On play kitchens and parenting…

Lately, everything seems to be moving so quickly.  We sold our 8 year old play kitchen to a couple with a toddler last week…it used to sit in the den next to our kitchen and I got really used to the sound of the fiberboard fridge being opened and shut throughout the day.  It was somewhat soothing actually.  I thought I wouldn’t miss it, but I find myself looking at that corner and wondering what will go in its place.

I’ve been having a battle with my 10 year old, she’s almost 11 and isn’t showering completely on her own yet.  She can usually rinse out her hair but she refuses to learn how to shampoo it, so we told her until she can do both things she can’t have long hair.  I sure don’t remember my mom teaching me these things so I guess I just figured it out?  How do you teach your girl child the art of self-care anyway?  I have no idea.  When she can take care of her hair, she can have it whatever length she wants.  It saves this mama a lot of gnashing of teeth, both on my part and hers.

So she got a haircut, the shortest one she’s had since she was a preschooler, and I love it.  It’s bouncy and a little sassy and so cute.  But it instantly added about five years to her face.  Now all I see is arms and legs and freckles and wait a second…she comes up to my neck already??  One more year of elementary school and this girl is off to middle.  I mean I still feel like I just maneuvered those muddy waters.  What is happening.

Today we had an appointment with a child psychologist.  We brought my 4 year old in to talk about her behavior these last six months.  She’s been increasingly difficult and defiant and the biggest challenge seems to be her impulsivity.  I’ve been wracking my brain for months trying to figure out, “Do I spend enough quality time with her?” “Is she acting out because she’s bored?” “What if I’m not doing enough to get down on her level?” “Good Lord what if this is the way she acts when she’s 14?”  I’m never sure on a day to day basis what thing in my house will be marked on, torn up, thrown away or otherwise destroyed.  Last month she took an entire tube of Neosporin and squeezed it all over her sink.  That was super fun to clean up.  She’s drawn on walls, her dollhouse (sorry Joanna Gaines), hidden her sister’s precious belongings and so many other things.  If she was 2 maybe it would be different?  A 2 year old you’d expect these crazy things from.  An almost 5 year old knows better??  Right??

Anyway, the next step seems to be beginning some kind of behavioral therapy, which I’m certainly not opposed to, I mean, let’s get the child the help she needs…but it’s really just another example of how out of control this whole parenting gig really is.  *They are going to be who they are going to be.*  My eldest loves cats and dragons.  My middle is super sensitive and gets her feelings hurt a lot (Hello, Kettle – I wonder if she’s an Enneagram 4).  My youngest is wheels off and truly jumps into every situation with a lot of bravery.  She isn’t afraid of anything!

I’m learning to embrace the idea that I’m the right mom for this job.  That God gave me these three and I am uniquely equipped to parent them.  But I struggle deeply with fear – the fear that colors everything, from “Oh shit I really blew up that time and all they’ll remember is living in a yelling house” to “What if I don’t know how to teach these three how to shave their legs/use tampons/be kind to others/not be mean girls/all of the things?”

And y’all.  The tension.  That place where we want them to grow up but then again we don’t?  How do we live there?  Truly?  How do we hold on and yet let go??

I have no freaking idea.  That’s the point.  I DON’T KNOW.

But I think probably, surrounding yourself with people who love you and your kids and want the best for you is a start.  You need those other mamas that will talk you down from the crazy ledge.  Because motherhood IS crazy!  How do I know this?  I almost drove home from swim class with poop on my hands, that’s how.  My 4 year old pooped in her swimsuit and then handed it to me without telling me she had done it.  And I HAD NO WIPES IN THE CAR.  OR PLASTIC BAGS FROM TARGET.  The one time.  The ONE time I don’t have wipes or a change of clothes or really anything helpful AT ALL.

In what world is this reality, I ask you???

Good luck out there mamas, you’re going to need it.  And a lot of Jesus.  And wine.  Although I can’t drink any right now because I’m doing a damn 30 day slimdown thing.  So Topo Chico?  Unsweet iced tea?  Not really the same but they’ll have to do.

A Better Way.

About nine months into my re:generation journey at our church, I started to feel the palpable love of God.  It was small at first, a stirring, light and no louder than a whisper.  But as I teetered through the twelve steps it grew.  Years and years of believing that God was the bad guy had me re-learning who He was.  Did He love me?  Did He care about the small things, the desires of my heart?  Was He really directing every step?  What about all the shame I felt? What about those things I was in recovery for: depression, low self-worth and addiction?  What about those God?

