Wednesday, February 3, 2016

One Fateful Trip to Walmart

To every mother everywhere, I salute you. You've surely been there before. At least I hope so because if I find out I'm the only hot mess of a mama out there... Well, it could confirm suspicions of me my losing my mind.

This was my husband's drawing for me today. If only he knew. I am so far from super and I can prove it. 

There I was. A simple trip to Walmart. Only I have a baby now so there is nothing simple about even the smallest errand. She had been screaming since being put in the car seat, not typical, but in true form the movement of the car put her to sleep. I wasn't about to wake my sleeping baby by removing her from the car seat carrier. If I were a true baby wearer this little obstacle wouldn't have phased me, but nevertheless I fall into the baby carrier category. Have you ever carried a growing baby in one of those? If you've seen the thighs on this girl you could easily know this isn't a light load. Don't worry. I tell her all the time how much I love her rolls. However this chunky monkey is quite a load to carry, car seat and all. It's cold enough for a baby to need to be covered. So there's a car seat canopy, you know, the cool cover, plus a blanket. I'm heaving her out of the van and hiking the handle over my arm, attempting to pull the cover over her as a shield and making sure the blanket has her warm. In my effort to juggle everything, I lost my balance and somehow tripped on my own feet banging my shin on the door. Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark.

I parked near the cart return as I always do. My plan was to grab a cart and put her car seat down inside. My timing was seconds off because the dutiful worker was on his way through the parking lot with a string of carts to return. "Sir! Excuse me, can I have one of those?" I tried calling after him but he was unaware of me and my plight. I had parked much too far away to carry her and the car seat all the way in. My arms would surely fall off and I would probably huff and puff in the process. I didn't want anyone to have to call an ambulance. All of a sudden it dawned on me. "The stroller!" Her handy dandy stroller was in the back. I had to sit the carrier on the ground so I could pull out the stroller and set it up. Thank goodness I've mastered that contraption. I went to retrieve my baby and turned around only to realize I had forgotten to put on the brake. My stroller was rolling! Now I had my sleeping baby and her carrier thrown over my arm as I took off to chase my rolling stroller. Thankfully it only made it two cars down before landing on someone else's bumper. I checked to make sure there wasn't a mark and we had done no damage. 

I took a quick scan around the parking lot to see if anyone had captured what must have been a comical sight. I wasn't laughing. I was sweating. I'm certain it was a balmy 44 degrees outside. I put my baby inside the stroller and took off for the door. I high-tailed it through the store and retrieved the boxes of Valentine candy I needed. It would take 6 boxes to fulfill what I required. But I didn't have a cart and I was pushing the stroller. What was a mom in my position to do?! I put the boxes in the basket under the stroller. I declared to my sleeping baby loud enough for any worker to hear "We'll just put these here so we can PAY UP FRONT." I didn't want them to think I was stealing! 

I had to make my way all the way across the store for the other item. Why does it always work out that way?! By the time I went to pay, my little one awoke and realized she wasn't being held. This created a slight screaming fit while mama tried to hush and sooth her all why managing the self check out. Of course I had two boxes that wouldn't scan. Now my baby girl was working on her wail as I attempted to rock the stroller with my foot while typing in the pesky item number. Was it hot in there? I thought it was. I was definitely sweating again. 

Done. Now get out of there! Fast! I started booking it to my car. "Shhhh it's ok!" I tried calming her. She was fighting sleep. Eyes were closing...finally. She was calm. I parked the stroller, remembering the brake this time. I carefully picked up my baby and attempted to place her in the car as gently as I could while struggling with the awkward heavy carrier. The car beside me must have parked too close, or I was somehow crooked, but without warning...BAM! I hit the mirror of the car door. "Are you kidding me?!" Not my finest moment but then again I had several of these in a row to really compete for the medal. I was mortified. And I had woken the baby. I put her in the car and went to collapse the stroller, only it wouldn't. "What is going on? I know I know how to work this..." I had forgotten about my bags underneath. Ugh. How could one trip to Walmart cause so much stress? Had I remembered deodorant that morning? Why was it so hot??? I couldn't get out of there fast enough. The entire episode took less than 10 minutes but it felt like an eternity. 

