The marathon of motherhood

The marathon of motherhood

I’ve never really ever been the marathon personality type. The type that goes the distance, runs with endurance, continues even when it’s hard type. I’m more of the sprinter type. The who gives it everything for a short bit knowing there’s an end in sight, then takes a long nap on the couch. I admire the marathon type. The ones who get up every morning and do it all again, with perseverance to stay in the game. That’s why I write blog posts and not books. Because books are marathons. I’m a sprinter who would rather write what’s on my heart and hit publish.

But then I became a mom and realized that motherhood is the grand daddy of marathons. Or rather, the mother of all marathons. It’s a race you can’t quit. But what if you want to? What if the whining and the monotony and the training and the nonstop talking and the messes and the sibling squabbles and the day after day and ALL OF IT JUST BECOMES TOO MUCH?!

You have to keep running.
You have to keep looking up.
You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As soon as you start to take your eyes off of Jesus, the overwhelm will overwhelm you and you’ll be pacing the driveway with a fake cigarette in your hand.

You can try and sit on the sidelines and binge a show or have another gin & tonic with the colorful little straws, but none of that will equip you to stay in the race. None of that will equip you to finish well the race that is set before us.

Is the race the same e’ry day, over and over, all day long? Yep.
Is it exhausting? YESSSSS.
Is it doable? Yes it is, in fact. Doable and hard can be in the same sentence. That’s what I’m learning in my race right now. This desire to escape when it gets hard is ingrained in me. But quitting is not how we win this race.

By the way, “winning” in the context of the motherhood marathon means a few different things to me:

– Finding joy when I want to quit
– Loving like Jesus (umm, not yelling, getting annoyed, acting more childish than the actual children, forgiving)
– Being willing to begin again, each morning, multiple times a day
– Showing up with a gracious heart when I want to stay in bed and not care for one single person but myself
– Not comparing who does what with the kids, accepting my role and responsibilities and seeing them as a privilege
– Raising girls who love God and seek after Him
– Raising girls who love each other and others
– Raising girls who can eat something other than chicken nuggets, eventually tie their own shoes, and, you know, not wear pull-ups their entire lives maybe?

It doesn’t matter how I got here, or if I’m a marathon or a sprinter type of person, I’m in a marathon now. So by God’s grace I’m going to lace up those shoes, and run well by showing up again tomorrow. There are some little girls on the sidelines watching me in this race, so I can’t give up.

When my sister-in-law was in town last month, we went on a hike and when Shilo got tired we took turns carrying her on our backs. What a visual for the marathon of motherhood.
The culture of home

The culture of home

Home is where my husband and my daughters are. Shawn has been my home for almost 17 years. We lived in an apartment attached to someone’s house (where the kitchen sink was the size of a toaster), we lived in missionary training center housing where there was not even a toilet in the apartment (we had to walk to a bath house- somehow that was supposed to help prepare us for life and ministry overseas). We ‘upgraded’ to a little apartment at our next training center where there was a toilet (the cheering! The excitement!) but no shower. We had to bundle up in the winter just to walk to take a shower, hoping our wet hair wouldn’t freeze on the walk back. And of course, hoping the line wouldn’t be too long since we were sharing with a whole campus. We lived in my in-law’s basement (it was more of a garage with a bed in it) for 4ish months. We lived without running water for a year, and we’ve lived in a few ghettos. The kind of ghetto where your friends don’t feel comfortable parking their car outside your house. We lived above a boutique where you could buy a baguette, a cold drink from the fridge, eggs, seasoning, all from a friendly man from behind the counter. We lived where we could hear the ocean at night, and drums when there was something to celebrate. We lived where the Call to Prayer at the Mosque was our alarm clock and a reminder that I should probably start dinner (read: ask Shawn what we were having for dinner). We lived where no one understood our language or our ways, we lived where snow fell higher than our car, and where our apartment was furnished and quite possibly the most uncomfortable thing known to man. We lived here and we lived there. We had pot smoking neighbors and mice upon mice living among us. We always had decorations of some sort. Even if it was just a map of the world taped to the wall with family pictures taped around it. And now we’re in a new place and I’m thinking about home, and the various homes we’ve known, all over again. I’m thinking about what it means but more so, what it should mean, and what we want it to look like for these growing-by-the-minute girls of ours. They may not be amazed by the light fixtures, or how well insulated the house is, or how great the long driveway is. They many not be impressed by the bathtub like I am, or rave about the front door like I do. (I’m going to interrupt myself with a quick mini story: a friend came to see our new house last night and she was also raving about the front door. I said, “I know! I just can’t get over it. And she said, “Then don’t.” And it was the sweetest permission to just love this place, to keep being grateful and appreciate it all unapologetically. So please be anticipating weekly if not daily door posts on the ‘gram.)
I started thinking about what we want our home to look like, aside from the door and the tile and the way we arrange our furniture. I started thinking more about the culture of our home. In issue 27 of Bella Grace, there was an essay on home. Then there was a blank illustration of a house where you can write down or illustrate all the feelings you want to fill your home with. That really made me stop and think.
In the empty space of the illustrated home, here are the things we jotted down:
Laugh here! Cry here. Be you here.
Forgiven.
Accepted because we’re accepted in Jesus.
Heard.
Peace.
Welcome.
GRACE.
Chosen!
Dance parties.
Growth (but no rush).
“Always we begin again”.
LOVE.
Fun.
Friendship.
Happy memories.
Whatever home looks like here, or wherever our girls end up, I hope they know love and grace and I hope that at some point, they get to have a front door that they love.

