The greatest crisis moms are facing today

I still remember the feeling I had when I walked through the doors of my first newspaper job, a fresh college graduate. 

As I took my seat in the lobby, waiting for my editor to lead me to my desk, I wasn’t nervous or intimidated or uncertain. I was bursting with excitement, eager to jump in and get started, ready to face the challenge of racing against a looming deadline with the goal of producing a published work.

For as long as I could remember, I had been preparing for this moment.

Seriously though. As a third-grader, I had created and published my own newspaper, “The Old-Fashioned Press,” which was then printed and distributed in my public elementary school. 

Yes. I was THAT kid.

From that point, my career path was extremely focused–and I worked very hard to make my dream a reality, from entering writing competitions in high school to serving as yearbook editor my senior year. I never hesitated when it came to deciding my major; it was always going to be journalism. In college, I had three media internships before graduation and during my final semester, I was the editor-in-chief of the school paper. 

So before my first byline as a full-time staffer ever hit newsprint, I was as prepared as I could possibly be.

It seems a bit crazy, right? All those years of work to lead up to this role?

But I soon found why this meticulous–and at times arduous–preparation was worthwhile. When breaking news happened minutes from deadline, tearing up the front page to write and edit fresh copy with notonesecondtobreathe was no problem. When the two top editors of one of the magazines in my group quit within days of each other, only to find barely any work had been done on the next issue due that week, no worries. When I found myself accepting a publisher role I never saw coming, it was OK. 

I just looked at the challenge square in the face and quickly got to work because I knew what to do. I had been trained for this. 

And no momentary setback was going to stand in my way.

That, my friends, was then.

Years later, I was now in a new role. My most important one yet. 

Mom.

And as I stared into my toddler’s tiny face screaming so loud I couldn’t even think, I had NO IDEA what to do. I didn’t know how to deal with my white-hot reactions triggered by some of her tantrums. I had no clue how to cope with what can be a mind-numbing monotony brought on by a repeating loop of diapers, dishes, and discipline.

Bumps in my parenting road sent me on detours full of isolation, frustration, and discontentment. I was sidelined by the obstacles. I lost sight of the end goal.

baby and mom

I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting these little lives can be.

It wasn’t till earlier this year while reading the book Desperate, written by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson, that a lightbulb went on.

I had spent nearly all of my 30 pre-parenting years focused on doing well in MY life, and yet, I had invested comparatively very little of my time on how to guide and mold a future generation.

After listening to other women over the past few years–even those whose only desire was to one day be a mom–I know I am not alone. 

You want to know what I think may be the greatest feminist crisis of our generation? I don’t think it has anything to do with politics or the current president and his policies. 

The crisis we are facing is this: Increasingly, we as women are not adequately prepared to be moms. 

I’m not talking about developing a birth plan or pinning the perfect nursery to your board or reading baby books or even reviews about what products to buy (though I was pretty clueless about those things as well). 

I am talking about preparing our hearts and minds for the long haul. About forming a foundation to do the work of eternity. About being ready for the soul-shaping job that doesn’t get deterred by the crisis of the day, brought to you only as little ones know how to do best, in a way that keeps your eyes fixed on 18 years down the line and addresses the challenges you know you will face–not with annoyance or anger but calmly and confidently and with Christ.

sick baby and mom

The cries of sickness and sighs of sleepless nights are not as challenging when viewed through an eternal lens.


I think anyone would agree that parenting is a job of utmost significance. So why are we not better prepared for it?

Because, as Sally writes, we are not looking at it that way.

“Unfortunately, many moms have entered the battlefield of motherhood and are totally unprepared, untrained, and ill-equipped for the job. I know I was. And many have not understood that the home is a battlefield where sin and selfishness must be overcome, and that the taming, subduing, and civilizing of a home will be to a woman’s honor,” Sally writes. “I believe that if moms understood how strategic their roles were in this battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation, they would grow in excitement about this great job God created them to fulfill …”

She continues: “For me, it changed my whole perspective to understand that this was a job for which I was designed before the fall, and that I played a key part in God’s plan of redeeming this world back to Himself … Had I captured earlier the great call to train godly children, who would live righteously and invest in God’s kingdom work, I would have been much more prepared and excited to face the challenges along the way.”

Her words pricked my heart.

In every other job I can think of, it would be incredulous, and foolish even, if you took it on unprepared. Imagine a reporter entering a newsroom without first learning how to write an article. Or a nurse treating a patient without knowing how to administer medicine. A teacher standing before a class without ever forming a lesson plan.

Then why would it be ok to enter into parenting without much more than a box of diapers and some onesies? With the thought that we would merely figure it out along the way?

Why aren’t we treating the preparation for this job with the urgency and importance it deserves?

Maybe you have always loved babies and with your eagerness to cuddle a squishy bundle, you thought child-rearing would come naturally. Or you focused solely on the fun parts of playing in parks and having someone to love and love you back.

squishy baby

There’s much more to being a mom than just a desire for a squishy baby to hold.


Or, like me if I were to be completely honest, you viewed parenting as secondary to something else in your life, whether it is a career or talent you possess. That it was an asterisk to who you are, not quite as worthy to spend as much time developing it.

I’ll agree, at times, being a mom isn’t always as thrilling as chasing a big story. Its inherent selflessness may not be as rewarding as holding a finished product in my hands.

But with these little fingers laced in mine, I am holding an eternal product-in-the-making in my hands.

Before I was a journalist–before I was a thought in my own mother’s mind–I was designed by God to be a mom.

Moms, we were purposed for this work.

So what can we do to get ready to face our roles with the proper focus? Particularly if you lacked examples of biblical parenting in your own childhood?

I think we as the body of Christ could be doing a better job in helping other Christ followers along in this area, through both pulpit instruction and discipleship. The authors of Desperate encourage moms of young kids to find an older, godly mentor–someone who has faced the same struggles and can provide Scriptural solutions and support. I think this is a great idea and have been praying about finding such a mentor myself. Or if you as a mom are past the stage of raising littles, maybe you can seek out a new mom in your church and offer to help guide her from God’s Word and advise (not tell) her about how to do a Christ-honoring job.

