Tuesday, December 22, 2015

advent


A father leaves, and a young girl cries. He was never supposed to do that.
Sirens blare and a young couple shakes in fear.
A husband speaks angrily, and a wife sits in silent hate.
A boy shuffles unseen through a crowded lunchroom.
A baby struggles to breathe.
An white-haired woman eats alone. The air feels heavy with hopelessness.

The stories pile up, brick by brick, and the earth begins to churn under the weight of it all.

Fathers are supposed to stay, and husbands are supposed to love, and tragedy is not supposed to touch us. Teenagers are supposed to have friends, and babies are supposed to have healthy lungs, and elderly women are supposed to be surrounded by dozens of younger voices asking for stories and wisdom and favorite recipes.

But sometimes fathers don’t stay. Sometimes husbands don’t love, and sometimes they do and their wives hate them anyway. Sometimes the worst thing we can imagine is exactly what has happened. So many “supposed tos” fail, and what can we do? It makes us grit our teeth. It makes us hate God. Where is God? Does He see us?

The stories pile up, brick by brick, and the earth begins to churn under the weight of it all.

The weary world.

A man and his wife, wandering outside.
Did they wonder why God did not provide?
Did she question as she endured the pain?
Then once she held Him, gasp? Whisper His name?

Jesus.

The stories have been piling up, brick by brick, and the earth continues to churn under the weight of it all. We cannot carry it. We were never meant to.

But now—now, He is here! He is hope!
“The thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices!”
The provision we were craving, He is here. He is hope. The miracle of Emmanuel, God with us.

Babies always matter, oh how they matter, but this baby—this baby is love incarnate. He will make the way for all the others.

We proclaim births on Instagram and 5x7 cardstock, but God proclaimed it in the sky: GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY. He has always known how to celebrate.

“You see, God was like a new daddy—he couldn’t keep the good news to himself. He’d been waiting all these long years for this moment, and now he wanted to tell everyone…He’s here! He’s come! Go and see him. My little Boy… This baby would be like that bright star shining in the sky that night. A Light to light up the whole world. Chasing away darkness. Helping people to see. And the darker the night got, the brighter the star would shine.” –Sally Lloyd-Jones, Jesus Storybook Bible

And though the world continues to churn, though fathers may leave and babies may gasp for breath, we can rejoice, even through tears, because look! Look how God provides! Look how He cares! He sent our redemption in the most unexpected of packages, and Mary cradled Him in her arms, held Him close. He grew into a man, loved us unto death, and conquered the thing we fear the most. He cradles us in His arms, holds us close. The weary world can finally rejoice.

“Joy is the affirmation of the thing that’s truer than any trouble, any affliction: the affirmation that love wins. Jesus is as good as we hope, it’s all worth it, and all will be redeemed.” –Sarah Bessey

“For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who've prayed
For all who wander
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel"
-“Light of the World,” Lauren Daigle

Monday, November 16, 2015

fun

I did a study on personalities recently, and people with the personality type that best matched mine supposedly “have trouble focusing on boring things.”

Oh HAHAHAH I don’t relate to that at all it’s just exactly what my problem is every single day. I swear to you, I cannot clean and cook within the same week or my soul shrivels up and dies. It’s either a cleaning week or a cooking week and no matter how many tricks I try, this is how it must be if I am to stay nice and pretty and humble.

Even though we have been together for quite some time, Husband Luke is not as aware of my personality “quirks” as one might expect. Bimonthly he insists on educating me about four wheel drive, and I swear I CANNOT LISTEN. He just says “blah blah blah” or whatever (don’t really know, not listening) and then gets sad when he quizzes me after and I cannot relay any of the essential information. I feel kind of bad about it, but WHY IS HE TRYING TO KILL MY SOUL? Adelaide was playing with a toy car that said, “4WD” on it, and Luke was explaining to her (even though she is 19 months old and only cares about cats and crackers) that this means four wheel drive, a.k.a., his favorite topic to talk about especially with people who don’t care. Of course I thought “4WD” meant “forward” in cute texting lingo, and when I shared this information with Luke, he stabbed a fork in his eye and ran away from home.


Now that my two bebes keep me nailed to the house with their adorable little figurative hammers while Fork Eye is away at work all day, my compulsive need for fun stuff has gotten very out of control and is possibly making me crazy. So I fixate on odd tasks like making their donut and milk Halloween costumes, and then my conscience is like, “How did you find time to do that but every item of clothing in the house is dirty?” and I’m like “hey Conscience, you know if you talk to me about laundry I will forget to pay attention,” and then she's like blah blah blah or whatever. I don’t feel too bad about it because creativity is soul food, and souls need to eat. I want my soul to be nice and fat.

I think too many of us have skinny souls. I think we forget to have fun, or we feel guilty about having fun, or we care too much about being cool to have fun. (Here's how I feel about being cool.) Or we get confused and think fun is best served in a red solo cup, and the plastic cup becomes a crutch. 

