Braver Than Me

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She charges into the roaring surf at the ocean. And wants to be pushed higher, and higher on the swings. She pets barking dogs. And scales the walls of her crib. She stands on the very edge of the kitchen chairs, like she’s ready to spring off a diving board. And during her bath, she dumps bucket after bucket of water on her head, drenching her face.

How did she come from me?

This dauntless creature?

Who screams louder than I did. Moves faster. Laughs harder. And jumps higher. (In her crib.)

Last week, I set her down in the store, and at once she ran to a giant “Back to School” display, grabbed a lunch box for each hand and charged down the aisle just like someone about to miss a flight (except, she was laughing hysterically.)

“Stop!” I’m yelling, “Come back!”

I snatch her up like a squealing pig, and whisper, “Shhh!” in her ear, trying hard not to laugh. But as I’m prying the Hello Kitty lunch boxes, like suitcases, from each of her hands, a wave of loss washes over my heart.

Don’t grow up, Baby Girl.

She’s only one and a half, but is already racing out of my arms the moment they swing open, like a derby horse out of the gate. And I know the day will come when she’s not just heading down an aisle at the store, but another aisle. Where she is dressed in a white flowing gown, and I stand by with streaming tears, and…a thousand tiny memories of her,
are suddenly awakened,
like a thousand butterflies put to flight.

Please, could I catch just one, to keep?

I want to pin her down forever. Right here. Like this. Where I can stroke her soft white-blonde hair, that curls when she wakes-up warm from a nap. And stare deep into her blue eyes, like two worlds. And to grab her skinny, squirming frame, and pull her close against me, if even for a moment. Could we just stay frozen like this forever?

But I can’t pin her down like a butterfly in a collection. And fragile as she seems, she was made to be free.

Free to fly.

My Darling Girl,
Sometimes, I fear what you will be. Where you will go. The adventures you will take. And the risk.

But if God has given you wings, I will teach you to fly.

To reach higher than me. Love deeper than me. Run harder than me. Stretch further. And be braver.

For when the world goes dark, your hands may need to strike the match and carry the torch. And when the Dragon invades, your bow may need to shoot the arrows into his heart. But don’t be afraid.

For your Rescuer, Jesus,

is coming back,

and coming soon,

for brave hearts longing for Him.

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[I recently had the honor of being a guest blogger and submitting this piece for a wonderful blog called MomLife Now, which is written by an incredibly gifted writer and mother named Sasha, whom I believe you will love as much as I do.]

What Turbo Kick Taught Me About Being A New Mom

I am not sure what gave me the boost of confidence before entering the YMCA that day. But it was dangerous. As I walked in with an extra skip in my step, I looked at the schedule hanging on the door of Studio 1 and noticed a class called “Turbo Kick” started in 10 minutes. Hmm, sounds more fun than the elliptical. (Big mistake.)

I should have taken some cues as I saw a myriad of very fit looking women waiting around in the lobby, all in cute elastic work out get-ups, and I stood there with my Adidas shorts, old basketball t-shirt, and chicken legs. I was not tanned, or toned, or terrifying like any of these women. I asked the lady with the mic on her face (who was clearly the instructor) what the class was like on my way in, “Oh, it’s just like Kick-boxing combined with Insanity.” Those were her actual words. Insanity. (For someone who struggles just to keep up in the Electric Slide at weddings, the only Insanity that I would be proving that day was my own.)
If only I would have walked away then. But alas…

Within the first five minutes of “Turbo Kick,” I was completely lost. The instructor was barking out commands that sounded like a foreign language. “Upper cut! Cross over! Back kick! Front kick! To the wall!” Huh? I was soon in a stampede of women and trying not to get run over.

I looked like a drowning victim. Arms and legs flailing in every direction. If I were in a pool, there would be whistles blowing, and lifeguards jumping in after me, and people standing by with their faces in their hands.

I was bad. I mean, really stinking the place up, and only 15 minutes into it, too. Unfortunately, the class was 55 minutes long. But I was already committed now. I tried to look natural. But as arms and legs flung wildly in every direction, and I did my first “burpee” since junior high track, nothing was natural about what I was doing. Or trying to do. I’d watch the instructor, then the lady in front of me, then the mirror, then the window, desperately hoping (praying) my husband didn’t feel the need to check on me.

Of course he did.

