weeks have been…interesting.  Let’s recap, shall we?

Zoe is usually a happy, easy-to-please baby, but during weeks 7 and 8, she was a tearful little enigma.  This unfortunately happened during the same two weeks that David had to take five hard tests in Orlando as part of his ordination process.

Here’s a math equation for you: 1 screaming, unhappy baby – ability to be soothed + 1 sleep-deprived mama + starting part-time work – 1 dad around to help = misery.

As the craziness reached its peak, I started to wonder if Zoe was having an adverse reaction to her formula, so I began some food experimenting that exhausted her (and yet cruelly made her unable to nap.)  Here’s an example of when happens when HAPPY Zoe throws a random fit:

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So now imagine an UNHAPPY Zoe with a tummy ache and without a nap—it was a truly exquisite combination of a demon, short-tempered Kate Gosselin, and pitiful sweet little baby, with lots of back-arching, screaming, and hair pulling.

Put her down for a second to eat or go to the bathroom?!! What are you, crazy?!! Go somewhere in the car? Again, ARE YOU CRAZY? Try to help her sleep when she’s exhausted? Now you’re just being cruel…

It’s SO SAD to watch your little baby struggle like that.

You wonder, what am I doing wrong? What could I do to help? Does she need a schedule? Is she allergic to her formula? Is she getting sick? Is this her new personality?!! Is this abnormal fussiness a normal developmental stage? Am I missing something? 

You find yourself googling phrases like “baby abnormally fussy + 7-8 weeks” and “signs of colic” and “allergic to formula?” You talk to other moms who share worst-case scenarios.  You fear that this is her new personality.  You reflect back on how nannying was so much easier because you got to go home at the end of the day and get a break.  You feel guilty about that and quickly kiss your baby and tell her “I would never want to be childless! You’re the best!” (She cries in response.)  You feel guilty that other people’s babies have harder struggles, then you realize you can’t think about them right now because it makes you want to cry and that isn’t helpful.  And you try to stay calm and adjust only one thing at a time so that you can isolate the problem, even though you want to just change EVERYTHING.

Thankfully, SO THANKFULLY, I knew my mom and sister were coming to visit at the end of week 8.  Truly, if I had not had that information in my mental back pocket, I would have probably laid down in the street and waited for an unobservant driver to run me over (and I live near a high school, so I wouldn’t have had to wait long.)

Our pendulum shifted on Wednesday night at 11:30 when I picked up my mom at the airport.  Instant relief for me.

On Thursday morning, I talked with our pediatrician about my suspicion that Zoe needed a new formula.  I had already discontinued her formula twice (and switched to breastmilk) and she seemed to do way better without the formula, so our pediatrician suggested that I should try a formula for lactose sensitivity.

Here’s Zoe and my sister Olivia on Thursday, 16 hours after her formula detox started.  You can still see Zoe’s sad little face:

IMG_0575“Mom, I’ve been through a battle.”

But the lactose sensitivity formula did the trick! By Friday, Zoe was back to her normal happy self after 2 weeks of on-and-off misery!

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We had a fabulous, fabulous visit with my mom and sister.  We went on walks, spent lots of time playing with Zoe, played games, and took Zoe on her first trip to the zoo.  My mom watched Zoe so that I could go to the gym twice (and Olivia went to Zumba with me!) David finished his last exam on Friday so he was able to spend time with us too!

This photo describes the visit:

IMG_0579Olivia feeding Zoe.  My mom folding our laundry and simultaneously playing a game.  David actually being able to relax after an exhausting series of tests.

Family is the best.

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Zoe and her sweet Auntie Olivia

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Zoe smiling at her Gigi

The last two weeks have taken this usually competent and upbeat girl and made her painfully aware of her own vulnerability.

I’m used to being able to put hard work, energy, and a positive attitude into a situation and get the result that I want.  But motherhood is a whole new set of rules—I can exhaust all of my physical and mental resources and still not have my baby feel any better.

Earlier this week when I was struggling I said out loud to God, “I just feel so NEEDY.  I have nothing left to give!”

Being in a position where I feel “needy” at all strikes fear into my heart—I like being self sufficient!

But I’m realizing that motherhood is not an independent journey that I can just handle on my own all the time.  I NEEDED this visit with my mom.  I NEED the support of people around me and it doesn’t make me a failure to reach out to them and say “hey, this mom thing is hard!” (I’m so grateful to you Wednesday night Bible study friends who smiled at my tear-stained face and said “you’ll feel better tomorrow!”  You were right!)

And I’m thankful for my neediness, because it keeps me seeking Him.