Wednesday, November 11, 2015

First Time Mom, It's Okay to Think It's Hard

I've never been accused of sugar coating things. Delivering truth I can do, and ironically, it's often the way I feel led to care for people.  Granted, I haven't mastered the art of timing or when to let it go.  But I frequently want to tell new moms the hard stuff we all go through within the first few hours, days, and weeks of our little one's life.  You can guess that's not exactly the stuff they want you to "shower" your sweet mama friend with during the baby celebrations.  But truth leads to freedom and so much of the hard during early postpartum feels smothering and isolating.  So I've decided to lay out my thoughts in hopes that other moms or folks supporting new moms get a better insight into what we go through.

Give yourself grace.  Be so nice to yourself.  Sleep deprivation is a form of torture for a reason. Your hormones are tormentors much worse than anything in a Harry Potter book.  Your body has been through trauma, regardless of how your baby came. This is all new. This little being is not excited about being on the cold, bright outside, and your voice and smell is all that she recognizes. It doesn't matter that you have no idea what you're doing or what they need and want; it still seems like you are the only human on the planet who can address their wails.

Then there's breastfeeding.  Lord help us, breastfeeding. This is one of the earliest opportunities for mom guilt to enter your life in a major way. It's one of the hardest things I've ever accomplished. Finishing college, meh. Doctorate degree, tough but got through it.  Breastfeeding, yowza.  There's nothing like knowing you're the key to your child's nutrition and battling bleeding and pain so bad you cry every time they try to latch.  Was it worth it?  It was to me; each mom has to decide that for herself.  I came to love that time with Hayden, but amidst the rest of what my body and the new baby was going through, it was a hurdle to say the least.

Your poor, sweet spouse will likely not understand.  They can relate to your sleep deprivation, but that is about it.  Be patient with them. Verbalize what you need.  Try to offer gentle tips with the baby or just be quiet and let them figure out their own way.  You'll be glad you let them try. Shutting them out early means much more work for you down the line. Grow together in this; you'll be grateful. Lord knows little people added don't make marriage any easier. The better you get at doling out grace to yourselves and each other will only serve to build a safe, loving home...I'm told.  If I ever get good at this, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Say "yes" to all the help.  I'm not too proud to say I've messaged my mother-in-law (who's a rockstar, by the way, I pray you all have help like this in your corner) on Facebook at 0230 to pray for a screaming baby.  When she texted and offered to come over so I could rest for a few hours, I let her. And I'm not too proud to say this happened more than once. As a mom, you want to prove yourself;  you want to do it all.  Bless your heart, you may be forced to based on your circumstances, but asking for help so that you can rest/heal/get some sanity to be better for your child is the right thing to do. No guilt.

STOP THE COMPARISON NOW.  I know it already started, probably before even pregnancy. It will rob you of happiness and deep, fellow-mom friendships faster than anything. Let's be really honest with ourselves and ask this: What does it accomplish?  Nothing.  Great.  We're agreed.  Let's move on.

I know I'm not alone, or I would not be willing to share, but there will be moments when you lose it.  You feel so flustered or helpless or angry about why your baby won't stop screaming that you have a fleeting thought of losing control.  There's a reason Shaken Baby Syndrome exists.  We've all been there.  Know these moments will come for you. Have a plan beforehand.  Place your baby somewhere safe (crib, rock-n-play, bassinet), and walk into another room.  They can scream for a minute without you.  Jump in the shower and sit under hot water for 5 minutes if you need.  Just get alone, gather your senses, take deep breaths until you're ready to try again, and then go love your little the best you can.

I truly believe parenting will actually grow us into who we are meant to be. I believe there will be specific things Hayden teaches me about life, my sin, and how my Heavenly Father loves me. I believe it will be brutal and beautiful, brutiful, as Glennon Martin would say.  Isn't most of life?  So hang in there, new mom.  It's really okay to just survive the first three months. There will be great moments, but overall I found it very hard.  And honestly, I didn't really feel like I got to know Hayden in that time since not too much of her personality showed.  Everything hurt her stomach, and she often screamed nightly from 5-8 pm.  By month four, she started smiling at me, and I became the coolest person in her world.  That as the best. I was reminded it's worth it. It will look different for every mom.  I could already hear most of you as I was retyping this paragraph in first person instead of generic terms: "My baby slept all night the second week!" or "Our little guy didn't sleep through the night until he was ten!".  You, like me, were or are likely somewhere in between.  For me, it's truly gotten better every month since then.