Personally, since I have been striving to view my daily functions in light of the greater work taking place in my children’s hearts and minds, many of the challenges haven’t seemed so … well, challenging.

So when they disobey, or whine, or scream “No!”, with the long-term view in mind, I’m better equipped to step back and take a deep breath and say to myself, “this is part of the process–you knew this would happen–this is why you’re here.” And then ask the Lord to help me with my response.

Now I still have much to learn, and I fail more than I would like, but with this focus, I can gratefully say God is allowing my work to become more satisfying. He is expanding my view to show me how important it is what I am doing. And it is my prayerful goal that through my actions I can in turn raise my daughters with the knowledge and experience that if God also has this role for them, it can be the most fulfilling work they will ever have–even better than seeing your name in print.

girl and dad at sunset

baby reaching at sunset

My treasures–my greatest work.

Because my newspaper clips will continue to yellow and fade. But my most exciting work … well, they are growing a little bigger each day.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-13‬)

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How to tackle Whole30 and other life changes for the struggling mom

I was desperate.

For more than six months, I had been clawing my way to the end of each day, fighting the pain of throbbing headaches, stumbling through brain fog, and pushing against a brick wall of fatigue. I had bounced from specialist to specialist, who ran test after test, trying to figure out why I felt this awful. I had some answers, but no relief yet from my list of symptoms.

So when my naturopathic doctor became the third medical professional to recommend a radical elimination diet, I threw up my hands, defeated. Fine. It was worth a shot.

I really didn’t want to do it. I was so overwhelmed, barely treading in the deep end of daily living, that the thought of changing what I eat–even for a limited period of time–seemed like it would be the anchor that would pull me under. I didn’t think it would solve my health problems. I thought I already ate pretty well. And I really, really didn’t want to give up brownies and ice cream after the kids were in bed. That just sounded like pure torture. Needless pain and sorrow. Agony upon agony.

But I was already suffering, and the medical professionals thought that though changing what I ate was unlikely to completely resolve my issues, it could potentially treat or reduce some symptoms, particularly the aches, fatigue, irritability, and brain fog. And it wouldn’t hurt to try.

As my doctor went over the list of food groups that she wanted me to eliminate, I realized it was very similar to a plan I had recently read about in a college friend’s tumblr post.

“You mean like a Whole30?” I asked.

“Yep, this is very similar to that,” she said. “In fact, doing a Whole30 is a great way to go, because there are so many resources out there on how to do that.”

I left the appointment with orders that she wanted me to complete it before my next follow-up visit. Since we had a vacation coming up in about six weeks where I didn’t want to be finicky with my food choices, I decided if I was going to do it, the time was now. Or most likely never.

So what exactly is the Whole30 program? For 30 days, participants cannot eat any dairy, grain (wheat, oats, corn, rice), soy, or legumes (peanuts, beans). No added sugar. No alcohol. And you must avoid certain preservatives, including MSG and sulfites. (You can read more about the program specifics here.)

At first, I thought giving up sugar would be the hardest part. I mean, a couple Dove dark chocolates or Ghiradelli squares were an essential pairing with my afternoon coffee during the kids’ naptime. But as I started assessing my eating habits to see what I would need to change, I realized I ate a lot of dairy. Like, a lot. Greek yogurt first thing in the morning. Cheese several times a day. Milk in my scrambled eggs and as an ingredient in many recipes. And grains. So many grains. Bagel or English muffin almost daily. Oatmeal. Sandwiches or quesadillas for lunch. Pasta for dinner. Ugh. Sugar now seemed like an easy loss.

So I decided to focus on what I could eat instead of what I couldn’t. Mainly think of it as protein + veggies + fruit. Thankfully, I love food, so I knew I wouldn’t hate what I was eating … I just hoped I wouldn’t harm someone I loved if a craving for something on the naughty list took over.

Bottom line: It wasn’t that hard to do, I learned tons about food and cooking, and I found doing a Whole30 had many benefits. Here are my tips for making it a simple, worthwhile, and dare I say enjoyable experiment … even for the struggling mom.

Planning to succeed was way easier than I thought. One of my biggest hang-ups about starting a Whole30 was that I was in such a state I barely had the energy to put together a grocery list for my husband to take to the store. Meal plan and prep? That seemed impossible. As I mentioned before, there’s tons of info out there on how to do a Whole30, from books and blogs to Pinterest boards and podcasts, but even that was overwhelming. 

Somehow, I found Mel Joulwan’s Well Fed blog, and that was my saving grace. She has meal plans, straightforward explanations of how to prep, and even better, shopping lists with everything you need on them to eat the entire week, down to the spices. Like, I could just print off her grocery list and head to the store. I didn’t even have to think. (BONUS.)

I spent the majority of my planning time reading her methods and covering the basics on the Whole30 website. I’ve been asked a lot if you have to read one of the best-selling Whole30 books by the Hartwigs before starting. My answer is no, I did not find it necessary. There is TONS of free info–step-by-steps, recipes, FAQs about ingredients–on the site. I did end up buying The Whole30, but I didn’t reference it that much. Instead, I do recommend buying all three of Mel Joulwan’s Well Fed cookbooks, including her just-released Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less. However, I don’t think you have to run out and buy her books before you start, because she has plenty of free recipes on her blog and more than enough resources to help you navigate the process. But I think it’s a good investment, because I (and my pretty picky hubs) have grown to love her recipes and style, and I use those cookbooks as pretty much my main source of cooking now.

full fridge

What my fridge looked like after my first stock up: packed full of produce for the week.

After I reviewed the first week’s meal plan and downloaded the shopping list, I headed off to stock up on specialty items I would need. For me, I found Trader Joe’s to be the best and most economical spot, though unfortunately, the closest one to our home is about 30 minutes away. But if I planned it right, I found I only needed to go once every two weeks. Nearly everything else I purchased at my local Meijer or Kroger. So if you have a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or another market that specializes in natural ingredients in your neighborhood, lucky you.

