panties.

So there are probably a ton of images that come to mind when you see or hear the word, “panties.” Let’s face it, most women (I would argue all women) have different kinds of undergarments. We have the ones we wear when we’re feeling sexy and beautiful and special. Let’s call those panties. And then, there are the other ones – the ones we call our “underwear.” These are what we tend to wear when we just want to feel comfortable and cozy and practical, and perhaps maybe when we’re feeling a bit bloated.  Yup, there are big decisions to make when considering what kind of undergarment to wear.

Well, this is about my panties…

I love that my daughter wants to be like her Mama. Everyday I catch her doing something that I know she caught from me. Sometimes those things are cute and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes it’s a bit scary to see how much I influence her little eyes and ears. I shall keep some of the scary, non-mentionables for later. Come on over and sit on my deck and I’ll tell you the best stories!

The morning was normal. She was two. I was getting dressed for the day in our bedroom. I walked into my closet for a quick, “What shall I wear today?” moment. It was like five seconds later and I turned around and there she was…my little girl frolicking around in my panty drawer. And on her “boom-boom” (feminine/cute word for “derrière”) were about ten pairs of my panties, each one hiked up to her waist, one over the other. It was like she thought she was on “A Minute to Win It” and the game was to see how many panties she could put on. Oh, my lands! How in the world did she get that many panties around her waist in that amount of time? (Secretly I loved that she raided the panty drawer and not the underwear drawer because that would have been way too boring.)

I laughed out loud. I smiled and then just stood there watching her go about her business.

I wanted to redirect.
I wanted to correct.
I wanted to teach.

Everything inside of me wanted to say something like, “Oh, Sweetie! We don’t get into mommy’s panty drawer. That’s for mommy. Let’s find something else to play with.” You know, kind of in that, “We really shouldn’t do that”/distracting kind of tone. But, for some reason, that’s not what came out (Praise Jesus!). After watching the entertainment for a bit, I miraculously and surprisingly responded with, “Oh, honey! You look way too cute! You like mommy’s pretties?” She looked at me, gave me the biggest smile, and then walked over to the full length mirror to look at herself – to check out her beauty, just like her Mama.

The power of influence. It’s amazing. It can be invigorating and scary, intimidating and heavy. When we’re in a position of power, we must remember the powerless. We can mis-use our power. We can mis-use our influence. Or, we can use our power and influence to bring life, awareness, change, advocacy, voice…to those without.

We can choose to step into it and hold it and share it.

She’s watching me. She’s always watching me. Sometimes I want to tell her to turn away or to cover her ears. I don’t want her to pick up the bad habits and tones and words and behaviors. I want to keep her pure and innocent and even a bit naive. Because I know what happens when the world shows up in ways that are hurtful and scary and unjust and hateful. There are moments during the day that I don’t want an audience. I just want to be human. There’s that secret part of me that doesn’t always feel like being responsible for my actions. I just want to be lazy.

Feels pretty human to say that.

But maybe, that’s the best kind of mommy I can be…human. Wonderfully and uniquely and undeniably human. Because for me, that’s what I want my little girl to know – that it’s OK to be human. It’s OK to make mistakes and mess up and throw tantrums (sometimes) and get mad. I want to give her permission to do that. And then, somehow with the divine help from above, teach her and show her what to do with her humanness. And then, consistently and graciously and lovingly remind her that there’s nothing she could do or say to make me love her less. Nothing.

So, as I teach my little girl about femininity and beauty and how to know if and when to wear panties versus underwear, I hope she grows up believing that no matter what she’s wearing or doing, or where she’s hiding or exploring, or how hard she’s kicking and screaming, that she’s loveable…inside and out.

Because I’m convinced that that’s what my God believes about me.

 

on being a friend…

I remember that day when my phone rang. I was in the midst of cooking and entertaining and busy with children. The voice on the other side…it was sad. My friend’s mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. In that moment, I knew I needed to pause the life that I was standing in and join hers. I listened. She cried. I asked questions. She explained. My heart sunk with hers as the prognosis was undetermined and the treatment seemed so long and hard and painful. It was one of those moments when you just knew there were no perfect words to utter. You just had to be…fully present.