You know, God invented laughing and dancing and singing, and I think He wants us to do that stuff. I wonder if He’s annoyed that His people keep forgetting that He came up with fun in the first place. I’ve heard it said that the heart of worship is joy—so I suppose we should probably be joyful, and I suppose that a life of joyful worship may require bit of fun here and there. Or maybe even a lot. 

I always tell high school students that I don’t think loving Jesus means staying home with their theoretical cats on Friday nights while all their peers have the red solo cup kind of fun. Shouldn't we, who know that plastic cups do not hold the joy we all crave, show the way to that joy? If the most creative of all creatives is our God, if the inventor of laughter is the one we pray to, shouldn’t we be having more fun than anyone else? Shouldn’t we be drawing people in with our smiles and parties and sense of humor rather than alienating them with aggressive Facebook statuses? Was God kidding when he said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22)? 

I mean, I think we can all agree that the world is hurting. Maybe the world needs medicine.

Monday, November 9, 2015

don't be cool

Dear Adelaide and Greer,

If you don’t know already, I think the two of you are the most fantastic human beings on the planet. Really. Your dad and I agree that there’s no one we’d rather hang out with than the two of you, and that’s a fact. Every day you get a little bigger, and we get to see a little bit more of who you are, and you know what? We like what we see. You are both so cute and funny and sweet that it makes me worry that my heart will explode like a confetti cannon and you’ll just have a messy confetti living room instead of a mother.

But here’s the thing to remember as you grow up: Don’t be cool. Just don’t. Coolness sounds like a good thing, but that’s a lie. The truth is that coolness is kind of a soul killer.
I remember a friend I had in elementary school. We always had a blast. But middle school happened and then coolness happened. (To her, not to me. I looked like this:



Yeah yeah yeah that's me, the crazy one in the middle holding hydrangeas for no apparent reason. As a side note, babies, people with frizzy triangle heads are not traditionally cool. Genetically, this may be your fate as well. We triangles have to learn how to be funny and then sneak in the back door of cool.  Which takes longer.)

My friend’s new tribe of people didn’t smile much, but when they did, it was a scary smile. The kind that makes your face turn red and wonder if you have something in your teeth or if your shirt is stupid or if you laughed too loud. The kind that makes you feel small and reminds you that you have fuzzy triangle hair.

I wanted to be in her tribe. Like REALLY bad. That’s the funny thing about cool. It pushes you down but you still want to cuddle up to it. Remember that, babies. You’ve got to always be careful around things that don’t hug back.

Cool shows up in different ways as we age, so you’ve got to always keep watch. Here are my theories:

In middle school it’s wearing the exact same thing as everybody else. In high school it’s appearing simultaneously low maintenance and hot. (Both are necessary. If you’re hot but not low maintenance, you’ll be mocked, but being low maintenance and not hot means you are irrelevant.) In college it’s being casual but carefully branded. (Specifically for us it was Polo v-neck t-shirt + J. Crew short khaki skirt + rainbow flip flops + Coach crossbody purse. Man oh man.) Post-college I think it’s just pretending to have your life together and never break a sweat because hey we are ADULTS now and we really need to appear to know what we are doing. A good job and the ability to take good Instagram photos doesn’t hurt either.

So in each stage we try to be cool, and when we pull it off, we feel vaguely superior and awesome, and that’s nice. But here’s the thing, babies: Cool takes more than it gives.

Cool takes away from who we are. It makes us forget ourselves, forget the things we like, forget the things that are important to us, even the silly stuff. Like how I kept forcing myself to listen to the right music to avoid the dreaded, “I can’t believe you’ve never heard this song,” but then one day, I realized that all I really wanted to do was listen to the soundtracks of like five Broadway musicals. So sorry babies, that’s why our car rides are not particularly cool, especially since more often than not I’m listening to an audio book and that’s even worse. Or how at some point it struck me that I had been trying really hard to not like pink too much because it seemed uncool to be so girly. Then I realized OH MY GOSH SHUT UP I LOVE PINK and my college friends gave me a pink KitchenAid blender and I named her Ms. Nancy Bobo, and we are best friends.

The other thing about cool is that it takes more than it gives. That’s one of my main takeaways from being a teacher and a student pastor’s wife—kids who want to be a certain kind of person find it nearly impossible in the face of coolness. And when they have to choose between who they want to be and coolness, they almost always choose coolness. Sweet girl and sweet boy, I hope you choose differently. The way you date, what you do on the weekends, who you hang out with – don’t let coolness decide. Coolness is bad for your soul. Be careful.

You know what’s better than cool? Weird. Weird is better. And Real—Real is definitely better. And Happy. Happy is better.

Be weird, be real, be happy, my sweet babies! Right now you laugh hard and smile big and dance silly. Don’t let coolness take that away from you. From us. You bring so much joy just by being you.

Love,

YOUR COOL MOM!! (JK sorry)

Friday, November 6, 2015

monotony


Anton Chekov supposedly said, “Any idiot can survive a crisis, but it’s the day-to-day living that gets you.”

