I can’t.

no more.

pandemic

political division

forest fires

drought

Afganistan

sex trafficing

church division

community turmoil

cancer

Haiti

and so on and so on.

The things that are happening around us are beyond overwhelming. The world as a whole is scary and dark and I just can’t take it on. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t turn on the news or engage with the destruction that we see happening all around us with the global world we live in. My heart and my head just cannot do it anymore.

It is not because I do not care. I care too much. I care to the point where it makes me physically ill and unable to do anything with the world right in front of me. Maybe you are feeling this too. This debilitating knowledge of hardship and suffering, but feeling so out of control and helpless that you just shut down.

I can’t keep doing that. You can’t keep doing that.

So what I can do is to make sure the people I love know how much I love them.

I spend far too many hours watching ridiculous horse dramas with our daughters.

I capture our children playing Lego and getting along.

I kiss that son of ours as often as he will let me.

I float in our pool and read a book.

I sit on our front porch and drink hot coffee.

I spend intentional time just being with my husband and strive to let him know why I love him each day.

I hug those I care about.

I kiss the tops of the heads of the children I have the privilege of seeing grow up.

I make a home that is comfortable and loving, to be a safe place to land when the world just seems too big.

I prepare for the upcoming school year and the opportunity to love and support another class of 1st graders.

I help our youngest get ready for her first day of kindergarten.

I give our dogs far too many treats and cuddle with them on the couch more than one should.

I listen to the crickets in the evening.

I pray. I pray a lot.

I do everything I can do to soak in all the good that is in the world and fill up with so much love that I can walk into the world, outside the safety of our home, and love others. Love others hard and love them well.

Love those who disagree with me.

Love those who are different than me.

Love those who are struggling to love.

Love those who are easy to love and those who need some grace. <we all need grace>

I cannot fix all the things that are broken in this world. I do not think we were designed to take on all the things that are broken in the global world. It is just not physically possible. However, I do think we are supposed to be the good in the communities that we are in. To love one another, support one another, give grace to one another, and to encourage one another.

If we all love in our own circles… our families, our workplaces, our churches, our communities, even our social media communities…then that love has to ripple out to the global world. But it has to start here, in your own heart, with what we can handle. We can’t handle it all.

Or atleast, I can’t.

this Christmas.

I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite time of the year. My Grandma Fran loved Christmas. When I think of my Christmas memories so many of them involve the way she did Christmas, even though she passed away twenty five years ago. She left a huge legacy on all my Christmas traditions and my deep love of this season. The ribbon candy on my table, the Santa ornament on my tree, the appetizers on Christmas Eve, the reading of The Night Before Christmas. These are all beautiful and cherished memories that I am so grateful were rooted into my childhood and life.

I also know this post-Christmas down. Maybe you have felt it too, when all the gifts are opened and all the traditions are done, and you are left with more stuff, more mess, and a little feeling of disappointment or sadness. It gets me every year. I want the joy of Christmas to last forever.

But this year, this year looks different for me. This year, we have invited Jesus to His own birthday celebration. If you have been around my writing for more than a minute, you know that my life drastically changed a year and a half ago after I felt Jesus pursuing me for years and I finally gave my life to Him after I had made such a mess of my own doing.

So, this year, Jesus is center in our celebration. Santa gets a nice nod because I do love a good tradition and my grandma would for sure assault me from Heaven <that is not gospel truth but stick with me> if we did not bring Santa to Christmas. But, our family is doing things a bit different this year.

This year we are doing Advent for the first time as a family. I mean, actually reading from the Bible each night, not just eating the chocolate. We have been eating the chocolate for years. Advent is beautiful. Advent takes my favorite day of the year and makes it a four week celebration of hope, peace, joy, and love. Every Christmas carol I hear now, like O Holy Night brings forth such emotion because they are about our Savior coming. Advent honors the wait and anticipation we feel during the Christmas season. The wait for Jesus’ arrival and for God to come to live with us on Earth. The wait feels different this year because it is so good when He does come.

Traditional Christmas songs and philosophy gets me differently this year. I think about this concept of naughty and nice, which was something we never really brought into in our home, but still it is front and center in secular Christmas culture. We sing songs with lyrics like

He’s making a list,

He’s checking it twice,

He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice

Santa Claus is coming to town

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Yet, Jesus came for us all. He knew we are all a mess and we all struggle with something and He came for all of us. Everyone can get the gift He brings because He came to save us all, naughty or nice.

Christmas is about God becoming fully human and living with us, Emmanuel means “God with us.” He came in the most humble of ways to save us. In a world, two thousand years ago and today, that focuses on money, stature, appearance, and power, Jesus came as a baby to poor parents, in a Middle Eastern country, to grow to be short and unattractive, still poor, and lacking governmental power. Yet, He was God. Constantly tempted, yet perfect. Feeling all human emotions, the joy and the suffering, yet obedient. He served others. He sat with the untouchables or social outcasts. He healed. He listened. He taught. He wept for the ones He loved. He wept for Himself knowing the horrible suffering He would endure to save us all and then silently gave Himself over for His own crucifixion. Jesus.

