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936Pennies Motherhood

I blinked.

May 10, 2017

I blinked. They told me not to, but I did. Who can stop it, anyhow? None of us, that’s who.

I blinked and your pudgy bare toes gripped tight to blades of green grass as you stood to your feet for the first time. I stared at you in disbelief from my knees, pausing from my task of plucking snap peas from their vine. Why did I blink?

I blinked and you clung to Daddy in that hammock with one hand, the other hand pointing to the clouds as planes soared across the blue sky, looping far above your head of white blonde curls. You shrieked in delight as you watched them.

I blinked and that test window blinked back at me. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Pregnant”. And then there was your brother.

I blinked and you timidly walked into the hospital room holding your Auntie’s hand. You approached slowly, taking in the sight of your mama on that strange bed in a silly gown, holding that tiny bundle of uncertainty. You kept your distance. But not for long.

Because I blinked, and then you were best friends.

I blinked and the two of you spent the entire day in the garden helping me dig and pull and plant and nurture. I blinked and you helped me pick of our bounty, warm red strawberry juice slipping down your chins.

I blinked and your little brother stared back at me from that crib, “I wub you,” the words slipping from his mouth for the very first time as I kissed him goodnight.

I blinked and again that plastic window blinked back. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Not Pregnant”. But I knew. And the next morning it agreed, “Pregnant”.

I blinked as I watched you and your brother bound through piles of fall leaves, your laughter mixing a melody with the birds’ songs from the trees. I blinked back the tears and the doubt, how would we do this again so soon?

I blinked at that screen illuminating the dark room, your grandma sitting next to me, us both watching to see. “I’m calling your doctor,” the nurse spoke. I blinked and the tears slipped down my cheeks.

I blinked and your baby brother came much sooner than I anticipated. Time stood still with him nestled in my arm, three days in that room just us, me getting to know him, and coming to see that we needed him. Yes, time stood still, but then I blinked.

I blinked and you and your brother held our tiny baby, and I knew it. In no time you’d be best friends.

I blinked and our whole world changed. From city to mountains. A whole new world for us to make our own. I blinked and it became just that—home.

I blinked and again there was new life in my womb. But then I blinked again and oh how I wish I hadn’t, because then that life was gone.

I blinked, and time went on. But our baby would remain in that time, those three days, until we meet again.

I blinked and your baby brother licked chocolate icing from his birthday candles. I wrapped myself warm in a blanket as the three of you bounded across rocks and slipped toes into icy river water.

I blinked back tears as I told you that I felt like a bad mom. I had yelled too much, I told you. “It’s ok,” you spoke back without even a moment to think. “I will always forgive you when you do something wrong” you told me.

I blinked and you became this little human who somehow understands love and grace and beauty on much deeper levels than I do.

They tell us not to blink. “It’ll be over before you know it.” They say. But how do we stop this constant reflex, a counting of time from birth until grave, a rhythmic reaction alongside of heartbeat and inhale and exhale. We cannot.

So I will keep blinking and you will keep growing and we’ll keep doing this dance of counting time and making time count. Because one day those words from friends and family and strangers will ring true. I will blink and it will be over. Only it won’t. Because we counted time. We slowed it and savored it and told it who was boss. And its treasures will always abide in our hearts—yours and mine—for forever’s keeping. So keep on making time so sweet, little one. Let’s make this business of blinking a sweet legacy of time well spent.

 

 

Living With Intention Motherhood

The Day I Nearly Killed My Son’s Compassion

February 17, 2017

Each cry from the back seat added another layer of tension to my shoulders as they hunched up closer and closer to my neck. My toddler was long overdue for a nap after a morning of running errands. Running errands is one thing. Running errands with three small children in car seats, who cannot buckle or unbuckle themselves, is a whole different thing. I was long overdue for a nap, too.

But that is when my middle boy spoke up softly. “Mom, look at that man. He does not have any food. We should give him some food.” This child, all of three years old with his soft voice and strong words knows exactly how to put a halt to the rush of our days.

I had seen the man too, of course, out of the corner of my eye. The toddler wailing and my blood pressure rising, I had hoped silently that the boys would not see him—would not suggest that we stop to help. Not today. Not now, when there is so much to be done. But then my boy reminded me that there was only one thing to be done, actually—and that was to help.

My boy’s words on that day, and his older brother’s exclamation of, “Wow, I feel great now!” after we rolled down the window and handed the man a gift card to a sub shop across the street—their words have stuck with me all these months later. Words that unearth the roots of your selfishness often do that. They stick. Not only did they show me a hard place in my heart, but they showed me a soft, strong place in my son’s heart; one bent on helping those in need. And I’ve come to see now that children are born with this bent within them.

Yes—kids are born selfish at their very nature; entering the earth with only needs of their own. But I believe that they are also born in the image of God; a God of great compassion towards those in need. And that compassion must be nurtured and encouraged, lest it be snuffed out by society.

Lest it be snuffed out by a mother in the thick of a rushed day, just trying to get home so the toddler can nap.