What do you want to fill your home with?
Farewell house on Elk Run

Farewell house on Elk Run

So many homes, so many memories. We’ve been in this house longer than we’ve lived anywhere in our whole entire marriage. Four years. That’s how long we’ve lived here on Elk Run. Isn’t it funny that in nearly 17 years of marriage, four years is the longest we’ve lived somewhere? Even within our six years in Africa we moved around a few times. Once a nomad, always a nomad, I guess. We moved into our house on Elk Run when I was so pregnant I couldn’t bend. You know that feeling? Like, even if you wanted to, you physically couldn’t bend. I wrote letters to Noella (she was still in my belly) while sitting in her grey nursery that my friend graciously helped me paint. I wrote baby Noella to tell her how excited we were, and that we couldn’t wait to see, hold, and kiss her. So many of the other places where we lived I often moved in wondering if we’d get to create a nursery in that home. We never did. This home on Elk Run was our first time creating a space for baby. Then two babies! Our first meal in this house was Chicken Express and they forgot to give us silverware (Chick Fil A would never have the audacity to do that) so we ate with our fingers using an empty box as our table. We attempted to plant a raised bed garden here, but the heat and the grasshoppers were ruthless. We met neighbors who grew to be Texas grandparents to our girls while living on this street. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like here in San Angelo if we hadn’t met them, and some of the other neighbors on this street. I cried for about 10 min when I realized we were really selling the first home we ever owned, the home we brought our new babies to. It sank in when we were talking about listing prices and all that legal, next-step contracty stuff. But the chair where I nursed and rocked our little ones is the same chair I’m bringing with us to the new house. And the girls are coming too! The idea of setting up bedrooms for two little girls is so very special. So I don’t feel too sentimental about leaving behind this house (now that my 10 min of crying is over). It was a dream come true, and so is this next place. How special that those babies are walking and talking now, and coming with us to help establish another however-many-years of memories in the new house. The new house is our first-ever “just for fun” move. It’s an unexpected gift from God and we’re so grateful. We’re grateful for all that happened within the walls on Elk Run. The bonfires, the joy, the grief, the healing, the forgiveness, the late nights, the early mornings, the homemade meals, and the frozen waffles thrown into the toaster. Realizing there would be a Shilo, then watching her crawl, and giggle, watching Noella as a baby herself become a big sister… these are things that happened here. Things we won’t forget. There were toddler fits, little girl bubble baths, dress up parties, messes, playdough in the rug, and candles lit. There were shy apologies and more laughter than we can count. There was Shawn spraying me down with the water hose, the two of us hosting Christmas parties, and doing projects in the garage. There was love, there was teething, there were grumpy mornings, and loads upon loads of laundry done here. There were friendships that grew here, movie nights, loud music in the kitchen, and pizza parties on the patio. These walls won’t soon forget those memories, and neither will we. I’m so glad that the sweetest parts of this home are coming with us, to the next place where we will build a home and continue this life together.

