Learning How to Swim: Lessons from Mothering Two Children

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I really did not anticipate how tough it would be to have two small kids… to be woken up 3-10 times every night for months on end (by both children)…. How much it would feel like drowning… like dying… every day… for months… coming up for air in a brief moment of peace (both children napping at the same time?!)… only to be shoved under the waves again (they take turns waking up every thirty minutes right after I fall asleep for nap too).

Today, a friend who is in college asked me to pray for an upcoming final exam. I almost snickered. Oh for the days when a final exam was the most difficult thing on my radar.

As I prayed, I sang… Lord, meet us where we are. Give us strength for the trials that we face today.
It made me think about how tough it was for me in college…. lack of sleep, hard work, hard exams, writing papers…. feeling overwhelmed and like I couldn’t cope at times.
Then thinking how it was when I was working full time, and didn’t have that awesome summer break you get your whole life up until you graduate college…. day in, day out, waking up, going to work, stress of coworkers, tasks, and more, coming home, trying to run our video business at night, going to bed late, waking up and doing it again…. how overwhelming, how hard that was.
Then remembering how I felt after Jax was born… like I was in a dark hole and I didn’t know when I would get out. Any sleep deprived fatigue of my college years or working years became like a sneeze compared to the pain of being woken up by a little person, every hour, every night… sleep deprivation is a legit form of torture for a reason.  How overwhelmed I was, how I didn’t think I could go on one more day.
And now…. two small kids, it’s once again the hardest thing I’ve every done in my life, the most sleep deprived, the most exhausted, the most overwhelmed, I’ve ever been in my life.  Worse than all the other times, but yet, the same, because the other times felt just as terrible in the moment.
And it made me think…. when am I going to learn how to trust God a bit more? How to cope with the torture of sleep deprivation?  How to sustain peace and joy in my heart and home, despite whatever the current hard thing is?
Each time, at some point, things got easier. It was always a combination of the situation itself letting up just a bit, and me learning what things I needed to do in order to cope and function in the situation. A little of each.
And I can’t laugh at the friend who desperately wants prayers for a college exam, who has lost sleep studying for the last several days, because that is their trial right now.
And even more, that is what God is using to stretch, to grow…. how each of those life circumstances, where we feel stretched beyond our capacity, we somehow get through, with His help, and it prepares us for the next stretching. For the next time it seems to hard to bear, and we look back on the last hard time and think, that was easy, in comparison to THIS, to NOW, I laugh at my silly old self back then who thought THAT was SO hard. Now THIS, this is HARD…..
This is what He does. Mold us. Change us. Let our desperation and fatigue drive us to the Cross, to his throne, to His strength when all of ours was used up long ago.
I haven’t learned it all yet. But I want to find a way, in this season, to learn peace and joy, so even when I feel like I’m drowning and half dying between a crying baby and a tantruming toddler, I can know that this too, will calm down at some point, and I will find ways to cope, and the Lord will hold me up so I can make it one more day, one more moment.  So that the next time it’s hard, today will seem easy.
So I can learn, what it means, when I feel like I’m drowning, for Him to teach me how to swim.

 

Maternity Fashion: How to Keep Your Style While Wearing a Bump – THIRD TRIMESTER

I’ve written about maternity fashion for first trimester here, and second trimester here.  This is the final post on third trimester.
The thing to remember at this stage of pregnancy, when you’re feeling sweaty and uncomfortable, having increasing trouble sleeping, and putting up with a daily onslaught of comments ranging from, “Are you SURE you’re not having twins?” to “ARE YOU SURE you’re not having twins,” to “You haven’t had this baby yet?” to “When are you due again (was it yesterday?)” to “ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY sure you’re not having twins,” here’s the thing you have to remember:
This precious, precious little one is going to make it all worth it.  And with the sense of humor God instilled in the universe, you will exchange your sweaty pregnancy body for a drippy-lactating body; your firmly shaped baby-belly for a squishy, lumpy post-partum belly; and lots of trouble sleeping for no sleep at all, topped off with a bazillion comments about how freaking adorable your little one is and are they sleeping through the night yet?
And once again I will repeat, oh the precious little one that is worth it all.  Oh the joy they will bring to your days.  And just like the awkwardness of toting around a pregnancy belly, a puffy face, and swollen ankles, the sleepless nights of early parenthood, too, will pass.  It is for a season that seems long in the moment and short in the past.
Hang in there, mamas!
Overall third trimester fashion tips:
1. If you have any remaining ability to still wear non-maternity blouses or dresses, rock it.  However, pay attention to lines like bra lines or pregnancy boobs popping out of things, panty lines in your dresses, etc…. Being pregnant comes with a lot of imperfections, but you can embrace those curves while smoothing them out.  If the weather allows it, wearing a thin cotton tank under a fitted shirt, or a belly band over the pants and popped-out belly button, will help smooth things out.  I used Ingrid and Isabel belly bands during my pregnancy, because of their high quality and durability.
2. Your face inevitably changes.  Looking through these photos, I can see the beginning of “pregnant face” at about twenty weeks, but by thirty-four weeks, I was having to photograph my face at different angles in order to be happy with how the photos turned out. The good news is your face is probably the first thing to go back to looking normal after delivery, and should do so within a couple days, depending on if you had a lot of IV fluids during a hospital stay (which will add a few more days to losing the puffy look).  You can feel better about how you look by taking care of the parts you CAN control.
3. Comfort becomes increasingly important.  If the weather is cool enough, leggings or tights under a tunic or short dress can be wonderfully comfortable while still looking put-together.
4. You may need to invest in new shoes, if your feet or ankles experience swelling.  I needed new shoes by about thirty-two weeks ish.  I opted to purchase two pairs of flats that were dressy enough for work, but casual enough for daily use – a brownish color and a silvery color since those two seemed to look good with everything.  I had one pair of Crocs flats that also fit until the end of my pregnancy.  I couldn’t wear flip flops because the straps pressed into my swollen feet, plus it really showed that I was swollen, and I got tired of people freaking out over my ankles.  I wore a lot of thin pants at the end, to help hide my ankles.
5. You can still look and feel beautiful. In fact, I guarantee that you look prettier than you think you do.  Other people don’t see the imperfections the way you do, and the bigger your belly gets, the more attention it gets than your face anyway.  Once the baby is born, people hardly look at you anymore because they are too busy looking at the precious tininess.