If you do not know Jesus as this loving, kind, serving, forgiving, and yet very confusing person, I encourage you to get to know Him, for yourself, not by what man tells you about Him. Read four books in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read just these four and get to know Jesus. Not religion, but Christianity. Not the laws and rules and hand-slapping of religion, but the hope, peace, joy, and love that is Jesus. If you need a Bible, please email me at ashleyelindner@gmail.com and I will get a Bible mailed to you!

This year is hard. Everyone knows it and I have written these exact words “this year is hard” in almost every post I have written this year. This is the year that we need hope, peace, joy, and love more than ever. So while I completely love the tradition of Santa and all the joy the celebration of him brings, this year I need to tie myself to the one who lasts all year. The one who truly came to town and truly brought the best gift ever. Salvation from a messy world. Isn’t that what we all want right now, to be saved from this messy world? It has come. He has come and we get to celebrate that this Christmas. Right now. This season.

On December 26th, or really, December 25th at 7 in the morning, when all the gifts are opened, because our kids don’t sleep past 5am on Christmas morning….this year, I will not feel the Christmas disappointment when it is over because the greatest gift we can get has already been given and it continues with us after the gifts are open. We are given a Savior who is hope, peace, joy, and love. This continues throughout the year and through our life between two gardens. Anchoring to Him, who is with us all the time, not just on one day, is the best gift we can receive.

For amazing resources to get to know Jesus better, consider checking out She Reads Truth.

For more posts like this, check out Surrendered, pieces, “This is why I drink.“, Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls, and Mountains and Valleys

A Weary World Rejoices

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of O Holy Night? Like really listened?

Maybe I had never truly listened before or maybe I have not had this heavy feeling of weary at the holidays before, but when I heard O Holy Night this week, the lyrics shook me.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn

-O Holy Night

We, as humanity, are coming at the Christmas season weary.

I do not know what your personal struggles may be at the season, but I know enough to know that you have them.

Typically, I do not like to list out my current struggles because in a lot of ways I feel as though then I am comparing my struggles to yours and thus diminishing either of our hards. Hard is hard is hard.

But in an effort to be vulnerable and also to show you the stature I had when I heard O Holy Night, you should know what has led up in my little family’s life to understand this moment:

My father-in-law passed away from a series of medical issues, on November 8th after spending two weeks in the ICU with his two sons and wife by his side. My spouse and his brother then came home to help us tell our respective children that Grandpa had passed away and then they packed up to go support their mom for a few days. While they were together grieving, they were exposed to Covid. After a week, my husband came home and went into isolation in our home, thus taking over our master bedroom and putting me on the couch, unable to hug my grieving husband. While in isolation, my husband developed Covid from his exposure. Thanksgiving came and our three kids and I did not get to spend the day with our favorite human. Also, let us remember, Grandpa also is not celebrating Thanksgiving with us…and neither is Grandma, who is alone now. During this time, another family member who was close to the grieving process of my husband’s father was hospitalized with Covid. Oh and also, we had to switch to distance learning because Covid is running rampant here and I am both a parent of students in distance learning and a teacher. So, everything is a lot.

Heavy. Hurt. and then I heard the lyrics.

the weary world rejoices

O Holy Night

And finally, I had a word for all that I have been feeling: weary.

So many of us are weary right now. You may be weary from employment issues, social unrest issues, equality issues, addiction issues, fertility issues, health issues, money issues, parenting issues, pandemic issues, life issues.

The crazy thing that makes me pause is that all these issues, accept for pandemic issues, were present in life before the pandemic began. However, right now, we as humanity are feeling one massive issue collectively, on top of all other life issues that have always been there. This has the opportunity to draw us together because we can all feel the collective heaviness that is right now. We collectively are weary.

We are a weary world but we have reason to rejoice.

Life is hard. Life between the two gardens is hard. It just is. Sin -not your individual sin so keep reading. I am not blaming any one person.- But sin entered the world in chapter three of the first book of the Bible. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible and it only takes three chapters of it for us to have sin enter the world. Chapters one and two tell us how God had this plan as He created creation and it was all good. All good. There was no death, no shame, no anger, no need, no jealousy, no suffering. It was all good. Then sin entered the world and it is just the pits after that until we enter the other garden, which is Heaven.

So here we are, between two gardens, living in a hot mess of the world and we are weary. This year we can feel the weariness. But, we have reason to rejoice. Rejoice because this is so not how it is supposed to be and one day, it won’t be. It just won’t be.

The lyrics go on to say:

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger

O Holy Night

Yes! He knows our need. Oh my word, does He know our need and our weaknesses. He knows it all and fierecely loves us anyways. That is reason to rejoice.

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

O Holy Night

Love. Peace. Joy.

These are amazing reasons to rejoice. As you read God’s word, you see the theme of love, peace, and joy written all over it. It is not the condemnation that many feel religion brings. No, faith is not the laws, but rather the grace by faith.

This season is a season of joy because our savior has come and He will deliver us from this weary, weary place. It was never supposed to be this way. He can bring us peace. He wants us to show love and we are so deeply loved by Him.