Later that evening, after he was done cracking joke #492 about the whole episode (for he had a lot of material to work with), he said, “And what were you smiling about in there anyway?”

“Because when I saw my reflection,” I confessed, “I thought ‘What if he’s watching right now?’ And it just made me want to laugh!” I couldn’t help it. There comes a point when you are so awful, it’s actually funny. I guess I would call it, “Insanity.”

This is a lot like being a new mom.

When you become a new mommy…you suddenly enter this new world you didn’t even know existed. Motherhood. You are surrounded by all these ladies moving at incredible speeds, who seem to know exactly what they are doing and you are left spinning around not even know what direction you are supposed to be going.

I’m only 18 months into motherhood, but Turbo Kick resurrected a lot of “new mom” thoughts that I’ve been feeling since the start of motherhood, and I’m not ashamed to admit them:

1. “I have no idea what I am doing.”
New moms have no experience, none. Zippo. Therefore, no matter how much you studied your “What to Expect” books, or baby-sat the neighbor kids…you can’t be fully prepared for what’s ahead of you. Don’t expect to hit the ground running. It’s okay to hit the ground and just…lay there for awhile. You will crawl eventually. You are new to this, and you will learn.

2. “I am surrounded by women who are better at this than me.”
Let’s just get this out there. It’s probably true. If you have friends with any mommy experience at all there’s a good chance they know the steps better than you. They know what they are doing, and you don’t. And that’s okay. You can give yourself some grace realizing, “I am a beginner at this!” Be patient. Don’t try to keep up with the mom whose been doing this for ten years, when you’ve only been at it for ten months. Don’t compare, (it leads to despair.)

3. “I am surrounded by mirrors.”
Not only are you surrounded by Super-Mommies…but you are surrounded by mirrors. These mirrors are those lingering questions in your head or your heart that keep saying things like, “You should know what you’re doing. Get it together. You aren’t good enough. You’ll never get it right.” Ugh. Mirrors remind us of our weaknesses and flaws. Look to God instead, He is where your strength comes from. He made you to do this, and He will give you what you need. In His time.

4. “This is hilarious.”
As a new mom, you can choose how you will respond. For me, that day in Turbo Kick, I chose to laugh. I could have been too proud, and walked out. I could have been too embarrassed, and cried. But I chose to laugh. I was SO out of my league! New mom’s, if you feel like you are clueless, laugh. Maybe you are. Give yourself permission to fail, to experiment, to grow. Some days you will cry, whine, or be angry with yourself, and set sky-rocket expectations to “do it better” tomorrow. It’s part of being a mom.

                               You are allowed to laugh. 

Because…this is hard. And because laughing–is evidence of humility. Of growing. Of not always knowing what you are doing 100% of the time. Whether you are a new mom or not, remember one of the the qualities of the highly esteemed “Proverbs 31 Woman” that we don’t often hear about is:

She smiles at the future.
She can laugh at the days to come.
(Prov. 31:25b, NASB, NIV)

You can laugh. You are learning, we all are are. Welcome to not having it all together. Welcome to growth.
Welcome to Insanity.
Welcome to Motherhood.

 

“Because You’re Mine”

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I have experienced love-at-first-sight my life only one time: the night my daughter was born. I remember them placing her slippery little body into my frail, shaky arms. And the moment I saw her, touched her; all at once, I loved her. All of me, loved all of her. This avalanche happened in my heart and never stopped flowing. A love so violent, so powerful—I did not even know I was capable of it. Like something burst; the floodgates broke open, and would never close again. She had done nothing to win or lose my affection, to prove her ability, to show her worth. It didn’t matter. I knew her worth. And I would love her forever. Simply because: she was mine.

Having a child does something to you. It stretches you, stretches your heart so that it can never go back. I think all mothers feel this. Whether they have only been mothers for a few months or fifty years. We can apply creams and lotions to stretch marks on our bodies, but nothing can remove the stretch marks on your soul. You have been changed forever. The love you feel for them is like this mountain, it cannot be moved. Simply because: they are yours.