Monotony is a scary thing—something that potentially threatens our parenting, our marriages, and our spiritual lives more than life’s crises.

I knew I was suffering from monotony when my 18-month-old daughter got barfed on by a random kid at Mother’s Day Out. My reaction was weird. I was giggly about it. Eventually I realized I was kind of excited—excited to have a story to tell. (Mother of the Year!) It’s because now all of my days are pretty much the same, and I don’t usually have much to tell. The lack of content is frustrating for someone like me who needs to say 50,000 words a day to stay sane. So I milked that barf story for all it was worth, and it’s pretty good, if I say so myself. Ask me about it sometime.

But some days we aren’t lucky enough to have our daughter barfed on. Some days are just a blur of yes-banana-no-banana-throw-banana and picking up the same toys over and over again until suddenly it’s dark outside and tomorrow’s to-do list is today’s identical twin. It’s the baby who will never NOT need a diaper change, the toddler who wants to read the same book over and over again. It’s having a friend ask, “How was your day?” and realizing you have nothing at all to report unless your friend happens to be interested in your children’s bowel movements or cute new trick. (Some friends are, thank goodness.) Sometimes monotony feels a lot like a lack of purpose, a lack of worth, a lot like that Greek myth of the guy who keeps rolling the giant stone up a mountain over and over again for all eternity.

But monotony is not just a stay-at-home-mom thing. It shows up everywhere. Often it’s a marriage thing. It’s the snatched conversations of calendars and trash day and I-thought-you-fed-the-dog. The huff over yet another sink full of dishes, inviting a silent contest of who’s the most tired (but it’s not really a contest if no one wins). It’s the absence of newness, of romance, of the whirlwind. And eventually the absence starts to feel pretty heavy. It makes it harder to pay the bills and harder to make up the bed and makes the pile of laundry seem a lot bigger than it actually is. It makes the baby’s cry pierce and the dog’s bark boom. And in relationships, carrying around heavy stuff doesn’t produce muscle, it produces resentment. Resentment is a silent boil, a monster with gritted teeth who sits right there in the living room, between two people who pledged to love each other even when they don’t feel like it. But that was easy to say twenty pounds ago in a white dress in front of a crowd of smiling supporters. It’s a bit harder to care on yet another inconsequential Thursday night on the couch with unwashed hair and hands fused to an iPhone.

Sometimes monotony settles dangerously deep into our hearts. It’s regurgitating old wisdom to a friend in need because we don’t have any fresh insight to offer. It’s mentally making lunch plans while singing “All my hope is in You, God” and “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” “How deep the Father’s love for us/How vast beyond all measure” is a beautiful melody but not much else. How could it be, when we’ve heard it a million times? Jesus asked us to drink his blood and eat his body in remembrance of murder, the death he endured on our behalf, but the request no longer jolts us. We’ve settled into the tradition of juice, a cracker, and a quick prayer. Monotony makes us forget that “Power in the Blood” refers to actual blood that was actually spilled by someone who suffered that we might LIVE.

Oh hear this, dear one—on a regular peanut-butter-and-jelly-for-lunch Tuesday, on a how-long-have-I-been-watching-Netflix Thursday—hear this with fresh ears:

He is making all things NEW (Revelation 21:5).
He called us out of oppressive darkness in his marvelous LIGHT (1 Peter 2:9).
He endured the unimaginable that we might LIVE (John 10:10).

Monotony does not have to win. Our hearts do not have to beat in rhythm to life’s humdrum. They can beat wildly because our God is in the business of NEWNESS and LIGHT and LIFE. He gives meaning to the menial, breathes life into monotony.


How grateful I am for a God who believes in joy. A God who believes we matter:

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, 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 cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you." Psalm 139:1-18

(A passage God laid on my heart when I was anxious about and in labor with my son, Greer, a time when I couldn’t forget how much I needed Him. The parts in bold are the parts that always made me cry. Guess it’s a good move to try to remember what He pointed out when I couldn’t forget Him.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

it takes a village


We all hear that “it takes a village”—and what a quaint little saying that is—but Y’ALL, WHERE IS THIS VILLAGE. Because even if your family lives in town and you have awesome friends, there are those days when, desperate for interaction, you attempt to summon the village. To call or text a friend for a stroll or a family member for help but OH NO TODDLER IS SCREAMING BECAUSE SHE REMEMBERED THE EXISTENCE OF OVEN MITTS AND WHY ISN’T SHE WEARING THEM, MOTHER, WHY?!? So you give her the worn yellow oven mitts and then, wait, what were you doing? Oh yes, sending that SOS text, but oh wait, baby is like MOM HOLY CRAP I AM SO FOR REAL FURIOUS THAT I HAVE A DIRTY DIAPER AND I WILL NEVER GET OVER IT EVER, so you quickly change the diaper. Mid-change Toddler realizes it is HILARIOUS to pour the milk on the kilim rug WHY DO WE HAVE A KILIM RUG WHO ARE WE KIDDING HERE, INSTAGRAM, WE SHOULD ONLY OWN THINGS MADE OUT OF PLASTIC SO THEY CAN BE HOSED DOWN (jk it was free from my grandmother, but still) and wait wait, what were we doing? OH YES, SENDING THAT &^%& text. But hold up, THE OVEN MITTS HAVE FALLEN OFF BECAUSE OF THE MILK SPILLING AND TODDLER WILL SCREAM FROM THE ROOFTOPS HOW VERY UNCOOL THIS IS! You make a mental note to re-read that article on Pinterest about techniques for toddler discipline but naturally you forget and also who cares.

