Advent Doors / He came so he could say

“Christmas is getting CLOSER!” my growing boy exclaims excitedly, gesturing his huge tiny hands to display a decreasing measure. We press open another paper door on his numbered nativity picture calendar.

“Baby, do you know what Advent means?”

I know he does not. “I’m not a baby, I’m a big boy,” he sternly reminds me.

“It means something wonderful is coming, Big Boy! Something we watch for and wait for and hope for – Christmas is coming! Do you know why we celebrate Christmas?”

I know he does not.

“It’s when we remember that Jesus came to Earth. Jesus is God! He packed his great big power up tight into a tiny little baby, just like your little baby brother. Can you imagine God like that? Why would he do that?”

His blue eyes glance up at me for the slightest of moments. What can I say to help him understand?

“Listen, Big Darling Boy. God came to live like us so he could say to us:

‘I know what it’s like

To have to share my toys even when they’re my own,

And obey my mother even when she tells me no,

And treat people kindly even when they’re in my way.

I know what it’s like

When my baby brother comes first

And all I want is a sandwich, but I have to be patient

And wait with a good attitude.

I know what it’s like

To lose my shiny penny that I had big plans for

And also my friend when he moved far away.

I know what it’s like

To get the green one instead of the orange and blue,

To feel like it should be my turn now,

To want someone else to do my chores for me

but to do it myself anyway.

I know what it’s like

To get frustrated when others don’t understand what I’m building,

To breathe in and choose peace when they don’t see what they’re doing,

To muster the courage to do what God designed me for,

Even when it’s scary.

I know what it’s like

To be hurting and heal

To feel tired and rest

To repeat the same words over again

And wonder who will ever hear me.

I know what it’s like

To feel the pressure of lack, but find a miracle in spite of it.

To wrestle against worrying that squanders joy, and win.

To ask God with wailing to change his plan,

Even though I know he won’t, and he shouldn’t.

And even though I know what it’s like

To laugh so hard you don’t make a sound,

To squeeze your most precious friend inside your arms,

And to uncover another’s buried treasure,

I came because I want YOU to know what it’s like

To feel the weight of the world lifted off you

The darkness uncovered

Your shame removed

so you can breathe again.

Because I know what that’s like.

It’s Heaven

Come to Earth.’”

“Christmas is getting CLOSER!!!” my son shrieks again, those huge tiny hands held mere inches apart. “Can we open another flap?” he pleas.

“Tomorrow, Big Boy,” I reply, with some peace. I remind my heart as I promise him. “Tomorrow, another door will open.”

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The Life of Jesus Starring Charlie (2015)

Jesus never sinned. Not even as a three year old.

This is difficult for me to imagine.

Have you ever seen a film where a character’s mind and body are being controlled by some other force? A magic spell, a brainwash, an evil robot, a venomous snakebite? They’re wreaking havoc on the city until someone says, “Friend! I know you’re in there! Can you hear me?! Snap out of it! This isn’t you! Come back to me!!!” You see a flash of recognition. Whoever is “in there” starts battling their abducted mind and body to break free and stop the crazy. In most cases, the “evil self” is defeated when someone believes in the hero enough to help them remember who they really are inside.

This is the only way I can make sense of Jesus as a threenager: A war between his fleshly urges and the nature of God within him.

Picture this:

Mary has made her famous Rum Raisin Cake {virgin version}, and has told 3-year-old Jesus, “Don’t touch the last piece here, baby, I’m saving it for Papa Joe.”

Jesus is tempted – he sees the cake. He wants the cake BADLY. He creeps to the counter and presses his squishy little nose up close enough to smell the cake. A bit of drool dribbles out of his open mouth he and gulps hard.

And the Holy Spirit is SHOUTINGSTOP THIS! I know you’re in there, Jesus!!!! Don’t throw it all away now!!! Snap out of it! YOU ARE GOD FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, YOU CAN OBEY YOUR FREAKING MOTHER!!!!

And this child… this singular child in history… takes a step backward… slowly… then another… and finally, exits the kitchen.