It's late for a disclaimer, but I still need to say: Obviously, this is my singular experience that I'm speaking from. So much could have been so much worse, and that doesn't discount that it was hard for me.  Many of you will read this having gone through much harder scenarios, and I ask that you offer myself and others grace as we each deal with the path God has given us, the great and the hard.  My hope in sharing this is to provide a safe place and a warm sense of relatability for those who have or will go through similar feelings after childbirth.

What about you?  What would you warn/encourage new moms with?  What do you wish folks would have told you?  What are you thankful that they did share?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Was Wrong About Parenting

Disclaimer:  I am not yet a parent, so no need for speculation.  I also will likely rework my thoughts about parenting a zillion times before the end of my life, so consider this an observational snapshot. Having declared those, please offer me grace in speaking about something I have only spectator's experience with.  I'm aware you likely know more than me.  I'm just sharing where I am.  Right now.

I'm not going to lie, I honestly thought that once your kids were "grown" in age or self-sufficiency, you pretty much got to coast as a parent.  You received part of your own life back, you got your kids off the payroll, etc.  No more running to games or having to feed or pouring out as much of yourself for your children.  While part of that may be true, I'm learning as many of my friends transition into a peer of sorts with their parents, there are new thresholds that both parties encounter. 

As we (the children) start to navigate building a life, naturally we compare the lives our parents built for themselves (and us).  For me, it hit at about 24 years old.  I'm rounding the corner for the home stretch of pharmacy school (and done with school forever after 19 years of my life), and I realize that my parents were in the same position at one time but with a lot more obstacles to overcome (read: more school debt).  Fast forward to my childhood memories of trips, Christmases and birthdays, and multiple opportunities that were not free (contrary to my understanding at the time).  How the heck did they do that?!  You guys are honkin' heroes.  I'm not exaggerating.  I'm truly amazed.  I'm not the only one.  I've had this conversation with multiple friends and siblings who experienced the same epiphany.

With that comparison also comes some realizations.  As adults we have to start taking responsibility for our junk. We've been shaped by a lot of external influences, much of it outside of even our parents' control.  No parents are perfect.  Mine weren't, and I won't be when I'm a parent.  As we work through why we are the way we are, we may choose to do things differently.  Just like you did, looking at your parents.  This has the potential to bring up guilt and insecurities for the parents that they've held onto for years.  I wish I could look into the face of each of you parents and say "There's grace for that.

There is.  Remember those years where we were ungrateful and self-absorbed and assumed money grew on trees?  You know, the preteen to past college years?  Remember when you loved us anyway?  THAT'S some grace.  Seriously, y'all are amazing for not disowning us at times.  Or maybe it was just me?

 But seriously, we love you.  And we know you love us.  I don't know about everyone around this phase of life, but most of us want your friendship now.  We want to learn from you as a mentor.  We want the truth about your highs and lows and victories and failures so we can glean from it all.  We know it wasn't all perfect, and we won't be either.  So now can you model forgiving yourself so we can learn how to forgive ourselves when we aren't perfect parents?  I think I turned out just fine.  I have my parents to thank for that.  They did great, I think. Your children probably do or will think that as well.  And if they don't, well, eventually it's just their problem.  Lay it down.  Let it go.

It's awkward as we move through these phases of life.  It's this long dance of dependence where it eventually switches hands all together.  Let's celebrate this season of friendship.  Let's release the past and look forward to the future.  I have.  Many of my friends have.  We're HERE.  Now.  I think my parents are phenomenal people.  Most of my friends think their parents are too. Heck, anyone who will love you exactly as you are, knowing all your junk, you have to hold on to!  So let's be that for each other. 

All of this to say: I'm sorry I underestimated the potential trials of this phase for parents. I'm sure it's awkward.  Just don't punish yourself. Most of us definitely remember exponentially more good than bad.  We can learn from it all.  We have.  God used some pretty jacked up folks in the Bible to further His Kingdom.  Trust that He has used you.  He has.  He will.  Keep that "yes" on your heart.  Receive His love and grace for all of it.  Now please be ready to recite this back to us in the coming years. 

If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves otherwise its like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him. 
- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I Was Wrong About Being Right

It doesn't satisfy like I thought it would.  It almost never accomplishes what I'm always shooting for: perfection.  Being right at work doesn't magically fix all our broken processes and get folks to do or see things differently.  Being right in relationships does NOT equate to resolution or deeper intimacy.  Being right is just not the reward in and of itself that I've assumed it was my whole life.

