Thursday, December 1, 2016

Show Me Your Heart

Emerson was sleeping soundly in the Ergo, I was standing off to the side of the sanctuary. The lights were dim, I was praying for a middle school student, and the lyric "Show me your heart," flickered across the screen and played softly in the background.  I was asking, "God, show me your heart," and he was answering, "Here it is."

I have been lucky enough to be able to continue to be involved in ministry even as a new mom.  My church is baby-friendly, so to speak.  The youth pastor and his wife, dear friends of ours, have a young son just one month older than Baby E.  Both she, and I, bring our babies to youth group each week and just wear/hold them as we interact with students.  There is even a quiet, comfortable room that I can sneak off to when my little chub needs to fill his belly.  While I thought bringing Emerson might make ministry too difficult, I have mostly been able to still lose myself in loving and serving because my baby typically stays so content.  He has even become a point of connection with some girls who fight over who gets to squeeze his cute cheeks.  

One of the best parts of the weekly meeting, for me, happens during worship.  For one song, leaders are shuffled off to the sides of the room and students are invited to come and receive prayer.  I can't tell you how many awkward preteens have been bold enough to come up to me and ask for prayer.  Almost every week I've been able to pray for at least one person.  On days when I miss out on sermons because I'm nursing my baby, or when I'm chatting with students while distractedly shoving his binky in his mouth, I'm ever-grateful that I got those few uninterrupted moments to spend crying out to the Lord on students' behalf (because the combination of soft lights and soothing music always tends to konk my son out).

This last week I felt like God gave me a picture of himself.  When I asked during worship, "Show me your heart," his response was it is with these young people.  It is in their struggle.  I was able to see God in their broken places.  Scripture says that Jesus is near to the brokenhearted.  He holds these children through struggles with sexuality and acceptance and depression.  Through loved ones lost.  Through parents with broken marriages.  Through bullying.  Through siblings with disabilities.  Through having to grow up too fast.  When I go to these raw places with students I find the heart of God.  I see a glimpse of him and his compassion.

So if you seek God, if you search for his heart, you might find that it's right in front of you.  His heart is for people.  The essence of Jesus is that he values people (John Maxwell).  And he is with us in our brokenness.

We Hosted Thanksgiving

Hebrews 13:2 "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."

Hospitality is something that I enjoy, that I haven't participated in much.  Largely because I've spent my adult life in dorm rooms, my parent's spare room, and teeny apartments.  Now that we live in a duplex and have a little more space, I have been able to practice hospitality more often.  This year we had to travel to the west side of the state for my brother's engagement party (that turned out to be a surprise wedding!) the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We typically travel in the other direction to spend Thanksgiving with Philip's family.  We didn't want to do so much driving especially with our little guy in tow, so we offered up our home as the place for the Arnold's to feast.  To my surprise, they took us up on the offer.  There were eight of us total.  Now, cooking is probably the part of hospitality that I get the least excited about.  Luckily, Philip's dad volunteered to do pie and turkey.  Philip and I just needed to make the snacks and side dishes.  I had so much fun getting my hands into all the little details and trying to make the day special.

My simple centerpiece.

One of my favorite touches:  I hung a piece of paper with each guest's name on it and instructed people to write what they were thankful for about each other on them.  I sent them home with the guests at the end of the evening.  

What's on the menu...

I got into teacher mode and made everyone do this Thanksgiving Madlib.  I was literally like, "I'm forcing everyone to do an activity."  There was some grumbling, and I did have to explain verbs and adjectives more than once, but I think that everyone secretly enjoyed it.  The results were pretty humorous.

We made two special cocktails:  Cranberry Moscow Mules and Caramel Apple Sangria (not pictured because we didn't have a pretty pitcher so it just went in an ugly non-photogenic plastic jug).

Emerson with Grandpa.

Emerson with Grandma.

My brother Connor also joined us because he wanted to stay on this side of the state so he could go to the Apple Cup.

I thought that the day was an overall success, and can't wait until I get another opportunity to hone my hosting skills.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

How To Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome: aka how this STAHM attempts to stay emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy.

