Mom Things: Reflections on Life with a Toddler.

Things that have happened today:
“Don’t eat food out of the garbage can!”

Followed by a quick look into the garbage can to see what she might be eating. The good news is I was greeted by David’s leftover cereal, which was piled on top of a clean paper plate, so…

 

While trying to make a packing list for our upcoming vacation, one little hand on my knee, one clutching a book. The question “Do you want to read some books?” was immediately followed by a vigorous head nod and beeline to the bedroom.

 

I heard a loud crash during “nap time” and found this in her room. Apparently we weren’t tired today.

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That’s all for now. Another stack of books is accumulating next to me on the couch.

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Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Wide Open Like a Lake

Dear Eliana,

I hate that I have to write to you about this, but I know that one day, you will need it. You will need to hear about how things break and how they are mended.

there is sin. and sin can hurt. it can rip babies from mommas and daddies from homes. it can mean thousands of people dead. it can mean long nights of crying and sharp stabs in your heart. it can break hearts and homes and people.

it can mean bitterness. it can mean a tight heart and clenched hands and darkened eyes.  it can mean isolation and insulation and grasping at brokenness.

dear daughter, there is also forgiveness. it means an open heart and hands that mend and eyes that are full of light.  it means healing and grace. it means trying and forgetting. it means peace and stable and steady.  it means stillness and wonder and a peace that you can’t fake.

Like a Lake

I know that sounds hard. I know it sounds hard to be open when someone has hurt you. I know it is hard to mend hearts when yours feels broken. I know the ache that wants to be healed by clenching.

But I also know that clenching doesn’t work. I know that a barricaded heart and clenched hands never did anyone any good. I know that we aren’t healed by closing off but by opening up.

I know this because it’s how Jesus forgave. He didn’t clench up, he opened up. He stretched himself on that cross, wide open and vulnerable and begged forgiveness for us.  for us.  who killed him. forgiveness. before we asked.  His grace extends to us, and the best way for his forgiveness to heal you, sweet girl, is by opening yourself up and letting him use you to extend grace. He doesn’t ask you to come up with it. He freely gives. He only asks you to be open for it.

“when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake”*

I love you, sweet girl.

*Like a Lake, Sara Groves

Letters to Ellie: SIX.

Dear Ellie Jo,

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This morning, before the sun came up, before my alarm clock went off, before I heard birds chirping, we woke up. I heard you in your room and I went to get you. I brought you back to my room and fed and snuggled you. I watched the clock change from 6:16 to 6:17, and just like that you turned six months old.

It didn’t really happen that quickly, of course. It happened slow. Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, since the day you were born that time has been going away. I know where it went. But it’s gone just the same. It went to innumerable couch cuddles and late mornings in bed. It went to mini-road trips to visit your grandparents, to doctor’s appointments, to nap-filled days, to your first time at church, to long work days. It went to feedings and diapers and baths.  I look back on the last six months, Ellie, and my time it is full of you. It is full of learning and growing–not just for you but for me.  You are the baby who made me a momma, and we’ve spent the last six months figuring out what that means.

Six months ago, when we met you, I was struck by your beauty. I remember in those early days wanting to comment on something other than your looks, but I didn’t know you yet. What an incredible feeling it is–to love someone so much even though you know them so little.  Every day as you grow, I learn about you. One of my favorite things to do now is to compliment your other qualities.

Eliana Joanne, you are smart, perseverant, persistent, thoughtful, and joyful.  You love fiercely already.  You like to figure things out, you love to smile, and you are stubborn. How I pray the Lord gives us gentle hands to help shape that part of you without breaking it.

IMG_3854Sweet baby girl, I pray for you, that your tiny heart will know the love of the father real and strong and soon, that your heart will be tender towards that love and towards his people, and that the Lord might bless you with the gift of motherhood one day.  And if he does, sweet girl, prepare yourself. Because being a momma has already been the most spiritually formative thing I have ever experienced.  I didn’t know what it was to trust until the Lord began teaching me to trust him with you.  And I pray for us, Ellie, that trusting in Jesus will be the hallmark of our home. Because even after I spend 3 hours looking for a safe car seat for you, I remember that Jesus is the only one who can really guarantee your safety. And I remember that your safety might not look like I want it to. And I remember that being a clench-fisted momma won’t teach you to have faith. That white-knuckled fear doesn’t teach you how to trust.  And I sigh a little bit and I pray, Ellie Jo, while you’re there on the floor, trying to figure out how to crawl. That you will keep on growing and I will keep on trusting.

Love,

Momma

A Letter to Ellie: From Your Daddy.

Today, I am blessed to share a letter my husband wrote to Eliana in celebration of her birth.  While it’s not a traditional birth story, it is beautiful. Something I love about The Bradley Method is the emphasis it places on the role of Fathers in the delivery room and throughout the pregnancy.  When people ask me how I gave birth without an epidural, my answer is always the same: because of David. 

