Good Friday

  

Jesus stayed on the cross. He felt the pain. He stuck with suffering to the point of death. All. For. Love. 

From the time I was a very young child, it has not been lost on me that someone gave their life for me. When I hear that fact, and let it soak in, I cannot help but be moved. This is more than just pure emotionalism. It’s different than watching an inspiring movie or thinking of an inspirational hypothetical story… There is something deep within my soul that says “Yes! This is true! And it makes all the difference!” 

 
When I step back and think about it, Jesus has transformed and shaped my entire life… Yet I have never met him face to face. This man lived 2,000 years ago, dying on a cross. This one historical event has impacted my life so deeply and so personally that I’ve ordered my whole life around him: my marriage, my kids, my career, my finances, how I spend me time, my values, my inner most thoughts…

This feels so natural to me. It feels so right to worship my God, Jesus Christ. What continues to amaze me is how this event shapes others too. 

 

Last week I read this story of Jesus’ death on the cross to my daughter Eva. She is 3. But her soul too was deeply touched and stirred by Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We read and sang a worship song and cried together as we were so touched by his love. When I read her the Easter story she jumped up and down and a smile filled her face as she yelled “He is alive!”

I’m convinced we are made to know and worship God. How is it that this God whom we have never seen face to face touches our hearts until our bodies tremble and our souls stir? Surely he is the son of God. Surely Jesus died out of love for me for the forgiveness of my sins. Surely Jesus died for you, for love for you and for the forgiveness of your sins. 

I’m so thankful my daughter’s heart was soft towards God, allowing his word to resound within her heart. I pray she turns her heart to God again and again and again, forever being touched by the powerful story of Easter and a God who loved her enough to die for her.

How to survive not sleeping

I’m going to say it: the hardest part of parenting babies and toddlers is the lack of sleep. It’s harder than the tantrums. It’s harder than judgment you get from others about your parenting. It’s harder than all the changes in your body. It’s harder than all the poop you have to clean. It’s harder than the way everything in your life becomes sticky. Not sleeping is just so hard. 

  
This is a picture of what happened when I tried to take a moment to myself to rest. My son emptied out the cabinet, climbed inside, and got himself stuck. It was quiet so I knew my rest was in vain. I found my son like this. 

So how do I stay mentally strong without getting breaks or even a 3 hour chunk of sleep at night? First of all, if I’m being honest, there are days I don’t stay mentally strong.  We all have our hard days. You’re not alone if it all just feels like too much.  But on the days I handle it well, here is what I do:

1. I start by lowering my expectations as much as I can. This one is super hard. Before kids I was a high achiever and very hard worker. If I wanted to do something with excellence, I could. Now, If I want to do something with excellence, I can do it only if my child care works out, my kids are healthy, and I got at least 3 hours of sleep. So there are many days, when I have to just lower my expectations. The house isn’t going to be clean today. My makeup won’t be done. I won’t get to work out. I won’t be able to tackle the extra projects I was excited about for work. This hits my ego. I get a lot of self-esteem from my performance. But you can only do so much. There are lots of days you just have to scale back your personal goals. 

2. I tell myself this is only a season. I look back at pictures of how much my kids have already grown. I remember how precious they are to me. I remember how deeply I love them. This season is hard, but it’s so sweet too. You can’t have one without the other so I try to cherish it. 

3. I remember I am not alone. I talk to other working moms of babies and we are all so tired. It helps me not have a pity party to know that I’m not the only one in this boat. It’s just a tough season. 

4. I reset my expectations by keeping my eyes on Jesus. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. I think Jesus has a specific agenda for me every single day. I don’t think it’s more than I can do either. So I try to keep my eyes on Jesus and ask, “What do you want me to do right now in this moment”. Sometimes Jesus resets my work priorities so I am productive in the most important things. Sometimes Jesus tells me to go rest while I can so that I have the strength to be gentle and kind to the people in my life later today. I can’t get through the days on my own. I have to listen to God in a more constant way than I’ve ever done before. 

5. I look for ways to set boundaries… mostly from my kids. My friend said to me yesterday, “Give your kids an inch, they will take a mile”. This is very true of my kids. They don’t want me to take any time for myself. They don’t want me to go to the bathroom. They don’t want me to eat. They don’t want me to shower. They don’t want me to pray. Anytime I do anything that takes any focus off of my kids, they get mad. But I tell them, “Mommy is a person. God loves her. Mommy gets to go potty”. “Mom gets to talk to God” “Mom gets to love her body by working out”. Every time I say something like this I feel like I’m teaching them how to love themselves someday. They hate it now, but I think it’s good for them. 