Somehow having someone else to take care of makes me better at taking care of myself.  I am keenly aware of my need to eat, drink water, and rest (haha).  I am important around here, as a milk machine at very least.  Since I am breastfeeding, if I don't get enough calories or hydrate myself than my baby literally won't have enough to eat.  I guess I've been more intentional about mental/emotional/spiritual self care as well.  Because my "job" demands my energy twenty four hours a day, I often contemplate what it is that I need to keep my batteries recharged, to keep myself chugging along.  Here's what I've learned so far about what keeps me going.

1.  Time with other moms.  I need to be elbow to elbow with someone who can listen to me share stories and sigh along with me.  Someone who can say, "Me too!" Someone who can say, "You're not a terrible, Mom, I've also chopped my kids finger with the nail-clippers or accidentally left a diaper on so long that it got stuck to my baby's skin."  I need people that I can ask for advice when I'm stumpted.  I need people to say, "I've been there." and "It gets better."  I need peers and mentors who will get in the trenches of motherhood along with me.

2.  Creative outlets.  This one might be Chelsea-specific.  I know that the way I am wired means that I am functioning better when I have opportunities to be creative.  This means doing small craft projects, taking photos, writing, or redecorating different vignettes in our home.

3.  Alone time.  I've had to be creative about getting this.  I'll do a small trip to the grocery store.  I'll take the dog for a walk.  One day I went to a coffee shop by myself to pray and journal--it was so good for my soul!  This last weekend Philip took the baby upstairs while I did a craft project.  Even if it only comes in short bursts, alone time is essential for my well-being.

4.  My mom.  I'm pretty sure this is on everyone's list?  Seriously though, my mom has been great about coming to visit, bringing us food, encouraging me, babysitting.

5.  Getting out of the house.  Since I'm a stay-at-home-mom sometimes I just need to look at something other than the four walls I spend most of my time inside.  We are on a budget so that often looks like going to a coffee shop as a family of three, taking our dog to the dog park, visiting friends, staying with out of town relatives for a weekend, or even just going for a walk.          

6.  Baby-free girl time.  This is a challenge, because most of my friends have wee babes of their own.  It can be hard to coordinate our schedules and our husbands' schedules so that we can both find a time to get together sans offspring.  This is why I also need single/married-without-children friends.  Don't think that just because someone has a baby they don't want to spend time with you.  It's actually golden to have a few of these gals in your life as a mom.

7.  Keeping the house relatively clean.  I have never been a neat freak.  Just ask my college roommates (one of them actually made a line on the floor in the middle of our dorm room with duct tape as a joke).  However, since I spend so much time in this space, I will start to go crazy if I'm constantly staring at clutter or smelling dirty dishes.  Of course this one is a challenge because I can currently chip away at chores while my baby naps or when my husband is home to help out.  But since my baby was born I have tried to maintain a less-than-disgusting level of cleanliness.

8.  Quality time with my husband.  Let me just declare this, "My marriage is more important than my relationship with my son."  I know that many people will disagree with me, here.  However, my husband came first.  He's the one I'm committed to for life.  Someday my son will walk down the aisle and give his life to another women (while I weep uncontrollably).  He will have his own life and family.  While I will never stop loving and caring for him, it's different than the equal lifelong partnership I have with my spouse.  We have only gone on one date without our baby so far.  That is something I want to do more of as he grows.  Even still, we have found ways to sneak in time together.  We will go on outings or road trips with the baby that allow us time to talk to each other with him in tow.  We have made the most of his asleep time:  snuggling, watching movies, baking cookies, playing board games etc.  I believe that one of the best gifts we can give my son is parents who intentionally love each other.

9.  Brain stimulation.  Don't get me wrong, I think my son is a genius, but he just doesn't provide stimulating conversation yet.  Usually I am pretending to eat his feet, using his clean diaper as a puppet, blowing on his tummy, and basically making a fool of myself--anything for one of his gummy smiles.  We read such classics as Dr. Seuss' ABCs and Blue Hat, Green Hat (Sandra Boynton is my homegirl).  So for much of the day my brain could easily be turning to mush.  I try to counteract this by reading books, staying caught up on current-events, and writing (hello blog!).  I even watched the  painful presidential debates mostly so that I would be able to have adult conversation about the election.

