Confessions of an angry mom, part 3

[Part 3 of a 3-part series. Click here for part 1 and part 2]

Ok, thanks for hanging in there! Here is the final part, as promised, and my prayer is that you feel a bit of hope dawning in your heart – like the first light of sunrise. This is certainly not my final time to discuss this topic here. I’m thinking it might be merely the beginning of a longer conversation. Also, please know that what I write is not merely “past tense struggle.” Today I was angry when two cranky girls pushed my buttons on our way home from church. The irony of it was that while my husband was preaching to the second service, I was losing it in anger towards my nap-starved toddlers at home. Oh, Lord, we need your mercy daily! Moment-by-moment. And thanks be to God in Christ Jesus that we have a guarantee of it – eternal, cascading mercy and grace. May you know that today wherever you are struggling.

*Part 3*

As I began exploring my heart and God’s Word, since true change always comes as the two intersect, I discovered that God has a lot to say about anger.  I found a sermon from a favorite preacher in New York City,  Dr. Tim Keller, titled  “Healing of Anger”.  Once again, God used him to invite my heart to the beauty of the gospel as it connects to anger. Much of what I’m reflecting on here is from that sermon. A few key verses on anger:

  • Psalm 86:15 – “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” It is not that God is angry, but He is slow to anger and His anger is over the right things that make God’s anger so different than mine. His slow anger means that I am not destroyed because of my sinful anger against my children. His slow anger makes room for grace, for abundant love and mercy. His slow anger made a plan for how to deal with the source of his anger: sin. And at great cost to himself – he would allow his own Son to be the sacrifice his anger demanded for sin. So that we (the sinners) could be called sons and daughters. God’s anger is always against sin, and yet he allowed Christ to receive his wrath against sin so that we could be counted righteous. So that we would not have to be enslaved by the sin that grieves his heart. This is my greatest hope as I battle anger.
  • James 1:19-20 – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Yikes! What a contrast to God’s anger. Mine is hardly, rarely righteous anger, and it actually does not accomplish what God wants in my life – the righteousness He has given me and clothed me with in Christ. God’s anger is always against sin; my anger is usually because of personal discomfort. This is why I get enraged over a child not going to sleep at night but why I hardly blink to hear about the latest genocide in Africa. My anger is not righteous; it’s disproportionate. The injustice in the world that should anger me barely causes me to turn my head while I am disproportionately angry towards the person who cuts me off in traffic or the child who screams, “No!” when I tell her to come upstairs.
  • Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When I respond with harsh words instead of a gentle answer, I make my anger and that of my kids worse.
  • Proverbs 16:32 – “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Being slow to anger will take tremendous soul strength, strength that I do not have apart from Christ. It’s compared here to the ingenuity, military prowess and planning necessary to take charge of a city. Patience will entail planning, fortitude, and strength – it will mean divine resources, available through Christ’s life and death on my behalf.
  • Proverbs 25:28 – “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” No self-control leaves me vulnerable, without protection and susceptible to destruction like a city without the protection of its walls and gates.
  • Ephesians 4:26-27 – “ ‘In your anger do not sin;’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Sinful anger is toxic and gives the devil an opportunity he should not have. It is part of my old self, not my new self in Christ.
  • Genesis 4:6-7 – “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” The very first instance recorded in the Bible of human anger is Cain’s anger toward his brother Abel that arose out of jealousy that Abel’s sacrifice to God was accepted and his own was rejected. The Lord here comes to warn Cain, and this story is a warning to me. Cain did not heed God’s warning, and anger gave way to murder. Anger’s natural unchecked consequence is death, and that means not just physical death of murder but the ways that anger unchecked always results in some level of relational death. In the power of the Spirit of the risen Christ, I will rule over anger or it will rule over me.

What does anger say about my heart? For me, it’s usually one of the following:

  • I am not believing God is sovereign, good, loving, and personally involved in my life.
  • There is something I want more than loving my kids and exercising Spirit-empowered self-control – I’m refusing to live in God’s kingdom and instead want to live in the kingdom of self.
  • I have unmet expectations, desires that have become demands, and I need to reexamine those desires as well as readjust my expectations. Maybe I’m expecting more of my child than is developmentally appropriate. Maybe I have turned a good desire into a controlling (idolatrous) demand.
  • I need forgiveness, and I need to repent. I need Jesus!

