Grief is a curious thing. You dip in and out. A boat at the will of the waves, Cresting before dropping to a valley and climbing again. In and out. Up and down. Back and forth goes my heart. Doubting, then, trusting. Questioning, then, releasing. A heart hardened seems safe, but it’s all lies and hollow lives. A heart softened suffocates on silenced prayers. I struggle to surrender. Daily, I fight to bow my knee. Who will be King? You or me?
The Grief Diaries is a series on grieving. Written with words from real journal entries so others will know they are not alone. I share because I know the power of “with” and hope you can experience it too.
“With.” It’s a simple word. We use it dozens of times a day. But in my grieving, its meaning has changed. No longer is it a simple preposition. It is a reminder of God’s goodness amidst brokenness.
We were in church, trudging through worship, scoffing at lyrics of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Pausing to speak, the worship leader said, “God is good not because of what He does. God is good because of who He is.”
My head knew these words, but at that moment, my heart resonated with the truth of them. I know God is good. He is good because He is WITH me in the sadness. He didn’t leave me to walk through this alone. If I will but turn to Him, He is there with me.
“Yea, 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 23:4 (NKJV)
“Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” Psalm 68:19 (NLT)
In the numbing, unconcern for life, Christ was with me. In spite of the doubt and the accusations I hurled God’s way, He carried me in His arms. As I lay on the floor with tears trailing into my hair the Holy Spirit was with me whispering, “Surrender.” With pain tightening my chest I responded, “I don’t know how to let go.” Even then He stayed with me.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.” Psalm 139:7-12 NKJV
Through grief, I have realized the absolute beauty of this one truth. God is with us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. In every dark moment, He is there. We have a choice though. We can open up to Him or we can shut Him out. I pray you will choose to experience the power of with.
The Grief Diaries is a series on grieving. Written with words from real journal entries so others will know they are not alone. I share because I know the power of “with” and hope you can experience it too.
I could come up with a lot of names for that first year of baby-raising. The year of no sleep. The year of caffeine. The year of hormones. The year of no time alone. The year of craziness. The year of depression. The year of joy. The year of I-must-be-insane-because-how-can-I-be-fine-one-minute-and-full-blown-angry-the-next?
Honestly, I wish we would call it “The Year of Grace”. Most moms don’t give themselves enough. They’re trying so hard to be super mom, they don’t realize their kids already think they are.
I was about three quarters of the way through our first year with baby #3 when I realized Josh and I were both yelling at our kids way too much. And then I started seeing our bad actions replicated by our children… that’s a yucky feeling.
I was carrying the weight of my guilt and making sure Josh saw our mistakes too. Doesn’t every husband want a wife to point out his flaws? I owned my share of the flaw, so I thought it was fine.
Over and over, I’d tell Josh we have to control our anger. What is happening to us? Why can’t we get it together? We need to do something about our parenting. Our parenting is the problem. How can we fix it? Read books and blogs and research. Try methods from this expert or that mom.
But in one moment of my desperate search, I stumbled upon this truth. If I take care of me, I’ll take care of my kids. If I make sure Lisa is okay, then my parenting will be okay. If Lisa is well, then my family will be well.
As I feed and fill myself, I can feed and fill my kids. It’s kind of like breast-feeding. I have to take in sustenance to make milk for my baby. If I don’t get enough calories and water the milk will dry up, and I will have nothing to feed my child.
If I don’t feed myself I will dry up, and I will have nothing left to give my family.
This is where the grace comes in. At some point I recognized I was still in YEAR 1 with my baby. That first year is not easy. It’s freaking hard, and that’s OKAY. When I let go of the impossible standards I was holding onto for myself, my whole family benefitted from it. I had to allow for my flaws and Josh’s. Grace for myself and grace for my husband.
Breathe that in.
You have permission to be tired and grumpy with a messy house. You, also, have permission to get away and go be you – not mom or wife – just you. While you’re away don’t beat yourself up for all the things you’re doing wrong and don’t worry about the baby – he or she will live. Instead, focus on the things you’re doing right. And tell the guy you’re doing life with that you appreciate him too. Gratitude goes a long way in changing one’s attitude and outlook.
