When Babies Become Women

Melissa Kruger wrote a beautiful piece about the gratitude and grief that she has experienced watching her daughter grow up (she recently graduated high school). In this piece she wondered at how quickly the years flew by and if young moms, like myself, understand how special the seemingly mundane moments are with our little ones.

I do. At least sometimes I do. I know there is magic and wonder like I will never experience again when I lock eyes with Annabelle as we spin around the living room together while listening to our new favorite Taylor Swift song. I know it when she wakes up crying from a bad dream and as I rock her she looks up at me, ever so briefly, and kisses me on my lips—the best thank you I could ever receive. I know it when I listen to her belly laugh while I tickle her tummy. I know it when I squat on the ground with my arms wide open and Annabelle knows exactly what to do: run with abandon to her momma. I know it when I see her walk into a room like she owns the place and I pray silently that she never loses that confidence. I know it when she greets every stranger in Target with a happy “Hi!” and persists until each one acknowledges her greeting. I know it when I watch excitement move through her entire tiny body, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes until she shuffles her feet in anticipation. I know it with each new word that she learns as I listen with wonder to this little person with the sweetest voice in the entire world. I know it when I hold her on my hip and without fail she places one arm around my shoulder. I know it when I’m pushing my cart around the grocery store and all she wants to do is snuggle into me while saying “momma” over and over again.

And when Annabelle is having a bad day and completely melting down in the middle of a checkout line or when she wants to be held and me holding her is the least convenient thing for me to do as I’m trying to get supper on the table, I’ll try to remember that one day I won’t get to hold her anymore. When she is chattering away and I just need to focus on the task at hand I will try to remember that a day is coming when her little voice won’t fill our home anymore. By God’s grace I will show her more grace. I’ll walk a little slower, smell more flowers, stare in awe of every strange looking rock, use extra glitter, and blow bubbles until the sun goes down.

I’ll hold her a little longer. I’ll lover her through the meltdowns. I’ll relish every kiss. Every snuggle. Every laugh. Every eye locking moment. I’ll drink those moments in slow and deep. Because all too soon we won’t be waking up at the crack of dawn with our sweet girl anymore. One day she won’t be my constant companion.

As sad as that reality it is, it is how it is meant to be. And one day I hope we will meet Annabelle and her own little family for dinner in the city on a perfect summer’s eve. One day I hope she gets to look on as I play with her child and wonder at the graciousness of the Lord for giving her a child and a mother that is now a grandmother. I hope she gets to experience an evening like this. Many evenings. Just like this…

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Even if Your Voice Shakes

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(Photo Credit: Free People via Pinterest)

I know that it seems easy to sit behind a computer screen and share your heart or your opinion. To a degree it absolutely is easy–sometimes too easy. To another degree it isn’t easy at all. It isn’t easy to share your heart when you are unsure what people will do with it. It isn’t easy when there are people that I love and care about who disagree with me to such an extent that telling the truth may very well affect our relationship and will almost certainly affect how they view me.

So why write at all? Because I have benefited from others who write and because a handful of people who I very much respect have encouraged me to continue writing.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about politics for the first time in 5+ years. I’ve avoided writing about anything political out of fear of harming personal relationships, however, if sharing my political beliefs is enough for someone to treat or think of me as less than then I need to reevaluate that relationship and the place it holds in my life. I also need to evaluate how much I care about what others think of me (this is a constant struggle).

“Speaking the truth in love” is a phrase that’s used liberally in the Christian community, even though many of us fail to do this. I know that I will fail and have failed from time to time. I will make mistakes along the way, however, my aim is always to communicate in a way that brings glory to my Father in Heaven. The truth is going to offend, so I need not try and be offensive in the way that I deliver it.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the way pro-life people were being portrayed by pro-choice people on social media because I thought and still think that pro-lifers were being portrayed in an unfair way. It’s one thing to have deeply held beliefs that oppose another’s. It’s a whole different ball game when we rip the opposition to shreds and throw out unfounded accusations in a fury of anger on social media. I am that hateful, patriarchal preserving, woman hating person that you you’re rage tweeting about (although, I’m actually none of those things). So, please, express you’re opinions, but just try and remember that the opposing side is not full of monsters, but actual people. People like me. People like you.