Also, it is helpful to carve out one bigger block of time at the start of your week for prep. The more cooking you can get done at one time, the easier it is to resist temptation, because you have compliant foods already prepared and are less likely to get yourself in a hangry situation. I modified Mel’s cook-up plans to work for my lifestyle (stay-at-home-mom in poor health) so I didn’t spend an entire afternoon or evening prepping, because that’s just not realistic. (Hello. Kids.) I broke it up into two or three cook-ups a week, making several meals at once, mostly taking 1-2 hours after the kids were in bed.

Before you think that still sounds like too much time, I found I actually spent LESS time in the kitchen overall during the week. I mean, I regularly took more than an hour a day making even quick meals for the family. Instead, in about 2 hours, I was making almost all meals for several days. When it came time to eat, you just pull your prepped stuff out of the fridge, reheat, saute your fresh veggies, and that’s it. Any mom who’s dealt with the “witching hour” before dinner can appreciate cutting that trying stretch of meal-making down to mere minutes. Plus, I found I was not as stressed and frazzled when we sat down to the table, because I wasn’t fighting off kids while trying to not burn food for the last 45 minutes. There are some meals I made without prior prep, but those mostly involved grilling and roasting, so still very little hands-on time before they are cooking.

I ate lots of coconut. And eggs. And cauliflower. And guac. I found that coconut is a staple in the Paleo/Whole30 kitchen. Coconut oil. Coconut cooking spray. Coconut milk. Coconut aminos. Coconut creamer. And so on. Also, I easily blew through a dozen-and-a-half eggs in a week, so I learned to buy 3 dozen at a time just to be safe. (I would often hard-boil a half-dozen at a time and have them ready in the fridge for a protein-fueled snack.) I used cauliflower frequently too, both fresh and frozen, for “rice” substitutes (Trader Joe’s actually makes a pre-riced cauliflower that is amazing) or “mashed potatoes” or in soups. And guacamole was great as a topper on breakfasts or salads. Or by itself. Because it’s guac.

Other ingredients or foods I found helpful:

  • Larabars (there are several compliant flavors) for snacks on-the-go.
  • Aidells or Trader Joe’s chicken sausages–high in protein, ready in minutes.
  • Cashew butter (Trader Joe’s is my favorite, but Kroger’s Simple Truth version is pretty good too)–I found I like cashew butter better than its counterpart of almond butter as a peanut butter replacement. And it is great as a fruit dip for a little “treat.”
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs–I would roast or grill 2 dozen a week. Done in 30 minutes when roasting and then you have a base protein ready-made for lunches or many dinner recipes.
  • Tessemae’s compliant dressings–their balsamic is great on salads or as a quick marinade.
  • Coconut aminos–this replaces soy sauce and is used in many of Mel’s recipes, and I went through a few bottles. ALERT: this was my hardest-to-locate ingredient, but they do sell it on Amazon if you can’t find it elsewhere.
  • Trader Joe’s dried fruits, especially their mangoes–just enough to satisfy a sweet craving.
  • Trader Joe’s frozen Chile Lime chicken burgers–these are so, SO good. Meal in a flash.
  • Frozen salmon fillets or shrimp–more protein in a pinch.

But besides these specific, simple foods, I followed Mel’s “stock up” methods pretty closely for buying and preparing my weekly protein and veggies.

chicken salad

Simple, delicious lunches were easy to throw together once I knew what I was doing and had plenty of healthy ingredients on-hand.

I spiced up my cooking habits. I realized somewhere in the second week of Whole30 that I didn’t really know how to cook before starting the program. I mean, I could plod my way through a recipe decently enough, but I never really knew how to season meats or veggies without following a plan. In fact, I had to buy many spices, because I rarely ventured outside of salt, pepper, and garlic. Suddenly, foods seemed to come alive in ways I didn’t know possible. David decided foods he had previously turned up his nose to (brussel sprouts especially) were actually quite tasty with the right seasonings. And I now was equipped with what to quickly do with that chicken instead of having to consult Mr. Google. (Salt + pepper + garlic + paprika, throw in oven.)

One of the biggest take-aways was Mel’s steam-saute method for veggies. David has declared he never wants me to make broccoli or green beans any other way. It is so simple and flavorful. I could eat piles of veggies prepared this way.

I also learned making foods from scratch really wasn’t that difficult or time-consuming nor is it only for crunchy or CrossFit people (no offense if you fall into either of those categories, but it’s just not me). Make my own mayo? No problem. Cut and roast a spaghetti squash? Piece of cake. Special spice combinations? I try to keep four whipped up in my pantry that I can sprinkle on a variety of foods. (My favorite for breakfasts is Mel’s Sunrise Spice.) I found myself regularly pulling out my Ninja without fear. (A couple tools that I didn’t have at the time that would be useful are an immersion/stick blender, which I got for Christmas, and a noodle spiralizer or Kitchen-Aid mixer attachment.)

meatza pizza

Meatza instead of pizza? It’s actually really good.



Overall, Whole30 changed me. While I set out on the program for health purposes, I found many other reasons why it was a beneficial experience. It taught me to read labels more closely. (I had no idea how often sugar is hidden in prepared foods!) My skin improved. I lost 5 pounds. I learned to make wiser choices with what I put in my mouth and that I could indeed make healthy yet convenient meals. I noticeably had more energy.

It wasn’t all puppies and rainbows though. It didn’t solve my underlying health problems, and I continued to have headaches during it. (In fact, on Day 3, I was sick as a dog, most likely from detox, so be prepared for this if you try the program.) I did have to fight back cravings, but it wasn’t impossible. It can be more expensive than your normal food-buying habits, but you don’t have to buy organic and grass-fed everything if your budget doesn’t allow. (Just focus on the most natural ingredients you can get for the price.)