Last week at church we were given a bottle. Along with it, we were given the challenge of filling this bottle with change over the next few weeks. Then, with the bottle full, we’ll return it to church, where the money will be given to a local organization with a mission to help mothers and unborn babies.

As I picked up that bottle in my hand, it did not escape me that this is not the first time we have been given a container for change in church. Immediately I was brought back to that little stage, our toddler boy in my arms, the glass jar full of 936 pennies. I thought of the challenge we were given, to remove one penny every week; a poignant reminder of time being spent, and how are we spending it?

I stare now, these years later, at this bottle in my hands, ready to be filled for hurting mothers and endangered babies. I think of the organization helping mothers, and making sure that their babies will have a chance at their own 936 pennies. Their own 936 weeks with a family who loves them. And so we take our bottle home—three actually—to be filled.

Our boys have been doing just that. Day by day they ask for jobs to earn money. They’ve had their little hearts set on remote control cars for weeks, and have been working hard towards filling their own change jars, envisioning that trip to the store, and the picking out of their prized cars.

This week has been different, ever since bringing those bottles home. Now each day, after their hard work is done and it comes time to be paid, they divvy out their coins. One for their own jar, one for the moms and babies who need help. My second boy, the one who stopped us to help that homeless man on the side of the street months ago—he puts the majority of his change in the bottle for the moms and babies.

I count it grace that this comes so easy for them. It’s not always the case for me—take the example of the day I tried to drive by the homeless man. I see inconvenience. My sons see a Good Samaritan moment.

These Good Samaritan moments, and the conversations surrounding them, they teach our children, in a soft manner, the hard things of this world. As we talk about homelessness, moms who are frightened, babies without parents, and children without food—we coat the conversations with How Can We Help? And in doing so, our children grow up with an understanding that yes—this world is hard. It can be lonely and evil and scary and it is most definitely hurting. But—we can help. And this plants within them a sense of hope and purpose. It preserves that compassion engrained in their young hearts, so that it can outlast the hardship they will see and face as they grow. 

It teaches them that whenever within our power, we are never to just keep on driving. Because this world needs more people whose sense of compassion was never snuffed out as a child. This world needs more difference makers.

Faith Life Seasons Motherhood

When Your Limitations Are Staring You Straight In The Face

February 9, 2017

I saw it coming, though ever so subtly. I would be sitting at a table talking with a friend, and the whole room would shift as if balancing on a delicate axis. I’d sip water and concentrate hard—on anything—until it would pass, only to have it wash over me again like a line of unending waves in the ocean. It quickly accelerated from occasional to everyday. I’d find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a project, and having to brace the table before me to steady myself, although I wasn’t actually falling—yet. And so, on the day when it finally gave way, I was not too surprised to find myself collapsed on the couch for the whole of an afternoon.

It is difficult to remember that this used to be my regular existence.

Over a decade ago when I sat in that sterile room, my parents in those cheap chairs next to the exam table where I sat fidgeting; the doctor spoke it, “Yes, she does have Addison’s Disease”, and I wonder if we knew at all what it meant.

Back on that day, we wondered whether it would mean that I may not be able to have those three babies I kiss goodnight every evening now. Or that I should probably never try anything like running that half marathon I completed a couple of years ago, our third boy nestled safe in my womb as I crossed the finish line. I don’t think we knew back on that day, in that little room, when words of prescriptions and doses and tests were exchanged, really what kind of life I could expect to live. If I could ever chase big dreams like writing books or starting businesses or raising babies. We had no idea what to expect, aside from limitations.

Sometimes, on the hinge of words spoken or a diagnosis given or our own doubts crowding—we become a little afraid to dream. Because who wants to dream a dream that their limitations—be them physical, emotional, or other wise—will never allow them to chase after? 

In that first handful of years following my diagnosis, my parents fought hard to dissect this disease, and learn every little detail of how it might be affecting my body. And they fought even harder to encourage me to never stop dreaming. And then, five years after we sat in that sterile room, they handed over the position of Chief Encouragers to my husband, as we stood on that altar and exchanged vows. And as he took my hand, he eagerly took on that responsibility to never let me give up on my dreams.

And he’s kept that vow.

And so, on weeks like these, when seasonal colds and stressful weeks culminate in my disease reminding me—hey, I’m still around—I’m caught a bit off guard.

We have a way of forgetting about our limitations. Somehow we become comfortable with them. We tame them. We create a system, balance the weights, and set up safe guards. It’s what my husband and I have been fighting for over the past years, as we’ve learned how to live a life abundantly—with a chronic illness. It’s a good thing. But then, when we finally become comfortable and well adjusted—we round a corner to find those inhibitions staring us in the face—the floor falls out from beneath us.

Whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—whatever these limitations be, they have a way of reminding us that we are but clay and dirt and finite. We are limited. And it hurts, to want such big and beautiful and wondrous things for our lives, but to feel terribly hindered by things outside of our control. It hurt this week, in the midst of big dreams and plans and deadlines, to lay on that couch unable to even make dinner for my family.