6. Decide when it’s time to lose the “fitted-under-the-belly” blouses.  You may make this change based on a glance in the mirror, or based on how many twin comments you get in a day.  As long as belts are still comfortable against your ribs, I think they look great all the way till the end.  You will need skinny belts though; wide ones won’t do.  Preferably 1/4 to 1/2 inch at a maximum, or a soft sash or ribbon is even better.

29 Weeks. Dress: Old Navy (not maternity, but two sizes larger than my normal size). Necklace: thrifted. Belt: Ebay. Tights: Walmart or Target. Boots: Ross.  I can’t do the ankle-height booties that are so popular right now – they look like hooves to me, especially on my size 9.5 feet.  But these boots were a short length that was comfortable to wear without being so low they turn me into a horse.

30 Weeks. Blouse: Old Navy (not maternity, but the ruched sides made it an awesome maternity blouse). Cardigan: Old Navy. Skirt: thrifted (not maternity, super stretchy waist). Boots: Ross. Necklace: gift, from India. Belt: thrifted.

31 Weeks. Blouse: I don’t remember, not one of my usual stores… super stretchy and soft, not maternity. Cardigan: consignment, also not maternity. Necklace: fabulous, gift from my boss from New Mexico, real turquoise and various handmade beads. Pants: Craigslist, maternity slacks. I bought a pair of black, brown, and grey dress slacks off Craigslist early in my pregnancy, before they fit.  It was a great purchase as I wore them daily to work.  I paid more than I wanted to for them, but they were still cheaper than buying new high-quality maternity dress slacks, and I definitely got my money’s-worth out of them.  Shoes: thrifted, one of my all-time favorite thrifted finds, red leather retro-looking heels that fit perfectly and were my favorite brand of dress shoes, Gianni Bini from Dillards.  I paid $10 for them, and $16 to have them repaired where some of the leather was fraying.  Which is also to say that high-quality leather shoes can almost always be repaired by a good shoe shop.  I’ve saved many a pair of lovely shoes by sending them for a $10 repair.

I included the close-up belly shot here, to show the transition happening with fitted blouses.  In the first and second trimester, fitted blouses are your best friend. As you get further into the third trimester, they definitely show off your belly still, but it becomes a question of how much you want to show off your belly, and how many questions about triplets you want to field that day.  I was hitting the transition point here for sure.  As you can see, the following week’s photo my belly actually looks smaller, which is just a matter of how I dressed.

32 Weeks. Cardigan: thrifted (Gap), Blouse thrifted, Belly Band (showing under my blouse) Ingrid and Isabel, Pants maternity slacks Craigslist (see prior photo), shoes brown leather heels from Gianni Bini, Belt thrifted.

The cropped sweaters started looking good around this stage of pregnancy. They worked to visually shorten my torso, which seemed to make my belly appear a bit smaller.  This blouse that isn’t fitted-under-the-belly also helps visually shorten my torso and belly size.

33 Weeks. Blouse: Gap (not maternity), Necklace Ebay, Belt Urban Outfitters, pants Craigslist, Shoes Walmart.

Although I was slowly moving away from fitted-under-the-belly blouses at this stage, I wanted to photograph this blouse I had worn repeatedly during my pregnancy.  I had a gift card to Gap Maternity from a friend, and this was one thing I bought with it.  It was incredibly soft and flowy, and not hot to wear.  It was from the non-maternity part of the store, and was a size extra small. I guess they intended it to be worn like a short dress or something, because it would have been absolutely enormous on me if I wasn’t 33 weeks pregnant.  There was room for me to wear it right up until the end.

