Friday, September 15, 2017

Mommy Guilt/Shame and the Need for Grace

I nannied for roughly 10 years, but all of that barely prepares you for the first two months of your own child's life. It barely scratches the surface of what all you can face.

Motherhood felt like it truly started in the second half of the second trimester, when suddenly I started getting incredibly itchy. I eventually spoke with my doctor about it, only to find out that what was causing the itchiness put a slight risk on my baby being a stillborn. The proposed plan was induction no earlier than 37 weeks, yet not waiting too much longer than that. Thirty-seven and a half weeks came, and the little munchkin arrived. *Cue hormone overload.* And then. In my hormone induced stupor, I heard them say that he had a small heart murmur, and we would need to get it checked out. My ears heard "small" but my heart heard, "he's not going to make it to the end of his first month." In my mind, he was similar to the plants I struggle to keep alive. So began a batch of emotional roller coaster rides for me.

Going to a pediatric cardiologist looked like a mountain, but in the end our hearts (ok mostly mind) were calmed by the good doctor. He was going to live, and it would be odd if the murmur didn't heal. You would think it stops there.

But no.

With my hormones still raging, I fully discovered how women get to wade through the ridiculous mommy guilt and shame if we don't do things how some other mom does things. Talk about rolling into the mire down a bumpy, cow-pile encrusted hill.

It's for the birds.

And when I say it's ridiculous, hear me out. It. Is. Ridiculous.

All of us women were raised differently, by era, by culture, by demographic, by family, etc. We are ALL going, to some extent, parent differently/make decisions differently than the next person. For a little while, I got all in a tizzy, spiraling more down than up. But. Through some very long discussions with my husband, I came to rest in that my husband and I are doing our best to make the right decisions for our family based on our now knowledge. I can reset in that. Will we always get it right? No. Will every decision we make be approved by everyone? No. Do we have things we are learning/researching? Yes. Can we get all that learning/researching done in one week? No.

So, seriously. For all my favorite people who are mommies and those women that I am still getting to know.

Community is important, and it does take a village. But. My word. Grace upon grace, and we're all different. As long as the baby is breathing and growing, and we're still learning and trying to figure it out, then coming together and encouraging each other (instead of the opposite) is what we should be doing.

You were given these children--you. No one else.
You were given these children because you are who
 they need. You have the soul to love them even on
their hard days. You have the motivation and 
love to give these children everything they need.
You have the heart to wake up every morning and
do it all over again, even when you're exhausted.
You have the smile that they crave and the touch
to make everything ok. You are their sunshine
and their comfort. You are theirs, and they are yours,
On the days you are questioning yourself, 
remember this. You've got this.]

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Letter to 16 year-old Me

If I could write a letter to me at 16, this is what I would tell myself.

Dear 16-year old me,

Life is hard, yes? High school may not be your favorite thing, but just wait, you'll want to go back to those easy days when you're older. At 17, you'll try to make plans to go to school to be a massage therapist; your dad will discourage you. You'll begrudgingly listen and be glad you did...later. This year you're already in the middle of a slew of bad choices...breathe...there will be pain. Lots of it. But, you'll find out you have mentors and friends who will walk beside you and love the deepest aches that you hold inside. People will tell you not to wish this time away...listen to them; adult-life is fun. But. It holds its own set of issues. And, those pains and frustrations you're walking through right now? In 10 years, you'll look back and laugh at what had you worried or frustrated. But for now, those fears and worries and pains? They are real, and they are real to you. Those places you look for love and acceptance? They can't actually bring you what your heart longs for deep inside. Right now you're rolling your eyes because you know I'm going to tell you that it's God alone that can give your heart rest and fulfillment. You're right, I am. Yet, I know you'll get to that place. Just not today, and that's ok; because, believe me, you'll make it to at least 25.

You know all those hard moments with your dad? Give him some grace, he had no clue what you were going through (and if he had, he would have been unsure of how to deal with it. If both of you would have known what you'll know at 20, you could have both talked about that pain, cried it out, and walked together. You won't do this yet, but you will in your 20's. You need to know your dad loves you and is trying to do the best he knows how to guide you into adulthood.You won't agree on a male in your life until you're 23, so just relax, go live life, and don't worry about boys. They take some time to mature anyway.