Dear Daughter,

So.  Let’s be forthright, shall we?  I love you.  I love you more than words can say.  I remember very fondly the morning you came into the world.  I stood at your mom’s side (her right-hand side, in case you’re interested in that sort of thing) with the nurse at her other side and the doctor at her feet.  I like to think my eyes saw you first: you came out on the final push curled up and on your left-hand side, facing me.  If you had opened your eyes at that moment, you would have seen me.  Who’s to say you didn’t?
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Before the nurses picked you up and carried you away to be wiped clean (or washed clean, in which case it could be called a sort of firstfruits of the baptism that you will, I pray, one day undergo in the Lord), you were set in your mother’s affectionate and protective arms.  I wish I could describe for you the look I saw at that moment on your mother’s face, but it transcends language.  It was joy mixed with gratitude mixed with exhaustion–and probably mixed with pride.  Pride in bearing you those nine months and giving you birth, gratitude to the Lord for his great kindness and care, joy at your life and at your entry into the world we inhabit only for a time, exhaustion and love suffusing it all.
I hope my face showed something similar.

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Since that day you have grown quite a lot; you now are probably between 13 and 14 lbs and 25-26 inches long (from 7 lbs. 10 oz. and 20.5 inches at birth).  You are, by the numbers, tall and thin–like your mother.  Today, at nearly 16 weeks of age, you can hold your own head steady, sit in a supportive chair, lift your head up off the ground if we set you on your stomach, notice and follow toys or other objects, smile in response to our own smiles, and more generally show recognition of certain faces.  We suspect you will start to roll over soon and not long after that begin to sit up and (too fast!) crawl.  What progress you’ve made!
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I feel a keen sorrow almost daily–whenever I think that I spend too little time with you.  I work full time at a job that doesn’t allow me to bring you with me.  Your mother, on the other hand, works as a nanny, and therefore gets to take you with her to work.  This arrangement has its upsides and downsides, of course, but it means at the very least that she spends more time with you than I do.  I know, I know–this is normal in families like ours.  But I wish to God that I had more time with you.  How it feels to have your head resting on my left shoulder while I hold you with my right arm and touch the back of your head with my left hand–it fills me with happiness that I never knew before I had a daughter.  You, Eliana, enrich my life and edify my heart.  And you give pause to my mind; you make me weigh, make me consider what’s important and what, among the various goods I possess, can be let go.  I remember in Gilead, my favorite book, Ames talks about grace as something that takes life down to the essentials.  In that sense you are grace personified for me.  That makes me think of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” in which Hopkins says that Christ is “lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his.”  Yours are the limbs and eyes (and the smile!) through which Christ, right now, makes himself known to me.
Okay, that’s a good place to stop.  Child of my heart, hear my heart beat for you; know its affection for you, its desire that you grow up to be a woman who knows the Triune God and expends herself to the uttermost for His great glory.
Love,
David, your Father
*If we are successful, David will attend the training with me and will have the option to help teach classes as he is able. Click here to become a part of our journey. 

A Letter to Ellie: Birth

Dear Eliana, 

I felt sad when I woke up on February 20th.  I had heard two due dates from my doctors– the 20th and the 21st, and after my doctor’s appointment earlier that week, I had begun to feel like you would never arrive!  I stayed in bed until noon, trying to sleep the day away.  Even though I felt nearly certain that you would be at least a week late, there was just something about those dates. I had been hoping for them for 9 months. Looking forward to the day that I would get to hold you in my arms for the very first time. And, to be honest, I was super excited about labor.  I had done a lot of reading and was confident that the Lord had made my body for this work and would sustain me, and I honestly couldn’t wait to experience it. Little did I know, I wouldn’t have to wait long.
 
It’s worth pointing out that your daddy was supposed to be in Kenosha at this time, but due to some work complications, he was stuck working from home.  I ate an orange, said “Wouldn’t it be funny if my water breaks on this walk?” kissed your daddy, and walked out the door. 
 
I started out on a walk that had become very familiar to me throughout my pregnancy: out our door, through the parking lot, around campus, back to our apartment. I had created a birthing playlist, and I would listen to it while I walked and I would pray for you, for me, and for a healthy delivery. When I went for this walk on February 20th, I didn’t even make it through the parking lot. My water broke before the first song ended. I was so excited, I think I giggled, quickly made my way back to the apartment, and told your daddy we were going to be meeting you soon! 
 
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It was more of a trickle than anything, but I was SURE that this was it!  Contractions didn’t start, so we took our time getting ready and packing up the last of our things.  We made some phone calls, and your grandparents and some of your aunts and uncles started making their way to the hospital.  That drive to the hospital was full of wonderful (and not wonderful) thoughts– 
 
 
 
 
 
This is really, really happening! 
 
I can’t wait to meet her!
 
Oh no! I haven’t eaten dinner! 
 
We got there, and they didn’t believe me– apparently it’s not common practice to change your clothes when your water breaks, and they were skeptical about whether this was labor or not.  I sat in this little holding room for what felt like hours, but was probably really less than one while a nurse told me all the reasons I probably was not in labor.  For the second time on February 20th, I felt sad. And silly!  I had some awful thoughts–
 
This isn’t happening!
 
