The Sick Donkey Noise and Frozen Corn.

I have no food in the house.

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I don’t think any of us have eaten lunch. We did eat eggs and toast (well the boys ate toast. I have yet to find a gluten free bread that I can swallow without gagging. I think I’ll try and bake one myself…) at more of a brunch time so I suppose we’ll make it till dinner with a little snack.

Except I don’t have any snacks left.

Better have Husband pick something up on the way home.

It’s a rainy, dreary week outside and we’re all going a little stir crazy.

The little squish has figured out how (or been taught by his hero, and older brother, Captain Ezra) to climb onto my favorite dark teal green armchair, the one I found on Craigslist and dragged Husband all over Orlando the week we moved here to try to find the owner’s house, and it nearly didn’t fit into the car, but that’s another story for another day… so they climb onto the chair, hold their arms out to the side like wings, and free fall, face first, onto the mattress that Captain Ez sleeps on. Well, he sleeps there when he’s not climbing into my bed and sleeping with his feet in my face. When that happens, Husband sleeps on the mattress on the floor, under the pirate comforter. Much to his chagrin.

The problem is that Captain Ez is almost four years old, he has refined his falling technique. The little squish is not as refined in his falling skills. He wobbles, one foot on the seat, one foot on the arm of the chair, and he looks at me for approval while he falls blindly, usually ending up on the mattress, sometimes the floor next to the mattress, in a position that looks as if he will require medical attention. He’s usually fine, giggling hysterically at his incredible talent, and probably also at the new gray hairs that spontaneously pop up on my head every day, and does it again. And again. And again.

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This was right after a face plant on the ground, with some help from his big brother. He’s okay now, and jumping again.

It’s cute to talk about, but the reality is that I cannot get anything done while this child is awake. I turn my back and he is playing inside of the dryer. I make eggs and he has somehow retrieved a handful of butter knives from the silverware drawer (note to self: install better child locks). He thinks that couches are mountains to be climbed and that their summit is to be jumped from. The other morning, Husband let me sleep in. I staggered into the living room, still groggy, to his cheerful, “Good morning. Hudson ate his own poop.” Fantastic. While trying to cook he usually entertains himself by bowling with potatoes and onions. He likes to pick up babies, which turns into more of a tackle and then a barrel roll, with said baby in his arms, since he is not as strong as he thinks. He has quite an impressive throwing arm, unfortunately he thinks that most things were invented just to be thrown. Oh and while he does all of these thinks, he squints his eyes, looks at you sideways, and smirks. I swear it’s true.

Mischief is this child’s middle name.

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But oh my word, those blue eyes and those blonde curls and his sweet, sticky, fingers wrapped around your neck in the tightest embrace. How can he be so wonderful and so exhausting all at the same time? How can I not get enough of him but also cringe just a little when nap time is over? How can I dream of the day when this tornado child stage is over, but also not want him to ever outgrow his irresistible troublemaking?

And then there is his role model, the famous Captain Ezra. He’ll be four this summer. FOUR! And, much like his brother, I adore every single hair on his head, his preschool humor has me rolling on the floor in hysterics, and his imagination routinely takes me back to the magic of my own childhood.

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But the whining! Oh the whining! Not to mention the selective hearing!

Throw in the tantrums and I’m helpless.

It started a few months back, we like to call it The Sick Donkey Noise. Not a very creative name, but it should give you a pretty good idea what his favorite whining noise sounds like. To get a better understanding, make some donkey noises. Go ahead. Do it right now. As loud as possible. Now keep making those noises but also groan like you have a horrible stomach ache as well. Now morph those two noises together. Excruciating right? Now imagine hearing this noise A LOT. Like A LOT A LOT. Like every day, dozens of times each day. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. It’s become his go to response, for everything. He doesn’t ask, “Mom, can I please have some milk?” He starts making his Sick Donkey Noise and then in between groans he whines, with every bit of whine he can muster, “MILK!!!” So it goes something like this…

The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!! The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!! The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!!, The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!! The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!!

and on… and on…

Now before you question my parenting techniques. I do not get him what he’s asking for when he’s whining like this, I speak with him, I make him ask me the polite and appropriate way, which he does immediately, proving that he KNOWS how to ask, he just has some weird habit of speaking like an animal when he wants something. The best part of it is that his little brother, who wants to be exactly like his big brother, routinely goes over to wherever The Sick Donkey Noise is coming from, observes and then assumes the same body position as his big brother, and begins making the same, horrible, noises as his big brother.

The Sick Donkey Noise. Times two.

Oy vey.

Now, I don’t like to complain. And the reality is that when this happens I can usually be found turning my head away to hide my laughter because the situation is highly comical. Most of the time. But then there are the days when I have cleaned up potatoes and onions off the floor too many times, I have rescued my 19 month old from six precarious situations, I have gotten zero things accomplished from my very important to-do list in my head, and I am still wearing my pajamas at dinner time, and I get a tiny bit cranky.

And then, before I can stop it, out it comes.

We all have one, we know what it sounds like, but we can’t always stop it.

My ugly voice.

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Ezra hangs on my back while I’m changing Hudson’s diaper and instead of asking him politely to get off my back while I change the baby, and tell him that we can cuddle in a minute, I snap at him to get off right now!

Ugh.

Or Hudson, deceivingly agile and strong at his mere 19 months old, climbs the sofa and begins hitting the television screen with a dinosaur, or toy hammer, or his hand, and instead of walking over to him and distracting him with another activity, I yell his name from across the room, louder each time, until he stops. It’s rarely effective, and it’s always bad parenting.

Sometimes I get stuck in an ugly voice funk. It can last days, embarrassingly even weeks. I hear myself when I talk to my kids, I feel the sharp edges, I see their hurt eyes, I observe them using the same tones when they get frustrated, then I tell them it’s not okay to talk that way.

Then I see it.

I see them emulating what they hear.

And I feel so gross.

I think we’ve all been there as parents. Or as anyone who ever took out their frustration on someone they love. It’s a strange phenomenon, that tendency to put our best selves on for strangers and acquaintances, yet with those we love, those we hold the most dear, when stress overwhelms we let our words carry a sharpness, our tone far from loving.

Ezra asked me the other night, “Mommy, why are you being so mean today?”

Oh my heart.

I felt like looking in his eyes and using the old break up line…

Don’t worry. It’s not you. It’s me.

What a cop-out. In any scenario. You are causing pain to someone you love and then telling them they shouldn’t be upset because it isn’t their fault. So what? All that matters is that they’re hurting, no matter whose fault it is.

What if Jesus was stressed out and overwhelmed by all of the problems he deals with on a daily basis? The real problems. World hunger. Orphans. A hurting world. People rejecting him. Broken families. And on and on. The burdens that our Jesus carries every day are far heavier than any stress or mild frustration or even personal crisis that I have ever had to deal with. He has every excuse in the world (literally) to lash out, groan at me in frustration, or use his ugly voice to reprimand me.

Yet he never has.
Not once.

Deep breath.
I can do better.
I must do better.
My babies deserve better.
Their future babies deserve for them to be taught better.
The creator of love demands that I am better.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

This is my heart’s desire, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that to be true. But the truth is, I can love better, I think we can all love better. And I believe that love will change the world. And it will start right here at home.

Oh and I found a snack. We’re all eating frozen corn out of the bag that I was using as an ice pack for Ezra’s head after he took a dive and knocked it pretty hard. Medicinal AND nutritious (well not actually that nutritious…), multi tasking at it’s finest.

