Day 2: twin pregnancy, first trimester: nausea, exhaustion, and PB&J

If you were to ask my friends and family how they remember my twin pregnancy, you would likely get one of three answers:

  1. “Heather was always tired!” I vaguely remember the fog of deep exhaustion and the sleepless nights. It was such a bad combination – I would be exhausted all day, then could barely sleep at night. One Saturday early into pregnancy we walked around a museum with good friends who were visiting from Philly, and all I remember about that day is looking for the next bench on which to rest.  I was thankful that I didn’t have many counseling clients during those weeks because it was difficult to stay awake throughout the afternoon (much less make it past 8 or 9pm).
  2. “Heather ate ALL the time.”

“I remember she brought a cooler full of healthy snacks to our overnight women’s retreat. And she ate everything she brought.” -Maria

“We were signing closing papers, and Heather was eating a granola bar.” – our realtor, Jenn

“Every night, I had to make a PB&J sandwich and put it by her bedside table because she would wake up in the middle of the night hungry and nauseous.” – Seth, my husband

And it’s true. I ate at least hourly, and I would still be starving. It was incredible to try to keep up my caloric intake for two babies. My healthcare providers had conflicting opinions, which was confusing: my OB said to watch my weight; my midwife said to eat as much as I could, and then some more. I chose to follow my midwife’s advice. And I definitely put on the pounds. dr barbara luke twinsBut there were TWO babies, and I had read in my favorite twin-pregnancy-preparation book that the more calories you eat early on into your pregnancy, the better chance your twins had of fully developing before delivery.

2 – “Although Heather had it pretty good in terms of no throwing up; she hated the nausea the worst.” The constant eating was the only way to stave off the nausea and try to keep it at bay. It was counterintuitive to eat when I felt like anything but – yet eating effectively pushed down the nausea, at least until those calories wore off. Mornings were my best; afternoons and evenings the worst. I distinctly remember the evening that pregnancy nausea hit me head on: I found myself feeling increasingly queasy while watching Julie and Juliaa movie about Julia Childs. To the point that I couldn’t even think about that movie for months without my stomach turning. In fact, I don’t think I’ve watched it since – the power of negative associations. It started around week 8 and lasted until week 16. Which is *nothing* compared to many pregnancies, like my friends who were nauseous and vomiting the entire three trimesters. I felt like a wimp but I really hate the feeling of nausea, so this part of pregnancy was almost the worst for me. What helped me:

  • Jolly Ranchers for the first few weeks, recommended by a friend. The sour-sweet would immediately arrest my nausea and help me make it through important tasks, like grocery shopping. jolly ranchers
  • Eating only white foods for the next few weeks. Seriously I only wanted potatoes, bread, and bananas. It was weird! And Chick-Fil-A waffle fries. I could always eat those.
  • When all else failed, I called in for Zophran at week 15.5 because I simply couldn’t stand it anymore. And it was so helpful, so that before I knew it, I was out of the woods of the first trimester and into the second one.

That wraps up today’s post. I would love to hear your own stories as you’re reading.

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Day 1: how I found out I was having twins

February 3, 2010 / 4 weeks pregnant

I could barely sleep for excitement – knowing I would be taking a pregnancy test in the morning. And I found out that I am pregnant. I am with child. There’s a little BABY growing inside me. I’m in shock I think … disbelief … overjoyed. And yet not really entirely surprised. No, I take that back. I AM entirely surprised. Entirely. Absolutely.

But the excitement was soon replaced by fear when I started spotting unexpectedly. My mind immediately went to the saddest place: miscarriage. At age 30, I’d walked alongside many friends on this journey of heartbreaking loss. I knew it was a very real possibility. So when my OB-GYN asked me to come in sooner than the scheduled appointment to see what was going on, I assumed the worst. My husband, Seth, accompanied me.