But it fundamentally altered the way I have eaten moving forward, because I found it was easy to implement. Instead of cereal or some other grain for breakfast, I usually make quick omelettes and scrambles full of veggies (my favorite go-to is three scrambled eggs mixed with half a diced pre-roasted sweet potato, reheated in coconut oil and seasoned with a teaspoon or so of Sunshine Spice). Rather than a sandwich with the kids for lunch, I make tuna or chicken salad or eat leftovers. I no longer fix my coffee with half a packet of Splenda and a pour of Coffeemate; I now drink it without sweetener and only a splash of coconut creamer or black. Almost all of our dinners are now Paleo or Whole30 (though I am not strict Paleo right now by any means–I still love Friday night pizza). And for the first time since I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia after a glucose tolerance test confirmed it in college, my blood sugar was stable. I no longer regularly felt periods of shakiness throughout the day, which I used to experience despite eating frequent, small, protein-filled meals. 

Along with the Whole30, I made other life changes. I began taking a daily probiotic and a couple other supplements recommended by my doctors. During the toughest period, I said “no” to anything that was non-essential to caring for my kids. I purposed to get outside every day that I could. I slept at every opportunity. I said “yes” to help from my husband, family, and friends. I listened to worship music. And though Whole30 by itself didn’t cure me of my health struggles, about a month after I finished it, God allowed my daily waking headaches to stop. I started feeling normal again.

Many of you have prayed and asked about my health. We are overjoyed that I have felt as well as I have for the past few months after I struggled for much of 2016. This month, I plan to have another MRI to follow up on my cyst, but I do not expect any negative change, based on my symptoms. And after the … er, decadence of the holidays, I am ready for a fresh start and plan to do another Whole30 again.

It most certainly can’t hurt.

Or at least it is temporary pain. Because a lifetime of lacking a little afternoon treat with my coffee is just not a sacrifice I am willing to permanently make. I have toddlers, after all.


“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:31‬)

Why I’m glad I’ll never be a pro at parenting

It’s 7:46 p.m., and I’ve been snuggling and rocking my second-born for over an hour.

I’m listening to her soft snorts as she breathes out her nose, silently willing her to just. go. to. sleep. as she fights it with every fiber in her now overly tired body. As I stare at her features barely visible in the dim light of the nursery, I wonder how I could find something so sweet still so incredibly … terrifying.

 

baby held by God not us

Her life is not held in our hands.

 
It’s been more than three months now since she entered our lives. A span of time that has mystifyingly stood still and yet passed so fast. The terror I speak of started the morning of her birth. Well, I’m sure it started before, but that was the moment it became so real that I wanted to run screaming from Labor & Delivery triage.

“I don’t want to do this,” I sobbed to my husband, who looked at my tear-stained face completely bewildered, as I lay shaking on the hospital bed in preparation for my scheduled c-section. 

“Can we just go home?”

He paused a second before carefully responding.

“Hon, I think it’s a little late for that.”

This was not how I pictured the birth day of my second daughter. I had thought we would talk and laugh and wait in excitement until they walked me back to the OR. Instead, my stomach was a tangled mess of knots and my heart was thudding and my mind was spinning. I don’t think I had ever been so nerved up about anything more in life. 

I wasn’t scared of the surgery. Or of the recovery pain I knew was coming. What had me so horrified was what I had wanted every day for nine looooooong months: the thought of this new life entering into the world.

This new life we had to bring home. To care for. To raise. For at least the next 18 years, Lord willing.

And it absolutely freaked me out.

I didn’t feel this way before the birth of my first; at least, I don’t remember feeling it so strongly. Maybe it was because I now knew what I was getting into and the significance of it all. 

My husband was right–there was no turning back. And as scared as I was, when the time came, I didn’t run. Actually, once I scooched my very pregnant self onto the operating table, I was at peace. 

Minutes later, at 9:01 a.m. on September 15, sweet Aurelia Ruth made her debut.

 The minutes and days and weeks that have followed already have blended together into an indistinguishable twist of time, as we try to figure out how to best meet the needs of this precious little soul.

Our second-born is definitely more challenging than our first, but that is not saying much, because I think I somehow birthed the World’s Easiest Baby with her. I have joked that wolves could’ve raised Olivia, and she would’ve turned out the same. So when it has become clear that I don’t have all the parenting answers (not that I ever thought I did), the terror starts creeping back in to lurk in the corners of my heart.

But that terror, I have learned, also cracks open a door to turn to God. To seek Him, instead of run in fear. To cling to truth, instead of listen to the lies of the Great Deceiver. To realize finding the “right” answer doesn’t rest on me, or in some book, or on some mommy blog, but in the Creator and Provider. For if He cares for the lilies of the valley and the birds of the air, He surely cares so much more for my children. And for our marriage. And for me.

That’s why I am glad I don’t know it all when it comes to being a parent. If it were totally easy, it would also be easy to think “hey, I’ve got this,” puff out my chest, and leave little room for God. 

I am sure there will be bigger challenges ahead than how to get my baby to sleep. And I pray He uses those challenges to keep me humble and on my knees, asking for His direction and help. 

As I lay my finally dreaming babe ever, yet ever, so quietly and carefully down in her crib and tip-toe backwards through the darkness of her room, fingers silently wrapping around the doorknob, I am not leaving the terror behind. I am simply choosing to let the Almighty wrap us both in His powerful arms.

He is there in the darkness.

He is there to conquer my doubts.

He is there in the late-night feedings. In the cries that cannot be soothed or explained. In the exhausting yet oh-so-rewarding moments that each new day brings. 

He.

Is.

There.

And I’m so grateful He’s got this, not me.

gift of a  child

Thank you Lord, for this most precious gift.

“My help comes from The Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 101:2)

What to do when waiting robs your joy

It’s amazing how quickly you can turn to despair when you are physically spent.

After about a week’s reprieve from the nausea and vomiting that returned at the 32-week mark of pregnancy, I was completely caught off guard when it came roaring back yesterday. Add this on top of my already-depleted energy from 3- to 4-hour stretches of contractions less than 5 minutes apart for the past few days, and I rapidly spiraled downward.