It kind of goes like that for a while. In surrender, you give into the idea that you’re pretty much nailed to your home with two rabid animals who are pretending to be children. Because on those days, I know—if I did end up taking my crew out, my 18 month old will smear yogurt everywhere, and I’ll be trying to tame her, but it’s hard because inevitably I’m feeding the 1 month old while also feeling weird that someone else is feeling weird about the way I’m feeding my baby. Then I’ll feel weird about feeling weird about it because EMPOWERMENT and FEMINISM and BLAH, but when I’m being real with myself, I’m just sad about the whole thing. Because, VILLAGE? Y’all are mean sometimes. We’ve all seen the Facebook statuses and the comment sections in articles about breastfeeding/bottlefeeding/FEEDING/anything baby related and they remind us that no matter what you choose, someone hates you and thinks you are stupid, and it all feels like code for “You’re a bad mom.” And that’s what we’re all afraid of, isn’t it? (But you’re not. And I’m not either.) So it just feels easier to stay home even though home feels isolating.

You know what I’d like? To have a tinier house with less stuff. Less to clean, less temptation to assess my worth by the stuff that surrounds me. And I’d like the tiny house to be right in the middle of a park, next to a few other tiny houses, houses where our family and friends live. Then in the middle of the night when all the babies are crying, we can just sit out on someone’s porch and rock them together. 

Maybe it’ll remind us that we’re not alone. Maybe if we are there for one other’s chaotic moments, I can jump in and help you when you need it, and you won’t feel weird that I’m there. Because you would have seen me at my worst, too, plenty of times.

You could just call out the front door if you want to stroll around together or need to borrow some milk or need someone to keep an eye on things so you can sneak in a quick nap. You could loan me those shoes I like and remind me about Tylenol dosages because I just never will remember.

You know, sometimes I need to see my mom and cry for just a minute, but I don’t load up the kids and make the 20 minute drive because it feels a little overdramatic. So I push past it. But in our village, I can just walk right over. Just for a minute, just long enough to remember that I have someone in my corner. And she can come see me if she wants, too, because I am learning that moms have bad days, too.

But we are all spread apart. We all kind of feel like we have to do it alone. And even when we get over that, sometimes we aren’t sure how to help one another because we aren’t in each other’s spaces enough. I want to know how you put your little girl down for a nap so that I can put her down for you if you need to go to the grocery store or get us both Starbucks. I want you to teach me to French braid and help me figure out a plan to help baby eat better. I want to help you decide which paint color looks best, and I want to know whether you like creamy or crunchy peanut butter.

In the tiny slivers of normal life, while loading the dryer or cutting the grapes in half, we can have the meaningful conversation we’re desperate for. I want to talk to you about your marriage and your fears and your little boy’s favorite book. I want to tell you how I’m usually tired and really happy but randomly here and there I’m not happy at all. Because this is hard. But it’s not as hard when I can talk to you about it.

Can we hang out like that? Can we live like that? Can we forget all this mess that we are enduring alone and run away with our families to the tiny houses? We will call it The Village. And it will be beautiful.