I remember that day when my phone rang. My friend had called to tell me that she was expecting her first baby. She was soaring! Her dreaming and anticipation of how her world would change began. She was on top of the world and wanted to shout from the mountaintops, “I’m going to be a mommy!” I shouted with her and told her how elated I was for her. Her joy was overflowing and I wanted to be a part of her excitement. She needed me to celebrate with her…this baby’s life, her journey, her heart.

Being in a relationship means there are moments when you are able to step into someone else’s experience and moments when you long for someone else to step into yours. We give. We take. We offer. We receive. It’s what comes with being friends.

So, what makes friendships so challenging? Why do they hurt? Why do they end? Why do we find ourselves thinking about our relationships so much?

As I thought about writing this post, I wanted to write from the perspective as if I would be writing to my little girl…about the experiences of both joy and heartache that I’ve learned from my own friendships. I know I can’t rescue her from what is hard and hurtful, but I can model what I’ve learned. I so wish I could protect her from relational pain..but, I can’t. It’s not my job. But I can offer a word of encouragement and truth and hope. So, here are a few things I’ve come to believe about relationships…

Friendships have seasons. Just like the temperature outside changes throughout the year, our friendships evolve and transform. As experiences come and go, the way they change us and the way we respond to them impacts our relationships. Life can be both energizing and draining – on us and on our relationships. Sometimes, the expected events change our relationships (marriage, school, geography, career,  babies, etc.). Sometimes, the unexpected events change our relationships (loss, crisis, illness, etc.). Both change how we interact with people…especially those who are close to us. Change will happen indeed. It’s in those seasons of change that we have the choice to “step towards” or “step away from” the people in our life. The relationship with a particular friend may deepen or diminish or even come to a close, and that’s OK. I hope we can learn what it means to “release” that person or “embrace” that person in new ways, depending on how life reveals itself. And then…have the grace to accept how that friendship changes.

“When people walk away from you, let them go. Your destiny is never tied to anyone who leaves you, and it doesn’t mean they are bad people. It just means that their part in your story is over.”

Fight for what is good. I love the people in my life who understand and believe in fighting for what’s good and true in a relationship. Yet, the motivation to pursue can wane, especially when disappointment surfaces. I hate to say it, but disappointment will happen when two humans are in relationship. There will be moments when one of us feels hurt or offended or upset or “missed.” This is life. It’s in these times of tension that can make us bitter or better. I choose to believe that stepping into the tension and the unknown and the awkwardness can change us…for the better. But, we have to be willing to face our fear and insecurity and trust that who we are is someone that offers strength and empathy and acceptance, and that how the other person responds doesn’t define us. We have to be willing to keep believing in the other person’s goodness…even when we get hurt. We honor ourselves and our friend by being honest about what is hard. It’s then that we have the opportunity to offer are true selves…our BEST selves. Believing that good can come from working through disappointment will allow our relationships to deepen and grow. And the kind of friendships that emerge out of working through conflict will be a gift…to both people.

“Peace…it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

We all long to be needed. I know from experience that it feels good to be needed. Whatever it is that we are good at is what we hope the other person appreciates. This looks different for everyone. Maybe it’s being a mom or a caretaker or your wisdom or your stability or your compassion or your creativity or your fun or your availability or your insight or your ideas or your hope. Whatever it may be, it feels so good to know that the other person needs what you’re good at. But, what happens when that person no longer needs what you have been giving? That doesn’t feel good. All of a sudden you don’t feel wanted. It changes your relationship. Maybe that person found someone else to fill her needs. Maybe that person’s life circumstances changed what they needed. We may try to fix the circumstances or try changing who we are or begin analyzing why or become aggressive or fall passive. None of these responses are helpful and actually become really tiring. We can choose to take it personally and make it about us, or we can be confident of what we have to offer and believe that God will use our gifting in another way. So, as much as it satisfies us to feel needed, what if we focused more on what we gave…expecting nothing in return. We give because the reward is in how the giving changes us.

“First we were loved. Now we love.” (1 John 4:19b)

So, whether you find yourself stepping into someone else’s life or someone else stepping yours, may you know that you have access to the Creator of the universe, equipping and empowering you to know how to respond in your relationships. My hope is that we can allow our hearts to be joined with the people who fill our lives, whether that is a moment of celebration or heartache.

The people around you are a gift. May you receive and celebrate and affirm what they have to offer.

