You Pick Two

This blog post has been running circles in my brain for weeks just waiting to be written, but as you will see from below, there is good reason why it is only now coming to fruition.

When I published my last post I was 39 weeks pregnant. Now we have a 10 11 12 week old! Time flies and all that jazz, I suppose. This post is about what’s happened in the in-between weeks, and what I’ve learned about having a newborn.

Our son Henry finally arrived on March 5th, eleven days past his due date and after 36 hours of labor (hence the “finally”). His complete birth story is one for another time, but I will say that the moment they placed him in my arms was breathtaking and sacred; after so many months of waiting, this screaming, squirming tiny human was suddenly there. And in that moment, everything changed. Everything prior to that moment is “before” and in this new “after” nothing is the same as it once was.

After two delightful days in the hospital, we were sent home with a cart full of goodies and supplies, a newly filled carseat, and all the staff’s best wishes for a good life. Although our childbirth and breastfeeding classes had prepared us well for what those first few weeks at home would be like, I was still caught somewhat off guard by the intensity of the exhaustion and healing process. Regular household chores suddenly become behemoths, and getting up and ready for the day spends what little energy I have available. Practically all of the time is spent feeding the baby, and what little time remains in-between my body demands that I sleep.

One evening towards the end of March, Christian and I took the baby and went to Panera for dinner. It was while eating that I had The Revelation: this season of life with a newborn requires me to “Pick Two”, just like you do at Panera. After the required tasks of nurturing and feeding my child, there is a small margin in which to get other things accomplished.

Every day I can choose to:

  • Take a shower OR eat breakfast
  • Go on a walk OR take a nap
  • Load the dishwasher OR put laundry in to wash
  • Read a book OR write in my journal
  • Sweep the floor OR clean the toilet
  • Cook dinner OR fold a load of laundry
  • Visit the doctor OR go to the grocery story
  • Sleep OR write a blog post (you can tell which one won most often in this category)

Pick two, and that is the limit for the day. I quickly learned that my get-things-done, pack as much in a day as I can attitude had to take a hike, otherwise I would wind up frustrated and upset in trying to do too much. This season of intense change begs for a slow, simmering pace. One where priorities shift and beauty is found in recognizing my limitations.

March was a blur. I can’t really tell you anything that happened outside of our little townhouse, but I can tell you that inside our little home I learned to rest and spent lots of time cuddling our baby. I learned that tears are good, and sleep is better. April is slightly clearer, but only just so. The experts tell you that you need 6 weeks to recover after having a baby. I will tell you that I thought I felt better after 6 weeks. Then week 7 came and I felt even better. That upward trend continued until week 10 when my body felt back to normal and I felt completely healed from the birth.

Ever so slowly as the weeks progress my energy has allowed me to add a third or fourth or even fifth thing to my day. But as a routine begins to develop, as naps get longer and feeding times get shorter it is easy to begin to hurry again. To pack the day with a multitude of good things that ultimately wear me out. In this season I am learning that limits are a good gift, and that when I listen and slow down there is beauty and grace to be found. I am learning to extend more and more grace towards myself and others, to “pick two” and do them with excellence, to focus on what is best over what is good.

What season are you in right now? Where do you need to recognize limits and allow the pace to slow in order to find what is best? Where do you need to extend grace, either to yourself or others? May we slow down and see with fresh eyes the beauty that is waiting for us.




A Pregnant Pause

AKA: The Waiting Game. Or, Baby Watch. Or, Wait, was that a Contraction?

We made it to 39 weeks! A friend of mine who was due the day before me went into labor and delivered her baby last week, making me realize that this could literally happen Any. Day. Now. I feel simultaneously super ready, and super not ready for this impending event. Every day we wait…and wait.  At the same time, we are also rushing around getting the nursery finished (What? Emily the over-planner doesn’t have the nursery finished? Nope. Not even close. I know, it is a surprise to me too.), making meals for the freezer, ignoring contractions, rehearsing the go-time plans, and enjoying our last few days before we are joined by this new tiny human.

