Thursday, December 29, 2016

I Am a Terrible Person

The other day I got to chat with my wise friend Jocelyn.  Joce has successfully survived the baby stage with three, count 'em, three boys.  During our conversation, she said many things that brought me freedom.  Like, "Stay alive," which coincidentally is the same advice that Haymitch gave Katniss before the Hunger Games.  I suppose the arena is somewhat analogous to life with littles.  Among her sage advice was this:  "You are a terrible person."

"So I'm not a terrible person?" I had asked.

"The good news is you are a terrible person.  But you're swimming in oceans of grace," she answered.

I've always known that I was terrible, in theory.  I mean, I knew that whole saved by grace thing--at least in my head.  I could have told you, "I am a sinner saved by grace."  I knew that Jesus died so that I could be forgiven.  It's just that now I really know.  I'm coming face to face with just how terrible just how big God's grace is.

My house perpetually stinks.  I don't call my friends. I curse at my baby when he won't nap.  I nitpick my husband's every move.  I complain about how unfair it is that I don't get to sleep.  I look longingly at other people's lives.  Instead of living out of my principals, I just do what it takes to survive the day.  Through all of this Jesus doesn't even flinch.  He's just there, loving me like always.  

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

Nothing to boast about here.  Just a mustard seed worth of faith, and oceans, and oceans of grace.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Mary did you know...what you were getting yourself into?

Somehow the Christmas story becomes fresh for me each year like an untouched covering of snow. As life changes, I am able I see Jesus' birth in a new light.  This Christmas season I find myself reflecting on Mary.  No, I haven't converted to Catholicism, I just feel like I can relate to her now more than ever before.  I know what it's like to carry a child, give birth, and care for a newborn.  I keep wondering how Mary did it.  

Her birth story happened amidst extenuating circumstances.  As a woman pregnant outside of wedlock, she was looked down upon.  Many judgmental glances passed her way.  Her fiance almost up and left when he found out she was expecting.  She and Joseph were scorned by their family who didn't buy the whole "immaculate conception" story.

As Mary drew near to her due date, a census was taken. Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register.  This meant that Mary had to ride for miles on the back of a donkey--while she was full term.  I could barely handle being in the car for two hours when I was that pregnant!  After that long journey, Mary couldn't even find a place to kick back and put up her swollen feet. There was "no room at the inn."

According to some biblical scholars the "Inn" referred, not to a hotel as we'd understand it in modern days, but to space in a home.  In this time period, hospitality was the norm.  Rather than staying in a hotel when you traveled, a family would host you.  Since Mary and Joseph had traveled to Joseph's hometown to for the census, this actually meant that Joseph's distant relatives wouldn't take them in, and instead pointed them to the nearest stable.  "No room," was just an excuse.  Can you imagine being so shunned by your family members that they would turn away a woman who was nine months pregnant? This is how God chose to come to earth.

When it came time to give birth, Mary's delivery happened in a cold, dark cave probably next to a pile of sheep poo.  She had no midwife coaching her.  No mother encouraging her.  No epidural.  Nobody bringing her ice chips or wet rags.  Her only support came from a man, her betrothed, that she barely knew.  Yet this is what the Lord tasked her with.  He gave her this job because he considered her "honored," "chosen," and "favored."

Even after the birth she had to go into hiding because a jealous king wanted to kill her son.  Joseph and Mary had to flee to a foreign land to escape his wrath.  How alone they must have felt.  Throughout all of this adversity, Mary had to take care of baby Jesus.  She was promised a savior, and yet for months he was just a crying, pooping, (hopefully) sleeping baby.  It was years before Jesus did anything remarkable.  I wonder if Mary ever grew weary waiting for God to fulfill his promise.  Did she ever get lost in the mundane chores of keeping this little "Son of God," alive and well?

Not to mention, Mary had to do all of this without the modern conveniences that we have today.  Mary didn't have nursing pillows.  She didn't have lactation consultants or nipple butter.  What if Jesus had latching issues?  Or Mary got Mastitis?  What on earth did they use for diapers back then?  How did she wash Jesus' clothes when he had, yet another blowout?  Who did Mary ask for help?  She couldn't google, "Is his poop supposed to be that color?" She couldn't text her mom, "Is this normal?"  Or "Will this get better?"  I don't know how she did it.

I find myself asking, "Mary did you know?"  And not the cutesy version.  More like, Mary did you know what you were getting yourself into? Did she know how this was all going to play out when the angel came and she humbly, boldly stated, "I am willing to be used by the Lord."  If she had known what this was going to cost her, would she still have said, "Yes," to God?  At any point throughout this journey did she begin to ask, "Really God?  This is the honor you chose to give me?"  Did she ever think to herself, "Some favor."

Without a doubt, Mary suffered. It might sound strange and a bit sadistic, but that fact gives me hope.  Because, to really be honest with you, I have been suffering for the past four months. It feels wrong to even say that.  The words come out with a tinge of guilt.  A baby is a blessing!  I love my son more than I have ever loved anyone else.  There are times that I just stare at his face and think, "How did I get so lucky?"  I have a husband who loves me.  I got pregnant without difficulty.  My son is healthy, happy, and thriving.  Yet, at the same time, this is the most difficult thing that I have ever done.