MAN! Do you think it was like that??? How else could it have happened? Did he run off to his room to cry over his disappointment? I think that’s possible – emotions can betray you, but they are never sin.

Each year I stop to reflect on the life of Jesus as a child. We have no records of these years, but we know he was human and God together. So I use my kids as a reference – what was Jesus like at their age? (Here are some thoughts from 2014, 2013, and 2012).

This year, my son Charlie was 2 ½ – 3 ½. Here are some things he did – can you imagine Jesus in a similar position at three years old? Reflect on his tender little preschooler heart. Maybe he didn’t do all of these (you know, GOD and all…), but I know he must have done some. What do you think?

This year, Charlie:

Met his baby brother.

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Crashed through a huge snow castle he made with dad to rescue mom from the dragon.

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First dentist appointment.

“Special Breakfast” dates with Mom on her days off.

Loved being read to and hearing the song Aunt Nette sings.

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Picked out bouquets for Mom at the store with Dad.

Played in the pool all summer.

Attended vacation Bible school.

First Schutz Family Reunion and day at the lake.

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Whining. Lots.

Applied rules to his mother that he learned at the babysitter. (No, Mommy does not have to keep her hands to herself).

Made his brother laugh like no one else.

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Was always pulling over his stool to climb up on.

Learned how to “turn on” the charm *like his dad.*

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Made up lots of words and sounds.

First fishing trip.

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Lots of playing pretend.

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Outgrew two sizes of socks and skipped a shoe size.

Helped with house projects and chores.

Called from his bed, “I’m awaaaake. It’s daytiiiime.”

Asked for fireworks all the time.

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Made applesauce with Grampa.

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First trick-or-treat.

Tantrums.

Lots of creating and crafts.

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Developed a love for game of tag.

“Played” with a toad until it… stopped… playing…

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Escaped our view at the grocery store.

Potty trained.

Collected stones so he could kill giants like David.

Loved washing things (aka playing with soap and water).

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Started choosing showers over baths.

Oh, the delay tactics…

Learned a *real* knock knock joke. (Interrupting cow wh-MOOOOOOOO).

Met a new friend at the playground and told her, “God is bigger than giants.”

Swallowed a magnet.

……..

What have your kids done this year? Do you think Jesus did anything like that? I hope you’ll comment and give us all more to know him by.

Love, Carolyn (like singin’ at Christmastime!)

Luke 2:40 “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”

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My Good Fortune / Jase’s birth story

I’m choosing to post Jase’s birth story this week for two reasons:

  • My 9 month old has now lived outside my body roughly as long as he was inside it.
  • And a certain element of his birth could have made me a “1 in 4” had the on-call doctor not responded the way he did.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. One in four American women are affected. ONE IN FOUR. Twenty-five percent. How many women do you know? And how many equally-affected men love them?

Honestly, I didn’t even realize I could have been a 1 in 4. It took the tragedy of someone else to reveal my good fortune. The first memorial piece I ever stamped for Elevate was for a momma following her three miscarriages and her daughter’s stillbirth just a week or two shy of her due date. The umbilical cord was the culprit.

This story made a mess of me. Here I was with my infant son in my arms. The son who came forth when the doctor said, “We need to get that baby out right now.” In the end, he informed me our umbilical cord had been “lightly wrapped” around my baby’s neck.

Lightly wrapped.

I don’t know how light it has to be to avoid the twist of fate, but this grieving mother’s story made it click with me – could I have gone home with empty arms that day?

After 40 weeks and 2 days of nurturing him within me?

After all my slow, painful steps and trying to get just a wink of sleep pillowed up on the couch so many nights?

After attempting over and over to help his big brother catch him moving around inside me?

I don’t know.

But I’m grateful. So grateful. Imagining what could have been rips me to shreds inside, and it didn’t even happen.

If you know someone who has lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth, to disease or an accident, be tender toward them. In fact, carry this sage advice with you always: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 ————–

Now, for me more than you, I need to document the story of Jase’s birth for my own records. It may get graphic. I don’t want any of your “that’s gross” comments! So proceed with caution. Don’t read this unless you’re interested in birth stories or biology or bodily fluids. It’s not my typical “life lessons” writing. It’s not beautifully-emotional like what I wrote after having Charlie. It’s just an honest account of what I remember, because it’s important to me to remember it.