So as we walk in the heavy, we have hope. So much hope. We can rejoice as we will not be in this ick forever.

And, there is some Earthy peace in knowing that this weariness is not something that is unique to our current human experience in 2020. Almost 200 years ago, a man, Adolphe Adam, felt this weariness in 1847, as he composed O Holy Night and turned his hope to Jesus.

To read more like this, check out Surrendered and Suffer well.

Showing up for the lesson

God is always teaching us something.
Are we creating enough quiet enough to hear Him?

I am was an escapist.

I have been known to try to escape all the hard things by avoidance, numbing, or literally running away. Hard stuff is hard and why would anyone knowingly put themselves through the hard? That seems counter-cultural.

I have been thinking about this much more lately as life keeps getting more difficult. More social unrest. More political opinions. Covid numbers climbing. Personal tragedy. Life is really hard. And my default button is to run from it.

Avoidance. Numbing, Escaping.

However, God in his amazing mercy, prepared me for the road that we would be facing collectively as humanity and personally as a family, in the year before this. I wrote about this in Mountains and Valleys. He taught me to run towards him, rather than away from problems. He broke me hard and built me back together with a shifted heart that has learned to really lean in to the lessons.

So here I am, in a season where everything around me is changing and the phone just keeps bringing more reminders of the ick in the world, yet my heart is not running away. I am trying my best to show up for the lessons. What is God teaching me right now?

Covid is out of control. Numbers are sky-rocketing. My classroom, which is my safety blanket of normalcy and full of sweet 1st grade faces, is in jeopardy. There is nothing I can do to change this. There is a lesson there. Am I learning that I have idolized my career and need to keep that in check? Or am I learning that education and the impact of a teacher far extends the classroom walls?

People are ill. Very ill. Not covid ill, just life is hard and people get very sick, ill. What lessons can we gain from their suffering? What is the legacy we are leaving? Are there things we should say to those we love that we put off? Are there choices we are making that our older self will be grateful for or wish we had done differently? Are we loving one another in hardship and in celebration as we should? I want to learn these lessons.

Social unrest and political turmoil is making each day a bit more rocky. How are we handling things? How are we stepping into the situation? Are we avoiding having the hard conversations, as my previous self would have? Or are we gaining the courage to say the hard things but say them laced in love and do our part to bring us back together? Are we working towards reconciliation in our actions or are we allowing division to further spread?

See the thing is, bad and hard things are going to happen. That is how life is. However, we can make sure that the suffering is not in vain. I think that is how we can honor the hardships we see others going through by showing up for the lessons that we are being taught and apply the new wisdom to make sure the life we are living, is lived well.

I was an escapist. Now, I am showing up for the lesson.

But, I still nap. I love a good nap.

You take what the enemy meant for evil

And You turn it for good

You turn it for good

Elevation Worship: See a Victory

light.

img_0438

Embrace the current season of your life. – Gabrielle Blair

As I was driving home tonight, I was blinded by the light. The sun was glaring in my eyes. I looked at the clock and it is 5:45 and there is still light.  For anyone living in the tundra, this observation is a welcome sign that spring is near. We made it. We have made it through another winter. 

Winter symbolically is a hard season, known for its harsh elements, solitude, darkness, quiet, and lifelessness. Everything seems to be on pause or muttering through until the first signs of light again. When the world was designed, it was done  with beauty, even in those dark moments of winter, as the cycle of the seasons so perfectly match our seasons of life. The new life of spring, the lively days of summer, the death of fall, and the wait of winter. If you are fortunate enough to go around the sun year after year, you can start to appreciate the ways the seasons work and blend into your own life.

Lately I have found myself in a wintery season. Yes, we have new life, which would lead one to think that I am in more of a spring season, but emotionally, I have been feeling vey wintery. Everything is just a bit harsher lately and sometimes I feel very alone in my own thoughts. We are waiting for the days that we can get out and do things, but right now I sometimes feel rather trapped and alone, even though I have three beautiful children who are always close by. My husband and I are spending so much time being present and raising our children or working hard to develop our professional craft, that we have not given our relationship the time and attention it needs. Right now we are surviving and making it through, but we are not growing in our relationship or growing together. We are in a winter.

To take the metaphor a step farther, in winter the roots of strong trees do not disappear, they are just silent. The bulbs that will bring beautiful flowers are just waiting for their chance to sprout. Life and beauty is still there, hidden under the snow, patiently waiting for their chance to show their full potential.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. – proverb

Feeling the light on my face the other night reminded me that this hard time will end. This season will end. They always do. That is how our world works. Spring will come. A new season in our marriage will come. We will have to be intentional about that, but it will come. Winter is the hardest season but it comes every year. My husband and I are in  a winter, but that does not mean we are in trouble, it means we are going through the normal cycles of life, marriage, relationships. It is how we emerge from this winter that will show the strength of our marriage. Literally, we do this with our surroundings at the end of every winter. Once all the snow is melted, we will look around to see what else has survived the winter, or what needs repairing, or replanting. Each year we have this chance to re-evaluate our surroundings, make adjustments, and try again next year.