Having a baby has brought much joy, but also much pain.  I've had to give up my independence. Live life according to another's whim.  Give of myself whenever this wee human beckoned.  I've had to go without sleep.  And finally start getting some sleep.  And then go without sleep again, without any foreseeable cause.  I've gotten lost in the drudgery of another diaper change.  Another rocking session.  Another mess to clean up.  I've felt alone.  More alone than I've ever felt--like the walls of my home might close in on me.  I've wondered, what is the point of this?  This work that God has asked me to do, will it amount to anything?

Then, I think of sweet Mary.  God chose her.  He had a great work in mind for her.  She was blessed among women:  hand-selected for this particular role.  Did he make her a preacher?  An evangelist?  A missionary?  A philanthropist?  Nope.  She was just a mom.  I find strength in knowing that part of God's great rescue plan for the world involved a woman doing the very things that I do day in and day out.

Mary's suffering lead to hope.  She suffered through pregnancy and childbirth and the light of the world came.  She suffered through raising her child, and he became the hope of nations.  Then, Jesus following suit, suffered the cross. His suffering brought forgiveness and reconciliation.  Through suffering came hope.  I can only hold out as much hope as I can muster that maybe, something good will come of my suffering, too.  That like Mary, the things I do every day might mean something.  That through my suffering, I will find hope and bring it to others.  Maybe, my ordinary, at times painful, life will make a difference in this world.  I will hold on to this hope.  (And on the days that I can't, will you hold onto it for me?)

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. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Like a Baby in a Wrap

Have you ever worn a baby?  You should try it sometime.  It is sure to complement any outfit even better than your favorite scarf does.  I am an amateur baby-wearer.  I am still a little a lot awkward with my baby wrap.  I feel unsure of my wrap jobs, and find myself constantly touching baby's nostrils to make sure they are unobstructed.  Even though I'm still learning the ins and outs of baby-wearing, I can appreciate that there is something magical about it.

When you put a baby in a wrap you can feel that baby instantly relax.  It's like they release everything and just melt into your chest.  The wrap is my son's kryptonite.  He instantly falls asleep as soon as he's snuggled against me.  Why do babies seem to like being worn so much?  Perhaps, they get a temporary glimpse to life back in the womb.  They are warm.  They can hear your heartbeat.  If you're a breastfeeding mama they can no doubt smell your milk (which I imagine is kind of like the aroma of a batch of fresh-baked cookies wafting through the room as you drift off to sleep).  Worn babies must feel close, loved, and secure.

This Sunday, I went to church for the first time since having baby E.  In the hope that he would sleep through the service, I decided to wear him.  As I worshiped corporately for the first time in almost two months, God used the image of a soundly sleeping baby in a wrap to speak to me.  He told me that he wants me to experience him the way that my baby is experiencing being worn by me.  He wants me to listen to his heartbeat.  He wants me to know that I am secure in him.  He wants me to let go and completely rest in his arms.  God's got me like a baby in a wrap.

A Practical Step Towards Choosing Joy

Choose joy.  Be content where you're at.  Find satisfaction in the Lord.
[insert any other feel-good cliches about happiness regardless of circumstance]

I know that these things are good, and right, and true, but sometimes I need tangible steps.  I can't just grit my teeth, furl my brows, and will myself to be joyful, satisfied, content.  Recently, the Lord has given me one simple way that I can pursue being joyful in my everyday life.

The bible says:

" Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:8

There are many ways to interpret this verse.  One way is that we should spend time focusing on the good.  We should work to keep the script that runs through our minds pure, lovely, and excellent.  In other words, we should think about positive things.

Now, please don't take this to mean ignore all of the difficult things in your life and pretend that it's all sunshine and daisies.  Because I know that pain is real.  There is value in feeling and processing whatever it is that you are going through no matter how dark it may be.  At the same time, it seems like our flawed human brains can be magnets for negativity.  We go throughout our days experiencing a range of good, bad, wonderful and ugly things and all too often the bad stuff is what sticks.  I want to reset my mind.  I want to train my brain to collect the good and not just the bad.

One simple, practical way I have found to help myself do this is to write things down.  Each day I make a list of the good things that have happened.  If God has spoken to me that day, or I have realized any truths I will also write those down.  Is this technique earth-shattering?  Ground-breaking?  Will it change the world?  Probably not.  But it is one tangible step that I can take towards choosing joy.  It takes less than ten minutes, and it helps me to remember that there are good things going on in my life.

Here are a few items from my lists over the past few weeks:

Good things

  • Taking walks seems to be improving Maddy (my dog's) behavior
  • Emerson is making cute happy noises
  • It felt so good to serve at youth group--like getting a piece of myself back
  • I nursed at the park
  • I ran into a former student who said I was her favorite teacher
  • I walked all the way to Dutch bros with a friend
  • A friend came to visit
  • My sister and I prayed together
  • I gave Emerson a bath by myself
  • I watched a movie
  • Emerson wore his mint cardigan
  • I took dinner to a friend with a new baby and she was blessed by it
  • I got to visit the teachers and staff at my former school
  • Philip (my husband) said, "It was worth it just to spend time with you on the car ride there and back."
  • I met someone new at church
  • Emerson slept much better than he had been


  • Emerson is a gift
  • There is no such thing as a perfect decision
  • A mistake is an error not an end
  • My primary job is taking care of E:  anything else that gets done is a bonus
  • God wants such deeper things than for me to just be happy: he wants me to experience deep peace and joy
  • What I do every day is not what fulfills me, but Jesus fulfills me
  • From Psalm 21:  "For you meet him with rich blessings" and "You make him glad with the joy of your presence"
  • God said (in regards to my fears/worries), "Does that sound like me?  To want you to starve?  Or not to let you have any fun?  Or to not take care of your needs?  I am the God who abundantly provides."