6. I work out to get more energy. 

7. I give myself lots of grace when I eat junk food for quick energy. It’s not the healthiest choice but something has gotta give. I value health. I don’t want constant junk food. But there are days you’ve got to make it through the day with quick energy that has to come from somewhere. 

8. When I don’t sleep my anxiety about life shoots up so I try to go outside and breathe deeply. 

9. Sometimes I take 15 minutes to myself and let my kids scream. I lock my 3 year old in her room. I put my one year old in his crib. I let them scream while I close my eyes. They hate it but there are days it feels like I am going to fall over if I don’t get to rest for a few minutes. 

10. I remember that tired feels a lot like sad. Tired feels a lot like overwhelmed. Tired feels a lot like being anxious. So whatever I am feeling, I step back and ask myself, “Am I tired?” If the answer is yes, I know that my feelings will pass or become less intimidating if I get some sleep. It helps me keep my emotions in check. 
How do you survive the sleeplessness of parenthood? 

Boundaries

I’m just going to share that this is a super vulnerable post for me, but I know so many pastors and so many mothers deal with this. So I think it’s important to talk about.

The big topic on my mind lately is how to live with healthy boundaries. But there is so much unhelpful thoughts on boundaries out there. As I have been reading and praying over this issue, here is some of the crap I’ve encountered. 

1. Offering truth without support. It’s easy to tell someone “You need boundaries!” It’s a whole other thing to tell someone “It seems like you don’t sleep much, can I help watch your kids while you nap?” I have a family friend who has a rule for their family, “you can’t offer criticism without also offering to help”. I love that rule and really respect that about their family. It gives practical parameters around “say it in love”.  

2. “You just need to say ‘no’ more” …Sometimes you can’t say ‘no’ to the thing that is sapping your energy, like if it’s your children. Raising kids is hard. It’s tiring. you’re not going to be perfectly serene the whole time. Expectations of balance, still need to be realistic. 

3. Anyone can have balance and boundaries if they are self aware! Nope. It’s economic. Homeless people don’t get balance. People living off of less than a dollar a day don’t get “self care”. There are a lot of real barriers to balance that people forget about. 

4. There are issues of justice at stake. Men and women face different hurdles in finding balance and self care because of how our society is socialized and also because of the differences in how our bodies raise kids. It’s just a good thing to keep in mind if you are a man telling a woman with kids to find balance. Her journey is very different than yours.  
 

But with all that said, boundaries is something I am really working on in my own life. Someone, who offered me support with truth, told me, “take the normal amount of giving of yourself to any area, double it, and that’s what you do with everything and everyone”. This is one of my strengths. I’m invested. I care. I try to put action behind my caring. However, it also helps me to run thin. My tiredness has more to do with the age of my kids and the lack of childcare that I currently have, than it does about boundaries. But that doesn’t mean I can just ignore that I have real personal work to do in my life in regards to boundaries. 

Here are some of my strategies for growth in personal boundaries: 

1. Keep asking myself what I need. This isn’t new. I do this all the time. But my needs and the situations of my life are always changing. So I need to keep asking myself what I need. I can’t always meet those needs. If Oscar is getting teeth, I’m not going to sleep, even if that’s what I need. But asking at least starts a conversation with myself to see if there is anything I can do to better care for myself. 

2. Find out what times I can guard. I’m an introvert. And in my line of work, there is a lot of grief and pain to process. I walk along side people through the darkest trials of life and if I don’t guard some alone time I end up carrying more trauma in my heart than is healthy. For me, this means I can’t schedule social things on my one day off of the week. It’s a hard way to maintain friendships, but I have to do it to heal my own heart. Sometimes there are exceptions, but I have to listen to my needs and hold those up, even when it disappoints people I love. 