It is belted at the empire waistline, because I think this is such a wonderful look for pregnancy.  At this stage however, you may be feeling pretty constricted in the ribcage area, depending on how your baby and placenta are positioned.  I was lucky in that my placenta was at the top of my uterus, under my diaphragm and ribs, so I never experienced baby kicks knocking the wind out of me. If he kicked straight up, I couldn’t even tell.

Also, I use Ebay when I have a specific item I’m searching for.  For example, a gold leaf necklace, or a skinny silver belt.  I could visit a ton of stores before finding the exact item I have in mind, or Ebay usually yields it with a ten or fifteen minute browsing keyword search.

34 weeks. Cardigan, thrifted (Gap), Blouse Old Navy (not maternity, I think a regular size L maybe), pants Craigslist maternity slacks, Shoes Crocs Malindi, Necklace thrifted.

Eventually I couldn’t wear these Crocs anymore, as the sling back strap would press into my swollen feet. You can tell in this photo that my feet and ankles are merging.  It was getting hard to hide.  Around 36 weeks, I had slight signs of early stages of preeclampsia, but after treatment from my naturopath and lots of prayer, the symptoms all disappeared and I had a safe, normal home birth.

The looseness under my belly looked best on me at this substantial-belly stage of pregnancy.  The cropped cardigan helped to raise up the eye off the belly and visually shorten my torso.  I love, love this necklace.  I only have a few very-large necklaces in my wardrobe, and they always seem a bit overwhelming when I put them on.  But when I see them in photos, they just look fabulous and really bring vibrance to an otherwise simple outfit.

35 Weeks. Scarf Old Navy, Cardigan consignment, Blouse Liz Lange Target maternity), pants Craigslist, shoes Ross.

I usually say I don’t like purple, but then I realize I have a substantial amount of plum in my wardrobe, and it’s a color I really enjoy wearing.  This is the ivory blouse I wore backward in an earlier second trimester post with a black and white skirt.  I wore it front-ward for this outfit, since the scarf was drawing attention and I didn’t want to overwhelm it.  The cardigan also has little cut-outs on the bell sleeves, so there was plenty of detail here already.

My poor puffy feet.
My poor puffy nose.

36 weeks. Blazer: thrifted (not maternity, two sizes larger than my normal size). Blouse thrifted, not maternity. Pants grey cords Ebay. Shoes Crocs Malindi.

Again, the crop-length jacket really helps here.  This blouse was non-maternity, but had an empire waistline and a generous hemline, making it ideal for a maternity blouse.  It had a bunch of different colors in the pattern, so I was able to wear it many different ways.  I like using one item with a pattern on it to draw together the colors of the rest of the outfit.  The plum colored shoes here are one of the colors in the blouse.

37 weeks. Blouse, thrifted, not maternity. Tank Old Navy, Skirt gift from a friend, maternity and so huge and stretchy that I was only able to use it right at the end, and still had to use the belly band to hold it up. Shoes, Ross. Necklace, gift (some kind of rock/stone on the pendant).

Wow. Really swollen here.  It actually got a bit better after this week, but this was probably the peak of the swelling.  I really wanted to stop wearing shoes at all.  I got a couple “huge” comments this week, which for the record, isn’t a word a pregnant woman likes to hear.

For the rest of the photos in that week, I knelt down on the ground to hide my feet, so I wouldn’t get comments on my blog.

Also, after seeing these photos, I decided I should definitely avoid blouses that fit completely around my belly for the remainder of my pregnancy.

38 Weeks.  Necklace and bracelet, consignment, real coral, one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.  Blouse Old Navy, not maternity. Tank Old Navy. Belt Ebay. Pants Ebay. Shoes Crocs Crocband Loafer.

This blouse was a size XL but was thin cotton and flowy and soft.  If I hadn’t belted it, it would have been waaaayyy baggy under my armpits.  But it was comfortable and seemed flattering at this end-of-the-road stage.

I have never cared for my profile in photos, because it makes my face very angular.  However, at this stage of pregnancy, when my face was so puffy, my profile was actually what I preferred over a straight-on shot.  That’s not really something you can manage in real life, what angle to view your face, but if you’re taking photos at this stage, it’s worth considering.

My son was born six days after this photo, one day before we would have taken my 39 week photos.  As it turned out, after our midwife gave him a thorough review when he was born, she concluded that I was about a week further along in my pregnancy than we were calculating.  His conception date had been a bit iffy, but she felt like she could determine once he was born, which of the two possible dates it was.