I have just two weeks left at most in this pregnancy, and yet, it’s as if time was standing still. And it’s like the lack of physical strength in my body also drained any mental capacity I had to cast reason and perspective on my present circumstances.

My thoughts grew increasingly dark and hopeless as the hours dragged on, knowing that it’s not exactly going to get any easier dealing with a newborn, toddler, and c-section recovery once this uncomfortable gestational period was over. While I knew I had many things to be grateful for–an incredibly helpful husband, a generally easy-going toddler, a healthy baby growing inside me, and the end of pregnancy just around the corner–it was like I could only focus on what I couldn’t do. That I couldn’t get off the couch and play “get you” with my girl. That I couldn’t muster enough strength to make it to the grocery store. That I couldn’t enjoy our last days as a family of three the way I wanted. That I couldn’t make the clock go faster.

Behind the smile, I’ve been masking my despair.

As I laid there wishing away each overwhelming hour, desperately wanting to be done with this miserable stage of limbo, I knew I was being short-sighted … and yet, too exhausted and numb to change my thoughts. Even that seemed like too much.

But I also knew my despair, anxiety, and impatience was destroying any ability to see the joys of each day. I never have cared too much for the well-meaning phrases of “it’s just a season” and “this too shall pass,” because I know that when you’re focused on simply speeding to the end destination, you can miss many moments of wonderful along the journey.

So I started to pray for The Lord to renew my thoughts, instead of just replenish my strength, and I knew others were praying too. This morning, I woke in a haze after a night of intermittent sleep to find this Scripture someone had shared on Facebook as encouragement, and it was just what I needed.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭62‬:‭5-8‬)

As I meditated on His Truth, I prayed that God would help me wait quietly during this time of turbulence and calm my soul enough to see all that is praiseworthy. I got up, turned on the bathroom faucet, and immediately the lyrics of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” filled my mind: “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.” Yes, Lord. You promise that. And I can cling to it.

Pretty much all I want to do these days …

Instead of solely focusing on how tired I felt and how much I wanted to crawl back in bed and for the day to already be over, I decided to write down every time I encountered a blessing, starting with the fact that the sun was shining on this first day of September, the month we would welcome our new daughter into this world. I didn’t want the moments of wonderful to pass me by, unseen and uncherished. As my list quickly grew, I saw just how much I had to be thankful for.

  • A toddler who slept in
  • Coffee
  • Greetings of “mommy, up?” when I entered her room, her invitation to come snuggle in bed and read a book
  • Her sweet request to read “Sister,” and how she talked about the different ways she can help with baby after we read each page
  • Her polite, sing-songy “all done” when she finished with breakfast, followed by a request for a “cloth cloth” to wipe her crumbs
  • Daniel Tiger (!!!)
  • Her eagerness to help me make banana bread and the feeling of her small, soft hands wrapped in mine as we stir, stir, stir
  • The songs that bubble freely and tenderly from her tiny voice
  • Feeling baby girl stretch inside, despite the discomfort it brings
  • Her spontaneous chorus of “clean up, clean up” as she puts the Play-Doh back into the container
  • Her quiet, steady breathing as she concentrates on transferring popcorn from one cup to another
  • Witnessing her imagination at work as she mixes and bakes in her play kitchen 
  • Opportunities for me to learn patience and show grace when I instruct her after she throws her toys on the ground in frustration
  • The way she crosses her ankles while she eats peanut butter and jelly in her booster seat
  • When she goes potty without any protest before nap (over a month now without an accident, though I may’ve just jinxed that … )
  • Carrying her to the bed with her head cradled on my shoulder as I hum a verse of a lullaby and rub her back
  • The privilege to read her a story from God’s Word (today about the boy king Josiah)
  • Kissing her soft, smooth forehead and thanking The Lord she goes down for a nap easily 
  • A long shower while streaming my favorite Getty hymns station on Pandora and praising God for helping me get through another morning 

Clearly, my blessings were bountiful, and this day was only halfway done. I knew I would long for mornings of these magical moments in the years to come. How could I wish this away? 

She can’t wait to meet her baby sister.

Yes, this month may get harder. And I imagine it will, with sleepless nights, and surging hormones, and cries that won’t easily be comforted. But I’m praying that God will not help me survive it–that He’ll instead show me His goodness and sustain me with His grace. That He’ll quiet my heart enough to see His beauty and blessings. That I won’t be able to deny the waiting was all worthwhile.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭26‬)

Today’s parenting struggles won’t seem as bad tomorrow

I have been lying here for over an hour, desperately wishing for sleep that won’t come. It goes without saying that it is incredibly frustrating when you get the chance to rest, but you can’t. And so I am thinking and meditating and praying through my jumbled thoughts amid waves of nausea.

The last two weeks have been hard.

This pregnancy has not been without its challenges, though nothing abnormal when it comes to what growing a human for 40-ish weeks might entail. First, it was the nausea and vomiting that hit the day after I took my pregnancy test at 4 weeks–but anti-nausea meds helped me manage that until about 20 weeks. Then, at 26 weeks, I started having sciatica pain, at times making it extremely difficult to walk, sit, or sleep.

Just as that started not to be an all-day, every-day kind of thing, my old friend from the beginning of pregnancy dropped back in for a visit. Oh, hi, nausea. No, I really didn’t miss you, but thanks ever so much for stopping by. Unfortunately, the vomiting quickly led to dehydration, which led to contractions that came every 8-10 minutes for hours, which led to a trip to the hospital for IV fluids at 32 weeks. I am now 34 weeks, and the nausea and vomiting seem like they’re here to stay, regardless of the medicine this time around.

And so I’m tired. And sick. And just want to get up and go play with my daughter when she reaches and calls out “Mommy, hand? Outside?” No, baby, not today.

girl on swings

My baby girl is learning to let go, and so am I.

