Building Foundations of Wonder

I’m honored to be over at Kindred Mom today, wrapping up their series on Cultivating Family Culture. Our hikes are still slow and filled with meandering and I don’t know if we’ve ever reached our destination. But both girls readily pick hiking on a weekend, so I call that a success. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to Kindred Mom to join the conversation!

IMG_8298My husband and I are both avid hikers. We met on a snowshoe hike; our first anniversary was spent hiking the West Highland Way, a 100-mile trail in Scotland; our pre-kid days were filled with rambles through the mountains of Colorado. So, when we found out we were pregnant, we dreamt about raising outdoorsy kids who loved hiking as we did.

Our first year as parents didn’t look all that different from our days before kids. We’d pop our daughter into the Ergo and then, as she grew, the hiking backpack and kept on trekking. It wasn’t until she became an independent toddler that our expectations of family hikes were put to the test.

It’s not that we thought our 2-year-old would be able to hike more than a mile or so, but we were hoping she’d be content to stay in the pack in between her own sprints along the trail. We didn’t reckon that our hikes would dwindle down to a quarter mile exploration. Our norm became an hour drive into the hills, a half hour or so walk, plenty of snack breaks, and an hour drive back home.

On one of these excursions, my husband’s best friend, Uncle Steve, came along and completely reframed my mentality of hiking with kids. As we drove to the trailhead, I found myself warning Steve that this hike would be short and slow. I apologized for the way kids stopped all the time and tried to create realistic expectations.

Steve responded by asking our daughter what wildlife she was hoping to see on our hike. A Mountain Lion!! was the enthusiastic response.

We piled out of the car and within a couple hundred yards of the trailhead, Steve bent down and exclaimed, Look! I found wildlife! Our daughter ran over and knelt beside him, inspecting the centipede that was inching its way along the trail. After that, every few feet, they would find more wildlife: an ant, a snake’s hole, a bird or a butterfly.

This hike changed my mentality of exploring nature with my girls. Now, we ask what wildlife they hope to see each time we head to a trail. Read the rest over at Kindred Mom and join the conversation!

Do you stop to watch the centipedes? How does noticing the small things change your perspective?

We Are Free to Love

My friend dropped her daughter off for a day of playing with Bea. Her daycare was on a holiday so I had agreed to host another 2-year-old for the day. After organizing snacks and lunches, my friend was about to leave when I blurted out, We just found out we’re miscarrying.

29595147_10160186172275453_3799920368185849580_nTiming is everything, isn’t it? We had just returned from a lovely weekend in Yellowstone, introducing Bea to one of our favorite places. On the way home, I knew something wasn’t right and, after inexplicably crying on the phone to my doctor, was seen right away for an early ultrasound. I learned a lot during that miscarriage, the biggest of which is that it is a process. It took weeks for my body to finally let the baby go.

Those weeks were held with a lot of waiting, a lot of Daniel Tiger episodes, and a lot of unknown. Those weeks also held so much hope and love from our community. My friend’s husband returned that afternoon to pick up their daughter, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in hand. Another friend who had gone through her own miscarriage and the subsequent discovery of infertility brought over a meal and a listening ear. I learned that life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

I also learned that, even though we had a strong community who came alongside us, this is not the case for everyone. Miscarriage is still not shared, even though it’s a fairly common occurrence. I knew that I wanted to be open about our experience. In the following years, I’ve been able to come beside friends who experienced their own losses but we’ve had other friends who held it dear, not wanting to share.

Of course, we all process grief in our own unique ways and for some, that process is quieter. But that feeling of loneliness is one that breaks my heart. It’s for this reason, I’m so thankful for Adriel Booker’s memoir, Grace Like Scarlett. Adriel walks us through her own journey of three miscarriages between healthy pregnancies. She is honest and vulnerable in her feelings and hopelessness but also encouraging as she grounds her experiences in God and her community. She says,

“When we humble ourselves enough to let down our guard and be known for who we really are, grace is released. We are free to love and be loved.”