Gratitude and grace. Hm… that combination could change my whole life.
Here’s to you, sister! You’ve got this. You’re doing great. No one else expects the impossible from you, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. Your kids already think you’re super mom. Go feed yourself and be filled. Breathe in that grace, and extend it to others.
Like you might be doing the most important work in the world, but no one notices.
You could be raising the next great scientist, artist, human rights activist, or just decent human being that treats others with kindness. Lord knows we could use more of those (i.e. Charlottesville, Las Vegas, Orlando, [insert city of choice here]).
Here I am trying to raise those decent human beings. I’m trying my hardest, and it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. It, certainly, isn’t glamorous. This morning I cleaned pee off the floor RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TOILET. Take two more steps, kid! TWO!! You’re a dude. All you have to do is stand in front of the toilet and aim!
I am so immersed in feeding, wiping, cleaning, teaching, disciplining, I can hardly find myself in it all. Where is Lisa? Who is she? Have my duties so absorbed me that without them I am invisible?
I find myself searching for answers in wrong places that seem right… my job, my husband, my kids.
”Job, did I do well? Pay me what I’m worth. Give me the recognition I crave.”
”Husband, who am I? Tell me I’m valuable. Tell me I’m worth your time.”
”Kids, am I doing this right? It seems like this all-consuming role is my sole identity, yet I feel like I’m constantly failing.”
I know I am not alone in this. I am so sure of it. Our worth as women gets attacked over and over again in this world. In the workplace. On the Internet. Among friends. In our own minds. How do I battle this?
This week the unsettled feeling grew stronger, and I entered church Wednesday night with expectation. I desperately needed to meet with God. My feeble attempts to make time for Him at home had not been enough. It was during the song Reckless Love when the Holy Spirit so clearly spoke,
“You are priceless. I gave everything for you. I gave everything for you. I gave everything for you.“
My worth is not found in others’ approval of me. It is not in sweet accolades. It is not the number on my paycheck. It is not even in the words or actions of my husband and children.
My worth is found in One who is greater than I, and, yet, He gave everything for me. Sacrificing His very life that I may live. I have to meet with Him daily. I have to lean in and listen to His voice. The approval and recognition for which I long, flow freely from His mouth. And how much sweeter are those words when they come from someone who knows my very best and my very worst?
He has seen me parent well, and He has seen me yelling at my kids at 5:00 when I’m trying to make dinner and the baby is fussy and Josh still has another hour of work. And He says, “You are priceless.” He has seen me pull off a damn good event, problem-solving the heck out of a wedding, and he has seen me flub my way through stuff I know nothing about. He says, “You are priceless.” He has seen me display patience and kindness with my husband, and he has seen me be downright mean to the man I love. He says, “Daughter, you are priceless.”
It was in that moment of worship with tears streaming down my face that my soul found rest. In Him. I find rest. In Him I find my worth. And while that moment was transformative, the attacks will not stop. Daily, I enter a world that tells me a woman is worth nothing. Daily, I must meet with the One who tells me a woman is worth everything.
Maybe it’s because my mom was one or maybe it’s because I know how much work it takes to be a mom with help from a husband – let alone by yourself. Whatever it is, my heart goes out to the single mommas.
I remember when my mom was single… We lived in a one bedroom duplex, and at five years old I was thrilled to share a bed with my mom. I would have had no idea it was because she couldn’t afford a place with two bedrooms.
I remember my mom making me scrambled eggs to eat. And now I wonder if I was eating eggs, because they’re cheap or because it was easy and she was tired from working all day. The memories I have I see in a different light now that I’m older and also a mom.
I remember grocery shopping and not being allowed to buy squeeze-its. You know, those sugary-sweet, brightly-colored drinks in squeezable plastic bottles with faces on them. I’m a 90s kid! They were too expensive to pack in my lunches. But I remember how excited I was when my mom bought them as a special treat for me!
I remember when it was my turn to bring in snack at preschool and she made Jello-jigglers – Jello cut out in the shapes of letters. If it were me, I’d be buying the cheapest packaged snack that required no time or effort. How much more did it require for her to go the extra mile without a partner to help?