Instead, I am focusing on just getting through each day, and most days, each hour. I am trying to not grow weary, though the hormones admittedly cloud my judgment, and I cry over the box of spaghetti noodles I accidentally spilled across the floor.

The one thing that helps is to know that my present challenges are temporary; they have an end date. This storm will pass. In less than five weeks, I will be holding my baby girl. And I am positive I will like her a lot more on the outside than in.

Since I’ve spent much of the past two weeks lying down, lost in my thoughts, trying to distract myself from the nausea, I’ve been reflecting on the past two years as a parent and the challenges that don’t have an end date marked on the calendar, when you don’t know when the cloudy days will cease. And how soon, we’ll be revisiting some of them. How there will be days of struggles and weariness with no light piercing through the fog at times, and how it will be easy to get discouraged, if we take our eyes off the Master.

First, it may be the rollercoaster of feeding and sleep with a newborn. Trying to navigate the twists and turns of latching correctly, getting her fill, eliminating those pesky gas bubbles, and hoping she keeps at least most of it down. For as “natural” as feeding my firstborn was proclaimed to be, I was shocked by how physically difficult it was. Natural yes, easy no. I remember one night, a few weeks in, sitting on my bedroom floor with her, uncontrollably sobbing and sweating and miserable while my bewildered husband stood by, wondering what he could do to help.

And while sleeping for Liv is perhaps what she’s always done best, the initial weeks of disrupted cycles can easily leave you in a haze, regardless. But since we’ve only known a sleeper, it’s quite possible that our second daughter could turn our world upside down.

girl on slide

Parenting is quite a ride, full of twists and turns and the most exciting outcomes.

The weeks will pass, and then the developmental milestones will be upon us. I’ve seen these consume otherwise-stable moms with concern: When will she roll over? Sit up? Eat solids? Crawl? Teethe? Walk? Talk? For most of these, Liv was on the later end. She didn’t crawl or get her first teeth till 9 months; walk till 15 months; talk more than a few words till 20 months. I quickly learned that focusing on these too much was pointless, unless there was a medical reason to do so–eventually, she would do them.

Then there’s the meat of the parenting struggles: the instruction, correction, and discipline. The wondering if they’re ever going to get it. When “no” becomes the word you say most and you feel like you repeat the same handful of phrases day in and day out. Where you have long stretches where no noticeable progress is made. And you wonder if anything you’re doing really matters.

But then, as with all of these challenges, you’ll wake one day and realized your baby slept through the night. You’ll put away the bottles for the last time. You’ll walk in the door, and your baby will run into your arms. You’ll prepare to move on to the next task and realize she is cleaning up her toys behind you, unprompted. You’ll sit down to a meal and distractedly begin eating, while your little one folds her hands and begins to pray.

And the storm clouds of yesterday will seem distant and fleeting, quickly fading in the rear view mirror of life as it speeds on ahead.

I had this moment recently with my nearly 2-year-old daughter. In a span of just a few months, she went from a baby sitting in a highchair, shoveling fistfuls of food into her mouth, largely dependent on us for everything. Now, as I watched her seated at her own kids’ table, she carefully and methodically stabbed each strawberry with a fork and asked for a wipe when some juice dribbled down. I passed her a napkin and wondered where my baby girl had gone. This precious gift that once curled inside my belly was a (mostly) potty-trained, sleeping-in-a-twin-bed, thoughtful and sweet little girl. As I paused and looked deep into those breath-taking hazel eyes, I saw a tiny person staring back.

Tomorrow was here, and it had brought a rainbow.

I know there will be new parenting challenges ahead, paling at times in comparison to yesterday’s struggles, but I also now know that today’s seemingly insurmountable obstacles won’t seem that bad tomorrow–if we keep our eyes fixed on the One who controls the present storm, the One who the winds and waves obey. For if we do, before we know it, He’ll have guided us over the turbulent waters into the safety of the boat. If we consistently keep treading water, He’ll keep our heads above it. And when the waves start to swell again, and we brace for the crash ahead, I want to remember to stop and be still. And wait for His peace to wash over me. And remember the beauty that waits at the end of the rain.

reading Bible in chair

“Reading” her Bible in her new big girl room. I hope I have many years of catching her doing this.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Mom-guilt and its second-guessing demons are from Satan

Before kids, I belonged to the confident, self-assured group of people that thought I wouldn’t let having children change who I was in any respect.

Then an 8-pound, 4-ounce bundle was placed in my arms. And my confidence was destroyed. Self-assuredness thrown out the window.

Nearly two years later, I’ll be the first to admit–I am not the same person I was before I became a parent.

The woman who could walk in the office of a CEO and boldly propose new ideas now stares inside the diaper bag, frozen in fear over whether she packed all the right things to cover any potential crisis that may arise during the hour-long trip to the grocery store. Do I have enough toys for distraction? Will she eat this snack? Do I need to bring a sweater? Should I grab some Tylenol? (You know, just in case she spikes a sudden fever.) Oh wait, Tylenol is “bad,” right? Do I have some more-natural Little Remedies?

Every time before leaving the house: Food? Check. Coat? Check. Hat? Check. Giant diaper bag? Check. And then ... is she too warm? Should I take off her coat? Is that too big of a snack before dinner???

Every time before leaving the house: Food? Check. Coat? Check. Hat? Check. Giant diaper bag? Check. And then … is she too warm? Should I take off her coat? Is that too big of a snack before dinner???

Every decision is questioned. Analyzed. Pitched to other moms on Facebook for their input. Hey, I’m all for research and preparedness and doing things as safe as possible; there’s nothing wrong with that. But then, once the decision is made, I wonder if it was the right one. I see another mom has made a different choice, and I start to measure mine against hers. Perhaps her decision was better? Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I ruining my children for life??

With the second-guessing comes the guilt. The feelings that I should’ve done better. That I did indeed make a bad choice. That my decision will have a detrimental and devastating impact on the future and well-being of the littles entrusted to my care. And this guilt can really mess with your mind.