This pregnancy had been perfect until the last month, when I developed some aches and pains that couldn’t be ignored. I wound up sleeping on the couch at an odd angle with all sorts of pillows for a few weeks, praying every night that I wouldn’t wake up needing to use the bathroom because of the pain of getting up and down. A few trips to the chiropractor proved unhelpful, maybe even worsening my pain and disability (and yes, I left crying once or twice). I had trouble moving, period. It was discouraging and I felt pathetic.

My nurse practitioner had been saying for weeks that my cervix was dilated quite a bit – 5 cm, still 5, then “six to seven” –  so we were expecting an early arrival. But the weeks came and went with no contractions, Christmas came and went, my due date of 12/28 came and went, and we were still a family of three.

Merry Christmas 2014! (Whoa, mama!)

Merry Christmas 2014!

My boss was so sure I was going to deliver early that she brought in extra help long before I left, and we sat there together every day, pretending it wasn’t awkward to have two of us there. But, who wants to waste a single hour of maternity leave when they could be with the baby?

On the morning of December 30, I awoke from my sunken couch position feeling rather odd. I struggled to get up, as I had been, and hobbled in the shower to get ready for work. The funny feeling continued, but it wasn’t anything I could put my finger on. I continued to dry my hair and put on makeup. When Lyle woke up, I told him how I felt the best I could. I asked, “Do you think we should call the doctor? Or… should we just go to the hospital and have things checked out?” He was no help. I don’t know how he could be, but I really wished he was! It was a hair earlier than the doctor’s office opened, so I called the “on call” line for my OB’s office and left a message with the answering service. I hate that feeling. Just waiting by the phone… trying to pretend everything is normal. Thankfully, only minutes passed before the phone rang. “You’re already 7 cm dilated? Yes, come now.”

Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed my half-packed bag, finished packing it, and made some calls. First, my parents – could they come take Charlie to the babysitter? Next, my boss – “I’m just going to go get checked out…” In both cases, I didn’t know what to tell them. But it wasn’t long before I was wishing I had said, “I AM IN LABOR!!!!”  It became clear I was having contractions, and I became anxious. I sat in the truck waiting and waiting and waiting for my parents’ arrival. If I had said I’M IN LABOR, would they have come sooner??? It’s hard to keep your cool when you know how far you already are. I texted my friend Abby to pray that we would make it, and she offered to put her two boys in the car at 8 o’clock in the morning and drive 20 minutes to stay with Charlie until my parents came. I will never forget that.

Lyle drove me to the hospital in rush hour traffic that seemed to make way for us. We valeted the car and I waddled to the elevator – 4th Floor Maternity, out of my way, I know where I’m going. Answering the questions for triage and signing papers through contractions, I tried to be perky, but OH my face wavered.

Finally admitted, I put on a gown and laid in the bed. How many attempts did the nurse make at threading the IV? I lost count (and had bruises long after I left the hospital).

They tested me – had my water broken? Nope. Lyle turned on some worship music and read some life giving Scriptures of health and healing. I repeated them loudly, and sang along with the music. A distraction with meaning! I filled in spaces where I didn’t know the words, or where the online music service placed advertisements: “and here we are at the hospital and I’m not thinking about contrAAACTIOOOOONS UHHHH.” That part was a little less meaningful. :)

The doctor I had spoken with on the phone, whom I had never met, examined me.  He said I could have the baby in 10 minutes if I let him break that water, or they could wait while I got an epidural.

Well that was an easy decision. Please can I have that epidural? I knew I wanted one after the relief it gave me as I labored to deliver Charlie.

When the doctor stepped away, my water broke on its own. I FREAKED OUT. Did this mean natural child birth??? Did I miss my chance for the epidural??? The nurse said the anesthetist was on her way. She got me ready and all they were waiting for was for the lab to call back and say whatever they needed to hear.  We waited. We waited more. The lab people called back and were like, “what are you talking about?” I don’t even know what it was, but they got what they wanted, so then I got what I wanted, and it was amazing. I relaxed. I still knew when I was having contractions (which is different than it had been with Charlie), but they weren’t uncomfortable. It was almost like I was sensing them, not feeling them.