And yet, I am discovering that my limitations are an invite.

This week, they invited me to lay and read that book I’ve been too busy to pick up. They invited me to watch my boys as they ran circles around the house in boy-made Superhero capes, exclaiming “It’s my pleasure!!” Every time I would ask them to grab my notebook or my blood pressure cuff.

My limits were my invite to not care about the dirty socks and half-completed art projects scattered across the floor, but instead to hold my toddler boy as he waited for me to fix his Lego truck. My limits were my invite to remember that I am, indeed, limited—and that’s ok. In fact, once in a while, I need to remember those limits. Because they have this stunning way of springing up within me a longing for that which is above and beyond and bigger than me and my limits. They make me ache for my Creator, who made me wonderfully, and calls me Very Good. The One who is my strength in weakness, my ever-present help. These physical limitations that drive me to that couch or my bed—they also drive me to my knees in prayer. And call me crazy, but it makes me a little bit fond of these hindrances.

Our limits have a thing or two to teach us about ourselves, our loved ones, and the pace of life. Sometimes they are our invite to rest, when we’ve been to stubborn to give ourselves a break. They invite us to ask for help, to accept grace, to stop. Refocus. Refresh. Restart. and Remember the One who gave us life, calls us to great things, and gives us everything we need—right in the midst of our limitations—to pursue those great things.

Back on that day when the doctor handed me a diagnosis I couldn’t, at fourteen years old, begin to understand the intricacies of, I couldn’t have anticipated the gifts hidden within. Limitations are funny like that, don’t you think? A blessing in disguise, if we choose to see and treat them as such. What is that limitation staring you in the face today? They stand there, intimidating and threatening and discouraging—and inviting. Take the invite today. The one that calls you to your knees, to rest, and to embrace a life that says that we are not enough—and that’s ok.

Faith Family Motherhood

When I Run Out Of Compassion For My Children

February 3, 2017

I felt him climbing ever so precariously across the bed towards me; each small movement pulling me further out of my sleep. He laid down across my stomach, face centimeters from mine, his little boy morning breath warm against my skin. I opened my eyes to just a squint and found them peering into his soft baby blues. “Mom.” He began, ever so matter of factly, “You are not making me breakfast.”

And so my day began.

As do many of them, right here in the beautiful mayhem of raising three small children. It seems as though most mornings, the boys roll out of bed right along with their constant stream of requests, ready to meet me before the dawn of the day, or any chance at that first cup of coffee.

Motherhood, at its very core, is a demanding call. It requires that we serve and serve and serve some more, and then wake to do it all over again tomorrow. It is sweet and humbling and wonderful—and depleting. And sometimes, if I am honest, I just don’t feel like giving any more. Or, I feel as though there is nothing left to give even if I tried. I’m guessing you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are right now.

It was in one of those extra demanding seasons, when I was feeling suffocated under projects and deadlines and baskets of dirty laundry and endless requests for more snacks or another episode of Thomas The Train that I glimpsed something within myself. And when I did, it stopped me in my tracks.

It was a recent morning while studying a passage with a room full of other mothers that I saw it. Or rather Him. Jesus— and His disciples, anchoring their boat along the shore, exhausted and hungry and anticipating rest and dinner. It came after a long shift of serving and healing and performing miracles and teaching. They were weary, and ready for a break. Much like I feel every single afternoon.

“And He (Jesus) said to them, Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while. (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) And they went away in a boat to a lonely place by themselves.)” Mark 6: 30-32

In all of the serving, they didn’t even find time to eat. Sound familiar? The anticipation of a break was palpable. But then…

“The people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.”

Their break— hijacked. I know the feeling; the disappointment, the frustration. When you lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes, and then you hear that little voice calling your name from the other room. When you manage to wake earlier than the kids for a few moments and a cup of coffee to yourself, and they choose that morning to wake extra early, stealing that time away. Or when you lay them down for a nap, retreat to your desk, open the laptop to catch up on work, and he comes out asking if nap time is over yet. Your whole body aches for that little bit of rest. So much so that you can hardly even enjoy it when it comes, unsure of how long it will last. You’re afraid to drift into that sleepful state, lest a tiny voice yank you out of it, asking for another drink before bed.

And when those interruptions come, it becomes all too easy to overact; to voice my rights—what I feel I deserve after all of my serving. But then I look to that shore where Jesus and His disciples had just landed their boat, licking their lips at the thought of grilled fish and breathing deep at the anticipation of a good night sleep. And I see Jesus’ reaction.

“And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

I have serious doubts that those “many things” Jesus began to teach the people were of His need for rest and their selfish actions to interrupt said rest. No, He showed compassion; without beating an eye or groaning under His breath. He laid aside His rights, and what He very much deserved, and He chose love.

Of course, He is Jesus. I, on the other hand, am a flawed Mom. Weary, tired, and often times selfish. But then, the Word says that He took on flesh. And, standing there on that shore teaching the multitudes—He certainly had. Flesh and blood and heavy eyes. Just as He would soon know the very real sensation of whips ripping apart His flesh before His crucifixion, I am willing to bet that He felt the very real sensation of fatigue after a very long week of serving.