Hope is found as I agree with God about what he says about my sinful anger, confess to him and to others, seek the grace always plentiful and available in Christ through faith, and make Spirit-empowered choices that are different. This can include researching a good child development book so that I better understand why my children are responding in the ways that they are and adjust my expectations accordingly. It can include calling a friend who has similarly aged children and asking her how she’s dealing with a certain behavior or issue. It’s often included a conversation with a more experienced mom to ask for her perspective on this particular stage. Heart-transforming change always means coming before God in prayerful dependence, asking specifically for the help that I need and asking him to show me the “way out of temptation” before it comes. I have written verses I want to meditate on and remember on 3×5 cards and put them in highly visible places where I will see them during the day (my kitchen sink, car dashboard, etc). Most importantly, it means rehearsing the gospel story of redemption to myself again and remembering where I am in it: declared righteous by Christ’s death and resurrection and living a life no longer enslaved to sin in community with the body of Christ. I am awaiting Christ’s return to make everything right, to destroy sinful anger forever, and to restore all of his people to a perfect relationship with a holy and beautiful God. This is the hope that purifies me day by day, and it is remember my identity in this story that gives me courage to live out its beautifying truth. Even – and especially – as I battle anger as a mom of toddlers.

Confessions of an angry mom, part 2

[Part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 here, and part 3 here]

Many moms of toddlers struggle with anger – and we struggle in silence, feeling the shame of how we treat our children and feeling the shame of struggling with anger as a woman. Our culture often doesn’t connect anger as an emotional response of women. It’s seen more as a “male emotion.” And so that adds a layer of shame to our own struggles with anger as moms. In sharing my struggle openly, I found a few friends to be “go to” friends in the angry moments – meaning friends I could text or call when I felt really angry, or on the verge of anger, who could talk me off the angry ledge. Sometimes, simply interrupting my angry tirade by calling someone else was enough to help the angry feelings to pass – or at least for them to lessen and to give me time to pray. Sometimes I literally walked outside the door to get a breath of fresh air for a moment. Other times, I set my kids up with “Sesame Street” to give myself the mental and emotional break I felt like I needed. Some mornings, when I felt my emotions to be particularly fragile, we arranged a last minute playdate in order to have the accountability and companionship of a fellow mom. If this wasn’t possible, we planned an outing. To anywhere. It really didn’t matter, just as long as we were out of the house. I’ve also found that turning on music can be calming for everyone, both me and my daughters. Anything to give me a chance to calm down, to cry out for help from God (instead of having an angry tirade against him in the guise of parental frustration directed towards my children), and to wait for the Spirit to show up to direct how to discipline, instruct, or care for my child rather than following what my emotions told me to do.

In the category of preventing anger, counseling can be tremendously helpful. Counseling can be either formal or informal. Maybe you could ask an older mom in your life who’s been there to come over weekly or monthly for coffee – or, better yet, ask your husband to watch your kids so that you can go out with this older friend and have uninterrupted conversation. Maybe you could seek a good friend to hold you accountable and to be a fellow struggler with you, a friend who will counsel you and remind you of the gospel and let you do the same. Worship at church weekly is such a refreshment to my heart – like setting “reset” as I remember God’s forgiveness of the past sins and struggles of the previous week and as I ask for new mercies and grace for the yet unknown struggles of the week ahead. It’s been a time for me to be convicted of sin, repent, and be refreshed by the grace of God that covers all my sins – even the heinous anger of a desperate mom against her undeserving children.

It also helps to notice when you are most likely to be angry – to keep checking your emotional “barometer” and notice how you’re processing the demands of each day. I realized that I needed to go to bed earlier at night because I wasn’t getting enough sleep. And that I needed to do less outside of the home. I was most likely to get angry when I felt the pressure of a demanding week, with places to go, commitments and responsibilities outside of our home. Maybe for you it might be the opposite – maybe your anger comes because you feel too isolated and you aren’t getting enough outside connection. The important thing is to know yourself, asking God to make it clear what your tendency is – overscheduling or under-scheduling – and to seek wisdom and strength to know what to cut out or what to add in so that you are able to manage your home, your children, and/or your job while staying emotionally healthy.

