Our little William is 2 months old now, and we are beginning to settle into a new normal around here. Sort of. Things have graduated from "keep everyone alive" mode to "actually getting out and going places and doing things and somewhat enjoying ourselves at least some of the time" mode.
The girls still love him just as fiercely as ever, leaving me in constant awe and wonder as to how my mother managed to keep my younger brother Shawn alive into toddlerhood with Shannon and I eager to "help". Our scariest moment yet has been when I came upon them in our bedroom, trying to get baby out of his cradle. Jocelyn was holding him while standing up IN the cradle (which rocks) and I believe, from what I could gather before I interceded, that she was planning to hand him to Charlotte on our bed. Cue panic attack. This picture is not from that time, but a different one. I am happy to report they have finally grasped the concept that the cradle is NOT their personal play pen.
But like I said, things are starting to sort themselves out (sort-of) and we are slowly fumbling our way through to some semblance of a routine. Unfortunately, after a baby is born I'm always sort of coasting on an adrenaline high for the first while which is great except for the inevitable crash, which of course always comes long after everyone thinks you're doing fine and don't need any help anymore. Why is that?!?! Terrible timing, just terrible.
August was a big month in his little young life. He got to meet two brand-new cousins, with which I'm sure he will have all kinds of epic adventures. My children are SO LUCKY to have so many cousins of their age and gender living close by. What a dream. My cousins were my best friends growing up. The times we had together could fill a book and they probably should, although I would need a nanny/cook/maid for that to ever happen. Any applications for the position can be sent to my email, post haste.
He also got to attend a wedding and wear uncomfortable dressy clothes, so I guess he's officially a man now. Watching my two men in their button down shirts and ties?! Be still my beating heart. I am so unbelievably lucky to call them my own.
All in all, he still is a little dream-boat of a baby. He sleeps great at night, which has been a lifesaver as two other certain children I know (who shall remain unnamed) are treating the whole nap-thing as a rare concept these days. It's a total lottery. You just never know what each day will bring and the days when all three are sleeping in the afternoon I feel like I spend most of my time trying to figure out what kind of magical fairy unicorn dust was sprinkled through our morning routine that made it happen and how can I make it happen again!! And then it's over and I didn't even accomplish much. So goes life.
I think God blessed me with an easy baby because his big sisters that have tested the reserves of my patience to its human limits but, regardless! We are blessed. Also we are getting away for a little while this weekend (taking W along) and let's just say that I'm looking forward to it.
How has your August been?
But aside from the obvious shock of exiting my twenties, I think what has surprised me the most about being on the brink of my 30's is how far I feel from where I always assumed 30-something women to be. I assumed that Women In Their Thirties Had:
Everything all figured out.
The ability to perfectly balance marriage, motherhood, housewifery, and all of its many demands.
Nice hair and nails. At all times.
Total security and confidence in their identity in Christ.
The privilege of watching all of their wildest dreams, goals and ambitions coming true.
And at times that all feels completely foreign to me still. I find myself still thinking of myself as a "new mom" but when does that change? I have a 4 year-old...am I allowed to think that until they are 14? No? So when's the cut-off? Yet in some other ways, I feel incredibly close to what I had imagined it would be. The whole "paying a mortgage and having babies and looking for vehicles with a 3rd row of seats"? Ditto. That slipping into a stage of comfort with each other and deep trust and love in our marriage while completely different than our dating and giddy and honeymooning stage? Yes. I do feel 30.
And so in some ways this milestone is looking much like what I expected, and nothing like what I expected, all at the very same time. I had hoped that by the time I bid my 20s farewell, I would be leaving all of the drama and insecurity and comparison and jealousy and ridiculousness of my teens and twenties far, far behind me as well. All of the emotional turmoil and anxiety nonsense I drag myself through on a consistent basis would be but a faint and distant memory, as I breezed through my 30s in killer shoes and perfect hair and perfectly obedient children in tow, all looking like they had stepped off the pages of a Crew cuts catalog.
It all seems so laughable now, the notion that merely flipping calendar pages would magically turn me into who I hope to be. Growing older doesn't automatically grant you maturity, or gift you wisdom. Unfortunately. Growing older just guarantees that your body will change, brown hair will turn grey and smooth skin will wrinkle. That's it.