There is some comfort in knowing the predictability of the harsh season and being able to prepare for it.   We need to be doing that in all our facets of our life: Enjoying the wonderful seasons but also carefully laying the ground work to prepare for the harsh ones. Having lived in Minnesota for 6 years now, I have learned about the summer tasks that must happen to be ready for the long winters, such as taking the hose off the house so you do not have a frozen pipe, or making sure the gutters are cleared so that you do not have an ice dam, or growing a gigantic garden so you can make homemade sauce…eventually. However, I have not been as diligent or intentional when it comes to life’s figurative seasons and preparing for them, even though I should know by now that with all the good, the hard will come too.

Every season has its purpose. My grandma was a woman of her own type of faith, but one thing she really made sure to reiterate time and time again with me, was the importance of understanding that everything has a reason. Everything. She was right.  Winter is this brutal season of struggle. However, there is also the profound feeling of success when you come through the harsh season. I was recently talking with my sister-in-law about struggling and how it is hard to struggle and even harder to watch your child struggle. But, how important it is in both your own life and your child’s to go through the struggle. In the struggle is the learning and the growth. As both parents and educators, we know this. It is harder when it is you or your child dealing with it, but emotions aside, we know that an appropriate level of struggle is actually really good for us. As I felt the glow of the sun, it gave me hope that the growth has happened, this lesson has been learned, and it is time for new life, or a new perspective, moving forward. This winter has served its purpose. 

While I reflect on this current wintery season and rejoice in the coming light, I have these take aways about seasons, change, and growth:

Each season has a time.

Be fully present in each season, as they are intentionally designed.

Be open to the change each season will create.

Prepare for the hard seasons, while embracing the good seasons.

Every season has a purpose.

Make sure you do not leave the season without learning its purpose and be humble enough to grow from it.

So here I am. Reflecting and listening. Waiting and growing. Struggling and pushing forward. I will get through this season and I will love my spring and summer, but I  also know that winter will come again.

Hand prints on the windows…

“Enjoy all these moments.

You will miss these moments one day.”

You hear this, you feel this, your heart hurts because you know it is true, and yet you just cannot take hearing it anymore. It makes you feel unbearably guilty that you aren’t soaking in every single second that your children are little. You know, like the time they pooped in the tub and then continued to poop when you removed them from the tub, and then as they ran to their sister’s room and put their poopy hands on the bedspread. Shouldn’t you be soaking that in!?

The truth is, you will miss that. A lot. You see the truth in the older generations’ eyes when they warn you about how much you will miss it. It hurts because you can see they hurt and you get fearsome of that pain. I get so much anxiety about this because I know that with each day that goes by so does a day of my children being this young.

I thought more about this today and then I looked around my house and saw all the evidence that they live here. I saw all the things that make this home their home too. I also saw all the things that are out of place or messes and saw them in a different light. I decided that today I would start trying to capture these crumbs of their childhood so that one day, when I do miss it, I can return to the moments, even if only in a picture.

I plan on making this a series, challenging myself to take a group of pictures each month of all the random things my children leave around the house, or other proof that they are growing up in our home, so that I know I am doing my best to soak it all in, even the poop on the bedspread.

Crumb #1- Crayons on the floor.

crayon

I seem to have this great idea often of letting my 3 and 1 year old color….Which 100% of the time ends with my 1 year old throwing the crayons everywhere. We then pick them up and without fail, always miss one. The 1 year old later found this crayon and used it to write on the window. Fantastic.

Crumb # 2-  Partially eaten fruit, randomly placed. Everywhere.

apple

This apple found its way to our unfinished stairs. It took a break here, half eaten, until my son later found it and continued his snack. Later, I found another apple under the couch. Having a 3 year old who can access the fruit drawer in the fridge has its benefits and its short -comings. But hey, they are eating fruit! We will call that a win.

Crumb #3- Roar.roar

Meet Roar, our 1 year old’s nighttime favorite cuddle animal. Roar sleeps with him and comes with him when he joins us in the morning. Our son loves coming into our bed in the morning, rubs our faces, and curls up to watch a morning show while my husband showers. Our 3 year old daughter joins him, or is already there, and she asks him how his night was and if he slept well. He grunts his “yup” or says his sweetest “okay.” It is pretty much the sweetest good morning conversation ever.

This is Roar, still laying in our bed, after a morning cuddle session. I will most definitely miss when he joins us in in our bed for morning cuddles.

Crumb #4- Safety corners. Ugh. Safety. Corners.

corner

We made it until we had a 3 1/2 year old and an almost 2 year old without these ugly things on our coffee table. But, we had a few super close calls to losing some eyes, so these suckers got gorilla glued to the coffee table. That’s right, we gorilla glued them to the table. They wouldn’t stay on without the glue. I would much rather look at an ugly table for a few years than have to see our child bleeding from their head because I didn’t like the idea of ugly safety corners. Now they can chase each other around the table without me having a heart attack.