3. Ok friends, this one is huge for me. I’m trying to become more comfortable with disappointing people. If someone doesn’t understand me or doesn’t like me, it’s not worth the emotional energy to try to convince them otherwise. I try to remain kind regardless of other’s attitudes but I too often bend over backwards to become someone’s best friend who isn’t even nice to me. I take so much time worrying about loving others well and trying to maintain harmony/peace in my areas of community that I steal precious resources of emotional energy from my family and myself. Some people I just won’t be close with, and that’s ok. But sitting with the discomfort of people not liking me is something I’m still working on. 

4. I’m trying to learn what “normal” friendship is. I treat every person like my best friend. I have amazing friends. I love them so much and I’m so deeply grateful for them. But for the people who aren’t in my closest inner circles, if I’m honest, I don’t know what normal friendship looks like. As I try to meet families in my area with kids the same age as mine, I’m trying to learn how to do friendship where I don’t give so much of myself. Because if I’m real, there is not much more to give. I have about 10 best friends. I love each of them so much. I’m not cutting anyone out. But I’m trying to learn better balance in this area. 

5. I’m trying to learn to be a little bit selfish. Well, not selfish, but better at caring for myself too. Not in any permanent way, but too often I ask myself “In light of the needs of everyone else in my life, what do I want to do”. I need to step back from that for a minute and just figure out if I have any unmet needs of my own. 

I chose two vocations, pastor and mother, that take extraordinary sacrifice. I signed up for those willingly, knowing exactly what I was getting into. But as I get my feet under me after having my basic needs unmet last year, I can now look to higher modes of being such as self care. So this is where I am asking Jesus to be my teacher.

Hallelujah- look what God did!

Jesus has had some big victories in my life this year and I want to share the story of what he is doing in my life… 

1.) This year God has healed me of my postpartum depression with the help of prayer, therapy,  gym membership, medication, family, and friends. Oscar is 14 months old now and I’m really glad I went through what I did because I’m able to have so much compassion for so many families going through similar trials. When I look back at where I was this time last year- hallelujah God has been so good to me! He has taken me so far! I feel more like myself again. I no longer have panic attacks when I am with my kids. I am reconnecting with my kids. God is good.  I also have such a heart for ministry to moms. This is something God has grown in me out of trial but it has become one of the most focused in love and action, parts of my heart. The 
2.) My life went from being financially unstable/vulnerable with so much fear for my family and my future, to Ben and I both having stable jobs we love and owning our own home. I no longer walk to get groceries with both kids- I drive a car and come HOME and cook them in my kitchen. My kids have their own rooms. Our house is warm and comfortable. I’m so, so deeply grateful for God bringing my family through a valley to have a home where we can worship as a family and invite others in to see God’s love. 
3.) I absolutely love my job. I feel so blessed and honored to get to serve my community as a pastor. It brings me so much joy to tell people about how much God loves them, to pray for people, to visit the sick, to play with kids in the name of Jesus, to counsel the broken hearted… my job is deeply rewarding to me. This is what I’ve always wanted to do and I actually get to do it- it’s a dream come true. 
4.) I love my husband more and more everyday. Many couples wouldn’t have made it through the trials we’ve been through in our first 7 years of marriage. But I can say with so much sincerity that I love him more today than I did when we were first married or even last year. With all the stress we went through, we didn’t push each other away. Instead, we praised each other, with gratitude in our hearts, for how we fought for the survival of our family. Then, as things calmed down, we continued to make our marriage a priority. I’m so thankful that we continue to choose each other. I’m so thankful we have a lifetime of friendship as the bedrock for our marriage. I’m so glad we enjoy being together and have great chemistry together. I’m thankful we have a date night and make each other laugh. I love my husband and I’m so thankful for him. 
5.) I’m thankful for you- my friends and family who support me… those who pray for me, who read my blog, who help when things are hard. I have the best friends. I have the best church family. I have the best support network. I don’t forget for a second what a treasure this is and I’m so thankful for you. 
6.) I’m thankful my body has started to heal from my injuries after my birth. Getting a gym membership has turned things around for me where I can actually do my physical therapy exercises without getting tackeled by my kids. My kids love the child care workers and I love getting an hour to myself. I still have some pain, but it is significantly better. I’m running again and it feels so good. 


I’m a firm believer that when the Lord is good, it’s important to say so! So let me say it, praise the Lord!