The doctor came back. He was concerned by the readings he was getting from the baby’s monitors. Jase’s heart rate was occasionally spiking. He decided that it was best to hurry this along, obtained an oxygen mask for me to give that baby an extra advantage, and resituated some things between my legs – to this day, I have no idea of anything he said after the gasp of the oxygen mask came over my face. I tried my best not to worry. The doctor was confident and had easily gained my trust. So had the Great Physician. But I still had to remind myself these things.

I started pushing.

I guess prior experience doesn’t matter, because (this is so gross and so hilarious at the same time), the doctor shouted at me, “YOU’RE PUSHING WRONG. You have to POOP the baby out!” Oh my word. What? Yep, that’s what he said to me. I guess it worked! And it’s one of my favorite stories to tell people about the birth. What I don’t usually tell them is about the EXPLOSION that gushed out before the baby (no, it wasn’t poop). I didn’t see it, but I heard it and felt it and saw Lyle’s astonished face when it happened. Whatever liquid came out, there was a lot of it. I mean, like floodgates that just exploded. The medical staff said the excessive fluid had probably caused the severe back pain. It took a few more pushes this time than last, but from the time I decided I was actually in labor until the moment Jase was in my arms, only about 3 hours had passed.

The doctor stitched me up and cleaned out the placenta. Usually placenta is “born” after the baby, but mine wanted to stay inside and came out in pieces. It was really weird to have someone digging it all out of me, but I will say, it was nice that when I went home I didn’t have much bleeding to deal with – most of the lochia was removed with the pieces of placenta. (Yes, I know this is gross. I warned you). I do have a picture. I will not share it. (You’re welcome).

What was the heart rate issue? The umbilical cord, which transfers life from mother to child, was ironically wrapped around baby’s neck, threatening it. The doctor tried to soften the situation with the word “lightly.” It was “lightly wrapped.” I’m grateful it was “lightly wrapped,” and I’m grateful my doctor didn’t hesitate.

Our baby boy was perfect. He was wrinkly and pink with deep blue eyes. Just a smidgen bigger than his brother had been.

68 minute old Jase

68 minute old Jase

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25 hours and 32 minute old Jase

A piece of the puzzle that disappointed me was missing Charlie. When Charlie was born, everyone came to the hospital. When Jase was born, my parents were the only visitors we had. Because it was flu season there were restrictions that permitted only the baby’s parents and grandparents to visit. My sister was not invited. Lyle’s family was not yet in town. And Charlie was not allowed. I missed him SO MUCH. And the worst was that I didn’t know this until we checked into the hospital. I told him goodbye for the morning, but not two days’ worth of goodbye!!! So, I spent some time alone with Jase while Lyle went home to be with Charlie. It was quiet and a little lonesome. But when Lyle came back, he brought Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and White Cheddar Cheese-Its. So I guess that helps.

Jase and Gramma

Jase and Gramma

Other things were different than with Charlie, too:

  • Charlie was induced at 41 weeks.  Jase came on his own at 40 weeks and 2 days.
  • Charlie took forever to get me dilated at the hospital. Jase had me dilated weeks ahead.
  • With Charlie, I tried to avoid the epidural. With Jase, I anticipated it.
  • Charlie’s labor took about 8 hours (and so I starved all day), Jase’s 3 (and so I didn’t).
  • My nurses with Charlie were in our room helping us all the time. My nurses with Jase kind of neglected us.
  • My OBGYN of several years delivered Charlie. A God-sent stranger delivered Jase.
  • After Charlie was born, I laughed. After Jase was born, I was peaceful.
  • Charlie struggled to breastfeed from the get-go, but Jase was a natural.
  • A visitor took sweet family photos of Charlie’s first moments. We had to take our own photos with Jase, so there isn’t a photo that captures “that moment” for him. :(
  • I came home from delivering Charlie with hemorrhoids and a tear that pained me for weeks. I came home from delivering Jase and felt great – just a little extra rest and care. This was a welcome change and an answered prayer.