You are a gift to the people around you. May you offer yourself in honest and beautiful ways…expecting nothing in return.

 

wider spaces

Remember that moment…the moment that your heart just knew you were going to spend the rest of your life with that person? The butterflies began fluttering more quickly. Your heart began beating more rhythmically. Your dreaming and fantasies were filled with nothing but bliss and delight. Your future…it was planned. You had found “the one.” Your belief in that person’s goodness was cemented. This was love and nothing was going to move you from this place. Nothing.

Until you got hurt. Until you became disappointed.

Not once, but maybe somewhere around the 100th time.

Your heart, your belief in that goodness…it started to wane. Intention was questioned.

In the really hard moments with your spouse, does your heart ever long for more? More of your spouse…to show up? Do you find yourself wondering if it will ever feel like those first moments again? Isn’t it amazing how the very things that first drew you to your spouse can be the very things that now drive you crazy?

Perhaps the laid back and easy going demeanor is now seen as passivity.

Or, maybe the goal-oriented, task-oriented achiever feels like someone who you can’t be enough for.

Or, perhaps the spontaneous and big ideas person leaves you feeling average and boring.

Maybe it’s finding out that the family system your spouse grew up in had layers deeper than you had anticipated and now your spouse’s values and beliefs about how to live life and do family and what kind of God to believe in keeps one of you content and one of you moving…forward.

Perhaps the tender, sensitive, deep heart now causes everything you do or say to be taken personally and you find yourself being the one who brings pain over and over again.

Perhaps the ability to keep calm and the desire for peace has become a message that feels like you’re not worth a hard conversation.

Or, maybe the ability to create order and structure and boundaries has become an expectation of perfection that you just can’t live up to.

The list could go on and on and on. Something that once was so good has become something so hard.

For many couples, in its time, the very thing that was once a complement has become a burden. We stopped seeing what our spouse has to offer as a gift and we begin trying to change them…to become more like us. But, is that what God intended for this sacred and beautiful union? This mingling of souls? To become more like one another?

Could it be that as we choose to “join” our spouse and step into what comes with “I DO” that God has something transformative for us? That we, somehow, mysteriously could become more like him through this relationship?

When I meet with couples, I ask them to tell their story – the people and events and experiences that have shaped them. Afterward, I ask them to identify what, because of their story, do they specifically have to offer in their relationship; and then, what, because of their story, do they specifically long for in their relationship. It’s amazing to hear how their stories are complements of exactly what the other person longs for…perhaps even what the other person needs more of. As I’ve listened and learned from couples and as I experience my own relationship, I’ve come to believe that what we offer in our marriages are specific ways that we reflect the image of God – it is good and needed. But often, what I find is that when disappointment surfaces – when things don’t go the way we had hoped – we begin going after what we long for and gradually stop offering who we are…God’s image. And that’s when it can get really messy, really hard, really toxic.

Unfortunately, no one gave us a manual on how to respond when our heart begins aching and longing and hurting. So most of the time, we keep clinging to what we want changed and find ourselves and our marriage stuck.

It’s the new year. A time to re-new. It’s that annual moment when almost every human takes time to reflect on “what was” and “what is” and “what could be.” It’s a time to pause and re-center and anticipate and dream. I love the intention behind this. I love what this can become.

In the practice of not giving anyone “3 easy steps” or “10 helpful hints” about marriage, I would rather invite you into a new way of thinking and relating and engaging. What would it look like for you to recognize that perhaps the space you have created for your spouse to step into – towards you – has become really narrow, really small? And then, what would it look like for you to widen that space and accept that person wherever they may step in and not demand or expect them to be someone they aren’t?

And then, have the eyes to see their goodness – the person that you saw when you first became enchanted. It for sure will feel a bit risky because it may be an unknown way of relating. Let that fear take you to new places. Let it change you. Let it remind you of who you are and what you have to offer.

I am hopeful that in offering that wider space, we are choosing to offer grace. We are choosing to believe in our spouse’s goodness and that is love – that’s what we said “I DO” to. And in doing so, we will honor ourselves, honor our spouse, and ultimately, honor God.

So…here’s to the new year and to wider spaces.