My top 10 hacks for parenting 2 kids

I’m a year into being a mom of 2 and here is what has helped me the most: 

1.) Do what you have to do to join a gym. There are cheap memberships out there (mine is $20/month) and some have super cheap child care ($10/month). They take young babies. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE! It can give you an hour alone without taxing your support network. It can give you a chance to watch TV while walking on a treadmill without having to deal with anyone else’s poop. It can give you a chance to care for and love your body when too often your needs for anything come last. Do it. this is by far the best thing I have found for being a mother of two. 

2.) Your stroller needs will change and evolve a lot. Every kid and family are different. I’ve found for me, getting a double Bob was another saving grace for managing two kids. Eva is obsessed with riding in the bob. It’s her happy place and she will nap in a Bob. She won’t nap in any other brand of stroller. Getting a double bob allowed one kid to relax while the other napped. Don’t expect to be a super mom who gets both kids to nap in sync. When both kids are in the stroller I get some quiet time to space out. Also the Bob can handle any weather. When I feel like I’m overwhelmed beyond what I can handle, I use my double Bob. I should add I bought mine for super cheap off of facebook and afforded it by selling things I own. Don’t let the price of the stroller you need detour you. There are ways to find what you need. 

3.) Ask your significant other for a half hour a week of alone time. Even if you’re like me and you use that half hour to fold laundry, knowing you have that time alone to look forward to can help you make it through. 

4.) Fred Meyer has free child care for preschool age kids. That’s how I do my shopping. Oscar stays with me and Eva and I get a break from each other for a bit. 

5.) We got amazon prime because I just can’t run to the store and get out of the house as often as I used to. 

6.) I have my older one earn her screen time. I thought I would be a mom who never had their kids on a screen. But that wasn’t possible. My daughter likes the clear boundaries of earning screen time and then I don’t feel as guilty when I let her watch a show. She chooses a chore like clearing the dinner table or picking up her toys to earn 15 minutes. She can earn another 15 minutes by something like playing outside for a half hour or reading 3 books. It helps. I have to put her in front of a screeen while I’m nursing or chaos explodes. She is too curious and resourceful to leave alone without her TV babysitter.  

7.) A nursing pillow works as a barrier from your older baby body slamming your younger baby while you try to nurse. 

8.) Don’t speed up your second to a toddler bed or out of a high chair. You want them contained as long as possible. 

9.) Accept help. If anyone offers you help with anything, say yes. It’s hard to accept help. But you have to get over that. We are made for community and you can’t do this alone. 

10.) I write my prayers on my mirror in a dry erase marker or else my brain forgets. I memorize scripture because my kids eat the pages from my bible when I sit to read it. When everyone starts to sleep better I’ll wake up early for my quiet time but I take baby steps with my quiet time in ways that work with two little ones. I listen to a lot of worship music and I down loaded an app that reads the Bible to me. It’s hard to keep spiritual displines with kids, so reimagine your spiritual life as a mom. It won’t look the same as before you had kids, at least not for a while.

What to know for a C-Section

Nearly a year after having a C-section to give birth to my second baby, I found myself wondering, “If I could have expected a C-section, how would I have prepared my heart?” 

 

I’ve always struggled with the desire to be that person, that mom, who has it all together. Who is strong, organized, great at her job, attentive to her kids, always well rested, house clean, an engaged spouse, and always does what is absolutely best for her kids. With my first I had glimpses of being able to achieve parts of this (except my house was always messy and we never slept). I had the perfect natural birh experience with my first. I felt so empowered. We went home and though somethings didn’t go right (we didn’t have heat during the coldest week of the year and the parsionage was so run down you could see daylight through the roof in spots), we did have many things go perfectly too. I had such a deep bond between Eva and I. I prayed and journaled and worshiped. I had so much joy I would regularly thankful-weep (hormones played a part in this too). I did her laundry perfectly, kept her room clean, ate super healthy, cloth diapered, and felt like a really good mom. The high of her perfect birth stayed with me.

With my second baby, I really had to let that desire to be the one who does everything right, to be the perfect mom, die. It was a painful death. The climax of that death was my C-section. I felt like my body failed me. I felt like I failed me. During my pregnancy with oscar my stress was at an all time high. We didn’t have a kitchen so I ate mostly processed foods. I rarely slept thanks to his big sister. I felt disconnected from my one year old and was worried about hacking it as a mom to two kids when I was no longer happy with how I even managed the one. We didn’t have a home to bring the baby home to and I was sure each of these issues was my fault and contributed to why I could no longer birth perfectly. Needing a C-section felt like a painful reminder of all that had gone wrong. I went along with the flow and trusted the doctors as my plans changed from a home birth to an emergency Csection but a piece of me was devestated. 