I have found that the journey is rarely about the finish line.  It’s not about the prize, the pot of gold, the medal.  It’s what you find out along the way…what you’re made of…who He created you to be…what He created you for…yes, those are the things that make it all worthwhile.  And of course, the greatest prize?  Jesus.  His heart is for our freedom.  He doesn’t withhold to punish us…He gently says, “I know a better way.”

I haven’t been completely honest about my journey these past six years – even to my closest friends – because I’ve carried so much shame.  But as the Lord calls me back to this space I know He wants me to share the freedom I’ve found.  And of course, to be honest about the things I still struggle with…and there are many.

In September of 2016 I walked through the doors of our church sweating bullets.  I remember opening my mouth to introduce myself and wondering if I could even get the words out: “I’m addicted to shopping.  My overspending has put a financial strain on our family and I drink to escape the shame I feel.”

Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

As painful as it is to write those words down, I know that in the revelation of my deepest, darkest struggle, Jesus is there.

Luke 11:36 says: “36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

When you shine a light on the dark corners, there is freedom.  The Enemy wants me to feel shame and condemnation…but my God knows a better way.

Four years later…

Well hello old friend.

It’s hard to know where to begin.

I started this blog 10 years ago, a week or so after Charlie was born.  At first it was just a way to share pictures with the grandparents (isn’t that why everyone started a blog?) but after a few years it started to evolve into something else.  Fast forward to today and we are 12 years into our marriage with three girls, 10, 8 and 4.  When and how did that happen???

If you know me you know that I haven’t written here in awhile – four years, to be exact.  I’m actually not sure why I stopped writing…it wasn’t for lack of material…maybe the rise of Instagram and “micro-blogging” was enough to satisfy that creative need inside of me.  Does anyone read blogs anymore??  I’m not sure.  But for the past few months God has been very clearly calling me back to this space.  I’ve been stalling, wanting it to be perfect – I successfully moved it from Blogger to WordPress but got stuck on the fact that it’s not shiny and splashy – but then Jennie Allen (an incredible Christian writer/speaker that I adore) posted these words on Instagram: “Praise God we don’t have to be awesome – only obedient.  Do what you love!  And you will grow as you go.  And not everything has to be branded perfectly – it just needs to be helpful!”  Well that message was pretty loud and clear – waiting to find the right person to “wave their wand” over my blog and make it beautiful was delaying my obedience, and really, in the end that’s all I’m responsible for.  Whew.  Thanks God for taking it from here.

So I don’t know.  I’m not sure what He has in store for me…I know that I love to write and He’s given me that gift and He wants me to use it.  I used to apologize for it but I know now when He knit me together it was all a part of His plan,  I decided to leave my past posts intact – although as I read them I’m not sure they sound like me anymore.  I mean, it’s been four years, y’all.  A LOT has happened.  But that’s a post for another day.

Living life abundantly.

Sometimes when you really, earnestly pray about something – you aren’t sure if you’re ready to hear the answer.  Ever been there?  You wish and hope and dream about opportunities in life and pray that God will hear you and open a door – and then He does – what do you do then?  Well it seems that God has our family on a major journey this year.  4 years ago this July, we made the huge cross-country move from Chicago to Texas.  It has been the most challenging piece of our marriage and family life so far.  The first four years of our marriage were very safe.  We had our charming apartment in the city, one precious baby, an amazing church and the best group of friends we could ever ask for.  They were our family, for our family was far away.  Charlie was raised with and by those other mamas, and those years still remain some of my very favorites.  But in a way, I feel like we were asleep.  Life was relatively easy and we had figured out how to “do life” in the city well.  Of course there were bad days but honestly, our existence was pretty charmed.  We lived in a before-its-time extremely family-friendly German neighborhood called Lincoln Square, a few blocks from the most delightful bakery that served hot blueberry danishes on Saturdays.  (I’m surprised Charlie isn’t made of blueberries, as I practically existed on those the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy with her!) Life was good.

Fast forward to the fall of 2009, and our spicy Ella was born three weeks early and as is her usual, in very dramatic form.  That winter was the hardest winter I have ever experienced.  I had a horrible case of post-partum and as each day grew shorter and the temperatures dropped I became more and more hopeless.  There was darkness in our married life for the first time. In the midst of the transition from one child to two (which for me, was still harder than two to three) my despair grew and I missed my family desperately.  I wanted to be a short drive from my Mom, I wanted to have the option of seeing her, my Dad and my siblings more than just once or twice a year.  A door opened for Vann in Dallas and we whole-heartedly went for it.  Somehow, I survived that winter and we emerged that spring in full moving mode and then all of a sudden it was time to leave.  This city that I had fallen in love with would now be a vacation destination instead of a home.  10 years of friendships, 10 years of history.