I love them.

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And the best part is that they love me too.

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kryptonite and two tiny dreams.

Friday we will have been married five years.
My firstborn will be four years old before the temperature outside drops below 80.
My baby can talk, and most of our extended family and some of our closest friends haven’t ever met him.
The days pass me by, I find myself waking up already excited for bedtime.
I go through the motions.
Sometimes even the motions are too hard.
Five years.
Who decided to fast forward time?

This carousel of doctors visits.
A cabinet filled with some effective,
most ineffective,
medications and supplements.
Good days,
bad weeks.
Contagious giggles,
patience,
and temper,
lost.
Hope peaking,
hope waning.

I want off.

I step outside myself and I peer back in.
Removed from my emotions I see the truth.

I am stronger.
I am healing.
Sick does not define me.
Weak is not my forever.
But…
I am stuck.

Allow the emotions back in and I am paralyzed.

Fear has always been my enemy.
Allowing fear to push me into a stagnate life, this is my kryptonite.

{stagnate}
1. to cease to run or flow.
2. to be or become stale or foul from standing, as a pool of water.
3. to stop developing, growing, progressing, or advancing.
4. to be or become sluggish and dull.

 I read these definitions, immediately cringing. In all honesty I almost deleted the beginnings of this post and started again with something prettier.

 But this is important.
Too important to delete.
Too important to forget.
So I continue.

 I think anyone walking through crisis, trauma, illness, divorce, job loss, and the list goes on, finds their own version of survival mode. I’m no psychiatrist, but I believe survival mode looks different for each person. I also believe that it is vitally important. Survival mode is what prompts people to look at the single mom dealing with four kids while working full-time, and then some, to pay the bills, and declare, “I don’t know how you do it!” Survival mode is what causes people to read blogs or Facebook pages started in support of a young child dealing with a life altering illness or injury and wonder, “How do they stay so strong? How are their parents making it through each day?” Survival mode is what keeps up standing through the deepest and darkest of life’s valleys.

 Survival mode is one of God’s great gifts to us.
We will face difficulties in this life.
That is guaranteed.
But God’s grace is sufficient and through the crisis, we continue on.
Knowing our strength is not our own.

Enter the problem with survival mode.

Here I am.
Not the strongest I have ever been.
But no longer the weakest.
Yet I live my days in survival mode.
Auto pilot.
Survival mode was never meant to last forever,
too much of what makes us thrive is lost during that time.
Yet I can’t seem to turn it off.

I am terrified to believe I am getting stronger.
Some strange place in my head tells me that as soon as I accept that beautiful dream as truth, I will get worse again.
I have wonderful days and then five minutes of weakness, or exhaustion, or anxiety, convinces me that the entire process is starting all over again. I’m immediately convinced that I’ll be bedridden by tomorrow.

The constant fear of the next catastrophe stops me in my tracks.
Paralyzes my emotions.
Forces my entire being into stagnation.

That is where all of the time goes.
That is what takes all of my energy.
Preparing to survive the next horrible thing that is definitely coming, always lurking around the next corner.
And the only way to make it through these imagined, horrifying, inevitable, disasters is to turn everything that defines me, that moves me, that is me, off.

And in this place.
I cease to flow.
I am stale.
I am foul.
I stop growing.
I am sluggish.
I am dull.

 And my heart breaks.

I find joy and beauty in moments of my day.
I write them down.
Photograph them.
Cherish them.

 I kiss my boys loudly.
I stare at them in awe.
I shower them with as much love as any human ever could.

But when I look into my heart,
deeper than the naked eye can see,
I see a broken connection.
A switch flipped to off.
An engine stuck in neutral,
revving loudly but going nowhere.

Who is this person?

When I am outside peering in, I feel sad for her.
When I am inside, I am ashamed.

How could I let this happen?

 Survival mode no longer necessary.
So I chose this?
I am here voluntarily?
This is what I want for my life?

Now I am angry.

Until recently I chose to be oblivious to the sad state of my heart.
I knew life had been hard, I knew I needed healing, I knew it would be a long road, but I blamed my circumstances and refused to take any responsibility for my stagnate heart.
And then something happened, unexpected, almost unwanted, as I tried to protect my fragile existence.

 Two tiny dreams flew into my heart, they nestled deep into my wounds so open and raw.
Two tiny dreams that made old wounds bleed but somehow my heart felt full.
A feeling so foreign but so much like home.
Two tiny dreams that whispered of the life I know I was born to live.
Two tiny dreams that caused a battle so fierce between my oldest foe, fear and new hope fighting desperately to take hold.
Two tiny whispers play on repeat in my ears, a tumultuous love song causing my mind to spin.

 In that chaotic cyclone, I see it.
I see the moment.
I see the truth.
I see my fear.
I see my excuses.
I see my choice to stop trusting the One who gave me life.
I see his heartbreak.
I see the path I took to now.

Jesus, please let me un-see it.
Silence.

Jesus, please say this is not my fault.
Silence.

Jesus, I had to protect myself.
Silence.

Jesus, it just seems too hard.
Silence.

Jesus, thank you for new dreams.
I touch the spot on my chest, once again full.

 Jesus, I’m so sorry I broke your heart.

 Knees bent, heart bleeding, tears running, hope healing, dreams living, trust growing, Jesus holding.

 Baby steps forward.
Flowing.
Fresh.
Beautiful.
Growing.
Strong.
Radiant.

 This life I was meant to live.
This life I chose not to live.
This life He gave back to me.

Only a fool would believe the battle is over.
Only a fool would believe God will not always win.

Today my joy is found in knowing, believing and trusting that Jesus will never give up. He will never let me settle for stagnate. And even when they cause fear to knock at my back door, he will always give me dreams.

I just have to choose to move.

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“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Rainy Days

When I woke up this morning it was raining.

Torrential downpour kind of rain.

I wanted to pull the covers back up over my weary head and stay in bed until the sun was shining and I miraculously felt energized and alert. However I have babies, and babies wake up and want milk and food and books read to them and toys to be played with and squabbles to be solved for them. So when I heard H’s little voice on the monitor, I’ll admit that I laid in bed and just listened to him chat with himself for a few minutes, but when his chatter turned into t rex style squeals, I pushed the covers off and opened the door to my baby boys room and was greeted with his sunshine smile and outstretched arms.

Unfortunately my day did not consist of much more sunshine. The rain continued to pour outside, Hudson quickly became a tantrum throwing, cranky monster, who is either teething or has another ear infection (fingers crossed it’s teething). Ezra woke up and the two boys together were somehow able to use up any reserve of energy that I had stored up by around 10am.

But we made it through the day.

It wasn’t pretty. I spoke more harshly at times than I needed to. I lost my patience more quickly than I’d care to admit. But for some reason my boys still love me and still wanted to hug me and kiss me and cuddle me. I genuinely believe that they know the days when my health is not as strong and I believe that God gives them extra grace and mercy for me as a mama. And extra kisses and cuddles too.

For those of you who are not familiar with our journey, let me share briefly. I had two very rough pregnancies. I was quite physically ill with both of them, losing a lot of weight and having many other strange physical symptoms due to weakness. I also began having severe panic attacks that lasted throughout Ezra’s entire pregnancy and resurfaced during Hudson’s pregnancy. After each pregnancy I began to slowly regain my health, however about three months after Hudson was born I began to get much worse. Doctors initially told me that it was just stress and anxiety, because once you have struggled with anxiety, many doctors want to blame any problems that you have in the future on that. It is an extremely frustrating situation to be in, especially when you know that what you’re experiencing is not anxiety, but finding a doctor to listen to me took quite some time.