I remember the pool and the patio we shared with the Brazilian family next door, and how I’d eat their delicious black beans and rice at a kids table with their little girl. I remember playing in that pool out back for too many hours and ending up in the emergency room with an asthma attack late that night. Who was there to support my mom while she was scared for her child who couldn’t breathe? Who did she turn to and ask, “Should we go to the ER?”
I remember when I stole two crayons from preschool because I thought they were the prettiest colors, and I didn’t have them at home. I stuck them in my pocket and forgot about them. Until my mom pulled me aside one day and asked about those crayons. They’d gone through the washer, ruining our clothes including a white pant suit of my mom’s and some favorite piece of my own clothing. Oh how I cried. And oh how my mom probably cried …or fumed. I don’t know, but I know she couldn’t say to anyone, “You take care of this kid. I’m too upset.”
Who was there to help my single mom? Girlfriends? Our church? We didn’t live near family.
Who do you know that’s a single mom? Are we all just passing these women by not recognizing the extraordinary amount of work it takes to do what they do. every. single. day? At the very least, those of us with husbands should be thanking the good lord above that we aren’t doing this parenting thing on our own.
This Mother’s Day I encourage you to reach out to a single mom. Maybe you can offer babysitting or grocery money or kids clothes. Or maybe you can just grab coffee – because all moms need friends.
My sweet girl. You are lying in the bed next to me as I begin typing this the morning after your birth. Your brother and sister are enamored with you. Your dad and I are in love with you. Our family feels complete…
Saturday morning the contractions I’d been having over the last 2 weeks started getting closer and closer together until they were 5 minutes apart. They were short 30-45 second contractions, but I called Deborah, our midwife, and she said, “We’re not gonna play. I’m coming.” We both expected a fast birth, and it was… eventually.
The house became a flurry of birth preparations – shower curtains on the bed topped with old sheets, your dad filling the tub halfway so it could be topped off quickly when I’d want in. The grandmas were folding laundry and putting away clean dishes. Aunt Zoe and her friend were playing with your sister and brother and baking your birthday cupcakes.
And then the contractions stopped.
I’d been locked in our bathroom with worship music laboring by myself, but the amount of people and activity that I knew existed on the other side of the door was messing with me. I felt like everyone was in the other room just waiting for me to have a baby. It’s also likely your position stopped labor. You had favored keeping your back on my right side through the last weeks of pregnancy, and I think that’s what probably kept me from starting labor even though I’d been having legit contractions for over two weeks.
At noon my chiropractor stopped by our house to pick up her daughter (Zoe’s friend) and she was able to adjust me (as best she could on a bed). We had hoped that would help you change your position. Then your dad and I left the house to walk around the neighborhood, and I had a few more contractions. Though it didn’t make labor start again, it was super peaceful to be out walking just the two of us. The weather was gorgeous – sunshine, blue skies, and a breeze. We walked holding hands. It’s one of my favorite memories of the day.
When we got back to the house I was hungry, so I had a sandwich for lunch. It was the weirdest thing to come out to the kitchen and eat lunch with everyone when I was supposed to be in labor. With previous births once labor started, it didn’t stop. It was ready, go! Hello, active labor!
After lunch we decided I would try acupuncture. A week earlier I had gone, and it gave me strong contractions so I was hopeful this would get things going again. Deborah left for a bit and said to call her when we were back at the house. If contractions started again we could try the side-lying release to get you to change position. She checked me at this point and said I was 3-4 centimeters dilated. Well, I would hope so after weeks of contractions!
After we got home from acupuncture your dad and I laid down on the bed to rest, and Deborah came back to the house. Contractions were coming, but at about 20 minutes apart. Aye… So we tried the side-lying release which is 5 contractions with me on my side and my top leg hanging off the bed while Deborah pushed down on my hip. Then 5 contractions on the other side. Then 5 more contractions on my hands and knees. It took about an hour or longer to get through the first 5 contractions because they were so far apart, but when I switched to my other side the contractions came one right after another. Then I moved to my hands and knees and contractions started getting stronger.