It took a long time for me to feel that community here in Texas.  For the first year of our lives here I mourned leaving all of my friends behind.  We finally got what we wanted and I was still unhappy and lonely a lot of the time.  It wasn’t until I joined my local MOPS group and we started investing in friendships at our church that I started to feel more at home. But the Devil was always at work, because here in the Dallas suburbs it is so much about what you own, how big your house is and how beautifully decorated it is, what your husband does for a living, what activities your children are involved in and sometimes most importantly, what brand of workout clothes do you buy and what kind of bag do you carry?  And listen, I am the worst offender.  My flesh is weak.  I love stuff just as much as the next person.  I am easily distracted by “new” and “shiny” and God has slowly revealed to me over the last 4 years that this epidemic of “stuff” has become my idol.  It has become more important to me than anything else.  Needless to say, buying a house, buying a second car, buying furniture to fill that house, buying all the things you need to set up a new life adds up.  We began praying for some kind of supplemental income to help with those things – but for a long time nothing seemed like the right fit.  Then we got pregnant for the final time and a job for me just wasn’t an option.  How in the world was I going to make something work with three kids under the age of 6?  And really, what in the heck was this former actress and wannabe writer going to do to make any income?

Above all else, our family life was suffering under the weight of financial stress.  Because even though my husband makes an amazing living and we are so blessed by his hard work, there just wasn’t a lot extra for other things.  What if this is the year that our 12 year old air conditioners die on us and we have to replace them?  What if the car we bought from my grandfather that Vann so graciously drives to work breathes its final breath?  What then?  What do we do about those things in life that just happen? But the Lord was always at work, because He always knows the best plan for us.  Deuteronomy 31:8 says: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.  He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

On Good Friday evening this last April, we took our kids over to our dear friend’s house to hang out and spend time together as families.  It was such a good night – proof positive that the Lord does provide these friendships exactly when we need them.  I noticed that my girlfriend’s skin was glowing and of course I asked her what she was doing differently.  She went on to tell me she was using Rodan + Fields products, which I had heard of before but really knew nothing about – and as it turned out she had been selling for them as well the last year.  In my newborn baby fog of course that slipped past me – but as she talked more about the company and what a blessing it had been for their family – I felt this stirring in my heart.  Vann and I went home with a fun sample, tried it that evening and loved it.  I went to sleep that night wondering – Ok, God – what are you trying to tell me?  After 6 months of nursing and sleep training and juggling three kids my tank was on empty.  I brushed off that stirring and moved on with my week.

One of the amazing things about God is that He is persistent, in only the gentle way that He can be. As a former Oprah fanatic, I always remember this quote: “Whispers are always messages, and if you don’t hear the messages, the message turns into a problem.  And if you don’t handle the problem, the problem turns into a crisis.  And if you don’t handle the crisis, disaster.  Your life is speaking to you.  What is it saying?” That next week, as I prayed about this opportunity, it seemed everywhere I looked God was speaking to me.  Only recently having picked back up the discipline of a quiet time and active prayer, after a looooong hiatus, EVERY SINGLE TIME I picked up the Bible or read a devotional from Jesus Calling – it was crystal clear.  Each morning the message went back to trusting in the midst of fear. So as the stirring in my heart grew louder, I started doing some digging on my own and researching R + F and the women who were finding success with it.  And at each little google search or each little review of the amazing products my heart started jumping at the possibility.  These women are girls just like me.  Mothers, teachers, professionals – working in and outside of the home while caring for their families – and making substantial income all in part-time hours. And as I began to really dream about what that could mean for our family, and for others – I knew I needed to start listening.  Because if there is one thing I know, God doesn’t want us running this hamster wheel of turmoil.  John 10:10 says, “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Abundantly!  The desires of God’s heart do not include things like debt and financial strife!  For too long I have lived with this kernel of discontent, of entitlement, this feeling that I deserved these nice things just because they existed and I could have them.  But as is always the case with this fallen world, seeking ANYTHING besides Jesus to fill that hole in your heart will only leave you wanting more.  It will never be enough.  Do you hear that?  Because it’s not about trips and home improvements – and even bags and shoes – because all of those things are great and wonderful and to be enjoyed.  It’s about living in financial freedom, having a safe place to fall when life can and will change on a dime.  It’s about being able to give generously, make bigger plans for how you can support and pour into God’s Kingdom.  These are the things that I truly believe God has for us.