Oh no! People are starting to arrive! 
 
I’m not going to meet her today! 
 
At least I’ll get to eat dinner. 
 
Just as I was telling your daddy to call my parents and tell them not to come, the nurse came back in and told me that I was, in fact, correct. And then, I said something I never say, 
 
“Shut UP!” 
In the style of Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries.  Not my proudest moment. 
 
Then, just in case I had any lingering doubt, my water REALLY broke. I mean, all of the sudden I knew why the nurse was skeptical of me, and I laughed. This, dear daughter, was one of those times that laughter starts deep inside of you and rolls through you and comes crashing out of you the way the waves do at high tide.  The joy I felt at that moment– it’s a memory I treasure. I relived the joyful thoughts I had in the car.  You really were coming! This really was it! 
 
I finally got into a room around 7, and still wasn’t having many contractions.  My doctor started me on Pitocin, because they like to speed these things up as much as possible. 
 
I communicated my desire for a natural birth, and my doctor said “No need to be a martyr, Lindsey,” and walked out the door. I laughed about that, too.
 
Stubbornness can be a gift, dear daughter, and the doctor’s comment, though it had nothing to do with my reasons for choosing what I did, motivated me all the more. Fortunately for me, I had an amazing nurse, Jessica, who understood exactly what I planned to do and promised that she would do everything she could to help me. 
 
IMG_3505The next several hours were a lot of walking around the hospital and talking with family and friends who had wanted to be there for your birth.  I actually spent most of this time in the waiting room. In labor. Hanging out with a bunch of people who were eating dinner. Remembering fondly that 3pm Orange.  
 
Around 2:30 am, the work started.  By this time, your daddy and I were in the room alone, and all the visitors were waiting patiently in the waiting room.  These were the contractions that required work, and your daddy and I did the work over and over again.  
 
 
 
This was when we started listening to the playlist I had so often listened to in anticipation of this day. I’m saving this playlist for you, sweet girl. Not one song on it was chosen carelessly.  It is full of music that I played for you while you grew, music that reminds us who cares for us, music that worships the God who made our bodies and who gives us life, music that speaks of his good gifts and of his faithfulness. 
 
Let me tell you about your daddy, Ellie Jo. He sat there with me, encouraging me, holding me, and praying with me through the whole thing.  Together, while we labored to bring you into this world, we worshipped.  As we joined God in his work of bringing new life, we thanked him for his goodness. And as I leaned my laboring body against your daddy’s chest, I leaned my soul on the one who made it. And he was there with us, Eliana. The one who granted us the grace to carry you carried us. In labor I learned something valuable for life, the leaning is the labor.
 
As the time of your arrival got closer and closer, I made my way to the bed.  The doctor came, and it was finally time to push. I am pretty sure it was time to push before the doctor came, but they like the doctor to be there for those things. I pushed for maybe 10 minutes, and I was surprised the entire time that it wasn’t worse.  After hearing all about how unbearable it can be, and after doing the hard work of labor for the previous 6 hours, I could hardly contain my excitement. I heard the doctor point out your head to daddy, and I couldn’t believe we were almost done.
 
“She has hair.” 
 
I laughed again. It was mind blowing to me that your daddy was seeing you, actually seeing you for the first time.  Just one or two more pushes and you were here. 
 
6:17am. 
7lbs. 10 oz. wispy reddish hair and perfect milky-pink skin.
Eliana Joanne.
The Lord’s answer.  
 
You were placed on my chest and time stopped.  
My heart felt so full, I was sure it would burst. I couldn’t stop looking at you. I couldn’t stop. I marveled at the fact that you, my sweet, darling daughter were actually in my arms. Your skin on my skin. I breathed you in, I kissed your head. your face. your hands. Your daddy leaned in close, and we sat. We cradled you. I fed you. I never wanted to let you go. 
 
But, inevitably, they took you to weigh you and measure you, and make sure you were healthy. Your daddy went with you. He stood by your side. He talked with you. The wonder and joy that I saw on your daddy’s face that day blesses my heart.  Your daddy doesn’t get excited about much, but now I see that look on his face every day, Eliana. That look of wonder that the Glorious God who made every human being would choose to entrust us with the care of your precious life.  Oh, how your daddy loves you. 
 
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Once things were all straightened out, I had the most delicious glass of orange juice I have ever had, and demanded to hold you again. And then, what a treasure it was to introduce you to the dear, sweet people who had loved you since they first heard you were coming, who all asked to be there while we labored. Nana & Grandpa Dan, Grandma Karen & Grandpa Greg, Auntie Kelley, Auntie Emily, Uncle Andrew, Uncle Scott.  After a long night of praying and waiting, one after another, they all joined us in that room, and your daddy introduced you. We shared your name for the first time, giving glory to the One who has given you to us. 
 
After all our faithful labor, like the Lord who has given you to us, we rested. For hours, I just held you and stared. Quietly and peacefully, we rested and thanked the Lord for his good gifts. 
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Love you, sweet girl.
 
Momma