So what do you say?  Will you give this technique a try?  It's something you can do even if you have a 9-5 job or a squirmy baby that demands your attention.  All you need is pen, paper, and five minutes.  Do you have any other ideas for steps to take in the pursuit of contentment?  Let's be intentional in what we allow to consume our thoughts.  Let's choose joy.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I'm reading to you for them.

My heart is heavy as the school year is about to start without me.  I have spent the past three years as "Teacher," and the last two in Middle School, which I think must be a special calling of mine.  So many people don't enjoy this age group so the fact that I find them delightful must mean something.  In a way, it is peaceful not having to get into the hustle and bustle of preparing for students.  At the same time it just feels strange.  This year instead of planning lessons, building relationships with my students, and grading papers I will be changing diapers, snuggling my baby, and planning ways to leave the house so I don't lose my mind.  Even though I believe that I am choosing the highest good for my young family, I will miss my students this year.  I will miss my brightly decorated classroom filled with supplies designed to encourage active learning.  I will miss being a professional and having important people respect and believe in my work.  I doubt my new "boss" will give me that kind of affirmation.  I will miss doing something that I am good at, something that I love.

The other day I watched with glee as my husband read to our newborn.  He is always looking for a way to interact with the little guy.  I feel connected to Emerson through nurturing, but Philip wants to bond with him through play.  He's tried doing tummy time.  He also puts E's toys near his hands and waits for him to grab hold.  And he reads to our son.  As Philip pointed to the pictures and read with expression I couldn't help but think of them--my students.  "How many of them have ever had this experience?"  I wondered.

 The district I worked in is low-income.  Many students have parents who don't speak English.  Many of their parents work long into the night just to be able to put food on the table.  Reading time can't be a priority when you are focused on survival.  Or when you can't read yourself.  So many of my students struggle to read.  They say they hate reading.  They would rather stare at a book and pretend to absorb it than actually take the time to sound out each word.  Over half of my seventh graders last year were reading at a third-grade level or below.  I did everything I could think of to make reading fun, engaging, and accessible to them.  But you can't replace the experience that Emerson is having right now.  The magic of sitting on Mom or Dad's lap as the words become enchanted and the stories come to life.

So, Emerson, we will keep reading.  Not just for you, but for them.  I am reading to you for all of those kids who don't get to have that experience.  I am reading to you so that, hopefully, you won't have to struggle through English (and through many other subjects because it turns out they all require you to read) like my students.  I am reading to you so that you won't feel stupid.  I am reading to you so that you will be able to find the joy of books.  I am reading to you so that you will have the confidence to take risks in learning.  I am reading to you, for them.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Baby Gadgets That Are Actually Useful

There are so many baby gadgets out there.  You could spend all your millions on stuff for your baby.  It seems to me like babies aren't that expensive as time goes on, but that the start-up costs can be astronomical.  Everyone has different opinions about which items are totally necessary, and every baby is different. Something that is awesome for my son might not work at all for yours.  My advice to you is to get Amazon Prime or the free six-month trial around the time that your baby is born.  That way, anything that you decide you need you can get with free shipping and it will arrive almost instantly.  That said, I found even registering for items, let alone buying them to be so stressful.  How do you know what a baby needs when you have never had one before?  But I did appreciate just hearing what other people thought about things to give me a starting point.  Take this with a grain of salt, but here are a few items that we bought that have totally been worth every penny.  Also, note that my baby is less than two weeks old.  As time goes on, I might have a completely different list.  It seems like this parenting gig is constantly changing as baby grows.

Wipe Warmer

Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer

Okay, I know this seems kind of ridiculous. Like, I'm pretty sure a warm wipe is something that the baby butler brings you at the baby mansion.  Jeeves walks up to you with your freshly heated and pressed wipe like, "So sire's bum won't be cold."  Silly as it may seem, my little guy HATES to be cold.  Getting his diaper changed is one of his least favorite things.  I can hardly bare listening to him cry out in agony as I wipe him.  So we ordered one of these.  It has made diaper changing significantly easier on our wee babe.


I cannot say enough about this.  I love snuggling my Emers, but sometimes you just need a break.  Your arms get tired.  You need to eat, or God forbid do a chore or two?  Ok, if I'm honest I haven't done much outside of loving, feeding, and changing my sweet boy these last couple of weeks.  This swing is so great for just setting him down for a bit while he sleeps.  It rocks which keeps him happy.  It's high off the ground which keeps my dog away from him.  It is light and portable so you can take it anywhere.  When Phil goes back to work I plan to use it while I shower.   I think it is also great if you stayed the night somewhere with an infant--it would be the perfect little place for him to sleep away from home.

My Brest Friend Pillow

My Brest Friend Original Nursing Pillow, Fireworks

What?  A boob pun is in the name?  That might be reason enough to purchase this little number.  Let me tell you breastfeeding ain't no joke.  For awhile it is painful.  Like, real painful.  Like, is-this-baby-part-beaver painful.  Also, it takes some time to learn and get used to how to hold the baby, how to get the baby to latch etc.  After a frustrating few days, I decided to order this nursing pillow.  After my first use I was singing a hallelujah chorus!  It gives me so much more support than just holding the baby or using a regular pillow.  I can get his head into position so much easier the pillow is keeping his weight up.  The pillow also allows me to have more access to my hands so I can read, or use the remote, or let's be real, eat, because that's what I do all the time now.