To make an incredibly long story, sort of short, we have spent the last year visiting countless doctors. My symptoms seemed random and strange to them and blood work always came back clear. So to explain away my migraines, extreme weakness, chronic fatigue, vision changes, breathing difficulties, etc, I was told I needed to take an anti-depressant. I am a big believer in the proper medication for a condition, but these doctors were throwing anti-depressants at me because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

Finally, after over a year of sickness, many days not being able to get off my couch or care for my boys by myself, I have found a wonderful combination of two doctors who have taken on my case and have recognized that there is more than meets the eye, and they were determined to figure it out. I had my adrenal gland function tested last summer and those lab results showed very low adrenal function, which could definitely account for many of my symptoms, but after pursuing adrenal treatment for over six months and not seeing improvement, I spoke to my new applied kinesiologist about why I wasn’t healing and he began to look further. He discovered that there was an infection in my body, at the time not knowing what sort of infection, we began super boosting my immune system to help my body fight this mystery infection. I immediately began to see some results, more than I had seen in over a year. As we continued treatment he began to treat me more specifically for a parasite that we believe I was infected with during my final week living in Hawaii when I went canoeing in a river (note to self: never canoe again). I began to have severe symptoms about two days after that. Since beginning this treatment I have seen steady improvement in my energy levels, my weakness, my moods, and so on. I have a long way to go to achieve total health, since my body has been weak for so long. But for the first time in a long time it appears we are on the right track and I am finally beginning to believe that healing is possible.

Chronic, long-term illness of any kind is scary and exhausting and frustrating, and so many other things all wrapped up in one super unattractive package. A lot of days, including days like today, I find myself giving in to the frustration and the heartache of not being the mom or the wife that I want to be. I yell at my kids because I’m mad at myself for not having the energy to play with them. I put Hudson down for a nap and I park Ezra in front of the tv so I can nap on the couch and hopefully wake up with enough energy to make dinner. I stare at healthy, energetic moms chasing their kids around the park with their nice clothes and their hair done, with a mix of adoration and jealousy of what they are able to do. A lot of days I am a little bit sad and a lot embarrassed by my weaknesses, and although I know in my head it’s not my fault, sometimes my heart still betrays me.

In life, it is always far too easy to focus on the bad, the heart break, the struggle. We are all guilty of letting the bad take over from time to time. And when you are faced with any sort of long-term challenge, survival mode kicks in and all you are concerned with is making it through the day, existing to see tomorrow.

Dreams stop coming.

Laughter is strained.

Hope is gone.

And if that were the end of the story this would be one of the most depressing blog posts ever written. Thank goodness that is not the end.

This struggle has stolen so much from me. So many of the things I prided myself on are now only distant memories. And even the things I still do are only a shadow of what I wish they could be. But in this process I have become someone who I never would have been without this struggle.

I didn’t wish for this struggle. But when I look closely at my heart, I really like the person this season has left behind. Because behind all of the hard moments, beneath the frustration and the embarrassment, is a raw, broken heart that is slowly being pieced back together by her Jesus whispering to her who she truly is.

Who I truly am.

I am stronger, more compassionate, more loving, more grateful for the gift of life than I was before this difficult road began. And my sincere prayer is that this journey and the things I have learned will continue to mold me and who I am every day for the rest of my life.

I believe I am on the road to healing. And I don’t just mean physically. After such a difficult season my heart and mind need healing as well. One of the main ways I am trying to heal my heart is by purposely finding the beautiful moments, the joy filled seconds in my day, and recording them so that even in the midst of a difficult season I will have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful memories to look back on. It is rare that you would find me without my camera because snapping those tiny moments of wonderful and creating a scrapbook of happy for myself and my family has forced me to recognize how much beauty is overflowing from our life, even when it seems like there is only pain and struggle. My previous post talks about my New Years resolution to find joy in life and since then that simple resolution has become an entire community of people on instagram (@thepursuitofjoyproject) all dedicated to finding the beauty in life, the wonderful in ordinary moments, and sharing those moments and inspirational stories with each other. It has been so healing for me to see what brings happiness to other people, to hear others stories of heartbreak and see how they have found beauty in the midst of their heartache.

Life is not at all what I imagined it would be like right now. But I do know one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt, God knew that this was the path life would bring myself and my family down, and he didn’t abandon us here to fend for ourselves. He brought us here because his purpose is greater than ours and my deepest hope is that our struggle can encourage and inspire others. Other mamas who aren’t able to do as much as they think they ‘should’, other families going through illness and feeling like it will never end, people who just need to know that no matter where they are in life, that God has not forgotten them and that there will be beauty from pain. If our story brings even one person closer to Jesus, then I consider every tear worth it.

It’s late. Ezra is in bed next to me, waking up every few minutes with a coughing fit. I’m exhausted in every way, but when I remind myself to take the time to find the beauty in this moment, my stress fades and all I notice is my baby boy’s tiny fingers reaching out for mine, and the way his little body tucks up against mine perfectly and the rhythmic song of his snore. I notice these things and I tuck them away to cherish forever, and i’ll take them out and cry happy tears as I remember them long after he’s holding another girl’s hand.

These tiny fleeting moments, that so many of us miss because we don’t take the time to notice them, are so very precious. Take time today, no matter how difficult things might seem, to look for the beauty and tuck it away to hold on to forever.

I promise you will not regret it.

the pursuit of joy.

It happens at a different point in time for each of us. For some, the realization comes much earlier than it should. For some it happens later in life, but it eventually happens for everyone. Whether it’s an illness, or an accident, or divorce, or addiction or a natural disaster, we all must eventually stare reality in the face.

Life is fragile.

Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed by the brokenness of this world, I think back to those precious, beautiful days of childhood when all I needed to feel safe and secure was to know that my mom and dad were asleep on the other side of the wall. I knew that if I needed to I could slip out of bed and climb in between them and all would be right in the world once again.

Now I am the parent, and nearly every night I find myself waking up to my sons clumsy, sleepy movements as he tries to climb into bed with us. The second he is snug between mom and dad, usually with a leg shoved under me and an arm draped across my face, he drifts back to sleep, reassured that his world is secure.

Oftentimes, after he has fallen back to sleep, I find myself restless, plagued by worries, anxieties, stresses and what ifs. None of which I can control, a reality that just causes more fear. As I lie awake worrying, my son sleeps, blissfully unaware.

I can’t ever go back to being that innocent, naive, blissfully unaware child that was certain of her safety as long as her parents were surrounding her. And I cannot keep my kids from eventually growing up and realizing that life is, indeed, fragile. Nor can I protect them from ever feeling any hurt or pain. That might be the hardest reality to accept as a parent, our inability to protect our children from the evils of this world.

And if this were the end, if these realities were the only realities, then the evils of this world might just win. I might just not ever be able to drag myself out of bed again, I might have to give up because the weight of the problems in this world would be too much to bear. I might have to take my family and run away to a cabin in the most remote place I could imagine and lock all the doors to try to keep my precious ones safe.

Thank goodness there is another reality.

There is a God who loves us and who created us to live abundantly and love deeply. He does not promise that there will not be struggle and heartbreak and pain, but he does promise that through all of those things, he will carry us.