I struggled for a long time to know God’s love. People talked about it, I read about it in the Bible, heard songs about it—but could never really feel it. So I tried to be perfect, like a friend who always did everything so right, you would never have a reason to be mad at them. Ever. But that didn’t work. I was a sinner through and through. I failed and floundered. I would pull up my bootstraps, try so hard to prove myself, and when I didn’t—I just felt further from His love. As if His love were based on my performance, going up and down like the stock market. (But usually crashing.) I wanted to cry out to God, to ask Him how He could love me? And why? But would my cry make Him swoon with sympathy and grace, or roll His eyes with irritation? Did He really like me, or just kind of tolerate me?

As I wrestled these questions, I began to ask God the thing I really wanted to know for so long: “Why do You love me?”

Imagine your child asking you this. It would be a baffling, heart-paining question to any mother or father. “What, do you mean, ‘Why do I love you?’” But your child’s face is earnest; they really don’t know what you thought was obvious all along.

“God, why do you love me?”

And at last, He answered,

“Because you’re Mine.”

And suddenly all the doubts and fears and striving for perfection are all—gone. I am His. And for the first time, I know it. He has pledged Himself to me. He has made a way through His Son Jesus to atone me. To cleanse me with His blood. To make a way. Not because of what I have done, but because of what He has done. He has made me His own. And no one can pry me out of His hands. Ever. When He sees me in the End, seeing Him, He will look at me and shout, “Mine!”

“She is Mine.”

How my heart leaps for that day, and so should every single son and daughter of God. Because this is the truth. Scripture confirms it again and again. And the Holy Spirit makes us taste it’s reality.

A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces in the world, but it is just a small touch of what God feels for us. The way we feel about our children, is the way God feels about His—but even more.

God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, Yet I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-16

Could it be that this powerful, sovereign, maker of heaven and earth, loves and is aroused with avalanche-like compassion for me, the same way I am for my daughter?

Yes.

But even more so. His love is stronger than a mother’s love, because His love is perfect. Without the sin, or stress, or short tempers, or moods. His love is more constant, wise, knows exactly what you need, and never lacks the power to give it. His love is more intimate, so much that He counts your tears, numbers the hairs on your head, and hears the quietest whisper of your heart. He sees your dreams, hears your thoughts, and knows your words before you can even speak them. And His eyes were the first to ever see you, in that secret place; for it was His hands that formed you in your mother’s womb. His voice that spoke your name for the first time, and called you to be. He is your beginning. Where you came from. The one who gave you life. And your name is written on the palms of His hands. Yes, and there are two nail pierced scars there, for you.

Why Lord? Why do you love me?

“Because you’re Mine.”

“Am I Enough?”

This week my husband walks in the door after a long day at work to find: dishes piled in the sink, laundry all over the living room, the beef for dinner still in a frozen block, and me…looking like Frump Queen. He is gracious. And tells me to take a nap. I instantly obey. (Inwardly rejoicing.) And while I am sleeping for 45 minutes, he manages to clean the whole house…while watching our daughter. (A feat I clearly was incapable of accomplishing today. Many days.)

One part of my feels grateful the house is clean. I can relax now, right? But the other (bigger) part of me feels guilty and defeated. He just worked the whole day at his job, and then came home and did mine, too. Isn’t this why I am staying home? 

Every day I have this desire to accomplish something. But every day it feels I accomplish nothing. I try to clean something, but I don’t finish. I want to do a house project, make my space more beautiful, but all those gorgeous pics on Pinterest look like something from another world. Not mine. I leave to buy something, but roam aimlessly around in the store. Nothing to bring home. I try to write, but this little person cries for all of my attention when I sit at the computer. I clip coupons and price match, and still go way over on our budget. Agh. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for the last 9 hours of exhausting effort. Of doing what? 

When it feels I didn’t accomplish Super Tidy Housewife, or Spiritual Sage, or Fun Mommy, or Adoring Wife, or Betty Crocker, or the Likeable Friend…when I’m none of those titles, and all the opposites..

I have to wonder: “Am I enough?

I lay my head on the kitchen table, cheek against wood, and cry. I want my days to be of worth. But feel like they are all so: Unsuccessful.

As I lay, frozen, I hear a whisper, my daughter’s whisper:

Dear Momma,

Do you remember the nights you cried on the bathroom floor in the dark? When the pregnancy tests sat negative in the trash can? Remember when my nursery was just a storage room? A place for you and Daddy to throw your junk? Remember how you longed to brush my hair with your fingers, to sing me lullabies, to hold me close? And now I’m here. 

Am I enough?