Waterfall Bathtub

Summer Infant Warming Waterfall Bath Tub

Yep, my baby's bath has a "waterfall" function.  I am probably starting to sound like a Kardashian.  Honestly, we didn't realize that this was a feature when we bought the tub.  I chose it mostly based on how it looked and the reviews it got on Amazon.  When it arrived we read that it needed batteries and we were really confused.  It turns out that the bath trickles a stream of warm water down baby's back to keep him warm.  It also came with a perfectly sized wash cloth that you can get wet and drape over his front like a blankey.  Again, for a baby that is unhappy being cold, to me this is totally worth it.  It also has a soft pillow for cushioning his head.  Another feature I like is that it has a little holder on the back to put things in--including a small cup with little holes in it for rinsing baby off.  When you have a new baby you have so many things everywhere so this little organizational function feels really convenient.

Is there anything I haven't discovered that I need to add to my list?  I have Amazon Prime's free trial on stand-by ready to order anything that will make my mommy life easier.  Stay tuned for more lists as baby E grows.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Not Every Day Is Promised

I've been a mom for three weeks, and it is already by far the hardest thing I've ever done.  It would be easy to spend my days discontent, or to wish the time of a thousand diaper changes and late-night feedings away.  I have to remind myself to choose joy.  I have to intentionally soak up the moments I get with my little one.  My mantra these days is:  "Not every day with Emerson is promised, so I will enjoy today with him."

On the Rocks

(I wrote those post pre-baby being born and am just getting around to posting it now)

Matthew 7:24-27  English Standard Version (ESV)

Build Your House on the Rock

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I have been having daily quiet times--a chunk of time spent in prayer and reading the bible--for over a year now.  I don't say that to brag.  Believe me, I have struggled so many times in my life to be disciplined in this practice.  I've found that whenever life changes I have to struggle to get into the routine again.  I have to find something that works with my new schedule, energy levels, etc.  So, I'm sure I'll have to figure things out all over again after baby is born.

I started really having success with it when I was in college.  I got involved with a Christian Ministry called CRU, and some older women invested me and taught me how to have fruitful quiet times.

Since then, I would say that I've consistently been in the word and prayer.  I have not always spent that time every day.  I have not always enjoyed that time.  I have not always been focused while having that time.  There were times when "consistent" meant, two, three, or even one time a week.  But I have not gone a period of being away from the word or prayer since then.

 For the past year or so, though, I have had a quiet time almost every day.  This season of my life meant getting up early to spend time with God--something I once believed I could never do.  To say I'm not a morning person is an understatement.  I had tried spending time with God in the evenings after work.  That was a disaster.  My brain was so befuddled that I found myself spacing off more than paying attention.  I would often drift from my bible app to my facebook app because what I really wanted was something to numb my mind.  One day I felt God ask me to try morning quiet times.  I was not happy about this.  But I tried.  Sometimes I would sleep through my alarm.  Other times, I would head downstairs, feed the dog, make myself some chai tea, and curl up on the couch with my ipad open to the bible.  Finally, I was able to make this a habit.  After a while, my husband starting waking up early to work out (and have quiet time) so with him out of the bedroom I could have my QT laying in bed.  This was perfect, especially for early pregnancy when I was feeling nausea first thing in the morning.

The other day I reflected on this, and quite honestly wondered, "Has it been worth it?"  I always thought that time in the bible and prayer were key to personal growth in relationship with God.  Sometimes, though I envision quiet time as a "fix-all."  Like, all my problems will go away if I just spend time with God.  I do think there is a shred of truth to this--I think that abiding in God is key to health in lots of areas.  I looked at myself and my life and thought, "Well I'm still a hot mess."  Maybe it wasn't working?

God brought my attention to the above passage.  I am about to enter a season that I know will be difficult.  Just transitioning into something new always throws me for a loop.  Change can be a hard pill to swallow.  In fact I might need to hide it in a spoonful of ice cream like my mom used to do when with medicine growing up.  Plus I have heard that few things are tougher than parenting and especially parenting someone who doesn't know how to sleep through the night or feed themselves or use a toilet.  God reminded me that my quiet times have been producing fruit.  He reassured me that as "the rain" of this new season fell that I would not be shaken because I have built a foundation on his word.  I think it's important to persevere with what God asks us to do even if it doesn't always seem like it's producing results.  I take comfort in knowing that God is going to take care of me through the trials to come.  Things may be difficult, but I will not crumble.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Parable of the Boob

Jesus often spoke in parables.  I thought I'd give it a shot.  Of course, my parable involves female anatomy.  Maybe it's because I've been hanging out with Middle Schoolers for the past few years.  Maybe it's that giving birth has taken away any shame that I once felt about the human body.  Maybe it's because I spend half of my waking hours nursing my newborn.  Maybe it's just sleep deprivation.  Whatever the case, I think there is something to take away here.  So here it goes:  the parable of the boob.

My baby does these strange things.  He loves his hands.  They are always up by his face.  When he gets hungry those little fingers often end up in his mouth.  He loves to suck on them.  What's weird is that there are times when I am trying to feed him and I can't because his hands get in the way.  In fact, sometimes I have my breast right there waiting for him, and instead of taking it he opts for eating his fingers.  There he is next to something that could provide him exactly what he needs.  My breast milk is designed especially for him--it has all the nutrients to help him grow and keep him healthy and happy.  Yet he sucks on his fingers.  He feels a need, and thinks he can fulfill it.  All the while he is missing out on the one thing that can sustain and satisfy him even though it is readily available..  There's nothing inherently wrong with sucking on his fingers.  In fact, under different circumstances--self-soothing through the night, for example--sucking on his fingers is even useful.  It's just that when he tries to meet his need to feed by sucking on his fingers instead of my nipple it just doesn't work.  Now, my baby always seems to figure it out.  He finds the nip and gets the food he needs.  However, if he were to continue trying to feed himself using his hands, and he never made his way to my milk, he would starve to death.

