Princess Theory

My oldest daughter is roughly two years into a serious princess obsession. My second, barely a toddler, is following close behind.

I remember, long before meeting my children, that if I had girls they would certainly, under no circumstance be frilly princess loving divas. A decision written in stone before I had the privilege of knowing my two little girls.

And then I learned. I learned that my biggest little girl prefers the word ‘fancy’ to frilly. I learned that everyone can be fancy. Fancy is always appropriate everywhere. Better yet, fanciness is necessary three-year-old fashion. She’s instructed me in many fresh ways to see beauty. And I have it on good authority that pink is fancy. Pink holds beauty.

Many conversations have arisen over my daughter’s princess phase. But the most frequent questions asks if I’m concerned that she’s developing unhealthy fairy tale expectations.

Here’s the thing, the greatest stories have already been written and every fairy tale is a ultimately a cheap replica. The Author, our Creator, has written the most artful story, we’re still watching it play out on a small scale in our lives and in the grand narrative of the Gospel.

Would I be concerned if my little princess was obsessed with being rescued by a prince and dreaming about marriage at age three? Yes. That would certainly raise some concern.

Every fairy tale I’ve ever heard or seen has had the same basic facets as the Gospel. Let’s use the beloved Cinderella as an example.

She’s born into this bliss, some sort of title, and adoring parents with whom she’s close. It’s her very own paradise. But then death enters the scene. Her mother dies and then her paradise begins to disintegrate. Her evil Stepmother comes along with two stepsisters who abuse her, holding her captive in her own home more a slave than family. Then her father dies, and things look a bit hopeless. But then she receives and invitation to the royal ball and with it a trace of hope stirs. With help from a fairy Godmother who prepares her to meet the prince she is whisked off in grandeur. Enter the prince—her knight in shining armor. He will ultimately be her rescuer, swooping in to marry her and carry her off to a new kind of paradise as a princess in her own castle. All is restored, and justice is served.

Each princess tale seems to follow this same basic formula. And its bare bones are a bit familiar, aren’t they?

Just my small princess theory over here, but I believe no thing is wasted when we’re able glorify the Lord. If Cinderella can produce opportunity for me to teach the creation, fall, redemption and restoration of the Gospel, to turn my daughter’s gaze toward the godliness, then even a princess obsession is productive.

 

Picking up soul care

This space intimidates me. Clearly, I’ve avoided it for some time. I want it to be polished, the perfect title and subtitle, curated, insightful and rich. However, I’m very little of those things in my daily life so it’s quite an unfair expectation I’ve held. So here I am, in all my messy Wednesday glory. My clothes are the same I wore yesterday. My children are supposed to be sleeping. They are not. There are things that should be cleaned or organized. But here I am.

I love to write. I am not a great writer. Yet. But I love to write. It is joy and sanity. It often guides my inner processing. It is delight—the challenge of it and the times of ease within it.

I also love progress. So those old posts? I’m not going to shamefully delete them while praising God for the progress. Instead, I’m choosing to see them as a gentle benchmark, just as I’ll, hopefully, say about this someday.

What would really be embarrassing now is if I never post again after this.

There is hype around self-care that shouts for us to do whatever we want. But the best self-care I’ve experienced tends to be amid the things I need. I need sleep. I need to feed my body well, I need to steward well the home and children I have been given. I need to create, to write, to think and process. These are just some of the things I need but in each of these, invested time has proven to be a refreshment. Not to say that those moments of discipline are self-care or doing the sixth load of laundry feeds my soul. But the aftermath of discipline is peace. The aftermath of laundry and cleaning is order and rest.

Writing, to me, is need and it is soul-care. Actually, the discipline of it is sometimes mind numbing. Editing? Re-writing? I don’t hold deep affection for these things. I do love a polished paragraph (However, you probably won’t find one of those in this post) and well thought through sentences. But in fulfilling that need, there is such care of self. Holistic self-care.