And, what if I told you that once you let go of dreaming of a man, that you pursued some other dreams you had. Like, living in Chicago, pursuing college? Well, you are going to do that. And during that time, God will show up for you in ways that are larger than you could have hoped. You'll have to lay your Isaac down more than once, but your mind will be blown by how He provides for you right on time. After you live in Chicago, you'll realize it's not for you; and you'll go home to continue online. Only, to have God ask you to let that part go, because...wait for it. Before you ever moved to Chicago, you met your husband. (But you didn't know that yet).

So, the husband. Even though you lived in Ohio by this point, you had to go to Colorado to meet this man who made you upset with God when you met him. Oh don't think you won't be mad, trust me, you will be. See? You will finally get to the place where your heart cries out for something more, and you allow God to just take hold and put you wherever He sees fit. And then of course, He'll have you sit across from the most intriguing person at a wedding in Colorado of all places.

After you move back from Colorado, you and this man you're then dating, will decide it's time to pursue a new chapter. Marriage. Four months after he proposes, you'll be a Mrs. Don't believe me? In 8 years you'll find out it's the truth.

During all this time, you will have many mountains, valleys, deserts, questions, hopes, and fears. Keep breathing. You won't stay in the valleys and deserts forever. And those fears and questions? Your boyfriend/fiance/husband will be a safe place for you in the middle of that. You will also have that small but mighty core group of friends who will talk you down and lift you up whenever you need it. And your fears. They're real and valid, but don't live in them. Take them to the place where ultimately they are not allowed to stay. That burden doesn't need to be yours.

And honey, after you're married only six months, you're going to find out that you're bringing a tiny human into the world. It's ok to freak out even though there will be people who look at you funny. Guess what? It WILL be ok. You'll bring a delightful, squalling bundle of joy into your world. And don't think that the first two weeks are what your life will be like forever. They won't be, praise God. But, just keep remembering that you have time to love your little one, your husband, and other people. Don't worry about Instagram or Facebook or anything else. You be honoring to God. You don't need to worry if you don't have all the latest clothes, decor, or other such thing. You be who you were created to be.

But, who knows. Maybe I'm wrong. Me-at-16, all I know is that you keep breathing, find those core friends, love deeply, and don't let go of the Hand that will carry through many a hot fire. You are loved. Remember that.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

One Year Down--An Eternity to Go

I can't believe it has been a whole year already. If someone would have told me two years ago that I would be married for a year now, I would have told them they were crazy. I had my plans; I was quite over sitting around and waiting. Deciding to utilize four years to the best of my ability, I was in the process of making plans to move. But. A wedding in Colorado changed those plans. I was in the bridal party; and during the reception, I noticed this groomsman across the table. (pretty sure he winked me at one point, even though he says he did not). I was impressed by his intelligence and ability to have good conversation, but I adamantly told myself that this was not in my plans. As people were leaving the reception, I had managed to get into another conversation with him. Until that night, I had never believed that you could have a moment with someone that connected you to someone the way we did that night. I left frustrated because he was not on my agenda, but I wondered if I would ever hear from him.
He didn't waste a large amount of time finding me on Facebook, which thrilled and annoyed me all at the same time. He had no clue at that point how much he was messing with my carefully laid plans. Over the next two months, we would randomly message back and forth. Our conversations were different than anything I had ever experienced before. As the time plodded through July, I noticed he talked more and more to me. I also knew that I was moving in the middle of August, and I wasn't sure what I should do. I spoke with the couple that had "kinda" introduced us (we were at their wedding when we met). I asked for advice because I knew them well, and I knew that this groomsman and the husband were friends.

Through a series of crazy, scary moments (ask me sometime :) ) Tim and I decided we'd like to see if this was a relationship that was for real. Ok, so in all honesty, we did decide that but I basically told him that I was done hee-hawing about; and if he wasn't going to at least pursue me with the intention of forever, then he could see himself right out my door. Harsh, I know, but clearly he didn't mind too badly.

So, our journey began. Above are two of my favorite people who got to hear probably way too much of the journey, but they still love me.Tim and I dated long distance for 4 and a half months. I was in Chicago for school, and he was still in Ohio. Through that season, we were extremely frank with each other about past experiences and where we wanted to go with our lives and the relationship. I was cautious to a point, holding back certain areas of my life until I was sure he was a safe place. I have never regretted how we approached our relationship. It taught me a lot about myself and gave us the freedom to share with only small amounts of fear.
 I figured out shortly into my semester in Chicago that I loved the culture but hated living in the city. I made plans to go home at Christmas and finish online. Moving back home brought more transition and change.