I tend to forget this reality all to often. I tend to see the reality of my situation, of my health, of my limitations, of the awful things happening in this world, and I get overwhelmed. I lose hope. I forget to trust. And worst of all, I stop living. I go through the motions, I function, sort of, but I am not living and loving and laughing and dancing and experiencing the fullness of this life that God gave me.

And then I look at my boys.

I see their childlike faith, their innocent trust and their ability to find absolute JOY in the smallest of things.

And I am ashamed because my children are living life the way that God intended for it to be and I am not.

Today I thought about the silly tradition of New Years resolutions. I thought about how every year I make some ridiculous, overly detailed, lofty resolution for myself and then by Feb 1 I have forgotten what my resolution even was. I sat on the bed and asked my Jesus what kind of goal I could even set for myself this year with two young kids and health issues that never seem to go away, how could I possibly plan for anything let alone set a goal and keep it?

The answer was immediate.

PURSUE JOY.

That was it.

I waited, thinking surely there was more.

There wasn’t.

PURSUE is a verb. It means to follow someone or something to catch them.

JOY is a feeling of great pleasure or happiness.

So my New Years resolution is to PURSUE JOY, to CATCH HAPPINESS.

Sounds silly, frivolous even. But it resonated with me on a very deep level and tears ran down my face.

I love my life and I am very blessed in so many different ways, but the last few years have beaten me up, worn me down, and left me struggling to find joy more often than I’d care to admit. I didn’t mean to lose my joy, I didn’t mean to stop laughing, life just sort of snuck up from behind and stole them from me. Of course I have moments of wonderful happiness and my boys bring me laughter and joy every day, but the joy, the laughter, that comes from a soul that is alive and well, not weary and waiting for the next bad thing to happen, that was gone. And I had stopped searching for it, assuming that I would have to learn how to live without it. I spent most of the day in tears today, realizing how much that the past four years has stolen from me. Realizing that I have allowed myself to stop hoping for anything better, resigning myself to the fact this was my life now. And always would be.

But there were those words again…

PURSUE JOY.

CATCH HAPPINESS.

I was expecting to cut out sugar or stop eating fast food. Those things would be a piece of cake compared to this.

Today God used one of my very best friends to remind me who I am, and that although illness and struggle and grief have stolen so much from me, who I am is not gone, but I have to fight to get her back. That’s what this resolution is all about. To pursue, to catch… those words are a call to action. Calling ME to action. I can’t sit around waiting for healing and total health before I do it. I can’t wait for life to be easy to do it. I can’t tell God I’ll do it when I have more energy, or time or when the world isn’t such a mess. I can’t wait for things to be perfect before I start living again.

So, in 19 minutes 2013 begins and so does my pursuit.

And as I begin to feel overwhelmed, wondering how I can pursue and live a lifestyle of joy when so much still seems difficult, my dads words from one of his final sermons are running on repeat through my mind.

“Anger and sorrow, joy and hope, can be intermingled.”

Life does not have to be perfect to have joy. Difficulties and heartbreak will still happen and those emotions are very real, but God promises that he is our comforter and that his mercies are new every morning, and that his JOY is our STRENGTH.

What a spectacular promise.

What a wonderful God.

No two people have the exact same struggles or stresses or anxieties or fears. But we all have the same God who offers us the same gift of abundant life filled with joy and peace, if we just choose to trust him. I would challenge you as this new year starts to make a conscious decision to pursue joy, no matter what your circumstances may be. Pursue it, catch it, and see how your life changes.

Here’s to 2013 and pursuing joy in a fragile world.

Kelsey

 

The Perfect Mom Society

Today I felt like a bad mom.

I know I’m not, and I reminded myself of that. Several times.

I still felt like a bad mom.

Most days I know that the mom I want to be, that I dream of being in my head, the one who looks so good on paper, the one who puts on real clothes every morning, and even wears make up, the one who keeps up with the laundry and the dishes and also bakes and prepares nutritious meals, the one who always speaks patiently with her children and does a million crafts and projects and other educational activities all day, all without getting frustrated or flustered, all without reaching total exhaustion, the one who never resorts to sticking her kids in front of the tv just to get a few minutes of peace and quiet, the one who smiles all day because she is so darn good at being mom… she is a fake.

She can’t exist in real life.

But sometimes I am fooled into thinking that she does exist.

She is the mom I see at Target with the four well-behaved children in matching outfits. There’s no way that her children would ever scream no in her face and then go do the exact opposite of what she just asked.

She is the mom I see at church with her children sitting in the row next to her calmly and quietly coloring and not making a scene. Her child would never walk into a crowded service from their classroom and scream at the top of their lungs, “Mommy! I have to go pee!!!” (Yes. That really happened.)

She is the mom I see on Facebook or Instagram who always wears the cutest clothes and who has the most perfect, beautiful children who all play instruments and never eat processed foods. Her kitchen could never have a giant stack of day old dishes waiting to be washed.

I see these moms and I assume that while I feel as if I’m unraveling at the ends, they are all part of some secret perfect mom society with an awesome secret handshake and I will never be allowed in the door.

Then I force myself back to reality and remind myself that what I see of other moms in public, or on social networks, is usually the best of the best. Let’s face it, we all want to be as cool and calm and collected as possible in front of other people, we usually share our proudest moments not our most humiliating moments on facebook and instagram, and who wants to tweet about their huge parenting fails anyway? And it’s not a bad thing. I don’t think people are being superficial, or trying to hide anything, it is completely natural to share the good moments with people, but today as I thought on that I realized that just like a little girl looking in a magazine and comparing herself to the photoshopped image of a super model and finding herself coming up short, if I don’t remember to keep my interactions with other moms in perspective, I can easily find myself comparing and coming up short.

So I decided to let all of that go. I have amazing mama friends in my life. Some I see regularly, some I see not often enough and some dear wonderful friends of mine I have never even met in person, thanks to the wonder of the internet, and social networks. I am so thankful for these women and for the love and encouragement they bring into my life. And I know that they are all as real as they come. With strengths and weaknesses and if I spend any time comparing myself to them then I am spending less time just loving them and building friendships with them and that is what I truly desire!

Then I took a long hard look at myself and decided to treat myself with grace and dignity. Being a mom is hard work. I used to be in charge of 50 people on a daily basis and thinking back to those days is like going on vacation. Moms do not get enough credit. And I realized something. SOMETIMES I do things that I regret or am frustrated at myself for or wish I could take back, but there are also things that I ALWAYS do and those are the things that really matter in the end.

For instance, the following only happened once but it wasn’t my proudest moment …

One time, husband and I were leading a missions trip team in London, England. It was Christmas Eve and we had been busy with ministry all day. We got back to the church we were sleeping at and I discovered that baby Ezra was poopy. I was also out of diapers. Also, every single business establishment in London seems to shut down on Christmas Eve. So after searching for anything to substitute as a diaper and coming up short, I ended up scraping the poo out of the diaper, lining the inside with toilet paper, and putting the dirty diaper back onto my child. After buying fresh diapers the following morning I found a stray diaper in my suitcase that I had missed the evening before. Not my brightest parenting moment.

And sometimes…

Sometimes after a long day at home with the boys, I am exhausted and so easily frustrated, and I use an ugly voice when talking to my boys. On more than one occasion, Ezra has looked at me with the saddest eyes and said, “Don’t yell at me mommy.” And my heart breaks.

Sometimes my kids spend the entire day in their pajamas.

Sometimes I let my kids watch way too many shows in a day because I don’t have the energy to come up with something else to do.