So here I am. Wednesday afternoon, a list too long of other things that should also be completed for that true self-care. But I am writing. And reminding myself that in the doing, not necessarily the perfection of it, there is great refreshment and joy.

What’s your need today?

Patience

Do you ever feel like you need a reset button on your day? Or honestly, your life? I am there without a doubt. Both for the day, year and life. I just got my precious little terror into bed, finished cleaning bird poop out of my hair, realized my shirt was backwards and fixed it, put away groceries and I am now collapsed in bed. Reset now, please.

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter I thought a lot about what characteristics I wanted her to know and remember me by. Let’s be honest, I have several I aspire to and probably even more I am unaware of the need to aspire to, but the most consistent one that I am working on is patience. I want my daughter to remember me by my patience with her. Patience as she grows, patience when she makes mistakes, patience when doesn’t choose what I want for her, patience when she is hurtful and messy, and just in the day to day battles. If I was giving myself a progress report or rating myself, which I sort of am, I would probably be a lot lower ranked than I would care to admit.

My husband has a full time and a part time job. He is a man with a lot on his plate and a very divided mind. He is an incredible husband and father and I am always immeasurably impressed by how he carries it all. But. His schedule often takes him away very early and brings him home very late and leaves him still with much to do at home. So, most days from 7 am to 7 pm it’s just the mom show. My daughter is almost 21 months (if you’re not used to measuring age by months, that just means we are really close to 2) but blessed us last fall by a prequel to the terrible twos that is still on going. Truthfully, I am just hoping this is the terrible twos and not going to get worse in 3 months. But I digress…

I have this massive, larger than life, enormous pet peeve: when people loudly declare that they are not going to pray for God to give them patience and I shouldn’t either.

Okay. Right. Got it.

Because we all know that God only gives us what we ask him for. Right? Isn’t that how it works? I am laughing. Probably cynically (definitely) but laughing none the less.

Friend, God gives good things. God’s good things are often hard and painful in the midst of the struggle but that doesn’t mean there isn’t goodness present. Trust me. God has given me a lot of good and beautiful things in the form of deep pain, both physical and emotional. I have often failed to see the good as I am in the trenches but as I look on some of those times, the good is unmistakeable.

God has been planning to teach me patience through motherhood, but isn’t it gracious of Him to help prepare me for it by allowing me to think it was my idea? He already knew that motherhood would require of me deep patience, costly patience. He needed me to be on board with that. And I am on board with it, but that does not lessen the pain that much of this learning brings.

I have a strong-willed daughter. Extremely strong-willed. I love this about her. It makes her passionate and determined and delightfully wild. These are good and valuable things. However, she is not even two yet and though I think she is a highly intelligent creature she is still only a baby. She is learning and exercising that will generously. This is teaching me a great many things and patience is only one. Today, patience as a mother means holding my words in, volume down and choosing to respond quietly to the 734th tantrum of the day. This week it means having patience and trusting that someday the discipline I am employing is going to sink in. I have never been more consistent in interacting with her on her level, disciplining or giving her a steady rhythm to her days and yet she is responding like a strong-willed child rather than the well behaved and gracious daughter I am learning to patiently wait for. Patience, a deep breath and prayer.

Right now, patience as a mother means holding onto hope and trusting that someday God will bless us with another healthy pregnancy, another child. Patience. This is a painful, weighty, costly patience. But this struggle and this waiting was going to happen. How much better it is for me that I am trying and willing to learn from it.

In no way do I have this figured out. I have had more than my fair share of emotional outbursts, tantrums (both at God and my daughter), anger and discontentment. Many days I am not okay with the wait and the sorrow that these hard lessons in patience are bringing to me. However, I encourage as one amid the muck, it is okay to embrace pain, acknowledge pain and learn from it. You are not alone.

Friend, please do not shy away from what God is trying to teach you because it seems to be too costly or painful. It probably is both costly and very painful, but it doesn’t have to be bad, it doesn’t have to be something you flee from. God is a giver of good gifts and I have discovered that they always come with peace, grace and strength if we are willing to avail ourselves of those things. Really, I am just preaching to myself.