I also notice that when I’m trying to process my own complex emotions that I am more likely to take it out on my kids. What can I do to process my own emotions better, separately from my children, so that I don’t have so much background noise/burden? It might be worth it to hire a babysitter regularly simply for the purpose of you getting out alone with a cup of coffee, your journal, and the Bible or a good book to help you process whatever it is that’s weighing on your heart in a given day, week, or season. Find friends who could swap childcare with you so that you’re able to give one another the much needed breaks you need. Communicate clearly to your husband what it is that you want. More than likely, he will be all too happy to cooperate when the end result is a wife and mom who is better able to engage her family. If I’m having a week that’s felt hard or anticipate a particularly difficult week ahead, I request with my husband a morning or afternoon “off” during a weekend simply to do whatever it is I need to do. Sometimes I head to Stella’s with my journal; sometimes I meet a friend for lunch; other times I run errands in the blissful joy of solitude and efficiency. The other benefits to this is that your husband will more fully appreciate what you do every day of the week and your kids get valuable “daddy and me” time. Leave any lingering mom guilt at home with the kids, take your keys, and go!

But none of these strategies alone is enough to get at the heart of your anger. They allow you to clear some space so that you will be able to deal with your heart. Stay posted for part 3 coming in a few days.

Confessions of an angry mom, part 1

Today I had the privilege of being part of a panel discussion on the topic of “Nurturing Emotional Health as a Mom” with our church’s moms’ ministry, entitled (appropriately) “Nurture.” I learned so much from my preparation as well as from my fellow panelists. And so I wanted to share here part of what I shared today, in hopes that you too will know (1) you are not alone (2) God meets you (3) you can change. I am experiencing all of that and more in this journey. A journey of “imperfect progress” to quote Lysa TerKeurst in Unglued.

Anger and fear/anxiety are often two sides of a coin. They are two responses to feeling out of control and two ways to seek to regain control. I have lived in both places, and I often still do. Anxiety used to be my prevalent and familiar emotional response to out-of-control situations, like a pending job transition or move, pregnancy with twins, bed rest while pregnant with twins due to preterm labor, trying to feed newborn twins, and the run-of-the-mill daily issues like budget, income, and people pleasing. Anger I was not so familiar with from the inside out. Until my precious daughters reached about 18 months, when they began turning from babies with predominantly physical neediness of me to toddlers with extreme emotional demands of me and a huge emotionality of their own that they brought to each day. I began losing it in angry outbursts, almost but not quite as frequently as they would erupt in a toddler temper tantrum. It became as if we would set each other off. I felt out of control and at the end of my emotional resources. Completely, utterly drained, with no hope until preschool of any relief or refreshment. And I don’t know about you, but as often as I hear “it goes by so quickly!” and really want to believe that, it does not help me to get through these very draining days and weeks that feel as though they are eternal in length and demands.

My anger continued to increase, despite my best efforts at prayer, seeking help, trying to be more self-controlled. And I think that’s part of the problem. It’s not about me being self-controlled, but about me being more Spirit-controlled. I’m learning ways to manage heat-of-the-moment anger and seeking God to heal me of the roots of my sinful anger, preventative care of my heart and soul. My anger is often my temper tantrum against God. I began keeping an anger log – tracking the times when I got angry, what I did in response to what was happening around me, why I became angry – looking at what I wanted in that moment, and then seeking God’s help for biblical truth to fortify my heart.

I noticed the many ways that anger can manifest itself – not only the loud yelling or outbursts, but also criticism, sarcasm, a lingering bitterness or resentment. The object of my anger was not always the one(s) I was acting angry towards. Sometimes I was angry at myself for getting angry; other times I was feeling resentful towards my husband and directing it towards my kids; and yet other times I was upset with my kids but taking it out in an angry resentment towards my husband. Ultimately, I was angry with a God I viewed as controlling yet distant. Far from caring, compassionate, and intimately involved in my day to day battles as a mom to twin toddlers.