Sometimes, when Ezra takes a nap, he isn’t tired at bed time and instead of forcing him to go to sleep we watch movies together until midnight.

Sometimes, my kids snack all day because they refuse to eat anything of nutritional value and I don’t know how to make them.

These things, and many other things that I’m not overly proud of, happen SOMETIMES.

I thought about these things today. I thought about how I didn’t really like these things about myself. Then I thought about how stupid it was for me to feel like a bad mom because of the things that I do sometimes, when there are a lot of things that I ALWAYS do no matter how tired I am or how long of a day it has been.

I always make time for kissing and cuddles.

I always respond to my kids when they talk to me, I don’t ever ignore them or make them feel like what they have to say is unimportant.

I always look my kids in the eye.

I always tell my boys how wonderful and smart and creative they are.

I always say I love you.

I always say I’m sorry when I’ve raised my voice or spoken in an unkind way.

I always put their needs above my own.

I always pray for them at bedtime (and a million other times throughout the day).

I always do the very best that I can to be the best mom possible. Not the perfect mom. Just the very best one that I can possibly be for them, and when I disappoint myself I get up and keep going because what my kids need is not a mom who mopes around feeling like a bad mom. They need a mom who did everything she possibly could and who also gave herself a break and showed herself some grace when she needed it.

Today I learned that I need to learn from (sometimes laugh at) and let go of the things that happen SOMETIMES and focus on the things that ALWAYS happen. As long as those things keep happening, then I think we’ll be alright.

And I’ll have a lot more peace.

I can still be a mom who loves her kids, who loves to bake, who can spend hours crocheting, who come up with silly projects and fun games and loves to go on adventures, but I can also remind myself that no one is able to do those things, and keep a meticulous house and have perfectly groomed children, all day every day and not reach exhaustion and need some time for herself.

I am human.

I am a mom.

And I love my job.

Some days my kids won’t wear pants, they’ll eat cookies for breakfast and they might watch one too many episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba…

But they will ALWAYS be deeply and fiercely loved.

And in the end… nothing else matters.

Now it’s your turn, my readers! If you are willing to share a SOMETIMES story, maybe a silly little mom blooper that you can laugh at now, and an ALWAYS story, a ritual or a tradition that your family shares that showcases your love, I would absolutely love to hear them! You can share on here, or if you are on FB or Instagram, feel free to share there! I think it is so healthy for us as moms to share in each others triumphs and to also laugh with each other at the things that often don’t go according to plan along this parenting journey.

Then we can all come up with a secret handshake for the Real Life Mom Society and anyone who wants to come is welcome. Sweat pants or yoga pants and hair in a pony tail will be our uniform and chocolate cake will be served at every meeting.

Lots of love to all of you mamas out there tonight.

You are truly incredible.

Kelsey

 

 

 

 

wanted: friends over three feet tall

I gave up a lot to have kids.

Sleep. A social life. The right to choose not to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. My waistline. Privacy while going to the bathroom. The ability to stay in bed for an entire weekend and read a novel. A bubble bath without two little ones splashing next to me. Pretty much any time for myself. The ability (and the desire) to party like it’s 1999.

All that is gone. And more.

And I don’t care. Not one little bit. My boys were worth giving all of that up for, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

However, in my continual journey towards regaining my health, I am constantly being reminded  how important it is to take care of me. And this means finding time for sleep, and maybe locking the door while I go to the bathroom so I can breathe for a minute, and making time for things that I love like crochet or cooking or reading. But lately I have been thinking a lot about how desperately mamas need to make time for friendships.

Some women are naturally fantastic at this and even after they have kids they don’t struggle to maintain or make friendships, but I think that for most of us, after having kids things change drastically and things that used to be a huge priority suddenly take a back seat. We don’t do this on purpose, it just seems to happen.

Suddenly we’re showering every 2 (or 3) days instead of every day, we’re only putting makeup on for very special occasions, sweat pants and a t-shirt become our uniform, and most of our hobbies become distant memories. And sometimes, probably far too often, our time that was once devoted to making and maintaining friendships is now monopolized by changing diapers, chasing toddlers, and trying to keep the baby from killing the dog.

Any phone dates that are even attempted are usually destroyed by a full-blown tantrum or a skipped nap. Playdates are a nice idea, when you can organize them around each child’s nap schedule, make sure everyone is healthy, and actually get everyone out the door and into the car. After a while, when your energy is waning, something has to give, and all too often, because we HAVE to feed the kids and make sure they get bathed every so often, we allow our friendships to become less of a priority.

This is not okay.

Our kids are wonderful, make no mistake, but carrying on a conversation about the plot line of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is not adult conversation. And while playing in a blanket fort is a blast, and our kiddos will forever be our favorite people, we cannot let ourselves feel guilty for making time for friendships. We are women, we are people, we are individuals, and as much as our life and our hearts are completely devoted to being mamas and we wouldn’t trade it for the world, we can’t give ourselves up in the process.

We need to choose to fight for our friendships. Old or new. Near or far. We need to realize how badly we NEED our friendships and we need to make sure they stay at the top of our priority list.

I am so incredibly blessed by the women in my life. I am lucky enough to have friendships that don’t change, no matter how long we go between phone calls or seeing each other face to face. I have friendships with women who I know love me deeply and who would do anything for me and my family, and I would do the same for them. I have friendships where I can walk through their front door, any time of the day or night, no knocking required, and help myself to whatever is in the fridge and plop on the couch and stay for as long as I want. I have friendships that are so real and so honest that some people might wonder if we even like each other (I assure you we do). I have women in my life who will tell me when I am wrong and who challenge me to be better. These same women love me more fiercely than I ever thought was possible and they would move mountains to make sure that I am happy and healthy. I have friendships where we can sit and not say a word for hours and it is not at all awkward, I have friendships where we can argue loudly one second and the next second we are laughing and hugging and both of those things are totally normal.

I have friendships that I would never have even dared to hope for before they came along. They are a bright, shiny, sparkly, gift in my life. I do not take these friendships for granted for even one second, but I can admit that I do not always make sure they are at their rightful place on my priority list.

This does not mean for even one second that they are not deeply loved and cherished by me.

But, as I said, sometimes when we become mamas, some of the most important things in our lives, some of the things that make us who we are, get shoved to the side so that we can be the “best possible mama”. But I’m here to tell you that without deep, wonderful relationships in your life to keep you sane, to encourage and build you up, to hold your arms up when you are weak and for you to be able to do all of those things for them, you will eventually run out of steam emotionally, mentally, probably physically, and you will see that striving to be super mom is futile and we are so much stronger when we do life together.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
C.S. Lewis

So today I am choosing to grab my priority list and to rewrite FRIENDSHIPS right back up there at the top with all of the other most important things in my life. I’m writing it in permanent marker and I’m making sure those relationships get the time they need and deserve.

I’m not going to shy away from friendships because phone dates are hard to keep and long distance and time differences are frustrating. I’m not going to shy away from new friendships because, well let’s face it, making new friends is WORK but it is so worth it in the end. I’m not going to avoid new friendships because I’m afraid I don’t measure up somehow or I am not as good of a mom as they are. I’m just going to be myself, I’m going to love deeply, laugh loudly, and work hard to build strong, wonderful relationships with the people who have been placed in my life.

If this blog brought the picture of a dear friend into your mind who you haven’t talked to in too long, or if your heart is aching a little bit because you fear maybe you have lost some of those friendships that you once held so dear, there is hope! Let’s take this blog as a challenge to start fighting harder for our friendships and I guarantee that our lives will be fuller, richer, and a lot more beautiful because of it.