So, I’ll continue to write and hopefully with more consistency, grace, and love. Even if my voice (or hands) shakes. Because so often that’s when speaking the truth is needed the most.

 

Pro-Life Thoughts

I’ve struggled to read through some of my liberal friends social media posts regarding the recent pro-life bills that have been passed. They are angry, hurt, and afraid. I want to be respectful of their feelings. At the same time they are being unfair in how they characterize those on the other side of the issue. I certainly am aware that there are people within the pro-life movement who are callous and over-simplify the issue. However, speaking as someone who has had varied levels of involvement within pro-life organizations, by and large people within the movement are compassionate and endeavor to show the love of Christ to women (and their families and partners) who find themselves in the very difficult position of considering whether or not to have an abortion.

Without a doubt there are important questions that people within the pro-life movement (and anyone who claims to be pro-life) need to openly and honestly work through. How many people are actually ready and willing to adopt a child in need? What about the cost of adoption versus the cost of abortion? How do we currently support vulnerable families, specifically single moms? How can we better support them? How do we go about addressing the maternal mortality rate? These aren’t questions we should simply shrug off.

However, I am certain that there is no easy answer and that many of the answers to the questions will be found in the context of relationships, not within a broken government.

I recently spoke with the director of the Coalition for Life in St. Louis—He and everyone else at that organization are working tirelessly to love vulnerable women and children, they are working with women one on one to help them choose life and break the cycle of poverty that their families have been trapped in for generations. They have a program called Women’s Care Connect, their mission is to “support and empower women to be able to successfully parent their children despite situational obstacles”. Because the real answers to these questions aren’t increasing government programs or raising the minimum wage to $15 or throwing more money at an already broken system, the real answer is entering into relationships for the long haul. It’s supporting organizations like the Coalition for Life who are offering a holistic approach in how they care for women and children. We have to care for the whole person—that’s not the government’s job, it’s the church’s. We should consider how we can participate in the ministries of such organizations whether that be praying for them and the women and children they serve, financially supporting them, volunteering for them, or all the above. So many of us could and should be doing more. But so many are already doing so much. The real answer is to acknowledge that the real problem is the breakdown of the family. The real answer is addressing the real issue rather than the symptoms.

In regards to adoption, I think it’s important to note that in my talking to various pro-life groups and my experience working at an adoption agency, the vast majority of women considering abortion find adoption to be the absolute least desirable choice in considering life for their child. Also, the number of couples hoping to adopt an infant far outweighs the number of infants being placed for adoption. People are more than ready and willing to adopt an infant. I think the worthwhile questions are: How do we make adoption more affordable and how do we better participate in and support foster care and the adoption of older children (Answer: not by making it next to impossible for Christians to participate in)?

I have found it unfair that my pro-choice friends are operating under the assumption that the vast majority of us are doing nothing to support vulnerable women and children. I’ve found it unreasonable and just plain wrong to insist that innocent blood continue to be shed until all of the aforementioned (and more) questions are answered. I have found it unfair to assume that men are the villains in this story. I’ve found it insulting and unfair that many assume our motives are driven by the preservation of a broken government rather than the enduring and unshakeable truth of God’s word which tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator God and that and that alone makes each and every one of us worthy of life. It is the love of Christ that compels so many of us.

To my fellow Christians: We don’t have to capitulate in order to be compassionate. We don’t have to waiver in our beliefs and the facts that we know to be true to be loving. We can speak confidently and lovingly because of who Christ is and what His word says. We can defend life and love women and children the way God has called us to.

And to my liberal friends: I love you. Our miles apart views on this incredibly important issue does not change that.

All Things

I was not myself. My mind was. not. right. I was a shell of a person who was doing an ok job at pretending that everything was normal. Everything was ok. It was just a mild case of the baby blues.

But it wasn’t. Because I had begun to question everything about myself. I was heartbroken that the one thing I was supposed be good at (motherhood) I was failing miserably at. I was terrified all the time. I was experiencing panic attacks. The thought of being left alone, especially at night, was nerve wracking. I did just enough around the house to keep up appearances. I kept the television on all the time—silence was deafening and caused me to get panicky. Everything was not ok.