 I don't know if it's my highly analytical nature or tendency to trust my own intellect, but I often think I'm right.  Those of you who know me are laughing.  That's fair.  But being "right" carries with it an assumption that the process is over.  Exploration is complete.  Scientific method has been carried out, and observed conclusions backed up by evidence are sound.  The subject is finished.  Other than actual mathematical laws and proven theorems, what ideas, thoughts, emotions are ever over

I've opened up some of the boxes I had neatly wrapped for years: in theology, in love, in self-exploration.  Maybe the process isn't so bad.  Maybe I was wrong about my potential for creativity.  Maybe I was wrong about my potential.  Maybe I've been wrong about everyone's potential.  It's not all science when we're talking about a sovereign God.  I may NEVER get that right.  But that's a big one: People aren't static.  Lives are fluid.  Stories have chapters.  

The open endings are freeing.  God is bigger than my ability and even my desire to be right.  He ALWAYS will be.  Maybe "as far as I know right now" is a really good answer.  Being right for me has always been a crutch that replaced faith.  Why would I need to believe and trust if I could just "figure it out"?  If I haven't always reached a conclusion, then I can join others in the journey.  There are less walls.  Less division.  More conversations.  In the wise words of my husband, "There's no limit to what I don't know."  It was hilarious when he said it, but it's very true.  For all of us.  And that's okay. 

So here's to new things!  I don't know if this is related, but I recently tried out red hair without regret.  Here's to new opportunities, less fear, more conversation, and new goals of unity and love in my pursuit of Truth. 

And let me just add that I was WAY wrong about how hard it would be to jump back on the blogging train after getting back from India.  I think I'm still unpacking some of my thoughts on that experience.  If I bring to completion one of my five drafts going right now, you'll be the first to know.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I was wrong about Grace

Blissfully wrong.  In fact, it's a bit of a cycle for me.  I constantly revert back to believing I have to earn if I could earn it.  What a mess, right?  Gross-looking cycle of guilt.  I struggle with the performance trap, an idea from "Search for Significance" by Robert S. McGee.  It's a lie from Satan that states "I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself".  Life can be a heck of a time for this perfectionist.  I feel like I have more flaws than those around me, but I can't tell if it's just because I focus on them or if that's true.  In the grand scheme, I'm not sure it matters.  I am where I am.  When I can do or be better, I will.  Can you tell my counselor has given me some good weapons to battle these "old tapes"?  (Sidenote: I HIGHLY recommend counseling. No one's family was perfect.  We all have some baggage. Who couldn't use a lighter load?)

But God's economy isn't ours.  It's not a pay-for-service deal.  Grace is a free gift.  (See Ephesians 2:8-9.) Not a cost-less gift, mind you.  It costs living for you in exchange for REAL life.
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price', and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 
 The reminder of my need for grace is not a bad thing. When the Liar spins conviction so that "I'm a horrible person; how could God or anyone else love me?", then it is perverted into a destructive thing.  But His kindness leads us to repentance.  What an option!!!  Repentance

Another key piece about grace is to live in a community that personifies God's grace in your life.  That's key.  Grace is tough.  Many don't understand it, and fewer have enough lying around to extend to others.  Feeling judged and isolated for where and who you are hurts.  I've experienced limited grace in that way before.  It sucks and makes me not want to risk again by letting folks in.  How automatic is that wall of protection once we feel spurned?  Yep, I said "spurned".  Getting all old school Bible on ya makes what I'm saying more legit, right?

In contrast, I've been blessed to be loved by folks for exactly who I am. Even in hurtful times, despite what was pushing some away; others still chose to love me through it.  Even right now.  With all my junk. I'm reminded daily in the love of my husband, my family, and my church family that grace abounds even unto me.  If they can love me like that, imagine how much God loves and accepts me?  And if you're not currently involved in a church due to fear of judgment from them or God, please understand: If they let me in, you're good!  I'm not exaggerating.

I could write all day about grace, and I will never understand it. God knows everything about me and gave His Son for me anyway. I will never, ever, ever, grasp that. I will keep being wrong about how extravagant and beautiful and transformative it is.  It overcomes, and it empowers. It's a blessed surprise at each turn of repentance.  Not a cheap net to catch us when we fall, but an ocean to swim in and be changed by. I will hope. I will focus less on my flaws and more on the beauty of grace that allows me to know the Creator God of the universe.  I will keep saying "yes" to the opportunities God gives because of grace.

How do you feel when you think about grace?  How 'bout the fact that it's free? What has been your experience with it or without it?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I was wrong...

About so many things.  It's a constant process of evaluating, relearning, tearing down, rebuilding.  As I scientific thinker, I'm constantly gathering data...even subconsciously.  I assess my findings, draw conclusions, and build life "rules" or laws, if you will.  I wasn't kidding; it's legitimately the scientific method.