Pick up the phone, call your friend even though in her time zone it might be past bed time. Go ahead and keep a phone date even though your kids will probably be screaming in the background the entire time. Invite that mom you met  briefly at church or the grocery store over for a play date, she’s probably feeling just as hungry for friendship as you are. Go ahead and talk to that other mama sitting at the park, don’t pretend to be busy on your smart phone, ask her about her kiddos, find out something about her, maybe leave with a new friend. Pursue the friendships that have presented themselves to you through the wonders of modern technology, you can be friends with someone you never would have met without facebook or instagram, what an amazing thing that is! Have your girlfriends come over to your house after the kiddos are in bed and sit and talk for hours and hours, even though you’ll be exhausted when the kids  wake up in the morning, at least your soul will be refreshed.

And when you’re with these friends, don’t try to make it sound like you have it all together, like you’re super mom. Talk about the wonderful things in your life, but also talk about the tough things, the days that being a mom is too overwhelming, the days that you dream about your kid free days for just a second, laugh together, cry together, LOVE each other.

We all need friends who are over three feet tall and don’t need our help going to the potty.

It makes us better mamas.

my beauty hunt.

The past four years have been the hardest and most painful years of my life.
The past four years have also been the most beautiful years of my life.
All too often I focus on the hard parts, I dwell on the pain.

I forget to count my blessings.

Which is a shame because there are so many to count.

Today, after deleting a blog post that read more like a pity party, I decided to go on a beauty hunt.

I have severe adrenal fatigue syndrome, and this causes countless physical symptoms, as well as causing my anxiety (which is a lifelong struggle) to worsen. Some days I am on the couch all day, plagued by dizziness, and weakness so severe that I fear my legs will not carry me to the bathroom and back. On the worst of these days I often find myself overwhelmed by feelings of frustration with myself for not being stronger, hopelessness that I will ever again be healthy, embarrassment that I cannot do things that most moms take for granted, and the list goes on. Often I find myself in tears at some point throughout the day, and without fail my sweet, compassionate, Ezra notices and says, “Are you crying, mommy? Are you really sick? Don’t worry mommy, kisses will make you better!” And my sweet boy runs to me, in all of my ugly, and showers me with kisses that he truly believes will heal. And they do.

{beautiful child}

Most days, in our household, are considered a success if I am able to take care of the kids, get some sort of food on the table, and still be functioning when Johnny gets home from work. On a million different occasions I have watched my amazing husband come home from work, exhausted, and proceed to finish (or start) dinner, feed our family, straighten up the house, do multiple loads of laundry, bathe the kids, and somehow still stay in love with me. He does this tirelessly, without complaining, and I know that he truly does not resent me, or my health issues, or wish that he was somewhere else. He is a man who I could not have even dreamed of, a man full of character and integrity and strength and fierce love and devotion for his family that leaves me speechless.

{beautiful husband}

I care far too much what people think of me, and of our situation. God must think I’m ridiculous, but he is still so gentle with me. Placing people in my life that I cannot begin to deserve, relationships that go above and beyond the call of duty and then some, to love me, love my family, and take care of us in whatever way they can, no matter how near or far they may be, and in these relationships, I know there is never judgement, just pure, deep love. And the people who love me so well, always remind me that no matter how hard the battle, that the alive, vibrant Kelsey is still who I am, that she isn’t gone, she may be struggling, but she will never be lost. This is one of the sweetest gifts.

{beautiful relationships}

I used to fill my days with as much as I possibly could. I prided myself on my ability to do it all and I judged myself more harshly than anyone when I didn’t live up to my standards. The past four years have forced me to not just slow down, but almost stop completely. In some ways my life is so much simpler that it once was and something that would seem like a minor detail to another mama is a huge accomplishment for me. Sitting with Ezra and doing puzzles for a half hour, or helping him build a fort, or creating a robot costume, or helping Hudson “walk” down the hallway, or playing peek a boo and listening to his hysterical laughter and watching him crinkle his nose, these are my major life accomplishments now. There are days when even these tasks are too much, so when I do have the energy to engage in even these simple moments of life, I don’t ever take one single second for granted.

{beautiful simple moments}

I love being a mom. One of the things that I have loved the most is breastfeeding my babies. However, it has become apparent over the past several months that continuing to breastfeed may no longer be in my best interest as my body is tired and for my doctors to increase my treatments I can no longer be breastfeeding. My mama’s heart is breaking. I am able to do so little already as a mama, but breastfeeding is the one thing that I have always been able to do for my boys. And now, that too is being taken away. I have cried countless tears over this decision, it’s the one thing I never thought I would have to compromise on. However, as I move forward and begin this process, I feel like God is continually offering comfort by reminding me that doing this will make me a stronger, better mama. It will not harm my boys and it will not change the bond that we share.

{beautiful comfort}

I am not good at asking for help. I like to be the one helping others. However our current life situation makes us about 0% helpful to others and 100% dependent on the help of others. Something I find humbling, to say the least. Whether we’re calling my mom and my sister AGAIN for help with the boys or a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or Johnny is once again letting work know that he will be late or not there at all because I need him, or asking supporters for help because we cannot afford all of the doctors bills, or I’m sitting on my in-laws couch and they are selflessly entertaining my children so that I can conserve what little energy I have, or we’re asking friends to FLY from California to Colorado just to help me with the boys during my brothers wedding because my whole family has a role to play in the wedding and I cannot manage the entire day by myself with the boys, or begging once again for desperate prayers on our behalf, whatever it may be, I STRUGGLE to ask, and I STRUGGLE to receive that help. And once again God must find me so frustrating, but he gently remind me that I need to humble myself and allow people to help us, to sustain us, to love us, and know that even if we cannot ever repay them for their generosity that it is okay because they don’t expect us to anyways. What a difficult lesson, and what a change it has made in my heart.

{beautiful humility}

I think we can all have a tendency to look at a situation and cast judgement, even though it is not our place or our right to do. I know that I have been guilty of this. But through this process I have learned in an entirely new way, how impossible it is to understand someone else’s situation unless you have lived it yourself. Whether a family is dealing with chronic illness, or loss of a loved one, or loss of a job, or financial difficulties, or substance abuse or addiction, or divorce, or the list goes on and on…but each situation is unique and delicate and we are so quick to judge instead of rushing to LOVE. I am forever changed by this journey of ours and I know that I will never again look at another persons situation and assume that I know better, or I know what they should do, or how they should handle something. That is not my place in anyone else’s life, my one and only obligation is to LOVE them and to support them in any and every way that I possibly can. This is an attribute that I don’t think I would have gained if it weren’t for this process, and it has forever changed who I am.

{beautiful understanding}

In this process I have spent many days avoiding God. Avoiding him because I feel slightly forgotten, a little betrayed, and very scared that he isn’t listening. Then I feel embarrassed because, of course I know better, and yet somehow I still find myself in self-preservation mode, assuming that I am the only one who knows what’s best for me (wrong again). But when I finally have chosen to be open and honest with my Jesus, when I have finally allowed him to gently take my broken heart from my tight grip, he is always so loving and so kind. Reminding me that he loves me, that I don’t need to understand everything to understand that, and reassuring me that he is always near, even when I feel like perhaps he has forgotten, and that he uses all things for HIS GLORY.