So I actually delivered him with a couple days of “40” weeks.  However, I still only “thought” I was nearly 39 weeks, which made it emotionally easier to still be pregnant.  I was prepared to go 42 weeks without induction, since that is the law in Texas during which time you can still deliver at home with a midwife.  As any full-term pregnant woman will tell you however, she doesn’t want to be pregnant one day longer than she “needs” to be.  We chose natural labor and natural home birth for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the over-use of induction in hospitals, leading to many unnecessary cesarean surgeries.  That said, I sympathize with every woman who is emotionally “done” with pregnancy.

So my 39/40 week outfit looked like this: (photos taken by my amazing photographer Ann Marie Itschner out of Kerrville).

And for all the twin comments I received during my pregnancy, it was a bit of relief to discover that my son was 10 pounds 4 ounces at birth, plenty big enough to have been a set of twins.  I lost 20 pounds the day he was born, from him, placenta, water, blood, etc.  And my ankles were back within 24 hours which was such a relief since I have always liked my feet!

I had fully intended to do some post-partum photos, because in many ways, it’s harder to dress THAT body shape than a pregnant one.  Chances are, your belly looks somewhere between three and seven months pregnant still, but it is loose and floppy instead of round and firm.  If you are breastfeeding, your nipples are extremely tender and sore and you would ideally want to walk around shirtless everywhere so no fabric touches your nipples.  Luckily both these things should last just a few weeks, and your belly will regain a sense of normalcy after time, and the nursing soreness will fade and become and easy and delightful nursing relationship.

I am now 22 months post partum, and not yet pregnant with my second child.  I would say that my belly looks now about like it did when I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first child.  It is a bit poofier than it ever was, even though I weigh the same as  I did then. I don’t exercise at a gym, or do special exercising at home, so I imagine it could look different if I did some working out.  But that’s not on my priority list at the moment.

My breasts went through so much change… Pre-pregnancy I am about a 34AA cup size, barely fitting into push-up/padded style 34A bras.  During my first trimester of pregnancy, I increased to a size 36C, and wore that size for the remainder of my pregnancy.  When I was first nursing, in the few weeks while your body doesn’t know if you need enough milk for a singleton or quadruplets, I experienced some engorgement and have no clue what my bra size was.  I didn’t wear a bra during that time, as it was too constricting.  I just wore a loose nursing blouse, and when I went out of the house, I wore a scarf that draped over my breasts to conceal anything showing through.  I guess that wouldn’t work in the summer, but I haven’t crossed that road yet.

I am now 22 months post partum, and still nursing my son at bedtime, nap time, and wake-up time.  I’m probably a size 34B, but nursing bras are stretchy and don’t have the distinct measurements that normal bras do.

I’m proud of the changes my body went through, and the permanent shape-changes that remain with me.  My body was meant to be used, it was designed to carry, nurture, and nurse babies, and it has done so (well one baby, not plural yet).  It has been serving some of that purpose, and shows marks from that use.  And that’s okay with me.

I have been so thin my whole life, primarily by genetics, and I never really liked my body or thought I was beautiful.  It was pregnancy, and all its crazy changes and lovely curves, that taught me to love my body, for how it looked, for what it can do.

So while fashion focuses on what we can do to our bodies externally, pregnancy is also a time to emotionally process how we feel about our bodies, good or bad.  I hope it becomes a time where you can enjoy your changing shape, no matter what size you were or are or become.  I hope the strength your body shows in growing and delivering a new human into the world (by the grace of God), can help you love your body more or begin to accept it for the first time.

We might be dressing the outside, but our hearts are on the inside, and our perception of ourselves is something that can blossom during this season of pregnancy, with all its loveliness and all its flaws.  This is me.  This is you.  Thank God for our beautiful, strong bodies.

And if you’re just here for the fashion, but curious about the birth of my son, I blogged about that too.
Birth Story short version
Birth Story long version
Two days old (the cute baby pics that make you remember why you’re pregnant after all)

| Filed under birth, fashion, God moments, health, pregnancy

Everlasting

Since getting some birthday money, I’ve been doing a bit of clothes shopping.  I’ve done enough thrifting over the winter to last me a while, and I wanted some things that were new.  New colors, fit, styles, whatever is a bit more “in” than what I’ve dug up at the thrift store.  Summer always makes me feel ready for a fresh start and something new.

I haven’t been shopping for brand new clothes in a while, and I was really struck by how much things have changed in such a short time.  I realized that the goal of the clothing industry in America (don’t know enough about other countries to know if it’s the same), to make you have to change everything in your wardrobe every few years.  That everything in your closet will be “wrong.”  They have changed the fit, the styling, the colors, the shape, the color combinations, the accessoriess.  Every characteristic of every garment has completely changed in just a year or two.