 His proposal is a story full of my stubbornness and his willingness to love me well. Another thing to ask me sometime. He proposed on January 7th; I obviously said yes. We started making plans and settled on May 7th.

 This man has been the safest place for me. He has shown my heart a side of life that I never imagined possible. Through him, God has healed things I never dreamed. He is patient when I am impatient. Quiet to my loud. Steady to my whimsy.

 I'm seriously not that sappy of a person; you can ask him. But. Something about the way he has loved me well and care for me even when I should be put into a corner, brings out things in me I never thought would be. We laugh a lot, and our life is seriously never boring.

 He simply allows me to be myself and pour my heart into things I'm passionate about. Sometimes my dreams and ideas look crazy to him, but he does a good job of letting me try new things. He loves so well and not just me. He loves the people that my heart holds dear, simply because I care deeply for them.

 Being married has taught me a lot of things. One of the hardest is that it is hard to balance family holidays. We get to wrestle with that because our families don't live within a half hour of each other. I know I can't complain because it's not even two hours, but learning to balance holidays and get togethers has been interesting. I've learned that sometimes you have to weigh the possible memories of who may or may not be there tomorrow. And really, how can we know who will or will not be there the next time? In the past few months, we've seen friends lose close family members and friends. It's really made us treasure the times with our families, friends, and each other.

 We've had multiple conversations with the realization that one of us may not come home. It has made us be wise in our arguments and disagreements. I realized one day that if I can help it, I never want to leave the house angry or regretting something I said to him. Recently, I came across a post from a friend who lost her husband a while ago. She had posted this article from another widow. In it, it talked about how in a moment you can lose a dear one. In that moment, you realize that all the things that frustrated or annoyed you about your person were insignificant and even things that could be loved. I love my husband. I can't say that I never get annoyed with him or he with me, but we're learning that even the things that frustrate us can be used for fruitful, precious memories.

 We talk about how we're grateful we never went into marriage thinking it would be a fairy-tale. But. Even though we went into it with that realization, we both had extremely different take-aways from this first year. (feel free to ask :) ) It's crazy how certain cultures and ways of growing up can follow you into adulthood and marriage.

 As we've been preparing for the next step in our lives, we've wrestled what parenthood looks like. Above is my little girl. She wasn't happy that Tim was marrying me. To her, I will always be HER miss Kelly. But. She loves Tim, and he loves her. I love how he has interacted with all the children that have been in my life. It's a blessing to see how my own children will be loved.

 If there is one thing I have been so grateful for is something my dad encouraged me in several years before I even met Tim. We were having a conversation about a previous relationship (and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I made the right decision in not continuing that one), and my dad firmly told me that relationships are not all about feelings. I didn't really want to believe him then, but I do now. And how I love that it's not all about feelings.

 I would be lying if I said I never had to choose to love him or honor or respect him. I do. But, he chooses to do that for me too. I'm learning to appreciate the choosing. It makes the feelings all the sweeter. I'm also learning that a healthy relationship is truly like a well-marinated, perfectly grilled steak. You have to wait for the steak to marinate; you have to allow it to go through the fire; and when you finally get to eat and appreciate it, you figure out that the waiting and fire were so worth the delicious taste in your mouth.

Soooooo, below. Lame next sentence, so bear with me. We've had some lemons this  year, but I'm so grateful for a husband who has humbly, willing stomped on the lemons with me and made lemonade. I was recently telling a few people that somehow, no matter how a situation has started, we have managed to smell like roses.
 One more thing that comes to mind with marriage is this: gifts and love don't always look like date nights, roses, trips, etc. Sometimes it looks like him changing the oil in my car, weeding my garden for me, rubbing my feet even when he's tired, cooking dinner randomly, changing out the laundry for me when I'm overwhelmed, and picking wildflowers in a beautiful bouquet. I am a gifts person. I can't help it. I.LOVE.GIFTS. But. Sometimes the greatest gift is in the things you can't possibly touch with your hands, but a memory that will last forever.

 I don't regret a day so far. I hope I never do. I hope none of you ever do either. We literally don't know all the treasures we have in our hands until they are no longer able to be touched.
P.S. excuse all the pictures. These are part of my favorite memories. I hold them close, each person and thing associated with each picture. 

P.P.S. Always remember to laugh. To be thankful. To remember.
If tomorrow never comes.