Some of the messages of my anger were:

  • “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better treatment, more respect, kids who listen to me, etc.”
  • “I feel so emotionally overwhelmed that I don’t know what else to do.”
  • “I need a break”
  • “You’re getting in the way of what I want.” [Usually peace and quiet and kids who can self-parent – to quote Paul Tripp in his parenting series “Getting to the Heart of Parenting.”]
  • “You are not meeting my expectations.”
  • “I feel helpless to gain control of you.”
  • “CALM ME DOWN!” This last one I am indebted to Hal Runkel’s book, ScreamFree Parenting for, in which he discusses the need to take responsibility for my reactions toward my kids. Saying “you make me angry” just isn’t true. I get angry when others get in the way of what I want/think I deserve/expect in the moment.

I began with a lot of repentance, first toward God (the real target of my anger), then my husband (who would sometimes get fired upon), and most often, my daughters. Who, though often the ones seemingly triggering my anger, were the ones I sinned against in my angry yelling at them and out-of-control fly-off-the-handle moments. I talked to friends, honestly admitting my anger, asking for prayer, and finding that I wasn’t so alone as I thought I was. Hence this blog post, and our morning’s discussion, and each of you who find that this resonates with you. We are not alone! And that is the first and most important step in dealing with anger as a mom. Stay tuned for more in the next few days.

******

Want to read the rest of the series? Part 2 here, and part 3 here.

tears and transitions

As the tea kettle began its high-pitched whistle, releasing steam from the boiling water inside, I felt it to be the perfect metaphor for the emotions steaming within me. After an hour of bedtime antics, I was D.O.N.E. We would sternly warn them not to get out of bed, they would say, “yes ma’am,” to indicate understanding, and as soon as we settled into our comfy spots on the sofa, we would hear yet again the tell-tale pitter patter of feet on the floor above us. Too bad for them, it’s a squeaky floor in an old house and so there is no hiding their delight to exercise their newfound freedom now that they’re in “big girl beds.” We would parade upstairs, trying to be firm and unemotional and the PARENTS-whom -they -should-respect-and -listen-to-and-obey. We would enforce our consequences, march them back to bed, trying to be no-nonsense and all business. And it would not even seem to matter.

So after about the fourth round of this, I did what every sane mother does: I put on the teakettle and told Seth that it was all him from here on out. I was here for his emotional support, but I could NOT take it anymore. It shouldn’t surprise me that monumental transitions for my daughters are equally difficult for me. And yet this one seemed to catch me by surprise in the intensity of emotions their “failure to comply” evoked for me. Their dream performance on their first evening in big girl beds (with absolutely no testing) also lulled me into unrealistic expectations for the future evenings. Which have become progressively worse with each bedtime. It certainly didn’t help that last night’s bedtime fiasco followed a day in which we were cooped up at home due to Hurricane Sandy. All of us were stir crazy, and apparently they still had some extra energy to burn off at 9:30 pm – a solid two hours past their bedtime.

Ironically enough, I am preparing to be part of a panel for moms at our church on the topic of “Nurturing Emotional Health as a Mom” and my focus will be anger. Strictly from a clinical standpoint, of course, utilizing my counseling training/etc. Ahem … right. And if you believe that, you must have skipped about half of my blog posts about my struggles as a mom. It never fails that anytime I am preparing to speak or teach on a certain topic, God makes sure to arrange that I have plenty of “fresh material” to use. It keeps me humble, for sure, and I can only hope that how God meets me in the depths of my struggle with anger as a mom will and can be used to help other moms who may feel isolated and alone in similar ways.

So right now, what am I learning? First of all, it’s usually when I think I’ve turned a corner on an area in my life that I’ve been working on that God sees fit to test me – to reveal how deeply I still need the saving work of Christ to forgive my sin and to empower me to overcome my sin. As I was working on this anger material (in quiet nap times, in coffeeshops on the weekends while my husband watched our daughters), I thought that I had really begun to get a handle on it. Then last night I was faced again with how quickly my heart can be triggered into irrational anger. I still want control of most things. I still want peace and quiet and feel like I deserve and am entitled to those blissful gifts at a certain time (7:30 pm or shortly thereafter, to be precise). I still don’t really want to serve my children. And I still doubt that God is good and is here and cares about me, even in moments when I’m pretty frustrated.