Growing older happens in our sleep, with nothing required from us at all. But the only way to GROW, is if we learn from our mistakes, apply God's Word to our lives and desperately beg for wisdom at the feet of Jesus. We have to turn to Him. Daily. We have to seek for our approval and acceptance and identity in Him. Because as much as we chalk up to "teen angst" really has nothing to do with our age. It won't magically go away just because we've entered our 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s. It takes more than that. It takes deliberate action to apply our life experiences and the written Word to our quest for wisdom.
It takes deliberate choices. Some big, some small, some that fall in between. But always, constantly, DAILY there are choices facing us that have the opportunity to mold, shape and refine us into who we want to be. Growing older in and of itself does not have the power to do that.
I don't remember fiercely battling insecurity and identity in my teens to the degree that I faced it in my 20s. Did I have my moments and days of it? Sure. But it wasn't the degree of intensity in my teens that it escalated to in my 20s. I got married and I moved and I had kids and the changes came fast and hot and heavy and left me turned upside down and inside out until I felt like I hardly knew who I was anymore.
I compared myself to women that I thought seemed to have achieved perfection and I felt I just constantly fell short. I sought approval and acceptance more fiercely than I ever had before, desperate to find my place in the world. A place that I truly belonged. And to some extent, it seemed I never would. That to some, I would never be quite good enough. I would never totally, truly belong.
And all the while, I battled fear and insecurity and jealousy while no one would have ever been the wiser. I was confidant and outgoing and made friends easily, and I'm sure it was quite believable that I never felt alone. But things are not always as they appear, as I have come to realize time and time again. I have faced some of my darkest days while I'm sure some assume I have sailed through life without a care in the world.
But I am happy to report, that I am actually looking forward to this birthday with great relish. I have felt a working and a stirring and a refining in my life over the past year more than I ever have before, and I know God is up to something big. I don't have the faintest idea what all that entails, and what all lies in store for me, but I am SO READY.
Ready for this new phase of life, this thing we call 30, and ready for flipping that calendar page. I am ready to apply some of the things I've learned about myself and about others and about life in the past years and let it actually change me. I am ready to use my voice and not always be second-guessing it. I am ready to find my identity in the only One Who has always loved and accepted me, from before the beginning of time. I am ready to run to Jesus and not to the world for my stamp of approval.
Bring it on 30, I am so ready for you.
I really wish someone would have taken me aside earlier on in my life and taught me how to shop. Now I know most of you (especially if you are male) are scoffing at the idea that one would need to be taught how to shop, but I do believe that some of it is an acquired skill set that no one seems to deem worthy enough to devote time to teaching. And I think it should be. Because we all know that shopping can be done poorly, and it can be done well.
Being raised Mennonite, I was taught to be frugal and thrifty, and spending money on "new" clothes (as in, not clearance or second-hand) was a RARE and special occasion. I would enter a store and walk straight for the clearance racks hardly even stopping to bother to look at the newer displays toward the front of the store, as I knew I wouldn't be shopping there anyway. I frequented garage sales and Goodwill, always hoping to find that J. Crew men's shirt or a pair of Nikes or that Banana Republic sweater that would make all the hunting worth my time.
Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and shopping like that just isn't hardly feasible for me anymore. For a while, I was in denial. I would wait until Grandma day or when someone could babysit, and then I would make my rounds hitting all the thrift stores, scouring the racks in my hours of child-free time and considering it a success if I left with a few items. But now? Those hours of child-free time are worth infinitely more, and I would have to be coming home with a couch from West Elm to justify spending all my babysitting hours on thrifting.
I also happened upon this novel concept (way too late in life, if you ask me) of how to go about clothes shopping for my children. I could spend all of my time searching clearance racks and the stinky aisles of Goodwill for clothes that would last them a short time and never be quite what I really wanted but at least they were cheap....OR.....I could spend a little more money for NEW clothes, that would last for both of my girls, look nicer, be the right size and style, AND maybe be in nice enough shape to re-sell after they were done with them. Brilliant. And the difference didn't have to be hundreds of dollars. In fact, it could almost be done just as cheap, if you did it right.
Empowered with this new theology, I set off to test it out on Old Navy. I needed to get some new fall clothes for my girls so badly, but I just didn't know when that was going to happen. Child-free shopping is getting harder and harder to come by these days, and I was in no way desperate enough to brave it with all 3. I think they'd pretty much have to be wearing nothing but bath towels to make me that desperate.