Friday, July 24, 2015

being really pregnant at night

10pm - Get tired but avoid going to bed because bed is torture. Watch Parks and Rec and dabble on Pinterest to distract from that heavy belly feeling. Research potty training methods, cognac boots, and stair runners.
12am - Go to bed because staying awake is getting overwhelming and belly is very heavy and tired.
12:15am - Get up and go to the bathroom. 
12:45am - Get up and eat 1/2 a banana because whoa whoa hungry. 
1:00am - Ugh heartburn stupid banana. Take a Tums. Sing Tums song.
1:15am - Wide awake. Stare into the abyss. 
1:30am - Bathroom again. Trip over a giant man shoe on your way. Why does stupid husband insist on wearing shoes!!!! He put them there on purpose. Feel very thirsty but ignore it because water is what got you into this mess in the first place. 
2:00am - Tummy rumbles so eat other half of banana. Do not drink water!! Water is the devil. 
2:15am - Heartburn. $&#@?! banana.
2:30am - Realize you should have taken a Benadryl earlier!!! Duh!!! Yay for drowsiness!
2:45am - Realize you gulped down too much water (it was so good) when you took the Benadryl and now have to use the bathroom. Water is the devil!!!
3:00am - Stare at husband angrily. His stupid sleeping face is infuriating and he is obviously sleeping that peacefully on purpose to ruin your life. Plus don't forget he wears shoes and it's RUDE. 
3:15am - Think about something sad and cry.
3:30am - Realize that true madness has set in.
4:00am - Wake up with sudden and insane leg cramp!!!! Banana you had one job to do!!!! Potassium is a sham. Mentally write a strongly worded letter to banana farmers! Are bananas on farms? Who cares everyone is the worst including farmers!! Fall asleep with relief when cramp finally subsides.
5:00am - Sleepily attempt to roll over, but it proves difficult as there is a bowling ball buried beneath the tummy skin. Mumble something hateful about potassium and bowling shoes and fall asleep.
8:00am - Wake up for good. Spot peacefully sleeping husband's beautiful stupid face again. Decide to hate everyone. Especially the peppy and the skinny and those with well-tweezed eyebrows. But maybe will not hate that cute baby that lives upstairs and the cute baby that lives under the tummy skin and maybe cute husband even though they are all big fat sleep ruiners. Crap I love them. Cry about it. Good morning!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

in the face of loss


May we preach to ourselves that You are GOOD…You are GOOD. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. [Psalm 136:1]

May we be convinced that You are IN CONTROL even when we only feel chaos. [Isaiah 45:6-7]

May we remember that You take note of every tear, that You won’t let a single one go to waste. [Psalm 56:8]

May we be anchored in You when the waves threaten to overtake. [Hebrews 6:19]

May we remember that You loved them most. [1 John 4:10]

May we remember that You loved them first. [Jeremiah 1:5]

May we remember that You cried for your friends, too – that You, too, were deeply moved, deeply troubled. [John 11:33, 35]

May we remember that in times of sorry You do not offer words of comfort, but Yourself. May we sense Your nearness and be near to the breaking hearts around us. [Psalm 23:4; Psalm 34:18]

May we remember the hurt and how convinced we are now of the value of human life. May we treat all we know with the honor human life demands, refusing to demean them, refusing to overlook them. May this love be the legacy of loss. [Psalm 139:13-16]



In loving memory of Rachel and Maddie, with deep respect for their many friends and precious families. I taught them a few years ago, and when I think back, I remember them both having a certain kind of loveliness – the peaceful, approachable kind of loveliness, the kind of lovely I pray for my little girl. They were true beauties, in every sense of the word.

Monday, April 20, 2015

when you're having a baby and you're scared


When I was ten, my family and I went to Six Flags in St. Louis, and we decided to ride the Screamin’ Eagle, a.k.a. Satan’s roller coaster. It was at the top of the first hill that I first realized (too late) – I am terrified of heights. TERRIFIED beyond reason. I was so afraid, I couldn’t speak. I just sat there in my hot pink denim shorts, wide eyed, petrified, in full knowledge that there was nothing I could do to escape it. My brother sensed my fear immediately, and he spent the rest of the ride screaming at my mom, “Caroline’s upset! Caroline’s upset!” But Mom couldn’t do anything. No one could do anything. I had to ride it out.

At the end of the ride, I got up slowly, shakily, unable to speak for a few minutes. “Are you okay?” they all asked. “Did you cry?”

“I couldn’t,” I stuttered. My fear had quite literally left me without a voice. I needed therapy and a funnel cake. I also needed someone to tell me that the clay parrot necklace I had on was a huge mistake.

Interestingly enough, the devil roller coaster scenario was the one that popped into my head when labor started to get difficult. I was scared, and though there were people around me, there was nothing they could do to help except get me a funnel cake when it was over. (Really, I highly recommend post-labor pancakes.) But until then, I had to ride it out. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible so that I would have the best possible chance to have the natural delivery I sensed was best. My contractions lasted for days, and they were strong and irregular. It was confusing – when should I go to the hospital? What did these contractions mean? Why wasn’t my body going by the book? Was my baby okay?

I sought wisdom from people I trusted, did a lot of emotional eating, and endured it day by day – about three days of uncomfortable contractions and then two days of nearly unbearable ones. I couldn’t get relief between them, I couldn’t sleep, and it took all my energy to keep panic attacks at bay. I was afraid.

Five days of contractions behind me, we finally went to the hospital, where labor continued for another 18 hours. I had my incredible doula Jamie and my awesome husband Luke there, and from what I can remember, though I soaked up their counsel, I barely spoke to them. The fear was palpable, and it had taken my voice. The pain was overwhelming, and there was no way to stop the ride.

Having a baby is scary business. Sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan or by the book. Sometimes you are faced with scenarios that hadn’t even occurred to you. Sometimes the sudden clarity of the value and significance of that new life is terrifying.

Some have found themselves unexpectedly pregnant, and the thought of the ride ahead is crushing.

Some have found themselves faced with a complicated pregnancy or an emergency delivery, and the whirlwind threatens to consume. 