I hope they’ll remember

I hope they’ll remember

I hope they’ll remember that I loaded them up and took them to the pool, and not that they scorched their feet on the long walk to get into the water.
I hope they’ll remember all the times I’ve talked about God, and His character, and the Gospel, and not the time I said “shit” because my feet were also being scorched to high heavens on that long walk across the concrete to get to the water.
I hope they’ll remember that their dad was home in the morning to make them breakfast burritos (and even let them help), and not that he had to work a long stretch for the last nine days without a day off to hang out.
I hope they’ll remember that I picked them up when they fell, and not that I later yelled at them to stop asking for another band aid.
I hope they’ll remember the whimsical bedtime stories I told them each night, and not the pleas to “go to sleep already!“.
I hope they’ll remember that I made their lunch and even sometimes cut their sandwiches into stars (take that, Pinterest Mom), and not that it was pb&j more often than not.
I hope they’ll remember all the times I stopped to read books or play dolls, and not all the times that I was too busy with something else.
I hope they’ll remember the ice cream treats and not the battles to, “take a bite of your carrot!“.
I hope they’ll remember the sincere apologies and not the times that my patience was MIA.
I hope they’ll remember all the times me and their dad held hands and danced in the kitchen, and not the times I gave him a rude look or acted disrespectful toward him.
I hope they’ll remember the times I celebrated their childhood and not the times I was annoyed at their child-like behavior.
I hope they’ll remember that their sister was their first friend, and a forever friend by God’s design, and not all the times she stole your toy, pushed you down, or ate the last bite of your cookie.
I hope they’ll always remember that they’re loved, wanted, special, and prayed for.

Motherhood on a given day

Motherhood on a given day

Motherhood is so many things at once, all in a given day.
It’s refining.
It’s painful.
It’s beautiful.
It’s hard.
It’s a marathon.
It’s holy work.
It’s ministry.
It’s wanting to quit. But knowing you never would.
It’s so special.
It’s a lot of responsibility.
It’s fun.
It’s meaningful.
It’s all day, every day.
It’s everything you’ve wanted.
It’s a battle with your own selfish nature.
It’s an answer to prayer.
It’s dying to self even on days when everyone’s melting down (for no apparent reason).
It’s serving others even when you have a headache (and you want to sleep in and have coffee in bed).
It’s responding to little demands even when the day starts way too early.
It’s miracles playing out in front of you.
It’s a platform for teaching and training and guiding into the future God has for them.
It’s worrying, then remembering that it does no good to worry, and that prayer trumps all.
It’s worth showing up for. Every day. Over and over and over.
It’s, from the beginning, a process of letting go, as they go to the nursery for the first time, to a friend’s house, to college, and into the world… doing what God has made them to do.
It’s worth fighting for.
It’s done by God’s strength.
It’s love.
It’s a gift I’ll never take for granted.

A sweet visit with grandma

A sweet visit with grandma

It was a treasured time with grandma, and family, and seeing the familiar Rocky Mountains out our hotel window. It was a long road trip we were determined to make, a 2 and 3 year old surprisingly happy with snacks and stickers and a stack of dollar store colored pencils. It was a whole group of us releasing balloons outside of grandma’s hospital room, waving and smiling and shouting that we love her. It was her saying that she wanted to follow those balloons right up to heaven to meet Jesus, and to see grandpa again. It was masks, and restrictions, and nurses “looking the other way” when more than two visitors were in her room at a time. It was holding her hand, laughing with uncles, and hearing memories of cousins, farm life, and grandpa’s early days in Iowa as they came to her mind. It was the birth of a niece just a few floors up from grandma’s room (a niece who was given grandma’s middle name!). It was life and near-to-death, the pain and the sweetness, but hope above all, wrapped up in one short visit. It was nurses moving heaven and earth (in this age of restrictions) for grandma to be able to hold, and to meet, and to whisper blessings over her new great-granddaughter’s life. It was the passing of the baton from the oldest to the youngest taking place in that little hospital room. It was special reminders at her bedside to keep walking with Jesus. It’s a vase she set aside for me, now sitting on my living room shelf. It’s a lifetime of having her in my life, and the gratitude that I got to see her one more time here on earth.