February 17, 2010 / 6 weeks

my first glimpse of twins during my first ultrasound at 6 weeks

my first glimpse of twins during my first ultrasound at 6 weeks

We are expecting TWINS – oh.my.goodness. What joy! What a surprise ~ what a miracle to hear two heartbeats yesterday! Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I can’t help but connect this to my secret hope and desire that I’d have twins. I’ve always wanted to have twins, and it really does feel like a dream come true! (I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded of that when I’m in such intense discomfort and we’re getting no sleep …!)

Now that was an understatement. But I’m getting way, way ahead of myself. I’ll introduce this series by going ahead and answering one of the pressing questions you have if you don’t have twins, and the questions you’ve heard ad nauseam if you do:

So were they natural? (usually followed up with) Do twins run in your family

My favorite answer is from another twin mama who likes to say, “Yes. They’re natural. We had sex.” I chuckled and cheered inside when she told me, but I never quite had the guts to be so bold. In our case though, YES, they were “natural,” as in we were completely, utterly surprised to be expecting twins and had not been through any fertility treatments nor had we been trying for very long to have kids. But did you really want to know all that when you accosted me in the grocery store as I was trying to marathon it through without one or both babies waking? In my more gracious moments, I know you’re simply curious and intrigued. But it’s hard to be gracious when you know at.any.moment you could have a twin tantrum on your hands. (That will be a post later in this series.)

On to your next question – YES, twins run in my family. Both sides. My grandfather was a twin, and Seth’s great-grandmother was a twin. But what I learned through having twins is that twinning is only genetic if the twins are fraternal. Identical “just happens.” And twinning is only genetic through the maternal side of the family. So if I feel like being super-chatty with you in the checkout line, I might explain all that to you. And I may even tell you that my grandfather was an identical twin; and my husband’s twin history doesn’t count; so the *real* answer to your question is “no – twins don’t run in my family.” No other extended family member on either side has had twins in recent history.

I am quite thankful that (a) we found out so early into pregnancy because it takes me forever to process big news and this was the biggest news of my life and (b) Seth was with me at the appointment and that he was sitting down. It was only one of a handful of moments I’ve seen him being entirely surprised. (The first was when I told him that I was in fact interested in dating him. This was a month after I’d instructed him not to ask me out on a third date because I wasn’t interested nor were we emotionally connected. But that will be for another series.)

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

write 31 days: parenting twins

31 days of twin parentingLast year I joined the October writing challenge to write for the 31 days of the month. I chose Kate Motaung’s “Five Minute Writing” version since I love Five Minute Friday. Quite honestly, it was exhausting to try to write every day. I skipped a few. I amended a couple of the given topics. I concluded that it was too much for me and that I’m more of an occasional, write-as-I’m-inspired kind of blogger.

But then I met Lauren in the spring through our church, and IRL [in real life] friendship has also become writing/blogging camaraderie. Last week we were chatting about blogging, and she told me that she was joining in again this year and that she’s asked for a few guest posts to supplement her writing. I began thinking that maybe I could try it after all. It could be a good way to jumpstart myself back into regularly blogging, which I’ve neglected the past few months of finishing up my book manuscript. I also thought it would be more do-able if I started with a topic I’ve written a lot about personally but have not blogged a ton about – being a parent to 5-year-old fraternal twin daughters.

I hope you will join me as I do a sweeping view of the past five years of highs and lows twice amplified. I may even introduce a few of my fellow twin-mom-warriors to you along the way.

The best way to follow along for now would be to sign up as an email subscriber to my blog [see sidebar] or to like my Facebook page, “Hidden Glory.”

Happy Saturday!

Day 1: how I found out I was having twins

Day 2: twin pregnancy, first trimester: nausea, exhaustion, and PB&J

Day 3: exuberant joy becomes overwhelming shock

Day 4: it takes a village {to raise twins}

Day 5: it takes abundant grace {to raise twins}

Day 6: what to do about fear {when pregnancy with twins}

Day 7: bed rest at 25 weeks

Day 8: the twins arrive in our world

Day 9: a poem of welcome

Day 10: Hi, I’m a waitress to twins.