When there’s dishes in the sink, and your skinny jeans sag from all the bending, and dinner’s ingredients still sit on the shelves of the supermarket, because your days are full, full of me. Am I worth your attention? Am I an accomplishment?

Am I enough?

You kept me safe today Momma, you kept me alive. You kept me fed, and rested. You played with me, and made me laugh. Does that count Momma? Am I one of your goals Momma? Just to be together? Even if no one sees it? Or knows it?

Am I enough?

Tell me Momma, did you think I’d be different? Did you hope I’d be different? Do you see me? I’m right here Momma, the answer to your sobbing prayers. But now that I’m here, is there something else you want Momma, to feel good? Do I make your day count Momma?

Am I enough?

And suddenly, the voice changes. My heart wrenches. The Spirit of God begins to whisper, making the table under my wet cheek feel more like the chest of God. And suddenly I know He’s near.

Do you remember when I said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me?” (Matt. 25:40) “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward?” (Matt. 10:42) Do you not see it here Child? 

All these days you live at home to serve this fragile girl, what you really are doing is serving Me. For whatever you do unto her, you do unto Me. So let me ask you:

Am I enough?

What is My worth to you? In the secret places, where no one sees? Look deeper Dear One.

Can you find Me in this place? In her face?

Every diaper, every clean, dry pair of clothes,

cups of water, Cheerios, all the laughter, every tear,

each soothing whisper in her ear.

In doing so, you so clothe Me, feed Me, hear My cry,

soothe Me with your lullaby.

If all you do is spend your days, your self, on Me..

Am I enough?

Motherhood: The Moments No One Sees

Today’s mothers hold a special power that no other generation of mothers quite held: the Smart Phone. And with this power (sometimes) comes the pressure to capture every moment of your darling child’s life.

(Especially if you have family out of town, who eat it up!) The least you can do is snap a picture, or post a video. Right??

It’s amazing that now 362 of your Friends can tune into Baby Girl smearing spaghetti sauce all through her hair at dinner. And by bath time, you can have 31 ‘Likes’ on it.

But this wasn’t always so. There was a time when the only people who could see your little guy run through the sprinkler in his diaper were the neighbors next door.

One part of me, (the minimalist part), wants to pull the curtains of Facebook closed for awhile and just live. I want to lose the constant camera waiting to burst out of my pocket, and the feeling of “I should be taking a video right now…” I want lose the self-consciousness, and the constant mirror my camera can become.

But, the other part of me (really) loves technology. I love that my brother-in-law in Africa can see his niece’s first steps, hear her first words, and spew out her first bite of rice cereal. I love that my sisters and parents can watch her splash in the tub after dinner, or dance like a maniac on the kitchen floor. Because in a way, they get to share it too, the moment. Moments they would otherwise miss.

But what about the moments we don’t capture? The moments no one sees?

Motherhood is full of these. No one gets to share some moments because you were laughing so hard, you forgot to snap a picture. Or you were too busy chasing monsters, or you were waiting to burst out of the closet, or you were ‘It’ in freeze tag. Maybe your toddler hid your phone in his toy box. Maybe you were too focused holding your breath in silence during hide-n-seek. Or you were lost in making Play-dough together, or painting, or building a fort out of cushions—so it was never recorded.

And some moments are so sacred, no camera could ever capture them. Like the tenderness of rocking your little one to sleep in a dark room, and watching her drift away in the moonlight. Staying there, with her, even after she’s long fallen asleep. Just to hold her. Or was she holding you?

Sometimes the moments no one sees, the moments you couldn’t capture, are the moments that captured you.

I don’t say this to make you self-conscious of what you post, or to bash my (incredibly gifted) photographer friends. That’s the last thing I want. By all means, take pictures, and videos, a lot of them! One day, you will be so glad you did. You will remember so many beautiful, hilarious, crazy moments you were bound to forget in the haze of your memory. And it doesn’t make you one bit vain to share them with others. It’s good to give others a window into your daily joy. It’s a part of community.

But I guess what I want to say to moms, and I want to say to myself is: It’s okay if you miss some moments because you were enjoying them too much. It’s okay if you were just too busy being there. It’s okay if while looking into those gorgeous blue eyes, or those chocolate brown ones, gazing into yours–you got lost, and didn’t even think to reach for your phone.

You were captured instead.