In the midst of the waiting, here are some “You Know You’re Pregnant When” things I’ve experienced/learned/discovered over the past nine months:

  • Nine months = eternity. No one tells you how long nine months takes when you are pregnant. I mean seriously, the school years flew by, and those were nine months each, so I figured pregnancy would be the same. Nope. Growing a human, in my personal experience, takes f o r e v e r. There are days when I can’t remember not being pregnant. Week one (well, week four, when we found out) feels like SO long ago. Note that it has not been a bad nine months, just much slower than I expected it to take.
  • You suddenly can’t remember anything. Y’all. Pregnancy brain is a REAL THING. I mean, one theory says that the baby takes up to 7% of your brain capacity in making their own brain, and it takes two years to get it back. Thank you, science. My brain feels so fuzzy half the time….I start a sentence and can’t finish it because the thought is gone. No idea where the sentence was going, it is just gone. I lost my driver’s license a couple weeks ago and had to get a new one, because my pregnancy brain put it in an OPEN POCKET on my purse, and then forgot about it for four days, by which point it had utterly disappeared. Genius. On a similar note, if I have forgotten to call you back, respond to an email/text/etc, I am sorry. And I blame it 100% on my missing brain cells.
  • The shower/bath suddenly becomes your favorite place. I mean, it only makes sense that when you feel like a whale (NOTE: I did NOT say I AM a whale, only that I FEEL like a whale), you would suddenly share an affinity for their natural habitat. What is it about pregnancy that makes water so appealing? All I know is that I have discovered the exact amount of hot water our tank holds before it is all gone. And I use it all, regularly.
  • Your bladder shrinks to the size of a pea. The only problem with this, of course, is that during pregnancy you are tasked with drinking a TON of water everyday. See where the issue comes in? Lots of water + teeny tiny bladder = no bueno.
  • You sometimes feel like you are in a sci-fi movie. Feeling your child move inside of you is one of the most magical and weird experiences you will ever have. I mean, this is a living human who could grow up to become the first person on Mars, or the discoverer of a cure for a rare disease, and they are kicking you in the ribs! Sometimes I lay in bed or on the couch while Henry is doing his evening acrobatics and marvel that this is how God decided to start new people. That women’s bodies are made to nurture and grow a new life…it is stunningly beautiful.
  • You don’t understand how you can love something so much that you’ve never seen. This child is 100% part of me. I cannot go anywhere without him, and he is totally dependent on me eating and nourishing myself so that he can grow. Yet, I have no idea what he looks like, or his personality, or what he is going to be like. In spite of having never seen him, I already love him so deeply and would do anything for him. It’s a mystery – one of life’s greatest, I think, and as someone who likes knowing things, not always easy. The anticipation of his arrival is growing, as both Christian and I so want to meet him and see his little face!!
  • Waiting takes on a whole new meaning. I think this experience more than any other I’ve had so far echoes the second coming of Christ. Just as Christ will return on a day that is completely unexpected and unknown, so too we have no idea when this little guy is actually going to make his appearance. We have made ourselves ready, and are waiting for him to come. Just as we are called to ready ourselves for that Great Day, to preach the gospel and make Him known until He appears, so we are called to ready ourselves for this new person. To prepare our hearts to love and serve another sacrificially, to make space for this baby in our home, to learn and prepare (as much as is possible) about parenthood and raising children. It has been a beautiful reminder of what it looks like to prepare for Jesus’ return, and has me looking forward to heaven in a fresh new way.



Why Today is Worth Celebrating

In about an hour we will have a new president as Donald J Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of our nation. The most amazing aspect of this day is the peaceful transition of power from one man to another. For hundreds of years Presidents have gracefully vacated the office, making the way for a new leader. No riots, no fighting, no hatred or anger, no resistance to leaving when their time is finished; choosing instead to exit gracefully, expressing support for the new leader as they return to being a regular American citizen.

Having grown up in this nation, I believe many of us do not understand the significance of peaceful transition. We have not experienced violence and death in conjunction with transitions of power. We have not lived in actual fear for our lives that support of a particular leader could result in our death or expulsion from our home. We do not grasp the beauty of opposing party members standing side by side on the platform, shaking hands and choosing to lay aside differences for the sake of what is best for the nation.

Our leaders and former leaders are setting a beautiful example today of respecting the process of democracy. President Obama has called for Americans to support the process, to give our new President a chance to lead, refusing to allow his personal views and preferences to hinder this transition. He of all people wanted a different result in this election, even expected a different result. Yet so many people who say they are “tolerant” are choosing hatred and anger today over peace.