Flare jeans and boot cut jeans replaced by skinny jeans.  Long pants replaced by crop pants.  Capris replaced by bermudas. Fitted shirts replaced by baggy shirts.  Hip-length shirts replaced by tunics or crop shirts.  Low cut replaced by high cut.  Of course the color palette has changed completely, and we’ve moved from bright (last year’s royal blue, kelly green, lemon yellow), to neon everything.  Coral is still around, and we’ve added sea foam green. You couldn’t find something brown if your life depended on it (okay, perhaps brown shorts in the men’s department, and perhaps your standard khakis).  But grey has completely replaced brown.  Black is around, but usually in combination with white.  Wedge shoes replaced by flats (okay, I’m still seeing wedges too).

So you can hardly buy yourself a new shirt without needing a different style and color of pants and shoes to go with it.

Then I have to still match the baby.  So he needs new clothes too.  (Maybe for his birthday.)

It reminded me how much our culture focuses on things that are temporal.  Quick to consume; quick to discard.

I love the song “Everlasting God” by New Life Worship….”One thing I know that I have found, through every trouble that surrounds, You are the rock that never fails, You never fail….One thing I know that I believe, through every blessing I receive, You are the only One that stays, You always stay….

You never change, You’re still the same, You are the Everlasting God
You will remain, after the day has gone, and the things of earth have passed, Everlasting God

How quickly the things of earth have (and will) pass.  What a comfort to know that our God stays the same.  Life is shaky sometimes.  Other times, downright torrential.  We need something to hang onto in those times. Someone that always stays, that never fails.  Hold on.  To the torrent around me, and the torrent around anyone reading, hold on to the Everlasting God.  Seek Him out.  He is the only thing solid in this life.  How desperately I need Him.

| Filed under fashion, God moments

Fast

Every Feb/March, our church does a corporate 40-day fast.  It’s always a time of refreshing and needed heart-change.  This year, I’m struggling to stay consistent with the things I chose to fast from: casual internet use and unecessary spending. 

It’s hard because SOME internet use, including things like Facebook, is necessary for my business and personal life. I have clients and friends who don’t have my email address or phone number, or just prefer to use Facebook instead of alternate mediums, to contact me.  To completely fast from Facebook is comparable to not answering my phone for the next forty days.  And while some people I know are doing so, I’m not prepared for that leap. 

It’s hard because spending SOME money, even some discretionary money, is necessary.  Jax’s first birthday is coming up, and his party is approaching.  While my budget is small, there is still going to be a party.  Which parts of the party supplies are necessary, and which are discretionary?  I received some money for my birthday.  Do I need to wait to spend it, or does it “not count” because the funds were a gift, not from our wallet.

And this is the story of the Christian life.  We serve and love God, but not always.  We treat others kindly most of the time, but not when they get us riled up.  I think that’s the point.  We need God’s help.  He didn’t create a life where we sign at the dotted line and become perfect people.  (although that would have made things much easier).  It wasn’t meant to be easy.  We weren’t meant to be able to do it on our own.

We need His help.  We need truth (Scripture) to saturate us. We need to surround ourselves with a community who join us in our journey to change.

Thus my (mostly) silence here on the blog.  I didn’t say I would fast from blogging, but I’ve slowed down, taken a break, put away the camera….gone to bed earlier, done more chores, finished our taxes, played games with Benjamin late into the night on Valentine’s Day….

I have a backlog of outfit photos to post though, and I want to get them up before Jax turns one year (Sunday!), so all his not-yet-one photos are up before his now-I-am-one-digit photos.

Can it really be a year?  What a blessed, joyful year it has been.

| Filed under fashion, God moments

Love Remains

If only we could know the true Love of our God.  How it would change us.  Not to know in our heads or on paper or in Sunday School, but to deeply, richly, truly, know, feel, experience, believe, be saturated in.

My Facebook post today was the lyrics to this song….

Your Love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love remains
And on and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms
and Satisfies my Soul
Your love
Remains…..

I remember how in high school or college, when I would feel lonely and unloved, how tied that feeling was to my sense of value.  I desired a love to affirm that I had value.  A lover would somehow prove I was worth being loved.

Oh to know the Love that Loves when we are unlovable and ugly-hearted.  When we scorn His love, yet His love is deeper still.

I remember how when there was a boy who made my heart flutter, I would write his name down on paper.  Write it in different ways… write it next to mine… perhaps write his last name behind my first name.

Oh to know the One who has given us His beautiful name.  Who has called us as His own, written His name upon our hearts.  Oh to yearn for His love, to experience His love.  To have a name that says, “Mine. You. Are. Mine.” written indelibly across our hearts.  His free gift to us.  An expression of His being that is love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

That never fails.
That never gives up.
That never runs out.
That goes on and on and on and on and on and on until it overwhelms and satisfies our deepest need.

There is no human love that can complete us. No human love that meets the God-need we have in our hearts.  That lonely longing we have, intrinsic to creation, is our ache for Him.  His ache for us.

The love of a boyfriend, fiancee, husband, parent, child, friend…. it can scratch the surface.  It can be beautiful. But it cannot satisfy our deepest created need for Love.

Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.

| Filed under fashion, God moments

Saturation

This weekend I finally completed a project I’ve wanted to do for some time now. It’s simple, but important to me.  I wrote a bunch of Scriptures on index cards and taped them up all over the house.  In the kitchen, in the bathroom, by the computer, in the bedroom.

I’ve started attending a small group at our church that focuses on intercessory prayer. I thought it might be a bit “weird”, but it’s been perfectly normal and welcoming.  In fact, it’s been just what I need in my spiritual life right now.  A place to be still, calm, and connect with God.  Each week, it’s like a treasure trove is opened for me to interact with God and hear from Him.  I’ve started looking forward to what He will talk to me about each week.

I’ve been asking, and blogging my asking, for a while lately, for God to change my heart.  To break my heart for what breaks His.  To be more compassionate, more focused on others, on service, on bringing people to know His love.  A couple weeks ago at our prayer group, I was asking Him what it was going to take. How was this going to happen?  The answer that resonated inside me was, “Time with Me.  Change your saturation.”

What that meant to me is that we are surrounded all day long, by daily life.  Household chores, email advertisements, Facebook chats, store windows, magazine covers….they pull on our hearts.  To be frustrated, to be greedy, to be opinionated, to be caddy, to lust, to want, to need, to desire…. what temporal life has to offer.  It’s around me, in me, on me, surrounding me to the point of saturation.  And thus is life.  If I want to do something, or be something, different, I need to change what is saturating my heart.

Pinning scripture cards around my house is a baby step in the direction of surrounding myself, saturating my heart, with the person I want to become.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Be completely humble
and gentle
be patient
bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:1-2

That one is next to my computer.

Cast all your anxiety on Him
because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

That one is on the bathroom medicine cabinet so I can see it before I go to sleep (which is when I tend to get anxious and have trouble sleeping).

I found it interesting that God used the word “saturation.”  It’s a meaningful word to me as a photographer, because a black-and-white image is technically called “desaturated,” or “unsaturated.” A color image is “saturated.” 

I think it would be easier sometimes, to just stay away from places or people that distract us or tug on our hearts…ie to de-saturate.  But that’s not what we’re called to do.  We’re here.  Life is life.  In the midst of it, we have to work on our saturation.  Work on what surrounds us, and therefore tugs on our hearts.  If I never went clothes shopping again, I’d have a hard time overspending on clothes. That’s desaturation.  But that’s impossible.  I will need clothes; Jax will especially need clothes. I have to change my spirit’s saturation, so when I go clothes shopping, I’m not filled with lust and greed and need, instead I’m filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to find good deals and spend appropriate amounts of money.

Just like our friends will inevitably “rub off” on us, shaping our opinions and choices, so our physical surroundings “rub off” on us, shaping our heart desires and values.

Time with God.  So seemingly hard to define or “do.”  Time in His word is a place where I can meet Him.  Listen to words He says that I don’t have to manufacture or “hear the voice of God” in my head. He has spoken.  And His words are already written down in time-tested format and available in a language I understand.  And they’re true for my life and my children’s lives.  So I write them down.  Surround my home with them.  Read them.  Try to let them re-saturate my heart.  Baby steps.

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I am the answer

Ann Voskamp’s blog is like a daily soul-piercing. She manages to take beautiful photos and even more beautiful words and string them together… and as you read them your soul is laid bare and your heart convicted and repentance falls like tears and inspiration strengthens you to be more of Jesus in the world.

It’s so convicting that I can’t read it daily; it rends my heart too much.  But I read it today, and was reminded of a sermon my mom recently preached on suffering.  It’s the question that keeps so many people turned away from Christ.  What about suffering?  What about this “good” God who allows suffering on earth?  What has He done about all this pain?  What is He doing about all this injustice?

The answer is complicated, and there are a few pieces of answers that have given me roots.  The one Ann describes is the same one my mom preached.

The answer is Him.
The answer is me.
The answer is you.

He is the answer.
We are the answer.

God sent His only son to be a sacrifice.  To pay the penalty for everything suffered on earth, in any age.  The justice that a parent demands when their four-year old is killed on the sidewalk outside their home by a drunk driver…the price for that sin was paid by His blood.  The justice that is demanded for children shot in a school yard in America, or children sacrificed to idols in India, or sold into the sex trade in Japan… (Yes, these are still happening today; I personally know missionaries who can verify).  The price for these too have been paid.  We demand a penalty. We demand someone to suffer for this injustice.  We demand someone to die for the life stolen too soon.

Someone did.

His life was freely given in place of the life of the murderer.  His body was torn in place of the body of the perpetrator.  He experienced in His flesh and with His life the pain, suffering, death, and penalty we demand.  Even God demands. A Holy God demands a payment for sin.  Then He provided the payment with His son.

Not only demanding justice, we also demand a solution.  As does a Loving God.  Someone to heal the sickness, provide water for the thirsty, set free those in captivity.

That someone is me. 