I laughed at all the jokes, smiled when I was supposed to, and engaged in conversation all the while thinking thoughts that terrified me.

Anxiety and depression run in my family. My mother suffered with clinical depression for years. I don’t know how she did it. She suffered for years before finding a glimmer of hope for treatment (to put that in perspective, I felt like I was hanging on by a thread after 8 weeks). She heard an ad on the radio for a clinical trial on clinical desperation, she picked up the phone and asked to be a part of it. That was the beginning of treatment for her. I thank God for that ad on the radio. I thank God that he caused my mom to have the courage to pick up the phone and make that call.

Back then (in the early 90s) depression had a much bigger and much more negative stigma hanging around its neck. For years my mother was afraid to tell anyone what she was thinking and feeling for fear that they would institutionalize her. Once she sought treatment she was still hounded by those well meaning (albeit ignorant) folks who told her she could pray through it or be healed from it without the help of western medicine. Over the years my mom has shown great courage and vulnerability in speaking so openly and honestly about her struggle with depression and how she sought treatment.

As I have struggled through depression since having my daughter I have become more and more convinced that those who struggle with various mental health issues should not and cannot do so in silence. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying you should write about it on the internet)

I remember sitting in bed while nursing my baby girl and thinking, “I guess this is what life is now. I don’t know how I’m going to continue living this way, but I guess this is what life is after having a baby.”. I thought about death CONSTANTLY. I thought about all the bad things that could happen to my sweet baby girl. I thought about losing everyone close to me. I thought about eternity and was absolutely crippled with fear. All. of. the. time. I thought about heaven and how my husband wouldn’t be my husband there. And I wept. For weeks I wept. My mind was a hamster wheel of nightmarish thoughts and my heart was a hurricane of emotions. I was afraid to share what was going on in my mind because I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s life if they were living in blissful ignorance.

I didn’t know how someone like me, who claimed to be a Christian, could be so afraid. I was becoming more and more convinced that I’d tricked myself into believing that I was a Christian. I’d convinced myself that my whole life I’d been living a lie. I begged and begged God for forgiveness and I begged and begged Him to save me, yet I still had no assurance of my salvation. I would call my husband while he was at work and sob—hoping he could share some magical thoughts that would comfort me, if only for a moment.

I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I read God’s word. I listened to sermons. I couldn’t find a way out of the fog.

It took awhile for my husband to realize that I wasn’t ok, that this wasn’t just the baby blues. That this wasn’t something we could pray our way through. We sat at the dinner table one evening as I tried to explain to him what had been happening in my head and heart. He encouraged me to call my mom, I told him maybe.

Later that evening, through tears and out of sheer desperation, I shared just a snippet of what I had been experiencing with my mom—she immediately said it sounded incredibly similar to her depression and that I should call my doctor.

And so it began. Treatment. Hope. Beginning to feel like myself again.

Now I’m loving being a mom to the most precious, most joyful, on the move, and sweet baby girl. I can engage in conversation and be fully present. I can be at home by myself without leaving the tv on. I can laugh sincerely. I can claim Christ’s promises to His people as my own with confidence.

I’m still on my medication. I still meet regularly with my doctor. We’re still waiting to find out if my depression is defined as postpartum depression or if it extends beyond postpartum. 

Now, you may be wondering why I would share some of the nitty gritty details of my experience online?

Because there was a moment. A moment when I was standing at my kitchen sink washing the dishes when I understood. I understood how people could reach the point of ending their own lives. I understood how people could think that what they were doing was not selfish, but a service. I felt like I’d become a life suck to those I love and care about the most. I felt like I was a second rate mother to my daughter. I felt like I was dragging my husband down with me.

Because the suicide rate is rising at a startling and heartbreaking pace.

Because Satan attacks us when we are most vulnerable.

Because my mom shared her experience with me and that made all the difference in my story. 

Because God condescends to use people like me. People who are broken. People who are scared. People who are clinically depressed. People who struggle with anxiety. Far from perfect people who are riddled with the effects of the fall.

