I went to Target this week, and it made this mom sad

Earlier this week, I had a rare treat.

My daughter went to bed early, but that wasn’t anything special–she typically goes down by 7:30 p.m. It was that after we tucked her in and kissed her goodnight, I didn’t feel like collapsing into my own bed. I had energy. I wanted to do something.

Maybe it was the springtime sunlight starting to extend into the evening hours. Or the benefits of second trimester and being in my 17th week of pregnancy. Regardless, I was in the mood to get out of the house.

“Hon,” I said to my husband. “I’m going to Target.”

Ahhhhh, Target: the mecca for moms. Something about that Red Bull’s Eye just draws you into its magnetic embrace, a sense of euphoria sweeping over you as you step through the automatic sliding glass doors. So much to see and do awaits you there: Starbucks. Accessories. Home goods. Shoes. Clothes. Toys. Snacks. And the most wonderful place of all: the Clearance Racks. 

Plus, the chance to go without kids in tow?? Pure bliss.



Target and Starbucks

The calm before the storm.



With a tall coffee frap in hand, focused only on myself, I set out. But what was intended to be a relaxing trip to Mommy’s Happy Place, sadly, went dark. And it’s been haunting me since.

I was pushing my cart through the aisles of the toddler girls’ section, when my path crossed with a young couple and their daughter. I won’t give all the specifics, but it was clear the mom had some health issues and perhaps was pregnant herself. Dad pushed the girl, who looked between two and three, in a stroller.

As I perused on the opposite side of a display, the peace was suddenly broken by something you don’t expect to hear in the kids’ section of a family store: an angry yell and a string of filthy expletives from the dad. It was clear his wrath was directed at his daughter. 

“Stop messing around, Ava,” he exploded. (And that is the scrubbed clean version of what he said.) The girl had slid forward out the front of her stroller … because she hadn’t been strapped in. He shoved her back upright as the mom nonchalantly passed by, saying something about needing to get her shorts. The girl said not one word.

The slap of the man’s words directed at the innocent girl stung my eyes with tears. I stood in shock, as extreme anger and deep sadness at once filled me up. Perhaps it was the pregnancy hormones, or a memory from the past. My heart broke for this little girl.

By the time the rage and sorrow began to subside and I could move from the spot I was frozen in, the couple was nowhere in sight. I said a quick prayer, “Lord, thank you for giving my daughter a daddy that does not speak to her like that. Protect this little girl, who you love,” before continuing on.

I thought that was the last time I would see them, but as I entered the jewelry section about 30 minutes later, I heard a woman’s voice screaming and cursing from around the corner. The dad and girl, followed by the mom, came into view.

As they got closer, her words got clearer. 

“She shouldn’t be making fun of me. It’s not nice,” she spit out. “All I said was, if my daughter ever acted that way, I would (expletive) punch her in the face.”

She continued her tirade as the dad pushed the stroller past me. The daughter, head full of thick, golden curls, looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back, masking my anger.

As the mom went on, the words “can you please not use that language?” raced to my lips, but I bit them back. Though I hadn’t heard the incident that preceded her outburst, it was clear that this couple wasn’t afraid of a confrontation, and I didn’t think that response would do any good. I fought the urge to compulsively scoop the girl out of the stroller and run for the doors. My mama heart throbbed.

Again, I was frozen, as I struggled with what to do. By this time, the couple was heading for the exit.

As I went to bed that night, I couldn’t get the incident–and precious Ava–off my mind. I wish I could’ve come up with some way that would’ve showed this couple Christ. I wish I could’ve wrapped my arms around Ava and shielded her from the ugliness of this world.

I also thought about how I am far from perfect in my response and reactions, and I recalled the (many) times I have failed to control my temper and lashed out in anger and impatience. At David. At Olivia. About how without the grace and help of God, I am no different. About how words can cut deep and leave behind scars. About how this world, in its imperfect form, is filled with pain and hurt, absent from the redemption of Christ.

Though I’m sure what I had wanted to say in the moment would not have been profitable, I am not convinced my silence was the right response either. As I tossed in the darkness, I prayed that the lessons of the night would not be lost. That the next time,  God would give me the right words to say.

As for the couple and their little girl, I pray that God would send His transformative light into their lives. He is our hope. And at my next seemingly innocuous trip to Target, or anywhere else, He’ll allow a little of it to shine through me.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

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Do I really want God’s will for my life?

Tomorrow, we celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Christ.

To many, the day is about hidden baskets of goodies, chocolate bunnies, pretty new outfits, and spending time with family. To the Christian, the day is about rejoicing in what Christ did for us on the cross and his triumphant victory over sin and death. He is risen, indeed!

It should be a joyful week, but I woke yesterday physically aching. I wasn’t sick, and it wasn’t the pregnancy. It was as if the fingers of a hand were wrapped around my heart, clenching, squeezing, pressing deep, as I wrestled with the thoughts spinning around in my head.