I was leaning on the big exercise/birth ball and moving to get through the contractions. Deborah would massage or push against my low back. Then between contractions she’d use the rebozo (a long piece of fabric) under my belly to try to jiggle you into a different position. According to Deborah active labor started between 7 and 7:30 PM. You were born at 10:12 PM. We were right. You came fast… once you decided to come 🙂
I had one contraction on the birth ball that was super intense, and I asked for the herbal transition stuff. I don’t know what it is, but I bought it because I know what transition is like, and it about puts me over the edge. Deborah was like “why don’t we wait and see what the next contraction is like.” I’m sure she was thinking there’s no way this girl is in transition already. Except, I was. I felt the nausea, and then I got the chills, and I was like, “Give me the stuff.”
I have no idea if it worked. I did get up off the ball, because that was not working for me. I went back to my trusty “lean on the counter for support and move my hips and body all over the place” to get through contractions. But I ended up dropping all the way down to the floor and then I was on my hands and knees and, oh my word, it was so intense. And that was when I cussed for the first time during child birth haha (If you don’t know the backstory read this post)
With each child, labor has gotten shorter but way more intense. My body is going from 0 to 10 in a shorter period of time, so it makes sense. It’s just not fun. At this point the tub gets filled all the way with hot water, and I ask your dad to get me undressed and in my swim suit top. I literally cannot even stand up to undress myself. He’s like, “The tub is ready. Get in.” and I’m like, “Dude I can’t get there. You gotta help me out here.” So he puts my top on me while I am on hands and knees and then gets me the 20 feet from the bathroom to the inflatable tub in our bedroom.
When I get in the hot water the contractions seem to space out a bit for a much needed rest. In between contractions I actually fall asleep/doze off. I’ve never understood how a woman could fall asleep in labor, but I have now experienced it, and it is wonderful. I get cold washcloths for my neck and face, because I’m sweating from the heat of the water. But that hot water is so necessary. It makes the contractions slightly more bearable.
The contractions pick up the pace and gain intensity once more. Your dad stays by my side. Through every contraction he leans over me and pushes on my back. As I feel one coming I motion with with my hands for him to stand up, and he knows it’s time. In between contractions he gives me sips of water as I lean on the edge of the tub or wipes my face and arms with a cold cloth. He speaks to me. He tells me I’m beautiful. That man… he’s a good one.
Through this time I am just waiting to feel the urge to push. I keep thinking there will be relief when I get to push. Maybe I don’t accurately remember my past birth experiences, but there was definitely not relief when it came time to push! I knew it was close – I could just start to feel the urge to bear down as the contractions would finish and then… I was pushing. Deborah called the grandmas in to take pictures and record video.
I felt so out of control. This seemed like the roughest of the births when it came to pushing. Again, probably, because it was so fast – I think about 5 minutes. As I pushed I felt the pop of my water breaking and within the next contraction or two they saw your head. As I pushed through a contraction and your head was coming out, the contraction ended with your head partially out, but not fully, and I was like, “What the heck!” I did little breaths and kept myself from pushing to prevent tearing and used my hand to support myself and help stretch around you. This was all in a matter of seconds and felt so crazy but looking back at the video, it actually wasn’t as crazy as it felt.
The next contraction came fast, and I pushed your head out. Your dad was behind me supporting your head as I began pushing the rest of your body out. It seemed to take forever. Everyone says you came out with arms flailing and legs kicking. I raised my leg as I finished pushing you out and your dad brought you through the water to the front of me. I cradled you to my chest and leaned back against the tub, so thankful you were here and that the pushing was over!
Some of the first words I heard as you made your entrance into this world was Deborah saying, “You’ve got yourself a fighter!” I wonder about the significance of those first words…
Your brother and sister had gone to bed earlier in the evening, but were awake when you were born and came in to meet you. Your Aunt Zoe said she knew you were born because all of the loud noises finally stopped (ha!) I got out of the tub to birth the placenta and nurse you on our bed. Dad cut your cord, and then held you while I took a shower.
I loved having you at home. After showering I put on a nightgown and got into my own bed where they weighed and measured you and did all the newborn stuff. The kids were right there on the bed with me and loving every minute of it. Your brother and sister were overjoyed to meet you and touch you and kiss you…
You’ve been born into a family that loves you very much L. You have a place in our family and in this world that only you can uniquely fill. I can’t wait to see all that God has for you, but for now I am content in knowing you are what God has for me. And I promise to do my very best as your momma.
