Thursday, July 28, 2016

When I Look Back, I Feel...

Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me.

I read these blog posts of parents of kids who hit preschool age and find their independence and they have these moments of wistfulness remembering sweet baby sweat smells and how small their babies were and how fast that time seemed to have gone by. Oh those wonderful days of nursing and snuggling and knowing that you were your baby's whole world, and now they're growing and when oh when did that happen... and I feel...


I remember my first year as a parent. I was depressed and didn't know it for 10 months. I was constantly worried about my son's size and not knowing what to do about that croupy cough he got at 9 months old. I overstressed about what food I fed my son and why wasn't I keeping the house clean and how do I get the social contact I just lost by coming home to look at a baby. A baby who, while incredibly cute and snuggly, doesn't speak English and communicates by blinking and pointing. A baby who wouldn't sleep unless I sang him "Boston", "Piano Man" and "Knee Deep" on rotation (no other songs worked... seriously).

All I wanted was to make it to toddlerhood. I even told God I was OK with only having one baby. One was enough.

Then... just as toddlerhood started to come into focus and I thought relief might be on the way... I got pregnant again.

Almost 2 years and 1 week old
My daughter was born a month before my son turned 2. She came into the world screaming, she made sure her presence was known. She had to sleep strapped into a baby seat for the first six months of her life so that she would actually sleep instead of gagging on reflux... which of course made me not sleep because I knew babies "aren't supposed" to sleep in anything other than on their backs flat in a sleep sack or swaddle. My son, my husband, and then my new baby all got colds. During the 2nd month of my daughter's life, we housed 2 teenagers and totalled a car. I got an 8-week ear infection. The last thing my new baby wanted to do during any of this time was snuggle or slow down - she wanted to move, so by the time I could come up to breathe I was contending with a 4-month-old who wanted to do nothing more than crawl. By the time she was 6-months, I was trying to make sure I didn't trip over a baby who would surprise me crawling underfoot while I was cooking dinner. She was climbing and giving me heart attacks at 8-months, and was using short sentences by a year.

If my daughter was ever one of these sweet babies you read about in blogs and books... she hid it well.

As my children hit their various milestones and as I look through old pictures and think back on the tiny people they were, I don't get wistful. I don't become bittersweet at how fast the last 4.25 years have gone by or regret not stopping and playing more cars or reading more stories instead of washing dishes. I would be lying if I said I wished I built more blanket forts or rocked my babies just a little bit longer or that I cherished that last nursing session with both of my kids. I longed for the days when an outing to a park or a museum didn't require a stroller and working around nap schedules or making sure I could breastfeed someone comfortably.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, there were several times that we thought we were going to lose her. I had a hematoma, I had cervical bleeding, I slid down the stairs on my behind leading me to modified bed rest for 2 weeks (which is exactly what the stay-at-home mom of a toddler wants to be doing). During one particular moment of panic, I remember looking at my husband and saying "I know I keep panicking and crying, but I just can't get rid of the feeling that we're not going to be able to keep her."
2.5 years and 8 months old

Sometime during the 6th month of my daughter's life as she crawled around my kitchen on her belly... it hit me - I'm not going to be able to keep my kids. God has given them to me for but a short period of their lives... then I need to let them go. Part of parenting, I've realized through prayer and consideration, is doing that slowly and starting at a young age. So when, at 8 months, my daughter decided to start climbing up the stairs - I didn't stop her. I let her go. When my son decided on a walk at 3 years old he didn't want to hold my hand and instead wanted to run up ahead and pick up sticks and pretend to be a pirate - I didn't stop him. I let him go. I let them run and do things for themselves while keeping a safe distance, watching and making sure they are safe.

God has gifted us with free will... He does the same for us. We run free while He keeps us at a far enough length to allow us independence, but is there for us when we fall. He suggests boundaries, He lets us grow, He lets us make mistakes and feel hurts so that we grow.

They are not mine to keep. They are growing. They want to do for themselves. They are their own people - they've shown me that since the day that they were born. And since that day I have prayed - "God, let me take these personalities that You have gifted them with and use me and use their Daddy to grow them into whatever person You want and have designed them to be. Let us be Your hands and feet in their lives and help them to discover Your plan for them."