We’ve been preparing for Easter a bit differently this year … and I have to admit, it’s throwing me for a loop. Typically, in years past, I’ve used this time to reflect on Christ’s death, the three days in the tomb, and His miraculous ascension from the grave. However, this week, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the night before the crucifixion.

Starting on Sunday, our pastor has been focusing his messages on the hours leading up to Christ’s betrayal and his prayer with the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, recorded in Matthew 26. Three times, Christ, in agony before the Father, prayed the same prayer. After the final time, He was handed over to those who would murder Him.

When we met for prayer meeting on Thursday night, our pastor pointed us back to the same passage. At our church, we do prayer meetings unlike others I’ve attended. Pastor takes a Greek word and its English meaning, asks us a thinking question that we discuss, and then we break up into groups for our first session of prayer, which is centered on the discussion and praising God for who He is and what He has done. Then, we regroup to focus on requests and needs of the church.

This week, the Greek word was thelema and the question was what it means to be an individual. As we began to share answers about what makes us unique, pastor wrote the answers on a whiteboard in two different colors, drawing our attention to the set of answers that was less tangible, yet distinct to each person. Then he asked us a question: what exactly was Christ praying about in the garden? What was it that He gave up for us on the cross? Of course, there’s the obvious answers: His physical body and a life that up until that point knew no sin. But in Matthew 26, He prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Christ was praying about giving up His will (thelema), in exchange for the Father’s. Pastor asked us to consider: could we do the same? Could we give our will up to follow God’s will for our life?

Instead of praying in small groups, pastor said he wanted us to get alone with God and think about the things that make up our individual will–our desires and goals for our life–list them out, and then prayerfully commit each one to God, even if it meant giving them up in exchange for something different God has in mind for us. I spent a few minutes composing my list, the things I want and desire. David. Our marriage. Our children. Our health. Provisions. His job. Our home. Safety. Our family. Our friends. Our freedom. Our church. When I began to pray about giving each one of these things that make up my will over to God, even if it meant ultimately losing them, I could barely get out the words. Was I really willing to potentially give any of these up?

That night, my sleep was restless and filled with vivid dreams. In one, three children of friends were missing. By the end of the dream, only two were found. Another dream dealt with a weighty confrontation and forgiveness. I woke on Good Friday heavy and hurting. As I began to read my devotions over my morning coffee, I stopped when I got to Luke 9:23-24: “Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.'”

Could I really give up what I love and cherish to follow Christ? What if doing what seems hardest is ultimately for God’s best?

The past two years have been marked with some major life moments for us that have changed the direction of our lives. We found out we were going to become parents. We moved to a new house. And then in late 2013, we left our church, which was a very challenging decision. It was not one we felt prepared to do, and it hadn’t been part of our plans. My husband had grown up in that church, attending it for all 31 years of his life. It was incredibly difficult when it became clear that God must have something different for us, and we fought with God, begging for a different course. The circumstances were complicated and messy, with its effects and consequences far-reaching. David describes it as the hardest time he’s faced in his life.

The tough choices weren’t over for us yet, and as 2014 wore on, we began to question whether I should remain at my job. That was a decision, as I’ve written about here before, I previously couldn’t fathom. My identity had always been so tied to my career. In August, I left to stay home with Olivia.

We didn’t really know, and most likely still do not fully realize, how life-changing these decisions ultimately would be. It didn’t take long for it to become painfully obvious that what initially felt like the worst was much better than we could possibly imagine. As we let go of our desires and what we held dear, God showed us how to value His desires for us. This time of crying out to God and seeking answers brought us closer to Christ and to each other. I found that spending my days with Olivia was more fulfilling than any role I’ve ever held. We joined a new church, where God began to grow our faith in new ways. Each message seemed directed at us, as God taught us about what it really means to follow Him and how He did not promise us that path would be easy–in fact, just the opposite. But the rewards would be eternal.

Then why was I still finding it so difficult to place each part of my will entirely in God’s hands? What if, after two years of challenges, it got even harder? What if, after learning so much and finding a home at this church, in the future it means a new pastor or a different church? What if David loses his job or I am called to a new one? Or what if it means the scariest things, losing the things I love the most? David? Our health? Our children?

But what if it does? For weeks, I have been following the story of Kara Tippetts, a young mother who recently lost her battle with cancer. I’ve been awed and inspired by the grace she showed, knowing her life was coming to an end, and the absolute peace she had, knowing it meant she was exchanging it for the glory of being in the presence of her Savior. As I’ve read of her life and death, I’ve wondered not only if I could do the same, but what if I were in her husband’s shoes, knowing I would lose my spouse? I’ve seen firsthand over the past two years the joy of accepting God’s will in my life despite hardships, but if it meant losing David or our children, would I still follow Christ?