For anyone who thought I had it all together...well, hopefully I've put your mind at ease. I am a woman. A very real fallible woman. I am a wife. I am a mom. And I struggle. I have good days and I have bad ones and surely by now you know that I can be a complete laughing stock. Still not convinced? Even after this entire trip I sat down in my car only to realize ... my pants zipper had been down the entire time. I feel like this was only a minor detail considering all the other reasons I had given for people to laugh, or maybe even pity me?! And there you have it folks. In case you were tempted to think I sit on a pedestal, I present you with this glimpse into my not-so-glamorous world. Laugh if you must. The truth is I hope you do. There is no crown. No cape. There's no "S" embroidered on my chest. This isn't an act. This is real life and I'm living it one crazy chaotic moment at a time. One fateful trip to Walmart at a time. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Under Attack

I'll never need a tell-all book about my life because here I am once again admitting my deepest secrets with blatant honesty. A few weeks ago I wrote of an experience at church that was beautiful and moving and spirit-filled. Our church called to pray and in that effort an act of surrender where people can write their sin, the one that continually grips and besets, on a notecard and drop it in a box at the altar. It's not just the act of putting it in the box, it is the process of leaving it there, never to be entangled by this sin again. I shared with you that your sin is probably different than mine, but we struggle much the same. Since then I've prayed over this, asking the Lord to search me and reveal what I needed to leave at the altar. The Lord made it so clear to me - only not in the way I expected. 

I was suited up - armed and ready, poised in prayer and eyes fixed on the Lord. And that's exactly when he struck. It wasn't a quiet creeping in kind of pursuit. No, this was swift, harsh, fierce and forceful. No sooner had I made sure to stand my guard when all at once I was completely under attack. Make no mistake, the enemy knew exactly when and where to strike and he was relentless in putting me right in the center of his crossfire. He knows my weakness. He knows the exact pressure point where he can render me useless, no matter how prayed up and filled up I may be. He went straight for the jugular and I was left in utter despair. 

We are pressed but not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. 

Thank God! I was certainly struck down but he would not be victorious. His pointed attack was intentional but my bleeding wounded heart was still beating and it was time for me to look my opponent in the eye and fight back. Beseeching him in the name of Jesus, I battled my fears taking every thought captive, I wrestled my besetting sin claiming scriptures that gave me victory, and most importantly I called upon the Lord and the Lord fought for me. 

Without divulging every detail and making myself completely vulnerable, I need to explain something. What I wrestle with is not flesh and blood temptation. At least not for me. I explained we may all deal with something different. My struggle is within myself, battling fears, overcoming worry, preventing anxious thoughts from consuming me and taking over. So why wouldn't the enemy strike me down with anxiety, with the worst case scenarios scrolling through my mind, with situations I have no control over that force me to either sit and fret over or allow me to surrender to the Lord? This is his plan of attack on me and he has it down to a science. You would think I would be smarter. 

We've seen what happens if it were up to me. I can't tell you that I will never battle this again but I can tell you with assurance I am claiming the victory that is mine when I lay this at the altar and allow the Lord to fight for me. His gift to me is His Presence and when I focus my mind on Him, I experience the calm of His peace. My goal today is to bring every thought captive. I know by even admitting this I put myself at risk of brutal attacks but I also know it is the point of accountability and victory that is mine to claim. My flesh and my heart may continually fail, but thank God He is the strength of my life. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Lesson In Parenting

Today has been one of those days when I've struggled. Struggled as a mom. Struggled as a friend. Struggled as a wife. Struggled with the obstacles put in front of me. I know the answer. I know what to do. Stop. Pray. Breathe. Pray again. I've tried, and still failed miserably. I'm just being honest. 

I find myself making excuses, trying to explain my son's behavior and all the challenges he faces. I hear the words of a friend ringing in my ears, "It would almost be easier if he had something blatantly wrong with him." That's the thing. There isn't anything wrong with him. He's exactly the way God created him. And he's mine. My boy. Even when he's challenging and frustrating and trying my patience. I want people to understand him. I want them to know there are some things he just can't help. I want to explain his meltdowns and acting out. I see the stares. I know what you're thinking. I've thought it before too. If only... "If only that boy would behave. My child will never act like that. I would never let my kid get away with that." You might. You just might. If you knew. If you understood. Because the truth is I'm fighting to understand him too. His beautiful complicated busy mind, he's always on the go, always moving, always creating. The truth is nothing is easy. A simple trip to the store. An outing to meet friends. A meal out. The simplest thing can often turn into the most stressful and complicated event. So I pick my battles and wage war with myself over how to make sure that he knows he's loved. 