He has been there, and He meets us there today, too, in our very desperate places. When we want to give up. When we don’t know how to keep giving. When we feel a little lost in this calling of motherhood. And He shows compassion to us, too. He meets us in our weakest places.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The same compassion poured out over the multitude who chased them down and hijacked their rest—poured out over us in our most weary moments. It is a beautiful thing, to embrace His strength within us. To believe in it, live in it, claim it as true, and see it produce a new sort of compassion within us—one born of His grace, unfazed by the circumstances surrounding us.

And in those times when we do just need rest or a few moments of quiet, and the interruptions come—may our voices be laced in compassion when we explain to our children, “Mama just needs a few moments.” Or to our husband, “I really could use a couple hours by myself this weekend.” May compassion wind its way around our hearts, and through our actions and words.

Let’s embrace that kind of compassion today; the compassion Christ offers to each one of us, the kind that lifts us out of our tired, emptied state, and up to new heights. This compassion that overflows in us, out to our children, and can change the entire culture of our homes, and the legacy of our family. That kind of compassion that only Christ can create within us, when we run to Him on that shore, hungry for truth.

“but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When You Are An Introvert Raising An Extrovert With “So Many Words”

January 9, 2017

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“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t let you nap.”

My eyes are closed. I lay in my bed next to my five-year-old; his little brothers sound asleep in their rooms. He goes on. “It’s just that I have so many words. And I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.”

This seems to be the case lately. And can I just say it…that it’s exhausting? It is said that women speak, on average, around 20,000 words a day. Just the thought of that exhausts me. I am not, and have never been that woman. In fact, one reason my husband and I fit so well together is that we have a bit of a role reversal; he has always been the talkative one. During arguments (and yes, they do happen), he likes to talk things over, while I would rather employ the silent treatment, mull things over in my mind, and take a nap. I have never been the talkative type.

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And then I gave birth to the boy who is his father’s son. Just as Zeke put it that day lying next to me in my bed—he just has so many words. And some days, like today, it infuriates me. To get the same point across, I might use five carefully chosen words, while my boy would use twenty-seven to say the very same thing.

It has been a real struggle lately, to remain patient when I feel downright drained in every single way. He rounds the corner with another question, another idea, even another, “I love you Mom and you are the most beautiful Mom I know!” and it is just the sweetest thing. And exhausting.

If you’re the quiet type of mom who treasures her scarce moments of silence hidden amongst the chaos and noise of her day, you might just be nodding your head right now.

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It has been this terribly complex dynamic to wrap my mind around. As we prepare for my book to launch, which includes public speaking, I’m diving into this whole new exhilarating world. And I love it. I love speaking words that move people. And seeing them literally relax under those words and find space to breath again; wisdom to move forward. I love every single bit of it.

I also love quiet.

And how do I balance this type of life, where I can hardly call myself an introvert, because of my love for community and speaking, and yet holding a million conversations a day with my child is downright draining? I’m at a loss, most days. Maybe you feel the same, trying to keep up with just so many words from your little one.

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But on those days when I’m given a bit of extra clarity, I see it. That these “so many words” that my boy holds bottled up within him, they are his byway from young child to adolescent, and eventually adult. They are his only way to make sense of this world around him, where still so much makes very little sense at all.

His endless questions and limitless ideas, they are his only way to express all of those wonderings bottled up in that budding mind of his. With these “so many words”, he is trying to piece together all of the confusion, uncertainty, curiosities, and misunderstandings that surround him. And he is trying to figure out where he fits in it all.

These “so many words”, they need to be spoken, to find a voice and a space and an answer. It pains him to bottle them up. Just as he told me that day on my bed, “I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.” It is just the same with my writing. A thought or an idea enters into my mind, and I feel I must find a home for it somewhere. Whether it be in a notebook or a file on my phone or a text to my husband or straight here to the blog. It has to go somewhere, or else it might just disappear into oblivion, never to mature, develop, or move people. My boy feels the same with his ideas of snowboard designs and race car tracks and inventions. He needs those ideas and thoughts and questions and words to have a home, lest he lose them. And my listening ear provides him that sanctuary for his ideas, where he knows they’ll be safe.

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Every time we stop to listen to our child’s words, to really listen, and to answer, it is an invite. It invites them to be vulnerable and curious and to dream. And it invites us to step into their world, and glimpse those wonderings that dance about in their head all day long.

This open invite into their world, it’s a gracious offering that our children give us, and we can’t know for how long it will last. How long until they begin guarding those words; bottling them up and hesitant to share them with us? Now is the time, while our children are young, that we can provide them with a place of trust for their words to rest upon, so that even when they are grown, they will know exactly where they can go to for a listening ear.

So yes—it is exhausting—these so many words. But really, isn’t most of parenthood? And this piece of it—the opportunity to speak truth and life and love and kindness, to answer their questions in such a way that will satisfy their curiosity and teach them about the most important pieces to life—I’ll take that exhaustion any day. One question at a time. Let’s graciously give those so many words a place to be heard today.