Day 11: the 6 best books on twins

Days 12 & 13: the best advice for twins, newborn stage

Days 14 & 15: the best advice for twins, toddler stage

Days 16 & 17: my favorite advice for twins, preschool stage

Days 18 & 19: the best advice for twins, elementary school stage and beyond

Day 20: when the reality of twins interrupts the best-laid plans

Day 21:

Day 22:

Day 23

Day 24

Day 25

Day 26

Day 27

Day 28

Day 29

Day 30

Day 31

last minute gift ideas for 4-year-old girls

If you’re like me, you might – just might – still have a few items left on your Christmas list. And if you’re looking for good gifts for the 4-year-old girl(s) in your life, I thought I would share some of our favorites. These are a few of my twins’ favorite toys they own. Guaranteed smiles for the little ladies in your life.

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Here are 7 of our favorite gifts (and let me be clear – there wasn’t a single gift they opened that they didn’t like) – in case you need ideas for your own special 4-year-old or a niece or friend:

1 – Frozen Elsa and Anna dolls. Of course. What I love about this set is that you get both of them in one package for a much more affordable price. (Right now $49 for both at Amazon.)

2 – Enchanted Princess Cupcake game. They love putting these cupcakes together and pulling them apart and pretending to have a tea party with them.

3 – Hello Kitty (anything) but particularly their Hello Kitty notebook and pen. They enjoy “writing” while sitting in bed. (I think they’ve seen me do this a *few* times?!)

4 – Lego Juniors princess edition. Seth and I love all things Lego since we both had hours of enjoyment as kids with our Lego sets. How great that this is a simpler version of the “real” Legos! We have had the Duplo-type Legos, and this seems to be a nice bridge to the “real thing.”

5 – Mermaid Factory sculpture kit. The girls loved doing this art project. I’ll admit that the glitter presented a bit of a challenge to me, but the finished project was more than worth it. The girls have their hand-painted sculptures proudly displayed on their bedside tables.

6 – Frozen dress up trunk. Again, 2-in-1 was attractive to me. Both the Elsa and Anna dresses come in this set, along with matching headbands and jewelry. Every little princesses’ dream!

7 – Melissa & Doug princess craft set. We pulled this out on Sunday morning before church and the girls had fun decorating the wand, princess crown, and magnetic princesses. Glitter, glitter everywhere – as well as stickers, and paint. They enjoyed every minute.

a tale of twins: the first year

She leaned over the white porcelain coffee mug and asked me, “So what is it like to have twins?” It’s a question I’ve heard a million times since finding out we were expecting TWO over four years ago. I never know exactly how to answer it. “I’ve never known anything different,” is true but is rarely a satisfactory reply.

It began with two heartbeats blinking on the black and white screen. Two tiny fetal poles, two placentas, and two embryonic sacs. A belly that expanded at twice the rate, causing most to assume that I was months further along than I was. Two lives to nurture, meaning I was twice as hungry and twice as worried. We quickly began to think in two’s. Two cribs, two coming-home-from-the-hospital pink gowns, two deliveries to consider, two of everything (except for the double stroller). The expenses doubled, but so did friends’ and family’s generosity. The gifts piled up and filled up the walls painted pale pink with brown and pink polka-dotted curtains handsewn by Gigi.