 

it’s not fair

The day started so good. We were giggling and playing and listening and making “good choices.” The kind of day every mom loves. The kind of day when you find yourself thinking, “Now this is what I signed up for.”

If I can remember correctly (part of this was a blur), I think we were laying on the couch watching one of her favorite shows. She innocently began bouncing around on the couch. And then, it hit me. Her head. On my nose. OK, let me be more specific…THE BACK OF HER HEAD SLAMMED INTO MY NOSE. I was in total shock and excruciating pain all at once. It was an accident, but in that kind of moment, one does not take the time to rationalize that it was an accident. I began crying immediately. Yes, it hurt that bad! Perhaps one might say, “It hurt like a _____!” (You fill in the word.)

And then I kept crying and crying and crying. The pain of that moment turned into the outpouring of the intense pain I feel at times about this season of life. This season of young children who need you for EVERYTHING – eating, pooping, talking, drinking, dressing. This season of young children where it feels like you have to say “no” to so much – so much that you like and find pleasure in and that’s fun and thrilling and that you get to do when you want to do it and perhaps all the things that you have previously found some identity and affirmation and validation in. This season of young children where you find yourself saying, “Do I have to give up one more thing?” Yes, this season. It feels so unfair.

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on what you chose to relinquish when you became a mom? There are some things all of us would probably agree on…a clean house, a clean toilet, a clean car, money to spend on yourself, your body, taking a shower without anxiety or a timeframe, sitting down to eat, stimulating conversation, memory, sleep. I’m sure this list could be as long as santa’s toy list. And then, for some, the list could go on…being productive at work, figuring out how to be “successful,” knowing that most of the time if you do the “right” thing there’s going to be a good outcome, immediate results, discerning your strengths and gifting and offering it to the world, feeling purposeful and useful and affirmed, being exposed to people and experiences and information that challenge and inspire and grow you, and…perhaps even time with God. For many of us, what we had anticipated and dreamed about being a mom is incredibly different from what really comes with carrying the title, “mommy.”

OK, so I could go on about this season. I think you get the picture. But today, my intent is to share something a friend so graciously and truthfully told me last week. She told me that there’s going to be a day when I finally accept the reality that I’m in. She also had the honesty to say that what I will come to accept, I will also come to understand isn’t fair. But, before I come to the place of acceptance, that I will need to grieve…grieve what has been taken from me, grieve what I’ve chosen to let go of, grieve what has changed. Plainly, I need to grieve before I can accept. I knew she was spot on. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. When we don’t grieve, our pain and disappointment can easily turn into resentment or anger or sarcasm or depression or addiction. Perhaps, this was what my tears were about the other day…my grief – mourning what has changed.

There was something that felt calming in her words. I think in her saying that I knew she really heard what I was disappointed in – not in being a mom, not Skyla or Zane, not even in myself, but what I’ve lost. It took guts to say that to me. No one has said that to me before. A lot of women wouldn’t dare speak that because of what it implies about how they feel. I so respect her honesty and somehow in her honesty I felt hopeful. Hopeful that I can do this. Hopeful that I can do this with grace and humor and love. Hopeful that this season can make me more like Jesus…if I let it. If I let go of it.

So, as I follow a few (or a lot) steps behind some of you, know that us moms need your voice, your honesty, your vulnerability, your truth. Because in your stories we can find ourselves and find what it takes to keep going.

So, here’s to grieving…whether it comes in the quiet and isolating moments at home, or when you’re zooming through the grocery store aisles because one of the kids is going to lose it, or each time you go to check your email, or as you watch your spouse leave for work, or when you find yourself wishing the water would get hot before you have to get out of the shower, or when you see the clock before 7 am, or when you chose to say “no” to that experience you really wish you could have. Let’s give ourselves permission to be sad and disappointed about what we have lost…what has changed.

And then, let’s have the eyes to see the good in this season so we can step into it with honesty and integrity and acceptance. Let’s remind ourselves that this role we said, “yes” to is just as crucial and defining and life-giving and important and spectacular and entertaining as the life we may have led…before kids. Let’s give ourselves permission to accept our reality so we can be fully present in this season and offer acceptance to those in our home.