You’re in bed next to me with our little mini-me-man curled into your side as we both type words onto a screen. I am proud of you. For so many reasons. For stuff like building a business, growing a business, and selling a business. For starting a podcast and sticking with it for a full year even as we both wondered, “Will we ever make money again?” For taking risks I couldn’t fathom – and I would certainly never take on my own if not for you saying, “I have an idea…” For taking the biggest risk of all: choosing to be a dad; raising little humans with the hope we don’t screw them up somehow.
I think it’s the biggest risk one can take. Being a dad. You go into it with no experience and almost as little knowledge on the subject. I’ve seen you in some rough times – difficult seasons. But you had wisdom to reach out to men who have been there – men who traveled the path before you. Thank you.
This season though… you’ve found the sweet spot. You are relishing and treasuring. You are enjoying dad-life to its fullest. And I? I am relishing and treasuring. The shared smiles and laughter when our kids do something precious. The nightly wrestling matches on the living room floor. The soft, sweet dad-voice reserved only for your little girl.
You are an amazing daddy, Joshua. And I am proud of your many accomplishments, but they are nothing compared to the love you have for your children. Your achievements only enhance the love you have for your kids, because I know the motivation behind them is providing for your family and leaving behind a legacy.
Most of all, thank you for modeling to our children the true nature of a man. For being the type of husband I want our son to be and our daughter to marry. Thank you for showing our children how a dad loves his kids and how a husband cherishes his wife. And last, but certainly not least, thank you for bringing fun into our family. Because what is life if we aren’t enjoying it?
I’m sharing five of my favorites with you this week!
Banana Republichas 40% off everything in store and online right now including clearance (Code: BRTAKE40). I bought a lot, but it’s G’s fault. She kept telling me everything looked good when I tried it on! Also, I had to leave the dressing room twice for her to go to the bathroom.
The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. You heard me reference it in Strategy 8: Your Pressures. This book brought me to a life-changing moment when I realized I can’t balance everything. I have to let something go, which is what led to this post.
Going right along with the coffee theme: the Best Mom Ever mug my kids gave me for Mother’s Day. I’m using it all the time. If you follow me on Instagram you saw my post and how my cute, little man melted my heart when he ran to me with the gift.
Not a thing, but a moment. When G and I had tea together this week during A’s nap time. We each had our teacups at the kitchen table, and we talked about where she wants to go to pre-k. It was like two grownups having a conversation over coffee… except she’s four, and I’m still not sure if she understands there won’t be face painting at preschool.
Dangit! That thing is falling apart and used and worn. I’ve wanted to carry it out on trash day more than once. The community yard sale was the perfect excuse to get rid of it. I was all set to sell it and then…
I tried to rock my baby (read: 2 year old – who will soon be a grown man, graduating college, and getting married) to sleep in a different chair, and it just wasn’t the same. It was bumpy and not glidey. Pokey and not cushy. All I could think of was how I’d never again rock in the chair that I’d rocked both my babies to sleep in for the last 4 years.
The chair where I’ve nursed my babies and snuggled them close. The chair where I’ve read Bubbles, Bubbles and Mr. Brown Can Moo. The chair where I’ve spent hours wishing children would fall asleep so I could lay them in their crib and so many more hours wishing I could hold them forever, willing them to never grow up.
It’s the same chair I’ve sat in time after time with an aching back or sore feet from going all day long. I’d finally take a moment to stop, to rock my little one, and that’s when I’d hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. I can’t tell you how many times the Lord’s whispered to me in that chair. Mostly because it was the only time I was still and quiet; not distracted by the to-do list or the TV.
And oh how many prayers have gone up from that chair! Prayers for protection over my family. Prayers of blessing on my children. Prayers for their future spouses and even for the parents that are raising their future spouses! Prayers for my husband. Prayers for guidance. Prayers that call upon the Lord to act – to do what he has promised!
So much of my life – the parts that are rich with meaning – has happened in that chair. So many precious moments. Heaven help me, but I don’t think I can get rid of that ugly, beautiful, falling-apart, old chair.