I am to care for the ill, feed the hungry, visit the lonely, invite the broken into my home.  It cannot be done by me alone, but I can do my part.

There are thousands of hospitals and tens of thousands of organizations, founded by Christians who took seriously the call to be the solution.  In our city alone, we have several Baptist hospitals, a Methodist hospital, and several Catholic hospitals.  They’re not churches.  They’re hospitals.  Because someone was trying to BE the solution.  To DO SOMETHING about all this suffering.  Perhaps now they have morphed into big business, which is sad.  But while Benjamin was in one a couple years ago, we were visited by staff chaplains who prayed with us.

And while my heart bleeds for those without clean water (about which I did something), and those starving and those without education, there are also needs close to home for which I can be the answer. 

I just have to get outside the box of ME (my needs, my wants, my space, my time) and walk with Jesus where He wants me to walk.  Love the people He’s put in my life for me to love.  Even when they’re the hardest people I know to love.

Because sometimes I think it would be easier to be serving on the mission field than to be serving in my church, or in my home.  I forget there is great need right here where I am.  There are sick people and abused people and lonely people…

Lord, give me the grace to spend my life for Your cause.  Being the answer You’re trying to give the world.  I am failing so miserably.  I need Your heart, Your eyes, Your ears, break me, change me, mold me.

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Mirror

I rarely watch movies these days. I’ve found that scenes of aggression, violence, sexuality, or discord in relationships often shake my roots a bit.  I come away feeling like I’m a character too, and it takes a few days for me to feel like “myself” again.  Most people I know seem desentized to this type of reaction, primarily because they watch lots of movies.  I’m not really against movies, but I can’t seem to shake how deeply they affect my visual memory, imagination, dreams, and emotional state of being.

Last night, upon the reccomendation of my mother, we watched Snow White and the Huntsman.  It was way too much for me.  It seemed like 60% war, 20% special effects generated from nightmares (bugs, leeches, dead things, blood, tar, snakes, etc.), 10% Kristin Stewart staring blankly, and 10% I-wish-I-was-a-good-plot story.  Okay, there was some excellent acting from all the other lead characters.  On the other hand, I really enjoyed Mirror Mirror, which had a much more interesting interpretation of the story, with some nice plot twists and plenty of humor and wit.  (Although I’m comparing and action/drama to a PG Disney comedy, which isn’t really fair).

I was so grateful that Jax woke up when the movie ended, and even happier to bring him into bed to cuddle with us the rest of the night, to help bring me back to my peaceful reality.

My life is so sweet and calm and simple most days, that I just don’t like filling my eyes, mind, and heart with violence and ugliness.  I prayed in tongues and took a calming remedy to help myself fall asleep.  Then I watched my sweet son and my dear husband sleeping on the bed next to me, and slowly came back into myself.

In processing the lessons of the movie, I’m struck by evil queen’s (played by Charlize Theron) infatuation with youth and beauty.  While she takes her desire to be young and beautiful to tragic and horrific ends, her desire isn’t far off from the one presented to women constantly.  If we could steal the youth and beauty of another, to prolong our own, there might be many people willing to do so.

There she is, asking the mirror, who is the fairest one of all.  And we do it too.  When did this wrinkle form next to my eyes, across the corner of my mouth?  Where did all these unruly grey hairs appear from?

At my work Christmas party this year, my boss’s husband let me know that he didn’t want any photos of himself taken this year.  My husband and I take photos at this small gathering each year, and make them into a little photo album, at my boss’s request.  But he wanted to be left out.  He said he just doesn’t like the way photos of him turn out these days.

Now, I’m not one to have a thing for older men, but I can appreciate a good-looking face at any age.  And I have to say, this white-haired, ruddy-faced man in his sixties, is handsome.  If I was a man, I’d want to look that good at his age.  If I was his wife, I’d be proud to say I caught this good-looking guy who has aged so handsomely.  But he doesn’t see it that way, clearly.

So who is the fairest one of all?  Fairest according to who?  If we’re going to spend our lives expecting our faces to fall among the fairest of them all, we’re going to be gravely disappointed in a couple decades.

Is our face the only thing we expect to reflect?  What, or who, are we trying to reflect or be?

Shouldn’t our mirror be Scripture?  Shouldn’t our goal be a pure and beautiful heart?  When was the last time we looked at our Bible and asked God, “Does my heart reflect You?”  “How can I make my spirit and my life and my words a truer reflection of Your beauty?”

Perhaps if we put half as much effort and time into the appearance of our heart, as the appearance of our face, we could be getting somewhere.  Perhaps then, by the time our features have disappeared into a face full of stories, and we would be hard-pressed to be called “beautiful” or even “attractive”, it wouldn’t matter anymore.  And perhaps our hearts would have become pliable to the Holy Spirit, that those around us could experience a beauty deeper and greater than anything we encounter in the grocery store check out.  Perhaps we could be checking in the mirror of the Word of God, how are we coming along in our journey to become the fairest one of all.  To let the Lord be our heart’s mirror.  To reflect Him.