Motherhood

I Wondered If It Was I Who Had Made Him Sick

November 18, 2016

feedingstory

I haven’t breastfed for sixteen months. And so when the The Honest Company asked me to share my personal feeding journey, I felt a bit unqualified. Along with their feeding page to help us parents with the options we have for feeding our babies, The Honest Company has collaborated with many moms on this journey to share their real, honest feeding stories. It wasn’t that I felt unqualified for this writing project because I haven’t dealt with the strong emotions tied to feeding my children—but simply because I’m not in that particular phase right now. 

I felt that way until a conversation I had with my husband recently, when I stumbled upon a sentence I had ruled myself guilty of—something I hadn’t known that I was holding against myself.

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My family has been sick lately—a lot sicker than we’ve been in recent years. In the past few months, our three boys have suffered through bouts of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a stomach bug, and a respiratory virus. “I just don’t understand it,” I told my husband recently, “Why are they getting so sick? And with all of it, Willy seems to get hit the hardest each time.” Our youngest boy, Willy, is a year and a half. And through every recent illness, he has suffered the worst, and the longest. “Do you think…” I knew it was a bit ridiculous, but it was on my heart, so I went on, “Do you think it’s because he nursed for the least amount of time?” He assured me that there were a lot of factors, and that although nursing could be one factor, we didn’t even need consider it. His face said it all. Let’s not go there.

Our conversation opened my eyes to see that over these past sixteen months since our boy gave up breastfeeding, I have been holding it against myself. There has been a shadow hanging over my motherhood, and I am certain that the same shadow lingers over many mamas today.

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It could be argued that I should have tried harder. Perhaps I should have drank more mother’s milk tea, or ate more lactation cookies. Maybe our life was too stressful—we were in the midst of a move to a new state, and I was trying to run a business and secure a book deal. Maybe those ambitions were partly to blame. But I find that anytime I shift the blame, looking for a spot for it to call home—I am never satisfied. Playing the blame game only leaves me worse off.

Many of us moms are harboring guilt over the choices made around feeding our babies. There is so much out of our control. When our first son was five months old, I became very sick. While in the hospital, I was given medication that I could not nurse my boy on. Laying in that hospital bed, I pumped milk every two hours to encourage my supply. But I still lost my milk. The freezer at home ran empty of backup bags. I arrived home from the hospital to find my infant boy drinking formula from a bottle. It was all we could do–and I felt like a failure.

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Many moms face circumstances out of their control when it comes to feeding their babies. For some, their milk never comes in. For others, their baby never latches. For others, they didn’t meet their child until adoption brought them together, years after those feeding decisions had already been made. In our motherhood, there is so much that we cannot control. But sometimes the deepest peace is found in letting those matters go, giving ourselves grace, and shifting our focus to what we do have a say in.

When our youngest son gave up nursing at three months old, I was determined to find another way to bond with him. I missed his suckle, and the way he would lay pressed up against my skin, feeling nourishment pass from me to him. I missed it bad. And so I began carrying him on our hikes. Whenever we set out on a trail as a family, I volunteered to carry Willy in the hiking pack. As he sat behind me, taking in the wonderful world around him, smiling and chattering to me as we made our way down the path, he and I connected. We shared that experience of awe, adventure, and wonder. We bonded in a way that I will remember for all of my days.

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Whether the circumstances are within our control or not, our job is to look back on that time and remember the sweet cuddles, the middle-of-the-night lullabies, and the way our child rested securely in our love despite their feeding regimen. If you’re in this stage right now—make those moments matter. Weigh them down with your full presence. No matter the pressures, anxieties, and confusion permeating your own journey—rest knowing that the moments you will remember are the ones when you chose to love big despite the circumstances. Remember that your love for your baby is so much more powerful than feeding plans gone awry. And be thankful that even when things don’t go as planned, we still have good, wholesome options to offer our babies.

I am choosing to lay down this burden–the one I’ve been allowing to taint my motherhood for sixteen months. I hope you will do the same. Or if you are currently in the stage of making those decisions, that you’ll offer yourself some grace. With the immense pressure we face when deciding how to feed our babies, I think it would do us all well to step back and remember that what our little ones need most from us is undying, unconditional love. In our presence they find security. In our voice they find belonging. In our caress they find assurance. And in our own acceptance of ourselves as their mother, they find exactly the mom that they need.

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honest

 

For more encouragement, be sure to read these Honest Feeding Stories over the the Honest Company!

 

Anorexia Motherhood

5 Things I Need My Son To Know About My Eating Disorder

October 25, 2016

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Son, I need you to know something. It is something I am not proud of, but it is a part of who I am, and it is important. The chances are, you will encounter it in your life on a personal level. So I need you to know this—there was a time when I hurt my body. I chose to not eat enough food, because I was confused about what is important. I did not understand what it meant to be pretty, and so I chased after a fake kind of pretty.