And so as they grow and they discover themselves and they do for themselves and they reach out to help each other and others and figure out how to navigate the world... not once have I felt wistful at what has been. I felt a brief guilt over needing a c-section with my son and I felt a brief guilt over not being able to have one-on-one time with my daughter in her early days... but those feelings of guilt have passed and have been replaced with one overwhelming emotion.


My kids are only 4 and 2 and they are far from perfect. They are human, and they are kids. They don't always listen, they act out, they are fresh, they don't always eat the dinner I put in front of them.

But my daughter at only 2 years old asks to help wipe down tables and asks how she can help you and my son since he was only 1.5 years old will be the first one at your side if you are sad or upset (even if the reason is that you're another kid in trouble and in time-out, he's concerned). I marvel at the hearts that they are growing to love others, I am amazed at the love they have for each other and the bond they are growing together. I beam with pride when they insist on doing something themselves and then perfect it.

My kids at 4 and 2 dress themselves, put on their own shoes (usually on the right feet), and generally obey safety rules. Strollers are no longer a requirement for most outings (we will be renting one at Disney primarily for storage and napping) and sometimes they can even help carry things.

3.5 and 1.5 years old

I was looking through old pictures last night, organizing on our server the hundreds of pictures we've taken over their daily lives. I came across a video of my daughter at about 14 months, toddling around the driveway while her brother looked on, digging away in the garden. "Evie," I heard my husband's voice say, "don't climb up the stairs." The video moved away from the moving toddler as he redirected her several times before she finally just gave up and walked away, but not before casting a defiant look that said "Fine... but those stairs are mine later."

This is when I had the thought... is there something wrong with me? Am I broken because I am not feeling any of the wistful feelings or bittersweet thoughts that I read about in blogs? Why don't I feel any of those "Wow... time sure does fly..." feelings that I keep hearing about?

Instead I felt wonder, amazement, and pride at how much my daughter has grown in the last year. My heart grew three sizes as I watched my son's face in the video and thought about how much he loves his little sister and watches out for her.

Last night as I sat and mulled over these things I realized... there isn't anything wrong with me.

Every child is different. Every parent is different. Every person is different. 

Maybe I am too close to the baby stage to "miss" it and in several years I'll see this differently. Maybe I won't. Somehow, I just don't know that I'm wired to look back and long for the days of babyhood. I'm incredibly excited to see my kids grow into their own people and see what God has designed them to be. When I see old pictures and videos, I am amazed at how far they've come and find it hard to believe they were ever so little... because now, they're just NOT.

And that's OK.

It's OK that I don't long for (or don't think I'll long for) those days of babyhood and it's OK that you do. It's OK that I am not that worried about holding on a little longer and it's OK that you are. It's OK that I want to make sure the dishes get done and it's OK that you're leaving them there.

It's OK.

This morning my 4-year-old son threw on some slip-on shoes and walked out to the end of the driveway to pick-up the newspaper, a job that he asked if he could do. No, Mom, don't come with me - I can do it myself.

If they paid children to say those words - "I can do it myself" - few would pay for college.

I watched from a safe distance as he went to the end of the driveway (they threw the paper about 5 feet in from the "end"), turned around, and came back.

My heart swelled with pride as I watched my little boy's face reflect a confidence boost because I trusted him and gave him room to do something himself.

I'll keep on praying that they will open their heart to God's plan for their lives. I'll continue to keep my distance away and my arms outstretched. I'll continue to watch in wonder as they grow and become their own person. I'll wait for them to need me and I'll try to be patient as they pull back and come back in their own times.

And I won't wonder if there's something wrong with me anymore.

I'm doing OK.

And so are you.

4 years and 2 years (and a couple of months) old

Friday, July 1, 2016

Book Review: "Unashamed" by Heather Davis Nelson

Have you ever felt shame?

Do you know the difference between "shame" and "guilt"?