I couldn't help thinking this parallels what we go through as human beings.  We feel a need.  We are hungry for love, acceptance, and relationship.  We try to meet this need in our own ways--through achievements, through other people, through substances--you name it.  Yet all the while the perfect source of life is standing by just waiting for us to latch on (if you will).  Sucking on fingers may make my baby feel better for a few seconds.  Just like our addictions may make us feel fulfilled temporarily.  But if we never get connected to Jesus our needs will never truly be met.  Eventually, we will die.  Jesus is offering himself to us like I am offering my, well, boob, to my newborn.  Only he can fulfill us.  We have to choose to take hold of the one thing that can give us exactly what we need.  He is our source of life.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Emerson's Adventure Themed Nursery

I've had so much fun decorating baby Emerson's nursery.  I love to be creative and especially to express myself through anything involving aesthetics.  Something about eyeballing something to see what will look good and carefully putting together all the little details energizes me.

The original plan for the nursery was to go with a woodsy theme.  Philip is a hunter/fisher/camper.  He loves anything outdoors.  So that naturally (no pun intended) that seemed like a good fit.  Over time the decorating the theme has evolved a little bit, though.  While perusing Pinterest, my go-to for inspiration, I came across an "adventure" themed nursery.  I instantly fell in love with this idea.  It was still mostly based around the woodsy decor, but it also incorporated some travel elements--maps, globes, and suitcases--and a few nautical details--boats, whales etc.  Those three decorating schemes are some of my all-time favorites.  I loved the idea that they could all be incorporated and still mesh.  So, I went for the adventure theme in Emerson's room.  

As you can see, there is a little bit of everything in there.  There's some outdoorsy/tribal, some nautical, and some travel.  I used a lot of things that we already had.  I incorporated some of the decor from my nautical baby shower.  And we purchased a few things here and there.  The initial color scheme I was thinking included navy blue, grey, and white with touches of mustard and mint thrown in.  I think it ended up including a lot of neutrals with varying shades of blue.  I am so happy with how it turned out!  I love that I was able to use so many things that didn't cost us anything.  I love how it came together.  And I love that the different aspects of adventure make it feel less theme-y.  I think it's possible to go too far in one direction and I like the variety that the adventure theme allows for.

Chalkboard:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Nautical banner: Leftover from my shower (Target).  Map box reading "Be Strong and Courageous":  Gifted.  Basket:  Marshall's.  Laundry Hamper:  Already had (Bed Bath and Beyond).

Crib, sheets, and blanket:  Baby's R' Us.  Banner:  Leftover from my shower.

E:  made by my sister for my shower.

Love sign:  already had (bought at a charity silent auction).  Be Brave Arrow:  Leftover from decorating for Ross Point Camp (Target).

Chair:  Already had (Christmas gift from Mom).  Pillow:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Side table and lamp:  Already had (Ross).  Bottle:  DIYed.

Map: DIYed for our birth announcement.

Rocking chair:  Handed down from my Grandma.  Blanket:  Marshall's.

Fred the Moose Head:  Amazon.

"You are my greatest adventure" Shadow Box:  Marshall's (pictures collected from various ultra sound appointments).

Suitcase converted to toy box:  Already had (Piper Barn Show).  Couple/baby figurine:  Wedding gift.  Sign reading "Make More Adventures":  Marshall's.

Baby Gym Toy:  Made by my friend Reighan.

Sailboat decor:  Marshall's.

"Read" Pennant banner:  already had (DIY).  Globe:  Already had in my classroom.  Bookshelf and baskets:  Walmart.

Picture and frame:  Leftover from my shower (Photo from our Maryland trip).  Bottle filled with sand:  DIY (sand from our Maryland trip).

"Let all that you do be done in love" sign:  The Bookery.  Changing table:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Changing pad cover:  Amazon.  Antler:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Banner:  Leftover from decorating for camp (Target).

Look at all those little shoes!  Most of those were handed down or gifted, but I did buy two pairs of boat shoes from a consignment shop called "Once Upon a Child."

All we need now is a baby!  I know that he won't be using this room much at first, but it feels good to have it all finished.  I love to just go sit in there and take it all in.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

So I guess I'm a stay-at-home-mom, now.

What comes to your mind when you hear that phrase, “stay-at-home mom”?  Joan Cleaver?  I used to cringe when I heard it.  You see, I fancied myself a feminist.  “Women have come so far to be degraded back to spending their days vacuuming, feeding their offspring, and fetching men their slippers,” I thought.  Yet here I am, years later and I am going to be taking on that title.  Is this a permanent change?  Something for a just a year?  A few years?  I honestly can’t tell you.  What I can tell you is that I believe that there is no one right path—working-mom or stay-at-home-mom—and that I believe this decision is what is best for my family.