This is especially true when you make a decision that varies from whatever’s considered the mainstream or “superior” standard: formula feeding vs. breastfeeding, back sleeping vs. tummy sleeping, organic foods vs. convenience and cost, staying at home vs. working, pro- vs. anti-vaccinations … and the list goes on. The guilt can grip your soul so tightly that you feel the need to justify and explain and even apologize for the decisions you’ve made–when you’re not crying about them. Even when health and finances and your personal household demand a decision that differs from the norm. Even when what seems “bad” to others is truly what’s best for you and your child.

Moms, I say this with all due respect: just who do we think are?

Do we actually think our actions will add one second of a day to our child’s lives? That if we had “just done this” we would’ve had the power to change an eternal outcome?

I'm so glad this little life does not depend solely on me.

I’m so glad this little life does not depend solely on me.

I’ll never forget Liv’s first serious sickness. I had to leave on a business trip right after she came down with congestion that led to a double ear infection. We had taken her to the doctor, and she had started a course of antibiotics. She was well cared for with my husband and other family members while I was away. But she wasn’t fully recovered by the time I got home, and because of a slight condition she was born with called laryngomalacia, her breathing–which could sound raspy when healthy–seemed particularly labored through the congestion.

I knew in the back of my mind that this was normal and that her pediatrician had told me she would sound worse when sick. I also knew she was getting better, and her fever had broke. That, yes, she was sleeping a lot, but she was happy, though not back to herself, when awake.

Yet the sounds of her heavy, squeaky, rattly breathing as she approached her 14th hour of sleep were too much for this momma’s heart to bear. My fears knocked me flat. And I crumpled into the floor of my closet and sobbed.

I shouldn’t have left. I should’ve been there for her. I have failed her. Another mom would’ve done it better.

The guilt was oppressive.

It stopped me in my tracks. It pushed aside my logic. It silenced conversation with my Heavenly Father. It was all focused on me.

See, I think, if we truly admit it, we moms start to believe the lie that the control abides in us. That this burden and challenge of raising children is ours alone to bear. That the weight of making the right decision is on our shoulders.

And we forget God.

We elevate our importance and ignore His power. We become blind to His leading and teaching. We think His grace for our finite, fallible human ways must not apply in this situation.

And instead we allow the great deceiver to flood our thoughts and take the reins of our fears. Oh, how he must love to replace our trust in Him and His divinity with terror and doubt.

I wrote in my last blog post about how Our Creator formed us to be fearfully and wonderfully made. But the psalm doesn’t end there. It goes on to say “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)

You see, the days of these little lives don’t rest solely on us; they’ve been planned out and purposed by Him. If we are putting God in the center of our decisions, we can move forward with confidence in them. Despite how you feel those decisions may look to anyone else outside your household. So fill that bottle with formula with your head held high, knowing you are nourishing your child. Head in for another day at the office, knowing it’s what God’s called you to do. Research and prepare and pray–and then leave the decision in His hands.

And on the days when you feel your choices truly weren’t the best, don’t give Satan a space to fill your heart with guilt and guessing. Instead, turn to the Almighty One who knows the beginning to the end. Ask Him for wisdom for the future–or forgiveness, if needed. Be consumed by His care. Thank Him that it’s not all up to us. And press on knowing that He’s gone before.

 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

How my career made me a better stay-at-home-mom

I never wanted to be a mom.

That may be hard for a lot of people to understand, but for various reasons, motherhood was not an innate desire or an ultimate goal. It wasn’t something I felt “born to do,” as I’ve heard some women describe it.

My desire, for as nearly as long as I can remember, was to work with words. I wanted to write, report, edit–anything that had to do with a career in the communications field–so I focused my efforts on chasing, and fulfilling, that dream.

Until all that changed nearly two years ago, when my first daughter entered the world. And she flipped my dreams upside-down and inside-out, transforming my hopes and plans and expectations. All in ways better than I could’ve ever imagined.

But when I made the decision to leave my full-time career in publishing and media last year to stay home with my daughter, it didn’t make sense to me to just throw out everything I knew as I took on this new role. I thrived on the pillars of my career: meeting deadlines, setting goals, solving problems–finding joy in tangible accomplishments. Admittedly, I was really unsure of how to approach this whole stay-at-home-mom thing. I was way outside my comfort zone.

So I decided to not change a thing.

I was going to treat staying home like I was going to work. As if changing diapers, making meals, and playing games were my job. Just without the bi-monthly paycheck.

Less than a year into it, I don’t claim to have all the answers or have every parenting challenge figured out. That’s where God’s grace and guidance come in. However, I’ve found that adapting this mindset–that every day when I wake, I have a job to do–has helped my transition tremendously. That applying the same principles I did in the workplace can help me find success as a stay-at-home mom. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Structure promotes success. In the working world, businesses need some benchmarks to promote productivity, and employees want to know what to expect. Turns out kids aren’t much different in that regard, so I’ve established a general rhythm and routine to our days. Liv knows that right after she gets up, she eats breakfast. After breakfast, comes play–and sometimes errands. Then there’s lunch, followed by nap. For a young, developing mind, a sense of structure provides comfort instead of chaos. And you can clearly see it in her reactions and attitude when things are thrown totally off-course. She’s like a sad little lost soul, bobbing out to sea.

So how do I handle the atypical days? (Like Sundays, for instance.) I still keep as much structure as possible, and the day still follows a pattern. And personally, I don’t mess with her nap. Yeah, that means turning down some play dates or leaving places early on occasion, but the benefits of providing her an appropriate space and time to get her rest far outweigh any inconvenience this seemingly might produce. Believe me, I do just about anything to avoid bringing out the beast that is the cranky toddler.

Best job I’ve ever had.

Set realistic daily goals. I’ve heard many stay-at-home-moms bemoan the fact that they feel they never get anything done. They look around and see the laundry piling up, the sink overflowing with dishes, and their kids rolling in the dirt … right after baths. They get overwhelmed by the seeming lack of progress and repetitive cycle each day brings. But it’s easy for the same thing to happen in the corporate world: there’s always another project, another deadline looming, another fire to put out. I learned in that environment that the best way to feel a sense of accomplishment in the onslaught of all there is to do is to break big tasks into small, achievable, daily milestones.