That following weekend, after prayer and counsel and more affirmations, my precious husband turned to me in bed and said, without skipping a beat, “I think you need to do this.  I know you struggle with faith, and I’m telling you that I don’t and you need to do this.” I looked at him with tears in my eyes – because what if I fail?  What if, what if, what if?  Jeremiah 29:11 went ringing through my head, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Yes, Lord – a hope and a future.  A way of earning money that not only brings our family security, but could bless the lives of others as well.  So I jumped in, and as of today I have been “working” for Rodan + Fields Dermatologists for a month.  And can I say, it has blessed me in ways that I never imagined.  God is doing a great work in my heart and the heart of my family.  He is showing me that He knows what’s best – with every little affirmation and encouragement I can see what’s possible in this business and I am so excited.  If you have the slightest inkling of a whisper in your heart about what this kind of income could do for your family, I would LOVE to share more about this amazing company.  And if you are interested in the award-winning products I am so thrilled to represent, make sure you loop back with me to get 10% off and free shipping! Isaiah 46: 3-4 says “Listen to me…I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Tapestry.

There are about a million other things I should be doing right now (if you’ve seen my kitchen you know how quickly the dailies catch up with me) but I can’t get something out of my head.  Ever since I attended Hope Spoken, I’m struggling to get back up on the mountaintop.  The weekend was so beautiful and so Spirit-filled – “this HAS to be what Heaven is like”, I heard a million times over – it’s hard to adjust back to real life. “Tell Your Story” – that’s what Hope Spoken was about.  One night, a year ago, after I read Casey’s blog, I felt the Holy Spirit’s whisper on my heart.  I knew I needed to be buy a ticket to this conference she wrote about – no matter that it was a full year away and I didn’t know one other soul that was attending – I had to go. Last year was a tough one, maybe the hardest in our 8 year marriage.  Despite the addition of our precious Vivie, pregnancy was difficult and life with a newborn and two other children was a huge learning experience.  My mental health the past 4 years has not been the best.  I struggle daily with my insecurities and second guessing.  I am swift to criticize myself.  I was always sensitive, even as a little girl.  Vann always tells me my expectations are too high – that no one can ever live up to what I imagine in my head.  I think empathy plays a big part in that – I never understand why people don’t do things the way I do them.  Or I often find myself being the pursuer in friendships – because I crave intimacy so much, I’ll knock you down to get it.  And I realize I spend so much of my time pursuing, hustling, if you will – and all the while, the Lord is pursuing me.  My Jesus is following after me with so much love, and so much care, and I keep saying (as I do to my kids), “I’ll be right there, hold on a minute, give me a sec”.

One of the biggest lessons I came away from Hope Spoken with is that my ministry for now, is my family.  Trust me when I say, that is no small feat.  I recognize and appreciate the massive responsibility raising three little lives is.  It’s hard to hear that voice say “Wait.  Not now.”  I am impatient and I think I know best for my life.  I want instant gratification.  I want my whole life now. My Mom shared a great analogy with me the other day – what would it be like if we thought of our lives as a great tapestry?  We are underneath and we can’t see the final product – but the Great Weaver can.  He sees all of the beautiful colors, the stories woven together to make a grand, glorious work of art.  We want to see that entire tapestry now.  At least, I do.  Sometimes I think, why bother writing when maybe only a handful of people care about what I have to say anyway?  But a wise, beautiful friend of mine recently told me that she thinks of her writing as her art.  No matter who is reading it, whether it’s one person or 20,000, writing for God is why she sits down and puts her thoughts on the page. And so it seems to me, if I can start offering up to God my simple musings, my ministry – that hopefully at some point – something ministers to you.  If one person resonates with what I have to say then it will be worth it.  Proverbs 3: 5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” The Great Weaver knows where my story goes from here.  My Jesus pursues me, His creation – I am exactly who He created me to be and am exactly where He wants me to be.

Letting Go.

If you had told me I would nurse my baby past 6 months I would never have believed you.  After two very difficult breastfeeding journies with my big girls, I had pretty much resigned myself that the third time would not be the charm.  I prayed about it, sure, and re-read all the books and prepared myself the best way I knew how.  I had a lot of support.  Maybe I was more relaxed, maybe I just didn’t take things as seriously, and therefore, it came easier.  Whatever it was, it has been one of the great joys of my life and an accomplishment I thought I might never experience. Today Baby V had her 6 month well check, and I could tell by her doctor’s face that something needed to be addressed.  The baby spent last week with my Mom so that Vann and I could have a nice break, have some date nights, enjoy the peace and quiet – the big girls were going to my in-law’s farm so it would really be a staycation for us.  The only downside was that I would have to pump for 5 days – something I was willing to do – but I could tell something was up when I was getting very little – and then of course the worry started.