Silent no more

October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month.

Unfortunately, I have an investment in it this year. This October is three months since my sweet second child was birthed to heaven. Right now, instead of choosing a name and working on a nursery, I am praying for healing for my aching heart and peace in the midst of this painful storm.

Prior to my own miscarriage I mistakenly thought that miscarriage was rare because I so infrequently heard about it happening. The truth is, and it is horrific, 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s one in four women. Ladies, this means that your mother may have lost a child. It means that you may have. It means that a sister, cousin, friend, co-worker or neighbor will inevitably (or already has) lose a child. Gentlemen, this means your wife, sister, friend, co-worker or neighbor will lose a baby. I have no scientific solution, there is no quick fix, we live in a broken and fallen world and death is such a part of our reality.

Since losing my baby I have heard countless people say “there are no words” and I have heard just as many stories of the detrimental and insensitive words grieving parents have heard, and I already have plenty of my own stories. I’ve read so many blogs and articles suggesting things not to say to grieving parents, and while they have their merits I think when we list so many things not to say it has shut up a lot of people that would otherwise have helpful, caring words.

While I do agree “there are no words” I think it should be clarified that there are no words to heal or fix. But there are words to comfort, to support and to show love and care. These are necessary and so valuable to offer. I have heard words that have communicated that my pain is not unnoticed or forgotten and neither is my child. These kinds of words are the ones that need to be shared more frequently, for they are so incredibly valuable and necessary.

Miscarriage is something we absolutely need to stop being silent about. Because you will know at least one woman, though more likely you will know very many who have lost babies. My prayer and hope is that we are the generation that changes the stigma and culture surrounding miscarriage.

These are just some of the things that have been said to my husband and I or done for us that we have found to communicate love and support. This isn’t a one size fits all or all inclusive but my hope and prayer is that it can be a starting point for you as you seek to love on those around you that are dealing with this particular loss.

  1. “ I am so sorry. I love you. I love your baby” This is simple. So simple but it acknowledges pain and loss. It is so valuable to acknowledge the loss a parent is experiencing.
  2. “How are you doing?” I am not talking about throwing this question out in passing. I am talking about sitting down with someone and allowing them to share about their child and their grief process. Don’t stop asking this question because grief is not linear and likely this question needs to be asked just as frequently three months later as it does three days later.
  3. “Can I come over and clean your kitchen or bring you a meal?” A lot of people offered help which was so kind. Several people offered specific things or better yet, just showed up to do them or bring a meal. It is humbling to receive help but so helpful when people offer really specific things. I cannot speak for every mother in this but I struggled to cope with the mundane details of life in the days and couple weeks after we lost our baby. Cleaning and cooking were so far from my mind and I felt so loved by the people who served us in these specific ways.
  4. If the parents have named their child and shared it, use their child’s name when talking to them about the miscarriage and their grief. We want to talk about our child. We miss our child, we long for our child and we want to grieve and honor our child. It meant a lot when people would/will step out of their comfort zone to truly acknowledge that it was a child we lost and not just a fetus or a pregnancy.
  5. Pray. Don’t just say that you’re praying. Pray with them, send them a prayer, leave a voicemail with a prayer. I had a friend that texted me prayers several times in the first month after my miscarriage. It was an honor and source of support that made me feel loved, seen and bolstered.
  6. Don’t stop asking, checking in or communicating support after a couple of weeks. Its been three months and we are still deeply grieving this loss. It is still so incredibly valuable to hear that people see us.