I wanted to begin doing some major internet research and friend research into the best methods to keep your two-year-old in bed once they’re not in cribs anymore. And I did start a little of this. Which isn’t bad, of course. But a wise friend wrote the following to me, and I think she captured the heart of my struggle right now:

I wish like crazy that I had some advice for you but unfortunately all I know is that this transition is just one that takes time and patience. Child rearing is such a sanctifying experience as it provides us with so many opportunities to practice patience, flexibility, empathy with others, etc. Hang in there. It does get better with time. The novelty will wear off and a routine will develop. The girls will learn to go to bed and stay there till the morning. I promise.

I’m clinging to those last three sentences in particular. And I’m asking God for the endurance and wisdom to learn and practice patience, flexibility, empathy with others … etc. Join me in this? We need one another on this journey. And as for tonight, after a few rounds of the spring-loaded toddler out of bed act, I decided to give everyone a break and split up the twins for the night. Lucia’s now peacefully asleep in her pack n’ play in the guest room, and Alethia finally settled down for the night in her big girl bed in the nursery. Whew. Exhale. Breathe. Reflect, and ask God for strength for tomorrow. Because I’m sure I’ll need it then, too.

Now I’m going to read a few more chapters of my latest favorite book, “Unglued,” by Lysa TerKeurst. You’ll be hearing more from me on that front soon.

on becoming two

 

We celebrated two with a fanfare of a birthday party, no theme other than good-old-fashioned-birthday – meaning we had balloons, birthday-themed plates, and two “cakes” designed from cupcakes. Almost all of the girls’ friends and neighbors came for a Labor Day cookout/birthday party. And good times were had by all.

But this isn’t a mommy-specific blog, where I ooh & aah you with all of my Pinterest-worthy aspects of our party. I love reading other blogs that do that, although I must admit that I can struggle with creativity-envy afterwards. Or I may be inspired by such blogs and Pinterest pins, just depends on where my heart is in a given day.

The twins becoming two has been a slow, ever-increasing process that began around 6 months ago as both the tantrums and the precocious nature blossomed. Now both aspects are in full bloom, which leaves me both laughing in delight and exasperated in anger in the course of a day (or 10 minutes). Many moments, it is wonderful to watch the way they will play together, yelling “Come find me!” and running away for her sister to chase her. They love their new sandbox on our back deck, and they end each day laughing and “talking” to each other as they drift off to sleep in cribs across the room. Other moments, I again feel the twin-pull that’s been present since birth. Of TWO very needy children in the same stage, wanting the same thing from their ONE Mommy. And I feel completely at a loss of how to respond. How do you triage the toddler who just got bitten with the toddler who bit her? The girls who are both melting down with fear or with tiredness or hunger and want to be held now while also expecting me to meet their need (of cooking dinner, for instance, or putting each down for a nap). I am faced with a sense of inadequacy in these moments. One that I should be used to by now, but which still feels hard. Maybe it’s more of a cumulative effect, building with each month, rather than one that goes away.

In one such moment, I desperately opened the Bible (rather than the cookie jar or Facebook or email), and this verse jumped off the page for me: “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19) I’m going to take a big hermeneutical leap and jump straight to applying it to my life as a mom. I know that’s not the original context (persecution of the early Church was), but I think God who was present with those suffering Christians then also wants to be present to us when we suffer now in the self-sacrificial calling of motherhood. The frustrations of motherhood fit into this category of suffering according to God’s will. And so what am I called to do? Entrust my soul (what’s in danger of harm) to God, my Creator who is faithful. While continuing to do good. This is Christianity on the go. Spirituality that I can live with as a mom.

God says to us, “Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s good work. Yes, it involves suffering which will test and try your very soul. But I, who made you and created you, am faithful to care for you, strengthen you, empower you to continue to do good. Your suffering in the pouring out of your life for these little ones is according to my will for you. I who strengthened your Savior who endured this and more, will strengthen you also. By His very life – the life of Christ available to you, dwelling within you by the Spirit.”