Some have found themselves face to face with unspeakable loss.

All of us have found ourselves completely without control. We may have carefully planned and registered, meticulously written thank you notes and bought diapers, but at the end of the day, the reins are not in our hands.

A thousand times to be afraid.

What do you do when fear is winning, when hope feels grim, when the thunder crashes and the darkness is oppressive?

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm” Mark 4:39.

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” Psalm 107:29.

The one who holds the reins is bigger than the circumstances, more powerful than the contractions, capable of quieting any storm. Unspeakably great yet speaks in a whisper.

Yes, He can quiet the storm, but often He does not. I still felt it. He let it continue to swirl around me, and I clung to him with all I had, repeating in my mind a precious promise: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” Isaiah 26:3.

“A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Sometimes the great calm is not around us but within us. Sometimes His promises do not come in fierce winds but in gentle whispers.

I’m 24 weeks pregnant now. Sometimes I’ll have labor flashbacks, remembering what it was like to weather the storm alone, to endure the intensity when all my reserves were depleted. I’ll get panicky and teary and wonder if I can do this. But God in his goodness reminds me of the smell of a newborn baby, the first time my daughter looked at me, the love that was so intense it might have well slapped me in the face. He reminds me that He was there in the night even when it was too dark to see, that "even the darkness is not dark" to Him (Psalm 139:2), that He is there in gentle whispers, that He promises the dawn. That even when the night stretches on immeasurably, there is always dawn.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy…your joy will be complete” John 16:21-24.

The spiritual parallels are unavoidable. Hellish agony finally conquered by the redemption, the restoration, the glory of heaven. Dawn slicing through a black sky. The internal stillness that sustains us while we wait for morning. All of it so worth it because of the beauty of the daylight.

Oh that daylight! I dream about meeting my baby boy all the time. The way it’ll feel to see his face for the first time, to see Light cut through the darkness again, to hold in my arms the whispered promise. 

Because no matter what I will hold in my arms the whispered promise, even if it is not on this side of heaven. This I need to remember as pregnancy fears assault. I have heard enough stories to know that even though I am 24 weeks pregnant, that is no guarantee. I am not holding the reins, but I choose to trust the one who is. I pray I always choose to trust the one who is. Someday, whenever that may be, sweet baby, that I get to hold you in my arms, it will make the darkness worth it. I do not know your face, but I love you more than I can say, and you are worth enduring the darkness.

Dear friend, do not be afraid. He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. May you keep your mind stayed on Him, the quieter of storms, the promise whisperer. May he keep you in perfect peace.

Friday, April 10, 2015

big sister

Hi, Sweet Baby!

Have I ever told you that having you as my baby has been the coolest thing ever? You have rocked my world. In fact, after we had you, your dad and I thought, “Yeah, kids are pretty awesome,” as we decided to have another baby! We think you are that amazing.

So your little brother is coming soon, and we are so excited. He’s already a wild man, flipping around in Mama’s tummy and doing tricks for the lady at the doctor’s office. I think he’ll be lots of entertainment for us both.

Soon you’ll see me decorating his room, setting up his crib, and adding that second seat to your yellow stroller. Soon you’ll see me holding him, kissing him, and letting him sit right next to me.

Soon you won’t be my only baby. I know that might be hard for you. It’s hard to share, it’s hard to see things change. But you’re my bundle of wonderful, and you will be an awesome big sister. See, being a big sister is a big deal. It’s one of the highest compliments God can give a little girl! Your brother will look up to you and will learn from you, so you have a very important job—to protect, to play, to laugh, to encourage, to love.

But here’s something you need to know: Loving is hard work sometimes. 

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

The Bible says that love is patient and kind – will you be a patient, kind big sister? Sometimes little brothers and sisters can be loud or frustrating or mean. Will you be patient and kind anyway?

The Bible says that love does not envy, doesn’t brag, and isn’t proud. Sometimes it’s easy to be jealous when it feels like a brother is more successful or well-liked, or when it feels like a sister is more beautiful or talented. Will you be a loving big sister anyway, rooting for your little brother or sister no matter what?

The Bible says that love does not dishonor others. When your brother is being silly, don’t be mean. Smile at him, say nice things, let him hang around for a bit. Never forget how much he matters. Protect his heart as much as you can—it may not seem like his feelings can get hurt, but they can. Someday he’ll protect your heart right back, and you’ll be so glad you have him.

If God gives you a little sister someday, and she wants to hang around with you and your friends a little bit, try to include her. Try to make her feel welcome and wanted. There will be times when you need to play alone with your friends, and that’s fine, too. Just let me know, and I’ll help you. My job is to help, and your job is to be kind.

There’s lots of other times when you won’t feel like loving your siblings, but will you do it anyway? Will you help me and Daddy show them what love really means?

It’ll be hard work, but it’s good work. It’s worth it. You can take it from me – I’m a big sister, too. Did you know that your Uncle Phillip is my little brother and Aunt Adeline is my little sister? 