As I crossed the threshold into my third trimester at 25 weeks, twin pregnancy expanded to include the dreaded diagnosis of “early preterm labor,” to be treated with “strict bed rest.” One trip daily up and down our stairs; no getting out of the recliner that molded to the shape of my very pregnant body for anything except bathroom trips. The waiting and the waiting and the waiting, anxiously monitoring each movement and cramp and ache and pain. Is this it? Would they wait for another day? Another week? Another 10 weeks? They did. At thirty-five weeks, I pushed for two hours for my firstborn; and seven minutes for my second child. Lucia’s newborn cries were the background and motivation for Alethia’s delivery. A proud Daddy cradling two pink bundles of fresh baby. Surprisingly healthy, they were. Until they weren’t four days later. It was back to the hospital for both of them. When two newborns are being pushed, prodded, poked with needles and screaming in tiny terror, which room do you choose? Which one needs me more? Which one can I handle better? When I’m with one baby, I’m wondering how her sister is doing in the room next door because I can hear her screams and I want to be there but I can’t leave where I am. And then we are both told to wait outside the dual rooms as they do spinal taps, and tears are streaming down my face and the orderlies are bringing me tissues and candy and soda as vending machine offerings. As if anything could possibly help the mom overwhelmed with hormones and questions and emotions and fear. Times two. The undercurrent of feeling inadequate magnified twice over.

We make it; they get to share a room for the next five days as their weight and temperature stabilizes. Alethia is ready to be released before Lucia; but the pediatrician agrees to wait until both can leave together. For how could I possibly split time between hospital and home when both need their mama?

We bring them home (again). Sobered; relieved; and then the real work of parenting twins begins. I nurse Lucia for 45 minutes, and then she gets a bottle of formula to supplement. Nursing feels impossible, and she can’t quite get used to drinking from a bottle – plus there is the question of is she getting enough and how to know? I hand her to a waiting helper, my mom or Seth, and then it’s time to do it again with Alethia. One-and-a-half hours, and they’re both fed, swaddled, and sleeping. In barely an hour, the routine begins again. The days and nights roll on, one big blur of feeding and burping and swaddling and crying and a little bit of sleep between it all. We make it to one month, then two, and before we know it they’re six months old and smiling and cooing at one another and at us. It feels worth it, and it begins to feel easier. A year passes, and it’s a double birthday. One song and cake smash, and then the other one. We breathe a collective sigh of relief: we have brought two babies to their first birthday simultaneously!

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an open letter to my daughters: reflections on three-years-old

To my favorite girls ever,

It’s hard to believe that our lives together began three years ago (yesterday) in a hospital room where you were delivered remarkably fast after 10 weeks of bed rest and waiting and hoping you wouldn’t arrive too early. You came right on time, 35 weeks and the day after I said to a friend, “I just don’t think I can wait much longer. I’m big,uncomfortable, and bored.” Well, now. That was certainly the last time I said I was bored (no comment on the other two). The past three years have been anything but boring. Four days after you were born, when we were nicely settled at home, you girls had to head back to the hospital for a week to gain weight and stabilize. It ripped out my mommy’s heart to watch you being poked and prodded, and to only be able to touch you through the holes of an isolette. Even the word itself is so isolating. You both rallied under the watchful, kind care of the nurses and doctors at CHKD, and that week allowed me to get a little bit of rest (a whole 5 hours each night) and to manage my post-partum pre-eclampsia that had caused me swelling, fatigue, and increased blood pressure. My mom and OB/midwife took care of me while I tried to take care of you, and Daddy tried to take care of all of us. And finally we were all home (again).

Then begins the happy-yet-exhausting blur of the next six months of feedings, pumpings, diaper changes, middle-of-the-night smiles, little laughs, gazing into each other’s faces, learning each other. Lots of help from grandparents, aunts and uncles, our church community, and faraway friends who showered us with prayers and welcome gifts. And then you were six-months-old, and it was time to teach you to sleep through the night (ugh) and for you to be baptized (beautiful).