As I prepare to celebrate tomorrow the significance and enormity of all Christ has done for me, my heart is gripped with these thoughts, and I am praying my answer would be yes. I am praying that He will help me have a heart that desires His will and the full life it brings, since His death was for me. And I am praying that as I turn my will over to God, He will give me peace through each step of pursuing His.

“Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be:
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy Rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God;
So shall I walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me,
My poverty or wealth.
Not mine, not mine the choice
In things both great or small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength,
My wisdom, and my all.”

Thy Way, Not Mine, O Lord by Horatius Bonar

Lord, help me give it all to You.

Lord, help me give it all to You.

“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25)

What’s really helped get me through this pregnancy …

Ah, second trimester. I’m so so glad you’re here.

I’m now more than 15 weeks into my second pregnancy, and the nausea has subsided, my energy is returning, and I can finally enjoy a cup of coffee again. (Why exactly does a brewing pot smell so horrific during the first trimester?? I’m sure it has something to do with those pesky hormone changes …)

But I digress. I’m really glad to put that first trimester behind me, because it was a doozy. I feel like everything about this pregnancy needs to be in bold type and followed with an exclamation point. It’s been so in your face, obvious, distinct, and pronounced. Nothing’s been subtle. I was pretty confident that I was pregnant about a week into it after having some tell-tale symptoms. Then, a couple weeks later on the way home from church on a Sunday night, I told my husband that I wanted a Big Mac. No. I NEEDED a Big Mac. (Of course, I don’t think I’ve eaten a Big Mac in probably 15 years.) He looked over at me from the driver’s side and said, “Hon, you’re pregnant.”

The next day, right at the four-week mark, I took a test. The line started showing up before I could even put it down–no need to wait the three minutes. I was indeed pregnant! And when I told David that night when he got home from work, I was surprised that he was actually surprised. I mean, I think the Big Mac craving was really the only test we needed, right?

The day after the positive test, at 4 weeks 1 day, I was fixing Olivia’s and my breakfast, and I got instantly sick. Wow, I thought, that was fast. I don’t think I even had any nausea with Olivia until about six weeks. And though I had nausea throughout my first trimester with her, I fortunately only got physically sick a handful of times the entire pregnancy.

Yeah, I think I beat that benchmark in two days this pregnancy.

I wasn’t prepared for the nausea and sickness to hit me so hard and fast this pregnancy, since that was not what I experienced with Liv. (Though my wonderful mom likes to remind me how she was sick EVERY DAY for all nine months when she carried me. Love you, mom!) I wasn’t scheduled to see my OB till I was about 10 weeks along, but at week 7, after trying nearly every trick in the book, I caved and called in for help. The anti-nausea meds thankfully gave me some relief, and they really started helping by the time we saw our little babe on the ultrasound at my first prenatal appointment.

Yes, the first trimester was tough. But what really helped get me through it–in addition to many prayers and the anti-nausea meds–was the support of David. He really was amazing, and I’m not overstating that. David truly has a gift of showing his love through his care, and I am very blessed to be a recipient of that. It was like at the first sign of sickness, he just went into take-charge mode. Now, David helps a lot around the home and with Liv under normal circumstances–I really feel we have a true partnership in our home life–but this was above and beyond.

Reading book after book after book with his girl.

Reading book after book after book with his girl.

 

Every day, he would get home from work (I was usually curled up in a ball in the family room at that point) and without even asking, would willingly and completely handle whatever situation greeted him. Getting Liv up from naps. Changing her diaper. Feeding her dinner. Seeing if anything sounded good to me. Making many trips out to fulfill whatever oddball craving I was having at the moment (and of course, when you have a craving coupled with nausea, it is the ONLY thing you can eat). Doing the grocery shopping. Doing the dishes. Playing with Liv. Bathing her. Putting her to bed. Putting me to bed.

He NEVER complained. Not once. I’m sure he was exhausted after working all day and then caring for the entire household (dogs included) once he was home, but it did not seem to phase him. Through my fog of sickness, I couldn’t help but smile as I heard him laughing with Olivia in the other room. Despite the nausea, it made me feel so good. And when I would thank him for all he was doing, he would just say “Hon, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special. I’m just doing what needs to be done.”

Snuggling his girls. (Note: the dogs.)

Snuggling his girls. (Note: the dogs.)

 

It was a rebuke to me. If I were in his shoes, I don’t think I would’ve had the same spirit. During this time especially, he taught me through his actions what it is to live out 1 Corinthians 13. It is an honor and a privilege to be loved by him; I know I am one lucky girl.

I’ve probably embarrassed him by now, so I’ll wrap this up. As I start to feel the first flutters of this tiny babe inside me, I can’t help but be excited for this little one to meet Daddy. He’s a special guy.

All the best Dads watch Daniel Tiger with their kids.

All the best Dads watch Daniel Tiger with their kids.

 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)