LMKTM: Don’t Get Stuck!

Ella is now 4 months old and is starting to explore the new world of all that her limbs can do for her. One such experience is rolling over. She hasn’t quite nailed it yet, though. Partially because she’s super content on her back, but also partially because she’s a big baby and, as such, she tends to get stuck in the transit.

I will try to help her along by scooting her one way or another, but a lot of times she’ll get to about halfway and just lay there until she frustrates herself into crying and I have to come scoop her up and rescue her. Poor thing will lay on her side like that, not able to get back to her back, but not quite able to do the final push to get her to her belly, either.

Can you understand her frustration? Do you feel stuck in life right now? Maybe you are in between key phases but all you want to do is lay in the halfway point like Ella and cry for all the frustration you feel. Don’t get stuck! You can’t stay in the middle because you will literally go no where. You have to move in one direction or another.

Today, make the extra push. Get un-stuck. Your next level of mobility and enjoyment could very well depend upon it!

Don’t Just Survive!

I’ll admit: As a mother of 3 kids, sometimes I feel like I’m simply going through my days in survival mode. It’s a race to get to their bedtime when I can finally breathe a little and get caught up on the things that I didn’t have time to address during the day. Especially right now while going through the infant stage again, there is just not a whole time of “down time” during the 24-hour span of my days. Because of this, there’s a great temptation to just try to get through my days.

But I don’t want to just get through life. I want to thrive. I want to embrace the beauty of each season and each day. The thing is that there is beauty in each season. Sometimes we get so busy hoping for days to come that we forget to stop and appreciate all the current day has to offer. And it does have good things to offer. Alright, so my days may feel a bit like a circus and I may not get to shower as frequently as I’d like to, but hey! There is such a short window when my kids will be the ones asking me for hugs and kisses and to solve all their problems. I know the day will come when I’ll be missing that as I watch them take on more and more independence.

Don’t just survive – thrive! Get through your day, yes, but also be intentional about taking strategic pauses to stop and embrace whatever it is that you are currently experiencing. It may just change your outlook and that shift may just change your life.

Two Years Ago Today

It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since our world was turned upside down. It was two years ago today that my husband and I sat in my doctor’s office and were told that our baby girl whom we had named Angelina Grace was no longer living inside me. ¬†We were just there for a routine 24-week pregnancy checkup. This was not the news we had anticipated receiving on that chilly November morning. We sat in shock and disbelief and deep, soul-shaking grief, especially after I was informed that I would be required to deliver my baby girl, but that I couldn’t do so until almost 4 days later.

It’s possible that two years ago today was my darkest day. I’ve walked some hard roads, but there is something about this one that is just that bit more harrowing. And yet, I sit even now and write this blog with the literal proof of God’s redemption sitting in my lap. Ella Elisabeth doesn’t know that she had a sister. She doesn’t know that when I found out I was pregnant with her, I was more scared than I’d ever been: What if we lost this baby, too? Ella doesn’t know those things, but she represents all of that and so much more.

It’s funny, because I think I originally assumed that having Ella would bring an extra layer of healing to my heart’s loss of Angelina, and in ways it has. But it has also somehow made the loss of Angelina that much more palpable. When I look at Ella, I think that we lost someone like her. Not just a sort of little life that we speak of as more of an idea than a reality, but a real, living, beautiful, sweet baby girl. And that hurts.

I still get tongue-tied when I’m asked how many kids I have. I still feel an inward twinge of guilt and sadness when people ask if Ella is our only girl and I stumble upon my answer. I still struggle because as much as I don’t want to feel pain, I even more so don’t want my Angelina to be forgotten.

God’s grace has been so strong. As much as I can’t believe that there’s been two years since that day, I also think of all He’s done in the past two years and am filled with awe. More than that, I am filled with a sense of challenge and responsibility that urges me to make my life and her life count for something.

Today I remember you, my sweet first baby girl. You are not forgotten. Your gentle little life had purpose far beyond its earthly time. You are remembered. You are loved.

Not What You Expected

I grew up hearing that God had a plan for my life. I repeatedly quoted the words of Jeremiah 29:11 that said that God had a plan of prosperity for me. There was hardly a day that went by that someone didn’t speak of God’s great plan for me. I grew to believe it so deeply in my being. I just knew God had a wonderful, joyful plan for my life.

And then I got cancer at the age of 23 after a mere 6 months of marriage.

What had happened to God’s plan? This was not what I had signed up for. This did not seem at all like the prosperity that I had been promised.