We spent New Year’s Eve at the hospital. I made Lyle take this picture of our first holiday.

Happy New Year!!! Welcome 2015!

Happy New Year!!! Welcome 2015!

We returned home on New Year’s Day, dropped off our things, received Lyle’s dad and grandmother to our home from Ohio, and took everyone over to my parents’ house for dinner.

Here is the magical moment when Charlie and Jase met. He pulled back the cover on the car seat…

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I’m so grateful someone captured this scene. My heart is bursting right now.

And so, we were four.

Finally together :)

Finally together :)

Romans 15:13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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SALTY / The Mothers’ Room, part 2

After posting my article, The Mother’s Room, on postpartum depression last week, a couple of things happened.

ONE. Women reached out to me. They heard me. The related because… well, a lot of people do. In the United States it only takes a year for 600,000 women to show signs of depression after childbirth. And that’s based on percentages of women who even identified the signs. I didn’t until it was over. I was honored that so many women would tell me what they’ve been through and trust me to handle their story with care. I thought I should be stunned by some of their stories because, “Really? YOU? But I was surprisingly unsurprised. Don’t ever be fooled; nobody has it all together.

TWO. It didn’t take long for doubt to creep into my mind. Dang that vulnerability. It always feels risky. My biggest fear was that I left you all hanging. I didn’t give you a solution. I didn’t even give you BIBLE! I just told you my story without any answer how to make the ride stop.

Did I give people permission to wallow?
Did I deprive them of the victory they could have by just saying it’s ok to be depressed?
Did I give the impression that Jesus can’t fix it? (Even though, HELLO, I finished up the article reminding readers that God can hold his own).

Holy fluffernutter sandwiches. I have to stop telling myself this trash.

I got my new “Write the Word” Journal from the Lara Casey Shop. Each page offers a scripture reference for you to write down with your own hands. I love writing things by hand. It sticks with me, you know?

Two days after posting The Mothers’ Room, I was prompted to write Matthew 5:13-16. Allow me to begin, with the Message Paraphrase:

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

Shoot. When I was depressed, did I lose my saltiness? Will I end up in the garbage? DID I JUST TELL PEOPLE TO GO THROW THEMSELVES IN THE DUMPSTER???

I’m so glad I didn’t stop there. Because my questions display a terrible lack of understanding. I’ll continue:

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand – SHINE! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. BY OPENING UP TO OTHERS, YOU’LL PROMPT PEOPLE TO OPEN UP WITH GOD, this generous Father in heaven.”

Sweet Jesus.

Did anyone open up to God because I opened up to them? Maybe I didn’t let them in my house, but I let them in my life.

Do you know what honesty makes you? Do you?

SALTY.

Oh, and PS. Here’s a picture of my new pumping room. It’s not a Mother’s Room (so I’m getting used to sharing!!!), but look what it’s called. SERENITY ROOM. Perfect for a fresh start, don’t you think?

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Please pretty please please please. Keep bringing out the God-flavors of this earth with your honest stories. And tell me all about it, how you’ve opened up to others, how they’ve opened up to God… Because, you know, I want you to. (That’s a good reason, right?)…

I love, love, love you. You are sooooo salty.

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The Mothers’ Room / What you didn’t know about me

I have worked at the same company for 8 years. Shortly after I was hired, our office was completely redesigned and renovated, so in a sense, I have been in this space “since the beginning.”

Tomorrow we are moving to a new building. Cue the music and the montage; normally I’m an oversentimental wreck about “seasons ending.” But for once, I’m actually not.

One year ago, the Nelson Gang moved out of the house we took our firstborn home to.  I remember repeating “don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it” as I packed up the nursery that week. My heart squeezed to see that bright orange room empty because the memories I made there with my baby boy could never be recreated. He would never be that baby again. I relived all of them in that moment as I shut the door.