I finally sat down to write this out because (surprise, surprise) I need to hear it again in this moment. The morning was lovely, I was able to get tasks accomplished after we played with a neighbor down the street, lunch was battle-free, and then naptime hit and they rebelled. My heart did so, too, in response. We are the same. We need the same Savior. My only hope for pointing them to Him is that I run to Him myself.

As a small comical ending, in reading “Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender?” (a developmental classic by Ilg & Ames), they concluded their book with some practical pointers that I recommend to myself and all of you fellow parents of two-year-olds. Doubly so, if they’re also twins:

THINGS TO AVOID:

1. Avoid any expectation that all daily routines will go smoothly. Even if you do your best, your child will not always cooperate fully.

2. Do not introduce any sudden changes in routine without warning or without some cushioning buildup.

3. Avoid any questions that can be answered by “No,” such as, “Do you want to have your bath now?”

4. Do not give choices when it matters.

5. Do not expect your child to wait for things or to take turns easily.

6. Avoid ultimatums, such as, “You have to eat all your lunch before you can go out and play.”

7. Avoid getting all upset by your child’s demands and rigidities. Try to see these behaviors not as badness or rebellion but rather as immaturity. Try to appreciate the wonder and complexity of growing behavior, even when it makes trouble for you.

8. Do not be surprised or upset at “No” or “No, I won’t.”

9. Do not take away or object to your child’s security blanket or favorite, bedraggled toy. Do not fuss at him when he sucks his thumb.

10. Do not expect your child to share easily with other children.

… and my personal favorite: 11. Do not be surprised if you are unduly fatigued at the end of the day.

Sound familiar, anyone? Yes, I see those hands! Though published in 1976, I’ve found it to be helpful in at least attempting to understand what’s going on with my 2-year-olds. Now, doing what they recommend as a result will take much more than my self-effort. See my thoughts on obtaining grace in other posts (and re-read 1 Peter 4:19).

 

Joy in my “lot in life” (Ecclesiastes reflections)

I don’t know about you, but most of the time when I hear or utter the phrase, “It’s just my lot in life,” there is the connotation of reluctantly putting up with what one wishes she could change about her life. In reading through a rather obscure and not often studied book of Ecclesiastes this summer, I am realizing that I’ve got it all wrong. To realize that God has given me my lot in life is meant to bring joy. Why? Not because life is easy – far from it. Ecclesiastes clearly portrays the toil and burden of life that often feels vain and meaningless. Toil, vanity, “striving after the wind,” are popular refrains here. But the writer of Ecclesiastes is pushing into life, seeking to see if God entering the picture makes any difference to life on earth.

I’m only a few chapters in, but he’s already seeming to paint the tiniest bit of hope that yes, life feels futile and meaningless, until you acknowledge God as Creator and Giver of your lot in life. In fact, the ability to enjoy life is in and of itself a gift from God, whether one recognizes this or not. My lot in life – the portion God gives to each of us, which feels heavier and harder in some seasons than others – is given to me precisely to bring me the greatest joy possible. I agree that this sounds different, difficult, and incongruent with my daily experience. Especially because my daily experience of life is filled with many mundane and monotonous tasks. And yet –

To know God as giver will bring joy. There is no joy in my toil until I begin to accept “my lot in life” as something that’s divinely orchestrated not only for my good, but for my enjoyment. Could it be that this is what I too often miss in my focus on God’s sovereign arrangement of the world and my life? I forget that God arranges and orchestrates not just for his glory and my good, but for my joy. There is a joy in this day, in this week, in this month, in this year and in this season that God has arranged the details of my life to provide for me. And God will give me the ability to enjoy my toil and to find that joy.