The thing about God’s plan is that it is for our good. We can always trust Him simply because He’s already proven His motive toward us by dying for us. But I’ve come to learn that His plan often comes in rather unexpected ways…and by unexpected, I mean, “Help! Get me out of here!” kind-of-ways.

You may be asking yourself where God is today. It may feel as if His plan for you has been canceled out by an unexpected or undesired life experience. I can only encourage you that sometimes it is those very things that feel so far off from the plan that can actually propel us toward our intended paths. Don’t fear the hard times. Remember, God’s will often plays out in ways we would never expect, and that’s okay. It’s still His plan and it’s still something He can ultimately weave into the tapestry of a beautiful life lived full of grace and goodness.

Moms United

Yesterday I had the privilege of hanging with a dear friend and her sweet new baby, my sister-in-law and my precious new nephew, and my own darling baby Ella. It was a symphony of dirty diapers, strollers, baby blankets, pacifiers, and the usual chaos you might expect from the coming together of three infants. But something else really cool happened in the midst of all the noise: three moms came together and encouraged one another and it was really beautiful.

Is this rare enough that I should be not only observing it but blogging about it? Well, maybe. The thing is that there is a lot of insecurity in motherhood that can turn to defensiveness that can turn to judgment. Mothers feel shamed for their parenting choices, and shamed for their accomplishments (or perceived lack of accomplishments). But the truth is that there is no better way to help a mother out then by reminding her that you, too, have had the same struggles and that they can and will get through them.

I loved watching as each mom there took time to encourage the others. We were all comfortable being vulnerable about our struggles and mothering insecurities because we knew it was going to be a judgment-free zone. Instead, we knew we would receive encouragement and support, and that made all the difference.

Let’s do our part to change this from being rare to the norm! We can start by extending grace to a mother around us and by lending a helping hand. Let’s unite, moms!

It’s Exhausting Not Being Yourself

My husband and I are coming up on our 10 year anniversary. It’s a milestone that brings with it a great deal of reflection. Part of that reflection, for me, has been an appreciation of just how freeing it is to be with someone with whom I can completely be myself. Jason knows me better than most anyone, and because of that, I never have to put on pretense or a facade in order to please him.

Sadly, this wasn’t always the case for me where others were concerned. I’ve had relationships, be they romantic or platonic, where I felt so insecure about my place in them, that I had to make sure to uphold a certain level of pretense in order to maintain them. It could have been simple things like pretending to be way more into a certain TV show or book so that I could keep up with a conversation, or as sadly significant as changing my stance on an issue in order to gain acceptance. Whatever the case, it left me feeling straight up drained whenever I’d leave the situation and go back home.

In short, it was exhausting trying to be somebody that I wasn’t.

Life is short. Why pretend to be someone you aren’t? The older I get, the more comfortable I get with myself and the less tolerance I have for pretense or false appearances. I know who I am in Christ and I don’t want to apologize for or change that. I have seen firsthand that people respond much more positively to authenticity than they ever will to my attempts at being what they need me to be.

Today, take an evaluation of your speech and actions when in the presence of your most loved ones versus those you are only on a surface level of acquaintance with. I’m not saying you will have the same comfort or familiarity with the two groups, but I am suggesting you take note of any wildly differing behaviors or attitudes in yourself when around them. Do you change yourself to fit in with your surroundings? If so, STOP! You’re doing no one any good by putting on a false representation of yourself. Be yourself! It’s freeing, it’s comforting, and it’s true. Life is exhausting enough without having to add pressure from pretense to your plate.

LMKTM: Kids Are Like Snowflakes

I’ve had a parenting realization lately that I think will free a lot of you up like it did for me:

My child is unique and can never be compared intellectually, physically, or spiritually to any other child.

It’s not about getting my child to do x like y. It’s about finding the strengths that are already there and pulling them out of him or her in a way that makes them shine!

My oldest son is so organized, neat, and perfection-driven, that his teacher has to tell him to not worry about making things too perfect and just remember to play. My middle child is all fun and charm, but at 4 years of age, his attempts at handwriting are hieroglyphic at best. Ella, my baby, is a great night sleeper but her afternoon nap consistency is almost non-existent.

And you know what?

All of my kids are great just as they are. It wouldn’t be fair to compare them to one another. Even further unfair would be to try to compare them to Facebook statuses of my friends who are talking about their children’s latest accomplishments. That’s not successful parenting! Instead, I’ll find so much more satisfaction if I take the time to find out what my child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and to work with him or her individually to be the best they can be.