I have been praying about this for about a month or so. Because I’m ready to have some freedom from solely feeding her and pumping. Because I’m ready to be able to eat/drink/take medication/whatever without thinking of someone else first.  Because I’m ready to drop the weight I think my body is hanging onto for the sake of making milk for her. So I’ve been praying, praying that the Lord would prepare my heart for whatever that looked like, that He would give me peace, that the decision would be easily made. And when her doctor showed me the growth chart and said she had fallen off her curve, that she’s lost weight, in fact, weighs less than she did at 4 months – well tears sprung to my eyes and I thought, “Well.  There it is.” I knew in my heart that taking supplements and trying to get my supply back up wasn’t really what I wanted to do, and so we discussed weaning and getting my girl filled up with calories as quickly as possible.  And of course, I’m ok with that, formula is a great option and I have two healthy girls to show for it.  But I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotion that would hit me when I made the decision to wean her. Which makes sense, as she’s my last baby, and this will be the last time I ever make a decision like this.  It also means she’s growing, and getting bigger, as she should, and those early newborn days, as hard as they were, are but a memory now and will continue to be.  So I know that I will mourn this for a bit, and I know that’s to be expected. But it also means, for the first time since December of 2006, I will be myself again.  This woman, this person, apart from my life as a mother, I will be Amanda again. And it makes me think, no KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt, that my God is good and He knew what He was doing these last months as I toiled over whether I should continue or not.  He was giving me those gentle nudges for a reason, as if to say – I see you. I hear you. I know you. I remember, and I haven’t forgotten you.

Ephesians 3:20-2120 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

My Sacred Scared.

One of my favorite writers, Glennon Melton, had a special series on her blog this week called the Sacred Scared.  She asked some of her closest friends to share their innermost insecurities: “Our sacred scared is our deepest fear- the one we hide because we think that if anyone knew about it they wouldn’t love us anymore. What we find when we share our sacred scared is that it’s the very thing we should be sharing more. Because our sacred scared is the key that unlocks our humanity. When we share it, people love us more because we’ve given them permission to love themselves more. Sharing our sacred scared is like handing a world full of messy, waiting people an invitation to show up as they are.” – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/02/18/sacred-scared/#sthash.GSiKZVHd.dpuf

In 2014, if the theme of my life is to be healthier in all ways – spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, among many others – well, what better way to find emotional health than to share that which keeps you prisoner? I’ve certainly written about my “stuff” before on this blog – I’m no stranger to offering up my insecurities and my messiness, in life and in my kitchen:

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I was so surprised that this picture received so many likes on Facebook.  A picture of my crazy, cluttered, busy kitchen – a never-ending mess of lunchboxes, dirty dishes and baby paraphernalia.  It just goes to show you I may not be alone.  What a relief! Anyway, in the vein of the Sacred Scared, here’s mine: I’m afraid I will never be content with my life. There.  I said it.  This girl, this one right here, who is blessed with a fantastic partner, my best friend – a man God clearly made for me – and three beautiful, healthy babies, lives in a constant state of “what’s next?” Man, y’all, it’s an exhausting way to live.  And it covers so many areas of my life, a big one being the career path I walked away from.  This kills me because sometimes I still can’t believe I existed so long in a world where my physical self was scrutinized and poured over at every audition.  I’m shocked that my fragile self was able to survive.  I’ll never forget – shortly after Vann and I returned from our honeymoon in Italy and I was coming down from our never-ending pasta and vino high – my agent took one long look at me from top to bottom and asked me if I had gained some “happy wedding weight” and told me I needed to lose five pounds.  And this was BEFORE my three precious girls ravaged my body into something I don’t recognize.  Now I feel so incredibly far from those days of auditioning in Chicago that it hurts.

When I was single and working I wanted to be married and have babies.  Now that I have those (wonderful) things, I miss the days of freedom and doing things that affect (and benefit) only me.  Listen, every actor who is honest with themselves would admit they have a bit of a narcissist living inside of them.  It goes with the territory: you want people to tell you how great you are, how talented you are, to applaud you, give you accolades.  You want to win that coveted role, the one every other ingénue in town is vying for.  You NEED it.  You need to know that you are great.  Motherhood doesn’t give you that feeling of success.  No one is applauding your peanut butter sandwiches – to the contrary it’s often “Oh, Mom!  I don’t like [insert child’s most bemoaned food here]”, pushing the plate away with a nose pointed upwards.  Motherhood is often a thankless job – let’s be honest, it is.  In the grand scheme of things, the big picture, the benefits and blessings of Motherhood far outweigh the day-to-day struggles – but when you’re in it, you’re in it.  Your husband will tell you you’re a great Mom, heck, you might even get to go have lunch with your girlfriends on Mother’s Day and toast cocktails and laugh that you made it another year.  But you’re not getting any stellar reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times.  No one is bringing you bouquets of flowers and taking you out for opening night drinks.  That is just truth.