The next six months were a bit calmer; and I blinked and you were turning one with a ladybug party; and I blinked again and you were walking and talking and throwing tantrums and getting into trouble and I felt overwhelmed. The period of time between 18-months-old and 2 ½ years old was not my favorite, I’ll have to admit. I felt quite out of my element; baffled by all of the advice from different approaches on all of the variousmajor transitions you were experiencing (together): transitioning out of a crib, dropping the morning nap, potty training, solid food, becoming independent thinkers, developing wills of your own that were tested in opposition to mine. And I felt all of this more intensely because I tried to do too much. I was missing “life before kids” and the time when I felt “sidelined” during pregnancy and the first year, and I tried to jump back in too quickly. That didn’t help my dilemmas and my exhaustion and my anger in response. I needed space and quiet and rest. Soul rest. Heart refreshment, but I wasn’t sure how to get it in the 60-90 minutes you might simultaneously nap in a day.

And so God rescued me, a long and slow process during the past year or so.* You have been very patient with me, often much more so than I’ve been with you. You have been quick to forgive me when I’ve blown it yet again. You have accepted the times when “Mommy needed a break” and I escaped into a coffee shop or my room or a friend’s house for a chat, to write, to read, to breathe and exhale and make sense of me as a mom and you as my daughters. I began saying “no” to things outside of my main calling to be your mommy and Daddy’s wife. I had to remember. To bring life into focus again. To say “yes” cautiously to what God was leading me to instead of jumping in toescape what felt difficult at home. And I learned to say “yes” to what I needed from God to be refreshed so that I could say “yes” to being the mommy you needed. A mommy who wasn’t angry all the time and frustrated constantly. A mommy who, instead, sought to lean in to this stage of unpredictability, to trust God as the one controlling my time, to listen to God and to you and to friends, to go slower and be more intentional. A mommy who’s learning that writing helps me process and savor these days with you, days that do go by fast when glanced at retrospectively in terms of years but which sometimes seem to creep along immovably when experienced as minutes on a sick homebound winter day. For both the fast and the slow moments, there is grace. Amen, Hallelujah, and Cheers. Here’s to the next 30 years together …

Love,
Mommy

*posts that describe this process more fully:

Confessions of an Angry Mom, part 1, 2, & 3
A Prayer for Potty Training
Tears and Transitions
For the love of poetry
Identity lessons from “Angelina Ballerina”
The one voice that matters most
Mind the gap

on the eve of preschool

Tomorrow. Tomorrow it begins. Enter the song from “Annie,”

Tomorrow, tomorrow,
I love you, tomorrow;
you’re only a day away!

Tomorrow my almost-3-year-old twins will enter preschool. This DAY I’ve longed for, that felt too far ahead into that distant Future which I couldn’t see through the hazy, sleep-deprived gaze of newborn days and toddler tantrums. Friends who’d journeyed there said the oft-repeated and often-frustrating-when-you’re-in-the-midst-of-it cliche of, “the days are long, but the years are short.” I find myself repeating that phrase myself to friends with weeks-old newborns, who are struggling with finding their way through the maze of feedings, advice, sleep(lessness), diapers, and colic. I’ve said it to friends who are still a few months away from welcoming their first babe into their hearts, and who feel alternately daunted and excited by such a venture.

As I thought about this post, I wasn’t sure whether to camp out in nostalgic-how-did-my-babies-get-so-big, or to join Glennon in the ranks of “hallelujah! Free at last!” I offer my story, which is a combination of both. Only this morning, I have felt both extremes. When my blue-eyed blonde beauties look up at me and say, “I love you, Mommy!” followed by a melt-my-heart hug; when one says, “Daddy is my best Daddy ever!”; when I see them creatively playing and sweetly cooperating with one another, I think that I am going to miss this. Granted, I will still have plenty of it (they’re only going two mornings a week), yet I know this is sort of the beginning of School. We are probably not going to go the homeschool route personally (and I have great respect for those of you who are), so School will likely mean that the next 15 years will include fostering their academic pursuits outside of the home. That’s terrifying when I realize that I am giving over the reigns of control to someone else, even for six hours a week. Will they be ok? What will I miss in terms of small moments you can’t capture? What if they are holy terrors for their teachers or their fellow students? [disclamor: I have no reason to believe that they will be since they are always MUCH better behaved with those other than us … but you never know …] Who will help her if she can’t figure out how to get her lunchbox open or if she skins her knee? Can I bear the thought that it will be someone besides me?