Enter online shopping. *harp music plays* Why haven't I utilized this more??! My mom never really did any online shopping and so I just never even really considered it as a part of my regular shopping until recently. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE. I found pretty much exactly what I was needing for Jocelyn, and I never even had to leave my house. A cardigan in a pop of color, a pair of black jeans, shoes that will go with anything and of course, the perfect fall weather dress. And all for $36.02!!! Here's how:
Old Navy was having a 30% off everything (and I had just missed the 35% from the day before. Bah.) and added to that was 20% off for signing up for the email subscription, and my total before discounts was over $50, so that awarded me free shipping. So when it was all said and done, I paid $36.02 which comes to about $9 per item, and if you shop at Goodwill you would pay probably at least $3-5 per item, and in my humble opinion, the extra money is so worth it because both of my girls will wear all of those things, and they will wear nicer and longer this way being new.
Oh and neither of my girls are going to school yet, but "Back to School Basics" just sounded cooler than Stay at Home Basics. So there you have it.
What are some of your tips on shopping for kids? I'd love to hear!
I don't know about you, but I can get overwhelmed fairly quickly.
Sometimes it just feels too hard to be good. A good wife, a good mom, a good daughter, a good sister, a good in-law, a good aunt, a good friend, a good neighbor, a good Christian....we fill SO many roles and we want to be good at ALL of them! We want to be GREAT.
But we're human and so of course we fail, and fall, and stumble all over ourselves and make a mess of things more often than we don't. We try to do it on our strength and so we pull up our bootstraps and we read more inspiring articles, and we feel like we maybe are getting this whole "excellence" thing down...and then we fail again. And it can just get so overwhelming.
It doesn't help that every which way you turn, there are a multitude of "solutions" for you, and they're all a little bit different. Some are simple, some are complex, some are short, some are long, but they all start to stack up on top of each other and pile around me until I begin to feel as if I'll NEVER get it all right.
Those little numbered, bulleted lists just make me want to scratch my eyes out. Lists like:
10 Steps Toward Raising a faith-sharing Child
12 Ways to Pray for your Child's Future Mate
15 Ways to Make Prayer a natural part of your everyday Family Life
15 Ways to Please Your Husband
33 Ways to Spark True Womanhood
50 Promises to Live By
In full disclosure, those are titles of actual articles on the Revive our Hearts website, and I am actually really interested in checking some of them out. Ha. And I'm sure they have great content! It's just with my personality, those numbers start to pile up in my brain and I feel completely overwhelmed after a while. I get lost in the fog of, "What are the 7 things I should be doing every day, again? What are those 18 steps to an obedient child? How do I improve my marriage in 33 days or less? What are the 4 keys to living a live of peace and joy???" And I just want to throw up my hands in despair.
And so when I heard that there is ONE THING to do to be the best parent you can be, my ears perked RIGHT up. In an earlier post I referenced a podcast I've been listening to lately but I don't think I mentioned what one it was....you can find it over here at the Revive our Hearts website but I just downloaded the app on my phone and listen to it that way.
Anyway, a few episodes are from an interview by Nancy Leigh DeMoss with Bill & Holly Elliff, and man oh man do I wish I could meet that couple. He is pastor of the Summit Church in Arkansas, and together they are parents to eight children, and you could just soak in their experience and wisdom all day. I could listen to them talk about parenting for hours. At times he was choked up with emotion just talking about his wife and children and the joy in their home. I hadn't listened to them much longer than a few minutes before it was quite clear to me how much they loved their family, and valued each other.
But even with their treasure trove of practical tips and parenting advice, for Bill it all came down to one thing, and one thing only, and I cannot tell you how refreshing that was to me to hear. And here it is, the ONE THING YOU NEED TO DO, TO BE A GREAT MOM:
"Do everything that is necessary to maintain intimacy with Christ, because everything flows from His presence. You have Him? You have everything you need."
I don't know about you, but hearing that just lifted the heaviest burden off of my shoulders. It's not about some magical 3-step formula, or the Top Ten list of whatever, it's as simple as intimacy with Christ. Now do I feel like I've arrived? Like I've achieved that as much as I'd like? Certainly not. But recently I have felt my focus shifting from all of the ways I can improve my marriage or my mothering or my whatever, to how I can become more intimate with Christ. And it's such a relief....to stop focusing on bettering myself and always feeling like a failure, to turning my eyes upon Jesus.
And I do not have all the answers! But I realize now that good parenting is not something that I can accomplish by getting all of my ducks in a row. It isn't a formula, or a recipe. It is something that flows from the presence of Christ. What sweet relief. And Bill wasn't the only one with good things to say, his wife Holly had so many, many good points as well.