This manifests itself in many different ways.  One is in my physical body.  The one I struggle to even look at in the mirror somedays.  The one where I know that no matter how many crunches I do or how clean I eat, nothing but surgery will take away that wrinkly skin that three c-sections left me with.  And you can wax poetic all the day long about where your babies came from and how romantic it is that that those stretch marks stand for something – but do they really?  And what if it doesn’t matter what they stand for?  The truth is they just make you sad when you look at them. Too much?  This is my Sacred Scared, friends.  Do you still love me even as I’m sharing the worst of the worst of my insecurities? This also manifests itself in how I spend money, my love for stuff, forever trying to fill that void and make up for the years we spent as a nomadic family, 3 high schools in as many years, no roots, forever moving, forever starting over.  I feel sad, I order something online, I feel better.  I covet homes with clean baseboards.  I hate our white oven, which should certainly be stainless steel.  We have no furniture in our front room, and sometimes it makes me angry.  I am forever chasing this dream of a better home, a better kitchen, a better backyard, a better wardrobe, a better self.

There is good news though, friends – God blessed me with a wise and loving partner, who takes me for all my faults and insecurities and loves me anyway – and he said to me recently that I needed to “stay in my own lane” – meaning, when I’m focused on myself and what I need to do to better myself and keep myself in tune with God’s voice – well, I’ll be less focused on others and the discontent I struggle so honestly with. And I’ve been thinking a TON about this.  I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and have thought a gratitude journal might be a fantastic exercise for me.  The more I can focus on the things I have to be thankful for – living a life of gratitude – my heart and all its wanderings will find the peace I know God so lovingly gives.  Thankfully, I’m not alone in this.  God knows my heart.  He knows I love my family desperately. But guess what?  I am an imperfect, sinful person, only brought whole by my Savior.  Truth: I will forever covet that vacation on Facebook and long for the life I once knew – until I can fill that void with the only One it was made for.  Period. It’s my hope in this new year that I can find my way through the muck and the mire of discontent to a life full of gratitude – truly, to that place in my heart that my Lord resides.

How Marvelous…

Today was one of those days that sort of flies by – school drop-offs, laundry, an endless loop of chores that never seem to be done.  I nursed the baby every 3 1/2 hours and put her down for naps, managed to order some Christmas presents and make myself a quick lunch.  Made a couple phone calls for Dr.’s appointments and confirmed plans for Thanksgiving with my Mom.  It wasn’t until 1 pm that I realized I hadn’t really TALKED to another person.  Like, really had a conversation that didn’t consist of factual information.  By the time I did the pick-up routine and busied the girls for the afternoon, my mind had reached this frenzied state.  I had spent the whole day having conversations in my mind, reciting to-do’s and going over how much milk I needed to freeze to cover our New Year’s getaway.  When Vann walked in the door, he remarked that I seemed “on edge” – and he was right.  I was.  I was UNDER-socialized.  I think that’s one of the scary things “they” don’t tell you about motherhood – how utterly isolating it can be.  We all have these days, right?  You’re scouring Facebook, and all you see are the kidless vacations and fabulous playdates – vacations that feel very far away when you are cradling a newborn and playdates that seem, dare I say, glamorous when you have baby spit-up on your neck that you haven’t had the time to wash off, oh, in 2 days?

There are times, after living in the “big” city for 10 years, pursuing a dream I thought would be a reality, a life that was mine and mine alone, that I wonder what the next chapter will be, when my kids are all in “big” school and I’m left with all those hours without little ones to diaper and potty train and put in time-out.  What does the Lord have for this would-be writer, budding merchandiser, Shakespeare-loving dreamer?  What is the next piece of my story?  I wish I had a small picture of it now, to get me through the long days.  And I’m sure I will look back on these years fondly, as many people do.  I just wish I didn’t feel so damn lonely sometimes.  And it’s not for lack of people that love me – God knows we have been loved fiercely by our friends, especially this third time around.  But out of sight, out of mind – and I fear that’s the case with people sometimes.  I mean, we’re all doing our best, as my hubby likes to remind me.  Most people, are doing the best they can.  Little V is 10 weeks today.  The evening fussiness has drastically improved, she’s basically dropped the middle-of-the-night feed and is going 10:30 – 6 or 7 most days.  She’s smiling back more, cooing a bit and generally a very sweet baby.  It’s hard to believe that 10 weeks ago the Doc “made a door and pulled her out” (a quote from the Real Housewives of Atlanta that I just love, shows you what I’ve been watching a lot of these days) – and that part of my life as a woman is over.  The baby-making part.  I am officially done, physically and otherwise.  And while I knew this day would come, I am conflicted.  It was time, for us – we knew 3 made us complete.  But at some point in the not so distant future, I will send little V off to Kinder and be faced with what’s next.  Because it does really go as fast as they say.