Crumb # 5- Cups. All varieties of cups. 

cup     juice

I am constantly finding cups around our house. Our 3 year old has gotten good about putting her cup in the fridge when she is done with it, or at least on the table until she gets up to put it in the fridge. Our 1 year old (almost 2) is working on the skill of not throwing his cups everywhere. His cup was found on the counter, which was rather an impressive feat! I can guarantee there is at least 1 of these cups under our couch or our bed right now.

Crumb # 6- Nuks. Pacifiers. Binks.

nuk

Our home is littered with these. They are everywhere. The irony is that when we really need one, one cannot be found! We may or may not have had a late night run to Target to buy one before during a time of nuk crisis. This nuk, still spit covered, landed this way on our floor. Later, our son found it when he was ready for bedtime. He often has 2 or 3 in his hands to rotate when he is settling down. We find them in his trucks, in his farm, under couches, in our van, etc. These are truly crumbs from our son.

Crumb # 7- Snacks.

cheese sticks

Snacks are also everywhere. Try as we might, we still find a rouge wrapper or snack. Just be happy I don’t have a picture of the pear that we found in a toy bucket. By the time we found it, it looked more like a half-eaten chicken wing. Tonight our daughter helped herself and her brother to a cheese stick. We had given her permission and are really trying to help her grow in her independence. Somehow there was some sort of miscommunication between her, our 1 year old, my husband, and myself and she grabbed 3 cheese sticks. All of which were opened by either myself or my husband, as we were in different rooms. Our son is notorious for half eating snacks and then leaving them. Hence, 3 half-eaten cheese sticks that made their way to the end table. We are just grateful for having found them all. We hope.

Crumb # 8- Toy cars.

car

Our son is obsessed with these. He plays with them all the time. They make him ridiculously happy. We have many of these types of cars and I find them in all places of our home. One made its way to the toilet even. As I write this, I see one under our end table and under our entertainment center. We pick them up each night and yet one always seems to get away.

Crumb # 9- Toothpaste and tooth brushes. But, mostly the toothpaste.

tooth brush

We are really working on supporting our 3 year old in doing things by herself and she is doing rather well with it when it comes to certain tasks. She recently became very driven to brush her teeth, “all by myself.” This of course leads to toothpaste messes. There is toothpaste on the counter, in the sink, on the wall, and on the step stool. I hope some found its way to her teeth. I know that one day she will figure out how to pick up after herself, but for now, I am so proud of her for trying to do things on her own.

Crumb # 10- Hand prints on our windows.

handprint

We have these giant 8 feet wide sliding glass doors in our dining room, which is the center of our home. The doors stay clean for approximately 10 seconds before our children touch them with their snack, snot, toothpaste,  dirt covered hands. Little traces of them. I know that one day they will not stand at the window in fascination of the bunnies hopping by, or the incoming storm, or wait for daddy to come home. One day, these windows will be spotless, and I will miss the hand prints on our windows.

 

So there you have my first 10 crumbs of my children’s childhood. In searching for the crumbs today, it made me look at the messes with such a different perspective. It made me appreciate the clutter, the smudges, the pieces of my children, and even if just for the moment, soak it all in. The fruit and snacks need to be thrown away and toys picked up, but before doing that, I allowed myself to soak up our environment and appreciate each of the pieces that make it our home. I challenge you to do the same. Find the pieces that make your home, yours with your family. Collect them. Share them. Or hold them close.

The parents who have been in the toddler trenches before us, are right.

We will miss these moments.

We can only soak so much in, but we can be intentional about it.

 

Continue reading

Hold my hand, sweet girl. I will love you through it all.

My journey as a parent is still very young. I still have so much to learn. Two and a half years ago this little lady came into the world, made me a mother, and has been humbling me and teaching me ever since.

Adeline (119)

Before actually meeting our sweet girl, I had a plan. See, I used to have a plan for everything. Read I find some of my biggest truths in the baby food aisle at Target  to find out about more of my plans that did not work out as I had thought.

I had a plan and a vision for how our little baby would be. We did not know the gender, as I hoped this would help us (me) to not plan out everything. I did plan everything that I could though.

Our baby would clearly be an amazing sleeper because I had read this book that other moms I know and respect have read and have seen fantastic results! Obviously, if I follow the instructions in the book my child would do just as the book said and would be sleeping through the night in no time. Our baby would also be such an amazing eater because when the time comes I am going to home-make all the baby’s food to only expose the baby to wholesome foods with spices and flavors.  And as baby would grow into a toddler, our baby would listen to everything we say because we would be strong and consistent. We would say what we mean and that child would do what we asked or else there would be a strong and consistent consequence. I mean really, there is a formula for raising children, obviously.

Okay, I really was not this naive. However, there is quite a bit of truth to the above statements.

Then this strong, sweet, beautiful, and dramatic individual entered the world. tree 13I use the word individual on purpose here, because that is exactly what she is.  She was not created in my image, but rather in God’s. She will not fit all the molds that I had previously thought my child would. She is not the child in the books I had read. She is her own person. She was created this way and our influence is not going to change who she is at her core. And that is such a blessing. In many ways she will exceed what I had imagined.