This move isn’t like that. It’s not that I don’t like the job or care about the people, but they’re all going with me, and we’re going to be doing basically the same thing we have been doing for 8 years. We’re in the same office park, with the same lake and local restaurants. I can actually see the new building from my window at the old building. I’m not emotional at all. In fact, I Just. Wish. It. Were. Over.

Except… there is one thing… the one picture I snapped as we pack up this place…

The Mothers’ Room.

This isn’t about breastfeeding. Really.

However, I have been unbelievably blessed to have had a peaceful, private space and generous quantities of time to sit quietly in that room pumping away as long as I desired. I nursed Charlie until he turned one, and Jase and I are eight months in, so I have spent hundreds of hours in that room and listened to the WHOOSH-up of the breast pump over a thousand times.

And though I will continue this practice after our move like always, I AM leaving something behind. This is Round Two. During Round Two, I am emotionally stable and in good mental health. What I am leaving here in this space, telling myself “don’t think about it, don’t think about it,” is bucket after bucket of Round One Tears.

I told you, this isn’t about breastfeeding. This is about depression.

If you know me at any level, you know I am intentionally optimistic, and I’m pretty darn good at discovering even the most spectacularly-hidden silver lining. I have practiced controlling my attitude and I know what the Bible says about trusting and praying.  I show off my highlight reel online, not to try to look perfect, but to uplift and encourage and for something positive to go back to on hard days.

But during that year after I had Charlie, I was completely faking it. A YEAR, YOU GUYS. I don’t know who could tell and who couldn’t, but I was an utter and total mess.

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(See that woman? Depressed. Can you tell?)

I can put my finger on the time the veil was lifted. It was the week I finished weaning Charlie in July of 2013. Clear as ice, I thought, “Oh my gosh… I’m me again.” My follow-up realization surprised me, “I had postpartum depression???” I woke up from a nightmare I didn’t even know I was having. I had truly believed my world was crashing down, that nothing I could do would fix it, and it might be forever.

I have speculated this condition was caused by the contraceptive I was on, since I changed it when I was done breastfeeding. I originally thought the breastfeeding lifestyle itself was the culprit, but Round Two has produced zero symptoms. I can say that crazy-making-hormones are THE REAL DEAL. It was probably part identity crisis and part failure-guilt, as I wasn’t the stay-at-home-mom I imagined I would be and hadn’t gained the financial success I knew I would have had by then. For sure there was an element of being vastly overwhelmed with learning everything new about babies and all the decisions that seemed ABSOLUTELY LIFE OR DEATH that I had no idea how to make, and once I made them, I second and third and fourth guessed myself.

My poor husband. He got a call one day at work from our child care provider saying she was concerned about me. He met me for lunch and told me in public. If I hadn’t been so busy trying to hide my ugly crying face I might have sucker punched him for telling me in public and causing the ugly crying face.

God bless that poor child care provider. She was just not ready to handle me. We had to go our separate ways and then I was forced to choose a new person who would have sole power over the wellbeing of my son for 50 hours per week WHILE I WAS DEPRESSED. It was agonizing. Ask Lyle. IT WAS SUCH A BIG DEAL.

I was so self-absorbed that I must have missed so many sweet moments. That’s what depression looks like. You can’t get out of your own head and then you hate yourself for being so selfish. You wonder why in the hell you can’t just believe what you’ve always believed about God and his promises.  Maybe you believe it in your head, but you can’t make yourself act like it’s true. Christians aren’t supposed to feel this way – they’re supposed to lean on Jesus. So you hate yourself for that too.

If you are not yourself… tell someone who will listen to you, and try hard to believe me that the nightmare you’re living in may not be the true world. Maybe I should have seen a doctor and taken a pill. I’m not kidding. Looking back, if that would have helped, I would totally do it. Maybe I should have stopped breastfeeding just to see if it made anything better. I definitely should have quit protecting what {I thought} people thought about me. My perspective is so different now than it was in the midst of it. Please talk to a good listener, because I promise you’re not the only one who has ever endured what you’re going through.

And if you’re a Christian worried about your issues marring God’s image, remember this: He pulled through King David’s adultery, Samson’s ego, Moses’ doubt, and Peter’s denial. He is far bigger than our biggest emotions.