{beautiful truth}

If I am not careful I spend my days dreaming about when I am healed, planning for when I am better, and forgetting to live today. When you are functioning at a fraction of what you normally do and you can think only of the day when you are returned to your proper self, then it is difficult to learn how to live in this new reality. Quite often I get to the end of a day and realize that I have done nothing but wait for life to get better. So even on days when I feel 10% of my normal self, I still try desperately to find that hour, or that 20 minutes or even that five minutes of energy and health and to live it for all it’s worth. If I have five minutes of silly in me, I’m going to enjoy them for all they’re worth. If I have 30 minutes where I’m not thinking about how awful I feel and I have a little bit more energy, I’m going to be on the floor playing with my boys, if I have a day where my body is kind to me and I have extra energy, I am going to go to the park with my family and I might even pack a picnic dinner. And I am not going to live in fear of the next bad day, I am going to deal with it when it comes but I am going to live fully in this moment, without allowing the cloud of what could be to rain on my parade.

{beautiful life}

I had a moment with God the other day. I felt like he asked me if I would do it all again. If I knew the struggle, if I knew how sick my pregnancies would make me and how long it would take to heal, would I do it all again? Without a second of hesitation my answer was yes. I would go through it all again, and then some, to bring these beautiful amazing boys into the world, and to have the gift of being their mama.

But I realized something else.

On most days I feel like a hot mess. I’m usually in pajamas, paying zero attention to what I look like, and only occasionally bothering to put real clothes on my kids. My house is a disaster, in a lot of ways I am a shadow of who I used to be. But then, occasionally, I look at it from a different perspective.

I feel like God has spent the past four years literally stripping me of every single thing I found identity in.

Leadership. Ministry. Church involvement. Taking care of people. Being outgoing and social. Being a fantastic wife. Being super mom. Exercise. Independence. And on and on.

And now here I am.
Feeling naked and vulnerable.

And I hear a whisper, almost too faint to notice.
It says this is who I truly am.
It says this is the most beautiful I have ever been.

When the world looks at me I know there is not much to see.

When God looks at me he sees a heart that has been forever changed by a fierce battle.
He sees a heart that has been broken and put back together by his mercy and grace.
He sees a heart that finally understands her life is not her own, no matter how tightly she clings to in.
He sees a heart that has walked through the fire and come out stronger for it.
He sees a heart fully convinced of the power of prayer.
He sees a heart that doesn’t expect immediate healing but does expect immediate grace.
He sees a heart desperate to spread his love.
He sees a heart that would have never existed if it weren’t for the struggle.
He sees a heart that is thankful, not for the battle itself but for the person the battle has created.
He sees a heart acknowledging that if the only reason for this battle was to become more like Christ, then it all will have been worth it.
He sees a heart that is more devoted to him today that every other day in her life combined.

He sees a heart in love with him.

{beautiful heart}

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler Ross

“but god’s not here yet…”

Few things bring me greater joy than watching my husband and my kids interact. Johnny is such a great daddy and he is able to play with the boys the way that boys are supposed to play. I try to play swords and pirates and power rangers but when I watch Johnny play with Ezra I see how lacking my “play like a boy” skills truly are. I won’t stop trying, but I really need to practice more.

A couple of evenings ago I was in the bedroom cleaning up after bath time. I don’t know about you, but after bath time at our house there is an ocean of water on the floor, clothes littered everywhere that seem to have multiplied somehow, and more wet towels than seem necessary for two small children. Anyway, I was cleaning up and I heard Ezra run out of his room gasping and exclaiming that he was scared in his room because there were monsters in there. I headed towards him to comfort him but Johnny had already dropped what he was doing and was kneeling on the floor in front of Ezra. I stopped in my doorway to listen to their conversation.

Daddy – “Ezra, there is no reason for you to be scared because monsters aren’t real. But even when we feel afraid of something God is always with us and he will protect us from anything scary.”

Ezra – “Okay daddy.”

So simple. So sweet. So quick to trust.

As I sat on the couch with Ezra a few minutes later, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, God will protect me from monsters and even from cactus monsters (apparently cactuses are scary).” I replied, “That’s right Ez.” His next comment caught me off guard…

“But God’s not here yet.”

I felt like I was searching for something to say in reply for about ten minutes, but in reality I think I replied right away with something along the lines of, “Oh Ezra, God is always here! We can’t see him, but he is alway right there next to you.” Or something else straight out of the Christianity for Beginners textbook. But in my mind, once again, the simplicity and innocence of something my son said had shaken me.

Ezra was talking about the fact that God was not physically present yet, that he couldn’t see him or touch him so he must not be there. But how often, as mature adults, many of us who have been Christians for years, do we walk through something difficult, perhaps even tragic, and we don’t feel God, or hear God, or we don’t understand how he could let something like this happen to us, so we ASSUME that “God’s not here yet”? We try to survive through the hardship the best we can, all the while not turning to the one who can truly make our burden light, because he didn’t show up in the way that WE expected him to so we don’t think he’s really there. 

I know I have done this more times than I’d like to acknowledge. Especially in my lifelong battle with fear and anxiety, in the worst of days, when I should be on my knees at the feet of my heavenly father, crying out to him for healing and comfort, instead I have a tendency to doubt that he is really there, I doubt that he is really listening, and I doubt that he has any intention of ever healing me or making my burden any lighter.

Shame on me.

I know my God better than that, I know who he is and  how he loves me, I know that if my heart breaks for my kids when they are sad that God’s heart breaks even more for me when I am struggling. But even after a lifetime of knowing and loving my God, when hardship comes, I still have the tendency to go into self preservation mode and assume that the only one with my best interest in mind is myself. And then I live in survival mode.

I survive. But I don’t thrive.

And just when I really and truly deserve to be given up on, God once again shows how deeply, how endlessly, and how unconditionally he loves me. He gently uses my son to remind me of the simple truth that God is always here. 

Ugh, how many times must he so gently and so lovingly remind me that he will NEVER leave me and he will NEVER forsake me? How many times will I be reminded and then forget again? Hopefully it will stick this time but the beautiful thing about our Jesus is that he will remind me if I forget again. Just like I will remind Ezra a million times that he doesn’t need to be afraid of monsters, and if he forgets again and is frightened then I will remind him yet again, because I adore him and I want him to live free of fear, free of heavy burdens that he need not carry, I want him to thrive. And isn’t that what Jesus wants for each of us to?

Oh, I think I forgot to tell you the second part of Ezra’s comment to me, the part that made me realize how much more like my son I need to be. He said…

God’s not here yet… but I still love him SO SO SO much!”

Just because Ezra couldn’t see God in that moment, and he thought maybe he wasn’t there, he wasn’t doubting his God or his ability like I sometimes find myself doing, he was making a simple observation. He didn’t see God at that moment but that did not change how much he LOVED his God or how much he trusted that he would show up if indeed there were monsters that needed to be fought off.

What a wonderful child. What a wonderful God for speaking to me through such a wonderful child.

Today I am walking around with an old truth in my heart that I have been reminded of in the sweetest of ways.

There will be more days when I cannot feel God, it will seem that he is not “here yet”, but he is here, and he loves me even when I struggle to understand his ways. Oh, and even when I don’t feel him, I still love him… SO SO SO much. 

So simple.

So true.

Thank you Jesus and Ezra for the reminder.

Maybe we won’t  have to hide under blankets anymore. Maybe we will. But I will continually remind Ezra that he is safe from monsters, not because of the blanket but because of how much his Jesus loves him.