Now, looking back a year later, having gone to therapy for postpartum depression, having gotten medication, having prayed a lot, having overcome our financial stress when Ben got a job, having bought a house, having joined a gym, having gotten some flow to our lives, my perspective on my Csection and motherhood has changed. 

I wish me, in the state I am in now, could have been my birth coach during my C-Section. Here is what I would have told myself. 

1.) How you give birth doesn’t define you as a mom. You have a lifetime with your kids to make lots of mistakes, learn from them, and do lots of things right too. This moment feels so important and it is, but it’s just one moment among many. You can still be a good mom. 

2.) This year is going to suck. It just will. Your heart will be heavy, your mind clouded and worried, your body won’t heal properly and you will have pain. BUT THIS IS A SEASON. This season won’t last. In fact, your season of trial will be much shorter than what many women face. Within a year your heart will feel lighter, you will have hope for your future, you will make real progress with healing.  

3.) You will feel powerless in many ways, such as having someone else doing the work of birth through the work of a cesarean surgery on your body, BUT you are not powerless. You have a voice. You can make requests. You can ask someone to just focus on you and not your baby to help make sure your voice is heard. You can ask someone to focus just on your baby so you know your son is cared for. You can ask God to bond with your baby when you can’t hold him and bond with him immediately in ways that you can’t.   

4.) Every disappointment you have is a reflection of what a high calling you believe motherhood to be. When you wish you could do more, honor your desire to be a good mom. That part of you is beautiful. 

5.) You never have been in control. You never will be in control. God is in control. He loves you. You can trust him. He has better blessings ahead for you than you could ever ask for or imagine. You are a detailed person with specific dreams. Don’t worry; God can handle the details. He will handle the details in love, knowing your needs. In fact, this time next year, you will stand amazed at how closely God listened to the desires of your heart and cared for you. 

Basically, for any friends preparing for a Csection and reading this post, I want you to know that God loves you and you can trust him. I know how difficult that can be when faced with a real and disappointing trial like having a C Section or not being the mom you had pictured yourself being. But even in the hardest times, the tough times don’t last, and God won’t leave you. He is going a head of you to prepare a future for you that meets your needs. Hold onto his hand and trust him through the tough season. He will see you through it.

When healing takes awhile 

Recently my mom reminded me of something from my childhood that I had completely forgotten about. When I was young, I think early elementary school age, my dad was in constant pain. He used to lay on the floor when he got home because his back hurt and we would take turns rubbing it as we talked with him. He also had to spend most evenings laying in bed and couldn’t get up to play with us as much as he would have liked. He was in pain for years and then slowly but surely he wasn’t. We weren’t sure what caused the pain and we wern’t sure what caused him to get better. People prayed for him to be healed, but it wasn’t one clear prayer that did the trick. It was lots of prayer and lots of time. 

 

Now, when my husband and I get home, we lay on the floor and ask our kids to walk on our backs. Since having kids, my pain is pretty constant. My core muscles were severely compromised through my second pregnancy and C-Section. Since my body didn’t heal properly, my doctors advised me against any form of exercise at it makes the hurt muscles even weaker. But I’m a mom to two young kids. I have lots of moving to do.  I also teach kids. We run and play a lot. I usually find myself unable to walk most Mondays and Thursdays because I teach the kids at church Sundays and Wednesdays.

At first, I didn’t know what even to pray for. I had friends and family lay hands on me and pray for healing, and in many ways, getting a home for our family felt like an answer to that prayer. But my body still hurts. 

Hearing my dad’s story again filled me with hope. Sometimes healing is so gradual you don’t even notice it but I know God is working in my life and in my body. Someday, I will have to be reminded, “Do you remember when you hurt all the time?” And I will say, “O yeah! I forgot about that! I’m so glad God has healed me!” 

Going through what we went through this year I’ve been reminded that hope and anxiety are sisters. Anxiety looks to the future and feels afraid and she asks “What if”. Hope looks to the future with Jesus in the equation and says “But God loves me”. I know God loves me. I know he will heal me. Stay tuned as I tell that story in years to come.