These are the days that make me want to give up and fight harder all at the same time. If I knew what makes him tick and if I had the magic pill, believe me, I would spare no expense, leave no stone unturned. I would dowhatever it took to help him, develop him, make him understand that he's understood. 

Parenting him is hard and beautiful and it brings tears on a regular basis. Tears of joy when he experiences a success. Tears of frustration when we struggle to understand each other. Tears of pain begging God to intervene. Mostly to help me find the strength and patience to help him become the person God created him to be. It's magnificent. I just know it. This little boy, this child whom I love and prayed for, brings me to the end of myself when I think I have nothing left to give and I surely want to crawl under a rock for how I've handled myself as a parent, then right there at that point of exhaustion and chaos I collapse. Thank God I fall into heavenly arms big enough to clean up even my mess. And I can't help but think this is what I do to my Father. 

Oh how He must want to pull His hair out when He's trying to understand why I do the things I do. He must be exacerbated watching me spin out of control. He knows my every thought and I'm sure that's enough to make Him want to cringe and cry and curl up in a ball wondering if He somehow made a mistake when He made me. And that's the point. I realize He didn't make a mistake at all. He made no mistake in making me nor did He make a mistake in creating my amazing child. We are both made in His image. This boy whom I prayed for. I wore the carpet and my knees out begging God to make me a mom and this child, my boy, was His answer for me. He didn't just hand him over unknowingly - God knew the mess I was, am and would be. God knew I would fail. He knew it would be hard. He knew what challenges we would face and what we would need. The even more incredible part is the reminder that I was given this beautiful complicated gift to borrow. At the end of the day, at the end of myself, at the beginning of His plan, He gave me the chance to be his mom. Before he was mine, before he was his birth mom's, he was God's. No one can love him more than the Father who created him. Somehow He sees fit to love me, too. The beautiful chaotic mess I am. 

Today was hard and good and challenging and wonderful, full of reminders of God's grace and love, the ultimate example of parenting in its purest and most perfect form.  Thank You for loving me, Father, even me. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow Days

If every day was a snow day, moments like these would become priceless memories.  

If every day was a snow day, we would lie around in pajamas and sleep in late. 

If every day was a snow day, kids would bundle up in layers of snow gear and trek outside to play in the snow until their fingers are numb, enjoying every inch of the snow building forts and snowmen.

If every day was a snow day, those frozen kids would come back inside to sip hot chocolate while they warm up. 

If every day was a snow day, moms would make chili and grilled cheese and dads would shovel the driveway (I mean no sexism, understanding many role reversals in varying families). We would indulge in yummy comfort foods and snack too much. 

If every day was a snow day, we would watch family movies and play on tablets and read books to pass the time. We would play games and make messes and think about all the projects we should be tackling in our time at home. 

If every day was a snow day, we would do science experiments, bake new recipes and come up with fun crafts. We would enjoy time together and get frustrated as or fuses start to shorten. 

If every day was a snow day we would talk about how many days we've been stuck inside and wonder when the kids will go back to school. 

Everyday can't be a snow day but for these few snow days we've been given, I'm enjoying the family, the fun, the memories being made and the blessings of the blanket of snow. Snow days can't be every day but I'm celebrating these days we have been snowed in! 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Call To Pray

...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Hebrews 12:1b

The sin. The thing that so easily entangles us. Other translations say that which distracts, entraps or weighs us down. It's my button, if you will. The pressure point the enemy knows surely how to get at and targets each and every time. Mine isn't the same as yours but no doubt we both wrestle just the same. 

It started for me on Christmas night. My husband and I watched The War Room and the powerful call to prayer gripped my heart. Through sovereign intervention, it's been the theme and call to action over the last few weeks from our pastor. A call to pray. A plea to seek the Lord, not just for what I want or desire, but to call upon Him for revival, renewal and restoration. 