There have been times when I believed that working was the only way, and times in my life when I thought staying home was the only way.  At various seasons of my life I would’ve passionately defended either of those opposing points-of-view.  Now, I see the validity of both options.  There are many paths.  Neither is right for every person at every time.  I view staying home as a personal choice to do without some of your income in order to invest extra time and energy in your family.  I also see that you can raise your kids well even if they are in daycare for a good chunk of their lives.  Some women become better versions of themselves for their families by having a career.  Some women find other ways besides working to change the world, utilize their talents, and express their passions.  I know good, healthy, joyful women who work and parent, and who stay home and parent.  When I realized that, the choice of what was right for me only became more difficult.

For the past three years I have been called “teacher.”  I love/hate my job.  Teaching is one of the most gut-wrenching, draining, fulfilling, enjoyable things that I’ve ever done.  There is nothing like that moment when you realize that you have built a connection with a student--you can see in their eyes that they feel cared for and believed in by you. When something you planned just works and you see students engaged, thinking critically, and growing it is magical.  I know that I’m good at teaching.  I feel like it is important work.  Yet it sucks my energy like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  Kids are so needy.  Try being in a room full of twenty five of them all day long.  Then getting a new set every fifty minutes.  Each with their own unique mix of burdens, needs, challenges.  Not to mention the pressure of knowing that what I do every day could have a profound impact on their futures—for better or for worse.  As a teacher, I often felt like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off all day long.

 Let me paint a picture of the typical day for you.  I would start with my prep period: an hour during which I often had to finalize lesson plans, make copies, print visuals, cut strips of paper, create posters, set up manipulatives, enter grades, check emails, meet with colleagues, the list goes on and on.  Then, once class started, so began the dance of greeting and chatting cordially with students as I passed out/set up materials, explained activities, monitored activities, answered questions, cleared up confusion, watched timers, supervised closely, reinforced positive behaviors, redirected negative behaviors, gave consequences, assessed for understanding, adjusted plans, listened to their stories, picked up materials, all without stopping even to pee (teachers are trained in the art of bladder origami).  I would come home at the end of the day exhausted.  It was a good exhausted—like wearing yourself out on a battlefield.  But still, trying to listen to my husband talk about his day on our commute home felt like trying to diffuse a bomb in the middle of a rock and roll concert.  I needed an hour plus of zone-out time on the couch just to feel up to doing menial tasks like walking my dog or helping out with the dishes.

I’ve tried countless times to imagine the life I’ve lead for the past three years plus a crying, pooping baby who won’t let me sleep.  I can’t fathom it.  As it is, refreshing myself enough to take on the next day of teaching while maintaining my sanity takes a lot.  It is the reason I go to bed earlier than my grandmother.  I can’t seem to wrap my head around being a run-down, sleep-deprived mommy in the evenings and then trying to do school the next day.  I know there are people who do both of these jobs and do them well.  To them I say, “Kudos!”  I know it is possible.  But I really don’t even want to try to do it at this point.  I already feel like often all I have to offer my husband are my leftovers.  I don’t want to do the same to our baby.  I think it’s also just my disposition.  I give my whole self to everything that I do.  I don’t know how to jump into something without throwing my whole heart into the mix.  I feel things deeply.  I only have so much energy for the outside world.  I need time inside my head.  My stamina wears thin easily.  For these reasons, I think that a being new-mommy-Chelsea, and teacher-Chelsea at the same time would translate to more of a zombie-Chelsea than a thriving human being.

  So, I am making a choice—the choice to focus just on loving and caring for my husband, infant, and our dog for a while.  I’ll admit I don’t really know what it’s going to be like having a child.  Perhaps I am capable of much more than I can imagine currently.  Maybe after a bit, my mama instincts will kick in and I’ll be rocking this thing and ready to take on a job.  I’m leaving myself that option.  Maybe I will love what I’m doing and decide to have another baby and keep at this SAHM gig.  Maybe I’ll decide that the right balance is working part-time or finding ways to earn income from home.  At this point I can’t say.  All I can say is that, at least for now, I am hanging up my dry-erase markers and taking on child-rearing full-time.  You don’t have to agree with my choice, you don’t have to fully understand my choice, but I’d ask that you respect my choice.  Just call me Joan.  Or don't.  Because I am hormonal, sleep-deprived, and a former wrestler and I just might punch you.

When God uses a crappy situation for his glory.

*warning, this post not for the faint of heart.  If you can't handle talk about poop, here, watch this funny video about cats instead*

Sometimes God uses strange, even awkward things to bring him glory.  Even things like, say, pregnancy constipation.  Yep, that happens.  Can I just saying that pooping at eight months pregnant is the worst.  It feels like there's all this stuff--like a human child--in the way of your usual bowel moving muscles.  It's like your body is psyching you up for labor every time you have to drop a number two.  (Push!  Push!)  Whenever I have to go these days, I try to avoid it as long as possible, especially if I'm in a public place.

Anyways, I was at church (of course).  Philip and I had directed the Ross Point Camp Junior High Camp the week before.  I was reflecting on this, and thinking about how much I love being around Middle Schoolers.  Something about serving and loving them brings me life.  I felt a little sad in that moment, because I have resigned from my job teaching Middle School in order to stay home and care for our coming bundle.  I thought, "I'm going to miss being around them every day."  I asked God to continue to give me opportunities to invest in young people.  He answered my prayer quickly, and unusually.