This is definitely not an all conclusive list. There were lots of other things that were helpful and a source of comfort and support to us, these were just a few of the comments and conversations that have truly stood out to both of us and I wanted to share. What I really recommend is that you ask. Stay connected, don’t believe that a mother is okay if you see her two weeks later and she is smiling. Don’t be afraid to hug, to say I love you, to say that their child will be missed, don’t be afraid to ask them what would be helpful. Be a listener, this is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

For My Baby

My words are still swimming mostly uncollected in my mind, but I am trying to get them in order and hoping that writing them down might help. I had these great plans in the Spring of being consistent in writing and posting. Then, sweet joy, I found out I was pregnant with a second baby. It was a child quite deliberated over. With my overly cautious Rheumatologist openly and strongly discouraging any other pregnancies warring with my huge desire for more children. I won’t share the many details but in short, this child was greatly prayed over, desperately wanted and joyfully celebrated.

I had the deep, deep privilege of carrying the life of my precious child for eleven weeks and four days. Eighty-one days of knowing that little person. I will always treasure those weeks in my heart. In hindsight I so highly value the days of extreme fatigue and nausea as the beauty of feeling my child and having my life disrupted as it should have been in so many other ways.

I hope you do not think I am trying to elicit your sympathy, rather I write  and share in honor of the life that touched mine so profoundly. I speak because miscarriage is something we must no longer be silent about. I write for that mother who can’t sleep at night and is searching to know if there is anyone else out there who can understand the groans and pain of her heart. I really deliberated about whether or not I should blog this, but I cannot and will not pretend that miscarriage isn’t now a part of my story, a part of me. For just as much as my wild and sweet firstborn as changed me, so this precious child, my second baby, has changed me forever.

The last two and a half months have been some of the hardest and darkest days of my life. I know that might sound extreme but the grief of this loss has felt like a living being that has moved into my home and altered so much and it has created many awful days. I have seen myself at some of my lowest points, but, this isn’t the end of my story. For also in the past two months I have seen my marriage strengthened, I have experienced true joy and I have seen the Lord meet me with grace in the midst of my dark and my messy pain.

Through the Lord’s grace, kindness and comfort I am learning that in the same way that none of my pain and challenge through chronic disease has been purposeless so also this loss and grief I am in the midst of also has deep purpose. I don’t know how the Lord is going to use this in my life, I don’t know when but I am ever so confident that he will take this pain and once again use it mold me more to his image and to further glorify him. I cling to this truth.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

psalm 23:1-4

I don’t have answers for you if you are also in the midst of being molded by the story of miscarriage. I don’t promise to have answers ever. The Lord has chosen to be silent when I beg him to tell me why. This is hard, hard, hard. But I am learning to be okay living with that. However, God is not silent in the face of my pain. The rod and staff that comfort me have come in the shared tears of my precious husband, they have come in the quiet and loving care of my mother, they have come in the grief shared with another mama, and in so many songs, verses, hugs and in hearing “me too”.

One thing I have chosen to praise God for throughout my various struggles in life is that he is good. Trust me, this is a truth that has been forged into my heart in the fires of many, many trials and the difficulty of choosing it certainly doesn’t discount it. This particular pain is no different. He is good. If you’re reading this and facing seasons of loss, hurt, anger, rejection or pain, please know that He is good.

I don’t share that truth because I am okay and I have it all together. I share because it is something we so need to be reminded of. I so need to be reminded of. But I learn, yet again, to say this through the valley of the shadow of death as my gracious Shepherd works to restore my battered soul.

in life, I rejoiced over my child. In death, I grieve but with a grateful heart for the blessing it is to still be the mother of my precious angel baby.

He is good.

May she learn compassion

Recently, someone asked me how I was going to help my daughter adjust and cope with having a mother with a chronic, at times debilitating, disease.

It was asked with the best intention, I am sure, in a kind manner. Still, not the most thoughtful question I’ve been asked, but not the worst either. I hope that the expression on my face matched the grace I tried to respond with.

Honestly. I’ve wrestled with in the privacy of my mind or with my husband. It wasn’t something I shared publicly and definitely not with an acquaintance. This is something that brought deep grief and sorrow those long sleepless nights early in my daughters life. I thought how unfair it was for her to have a mom like me. How unjust it was, all the things she would miss out on, all the appointments she would have to go to with me and health crisis she would endure alongside me.