I wanted people to think that I was strong and beautiful, but I did not understand what it really meant to be strong and beautiful. I thought that by not eating, I could be these things. I was wrong. God is good and kind, and He helped me to heal, and to learn what true beauty and strength look like.

I am telling you this because the chances are that in your life, a woman you know will struggle with eating just like I did. And I want you to know a few very important things, when that time comes.

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 1.   Pay Attention When Your Heart Tells You She May Be In Danger

Your heart as a way of telling you when something is not right. We call these “Red Flags”. They are that small feeling that something is wrong. If you have a girl in your life that you care about and spend a lot of time with, you will see these red flags when they come. 

She might start acting funny when it comes time to eat. She might make many comments about wanting to lose weight, or be prettier. She might talk badly about how she looks. She might push her food around her plate, or make excuses why she’s not eating. She may say things like, “Oh, I ate before I came” every time you hang out. She may seem sad and distracted. My Love, do not ignore these things when they sit heavy on your heart, telling you something is wrong. You are probably right.

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2.    Do Not Talk To Her About It

This may sound strange. Usually when someone is hurting or upset, I tell you that we should help them. But son, when it comes to eating disorders, it is not your place to fix this. In fact, because you are a boy, if you say anything about it to her, it might make matters worse. It is hard for me to explain, but I have been in her shoes. So I know that if you say anything, even if it is to help, it might cause her to skip another meal. Because deep down inside, she wanted you to notice.

3.  Instead, Ask An Older Woman To Help

Although you should not talk with your friend about your worries, you are not powerless. When you see those red flags, there is something you can do, and it could make all of the difference. The chances are that this girl in your life has an older woman that she looks up to. Whether it is a teacher, a youth leader, an aunt, or another woman in her life that she respects—this is the woman you can talk to about your red flags. This woman is in a place to talk to your friend, and get her the help that she needs. This is your most important job in helping your friend.

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4.   Your Words Hold Great Power

Lately I have been teaching you the importance of being a good encourager. You know that you can tell people what they are doing well, and things you like about them, and that it will bring a smile to their face. The power of your words runs even deeper than you think. You tell me at least five times a day that you think I am pretty. My boy, those words are life-giving. Whether it is your cousin, your friend, your aunt, your Grandma, and later on your girlfriend and eventually a wife, your words can give her all of the confidence in the world.

I know you have witnessed this in how your Daddy speaks to me. His words make me feel brave and strong and beautiful. Your words can do the same. But son, the most life-giving words you can speak to a woman are the ones that tell of her inward beauty. That she is brave, that she sings well, that she writes great stories, that she is smart, that she is kind. Everything you see good within her, tell her. Because a strong sense of inner beauty is one of the greatest protections against eating disorders.

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5.  It Is Not Your Fault

Finally, my boy, I need you to know that if a girl in your life is struggling with an eating disorder, it is not your fault. These sicknesses are so very hard to understand. Before and during my sickness, I had strong godly men speaking truth into my life. I felt loved and secure in my family. Sometimes these things just happen, for many various reasons. It is not your fault. It is the same sentence I would speak to any man who was in my life at that time. 

But son, although you were not the cause of her sickness, you can be a part of her healing. By paying attention to the red flags in your heart, by taking those red flags not to her, but to an older woman that she respects, and by always encouraging the women in your life by telling them of their inner beauty. You can make a difference. 

Be brave, my boy.

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936Pennies Family Motherhood

When Parents Turn The Humdrum Ordinary Into Legacy

October 11, 2016

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“Do you have any collections, Hammy?” With uncanny agility, he moved his little body from rock to rock as we made our way down the riverbed. The evening before, when we had picked my mom up from the airport, he counted it of utmost importance to tell her first of his two collections. “I have a roots collection. And I have a dead bug collection. It has three bees in it.” Now as we skipped stones and counted ducks along the river, he asked his grandma of her own collections.

She thought for a few long moments, stringing suspense in the air as he awaited her answer. “I like to collect seeds from my plants.” She told him. I could picture her bending low to gather seeds in one of her many gardens. I could see the large rubber tires she had spray painted in bright colors and turned into raised beds.

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My boy keeps his collections in a place of honor on his desk; mason jars displaying bugs and plants that have caught his fancy. Once in a while he asks me of my own collection jars. Masons sitting side-by-side on a shelf for us to see often, and consider their copper contents. “The pennies remind us to spend our time well with you.” I explain to him. My heart rests at that, knowing that one day he will understand, when he cradles his own babe for the first time.

One day he’ll understand that it’s not about a jar of pennies, but rather a collection of memories. Each coin marking how we’ve invested it in memory making endeavors.

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There’s a song by Leslie Feist with a line that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. She sings, “We’ll collect the moments one by one, I guess that’s how the future’s done.” I see this collection of memories as so much more than happy moments to look back upon. They serve as building blocks in the foundation that our childrens’ futures rest upon. I want to give my children a storehouse of “Hey, remember when…!” moments that will bring a smile to their face and hope to their hearts years from now; memories to anchor them when the seas of life swell with wild waves.