We were half way through worship--which is my favorite part of church--and I felt the urge.  I had to use the bathroom, ahem.  I really didn't want to because A.  going while pregnant is the worst and B. I knew it meant missing a good chunk of the best part of the church service.  But, when you gotta go, you gotta go.  When I'd finally won the battle, and I was washing my hands this young girl walked in.  I recognized her because she'd been in my tent group at the church's middle school camp we'd served at the year before.  I'd formed a connection with her.  I specifically remember on a particularly moving night of the camp holding her, singing to her, and praying over her as she wept.  During this church service she'd run into the bathroom crying.  I asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"  She hugged me and then began to bare her soul.  She shared what she was feeling and going through.  I asked if I could pray for her.  She agreed.  So there I stood, in the restroom, of all places, ministering to a Middle Schooler.  The Lord had answered my prayer and was showing me that he will continue to use me to impact people in this stage of life even if I'm not teaching.  It's true what they say, "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

Singing with angels--in the shower.

I feel no shame in admitting that sometimes I like to sing in the shower.  The other day as I showered, I started singing Taylor Swift songs.  It reminded me how much I enjoy singing.  My voice isn't particularly beautiful, but something about belting out songs brings me joy.  That day, I felt like the Lord was nudging me. "Sing something to me," he asked.  I thought, "Ok, but what will I sing?"  The song "Good Father" came to my mind.  I began to weep as I sang. It's amazing how many times I have found solace in this song.  A good father loves, protects, provides, disciplines, guides, and cares for his children.  It is so encouraging to remember that God is doing all of those things for me.  No matter what I'm hearing, thinking, or feeling I need to be reminded that my identity is "Loved by God."

My husband, Philip, has some unusual spiritual giftings.  If you don't believe in that sort of thing, then you might just think he's crazy.  He is in touch with the spiritual realm.  At various times throughout his life he has been able to see things like demons and fallen angels.  He can discern darkness and often perceive the cause of it.  There was one time that he saw an angel, angel--like the good kind.  We took a trip to Las Vegas and the Lord showed him that an angel was present in our hotel room, watching over us.  That was very comforting because as fun as our trip was, Las Vegas is a city full of depravity and we could feel the weight of that.

This particular morning as I sang in the shower, Philip was in the room next door working on our nursery.  Apparently he was in ear shot.  He came in and told me, "When you were singing I could hear two voices."  Philip was convinced that what he heard was the sound of angels harmonizing with me.  Does that sound crazy to you?  That a hormonal lady with a swollen pregnant belly singing off-key in the shower could attract an angel to come and join in her worship to God?  I guess that I believe Philip.  I know that he has a sense for these sort of things.  And, to be honest, that sounds exactly like my God.  He would be pleased and glorified by something as simple as me crying and singing imperfectly to him as I shower.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Ministry of Motherhood

I got to hold a newborn the other day.  Swoon.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I've never been that girl that oooohs and aaaahs at every baby she sees.  I'm not the first to run up and ask to hold somebody's baby.  Usually, while my other friends are all but fawning over any baby in proximity, I am looking from afar like, "Nice baby."  Things are a little different now.  I am excited about our son.  Sometimes just seeing a baby makes me tear up.  My hormones are telling me, "Must hold all the babies!"  So, my friend had a baby, and I held the sweet, two-week-old bundle.  

As I was holding the baby, I noticed a few things.  Of course, you always notice that newborns are tiny and perfect in a soft, pink way.  As a mama-to-be, though, other things stood out to me.  For one, babies are heavy.  Even though this sweet girl was so little, after holding her for a few minutes my arms were tired, my back hurt, all I wanted to do was sit down.  The problem was that she wasn't a huge fan of sitting down.  Or of me sitting still.  The second I sank back into my chair she seemed to notice and let me know by squirming or fussing.  I'd have to rock her or get up and bounce her.  It was kind of a reality check.  Perhaps my vision of sitting on the couch watching Netflix for hours with my son snuggled sound asleep in my arms may have been more idealistic than I'd realized.

Also, apparently babies cry quite a bit (who knew?).  Every few minutes baby girl's face would contort and I'd know the storm was coming.  She would make the saddest, loudest sounds.  Instead of tossing her back to my friend and running for the hills, I thought I'd give comforting her a try.  After all, I'm going to be caring for one of these full-time very soon.  So when she started to wail, I'd stand up and bounce her or rock her and whisper things like, "Shhh.  It's ok.  You're ok."  She'd calm down and soon be a cute, sleeping baby again.

 As I comforted her, I wondered what she was thinking.  This baby's needs were met.  She was fed.  She was changed.  She had on clean, cute, and temperature appropriate clothing.  She was well taken care of.  This baby had nothing to worry about.  Yet she still cried periodically for seemingly no reason.   Was she uncomfortable?  Scared?  Sad?  Perhaps she didn't know how safe and how loved she was.  Even though nothing was really wrong, every once in awhile she needed someone to encourage her.

I started thinking about the many times throughout the years that my own mother has done this very thing for me.  After a hard day at school.  Before an important wrestling match.  Even now, there are times when I call my mom crying.  I can't tell you how many times since becoming a teacher that my mom (a fellow educator) has been my solace after a rough day.  Now that I'm experiencing pregnancy and anticipating parenthood I often find myself calling on my mom for help.  She always knows just what to say to help me feel better.  I suppose she's had 26 years of practice.  Ever since I was a wee babe.  It's as if she's whispering, "Shh.  It's ok.  You're ok."