I know you love them a lot. When they’re around, you know it’s party time, and you giggle so much that I end up laughing until I cry. They make you really happy, and they make me really happy, too. 

I wish I knew more words so that I could really explain how much I love them, how glad I am that God let me be their big sister because then you might know how blessed you are to be Greer’s big sister. Being a big sister is one of the nicest things that God has ever done for me, and I am so glad he decided to do it for you, too.



Did I ever tell you about the time when we were little, and I cried and cried because Uncle Phillip hit his head on the fireplace and needed stitches? He was hurt, and it hurt me to know that. I like him to be okay because being his big sister is the best.

Did I ever tell you how when I was 15 and Aunt Adeline was 10, we were in The Nutcracker together? She wore the cutest lamb costume, and I couldn’t stop hugging her and showing her to all my friends. Being her big sister is the best.



Did I ever tell you about the time Uncle Phillip and I duct-taped Aunt Adeline’s legs together and then left her in the front yard for no reason? I don’t know why we did that, but when I remember it, I think, being a big sister is the best.

Did I ever tell you about how Uncle Phillip and I would drive to high school together and choreograph dances to Maroon 5 songs? We still remember them, and it’s pretty weird. Being a big sister is the best.



Did I ever tell you about the day I married Daddy? Aunt Adeline was my sidekick all day long. When your daddy and I finally were standing in front of the pastor next to a beautiful lake ready to get married, she was right next to me, my sister and best friend, shedding a few happy tears. We think Uncle Phillip cried a little too, but later said he had been bitten by a goose. At the reception, he surprised me and sang “Sweet Caroline” with the band. When I think about all that I remember—being a big sister is the best.

Did I ever tell you about the time when I really wanted a Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich, but Daddy and I were on a really strict budget? Uncle Phillip, Aunt Adeline, and I searched the whole house and the Chick-fil-a parking lot for change, and we bought three chicken sandwiches in quarters. I probably could have given up the idea of a chicken sandwich or asked one of them to spot me the money, but our way was better because we laughed the whole time. Being a big sister is the best.



Did I ever tell you about the time when we found out Uncle Phillip was sick? The way it felt to hear that, to think that my little brother was in danger? He had cancer, and I from the second Poppy told me the news, I realized that my little brother is a part of who I am, knit into my very soul, just like Greer will be a part of you. Uncle Phillip is fine now, but it was a sad and scary time, and when I think back on it, I know that I love that guy more than I can say, and I am so glad God lets me be his big sister. It’s the best.

Did I ever tell you that when Uncle Phillip was recovering from surgery, he got really bossy and forced me to do whatever he wanted? He would yell, “CAROLINE, GET ME A DR. PEPPER BECAUSE I HAVE CANCER” and we would both laugh because his humor was so weird and dark and inappropriate. And then obviously I would get him a Dr. Pepper. He makes me laugh even when things are really hard for him, and when I think about it, I remember—being a big sister is the best.



Did I ever tell you about that one time when Aunt Adeline and I got in a fight, a time when I was mean and didn’t love her the way God wants me to? We didn’t talk for two weeks, and it was one of the saddest times of my life. I don’t even like to think about it. But then we saw each other and hugged and hugged because we remembered that love is not self-seeking and love keeps no record of wrongs. I had missed her so much because being a big sister is the best.

Did I ever tell you about the time when I told Uncle Phillip and Aunt Adeline that we were pregnant with you? They both cried and hugged me really tight. They loved you in a big way from the second they heard about you, and it made me remember—being a big sister is the best.



Did I ever tell you about the time at your baby shower when Uncle Phillip drove in from out of town and surprised me? I was so happy to see him, so happy he was my little brother, so happy that he was your uncle that I cried, and I remembered—being a big sister is the best.

Did I ever tell you about when I was really scared and really hurting before I had you, and Aunt Adeline came over every day so I wouldn’t have to be alone? She always walked in with my favorite Sonic drink and once a pair of gold polka dot shoes that matched your nursery. Whenever I wear those shoes, I remember how my little sister was there for me, and I remember—being a big sister is the best.



Did I ever tell you about how no one knows how to make me laugh like my little brother and sister? That rarely does anyone quite understand me on the same level that they do? That at one point they stopped being just little brother and little sister and became my best friends?

Oh my girl, being a big sister is the best. What fun you are going to have! I am so glad you have Greer, and I am so glad he has you. I love you!

Friday, March 6, 2015

last wednesday

Last Wednesday was not a good day. 

Last Wednesday I was being an awesome wife and going to Dairy Queen to get my husband an ice cream cake. I walk in with my cute baby, all “la de da I’m a great wife and mother,” and I order my cake. I sort of think I hear God saying something from the clouds about pride and how it comes before a fall, but I’m not paying attention. Because uh oh, where’s my wallet? The one that’s connected to my keys? The one that I can’t find anywhere?

Oh yeah. It’s in the car, where I locked it. KEWL!