They've put up boards around the church where you can post your prayer requests and praises but on the altar are two boxes. We've been asked to write it down. The sin. The one that haunts us. The one that entangles us, the thing that causes us to stumble over and over again. The weight that we bear. Release it. Be free from it. Be delivered in the name of Jesus. On February 20th we'll have a special celebration service and the cards in those boxes will become a burnt offering to the Lord of our burdens and sins that we are seeking freedom from. 

The pastor took the lead and wrote his down today and put it in the box. We're a baptist church so we have a traditional altar call. But today was anything but traditional. People started to come, dropping their cards in the boxes, kneeling at the altar, praying and crying out to God. Releasing the sin, praying for forgiveness, finding freedom and being delivered. It was beautiful and moving and emotional and Spirit filled. 

I've experienced this moment of coming face to face with the holiness of God and the utter despair of my life. I've wrestled with my humanity and His holiness as I realized the depravity of my flesh and the humility of who I am on my own. I've experienced His lavish love poured out over me as I offered Him my brokenness. I know the freedom that comes when this burden is laid on the altar and released. And I know you can experience the same.  

I can't go without extending the invitation to you. Not just to join us in prayer as a church, not only as a part of this special service that I would love to see you attend, but to be free from the sin that besets you. You don't need a box or a hand written card but you do need a moment of honesty with God Almighty. There is deliverance and freedom in Christ when we surrender to Him. He conquered sin and death when He paid our debt on the cross. What I witnessed today were people coming to grips with the grace and mercy that is freely available to us. To me. To you. It's time to throw it off. It's time to be free. It's time to pray, in Jesus' name, and experience Him at work. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Normal

I'm not quite certain how much time I spend in a day holding my little one and staring at her. I never thought I could just sit still for hours on end but somehow the moments melt into memories the longer I hold her. I feel like I've barely blinked and almost two months have passed. It's the reason I'm holding onto this time and forgetting the usual to do lists. I'm cutting myself some slack for couch sitting knowing it's the means to relishing this time that will all too soon be fleeting. 

There's a lot of truth to this photo caption, recognizing the most important job title I will ever hold doesn't come with an actual paycheck. The obvious question I get so often is when I will return to work. The answer isn't a simple countdown of days. In fact it's caused me to understand my role with all new enlightenment. My work is not clocked in hourly wages. It's counted in memory making. My accomplishments aren't necessarily applauded by coworkers. It's the joy on the faces of my little ones seeing their delight from new discoveries and pride from their own achievements.

Today may be a new recipe I master. Tomorrow may be the organization of a drawer or closet. But in between the brokenness of my daily schedule, interrupted by a fussy baby, another feeding, or a diaper blow out, I'm learning to embrace this new normal. I often put pressure on myself for not doing enough - somehow I feel like I'm missing responsibilities or selling my infant daughter short of some learning opportunity. Surely I should be mastering some homemaking skill and teaching her something new each day, right?! The fact of the matter is I stare at the personalized scripture of Psalm 139 and realize that each day of her life was written in His book even before she entered this world. God knew that on this cold blustery day her first new experience would be the flurries of snowflakes falling outside. He also knew I would be wondering what else I could add to our eat-sleep-playmat-swing-repeat rotation. He would give me a peace about this day as He ordained it for me and for her knowing I would need the reminder to simply be a mom and recognize that as my most important accomplishment today. 

I've been talking to her - in fact, I've been reading the words of this blog and she's been kicking and cooing away. Turns out I don't have to say anything significant or profound for her to be content. Sometimes it's just hearing my voice that calms her. This is a new day, a new normal and a new opportunity to learn. But rest assured it's not just her doing the learning. It's also me. I'm learning to be still in the quietness of a sleeping baby. I'm learning to find peace in the moments of rest that come intermittently. I'm learning to adjust to an interrupted schedule. I'm learning to be content with momentary accomplishments that by the world's standards would not amount to much of anything but by this little one's expectations seem to bring delight to her life. This is my new normal. I won't get this day back and I won't have a second chance to live it again. So today I'm holding my baby, reading her these words as I type one-handed. (And that in itself should be considered a lofty accomplishment!)

Thursday, December 31, 2015


We started 2015 in Florida. Ringing in the New Year as a family at Lego Land to be exact. That was a fun and memorable time of celebrating. Our family of 3 entered 2015 with excitement. 