When I think about it, I feel overwhelmed by beauty of the adventure that I'm about to embark on.  Yes it is going to be extremely difficult.  Probably tougher than I know.  But God is gifting me the privilege of sacrificing myself to meet the needs of someone else.  I will wear myself out loving someone who gives me nothing but spit-up and poopy diapers in return.  Sounds a lot like the gospel--sounds a lot like Jesus' unconditional love for us.  Not only this, but I will have the mission of comforting and encouraging this little person through the years.  I will be able to calm and soothe him with just my touch or some gentle words.  Perhaps, someday he'll be calling me from college or his job or when he's having babies of his own and just need to hear, "Shh.  It's ok.  You're okay."  Motherhood, what a beautiful calling.  A sleepy, messy, beautiful calling.  I am grateful that it's going to be mine.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pregnancy Journey: Finding Out the Gender

When you're pregnant people always ask you, "Do you want a boy or a girl?"  This is a trick question, I tell you.  Because we all know the correct answer is, "I just want the baby to be healthy."  So if you have even just an itty bitty preference, you wind up feeling like a horrible person.  From the get-go I have kind of wanted a girl.  I tried not to care!  It's just that perusing through the baby aisles I couldn't help but be enchanted by the bows, tutus, and glitter.  Girl clothes are definitely more fun.  Plus, most of my strongest connections are with other females.  I felt that I could bond more with a baby girl.  Not to mention, I have liked our girl names better than our boy names.  So, hard as it was to admit, bad as I felt about it, I wanted a girl.

Despite my desires, all signs started to point to our baby being a boy.  My family all said they thought we were having a boy.  They said this because there are a lot of boys in our family.  One night, Philip and I both had dreams that we had a boy.  I tried to make myself okay with this idea.  Still, part of me was hopeful.

At about sixteen weeks I started getting crazy impatient about finding out the gender.  We had a big ultra sound appointment set up for a little after twenty weeks, but that seemed so far away.  You can't pick the name, design the nursery, buy any clothes, really, unless you know the gender.  It is sad that our world is so "gendered," but that's kind of the way it is.  Plus I was in one of the lulls of pregnancy.  Pregnancy can be a roller-coaster.  There are some really exciting points, like announcing it to your friends and getting the most Facebook likes of your life.  There are some really intense points, like when you can't stop puking and all you want to do is sleep.  Then there are some kind of boring parts.  Sixteen weeks was one of those for me.  

 My friends told me about this business in my hometown that just does Ultrasounds.  They can find out the gender for you as early as sixteen weeks.  I became obsessed with doing this.  Talk about instant gratification.  Instead of waiting another month, suddenly I could go and find out the gender--tomorrow!  Here's the catch:  it costs $75.  My very pragmatic husband couldn't see spending that kind of cash just to curb my impatience.  We had a doctor's appointment at eighteen weeks.  I thought, "If you can tell at sixteen weeks, maybe the doctor could just find out for us at our appointment."  At any rate, I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

So at the appointment I asked the doctor if she could do an ultra sound and maybe tell us the gender.  She agreed!  However, she prefaced it with this, "I am notoriously bad at this.  I have been wrong before.  I'll do my best, but don't buy anything or tell anyone."  She did the ultra sound and it was amazing.  The last ultra sound we had been to was like, "There's your baby!" *Doctor points to a small blob that resembles some sort of sea creature*  This time was completely different.  I could see fingers and toes.  Baby was moving around in there like crazy!  This was definitely a human, and it was definitely growing inside me.  Then, the doctor told us that she was 70% sure that our little one was a boy!  

I have to admit that I felt a mix of emotions in that moment.  I was so happy seeing the glowing silhouette of our child.  Honestly, though, I have to admit that when she said boy I was a little disappointed.  I was also scared.  I thought, "What do I do with a boy?"  I understand girls.  I know what it's like to be a girl.  I know what they need.  Boys are kind of a mystery to me.  A smelly, wild, hungry mystery.  I began to wonder if we would have a close relationship.  All of the people I'm closest to--with the exception of my husband and brothers--are girls. 

After these hormone-enhanced emotions faded, excitement began to set in.  I started dreaming about what our son would look like, what he would wear.  I started finding ideas for a woodsy boys' nursery.  I started narrowing down our names.  The beauty of knowing the gender was that I was able to begin to picture everything about my baby more clearly.

The day of the official ultra sound arrived--finally!  I was so eager and excited.  Thinking about it that morning, I actually hoped it was a boy.  It would have just been such a curve-ball at that point to find out the doctor had been wrong.  I had already planned a boy's nursery.  I had been pinning baby boy outfits.  We had told a few family members and friends that we were pretty sure we were going to have a son.  I was mentally prepared to hear the doctor say, "It's a boy."

Once we arrived at the hospital, we were kept in the waiting room for over half an hour, but it felt like days.  I checked my phone about every five minutes.  Then they called me in and the show started.  I got a full hour of screen time, just staring at my child.  For the first time in this pregnancy I felt such a strong connection to our baby.  Seeing the close-up profile of his little face, I could picture our baby so clearly.  I imagined holding him in my arms.  I didn't even realize I was emotional, but I had to keep wiping tears that were leaking down the side of my face.  About a third of the way through, we got a pretty clear shot of baby's junk, and the doctor informed us that we were indeed having a boy.  Surprisingly, I felt nothing but love in that moment.  

This transition into parenthood continues to be a journey.  I realize now that people are right when they say that the gender doesn't matter.  Sure, I'm going to have to learn a thing or two about raising a wild little man, but I have my husband, brothers, and fathers to help me.  Now, I guess I really am just hoping that our baby will be healthy.  One thing is for sure though, I will love him no matter what.  In fact, as strange as it is, since we've never formally met, I think I already do.

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