Can we give each other grace? We can listen well and intentionally ask… “Tell me what’s going on right now, I would like to hear.” And can we be honest about the dark places?

The Mothers’ Room.

I have a lump in my throat just writing about it. I won’t miss it.

But I am emotional as I leave it behind.

Adieu, Mothers’ Room.

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See my followup thoughts on this post.

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Mom

Written by my sweet husband, Lyle, today…

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Mom

April 20th marked the 8th anniversary of my mother’s passing at the age of 40. Nine days before her 41st birthday and a month before I turned 21. Today would be her birthday again, and she would be 48. Next week she would have celebrated Mothers’ Day as both a mother of one and a grandmother of two wonderful little boys.

It can be easy to look back on all the stupid things we fought over, the arguments that we had, the stances we each took and the decisions we each made that drove us apart. I can also look back on some wonderful memories and things we experienced together that built up the positive image of her I have in my mind. The sacrifices she made to give me the best she could.

But none of that really matters at this point.

What matters is the impact she had while she was here. The attitudes, thought-processes, drive, determination, steadfastness,  that she exemplified that resounds in my memory whenever I think of what I learned from her.

Was she a perfect mom? No. Was she a terrible mom? No. I can easily look back and find moments and situations where she was one or the other at the time. Looking back, I can also recognize that she was doing the best she knew how to do, and that as I went through phases of growing up, I was a different challenge from year to year, month to month, week to week, or even day to day. And she was constantly trying to keep up, all the while maintaining living situation and providing for our little family.

Most of the time, our family was me and her – as far as we were concerned. Because I was an only child, and she wasn’t very good at marriage – 5 tries and nothing stuck beyond the three-year expiration date. We adapted to new homes and new people living in them and new patterns of living relatively frequently as I was growing up. The stabilizing factor in my life was my grandparents and their relationship – but that’s a subject of another story at another time.

Some of the things I think I learned most from my mom that have helped guide the way I think and approach things in my life are:

  1. If you’re serious about accomplishing something, push through until you get it done – even if the process sucks. I can remember her deciding she finally wanted to pull our family out of the financial dumps – and the only way she knew how to do that was to get a nursing degree. I recall her being so nervous for a make-or-break exam that we would have to pull over on the side of the road so that she could throw up. But she got it done – and we were proud, may grandparents and I. And our quality of life did improve.
  2. Family comes first. Personally, I benchmark God above family, but that is the ONLY thing on the list that goes above family. I learned from her that education can happen all around you and will happen for the rest of your life- so don’t be afraid to play hooky with your kid(s) once in a while and just have a day with them doing fun things or going fun places unexpectedly and unplanned. When someone in your family is being accused of something or anything else where there are people poised against them, you ALWAYS stand with family – you can figure out the details later and handle it. But you get their back – whatever that means at the time. I could write whole stories about parent-teacher conferences and administrators and such that learned the hard way that my mom was NOT going to just accept whatever they had to say before hearing my side of the situation (I feel like I should note that I was not a trouble-maker – but sometimes stuff happens).
  3. I learned how NOT to do marriage. Believe it or not, as bad as she was at being married, I learned a lot about what NOT to do – and have applied it (and continue to do so). I learned a lot of what TO DO from my grandparents. It just goes to show that God can work even the most difficult situations and heartbreaking moments out for your benefit if you let Him and don’t just wallow in your circumstances.
  4. Be honest. I learned this one from my mom as well as my grandfather (her dad). He actually had a reputation in our town (as he was the mayor) of being one of the most honest and sincere people you could ever meet. My mom, even when it was hard, was honest with me about what was going on regardless of the situation. Sometimes it might have been more than I could handle, but she knew that I knew something was up and figured it best not to leave me in the dark, wondering. I’m sure there is plenty that I didn’t know or was not aware of, but there was also a lot that I was involved with. After all, it was just me and her.