Well, yes. I can if I remember the part of me that can’t wait for tomorrow. I am looking forward to preschool because I want them to learn to play with other kids, to do wildly messy and creative art projects that I won’t have to clean up, to learn to be under another authority besides me, to be guided in their curiosity about this world by teachers trained to do so. This sounds quite noble, and I wish I could stop there. But I won’t. Because I bet there are others out there who, like me, also cannot WAIT for the break. The break from being a referee/personal chef/activities director for two seemingly impossible to please toddlers. Parenting has been as much my journey of finding out who God’s made me as it has been nurturing my children into who God’s making them. And a few things I’ve learned about myself these parenting years set me up for preschool being a lovely break at precisely the right time:

  • I don’t enjoy arts and crafts. In theory, yes, but the actuality feels too messy and frustrating most of the time.
  • I’m not naturally a playful mom, meaning that getting on the floor and doing lego towers for hours (or even 10 minutes) can feel tiring. I do it still because I love the girls who love legos, but it’s just hard for me. Same reason that I don’t really like playgrounds either.
  • I am most refreshed by time alone or with a few friends with whom I can connect on a deep level. To say that’s been a scarcity in these first three years as a mom is an understatement.
  • I am passionate about what God’s called me to outside of my home, too. I enjoy teaching women the beauty of the gospel found in God’s Word; mentoring younger women in their faith journeys; counseling those in difficult places; and writing. The freedom of two mornings a week without my children will free me up to pursue these a tiny bit more than I’ve been able to before now.
  • I am a better mom when I have a regular break to anticipate and in which to find refreshment. I’m not saying that God has not met me in the midst of the trenches of these past few years, but I am saying that I’ve found that I am able to love my husband and children better with regular breaks. This may not be your story, but this has been mine. And I suspect there are many of you in the church especially who have not felt free to admit this. Admit it; ask for grace in the midst of each day; don’t demand breaks in order to be a better mom but DO take breaks as you can, for spiritual and emotional refreshment. Take a break in order to re-engage those God’s called you to in self-sacrificial love.

Will I be a tearful mom tomorrow as I send off my big girls with their tiny backpacks? Of course. Will I be a joyful mom who will feel like three hours is a blissful luxury not to be squandered lightly? Equally so. I expect crying and rejoicing to each be present in this mom’s heart. And for both aspects, I am thankful for a God who weeps with me and rejoices with me and who goes with me and with my daughters as we’ll part for three hours. I imagine that I’ll blink and be writing a similar post about college. Oh my. That may really get the tears going, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

a prayer for potty training

There is advice aplenty about potty training, but very little written about the spiritual challenges of potty training. Yes, you heard me right. The spiritual challenges of potty training. Anything that opens our hearts wide up to see the frustrations hidden beneath; the expectations for life to act according to our plans; the desire demand to be in control – well, this becomes ripe fodder for growth. Or repentance. Or sanctification. Or all of the above.

Maybe you approached potty training much differently from me (and I am sure some of you are out there!), but for me it’s been an exercise in surrender. Surrendering my expectations and realizing the limits of my control over my daughters. I cannot control when (or if) they will use the toilet. I can nudge them in the right direction; provide incentives to make it more attractive for the desired behavior; set up an environment that is conducive in pottying. Yet if she decides she isn’t ready – or if her physical development isn’t there yet – it just won’t happen.

There are spiritual analogies here as well. As I seek to nurture my daughters’ faith, it’s much the same way. I can nudge them in the right direction (towards faith and wisdom and away from unbelief and foolishness); provide incentives to make it more attractive for them to walk in the path of life; set up an environment that is conducive for faith. But at the end of the day, it is up to God and her whether she will take hold of this Life or not. And when. I can’t force her into a prayer of belief or into steps of faith that may be beyond her spiritual development.