Even though this is a book specifically about miscarriage, its scope is much broader. It’s about grief and expectations; about community and faith. Booker reminds us that when we open ourselves up to others, we are seen. God meets us in those places.

Grace Like Scarlett is a book I wish I had had during the months following our miscarriage, as we became pregnant with a healthy baby, as I still processed the loss in the midst of joy and anticipation. It’s a book that is important in helping us open up to our friends and community. It gives hope and help on a journey that’s not often discussed.

How have you found help in your community after experiencing loss? What resources do you wish had been available?

Booker_GraceLikeScarlett_3D_webGrace Like Scarlett releases on May 1 but if you preorder now, you get tons of bonus gifts, like coloring pages, an audio series, and journaling prompts to help you process your own grief journey. Visit gracelikescarlett.com for all the details!

As a member of the Grace Like Scarlett launch team, I received an advanced copy for review. All opinions are my own.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Small Actions Take Courage

I had the honor of writing about my experience in our school’s Family Literacy Program for the MOPS Magazine. They’ve republished the piece over at the MOPS Blog today so I thought I’d share an excerpt. I hope you’ll head over to read the rest!

nordwood-themes-179255-unsplashWe sat together, sipping coffee. She asked how I took my coffee and I replied, “Usually black.” She told me she was the same. Back home, they grew and roasted their own coffee, which she would drink black. But here … We smiled and rolled our eyes toward the cream-filled mugs.

We talked about family and I asked her if she had plans to go back to Ethiopia to see her mom. She said, “No.” Last year, her father had been brutally killed, their house burned down, and her mother and siblings went into hiding. Now, they’re able to talk on the phone sometimes, but it’s hard. She doesn’t want to go there; they can’t come here.

When I signed up to be a tutor for the family literacy program at my daughter’s school, I hadn’t anticipated these stories. Stories of leaving children behind; of worrying about policies impacting their families here. Stories of loss and hope and struggle; the reality of living as an immigrant or refugee in America.

My first thought was that I had absolutely nothing to complain about. My life seemed easy, privileged and unreal compared with my fellow moms. Who was I to feel tired or annoyed with my kids? Who was I to question my next steps or identity as a stay-at-home mom? These women were working multiple jobs! They really knew what stress and work-life balance (or imbalance) looks like!

But that’s not fair – not to them or to me. I’m learning to stop and listen, but not to let the stories of others overwhelm my own journey. Maybe I don’t have to decide to move my family to another country, but I do have to make small decisions that will impact our future. Read the rest over at the MOPS Blog!

What are ways you’ve been gusty lately? How do you remember that your own courage matters, without comparing your journey?

Coming To Terms With a Stereotypical Family

I’m honored to be over at The Mudroom Blog today. Their theme this month is Adoption and Foster Care and I was surprised to find that I had something to say about it. While it’s not in our plan right at this moment, one thing I’m learning about planning my family is that there is no plan – only trust and grace. Here’s an excerpt. I hope you’ll head over to The Mudroom to join the conversation!

When I was Planning Out My Life in my twenties, I assumed I would:

  1. Get married
  2. Adopt a puppy
  3. Have 2 biological kids
  4. Foster and/or adopt another kid or two
  5. Live Happily Ever After

I got married and we soon adopted a puppy. Three years later, we gave birth to our first daughter and three years (almost to the day) after that, our second daughter was born. We’re at a place with our youngest that, if I was to go by my original schedule, we should start filling out paperwork and taking preparation classes to explore foster care and adoption. This is what we should do. We are fairly stable, fairly well-educated, mostly good parents. Shouldn’t we be saving the unwanted children?

But whenever I put aside my savior complex (because, of course, fostering and adoption must be so much bigger and deeper than that) I still can’t bring myself to fill out the paperwork because of one big reason. I’m tired. Having two young kids is tiring. (I know, I know. Try filling a minivan before talking about exhaustion!)