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Parents face this overwhelming pressure to make every moment matter. To cherish every second of this journey. But I don’t believe that this paints a fair picture of our calling. Rather than trying to force significance or fabricate meaning, I believe that our job is to open our eyes wide and spot it where it already exists. Our job is to put our hands to the plow and unearth the life beneath the soil of normal humdrum days; to discover the roots that dig deep and anchor us to our purpose as parents. Our job is to hold the common experiences with awe, and turn them over as dog ears in our child’s story.

When she interrupts your work and asks you to push her on the swing, or he insists that you come and see his latest block tower construction, or she asks for your opinion on a situation with her friends at school—these are gem moments. They shine brightly out from among the ordinary of life, but only if we give them the attention they’re due. They become beacons of light only when we choose to pick them up from among the rocks, polish them with our affection, and set them in a place of honor by naming them as significant. This is when the ordinary transforms from overlooked, to holy.

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I have a few of these gem moments displayed on my writing desk, between half finished writing projects, half read books, and art projects from our boys. One is from that day at the duck pond when Zeke taught my mom how to rock hop, and asked her of her own collections. They are stones we’ve collected from our explorations. To anyone else, they might still look ordinary, but I know them to be gems.

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They have been carefully chosen from among thousands like them, but then given dignitary treatment. They’re rinsed in the river, marked by permanent marker with a date and a memory—“Hike with Zeke”, “From Ellis on Devil’s Backbone Hike”, “Duck pond with Mom”, and then set in a place of tribute on my desk. Thrown back into the river, they would be just another stone. Yet sitting on my desk, they serve as a collection of memories, ones that stand out along my motherhood journey as those gem moments to carry me through the difficult days, and remind me exactly what this job is about.

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936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

I Dont Want To Look Back And Wonder How We Got There

September 14, 2016

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I am not sure how I didn’t notice until then. Why I didn’t see it until that very inconvenient moment when we’re rushing to get all three kids fed and dressed and out the door in time for church. But I did see it, and it stopped me dead in my hustle-bustle tracks.

The tick of the clock ceased to remind me that church would be starting soon, and we best be on our way. Instead, I took in the sight of our oldest boy as he bound through the living room. I studied his shoulders in that button-up. When had they turned from such pre-school round to little boy square?

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His legs looked impossibly long in those dark denim jeans. And as he ran and jumped throughout the living room, his muscles flexed beneath his Sunday’s Best to reveal a budding strength. A young man strength. I bent down and rested a knee on the carpet, and pulled him near. “Just stay,” I told him. “I just want to hold you for a minute.” He leaned back just enough to catch my eyes with his, and then broke into a big grin.

That night I would dream that he was taller than me, and I know some day this will become a realty. My prayer is, that when that day comes, I won’t be asking myself how it happened.

I pray that I’ll know exactly how we got to that point, because I was fully present every step that it takes to get from here to there.

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I did some calculating this week. I unscrewed the tops of those jars that sit on a shelf in our living room, the ones that remind us that time will not stop, so we best learn how to slow it down. I held the copper coins in my hands, counted two by twos. And this is what I found.

Our youngest boy, the one who came on his own timetable through a whirlwind of labor weeks before we expected him. The one born so small I could hold him in one hand. The one who slept swaddled up soundly underneath a sunny window until his skin pinked up. The one who would quickly prove that his big voice and even bigger heart could compensate for his little size. We have spent 74 weeks getting to know him.

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And then our middle guy. The one born with a deep, raspy voice and a contagious giggle. The one who asks to sit and drink a cup of tea with me, and requests to wear a button-up shirt on the most ordinary of outings. The one who forces me to stop and slow our day, because he needs to dance in my arms. We’ve had 173 weeks with this one.

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And then the one who made me a Mama. The one who gave me a crash course in what it means to lose all of myself; to give and give and give some more. And then to receive; to take in all the love and whispers and smiles and moments of grand beauty.

The one whose focus is steadfast and determination is unshaken. The one who gathers paper and markers to make a card for friends when he hears that they are sick. The one who asks the deep questions, and doesn’t settle for shallow answers—and teaches me to do the same. We’ve had 269 weeks with this boy.

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This morning I sat in a room of women. Twelve strangers who are all walking this journey of penny spending; this voyage of time investing. We were gathered for a new Bible study, and took turns sharing our names and the ages of our children. Several talked as they nursed newborn babes. “I have three boys,” I began, “Ages 5, 3, and 1.” One woman sitting the next couch over had three children the same ages.

And I just wonder, what would happen if I had said instead, “My three boys are 74 weeks old, 173 weeks old, and 269 weeks old.” Surely there would have been a few odd glances. It seems as though after the first few months, we transition from counting weeks, to counting months, and then years. But what if we kept tracking these weeks? And what if I had said instead, “I have 862 weeks left with my youngest boy. With my second born, I have 763 weeks remaining. And, well, with my firstborn, I have only 667 weeks left.”

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It’s the same reason some parents say that they can’t do it—this time counting. It’s why for a long time, I didn’t think I could do it either. Sometimes we don’t want this stark reminder. But if we’re not keeping track, I fear we’ll lose track.