How do I fill this gap between where I want my child to be (re: pottying and spiritual development) and where she is? Deal with my own heart, and P.R.A.Y.

So with this round of potty training, I was clued in a bit more to potential frustrations and disappointments and challenges, and I penned the following as we set out to “launch” potty training a few days ago. I humbly offer it to you if you, like me, need it.

Father, I ask that you’d give us discernment to know/evaluate whether L. and A. are ready, and to lovingly encourage them to do what we think they’re ready to do. If one of them isn’t, give us wisdom and restraint to back off if needed. Give us perseverance and endurance because even if it goes really well, it’s a process. Help me to expect the best but not force them into my will. Help me to know how to gently nudge them and when to step away to foster their independence.

Restrain my anger and frustration. Give me the long view, both for potty training and even more so for how You’re using this process to expose my own heart and make me more aware of my own need for grace. Give me wisdom to walk away and regroup when it’s overwhelming.

Above all else, let everything I do be done in love — in Christ’s love that dwells in me. Love that is patient, kind, not boastful or rude, doesn’t insist on its own way, isn’t irritable or resentful, bears all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13) I don’t have love on my own nor can I muster it up. I come to You needy of it, and confident that You delight to make your people loving.

When sin is revealed in my own heart, let me quickly repent and ask for forgiveness — not cover it up/try to hide it/make excuses. When the waywardness of my daughters’ hearts is revealed, let me be quick to show them the grace You shower upon me as well as any correction appropriate for the situation.

I do ask for minimal messes, but even more than that, I ask for longsuffering and the attitude of Christ when they happen. He who made himself nothing … taking the very nature of a servant … (Philippians 2). Do guard and protect us from causing any hurt in what could be trying days. And give us joy, laughter, and fun! Bond us closer to you and one another through this process.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

Old Navy, Romans, and Potty Training

 

What do all of these have in common, you ask? Quite simply it’s the fact that all were topics of our dinner conversation since I found a *steal* at Old Navy today in some great summer shorts; Seth’s working on preparing the Romans training for women’s Bible study leaders next week; and we commence potty training, round 2, tomorrow.

Here’s another way they all tie together. The shorts I bought were a “pre-treat” for a mom who quite honestly is dreading potty training 33-month-old twins. My husband and I discussed all the various options of potty training to come up with the plan that we are willing to try tomorrow. And these verses in Romans 5:3-5 is going to get us through the next few days! Thanks to my friend Suzanne who reminded me of this gem today as we were discussing many of the typical trials of raising babies and toddlers.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We may all be suffering together, but the hope is that the short-term “suffering” of potty training twins will yield (eventually) to the independence these girls will need to carry them through preschool and really the rest of their lives. It’s one of the most important skills that we all take for granted that someone had to teach us at some point. Let’s all take a moment to thank our moms or dads or grandparents or nannies or daycare workers right now for helping us gain our freedom. [It’s no coincidence that we’re initiating round 2 on “Independence Day” – insert laughter here.]

And here’s the other thing. God cares about Old Navy, Romans, and potty training, because I’m his girl. His daughter. The God who cares about each sparrow who falls and numbers each hair of my head likewise is connected with me about the highs, lows, and conundrums of my day. Nothing’s too small (shorts from Old Navy); nothing’s irrelevant (potty training); and nothing’s too complex (Romans). That’s a God to celebrate – that we are free in Christ to call him Father … what a gift!

Returning to the gym

There is something about walking into a room like this that has struck fear into my heart since those horrible mandatory middle school physical education classes:

You will, of course, find it quite ironic that I married a personal trainer who practically lived in the gym during high school. Now he’s a pastor, and no longer wakes at dawn’s first light (or before) to train personal clients in their homes. He actually helped convince me to join a gym for the first time in my life (not counting the step aerobics classes I did in high school at my parents’ gym). But I’ll have to admit that the gym is never I place I relish or look forward to in the same way he does. 