May we remember. Remember that we have the privilege of living in a place where power passes peacefully. Today is a day to celebrate, regardless of your views. Not because you agree with everything (or anything) about the new leader, but because for the 45th time in the history of our country the democratic process that began with George Washington is being honored and followed.

As I watch senators and former presidents from opposite sides of the aisle greeting each other with smiles, kisses, handshakes and laughter, I am thankful to have been born in this country. Today, let’s celebrate our great nation!



Advent Reflections

Three years ago I wrote the blog below on walking while waiting. This year I’ve been mulling over the idea of waiting again, and instead of reinventing the wheel, I thought I would bring this post back. This year I am waiting and praying for many things – time to slow down, a full-time job for my husband, the birth of our son, community and friends in our new town, the return of Jesus and making of all things new, and on goes the list. We are always waiting for something, aren’t we?

As we wait together, may this bring your heart encouragement as it does to mine.

From “Walking while Waiting”, Dec. 24, 2013:

Christmas snuck up on me this year. With Thanksgiving being so late, a visit with the grandparents in the middle of the month, and working up to Christmas Eve, the holiday has arrived and my heart feels rushed and unprepared. So on Sunday, as the final day of Advent drew to a close, I spent some time reading the story of Jesus’ birth from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I was struck anew by the stories of waiting that surrounded this greatest day in history. Waiting is what Advent is all about – the hope of the coming Savior, the preparation for His arrival, the joy of His birth, and the love He showed in coming to earth.

Advent [noun]:

  • A coming into place, view, or being; arrival
  • The coming of Christ into the world
  • The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ
  • Middle English; Latin – Adventus; arrival, approach
  • Beginning or arrival of something anticipated

Beginning or arrival of something anticipated. Can you feel the excitement in the air? Imagine! The promise of a Savior…followed by 400 years of silence. An entire nation, waiting for the promised Messiah, anticipating the salvation and redemption He would bring.

As I read, these other examples stood out to me as well:

*Zacharias and Elizabeth get married, and then they wait for a baby. And they wait. And wait. And pray. And wait, until Elizabeth is long past child-bearing age and all hope seems lost forever.

*Zacharias is rendered mute, and has to wait at least 9 months before being able to share what God had spoken through the Angel Gabriel.

*Simeon is given a promise that he will not see death until his eyes have seen the Messiah. Old age begins setting in, and still no Messiah is appearing.

*Jesus himself waited 30 years to begin his public ministry.

Do you know what the Bible says about Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon in the midst of their waiting? Luke 1:6 says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were “both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” And Luke 2:25 says that Simeon was “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

Here are four thoughts from their example of walking faithfully with the Lord while waiting:

1. God’s sovereignty is sure, and His timing is perfect. At the exact appointed time, Elizabeth conceived John, Zacharias got to tell everyone about the glory and goodness of the Lord, Israel’s promised Messiah came, Simeon witnessed the dedication of Jesus, and Jesus began his public ministry. Not a day too early or too late, but exactly on the day each event was supposed to happen. Psalm 139:16 says “In your book were written ALL the days of my life before one of them came to be.” God is the one in control, and He brings all things to pass in His good timing and perfect plan.

2. Waiting is not painless, but the result makes it worth walking through the dark days. Imagine 400 years of silence from God. Or going through an entire pregnancy and birth with a husband who could not respond to you verbally. Or waiting years upon years for a child until hope seems lost. Or getting older and wondering each day if you would finally see the promised Messiah, wondering if you had properly heard the promise given. Or preparing for a public ministry knowing that it is going to end with your death and resurrection three short years later.

3. Obedience is not contingent upon God’s response. Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Simeon were all described as being faithful to follow God, even when they did not always know if or when an answer would come. Jesus was the only one who knew the end from the beginning. The others chose to trust God and walk in faithfulness each day regardless of what the outcome was. Again, their obedience was not contingent upon God’s response to them, but rather on the knowledge of who He is and their trust that He would fulfill His word (for more, check out Hebrews 10:23 and 2 Tim 2:13).