10.  Jesus.  This is the trump card (which in no way refers to said political elections).  Sometimes, I have a hard time fitting all of the things I've listed in.  Truthfully, I don't have time to do all of them every day.  However, I have to get time with Jesus in every day.  During Emerson's first nap I spend time praying and reading.  Throughout the day I listen to worship music and try to remember to cry out to him.  I seriously don't know how anyone can do this mom-thing without the power of the Holy Spirit because there are days when this is the only thing keeping me going.

I am still learning how to take care of myself so that I can take care of my son.  I am still learning how to be a healthy person.  So far, I know that making the aforementioned things a priority is a good step.  What keeps you going?  Seasoned moms, how else can I maintain sanity while raising kids?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Three Months

To be honest, I used to find it kind of annoying when moms said things like, "My baby is growing up too fast!" or "Slow down!"  or "Stop growing!"  I thought, "Growth is a good thing."  I relished growth.  Growth was the whole premise of my job as a teacher.  So what were these people talking about?

And yet, here I am today, wondering how my baby could possibly be three months old.  Here I am feeling sad that he will never fall asleep on my chest again, wondering if I held him enough when he was a newborn.  Here I am baffled that his 0-3 month pajamas are starting to get too tight, when I can so vividly remember his floppy newborn pajamas drooping off his feet at the ends.

 It is crazy to think that you only get ONE YEAR to experience your child as a baby.  One year.  That's it.  Sure, they'll still be cute as they grow, and each stage has it's joys and struggles.  But this unique, precious, baby stage has an expiration date.  Even though, at three months in, this is already the hardest thing I've ever done, I want to embrace and enjoy it.  I want to soak up every moment.  Because you never know when will be the last time he relaxes onto your chest and falls sound asleep.  They don't give you a warning.  You don't see it coming.  It happens when you blink.    

So I'll just say it, "My baby is growing up too fast."  While I'm happy about his progress, and I've found him only more delightful as time goes on, I can't say that I won't try to slow this process down.  Just a little bit.  Just in my mind.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Gift and a Sacrifice

All the time people say things to me like, "You are so lucky to be able to stay home with your son." I smile politely, but think, "Yes, but I'm also giving up a lot in order to do this."

I understand that there are some people in a bind financially or otherwise that makes staying at home a difficult--maybe even impossible--option.  Not every mom wants to stay home with her kids.  But there are people who would like to be doing what I am doing who are not.  I know that all of the time I get to spend with my precious baby is a gift (that's a good reminder for me on the hard days).  Still, I don't just get to do this because I'm lucky.  I make a lot of sacrifices that make this choice possible.  So, I think it's both.  Staying home is a gift and a sacrifice.

It is a gift because I don't have to divide my attention:  it all goes to my family.
It's a sacrifice because I am giving up a job that I love.

It is a gift because I don't miss any of Emerson's smiles or coos.
It's a sacrifice because I don't miss any of his fusses or poos.

It is a gift because sometimes I get to watch Netflix or listen to worship music while "on the job."
It's a sacrifice because sometimes staying at home without adult interaction all day makes me want to blow my brains out.

It is a gift because I get to stay in my PJs until noon.
It's a sacrifice because my pretty work wardrobe sits lonely in the closet collecting dust.

It is a gift because I am learning to be content living simply.
It's a sacrifice because I have to drastically cut back on eating out, updating my wardrobe, and wearing makeup from Sephora.

It is a gift because I can read Emerson as many books as I want.
It's a sacrifice because we can no longer afford to stay in hotels or go on trips.

It is a gift because I get all the snuggles.
It's a sacrifice because I never go off the clock.  My duties are the same during the evening as they are during the day and depending on how Emerson feels, all through the night.

It is a gift because I have energy to go on outings or spend time with people in the evenings and on weekends.
It's a sacrifice because my husband and I share one car, watch Netflix instead of cable, and use the Iphone 8 $20 phones from Walmart.

It is a gift because I get to invest in my son.
It's a sacrifice because I miss investing in my students.

 I am grateful for the life I have during this season, but I am also aware that it comes at a cost.  Staying home with my son is a gift, and a sacrifice. 

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