When I went on bed rest while pregnant with twins, my gym attendance ended. And to be honest, I then let my membership expire with hardly a second thought. Until last week when I found out about a brand-new gym in our neighborhood with excellent childcare included (AND a monthly “parents’ night out” service on a Friday evening). And so I joined today. Do the math – yes, since I have almost-THREE-year-old twins, that means that I haven’t been to a gym in three years. There are many reasons besides my aversion to gyms. Like not getting sleep for the first 6 months of the girls’ lives; having to go to physical therapy to recover from the toll pregnancy took on my body; preferring outdoor exercise to indoor stale-gym-air any day; and of course that classic excuse, “not enough time.”

Today felt different. Better. It’s a less corporate feel and a more community feel kind of gym. I ran into a friend in passing. My girls LOVE the kids’ play area. And I loved dropping them off and getting 30 minutes to myself. I was even willing to use that time to exercise. (One of my favorite mom posts of all time is Glennon Melton’s on Momastery about how she’d use the two hours of free childcare at her gym.)

It did remind me of an older post from 2007, about my corporate gym experience and comparing it to church – “Gym and the Church.” And I’m including that below. All for free to my readers. Enjoy.

I have a gym membership that I had not used for at least 4.5 months until last Wednesday. I intended to. I really did. But I also go to one of those corporate “image-oriented” type gyms. Great for its breadth of equipment and quality of fitness classes offered, but amazingly intimidating for someone who hated the mandatory phys. ed. classes in middle and high school. I just have never really enjoyed physical fitness. It’s not been an area I ever excelled at, and so at some point I decided to stop trying. I’d rather read a book, write a poem, drink coffee, even go to the dentist. Really. And every time I enter my high-tech super-glossy gym, I feel like I’m in middle school P.E. again. Where everyone is staring at me, picking my physique apart (do any of us have a body we 100% accept?), or at least looking down at me because I haven’t invested a small life fortune in getting “cool” athletic gear.

I overcame my fear and walked in, silencing the imaginary voices sneering at me or the voice in my head condemning me for not being there for so long. And it felt good, once I bee-lined it to my Elliptical machine, sweated for the 25’ish minutes, and arrived safely back in my car. One of the reasons I had not been to the gym in so long is that I felt like I was out of shape. (how ironic, I know) So after walking for a few weeks, I felt more up to facing THE GYM.

It made me wonder if that’s what church is like for some people. Especially corporate, well-organized, high-image-conscious churches where everyone seems to have it together. People feel as if they must first “get it together” spiritually before coming to church. How ironic, isn’t it?

But is it? Do we who represent the Church universal help portray this image? Especially people like me who have been attending church since I was born. And so I know all the right answers, the right lingo, the right uniform. But I don’t naturally think about the person contemplating church who might have been abused by a church leader as a child and now hates anything God-related. Or the person whose “Christian” parents gave rules and law without grace. I think they would be even more reluctant to enter a church than I was to enter the gym.

What are we doing to welcome in strangers? To help present to them the Christ who says “Come, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” [not “Come and I will give you more things to do and rules to follow”]. To alleviate well-placed fears and insecurities about what to say, what to wear, and whether they want to have anything to do with Christians after a bad experience.

I don’t know, but I’m wrestling with it as part of a new church plant seeking to welcome in the stranger, the neighbor, the unbeliever, the nominal Christian. Grace must permeate everything we do. The way we greet them at the door, have a genuine conversation with them afterwards, and seek to follow up through building a relationship. They need to see it in the way WE interact with one another. No back-biting, gossip, chronic complaining, fake pleasantries. You can tell if love is genuine and real.

And isn’t that what Jesus said? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)