Is shame holding you back from finding happiness in your life, confidence in who you are, and the freedom to take risks and enjoy moments that happen daily? 

If you answered "Yes", "No", and "Yes" to these questions, then the book Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson may be one that you should consider getting your hands on. Taking a Christ-centered approach to battling the shame we all feel, Nelson draws from her own personal experience and time as a counselor to present to her readers a new perspective on the various types of shame we all carry. It is a book that could be a useful tool in today's society; we are constantly being criticized by others on social media, in grocery stores, at local pools and beaches - anywhere we can think of - on any number of topics from our body appearance to our parenting skills to how we should manage our marriage.

Shame is real, y'all.

Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I decided to hand-pick chapters that best fit the types of shame that I tend to struggle with. A big one for me right now is body shame - a shame that is largely self-imposed. After deciding to make healthier diet and exercise choices prior to having kids, I had lost 80 pounds and was feeling the best physically I had ever felt in my life. Then I had 2 kids and had a net gain back of about 40-45 pounds of weight and felt physically exhausted. I didn't bother dieting because I was breastfeeding... and then when I stopped I noticed my clothes didn't fit as well as they had when I was.

Then I stood on the scale. And I became disgusted, appalled - ashamed of myself.

How could I have made such poor choices - probable overeating, definitive lack of exercise - and let myself slide backward and lose what I had worked so hard to achieve?

How many of you out there reading this right now have felt something similar?

I love Nelson's working definition of shame that she reminds you of throughout the book: "It's the feeling of 'not good enough' according to our own standard or our perception of someone else's standard for us. It's what keeps us from being honest about our struggles, sins, and less-than-perfect moments. Fear of shame drives us to perfectionism in all areas of our lives, so that there would be no imperfection for others to notice and judge." What a powerful definition to remind us that shame is largely self-imposed, that it is something that we can choose to release and let go of and allow ourselves to grow.

I cannot tell you how unsexy, how unattractive I have felt and wondered what my husband must think of me. My husband who the other day after I commented I would wait and buy a swimsuit next summer when I looked better looked at me with a genuinely sad face and said "Honey... I think you're pretty NOW...". It is not my husband or my friends or other people who make me feel shamed... it's me. I own that. Nelson addresses this in her body shame chapter with words that truly spoke to me: "They cannot fully heal body shame because it is not primarily a cultural problem or a self-image issue, but a heart condition for which we need massive inner transformation."

As a Christ-follower, what I also appreciated about Nelson's book is that she continually points us back to Jesus. Jesus, she reminds us, wants us to cloth ourselves in Him - that He clothed Himself in our shame so that we no longer have to wear it. Whether that shame for you is your body image, or your parenting skills, or in your social circles, or in your marriage - Jesus has taken that shame from us so that we no longer have to carry it. In her chapter on "Shame-Free Parenting", she reminds us that "God the Father poured out all our shame on Jesus, who did not deserve it. All of our own shame... was borne by Jesus at the cross - in order that we could walk free of shame's insidious hold on our lives...". 

If you, like me, are a Christ-follower carrying some sort of shame that's holding you back from becoming your true self then consider reading this book. The only word of caution that I would offer is that unlike the familiar, pastoral, almost energetic tones of a Max Lucado or Mark Batterson book - Nelson's tone is very much that of a Christian counselor. She is encouraging, she is calming, and she is even a bit inspiring - but she is at her heart a counselor who is looking to have her reader transform through his/her issues into their best potential self.

So - what do you think? Want to read this book?

Turns out I'm also giving away a copy!!!

There are a two ways you can win: 
  1. Comment below with either how shame affects you, how you've overcome shame in the past, or a verse that helps you to remember your identity in Christ. 
  2. Share this post and comment below that you did.

Every comment gets an entry! If you don't want to enter the contest OR just want to check out the book before you do, check it out by clicking here to read more about Unashamed.

Contest closed on July 3rd and our winner is Jamie! Thanks to everyone who read this post - click on the above link to get your own copy of Unashamed!

Thanks to the fine folks at FlyBy Promotions for providing the prize to the winners! 

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”