"Be purposeful in prayer. Sometimes we not only don't have the answer, we can't even identify the problem. Sometimes, we just need to be grateful that God has given us access to His endless wisdom. Don't stop short of praying for your children. How tragic it would be if they have the right kind of tennis shoes, but not a praying mom! Treat your children as though you won't have them next year. Train your children as though they won't have you next year."
I'll leave you with that. And now I'd love to hear from you! What are some ways that you maintain intimacy in your relationship with Christ?
Baby's first visit to the Oregon coast on Sunday was quite the success.
We had thought it would be nice to head out there to escape the heat wave we'd been experiencing in the Valley, and so of course on the day we decided to go, it cooled down considerably and was cloudy and overcast and quite pleasant at home. Oh well. Any trip to the coast is a good use of time, no matter what the weather, if you ask me.
We went with friends and it was so fun to catch up on some adult conversation while the dads played in the sand and the waves with the children. I am so thankful that my little ones have a father who gets down on his hands and knees in the sand with them. I hope they realize what a privilege that is.
William was a trooper. We left straight from church in the morning and me, being the super organized and prepared-at-all-times-for-any-situation-mom that I am, didn't pack extra clothes for him. My mom would've suffered a mini heart attack seeing him out on the beach on that cloudy, cool day in a romper and no socks. But I put on his jacket and snuggled him all up in a sling and wore him close to me, and he slept peacefully for hours. No bare piggies sticking out, Mom, I promise.
See? He had a jacket on at least. And it even was a matching little mini Puma one, like Daddy's. Two of my favorite garage sale finds, recently. The jackets, not the boys. This picture was taken at the end of the day before heading home and also RIGHT before I realized baby had a massive poop. I spent the next 15 minutes or so trying to clean him all up, which resulted in just throwing a white onesie away. Why do they always have blowouts in white onesies?? He ended up riding all the way home in nothing but that jacket and a diaper. But hey, good timing with it being the end of the trip! I still don't know what I would have done if it had happened earlier.
It was so fun to catch up with my friend that day. I didn't ask if I could blog about her, so we'll just leave her unnamed. She is a reader, a writer, a deep thinker, and a working mom, so she is always a lot of fun to talk to, listen to, and get a different perspective from. I love how honest she is about her strengths, weaknesses, and things that frustrate her. I think life would be so much easier if we would all just agree to be a little more honest with each other. Just think of the time and energy and effort it would save that we usually waste on applying that slick, shiny veneer coating over everything on the surface of our lives.
We talked about many things.....writing, books that don't really help much and books that do, motherhood, responsibilities that a domestic woman's life entails, and other things, like Instagram. One thing she mentioned that stuck with me and I haven't quite been able to shake was something to the extent of, "Have you noticed how on Instagram, you're only worthwhile if you're really good at certain things? Things like decorating your home, arranging pretty food, or personal fashion/style? If those aren't your strengths, than you're not really noticed."
And I'm sure I'm butchering her quote, but it was something to that extent.
And I've really been mulling that over. Because as sad as it sounds, it's fairly true. Sure there are exceptions to the "rule" as there are in most things, but to a certain extent, that's how it is. And it's a pity, because there are so many, different kinds of lovely people in our world with so many, MANY different strengths and gifts and talents to offer. There should be room for all of that.
And as I'm mulling, I'm still not sure what the answer is. Because somehow, while I cannot put my finger on how, some Instagram feeds have found a delicate balance. They share their lives beautifully AND authentically, and leave you feeling refreshed or inspired. While some, though having beautiful photos and clever captions and thematic layouts as well.....leave you feeling empty. Lacking. Insecure and insufficient.
I have no idea what it is exactly that makes the difference, but I can feel it. Or maybe the difference is me? And therein lies the problem? I don't know. But I hope, I HOPE that everyone can find their place for expression, whether it be Instagram, or a blog, or a book, or a job, or a hobby, or a piece of art, or a song, or any kind of creation or action really......that lets them be THEM. Let's them use their gifts and strengths, and feel like they are doing something that matters. That THEY matter.
Because they do.
And so we got coffees and talked and had a "driving date" which totally isn't a thing but I'm thinking we should make it a thing? Because dates are hard to come by these days with busy seasons of work and tiny babies and such. And so maybe once a week we should just tire the kids out by running laps around the house or something and then load them all up in the car and drive around town.
It's worth a try.