Grandma, God knows the day and the hour that you’ll join Him in heaven. Walk by faith in these last days, as you have for many years, knowing that if you’re still here on earth, He has a plan for your life. Hug grandpa for us all! Make sure and meet Shawn’s grandparents. And tell the Apostle Paul that I’m looking forward to sitting down with him for an interview. We love you, grandma!

Grief and lies we believe

Grief and lies we believe

Sometimes you just need your husband to get in your face and remind you with a stern tone and a loud voice that:

“OUR GOD IS NOT FICKLE!”

Let me back up.

I was just feeling down. Discouraged. And worse: believing lies.

It was a day of feeling caught back up in grief (we don’t move on, we move forward…and I was just not moving anywhere).

Why did God take our babies? Why did we lose our boy / girl twins? I was circling back around to questions we had already asked ourselves. Questions we’d asked in the past with other losses. Questions we didn’t have answers to and ones we gave over to God. But the questions were back. Why did that happen to us? What’s His plan? Does He have a purpose? Did He not think I could handle it? Was I not a good enough mom to take on two more? I was sobbing as I said these shameful lies out loud.

Shawn was intimidating as he said very clearly that those were lies, and that God does not work that way. He doesn’t just give and take for fun. He is not fickle. He is not mean. What lies are we believing about God? What lies are changing the way we live our lives?

The conversation circled around and around, the good but really hard kind, and Shawn kept asking me if I trusted God. I’d bring up a fear, a thought, a concern, a worry about our unknown future or pain from grief, and he’d ask, “Yes, but do you trust Him?” He kept asking that same question over and over as I tried to trip him up with a valid-to-me point or a seemingly good question. “Yes, but do you trust God?” He’d ask. “Yes, but can God be trusted?” He’d ask. It was the tough conversation I needed to set my mind back on God, and trusting Him even when we don’t understand.

Sometimes things turn out differently than we thought they would. Sometimes things feel unfair. Sometimes there’s hurt, grief, sadness, confusion. Sometimes we question God’s plan.

But in all of it, He is not fickle. He is not mean. He is good, and YES, He can be trusted.

Believe it to see it

Believe it to see it

Maybe you’ve never seen God move, or maybe you weren’t looking for it. Maybe it’s not ‘see it to believe it’, but BELIEVE IT TO SEE IT. Look for God on the move and you won’t miss it.

That tomb is still empty, and He’s doing impossible things in the lives of others. Ask me how I know.

Here are a few I’ve come across just in the past few weeks:

He takes a past of drug and alcohol abuse and prison and turns it into ministry with others facing the same giants. He takes you from dark to light because that’s what He does. It’s not a story of shame when Jesus writes it, it’s REDEMPTION.

He takes a $380,000 hospital bill and writes paid in full across the top. Just as He did with our lives. He bought them at a price. Our lives are marked by His red blood, and they’re paid in full. Freedom is ours if we want it.

He allows the man who trained under the inventor of the very brain surgery you need to come to your small West Texas town to operate on you. He’s a healer. We can walk into the scary by faith and see God at work in ways we haven’t before.

He allows some kind of supernatural peace to allow you to get up the next morning even after the loss of a child. He’s Father. He’s faithful.

When your country is rioting and fear is real, and you have a flee bag packed, He’s a God who offers safety even in the unknowns.

He gives us an out to die to self and choose to walk in His Spirit instead, even on hard days. Even when we don’t feel like showing up, He gives us the ability to love well. To choose to begin again. His grace is real. Look for it. Ask me how I know.

He takes our deepest pain, our greatest loss, our biggest weakness, and if we let Him, He uses it to change this world, to show that with Jesus, all things are possible, and that He is on the move.

Our culture has made God and Jesus either a ‘meh’ and boring conversation from ancient times, or a standard of legalism we could never reach. So why bother?