When I threw the gauntlet down (okay, it was more like a light offer), challenging a friend to blog weekly, I began to consider what I might blog about weekly myself.  I decided it would be a good exercise to try to write a series around a theme. What could I find to go on about weekly for six or eight weeks?  Where would I get the material, the inspiration?  It was daunting.  It still is.  But something I do know a lot about and have a wealth of experience with is being wrong. 

Being wrong is messy, humbling, halting, gracious, and beautiful at times.  It's priceless when it means victorious redirection.  Sometimes it means regret.  It often bring gratitude for grace and second chances. 

With a lengthy intro, I won't spend many words on this "wrong".  I will state the obvious.  I was wrong about why to try to blog.  I was wrong when my goal was to get people to be interested in what I thought or what I was doing or how I could tie my thoughts in a bow at the end with a relevant Scripture passage.  I spent all of my childhood years pining to be famous...for anything.  I wanted to be a singer, an actress, a model, a child genius, a famous scientist, basically anything that would make me a household name.  I figured out pretty quick I wasn't going to put in the work to become famous for a sport, so those were the best my little aspiring mind could come up with.  Thank the Lord He didn't give me any of those.  I would have been insufferable.  See?  The gratitude.

But He gave me some traits and lessons to use for the greater good.  So if by blogging, by sharing words about my life or my thoughts or my heart, I connect with another heart or connect another heart to His, I will give this a go.  I will try to hone this skill.  I will say another small "yes" and look for what He wants to do.  I will not let fear deter me, or not this time anyway.  I will risk embarrassment, critique, and being misunderstood.  I was wrong about not trying.  So we doing this.  And I left out the helping verb on purpose in the last sentence.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


It's a sweet one.  I mean that literally and figuratively.  It's summer here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, so we have long, sunny days and breezy cool nights.  It's my favorite time of year here.  I'll even take the heat.  People are so cute up here throwing out heat advisories for temps above 80.  They wouldn't last 3 days in the month of May where I'm from in Tennessee.  It's a sweet one figuratively as well because I sense change. 

I'm constantly learning new things through marriage, of course.  I have a feeling the season coming upon us is one where I learn more about grace: giving and receiving.  I have no doubt this will be a theme woven throughout, but for sure I'm about to dive in.  God's been answering prayers I didn't even get out in words.  He's giving me opportunities to be used and to pour myself out, and I'm thankful.  I want to get better at saying "yes" and quicker at responding to the Spirit's promptings.  The Lord knows I'm around folks all the time that long to feel His presence.  I want to long for it the most. 

I'm also excited for new friends.  God seems to have brought some folks around me that 1. get grace, 2. are authentic, 3. are open to connecting.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but I truly hope God grows and uses that friendship to encourage and grow both of us. 

I'm trying to approach my life like I feel everyone should approach their summer: take a step back, rest, look around, enjoy each moment, and recognize God there.  I am grateful for seasons.  I'm grateful for this one.

How do you feel about seasons in life?  Do you see purpose in various ones?  What have you learned in the good ones?  What have you learned in the difficult ones?  How has God revealed Himself in each?

Saturday, June 1, 2013


It has the power to change everything.  Yep, spelled it like that on purpose.  It often single-handedly attitude.  Another confession: I'm prone to negativity.  It's a battle that never quits in me. My strength is finding room and areas for improvement.  My weakness is never letting things be good enough.  And I'm female.  So let's add the constant struggle with contentment.  Or maybe that's just me too.  In the midst of my fault-finding, I quickly spiral into nothing in my life is good enough.  Add a little hormonal influence, and it's over.  

Then I start bulleting the good: 
  • The sun was out today.
  • I have a husband that loves me.
  • He's extremely good-looking.
  • We enjoy spending time together.
  • He doesn't see the negativity that I do.
  • My husband makes me laugh and lightens my emotional load often.
  • He does dishes!!!!  And he never complains about it.
Those are just the things I can see.  We haven't even touched all the things I can't see: my salvation, how God loves me, the fact that the hairs on my head are numbered, etc.  That's an amazing existence.  Who cares what I didn't accomplish today or what I seemed to be missing out on?  Does it matter to anyone but me that I seem "behind" in some areas of life?  Should it?  I think of Solomon's writings in Ecclesiastes where everything pretty much boils down to "work hard and enjoy your quick, quiet existence".  That's my translation, clearly.  But I see the beauty in what he's saying.  This season in this existence of mine is sweet.  I'm trying to capture moments in my memory album to look back on as I live them.  I will look back on this season with fondness.  So why not be grateful now for what it is?  
And even be grateful now for what it isn't.  

See?  Gratitude helps me see the good in my "now".  It keeps me from beating myself up about what's not in it or whining about what I don't have. 

How does gratitude change your perspective?  What does it save you from?