I hope if you’re a Mom to little ones you have your village around you.  I don’t know what I would do without mine.  Today was a lonely day.  But I guess I was too wrapped up in all of it to notice at the time.  It’s only now, after the house is quiet and all seems real, that I am aware of it.  And maybe next time I will do a better job of reaching out for my village.  Because just because you have three kids it doesn’t mean you don’t struggle with the same things you did when you were first running these roads.  Motherhood is a journey.  You are watching pieces of your heart literally walk around you, living their little lives outside of your body.  It is the greatest exercise in letting go that ever existed.  Plain and simple, you are not in control.  You are doing the work.  The good work that the good Lord set out for you to do. And for now, that’s enough.  And don’t misunderstand.  It really, really is enough.  More than enough.  This song came on Pandora as I’m writing this:

I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous) I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
Chorus:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

This made me think – see, Amanda, He sees you, load after load of laundry, hours upon hours of nursing that baby, taking your 4 year old to the potty – especially when she insists on taking off ALL of her clothes to go to the bathroom – not having dinner ready most nights of the week, Christmas decorations strewn haphazardly all over the house, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for the 50th time today – He sees all of it and He knows.  And how marvelous, indeed.

Month #1 in the books…

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past month what I wanted to write about our sweet Vivie Clare’s entrance into the world.  The truth is, never has a birth been more planned and gone more on schedule.  Aside from gestational diabetes for the third time (which I managed with diet and a lot of complaining), we literally pulled up into the circle drive of the hospital we were to deliver at, got out, checked in at 10 am, were prepped and ready by noon, and had the baby by 12:33 sharp. I was nervous this time, though – which I don’t remember being the case when the other two were born.  It’s no secret my husband is not a fan of needles, so we called in a close friend to sit with me during the prep process – I needed someone to take my mind off all of the unknowns.  Thank you, Casey, for not being squeamish and for being more than ok with all those TMI moments that truly make you friends for life.  As I write this my hubby is off work this week playing Mr. Mom.  And can I say, I could get used to this??  After having lunch with the girls this morning at Charlie’s school, he came home and swooped up the baby and Ella and is now taking the new Joovy for a spin.  After a long night with a restless newborn and feeling a bit like a milk cow this morning, it’s so precious to have even an hour of silence and solitude – not having to be anything for anyone but myself.

So what have I learned in the last month?  I’ve learned that caring for a newborn is serious business.  Yes, I know, I’ve done this twice before, but it was almost 4 years ago and it is kind of amazing that we forget all of the unpleasantness of those early sleepless nights.  And I have – forgotten a lot.  How to swaddle, how to care for my c-section incision, how to take it easy and recover… I think the hardest part of all of this is giving myself grace and letting myself heal.  I’m so ready to be back up and running.  I’m so ready to get the rest of this baby weight off so I can wear my skinny jeans again.  I’m so ready to not have to pack my wound with gauze and not feel like I’m tied to my recliner nursing 24-7.  I say all of this, with the full knowledge and appreciation that Miss Vivian Clare is a really good baby.  We had our first bout with some epic spit-up last night, but she generally only cries when she’s hungry, needs to be changed, or needs to burp.  I’m loving all the little newborn noises, squeaks and toots.  And how can you be mad at a baby that just wants to nuzzle into your neck and fall asleep? People told me that three kids is no joke, they were right.  I can see down the road to the future of our family and I’m so excited at the thought of three little girlies running through our house, giggling and calling out each other’s names.  The future looks bright, no doubt – but man, it is hard right now.