But if you look for the real, IT CAN ONLY BE GOD stories, you will find them.
You just have to believe it to see it.
Ask me how I know. I know because I’ve seen it myself.

Days are long, years are short, and all that

Days are long, years are short, and all that

Before a woman has children, perhaps she has a few misconceived notions of what it will be like. Maybe she dreams of her daughter sitting on the counter as they bake Christmas morning cinnamon rolls together, only a slight smudge of flour on her daughter’s nose. Or maybe it’s her sneaking out of the room in a long delicate flowy “postpartum” robe, hair pinned just so, and the baby sleeping peacefully in his or her Potty Barn nursery. Bookshelves organized and untouched. And perhaps some do have these pre-kid visions. But I never did. Being the oldest of five, marrying into a family of five boys, having loads of nieces and nephews, and working as a nanny, I KNEW BETTER. But nevertheless, and with all the chaos that I knew was part of the deal, I wanted to have a baby. And Shawn did too (gosh, I hope he didn’t have those preconceived notions… him sneaking out of the nursery in a long flowy robe). We were married, happy, and it was something we wanted in our married lives. Raising a child was something we wanted to do together.

And here I am now, three years and six months in, and I can say that:
1. Yes there’s all the chaos and then some. You can run but you can’t hide, honey.
2. There’s never just a “smudge” of flour. Lord have mercy, there’s never just a “smudge” of anything.
3. It’s the greatest thing to parent together, to raise a baby together, to be a mom, to raise little lives that we prayed hard for.
4. It’s hard, just as I knew it would be.
5. It’s worth it!!!

Even with these things spelled out, I still have days when I’m like WHY is this day so long, and WHO signed up for this!? (Especially on nap strike days, which this day has been one of…please pass the dark chocolate with sea salt and hazelnuts) WHY is Shawn still at work, and WHY do I have to clean up my kitchen and THEIR PLAY KITCHEN TOO. *stomps out of the room like a child* I know, I know and I AGREE that the days are long (holy living Mary and Joseph they talk a lot now too, like without ceasing) but the years are short. I couldn’t agree more.

But when all you can see are the long days and not the short years, here are a few things I’ve been trying to come back to:

 It’s done in God’s strength, not mine – “It” being all of it: cleaning mud out of the tile cracks, not yelling when someone pushes someone else, not giving up when the day has already been exhausting and now they’re crying at bedtime because God-forbid there’s a tiny amount of light coming in from behind the curtain and they can see it, being patient when they’re just now learning something for the first time (how to use a spoon, how to button their pants), how to respond slowly and in love… all day long. Every day, and again the next, and again the next. Even on nap strike days. YEP, gotta be done in HIS strength, cause otherwise I’ve tapped out around 11pm.

This is the last day they’ll ever be this little – OKAY, sobbing! But honestly, I love this perspective, because it help me value the time I have with them, this day I have with them, knowing that one day they’ll outgrow their baby cheeks and interest in having me hold them. I know that the more I focus in on treasuring them NOW, on this last day they’ll ever be this little, the more I’ll look back on this time and know I did what I could to treasure them and make the most of this time I’ve been given with them.

“I get to” vs “I have to”- this one comes from Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt and that perspective brings life into the every day. I GET to stay home and create fun memories and experiences for our girls, I GET to do the hard work of training them and teaching them to love God and others, I GET to love my family by taking care of our home, I GET to tend to needs, I GET to spend a lot of time with them, I GET to make them lunch! This can also be a prayer request when it doesn’t come naturally. “God, help me have a “get to” attitude” when I just really want to be in Cancun with friends right now.