Reflecting on my mother today, there are a few things I miss – things that were and also things that would have been:

  • I miss her matter-of-fact-ness in discussion, but with a light tone that let you know she cared about the response.
  • I miss that even if she disagreed with what I might have been doing, she always believed in me – and would remind me of that occasionally.
  • I miss the completely unexpected response she would have to situations and discussions. Sometimes my wife and I joke about how my mom would have responded to things.
  • I miss that at one point my wife was my mother’s favorite person, maybe even above me. It would be wonderful to have that relationship still in existence.
  • She got to see me get married, but she didn’t get to see me be a husband for nine years, a father for almost three years, and how wonderful my family is.
  • I miss that she didn’t get to meet her grandchildren – one of them even named after her father. She always joked about not wanting to be a grandmother because that would make her officially “old” and about not liking kids. But I can only imagine the transformation after holding her baby grandsons and looking into their eyes. After all, they look just like me when I was that age.
  • Many more wonderful family memories that will never be. ..

But we make our own memories and we continue on. This is a moment of reflection – but there is a whole life to be lived and kids to be raised and a family to be loved and people to lead and encourage and so many great things out there that she helped prepare me for one way or another. These wings will soar (she would get it).

Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, and Happy Mothers’ Day – Mom.

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Thank God it’s One O’clock

Thank God it’s one o’clock.

Today was supposed to be wonderful. It was supposed to be just like I imagined. It was supposed to be Mommy’s special day with Charlie before my maternity leave ends in a few days. Charlie has still been going to the babysitter during the day as always while I have cared for our newborn (can I still say newborn now that he’s 6 weeks old?), Jase. But today we were the three caballeros.

And thank God it’s one o’clock.

Hubby and I have been working on learning to discipline our Charlie, who is 2 and a half and seems to be the boss around here, unfortunately. I’ve written about it before, and we are still fighting the good fight. Some areas seem to show improvement, and it’s not just Charlie that is learning and adjusting – we parents are really having to change our thought process and habits, too. But lately I have felt like this new pattern is swallowing up another essential area – falling in love.

Have you ever heard that people fall in love because they’re getting continuous “deposits” into their love bank, and they fall out of love when there are “withdrawals”?  I have been neglecting deposits in favor of correction when actually they are both necessary. So last week, Lyle and I took the boys to a special party day at the pool!2dgizbok1tr

20150207_124136 20150207_133133 20150207_143318We had a blast! All of us! And today I wanted to make some deposits too. We started off at Chick-fil-a for breakfast and then spent some time with a group of mommies and kiddos from church, singing and playing and snacking and crafting. You can see I had high hopes when we started our day:

20150213_090544

Oh yeah, I got this. 

No, no I don’t. Trying to leave the restaurant involved chasing.

Trying to leave the play group involved chasing.

Trying to get into our house involved tears.

You want a snack? Cereal? Ok. But I gave you Cheerios. My mistake, thinking that’s cereal.

You want chips? Ok. But I put them in a bowl. My mistake. Why on earth would I do that?

This is not the day I imagined. I don’t feel like I’m making deposits, but he is making withdrawals from my love bank big time. And I’m so glad it’s One O’Clock…

NAPTIME. I don’t even care that he is still calling me from his room 10 minutes later. It’s naptime!

Can anyone relate to this???

Whew. Ok. I needed a break. So I helped myself to the leftover chips and cereal. As I propped my feet up on a chair and opened my Bible app on my phone, I couldn’t help but pout, thinking what a waste of one of my last days with Jase this has been, and that I’m a failure and have made zero deposits.

The verse of the day popped up. It’s Galatians 6:9, that verse that says not to give up.

Is that a message for me? I opened up the whole chapter.

YOU GUYS. LISTEN TO THIS.

(Verse 8 and 9) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. (OMG THAT IS MY SON). But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I can’t believe it. This morning wasn’t a waste after all. I’m doing my job helping him move from decay and death to everlasting life – and all the discipline and love I’m pouring out are worth it, because “just the right time” is coming.

In the meantime, do you think it’s still ok that I’m overjoyed that it’s one o’clock? I could go for some baby cuddle therapy. Ahhh, that’s the stuff…

What harvest are you pressing toward?

Don’t grow weary!

Love, Carolyn

 

 

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