When my Mom was here for the first three weeks after V was born we had a handle on the dishes and the laundry.  She runs a tight ship and I give her huge props.  Now that she’s gone, those things have taken a bit of a backseat.  I feel the need to apologize to those friends who stop by to see her – “excuse the mess” I say – knowing full well it doesn’t matter to them, nor should it matter to us.  These first few months are really about surviving – did you know that I haven’t slept in my bed since I’ve been home from the hospital?  I started sleeping upright in the recliner in our bedroom because of my incision and now it just seems normal to stay there, knowing every 3 hours I’m ending up there anyway.  Nursing is going great – better than the first two times and it looks like we’re in it for the long haul – that is, if we can make it to that magical 6-8 week time period where everyone tells me it “gets SO much better!”. And I filled my prescription for my anti-depressant meds – so far so good on the baby blues but I do feel like there have been moments where I see that “dark night of the soul” at 3 am and it seems as though it won’t ever get any better.  I know this is a lie, as I’ve lived it before – but nevertheless, my medication is at the ready for the time I feel it’s necessary. My friend Casey shared some truth with me after a particularly restless night –

Psalm 62: 5-8: 5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God[c];
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Something about the middle of the night can feel so oppressive, even when you’re cradling a tiny baby and it doesn’t feel like you will ever crawl up out of the trenches again.  Because that’s what we are, my hubby and I – war buddies.  Wading through this thing called life and birth and learning to prop each other up when the other just can’t take a step further.  So thankful for my team on the homefront. And so, so thankful for my “village” – because it really does take one when you’re a Mom, doesn’t it?  So many thank you’s to write: help with pick up’s and drop off’s of the older two, giftcards left on our doorstep, tee tiny baby girl outfits gifted at the hospital, boxes of macarons and sweet treats brought by and sent in the mail, baskets of baby goodies given to my girl and let’s not even start on the meals – as I’m quite sure the warmth and deliciousness of what’s been brought by our house these last few weeks has literally kept us going.  And that’s just the beginning, just our Texas “village” – that’s not including the texts, calls, gifts and love that’s come from our village up in the Windy City.  God is good, all the time!

Thank you to my friends for everything – you have made this transition easier and your thoughtfulness has touched our hearts deeply.  I’m quite certain that once our girl is sleeping longer stretches at night and (gasp!) has been moved upstairs to her own room, we will feel human again.  Until then, we are trying to give each other A LOT of grace and know that if the house doesn’t get cleaned and the girls watch a bit too much TV this month, it will all be ok.  It will get better.  To all my first-time Mom friends – it WILL get better.  Take heart that you are not the first, or the last to walk this road of newborn bewilderment.  And keeping this tiny human alive for a month?  Well, give yourself a pat on the back because that truly is a feat!  It’s awesome and something to celebrate, for sure.

Trouble been doggin’ my soul…

I really didn’t think I’d do much blogging this summer – but something has been on my heart these past few weeks especially and after I read this post by my favorite blogger Glennon Melton this morning – I just had to sit down and put the pen to paper, so to speak. The way she writes about her struggles with depression and anxiety – oh my goodness it’s as if she was here in my kitchen and I was telling her about this summer and how I am just not doing well at ALL.  Looking back on these last 35 years I think it’s pretty safe to say depression has been a friend of mine.  I waded through it in my early 20’s and after a pretty scary bout with suicidal thoughts got on meds for a time and found it really helped.  Years later, I had PPD after Ella was born and I really don’t know how I could have come back otherwise.  The meds and a combination of lots of vitamin D, pounding the pavement with the double stroller and my mom’s group at church – well as a dear friend told me at the time, “for such a time as this” – I unashamedly stayed on those meds and only weaned off them this past January when I found out I was pregnant with baby #3.

I am a sensitive soul on a normal day, but this summer has been a real beating on my self-esteem and self-awareness.  I can’t seem to think straight – and as Glennon says in her post – “slogging through Jell-O” is EXACTLY the way it feels on a bad day. Don’t get me wrong – the bad days aren’t EVERYday – but they are quite often.  And no matter how much I pray, or talk through it with God, or my precious, patient husband – I have come to realize that I am just a much better mother, friend, daughter, sister – on my medication than off.  And that’s just the truth.  On the bad days, I feel like I can’t seem to discern what’s real and what’s not.  Obsessing over what people think or don’t think has become a real problem for me.  Add pregnancy hormones and triple digit temps and y’all – I am just a freakin’ mess over here.  I HATE feeling out of control.  This isn’t me.  I consider myself to be a pretty blessed and lucky gal, with a great family and a husband who provides a wonderful home and life for me and our (soon-to-be) 3 girls.  I believe in a great big HUGE God who created me and loves me and doesn’t make mistakes.  Fearfully and Wonderfully made.  I recognize that this is a lot to take in for some people.  For me, it’s about being brave and sharing the deepest parts of my heart.  Life is just too short, am I right? So I’m doing the best I can, as I suspect we ALL are.  Some of us just need a little extra help.  And that, my friends, is totally and completely ok.