I fear we’ll stop noticing the details, and that we might just miss the process of it all. I’m afraid that we’ll get to that last week, when we’re sitting on a bedside helping them pack for college, or watching them drive away to their next adventure, and we’ll wonder how we got there.

I don’t want to wonder how we got there. I want to be able to look back and see a continuous string of moments marked by my full presence, my full attention, my full appreciation. I want to harness the time and engrave it with all of me noticing all of them.

And so I keep counting.

936Pennies Motherhood Peace Plan

It’s Time To Reclaim A Peaceful Motherhood

September 2, 2016

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It would be so easy. Convenient, even, which is very rare in a house with three kids ages five and under. The toddler is napping. The older boys are contentedly constructing Lincoln Log houses together in their room. The house is quiet. I could sit and answer a few emails. My boy walks into the kitchen and asks if I can build with him. “I’d like to Buddy, but I need to finish up a little bit of work.” “Ok,” he replies, “maybe later.” 

He turns and walks out of the kitchen, and immediately my Peace Plan comes to mind, and that one line written, “No work between 8 and noon” It’s 11:00. It’s their time.

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I pour another cup of coffee and walk over to my boy. “I changed my mind,” I tell him, “Can I build a house with you?” He smiles and jumps in the air, then rushes off ahead of me to his room. For a while we sit there together, me and my boys. I find it hard; somewhat restless. But with each minute passing, I feel more at ease. This is where I’m supposed to be right now. When we finish our grand construction, I set up their beanbags against the wall, grab a stack of books, and we settle in, each boy on my side. This is where peace is. And today I’ve chosen it.

A Peace Plan is just that—a plan. It is a constant reminder to me of what my heart really desires and needs. It is a reflection of my highest values. It is a warning light when I’m slipping into distraction, or losing sight of what matters most in my life.

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I wrote of this Peace Plan a while back, and how it might just be the most important plan that we can make as parents.

It is a guide for navigating us through every single day, helping us to make the most of them. Peace has so much to do with how we spend our time. This plan is the one thing I have found successful for looking back at the end of the day, and seeing a few highlights; a few strategically chosen moments, a few intentional choices made, a few favorite parts of my day; all structured together by the blueprint of this Peace Plan.

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The plan changes from time to time. It has to, in order to be an effective defense against the ever-changing peace thieves in our lives. As our kids grow and we find ourselves in new seasons of life, we face different threats to our peace. And so this plan must be ever evolving, in tune with our heart and mind.

At the beginning of each month, I evaluate those two all important questions that are the foundation of this plan. What will bring more peace to our days right now? And, What is stealing my peace right now?

And then I begin to write, short and simple.

No work between 8 and 12.

Early morning time alone—before the kids wake.

Slow mornings at home, or at the park.

No running unnecessary last-minute errands.

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It is not a to-do list or a goals list. It’s a focus list. It’s about shining a spotlight on the things that give us peace, and reminding ourselves of them every single day. Just as important, it requires pinpointing the very things that are stealing our peace. Those things that when we succumb to them, our shoulders tense. Our mind tells us to put the phone away. Our heart tells us to stay home and sip coffee, that errand can wait. Our spirit tells us to shut down the laptop and read to our child. Our soul is very good at pointing out where peace is, if we’ll only pay attention. And that is when we can begin drafting our Peace Plan.

It’s not elaborate, but simple and raw. It shows us how we want to spend our time, and how we don’t want to spend it. It identifies weaknesses. It highlights our values.

Go hiking with my husband

Make cards with the boys for family

Write something every day

Read a novel

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I pin the Plan next to my desk, where I can glance at it every day; a regular check-in with my heart to see if I’m where I want to be.

I don’t always get it right. Some days I find myself sucked into the social media vortex, or staying up too late, leaving me too tired in the morning to grab that alone time. But when I miss it—I know right away. I see it staring straight back into my eyes—fear. Stress. Frustration. Discontent. Guilt. I feel it deep within my spirit that I missed out on something better.

But when I do get it right, when I choose Lincoln Logs and books over email because it’s still morning—which means it’s their time—I see something much better staring right back into my eyes. I see their eyes. And that is exactly where peace is found.

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I have a habit of asking my boys at bedtime what the favorite part of their day was. Sometimes their answers surprise me. They’ll mention one little thing that I hardly counted memorable, but it stood out to them. It offers me a priceless glance into their hearts. Lately, when I ask myself the same question, What was my favorite part of the day? Almost always I think back to a moment in the day that my Peace Plan brought me to.

And that is exactly what this plan is for—a guarantee that we’ll catch those moments, and make them matter. The Peace Plan is for creating those favorite moments of the day, and protecting against their extinction. If you were to sit down and do a little bit of introspection; to put a name to the things stealing your peace right now, and if you could make some simple changes to bring more peace to your heart and these days of raising your kids…wouldn’t you? Perhaps it’s time to start writing.

“Those Who Plan Peace Have Joy” Proverbs 12:20

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