Our little lady still hardly sleeps through the night, 2 and a half years later….. 30 months.  Oh sweet child.  She did not work like the sleep book said she would. We “scheduled” her.  We gave her baths before bed. We even spent more money on the nighttime bath soap so that she would sleep. We swaddled her. We stuck to bedtime routine. She just did not sleep. We spent lots of nights without sleep. She just wanted to be with us. Now, as a toddler, she has these horrible nights where she wakes up so upset that I have to hold her in my arms and talk about butterflies and ponies, and everything wonderful in the world to calm her down. The only way we can get her to go back to sleep once we’ve calmed her is snuggled in tight next to us.

So, guess what sweet girl, we do. We will love you through this.

Our little lady is a finicky eater. I am saying finicky as a polite way of saying she is a pain in the rear when it comes to eating. Once she was old enough to eat with her own plate at the table the fights began. She would throw the food and scream, so much screaming, about food that she loved the day before. We would consistently offer her the things that we were having and she would throw giant fits. My husband and I could never enjoy eat our meals because we were dealing with her mealtime melt-downs. Everything we thought would work, didn’t. We were having a battle at every meal. Then we changed our approach and followed what we felt in our hearts. We offered her what we were having. If she didn’t want it, she didn’t have it. But, she didn’t have anything else. No arguing, no begging. Just these are the options. We celebrate when she does eat… which makes her eat more. We are learning. She is learning. She is eating. We clap anytime any of us eats, so there is a lot of clapping. Mealtime is becoming pleasant again. We had to back down from our approach, follow her lead, and love her through it all.

Now, like I said before, my time as a mother is still very young. However, I see we are coming over the hill of the baby trials and moving into the mountain of the parenting trials of raising a person with character. Whoa. Talk about anxiety. She is even getting to the age where she will soon remember how we talk to her and treat her. This is where my husband comes into play as an incredible influence in the way I want to parent.

You see, a few months ago I made a terrible, horrible, mistake. I compared and talked down about my child, in front of my child, for her being her. Oh my word. That is not the mother I want to be. We were with friends who have a daughter who is two weeks younger than our girly. Their child was doing a wonderful job of eating her meal and was looking at our child confused as to why she was throwing a full out temper tantrum over the meal, and then our daughter proceeded to make her negative opinion on whatever followed very clear to everyone.

I was so embarrassed and I even said something like, “She is eating her meal. Why can’t you be like her. She is so easy going and you make everything so difficult.” We all joked it off because our two year old cannot understand what I had said and we talked about how she is definitely dramatic. We then packed our little family up and started for our hour and a half drive home.

My husband is a man of few serious words, so when he is serious, it is best to listen. He has heard me talk many times about the mother I want to be. We began our drive and he began to speak:

“You cannot compare her to other people. She is her own person. You would not want to be compared for being you.” – Truth. Painful truth. I had done exactly that. She is her own person and has her own strengths and her own areas of growth and it is our role to help her bring out those strengths and to help her in her areas of growth. It is so wrong of me to expect her to be someone she isn’t.

“You need to stop being embarrassed when she acts this way. It is not a reflection of you.”-Truth. More painfully, he saw my embarrassment. She is her own person and she was really struggling in that moment. Instead of helping her through that moment, I was embarrassed about what someone else might think of her behavior. Truthfully, I should be embarrassed for how I acted in that moment.

“She isn’t going to listen when we yell at her. I know I don’t like being yelled at and I don’t listen when I am.”– Truth. This is very true for most humans. No one likes being yelled at. Some respond by doing whatever behavior is required to prevent the yelling or some just ignore the yelling. Our daughter and my husband are the later. Our little girl responds infinitely better when we calm down, whisper to her what we would like her to do, and ask in a respectful manner. Which, really, isn’t that how everyone would like to be treated?

My husbands words really resonated with me and has had a direct impact in how I handle situations with our little girl since. Our world is more peacefully since making a change in how I relate and connect to her.

Your child is not giving you a hard time. Your child is having a hard time.

I think of this quote often now, when our little lady is having a melt-down. I scoop her up, take her aside, and try to calmly help her use her words to let me know what is going on. When we are in situations where she needs a break or isn’t being kind, I will often join her in “time-out/time-in” to have a talk about what happened and how we can fix it. I am not perfect with this, but I am trying. I will love her through it.

Parenting is not how I thought it would be. In many ways it is even more of a blessing. These little people are incredible individuals. However, they do not fit the mold that we may have had for them. There is not a “how-to manual” for raising children that works for all children, as they are each their own person.

It is our job as parents to help them be the very best versions of themselves. It is our job to see their strengths and help them develop them. It is our job to see the areas where they need support, and to be that support. It is our job to be flexible to their changing needs.

It is our job to hold their hand and love them through it all.

Thank you sweet girl for teaching me so much already. I am excited to have you hold my hand, love me through it, and teach me more tomorrow.

You will never be this loved again.

2015/01/img_1765.jpgLittle man wrapped around my finger… 3 hours after his bedtime because he cannot sleep.