So at home, I set simple, prioritized, daily goals as well. Unload the dishwasher. Cut Olivia’s nails. Take her to the library. Go for a walk. I limit these goals to just three to five that I want to see through that day. That may seem somewhat insignificant, but at the end of the day, I can look back on it and know what we did. And that something was achieved. You’ll never get everything done in a day that you’d like to–and that’s ok. To me, sleep is far more important than stressing over the thickening layer of dog fur that hasn’t yet been swept up.

Plan and prepare for what’s ahead. It used to bother me to no end when colleagues showed up unprepared for meetings or for the day’s agenda. Especially if it was a meeting or agenda item that was regularly on the calendar. So I try not to show up unprepared for my job as a mom. For me, this means taking care of myself and getting ready for the day first, whenever I can. I function better and in the right spirit when I can get a cup of coffee, spend time in God’s Word, scroll through my newsfeeds, take a shower, and pray before Olivia wakes up. Personally, I’m in a better frame of mind to take on the day’s challenges. Now, with kids, this is not possible every day, but it is something I strive for and do the majority of the time.

Also, I’ve found it really helpful to plan ahead, as much as you can, for the next major parenting challenge on the horizon. Read various resources. Talk to other parents. Seek out biblical principles and ask God for wisdom. And discuss and agree upon the course of action with your spouse, preferably before the situation arises, whether that’s discipline, sleep issues, or potty training. Again, this can’t be done in all circumstances, but I have found it easier to stay on target when the path was previously chosen.

But don’t over-plan (and be willing to change course). After all I’ve said about structure and plans, it kind of seems like I’m contradicting myself, right? But I’ve learned that within that structure, I have to allow for flexibility. Over the course of my career in media, I can recall many times we had a 1A or cover story set–and then as the shipping deadline approached, news would break. You couldn’t sit there and pout about it–you had to rip up the page and get to work. You had to have contingencies and plans A, B, and C to allow for sudden changes in direction. Especially if a knowingly unpredictable outcome loomed; so you kept extra stories on file ready to go in case they were needed and crafted lists of headlines that worked whether the Red Wings won Game 7 or not.

As a mom, being rigid and over-scheduled is bound to backfire on you. Your kid won’t nap that day. She’ll wake with a runny nose and fever. An explosive poop will happen as you’re carrying her out the door. She’ll  need some extra snuggles as that molar breaks through. And if you find that you can’t bend from what you intended to do, you will end up being the one suffering, fuming in frustration with your patience wearing thin. I’ve learned that as a stay-at-home-mom it’s better to not set myself up for disappointment and allow for breathing room in my day, so when the unexpected can and will happen, I can more easily tackle it. And when it does, I remind myself to embrace it and find joy in the adventure, for I am not the ultimate Maker of our plans anyway.

Finding joy in the unexpected and unpredictable.

Do every task with purpose. This one is hard, particularly for the girl who’s never been a domestic diva. It was a lot easier for me to write an article with purpose or plan an issue with purpose. But fold laundry with purpose? Wipe snot with purpose? Grocery shopping with purpose?? These were the kinds of things that in the past made me recoil in fear from all things mommy-related.

But when I decided to view my stay-at-home-parenting role as my designated job, it became easier to change my attitude on how I greeted the mundane, or icky, tasks. If I looked at it that washing the dishes supported the overall function of our home in a positive way, it wasn’t so bad. And if I can care for the household in a way that leaves my husband with less to do when he walks in the door, we have more quality time available to spend as a family doing more fun things, like taking a walk to the neighborhood park after dinner.

Leave your job behind and recharge with your spouse. This one might hit a nerve with some. And it’s an area that’s been a personal struggle for me in the past. I used to think my job was everything. It’s where I found the majority of my joy and satisfaction. I plugged all I had into being successful at it. And when I got home, I often had nothing left to give, and it spilled over into any free moments I had–checking emails first thing in the morning, writing lists late at night, thinking about the next big task ahead while I was supposed to be listening to my husband. My marriage suffered. My relationship with God suffered. I was happy(-ish) at work … but really, I was miserable. My God-ordained priorities were all out of whack.

So if staying home to parent my daughter is my job, she can’t be my everything. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her completely, and that this job isn’t the absolute best one I’ve ever had–but I’ve got to put it in check with my priorities. My relationship with God and my husband must come first.

So practically, particularly in these young years, how does that play out? It doesn’t mean in any way I neglect her needs, but that I focus on fostering an environment where my husband isn’t also ignored. For us, it means enforcing early bed times whenever possible. It means finding time to converse just with him, undistracted. It means connecting over something we both like to do when we have downtime (even if that’s watching America’s Got Talent on the DVR) instead of choosing things only I like to do that don’t involve him (like running to Target). It also doesn’t mean I ignore taking time for myself either, but there should be balance among  fulfilling the priorities. One day, our daughters will leave. I believe God has intended our marriage to last our lives, so that means being able to devote energy to growing and building upon its foundation now. And quite honestly, we parent better when our marriage is where it should be.

As with every job, there are going to be crunch times as a stay-at-home-mom–times where you’re going to have to pour more of yourself into your work. Where it’s just about survival (like during a pregnancy of another child, an illness, or after the birth of a baby). And these challenging times may last several days … or months. That’s when I must fully trust and depend on God to lead me through these periods of intensity, just as He guides me through the daily grind. I’m so grateful that this is a job that does not rest solely on me.

You may read this blog as a fellow stay-at-home-mom and can’t relate to it at all. My application of these principles I’ve learned during the span of my corporate career is personal, and admittedly, many play into my God-given personality. How each of us carries out this role will differ–it’s not one size fits all. That would be boring. This is just what I’ve found works for me.

Speaking of work, I need to finish getting ready for my job. Duty calls. 😉

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)