We celebrated my birthday in February. Okay, to be fair, we celebrated the whole month of February. But it wasn't my birthday that made February special this year. It was the 28th of the month when I had the first sign that we were expecting. Our family of 3 was going to become a family of 4 in 2015 and that was obviously the major theme that marked this year for us. 

We celebrated Michael's birthday in April and officially announced our news on Easter. I admit to being nervous and anxious but also wanted our prayer warriors and friends to pray for us and the baby. 

In May Eli turned 7. We celebrated his birthday at Putt Putt this year with, of course, a Dinosaur cake. The birthdays through the years show me how much he's growing and the true blessing it is to be this boy's mama. 

In June we got the first glimpses of our baby's sweet features and oh how I clung to those images! I studied the nose, mouth, the hands up by the face. And of course we wanted the gender to be a surprise - at least until we revealed it in the presence of our family who would celebrate with us. 

Can we say SURPRISE?! Who can forget this image when I was SHOCKED to learn the inside of the cake revealed PURPLE icing, which meant a GIRL! I was CONVINCED we were having a boy. Michael and Eli both swore it was a girl. So yes, I ate my humble pie AND my purple cake. We knew instantly her name would be Violet Hope. We had chosen it before she was even conceived.

This summer was a HUGE milestone for Eli as he learned out to swim. This confidence booster was such a turning point for him considering he wouldn't even cooperate during lessons to literally overnight being like a fish! We are SO proud of him! 

Michael and I had a "babymoon" to Southport and Oak Island where we enjoyed the relaxation of the beach and LOTS of seafood! We knew this would probably be our last getaway without kids for awhile but we both were looking forward to the changes to come. 

At the end of July, we went back to Florida with both Michael's parents and mine for a week long vacation, including Magic Kingdom, Kennedy Space Center and lots of time relaxing at the resort and enjoying our family time. This was our 4th trip to Magic Kingdom as a family of 3 and Violet's First trip - kindof! But we can't wait to take her for real!

August brought a new year of school - 2nd grade for Eli. This year has been marked with new adventures for an ever-energetic little boy of creating and discovering who he is, new struggles he faces with school and developmental delays and even more challenges that co-parenting and custody schedules bring. Eli's creativity continues to thrive as he's become more enthralled with his inventions and creations. All this kid needs is a roll of tape and some scraps and he will make a creature out of it!

The long awaited, much anticipated birth of our daughter finally came 4 days late and with an unexpected c-section after a day and a half of labor but on November 12, Violet Hope made her entrance into this world. She's stolen our hearts and fit right into our family beautifully. 

Of course we adore her but what is so beautiful is watching the relationship between this brother and sister. I admit - I was worried. He's adopted. She's born from my womb. Would he feel differently? Would he know how much he's loved? How much I prayed for him? How he made me a mother to begin with? Without skipping a beat, this is how God planned our family. It hasn't always been perfect or beautiful. It hasn't been all joy and rejoicing. There has been heartache and tears but I can look back over this nearly 10 year journey to becoming a mother to these 2 children and know God has had His sovereign hand over each detail. 

As we rounded out December, the birth of our nephew came as an early surprise when he arrived 10 days before his due date. Celebrating Christmas with these two babies has been so much fun! Cousins just 5 weeks and 1 day a part and our family is truly overflowing.

I could have NEVER predicted or planned for what we've seen and experienced in 2015. There's no way I could have even begun to understand what all was about to unfold in these 12 months. My husband often remarks how we've managed to pack so much life in such a short amount of time. So much of what became of this year was well out of my control. So much of what has come has been so deeply embedded in my faith walk of trusting the Lord with each step of this journey. 

When I began 2015 it was claiming joy and hope. I wrote these words:

God is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust Him and He helps me.
Joy rises in my heart 
until I burst out in songs of praise to Him
Psalm 28:7

Joy continues to rise in my heart. I can't contain my rejoicing because of how I've seen God work. Understand, this isn't the reflection of 2015. This is the restoration of many years of waiting, praying and seeing Him at work. As I reflect on this year, I simply cannot claim God's faithfulness enough. 

From our family to yours, whatever the year has brought, whatever you've gone through or faced, whatever you may be looking forward to in the coming year, whatever you've celebrated or experienced in 2015, Happy New Year!