Goodness, kindness, gentleness, peace, self-control….I have a long way to go folks.  I’m not very fair.  But I’m turning my heart to the right mirror, and working on my character to see it become just a little more beautiful to Jesus.

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His Birthday

 

It was cold here. For almost a week. And by cold, let me qualify that it stayed under 65 degrees Farenheit all day long.  Mornings were in the thirties to forties. Then the cold went away and summer returned.  As much as I’m grateful not to live where it’s stuck near freezing for the next several months, I am ready for a break from 80 degrees. We wore these outfits last week, one of the days it was cold.

Jax’s face in photo one is how he looks when he’s not feeling well, or is grumpy.  He has an actual upset-crying face too, but this is just his grumpy face.  How is it that even snotty-nosed, grumpy babies manage to be adorable and lovable?

We’re nearly ready for Christmas.  In the last few days I’ve baked five pies (three pumpkin, two pecan), seven dozen muffins (zucchini and cranberry nut), lemon bar cookies, and white chocolate dipped roasted pecans.  The last is incredibly addicting, and thus incredibly dangerous.

I’ve also spent two nights wrapping gifts well past my bedtime.  I tried wrapping some small stocking stuffers with Jax awake, and it was a no-go.  I thought he’d be entertained by all the boxes and spools of ribbon and empty rolls of paper and bins of various wrapping goodies.  But he wasn’t.  The only three things he wanted to play with were the only three things I couldn’t let him have: my scissors, my scotch tape dispenser, and the wrapping paper I was trying to use.  I did loan him the sharpie (lid on) I was using to label things, and that lasted several minutes.  So I had to resort to completing my wrapping during his nap and during my precious night sleeping hours.  It will be worth it!

A trick we use when traveling with wrapped gifts is to double-wrap everything.  The first layer is your wrapping paper of choice.  The second layer is clear cellophane wrap. Not the kind you use for leftovers, but what you find on a roll in the gift wrap section.  It takes time, because you’re wrapping everything twice.  But the cellophane holds up to the trunk, or your luggage, or wherever you’re carting gifts in.  It will usually hold together and prevent tears or blemishes on your wrapped gifts.  My sister thought of it first, and we’ve been doing it ever since.  It also adds a glossy sheen to the gift, which makes the wrapping paper look expensive!

In addition to preparing our baked goods and wrapped gifts, we’ve been preparing our hearts.

In her sermon a couple weeks ago, my mom said something that really struck home: “Christmas isn’t your kids’ birthday. Or your birthday. Or your friends’ birthday. It’s JESUS’ birthday. So in all the chaos and busyness and gift giving, could we tone it down a bit and do something to honor and celebrate Jesus?  On your kids’ birthday, lavish them, bless them, make the day all about celebrating them.  But on Jesus’ birthday, could we spend some time and money lavishing HIM?  Blessing Him?  Celebrating Him?”  She challenged us to think of ways we could do so.

I get so grieved this time of year with all the excess.  Even the excess in my own heart and life, and the excess I greedily think I want more of.

I felt like she really said it well, and little family of three is ready to make some changes to make it more about Jesus’ birthday.

Benjamin suggested we bake Jesus a birthday cake.  Sounds great, but instead of eating it, maybe we can take it over to the home of someone who will be alone this Christmas.

I’m still wrestling through this.  Wrestling through how Christmas looks, and how I wish it looked in our home.  Wrestling through our Christmas budget, and how it’s spent.  Wrestling through the selfish greed of my own heart, and the disappointment in my own desires so far away from His.

If any of my readers have ways they have celebrated Jesus’ birthday by meaningful, faith-filled acts, I’d love to hear about them.  We’re going to do one or two small things this year, but want to expand in the coming years the percentage of our time and money we spend at Christmas, to more of Jesus’ heart and work, and less of our own.  I’d love to hear how other families have wrestled through this, and ways you have found to reduce the noise and excess, and focus on simplicity, giving and celebration.

Hat | Happy Baby Jesus

A hat – the temporary solution to my crazy hair. I’m getting a trim this afternoon – yay!

We thrifted this shirt for Jax in Houston – it’s Baby Gap, and so soft.

In unpacking my winter boxes, I discovered my collection of poofy vests.  They’re a great layering alternative to cardigans!  It’s amazing how warm you get when your core is nice a toasty.

It was a brisk forty-seven out when we took these photos, but the soft morning light couldn’t be missed today.

Christmas is truly almost upon us!  Surrounded by jingly music, decorations, and long lines in stores.  Really, with the laughter and smiles of this baby, I feel like Christmas every day.  Is that the kind of baby Jesus was too?  Did He bring delight to Mary and Joseph, and everyone around Him?  Did everyone leave His infant presence happier and more peaceful?  What a gift that must have been.

| Filed under fashion, God moments, jax reilly