I had my hip replaced two months and one week after she was born. Two months and one week after a c-section. I was barely recovered and my still raw, new mom heart was not prepared. It was horrendous. Handing her off to my husband and mom to be wheeled back into the OR, waking up in recovery and knowing it would still be hours before I could see her and weeks before I could care for her independently again, these things were painfully hard. It was far more emotionally painful than physical. That night at the hospital was my first night away from her. I sobbed. I could handle the pain, all the needles, the poking, prodding and therapy. They were unpleasant in contrast to watching my husband walk out of the room with my tiny baby.

My sweet girl. She was fine. In fact she had such fun quality time with her dad.

Throughout the eight week recovery she was a sustaining, life giving source of joy and my greatest motivator. We had a competition, she and I, who would be mobile and getting around first! I was determined to win and did.

I learned so much in those two months, I thought a lot and prayed a lot and cried a lot. It was exhausting. However, I am grateful for it because I learned that we can do it. I learned that she can handle it. I learned that it did not phase her for a second. My precious daughter is already doing all the adapting she needs to do. I’m normal to her. Surely there will need to be conversations to help her understand the whys of my life. But contrary to the implication of the original question, I don’t feel that having a mother like me will cause her any ill effect or loss in life.

We live in a world that is home to a great deal of ungracious, unkind and emotionally stunted people. My husband and I have prayed from the moment that we found out we were pregnant that she would be a woman marked by her love and compassion for others. I truly believe and am learning to be grateful that one of the very things God is using to this end is my disease.

I know it will have some of the same effects on her that it did on me. I spent hours of my young life in rehabilitation centers with people of all ages, classes and ethnic groups who were also struggling with physical brokenness and pain. That shaped and informed my perspective. It taught me grace, it taught me to say hello rather than stare, it taught me to look beyond the physical with those I interact with and it taught me compassion.

I am learning to praise God for these beautiful lessons my daughter will have opportunity to learn. I am not always at peace with this. Not by any means. But I’m learning to actively choose to accept these things and rejoice in them, trusting that the Lord knows far better than I.

We, the redeemed

I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah this month. If you love poetry and the perfect ending then this is the book for you. It’s a stunning picture showcasing that God is, at His very core, a Redeemer and Restorer. In this book He tells Israel of the coming consequence of their sin and outright disobedience. A lot of the book feels hopeless, they will be a people nearly destroyed, with those remaining sent into exile. Everything is stripped away from them. They will live lives of loss, pain, devastation and humiliation.

The horror and desolation. I cannot fathom.

But, beautifully, even before one person had felt the weight of this consequence, the Savior God was already planning and promising the ways He would redeem and restore them. He was already promising and preparing their rescue, peace, hope and joy.

That is my God. My Creator, my Comfort and my Redeemer. Wow.

He didn’t say to them “you’ll get used to it”. He wasn’t saying “I’ll leave you there forever, you miserable sinner” or “you’re no longer worthy of my love and grace”.

Instead He said:

You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:4

Glory be.

That same God who allows me to live with a painful chronic disease, that same God who allowed your painful and difficult circumstance, that is the same God who will restore to you what is taken. At the same time that difficulty entered our lives, He was planning ways to restore us.

Don’t misunderstand, your pain, your circumstance, hurts and flaws…I am not saying they are consequence or punishment. But they happened. For whatever reason God knew it would happen and allowed it…such a mystery in my life. But I choose to focus on what I do know. He restores the broken and he redeems. Always.

I have yet to see many of the ways He will restore and redeem in my life. I do know, though, of many ways He has. I have so many precious relationships that are the result of shared pain and my slow pace in life. I have interests that never would be if not for my early days in a wheelchair and my current need for a lot of rest; my love of reading, painting, listening and nutrition would likely not have developed. I have a flawless baby who has, in so many ways redeemed my broken and flawed body.

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Seek out the redemption and restoration in your life. It’s there. I promise.