The little things are special to them, so let’s live it up – to this day, Noella remembers the lemonade she had at the fair last February, even down to the green straw. The little things are special to them, and we’re taking it slow and letting them enjoy the little things now, knowing the big things will also be special later on, so why rush it? Sharing a sleeve of Smarties is fun for them. Watching Shawn build a snowman (yes, Texas has experienced a taste of winter this year) is fun for them. Jumping in the car and getting Wendy’s for lunch or driving to see the lake is fun. I love this quote from Mandy Arioto in her book Have More Fun: “Hot take: mothering can be fun. It’s amazing what can happen when you start by assuming this rather than the alternative. The narrative we hear over and over is that being a mom is hard and exhausting. I am here to challenge that assumption. What if it was invigorating, transformative, and the most fun work we will ever do?” WOW. If that doesn’t turn a long day into something more. Bubbles, nature walks, and dance parties, let’s show our kids that fun is worthwhile. And that we enjoy being with them as they take in the little, but special parts of their days, and ultimately, their childhoods.

They need me – I’m the only one who can give my children a happy mother. ME. I’m the only one who can model a mother who forgives, offers grace, but has standards of obedience in the home, laughs, dances, apologizes. They need me to love them, to listen to them, to care about them. It’s not a point intended to make you feel more pressure, but to show the value in just simply who you are to them. You’re mom. And you’re needed. Long after they’re weaned, and walking, and maybe even living in another state, you’re needed, because God chose you for the role of mom in their lives. So love well today, even if it’s one of those ‘days are long, years are short’ kind of days.

God sees the bigger picture and He’s working in all of our lives –  through the longest, hardest days when I just don’t “feel” like being home again, doing the same mundane thing, with whiney kids and fights to break up, I have to remember that as I seek God’s strength and wisdom in raising our girls, it’s done by faith that God sees the bigger picture in all of our lives. He’s using this time, even the frustrating days, or the greatest days ever, to mold me into something, someone that He wants me to be. And He’s doing the same in the lives of our girls, if we ask Him to. And trust that He will.

I think often of the quote, “What you plant now, you will harvest later.” Planting is hard work man. But by God’s grace, the rain will come and beautiful growth will appear. We just have to take it one (sometimes long) day at time.

This is what we prayed for – this perspective is a game changer, because it reminds me that we prayed big, and that God in His goodness answered BIG. And that’s all I need to take on another day as ‘mom 24/7’ to two girls we have the privilege of raising in our home for a few short years.

The dreaded call and hope

The dreaded call and hope

Today was the day I’d been dreading. Today was the final video consult with our fertility doctor in Denver. We love him. He’s an Ohio State fan (because that means something when you’re Shawn DeAtley), and he’s been a cheerleader for us from that very first day that we showed up in his office, a little bruised and (literally) scarred from already having gone through three failed IVF cycles. He was enthusiastic about the likelihood of us having a baby. And guess what? With the help of him and his team, a whole lotta shots, and most importantly, the Almighty hand of God, we welcomed Noella. They knew, and we knew, that we had these remaining boy/girl embryos, and the relationship was intact for when we were ready to try our next transfer(s), in hopes of adding them to our family. But, an enormous God-surprise came along, just before we were ready to get started with the next transfer (we had already started emailing about our meds and protocol and we were ready to get started…), and that God-surprise was Shilo Hope! Dr. Greene and team were thrilled with our news.
Most of our interactions with Dr. Greene and team have been positive, hopeful, and encouraging.
So I was dreading today… talking about the loss of the twins.
Dr. Greene was so humble and sincere and so sorry to hear of our loss, the pain, the D&C, all of it. Our conversation was one of us sharing about our faith in all of this, something we were glad we had the opportunity to talk about. He wanted to know what was next for us, if we saw another treatment in our future, which we were both at peace in saying that our days of fertility treatments are done, and for that we’re filled with gratitude. Gratitude for all that God has done in and through those years of treatments, those years of hoping, praying, trying, and not knowing the end result. We’re grateful that our paths ever crossed with Dr. Greene and team in the first place. God had a hand in all of it. Even this phone call, which I had been dreading, ended up offering some peace and some closure in knowing that even from a medically professional standpoint, sometimes things just don’t work out like we hope they will. Sometimes our bodies and our embryos are too complex for us to know the whole story behind why things go the way they do. But our God knows, and He’s been the author behind all the stories leading up to this one, and even the stories to come. He’s the author behind the beautiful lives of our daughters, how they came to be and where they’re going. The call I was dreading turned out to still be one of hope even with grief still present and real.

Because our God is always one of hope.