Cherish the moment.

Kelsey

Tears, Tantrums, and Breakdowns

Today started out pretty well. Unless you consider the 5:30am wake up by Hudson the start of the day, then it didn’t actually start that well, but after I got another couple hours of sleep, thanks to my husband, I was feeling pretty good. I got up, put on a cute sundress, determined to hit up some garage sales before the heat of the day was too overwhelming. I walked into the living room and my Ezra gasped when he saw me, “Oh my! You look so pretty AND cool, mommy!”

See I knew it. Great day ahead.

However as I headed to the kitchen, I realized that perhaps not everyone in my family shared the same opinion about the day. The baby was crawling around on the floor, alternating between quiet whimpers and loud screeches that caused Ezra to cover his ears. I glanced at my husband and realized that the whimpering/screeching must have been going on for some time because he had clearly moved past the stage of trying to entertain or console the baby, and was neck deep in the stage where you try desperately to ignore the cries, and maintain some level of sanity so you don’t run from the house, screaming and drive away as fast as possible.

Uh oh.

Somehow we got the kids dressed and ready and into the car. There wasn’t much talking and the only way I could convince Ezra to leave the house was to tell him we were  going out to look for treasure (he is in a serious pirate phase). He was ecstatic and I knew that I had only delayed the meltdown until the point when he realized that there was actually no buried treasure to be found today, but sometimes you do what you have to. As we loaded the car, I crossed my fingers that the baby would fall asleep like I thought he would and that he wouldn’t have a full blown scream fest instead.

All went well as we headed out, the baby did fall asleep and took a nice long nap and Ezra stayed mostly entertained with the idea of the treasure that awaited him. Unfortunately there were hardly any garage sales today, apparently people don’t like to sell things in 100 degree heat, and the garage sales that were happening consisted mostly of elderly women’s clothing, a lamp, and toys that you wouldn’t let your dog play with. And of course, no treasure. We did find one marble maze game that looked promising so we used that to distract Ezra from the idea of treasure and promised him he would have more fun than he could ever imagine with that toy.

As the baby started to wake up we headed for home, at which point Ezra had to pee… “RIGHT NOW MOMMY! IT’S AN EMERGENCY!” We sped to Starbucks to be the inconsiderate person who uses their bathroom but doesn’t buy anything, and then headed for home finally. About a mile from home Johnny started pumping our clutch and muttering to himself. “Our car is broken,” is the only thing I really remember him saying. Unable to put our car into gear, we somehow managed to coast to our apartment complex entrance and then we argued for a couple minutes about how to get the car to my mom’s parking spot (getting it all the way around the complex to our spot was not going to happen) and finally I steered and Johnny pushed and we rolled into mom’s spot.

Fantastic.

The rest of the afternoon was a conglomeration of a makeshift lunch since we didn’t get to the store like we had planned (who doesn’t eat rice a roni with their turkey sandwiches?), marble games that are too complicated to figure out, a cranky, teething, baby biting me (HARD) while nursing causing me to scream causing him to cry hysterically, and more moments that were not our brightest.

Things eventually calmed down, as they always do, and now Hudson is napping, Johnny is hiding in the bedroom watching the Olympics, and Ezra and I are cuddling on the couch watching The Cat In The Hat. As I sat here literally able to feel the stress of a day that was supposed to be relaxing and fun and summery, I had to laugh (quietly of course because I don’t think Johnny is ready to laugh about it yet.)

The reality is that today was really not as bad as we think it was. Yes, an inconsolable baby can drive even the strongest of men to tears. Yes, our car breaking down is an inconvenience, and we might have to have a garage sale of our own to pay for the repairs. Yes, life can feel overwhelming sometimes. Especially the past few months which have included a huge cross country move, starting over in a new state, and my health issues that have caused my husband to have to carry more of the load for our family than I would like to admit, he really is amazing and never complains, yet I know that the burden is heavy on his shoulders.

But…

Oh my word are we ridiculously, disgustingly, incredibly blessed.

We have two gorgeous, silly, healthy boys who quite literally are the best in the world.

I have an incredible husband who has selflessly served me and our boys for the last four years, life has not exactly been what we expected it to be but he has never once wavered in his love and devotion to us. He is an incredible example of a godly husband and father, and he is also very silly, which I appreciate. I also appreciate the picture below because Hudson’s face is truly incredible.

We have said for years that we wish we had grandparents near us, we want for our boys to grow up knowing their grandparents and lets be honest, people who WANT to babysit your kids can be a huge help in a pinch! 🙂 Johnny’s parents go out of their way to travel to wherever we are living in the world and visit us and the boys and they regularly Skype with us and make sure we know we are loved and thought about. And now that we’re living in Florida, my mom AND my sister are living a 30 second walk away. It’s been almost ten years since I have lived near my family and it brings more joy to my heart than I can express when my boys literally race each other to the door when Grandma or Auntie Bam walks in. Ezra usually wins for now, but once Hudson is walking I think it will be a close race. I mean let’s be honest, who has a cooler Grandma or Auntie that these two?

We have (in my opinion) the most wonderful friends and family that anyone could ever ask for. We get to spend our life working in ministry and seeing Jesus do amazing things. And even more importantly than the incredible things I have already talked about, we are the children of a beautiful God who loves us even more than I love my own children. Unfathomable. But true.

Today was a little rough, but it was a lot more wonderful than it was rough. I just needed to write it all down to remind myself how true that is. And I get to hang out with this handsome face everyday, life could be WAY worse!

Besides, who needs a car? Ezra would think riding a horse around town was way cooler anyway.

Reminding myself today to…

Cherish the moment.

❤ Kelsey

Today I Was A Pirate

Today we made a robot costume out of boxes and tin foil and for a little while Ezra was EzBot2009.

Today, while sitting on the couch, I was attacked by the littlest red Power Ranger, and had to defend myself from his skilled combat moves.

Today we went to the park and the playground quickly morphed into a pirate ship and I was surrounded by “Ezra Matey” and “Daddy Matey”. People for blocks could hear, “Come on my ship Mommy Matey!!!”

Today we took Ezra’s garage sale treasure, a Lighting McQueen power wheels, out to our apartment complex’s tennis court and it immediately became The Piston Cup racetrack and Ezra was a race car driver.

Tonight I put my Ezra in bed and while he is fast asleep who knows how many more amazing things he will become and how many daring adventures he will go on.

I am daily astounded by his imagination, his creativity, his love for life, his desire for adventure, his willingness to try new things, his fearlessness, his excitement about a simple puppet show, or a box covered in tin foil, or a blanket fort, or an interesting leaf on the ground. Being a parent is about raising children, but I honestly believe that they teach us just as much.

My hope and prayer as I raise my boys is that I will help them grow and mature into men who love the Lord, who love people, and men who follow the calling placed on their life. But I also hope and pray that instead of focusing so much on them growing up “right” and always behaving in public, that I will choose to let them be kids. That I will choose to let them get dirty, be loud, act silly, laugh hard, create and imagine, dream, go on wild adventures, and that I will be right there next to them, covered in dirt, laughing hysterically, making a scene, not caring who sees me.

I take life way too seriously sometimes. Being an adult seems to do that to a lot of us.

If you find yourself stuck in that same place, grab a 2 or 3 year old {with their parents permission if they’re not your kid 🙂 } and spend a day doing whatever THEY can dream up. I promise you life will look a whole lot shinier at the end of the day.

Thank you Jesus for Ezra.

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