It has been an especially trying week. Our children are already less than amazing good okay sleepers. Then add some common sickness to it and we have entered a world of practically non-existent sleep. We cannot remember when we got a 2 hour stretch of sleep. Our daughter was sick last week and she so lovingly shared it with her brother. My husband and I each stayed home with a sick little man one day this week. When they are sick, they cannot sleep unless they are asleep on our chest. So, for the past two weeks we have been sleeping with a little on our chest or right beside us. They start in their bed/crib but out of survival end up with us.  This is just a minor setback and I fully understand that other families have it much worse. This is being a parent. It is exhausting.

It is also the most loving time in your life. Ever.

Even without being sick, littles love being with their mamas and daddies.

All the time.

I cannot remember the last time I went to the bathroom without a beautiful and curious 2 year old standing next to me, narrating my ever action. (That is very humbling by the way.)

I shower with her choosing to sit on a stool in the bathroom waiting for me. She has the choice to play with her brother and daddy, but instead would like to wait for me to finish my shower. My reflection time in the shower is interrupted as I keep checking on her to make sure she is okay. As soon as I am done, she stands up and says “Mama done?!”

While eating dinner, little miss tries her hardest to sit as close to or on either my husband or I. We repeatedly remind her that she can sit next to us, but not on us at the table. But, we have to repeatedly remind her of this through the entire meal.

My store runs are now accompanied by a sweet little girl who would like to go shopping with mama. I repeatedly explain that we cannot open every banana, strawberry, and yogurt through the store. I narrate our shopping experience, redirecting her down the right aisles, and she echos what I say.  My store runs are significantly longer but must be timed for the potty runs as well, as little miss no longer wears diapers. Just last week she insisted on holding her mini-donut while she used the grocery store bathroom.  Maybe this is where we got the cold from? <wink, wink>

So my alone time is significantly less. Even as I write this, my littles and my husband are having some daddy time  in the playroom so that I can have an hour of “me time” before I take little miss to the grocery store with me. But, did you read that correctly, my alone time is significantly less. As exhausting and overwhelming as that can be, it is such an incredible blessing. My lonely 300 lb self of years past would never have believed that one day I would have such a loving and wonderful family that wanted to be with me all the time. I am not alone. I am loved beyond words. This does not just apply to me and my specific and bumpy journey to having a family. This applies to all of us who were once alone and blessed to find someone to share our lives with. Then blessed once more with the miracle of little ones. Blessed.

It is heartbreaking to leave my children every day but when I see my children at the end of an exhausting day at work, my sweet girl is my biggest cheerleader, saying “Mom!!! You’re back!!!!” and gives me the biggest, most genuine hug EVER. My son lights up when he sees me. My daughter will not leave my arms for the first 15 minutes when we get home. This is a little trying as neither will my son.

My daughter insists on cuddling in our spot while snuggled up under our blanket watching “my show” (her show). Little man crawls over and wants up too. So we snuggle. The three of us snuggle in tight.

The first words I hear in the morning, if she hasn’t already found her way into our bed, are “Mom!! Mama!!! I am done!! Mom!!” The last words I hear at night when I put her to bed are “No mom. Stop! Mom!!!!!! Mama! Stay. Mom!!!!” When my husband puts her to bed, most times she asks for me to go up and give her one last kiss. She asks the same of my husband when I put her to bed. She cannot get enough of us.

My point is, as exhausting and overwhelming it is, we will never be this loved again. Our children, Lord willing, will grow up. They will hit a point where they won’t even acknowledge that we have come home. They will hit a point where the thought of laying in your bed is grotesque to them. They will hit a point where the thought of watching you go to the bathroom is nauseating. They will hit a point where sitting next to you at dinner seems like a chore, as sitting with friends would be much better. They will hit a point where they won’t want to talk to you as openly.  We, as parents, will keep trying to get them to show us the ways they used to love us,  (expect for the bathroom thing. I am really okay with that moment being over) but they will grow up and find their own ways to show love. They will never again love us as whole-heartedly, as unconditionally, as genuinely as they do this very moment.

I recently read this quote,

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis

As overwhelming as it may be to always have a child on your hip or by your side, it is a blessing. What you are doing with those littles far outweighs what other things you could be doing. That child loves you with their every being. Soak it all in now.

You will never be this loved again.

Did I love enough today?

Tragedy happens. Horribleness happens.

You don’t have to travel far or spend much time online to be hit with that awful, gut-wrenching reality.

We cannot control tragedy. We can do our best to prevent it, but we cannot control it. Bad things happen to good people. No one is immune to it.

Okay. I have accepted that. Well, I have momentarily come to terms with that and have to rely on my faith when I let my mind go to those dark “what if” moments.

What keeps me up and my mind racing is my most difficult, nightly reflection:

Did I love enough today?

See, I cannot control what tragedies my family may face. What I can control is what I do with my time in this very moment. That is daunting to me. The heavy responsibility of knowing that I am deciding how to use each moment. Every single moment could be is a precious one and I do not want to waste them.

However, I also want some down time where I literally do nothing but waste time. That down time to re-energize and gather my thoughts. Time to let my brain recharge and my mind settle.

Anxiety increases.