 

seeing the light

Skyla Age 3

After two years of “trying” and fertility meds and injections and ultrasounds and blood draws and prayer and cautious hope, we saw the + sign on the stick. It was the last day of my job at Mars Hill Bible Church. Perhaps a confirmation from above that my decision to resign was the right one. The celebration and elation and dreaming began. The four months of “all day sickness,” an ulcer that led to Darvocet pills, months of numb taste buds, the gradual weight gain that every woman despises, the restless and ever uncomfortable nights, and the waning energy all ended with a sum of 40 weeks growing the life inside of me. Mysterious, miraculous, unbelievable.

And then we heard, “It’s a girl!” and we named her Skyla Rae. Our hearts were soaring and melting all in the same breath. She was all ours.

The first year…a breeze. Besides the regular adjustment to having a baby in our life, the days and nights were filled with good sleep and eager anticipation of who she would be and what she would become. It still is. We’ve never lost sight of that.

And then…she turned one.

However the DNA gets transferred, whatever personality traits are inherited or learned, Skyla has become one of the most independent, feisty, determined, strong-willed, sassy, energetic, adorable, hilarious, entertaining and loveable little girls…until she doesn’t get her way.

The last two years have brought out the best in me and the worst in me. And she’s only been in the world 41 months.

I talk to other moms. We share stories. Over and over again, it consistently seems like Skyla is different – a bit more complex to parent. But then, out of the blue, I hear a mom or dad who begin describing their child in ways that it’s scary to hear how similar they are to Skyla. The push back, the determination, the energy, the sensitivity, the mood swings, the drama, the “I have to do it my way,” the constant verbal processing, the shockingly brilliant way she can synthesize the information that goes into her brain, the incredible and detailed memory, the flip that can switch “on” and “off” in a heartbeat, the inability to stay in bed, the seemingly high beta waves, the intensity…all the things that make this season feel really hard. All the things that question if you’re a good parent or not. All the things that at the end of the day feel so draining and exhausting and seemingly suck out all the good your body holds. It’s then when you feel like somebody gets you. You feel connected. You feel heard. There’s an empathy and understanding rather than a comparison or memory. Many moms offer their encouragement by saying, “Oh, yeah…I remember those days!” But there’s something different, something unique, something that’s really hard to explain unless you’re in it with this type of child.

And so, at times I find myself and my spirit a bit deflated and really, really, really tired. There are even days that I would tell you that my spirit feels sort of crushed. Sometimes it’s a result of having it be challenged and pushed on all day. Sometimes it’s a result of my own guilt. There are those days that I find I’m losing hope in myself and my ability. That doesn’t feel good. I hate saying that. I remind myself that I’m being consistent and following through and providing structure and nurture and delight, yet I continuously wonder, “What am I missing? What’s the combination that will unlock her little spirit? Why does this feel so hard? Does anyone really care what my day is like? Am I just not cut out for this toddler stage? Will this end or does it just get harder in different ways?”

I’m weary of it feeling so hard.

And so, on the days when my tears leak out and my heart is aching for this season to be over, I try to offer my weakness and feelings of futility up…up to the one who possesses the strength for me to draw on. Some days, I forget to ask. Some days I don’t want to ask. Some days I don’t have the strength to ask. Some days I cuss. Some days I’m just plain mad.

And then there are these moments, like the one we had tonight. The music is playing, the lights are off, the flashlights are on…and she’s dancing. She unabashedly wants us to “see” her and notice her and delight in her. And we do.

It’s one of the moments when you forget a little about how hard almost every minute can seem.

It’s one of those moments when you catch your breath and know that everything’s going to be OK.

It’s one of those moments that you remember who she is…who you are…and that you’re going to get through this.

It’s one of those moments when you see Jesus right in front of you.

I don’t want to miss those moments.

The song we had playing tonight was This Little Light of Mine by Addison Road. It touched the little girl in me. It touched the places of my soul that believes in fighting for what’s good and true in my little girl, Skyla…and in me. Sometimes I have to open my eyes to see the light. And when I do, I remember…who I am and who she is.

So, parents…

I share your joy…the way your hearts soar at the sights and sounds and movements of your children.

I share your heartache…the way your hearts perhaps feel a bit crushed and deflated and weary.

May we see the light within us to keep going and going and going.

May we see the light in our children so we never forget whose child they are.

May we keep believing that what feels so hard right now will someday be an asset. Someday.

I invite you to listen…This Little Light of Mine