Not a problem, I am an awesome wife and mother and I can keep my cool in the midst of chaos. La de da! We have no extra key to this car (naturally), so I call the Pop-A-Lock peeps, and la de da! They are on their way. Only it takes an hour. And Baby needs a nap. And the nice DQ lady gives me free ice cream, which I give to baby out of desperation and in complete violation of all the Good Mom Rules I’d been keeping so well that day. Naturally, she loses her mind when there is no more ice cream (oops, Mommy accidentally ate all of it to stifle the feelings), so then I let her watch a video on my phone out of desperation and in complete violation of all the Good Mom Rules I’d been keeping so well that day. The Dairy Queen crowd is starting to feel badly for me, and they are asking what they can do, but no no, nothing they can do until Pop-A-Lock gets THEIR BOTTOMS TO THE DAIRY QUEEN! I am a good mom, and I no longer say “butts”! La de da!

Pop-A-Lock arrives and the nice man gets me into my car in exchange for 100 dollars. KEWL! I have no problem with this! I am a cool mom!

So finally I go pay for my cake. The cake that was supposed to be $30 but is now $130, no problem you know, BUT THIS CAKE BETTER BE DELICIOUS. And then on a whim I say “whatever give me a chicken sandwich and a cherry coke” because the ice cream only allowed me to eat about 25% of my feelings and there 75% more that needed to be dealt with.

On the ride home between bites of a chicken sandwich that seems a little iffy, I scream sing Alanis Morrisette, which is what I do when I’m angry (I never am! I’m a cool mom!) or when I do not want Baby to fall asleep in the car because we need this baby to take a REAL nap at home.

Good news, friends – Baby takes a great nap at home, and I sit on the couch, realizing once again that I am a really good wife and mother. High five to me! What’s that God? I cannot hear you because I feel funny. I remember the chicken sandwich. I hate that chicken sandwich. But I do not dwell on this because I am sixteen weeks pregnant, and interior babies (like exterior babies) make you feel funny things. La de da! I distract myself but eventually end up on the couch, staring into oblivion and chanting to myself “I do not feel funny,” “I do not feel funny.”

Do you know what’s coming? Because I didn’t, but retelling the story makes me feel really dumb.

Husband comes home because I have a dinner to get to. “I feel funny” I say, “but it’s okay.” “Cool,” says Husband. I sort of slump over on the couch for a while, and eventually I get my act together enough to get ready.

I like my outfit. I am cute! God says something but I cannot hear because I am in the car, and it’s Alanis time. It’s snowing! I have on my red coat! Things are good. Except I feel funny. Mind over matter. This internal baby, he is really doing a good job at making me feel funny.

Except it’s not the internal baby. (The internal baby’s name is Greer by the way. He is the coolest dude that anyone knows, and he can beat up your baby.)

No, no. Not Internal Baby. (Greer.) It’s the chicken sandwich.

I’m driving through blinding snow on the interstate, and suddenly: “SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT.”

And then I turn into the exorcist and in a sudden and violent excommunication my body rejects all of its internal organs with such ferocity that I start to think I’m morphing into a lion.

ASLANNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next few minutes are very touch and go, as you would assume it would be when a human morphs into a lion while driving a Tahoe in the snow on the interstate.

Somehow I manage to get off the interstate, and I pull into a gas station, stunned. I am covered in an evil that shall not be named (Voldemort). Voldemort is in my hair, down my sleeves, in my boot, and in all the little window buttons.

It is a low point.

I call my husband, shaking, and he comes to get me.

I call my sister, because this is why one has sisters, and she advises me to NOT go inside the gas station to wash my hands/hair/coat/boots/entire body because “you probably look terrifying.” I look in the visor mirror and confirm this is the case.

I call husband again: “Bring cleaning supplies, and do not look me in the eye.”

It is a low point.

Husband gets there. I crack the window. 

“Hand me the cleaning stuff and step away,” I say weakly.

“No, dummy,” he says. “I’m cleaning it up.”

As he cleans, we kind of laugh because this is BIG FAT AWFUL and OH MY GOSH and DAIRY QUEEN YOU ARE A LIFE RUINER. I stand in the parking lot trying not to scare any onlookers. In retrospect, I should have growled at them so that this story would have more punch.

When husband is done, I say, “I love you.” He says, “Um.” He is very grossed out. He is a good man.

So the rest of the night is awful, and eventually it is declared food poisoning. (Duh.) Sorry for thinking you were poisoning me, Interior Baby Greer. It is not your fault, and I love you so much. 

The next day, Exterior Baby magically catches on, and she behaves perfectly, just sitting on the couch with me and smiling, her in pink striped pajamas and me in pink polka dot pajamas. She is the coolest.

Later that week, Luke goes to pick up his ice cream cake, and they say they don’t have any record of it. 

(They found it ten minutes later, but that’s a much less dramatic ending, isn’t it?)

In conclusion, last Wednesday was not a good day.

Happy birthday, Husband.