Because I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet in search of someone that could tell me I wasn’t a lost cause. I wasn’t without hope. I wasn’t wrong. I was just sick. And there was help to be had.

Because through it all I saw God’s faithfulness to me. I saw it through my husband who spoke truth to me when I could not speak it to myself and showed me tenderness, love, patience, and support. I saw it in my mom who knows the struggle all too well and who I didn’t have to explain anything to—she was my “me too” and “it will get better”. I saw it in my doctor who was proactive in his treatment of me and tender in his interactions with me. I saw it in God’s drawing me closer to Himself.

Depression feels like a curse—at the very least it is part of the curse. But God uses ALL THINGS for the good of His children and for His glory.

Romans 8:18-30
“18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

I read the above passage with a fresh understanding of what it is to join with all of creation in groaning as we await being set free from the bondages of sin, death, and yes, depression. I read it with a renewed thankfulness, a renewed hope, and a renewed zeal to share what our great God has done in my life. Even and especially through the pain of depression.

Dear Annabelle

My Dearest Annabelle,

I’m sitting here in the family room of our home watching you play with one of your favorite toys—a stuffed elephant that sings and flaps its ears when you press its foot. You are 6 months and 1 week old. Your daddy and I are kind of obsessed with you. We love watching you grow and learn and look at the world with fresh eyes. Everyone keeps telling us to take it all in and enjoy these fleeting days while we can. These days when we can still hold you and snuggle you at will. These days when you hyperventilate with joy when we walk into a room and giggle when we sing to you or toss you in the air. We are already feeling how fleeting these days truly are—in the midst of middle of the night feedings and middle of the day teething madness we feel tinges of sadness because we know. We know that before we know it we’ll be dropping you off for your first day of kindergarten and then high school and then college and then planning your wedding. I don’t know how parents do it, I don’t know how they let go of these tiny people that so encapsulate our hearts.

You were born in the wee hours of the morning on February 22. I will never forget the moment that I first laid eyes on you, the doctor held you up for me to see and in the midst of my awe and wonder the first words out of my mouth were, “Is she going to pink up?”. The doctor assured me that you would, in fact, pink up (and you did, in no time). I then looked at your daddy and then at your Umi and I felt the weight of it all and began to sob—you, my dear child, are my dream come true.

For years I prayed that God would give me the opportunity to be a wife and mother and here you were. You and your dad. Everything I ever wanted in this life and God gave you both to me. Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I pray that you get to experience the joys and struggles of being a wife and a mother, if those things are the desires of your heart. They are good, God given desires. But, I also pray that you learn what it took me 30 years to learn—that these earthly blessings, these unbelievable gifts are but shadows of what’s to come. They are reflections of our heavenly Father’s love for us—His unfathomable, unshakable, all consuming love for His children.

Too often I forget that. Too often I get scared of losing these beautiful gifts. Too often I fool myself into believing that this life is about me and my present happiness.

My dear, sweet, joyful Annabelle, my constant prayer for you is to know the deep love of Jesus. Every night when daddy and I put you to bed we pray that you already know the presence of the Holy Spirit. We pray that you would always know that we love you more than words can say, but that Jesus loves you best.

Sometimes I get scared because life is hard and it hurts me to think about you hurting. The thing is, you ARE going to get hurt. You ARE going to make mistakes. As much as I wish I could keep you from heartaches and mistakes, I know that so often those are the things that God uses to draw us closer to Himself. There is nothing more I want for you than for you to know Jesus and that knowing Him would shape how you live, how you love, and how you view this broken world and the life to come.

God has used you, my precious baby girl, to teach me more about His love, more about the life to come, more about looking forward to that life instead of worrying about everything that could go wrong in this one. It’s been painful to learn these things. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and dying is wrought with pain and suffering.