I’m embarrassed that only two kids makes me too tired to want to add to our family—either biologically or through foster care. I’m embarrassed that I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of preschool next year, when I can claim two mornings a week for myself. I’m embarrassed that I’m not digging deeper into an unwavering capacity in God’s energy.

For a long time, I felt proud of our family plan. And maybe that’s why it feels too overwhelming now. Read the rest over at The Mudroom and join the conversation there!

Did you map out your family plan? How has it changed? What have you learned from those changes?

Filling This Season With Rose-Colored Memories

Some of the most important relationships I’ve formed as a young mom are with women who have children around my own age. My mom, my aunts, mentor moms at MOPS, and other women I’ve met along the way who have helped with advice, perspective, and a listening ear.

IMG_8445One thing I’ve heard from them all is that, while the little years are hard, they never regretted staying home for that season. It’s fast and before you know it, the kids are in school and need you in different, less time-consuming ways. (I typed this last sentence at the same time Elle climbed into my lap. Time-consuming, indeed…)

I know that, by the time I’m a grandma, I’ll look back nostalgically. Maybe these women are looking at life through rose-colored glasses. But I kind of want that. I want to look back at these years with fondness, letting the hard moments fade. I want to look back and know that this was a good choice for our family.

I’ve been thinking about this perspective lately. I feel like it can apply to so many areas and life decisions. What will we look back on without regret? What choices will we make that, when we’re looking back through shiny memory, we’ll smile fondly? I suppose this is like successful businessmen looking back and never regretting saying no to a client and yes to their family, even if it felt like a big decision at the moment.

I just dropped off Elle’s preschool registration for next year. She’ll only be gone two mornings a week but that glimpse into future freedom has me reflecting on how I spend my time. What am I doing with those “free” moments? How will I make choices now that will help me look back on this season without regret, with fond, rose-colored memories?

What about you? What are choices you made (or are making) that will define how you look back on life?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “regret.”

When The Way Things Have Always Been Done Isn’t Best

Our tax season got off to a rocky start. Unmet expectations, a busy weekend, miscommunication, the stress of the unknown. After three rough weekends, I wondered if this was it. Was this how the year would go? Do I resign myself to a cloud over each family day?

IMG_8390Thankfully, Frank and I decided that, just because it started out badly, our tax season and our interactions didn’t have to continue this way. We talked, we made a plan, we recognized expectations that could be met and those that are too hopeful. We recalibrated and reset. This didn’t happen on a date or even over a glass of wine. It happened after I put the girls to bed by myself and he came home before 9:00, which is early these days. But we did it.

And I’m so glad we did. Last weekend was wonderful. We stayed in our pajamas after breakfast. We ate lunch at the Botanic Gardens and played in the sunshine. We talked and did all the things we do as a family when life isn’t stretched thin. It was a reminder that, in the midst of stressful times it feels like it is our new norm – that life will forevermore be unpleasant. It’s not, though. We had a choice to talk and listen. We chose to start fresh on a Monday night, three weeks into a busy season.

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Way Things Have Always Been Done lately. When tragedy strikes, we dig our heels in and feel sad and hopeless but recognize that this is just how life is. What can we change? Or we say, It’s a heart issue as though there’s nothing more to be done.

For Frank and I, our miscommunication was a heart issue. We both wanted things done our way and we weren’t able to stop and listen in a heated moment. We let our hearts be hurt and a bit hardened. But we also chose to change those same hearts toward a better way. It doesn’t mean we won’t argue again this tax season (or after). It doesn’t mean that expectations will always be met or that our feelings won’t be hurt. But it does mean we’re choosing love and kindness. We’re choosing to fix and restart.