Parenting is not textbook. There’s no one thing that will work for every child. There’s no one learning strategy that will appeal to each one. There’s no one disciplinary action that will similarly impact them all. They are individual and they can shine as such if I just remember to treat them that way. Let’s ask God to show us specific ways of parenting that are individual to each of our children. Just like snowflakes, no two kids are exactly alike, so why would I treat them all the same? Today, I hope to help all 3 of my kids to shine – each in their own way!

The Power of the Hug

If you are blessed enough to be on the receiving end of regular physical affection, you may not get it. I know I didn’t get it at first. I grew up in one of the most affirming, loving, affectionate homes in the whole of the United States (maybe even the world?). I was never in want for a hug or a kiss to the point that it almost got irksome to me to have to dole out the obligatory daily affections.

In between my junior and senior year of college, however, I moved into my own apartment where I lived alone for the first time ever. My parents had moved to New York, and I was on my own and suddenly feeling extremely lonely. I don’t think I realized just how lonely I was until I visited a small local church one Wednesday evening and the adorable, gray-haired woman at the door asked me my name. “Elisabeth,” I said warily. “Oh, Elisabeth!” she cried as she engulfed me in a bone-crushing hug, “It’s so nice to see you!”

And I cried. Cried! It suddenly dawned on me that it had been so long since I had just simply been hugged. I realized I was starved for affection and that I needed that hug. It blew my mind. It had never been a problem for me before, so realizing my deep lack of personal contact was eye-opening. At the time I was hanging out in my small apartment during the day and working at a restaurant at night. I had few friends who had not gone home for the summer, and none of my family was local. I was lonely. I didn’t know just how lonely until that soul-searing hug, I think.

I came to appreciate hugs again two years ago when we were walking through a time of deep sorrow and grief. Very few words spoken to me during that time held much resonance, and not for lack of trying on the part of the speakers. I just didn’t need to hear anything at that point. What I did need, however, was the dozens of strong hugs that I got from so many. There was actual comfort in those hugs. They were healing hugs.

I’m in such a place of love and security in my life now. My children shower me with the tight squeezes and slimy kisses all throughout the day. I have a husband who has strong arms that can hold me in times of sadness or celebration. But even just this past week, I had to go to my husband and tell him that I needed a hug. I was facing something and it made me sad, and I needed that extra squeeze to comfort me. The Lis of the past would have scoffed at this or called it needy, but this Lis knows better. This Lis knows that hugs are powerful.

A Free Space To Cry

Last night my weekly ladies Bible study resumed after a summer-long hiatus, and it was a joyous reunion. We laughed about how someone always winds up crying each week for one reason or another, but appreciated how that space is a free space where everyone is welcome to be themselves and let go without fear of judgment. It’s amusing, and yet, as we went around the table and shared, one recurring phrase kept popping up: I need this time each week.

Sound dramatic? It’s not, I assure you. I knew exactly what every woman was referring to, because I also need that time each week. Why? Because it’s a good thing to be able to express a week’s worth of pent-up emotion while also recharging for the week ahead. For many of us, we spend our days uttering little more than baby talk and homework help, so a chance to be able to talk with other adults is incredibly refreshing. More than that, a chance to speak in a space where you feel the freedom to cry or laugh and know you will be met with understanding is invaluable.

Do you have a safe place where you can cry? For me, it’s been my weekly Bible study. For you, it may be a coffee date with a friend or a date night out with your spouse. Whatever it is, be sure you have something. If not, the suppressed emotions can eventually boil over in a fit of despair and magnify your situation to the point of hopelessness. Don’t let it go that far. Be sure to take some time each week to release your emotions and recharge. It’ll make a world of difference in your life.

Don’t Say You’ll Pray For Me (unless you mean it)

We’re all guilty of it. Someone mentions something they’ve been struggling with or a prayer need they’re facing, and we spout off a quick “I’ll be praying for you!” before we even register what we’re saying. There’s nothing inherently bad about that, don’t get me wrong! But my question is, will you? Will you really be praying for me?

When I was diagnosed with cancer over 9 years ago, I made a vow. I promised the Lord and myself that I would never again say the phrase “I’ll be praying for you!” and not follow it up with the actual action of prayer. After having been humbled by the prayers of literally thousands when I was going through my journey with cancer, it felt like the least that I could do would be to give back in my time and prayer for others who would face their own battles.

Don’t tell someone you’ll pray for them and then walk away to never think of it again. It makes your words empty and starts to diminish your integrity and credibility. Think before you make that promise. If you’re not going to follow through, save your words. People need those prayers and it would be better for you to not make the promise at all then to make it and not keep it.

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