If you’re finding this hard to believe, don’t take my word for it. Enjoy this passage from Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Love is …

For this Valentine’s post, I thought it would be celebratory to meditate on LOVE (what else on this day of hearts?). Here goes –

L O V E  is …

  • A spontaneous hug around the legs from an adoring daughter
  • A wet and sloppy kiss from her twin sister
  • Bright smiles to greet you in the morning (even when you quite frankly don’t feel so bright and cheery)
  • A bouquet of yellow roses blooming into orange
  • A friend’s understanding words and listening ear on a hard day
  • The unexpected beauty of a sunset over the river as the day fades, sea gulls’ silhouettes flying into the light
  • A heartfelt note from my husband
  • Dinner shared with friends and family, rich with feasting and conversation
  • A date at Luna Maya while friends watched the girls as part of a baby swap
  • Uninterrupted conversation
  • Conversation interrupted by little hands tugging for your attention
  • Heart-shaped sugar cookies to savor
  • Lavender hot chocolate at my new favorite coffee shop, Stella’s Cafe
  • Timeless words written by God to assure his people of his undying, steadfast, never-giving-up love for them
  • A cross on a hill in Jerusalem where the innocent died for the guilty
  • THE story of love  from where all other love derives its meaning and truest expression
  • My husband’s offer to feed the girls dinner so that I could have a break from a long day that felt rather loveless, not because of him or my daughters but just because it was an extraordinarily hard “ordinary” day of tantrums, fussing, and short naps.
  • Choosing not to write more so that I help him in this “witching hour” before bedtime …

What Every Mom Wants For Christmas

I have reached an age where I do know that Christmas is much more the presents I receive (at least most of the time I believe this – ha, ha). It is certainly more about the joy in giving gifts to others, which reflects the joy of receiving THE gift of God-wrapped-in-human-flesh. However, I could not pass up the opportunity for a little humorous break to reveal what’s on my (secret) Christmas wish list this year:

1. Regular nap times that last in duration of at least 1.5 hours so that I can get something done in addition to showering and making my bed

2. A few days where I don’t have to do laundry

3. Being able to wear an outfit twice before having to do said laundry (meaning it has escaped the dangers of being a tissue for a snotty nose or a spare burp cloth for the surprising spit-up or the overflow for diaper leakage)

4. Diapers that will change themselves

5. High chair trays that magnetically catch all flying food – keeping it from landing on the floor, carpet, clothes, or the other twin

6. Sippy cups that really are spill-proof

7. A night out without having to arrange for a babysitter or figure out instructions for said babysitter (Seth’s giving me this tonight with the help of a dear couple from our church – thank you!)

8. Guarantee of an illness-free week (or month if I’m really dreaming)

9. A day off without feeling guilty or wondering how my babies are doing without me

10. Probably the most important one, hence, it’s #10 – The perspective to realize that these sometimes clingy, fussy, sleepless 15-month-olds will one day too soon be 15-year-olds who have no need (in their minds) or desire to spend time with their Mom. And so the GRACE to enjoy each day with these babies as the gifts that they are.

Tiny miracles

A first poem for Lucia and Alethia, written in that euphoric semi-sleepy state I live in these days:

You knit them together –

Tiny miracles

Each small sigh and cry

Annoucing their existence

The joy and delight immeasurable

Wrapped up inside tiny pink bundles

We proudly display them

In photos, on a walk, in videos to capture each magical moment.

But is there a moment with them that is not full of magic?

How to choose which to catch, which to let pass?

All the days ordained for them were written –

Authored and chosen by their Maker

Given to us like an ever-unfolding story

Hour by hour, day by day, night by (sleepless) night

A joyful exhaustion as we discover

Each day written for them

What it will hold: a first sleepy smile?

A furrowed brow like Dad’s?

Wide-eyed and alert, they take in the world in small bits

The outside world is all new for them.

And so now they must rest and sleep.

It is tiring to be so new

To be so tiny

To be such a miracle in such a bundle

I close my eyes to rest – to soak in the wonder –

And to hold them close as they cry.

Would that they would always be so quickly comforted!

My heart is full with a love that came into existence

With their birth

And a desire that their first memories would be of me loving them.

Only possible as I soak in my Father’s loveTo pass it along to them

In its pure form, undliluted by sin and failure

Meaning it must come from Him

The One who has knit them together,

Marked out each day,

And placed His indelible likeness upon them each –

To which their precious faces testify as they reflect this hidden glory.