I pray that you have a beautiful life that is shaped by Jesus and His unfailing love, grace, and mercy to you. Cling to Jesus, baby girl, even now, cling to Jesus.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”

Love,
Momma

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us.” –Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

I’ve wanted to be a wife and a mom since before I can remember. I was (and often still am) your typical girly girl. My childhood was marked by babie dolls, barbies, play kitchens, and in general a nonstop daydreaming about my fictitious husband and kids. When a husband didn’t show up when I thought he should I became distraught. When I found myself in my mid to late twenties as the only single one among my female friends I reached the depths of despair (at least that’s what it felt like). I thought that investing my time and efforts into a career would help (it didn’t) and found myself working at an adoption agency where I was the only single woman. I believed with every fiber of my being that becoming a wife and mom was what God had for me and I could not, for the life of me, understand why He wouldn’t just give it to me. It was a hard season, one in which I felt as though I was repeatedly being shattered and then pieced back together.

Obviously, my life has been a charmed one since my hardest struggle in life up until this point has been grappling with my singleness. But, guys, laying down your dreams, releasing that white knuckled grip you have on your deepest desires, whatever they may be, is (to put it mildly) really hard and painful. Every step of the way I saw His faithfulness. Through every tear that fell, every loved one that spoke truth, every mountaintop and every valley–God was causing me to look to Him, the author and perfecter of my faith. Through that season I learned of the depth of joy that can be experienced when you’re in the midst of the depths of despair. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, I learned to kiss the waves that slammed me into the Rock of ages. He is good. Abundantly good. Even and especially when we can’t see or understand what He is doing.

And then I met James. Truth be told, we’ve had our share of bumps in the road. I can, in all sincerity, say that those bumps have only made us more thankful for each other and for God’s sovereign hand in our lives. Ours is truly a story marked by restoration and forgiveness.

So, now my dream is coming true. In three months, God willing, I’ll be marrying the man who has become my best friend and the love of my life. I can tell you that, while we’re not yet married, I’ve already tasted of the painful yet wonderful reflection of the gospel that marriage is supposed to be. James loves me the way God calls him to and when someone loves you in such a way it places a magnifying glass on your sinfulness. James accepts me, forgives me, and continuously points me towards our Savior. There are moments when I sincerely do not understand why James loves me because, to be totally honest, I can be the worst. And yet, Jesus loves me more. James’ love for me is a mere reflection of our Savior’s and I pray that as James continues, by God’s grace, to love and pursue me in all of my messiness that I will only see more clearly the awesomeness of Christ’s love as He pursues His church in all of our sinfulness and messiness.

When I was single God showed His love and faithfulness to me through my loneliness and unfulfilled desire. Now that I’m about to enter into marriage with James, God continues to show His love and faithfulness to me through being in relationship with James.

I didn’t understand how beautiful and hard and messy and joy-filled being in relationship could be until God brought me James–and  we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. I pray that we have many years together to grow together in Him, to be a picture of the gospel through His grace and strength.

 

 

Wonder

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” –Micah 5:2

The above was the verse for my Advent devotional this morning. As the author of my devotional and the prophet Micah pointed out, before Jesus’ birth Bethlehem was insignificant and small. As I reflected on the verse I began to think about all the ways that God, throughout my life and throughout history, has chosen what is small and insignificant to manifest his power and glory. Why on earth would He choose a terminal screw up, like myself, to be a part of His grand design?

It honestly started to seem too good to be true for a few moments. This can’t be real. What if none of this is real?

I get so comfortable in my faith, so sinfully bored in the knowledge of my salvation, and I start to lose the wonder and grandeur of what God has done and continues to do through normal people going through their seemingly average and insignificant lives. So, I’m thankful that Micah reminds us that God does big things in and through little and insignificant places and that He acts in the hearts of ordinary and sinful people.

I’m glad I questioned, if only for a few moments, the realness of God’s greatness–the wonder of it all.

The creator of the universe, the Savior of the World, the King of kings and Lord of lords chose me to be a part of His family.  He washed me clean through His shed blood. He gave me His righteousness when I had none. He did this knowing that I would fail Him over and over and over again. He did this knowing that I would need an unlimited supply of His grace and mercy. His love is the big, unfailing, everlasting, unchanging, unlosable kind of love.

So, this Christmas season I’ll fight (through His grace and strength) to reclaim the joy and wonder that is so easily lost in the mundane, day to day struggle of life. I’ll pray with the psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12) And I’ll give thanks for the God-man born in a dirty stable in a small town; the One born to be slaughtered for you and for me and I’ll wonder.