Looking at history, I’m thankful for people who have stopped the status quo and helped ignite a reset. Without abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights leaders, and contemporary activists, we would still be living in The Way Things Have Always Been Done. Because we had women and men bravely stop the cycle of injustice, we have moved forward as a nation. Sometimes this means changing laws. Sometimes this means fighting for new laws. It’s slow going. We are still struggling to fully reset, even a century and a half later.

But just because we haven’t fully arrived, does this mean we stop? Do we condemn ourselves to live in brokenness forevermore?

 

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Source: Alyssa Milano

When I think about mass killings and the statistics about gun-related violence, I feel like any conversation of reform immediately stops because we are still living in the stressful mindset of The Way Things Have Always Been Done. But is it true? Is this the way things have always been done? Or have we been fed a narrative that benefits a few people at the cost of the rest of us? Are we believing that this is how life has to be because it truly is or because we’re mired down in division?

 

I’m not saying that every person needs to surrender their weapon tomorrow. We have many gun-owning friends who are the most responsible people I know. But reform and restriction are two vastly different things. We need a reset. This is a heart issue that also needs policy reform.

Thank God we chose early on this tax season to stop, listen, and reset. How damaging would it have been to our relationship if we had kept the status quo? We’re still in early days of modern gun policies. I hope that we can stop sooner than later and refocus the conversation. It’s never too late.

What are ways that you’ve reset your thinking about policy or politics? How do you make sure to stop and check the status quo?

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The World’s Best Helper

I’m wondering if Elle’s love language is “Acts of Service.” Of our two girls, when it’s time to clean up, Elle is the one singing the song, putting away legos, being intentional about where things go. (Well, as much as a two-year-old can be intentional about tidiness.) Whenever I fold the laundry, she gets the greatest joy out of putting her clothes away herself.

IMG_8191The first time she tried to help, I wanted to distract her with books or games. She finally wailed, I just want to help you!! This declaration stopped me and I started looking for ways she could help. I give her one pair of pants at a time to run down the hall to her dresser but she loves this.

The other day, when it snowed, she insisted on using her little shovel to help move the icy chunks off the driveway. It takes longer and it’s hard not to redo her assistance but I’m remembering that we learn by doing.

I’ve been leading a discussion about Original Blessing by Danielle Shroyer. Her premise is that we are born out of blessing, not sin. That God’s ultimate intention for us is to bless us, not to curse us. It has been an incredible book. Shroyer digs into the first three chapters of Genesis – chapters describing how good the Earth is and God’s love for creation. The actions in the Garden of Eden are framed through curiosity rather than disobedience. As a result, the human journey is filled with the potential for perfection.

I am reminded of this as I try to fold laundry or tidy our house. I see a lot of potential but because people live here it will not be perfect. Even when the girls are grown up and Frank and I have the house to ourselves, I have a feeling that I’ll still be striving for this unattainable perfection.

I wonder how God sees us as we learn and fumble? Is God hoping for us to slowly get toward perfection? Is that what the restoration of the earth means?

Or is the point the potential for perfection? Did God create an imperfect world on purpose so that we always see the potential?

I kind of like the image of God, creating humans to help shovel snow like two-year-olds. The work isn’t really getting done, but we’re learning. I’m wondering if that’s the point – that we are learning and fumbling? That we won’t get it right and that’s ok. That having faith like a child means embracing the desire to help enthusiastically, even as we’re kind of creating more work.

I can get overwhelmed when I look at how far this world feels from restoration. We have such a long way to go. And yet, maybe this is the point. It’s not that we stop trying and just wait for heaven to come. It’s that we keep on trying enthusiastically, imagining that we really are doing a fantastic job of helping.

I’m learning to embrace the enthusiasm. In her own mind, Elle is the world’s best and most efficient helper. I hope she keeps this image of her worth and gifts. I hope that her enthusiasm doesn’t wane as she grows older. And I hope that my own is rekindled as we fold laundry and shovel snow together.

How do you make space for potential over perfection? What tasks do you find yourself most connected to God’s patience?

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Books referenced in this post:

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