4. We can trust God with our future in the midst of waiting. Back to Psalm 139:16. He already knows every day of our future. He has gone before us, laying the way and offering to lead us on the path as our Light and Guide. Proverbs 3:5-6 calls us to trust in Him, lean not on our own understanding, and He will direct our paths. Psalm 119 is full of verses where David exalts the Lord as righteous and true, and declares the Word of God as trustworthy and and worth leaning our full weight upon.

What are you waiting for today? A baby, like Elizabeth? A new job? A spouse? Healing from an illness or chronic pain? An apology that never seems to arrive? The redemption of a friend or family member? An answer to a hard question? Direction on where you are supposed to go next? The return of Jesus and the making of all things new?

Whatever you are waiting for, I pray that you will be encouraged by this to continue trusting the Lord and walking faithfully with Him, no matter what may come. As you read the Christmas story, rejoice that the silence was broken, the Savior came, and through Him we have hope and salvation! See it with fresh perspective, and be reminded of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and perfect timing.

Merry Christmas, and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with you as you celebrate His birth.

In This Season

Have you ever desired something so deeply, and then doubted that God desired to answer your prayer?

I grew up with an older brother, and loved every minute of it. Loved being the “baby girl” of the family, loved having a protective brother who was big and strong and incredibly annoying sometimes, one I would boss around as if I were in charge, only to be put firmly in my place with a good noogie or a kidnapped baby doll being held for ransom, followed by a hug and adventure in the backyard. It was the life I was given, and it was the best. Even as a young girl I knew that someday, when I had my own kids, I wanted to have a boy first, a big brother for all of the other siblings who would follow. And so I prayed for that, for years and years and years, always hoping that a boy would come first.

Fast forward to June 24th, 2016, as I am sitting in my bathroom at 3am staring at a surprisingly positive pregnancy test (an unplanned, but very much wanted surprise). As I sat there taking in the full meaning of those two pink lines, my immediate fear was that this baby would be a girl. Not because I have anything against girls (I am one, after all, and quite enjoy it. Girls are amazing.), but because the dream of a boy first was rooted so deeply in my soul and I feared the Lord would choose to teach me contentment and surrender through giving us a daughter first.

Over the next few weeks as I processed my fear and worked through it with the Lord, I realized that at the core my trouble was a disbelief that God wanted to answer my prayer. I had fallen into the lie of thinking that in every situation of my life God wanted me to struggle, to grow me in faith through giving me the exact opposite of what my heart desired, surrendering my own will to His and finding contentment in Him.

The truth is, God does often choose to work in that way, and He has many times in my own life over the past decade or so. There are times and seasons when we grow more fully by learning to trust God’s goodness and character in His “no” responses – surrendering our own heart’s desires to His. The problem lies in beginning to think that is the only way He works, which is what I had begun to do. A father who only says no is not a good father, and neither is one who only says yes.

For all of July, August and September, I consciously worked to give up my desire for a little boy first, convinced that because having a boy first meant so much to me, it would of course be a girl, still doubting the Lord’s desire to answer my prayer. Although I still wanted a boy, I convinced myself it was a girl so I would not be disappointed when the gender was revealed. So, when September 21st came and I laid on the table with the ultrasound wand on my womb, I fully expected and was prepared to hear “It’s a Girl!!”.

I was not in any way expecting to see clearly with my own eyes – no words spoken – that this baby is most definitely a BOY. 100% a boy, not even a question. My immediate response was shock, disbelieving it could be true. I wanted a boy so deeply, how could it not be a girl??

Oh, me of little faith.

Over this past month I have been reminded that God is a Good Father, who desires to give good gifts to His children. Just like with any earthly father, sometimes “good” is in saying no, knowing that it is for the best of the child. Other times, “good” is in a joyful yes, delighting to watch as a heart’s desire is fulfilled.

I am realizing that this season of life for me is one in which the Lord is choosing to grow me through answering many, many prayers with a joyful and resounding YES. I am also realizing that having walked through seasons of experiencing God’s goodness through his “no” answers is making this season richer, more beautiful and special than if I had only experienced his yeses. 

We are not meant to live in a world where we get everything we want. A gentle and loving “no” is a precious gift, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. What a loving and generous God we serve, a good Father and faithful Friend in every season of life. Although Christian and I would have rejoiced and been thankful had our baby been a girl, we rejoice and are thankful and humbled for this boy, our son.