What have I done? Have I wasted a hug or a smile or a moment that I will forever regret. Is my selfish need for some “me” time robbing me of valuable time with my family? How can I do better tomorrow?

Anxiety increases.

I am also a 1st grade teacher. Parents send their own little people to me every day to help guide them and teach them. Did I love them enough today? Or did I allow myself to get caught up in the daily routine or the sea of standards, to forget to look at each one of them, individually, and make a connection today? Do they know that I care about them and want the very best for them?

Anxiety increases.

Am I spending too much time worrying about my littles at work that I am taking precious time from my littles at home? How do I, as a working mom, balance the drive between my first passion, teaching, and my current incredible blessing, my family?

Anxiety increases.

What if today is my last day with my husband and sweet children. Today they are all healthy and thriving. What if tomorrow that all changes? Did I do enough with my moments today to truly embrace the incredible blessing that is my family?

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Then, I step away from all distractions and all reminders of the terrifying, out-of-control world we live in. I snuggle up with my babies or join them in whatever activity they are engaged in… And I stare. I awkwardly stare at my children. I take it all in, like a glass of ice water on the hottest of summer days, and just focus on that one need. The need to be in the moment with my family.

Anxiety starts to decrease.

I ask my daughter what she wants do and often it is snuggle, read, movie, or horsey…. So we snuggle, read, watch a movie, or play horsey. We grab my son and play ball. We lay on the floor and “hide” from my husband. We build a tent using kitchen chairs and what seems to be an endless supply of blankets.

Anxiety decreases more.

We have movie nights, where Peanut eats more popcorn than my husband, legs crossed, fully engaged in the storyline. Bubba Boo jumps on me and bites my face. (He is only 9 months old.) I look at my husband, squeezed up with my daughter, matching popcorn bowls, and down at my little man, and think,

“This. This is the simple moments I long for.”

My anxiety is momentarily gone.

Tragedy happens. Horribleness happens. The weight of knowing how precious each of our moments are is too heavy.

So heavy.

Mind-bogglingly heavy.

I cannot allow my thoughts to go there.

How can you measure how much you loved today? Will it ever be enough to a mama? Probably not. But, when I am fully engaged in the moment, I know they are loved by the way the love me back. I know that my children have seen and felt love by the way they love each other. It is important to be aware of how precious our moments are and to do our best to love as much as we can in those moments. However, I think, as someone who strives to be “perfect,” it will never be enough.

So, maybe my nightly question should be,

Did I love enough today?

Adeline Horse Will train
Please understand when I do not respond to calls or texts.
I am doing the most important job right now.
I am loving Elsa, Godzilla and their daddy.

Re-prioritizing and Re-structuring.

You know when life gets to feeling really heavy, but you can’t point a finger at why? That is where I have been lately. I am very blessed to have an incredible and supportive husband and two beautiful babies. I have a warm home and am in the 9th year of a career I am very passionate about. I have food in the fridge and pantry, gas in our …mini van…. and really, really, life is good! I should be so grateful for all these blessing and know that so many have so much less. But that is when it hits me…the rock in my stomach. I have so much love in my home and enough material things to survive a full life-time on and then the guilt of not being okay with that all.

The house gets clean. The house gets messy. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The laundry gets done and then someone spits up, poops, or throws up on it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I am going to clean the shower. Shoot. Both kids are asleep and I just got a moment to actually talk with my husband, should I take this opportunity to connect with him or clean the shower… another day the shower doesn’t get clean. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I have lesson plans to do, meetings to attend, meetings to re-schedule and then attend, emails to write, phone calls to re-call. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I finish 8 hours at school redirecting behaviors and come home to redirect a 2 year old and a now mobile 9 month old. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I hit this wall about two weeks ago when I was randomly crying at the slightest and most inopportune moments, you know, the moments when you are supposed to have it all together. That is when I knew this was my bottom and I needed a change. I needed to re-prioritize and re-structure how I was living my life and by default making my family live theirs. My family deserves to have a mom and wife who is grateful, joyous, and present, as these are the traits I hope to see in them as well.

I recently read this quote, “Remove stressful activities and demands from your life. If you cannot, then learn to joyfully deal with them. Either way, no more complaining. You are in charge of what you allow in your life and how you cope.”- Brendon Burchard

So, I cleaned “house.” I stepped down from some activities that were adding muck to our lives  to make room for other things that bring joy to myself and my family. I took a look at things that I thought were important and things that I thought weren’t and restructured how our home could work…. And, I started saying “no,” because I had also read the very true statement that “Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. Make sure yes is worth the no.” I am saying yes to my family. Yes to the minimal requirements.  Yes to enjoying my hobbies again. And yes, to enjoying the moments we have as a family, as my littles will only be so little for so long.

I am saying no to anything that takes us away from that or that will bring negativity into our home… as life hands out enough of that yucky stuff on its own.

As I snuggled up with my little girl today, who is home sick and therefore I am home with her, I kissed her on the head and said “Thank you baby girl for making me push pause and see what is important.”

…and then we snuggled in and watched a movie together. That is a moment I can forever say yes to.