40 Weeks

On Saturday evening, my friend and I stood frozen at my front door, staring out, considering. The rain outside was torrential, enough to soak us on the run from the door to the car. We decided that we would try to make it to Cincinnatiand at any point we needed to pull over or turn around we could. Mom, if you are reading this, you can skip the next paragraph.

The drive was unnerving. We couldn't see in front of us most of the trip with the windshield wipers on the highest setting. We watched lighting flash and the hazard lights blink warning from every car in sight. We chatted in tranquil tones, as if our demeanor would soothe the mood outside. But the calm pretense gave way to praying out loud halfway down the highway. The radar was red behind us and before us. No means of escape backwards or forwards.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, our car pulled into Fountain Square parking garage. We ate fish tacos and drank coffee with the gal pal we were visiting, making relieved jokes about the Flood of 2016. We genuinely thanked God we were alive and well. 

I've been going through the book Seamless, which provides an overview of the Bible. I learned that 40 is a number signifying testing often throughout the Bible. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years, Jesus was tested 40 days, etc. I'm seeing a slight connection to my own life. Here is where my newly poisoned Sesame Street brain takes over. This pregnancy is brought to you by the number 40! 40 weeks of testing, 40 weeks of learning and leaning, 40 weeks of growth and sacrifice, 40 weeks of wonder and awe.

At last week's doctor's appointment, I was showing some signs of pre-term labor, which is confusing as Titus was 10 days overdue. At 33 weeks, I thought I had at least 7 more weeks to go, maybe even 8! They upped my appointments to weekly, told me to drink a lot of water, 10 cups a day to be exact, and to try and take it easy. I laughed a little. Yeah right. And then I panicked. Texted my friends. I was overwhelmed. The weekend ahead was so jam packed with plans of physical service. Hosting house church. Cleaning up our neighborhood. Watching a friend's kids. Chasing toddlers at church. Not to mention the piles of laundry, empty fridge, and weeds upon weeds in my front yard. 

In the book of Joshua, the Israelites set up all kinds of stone monuments to remember who God is and what He has done so that they wouldn't forget Him. In that moment, in the doctor's office, I forgot who God is. I forgot what He has done. As I was forcing myself to lay down at home, I read a chapter in None Like Him about God being eternal, outside of time. Some of the verses to meditate upon were Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" and Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I know so many women who are in scary places, waiting for positive pregnancy tests, grieving losses through miscarriage, stepping bravely through difficult pregnancies, thanking God for each day of life within them. Each day is so precious with Matthias within me. Each day is a gift, each week a sigh of relief that he is one week bigger, one week stronger. And hopefully, we will make it to the gift of 40 weeks.

Conviction. Prayer. And change. When I plopped jelly fish style out of bed that day, I *mostly* stopped worrying about what all I had to do. I remembered how God had brought me through every single day of the past 33 weeks. I tried to be present, listen to my body, and trust that God would somehow make it happen, through me or through someone else. And as I look back on this weekend, I can say, God has done it. He allowed me to serve in ways that were gentle on my body, provided the help I needed to do so, and gave me the wisdom to say "enough" when I needed to rest. A sister of mine who struggles with chronic pain once told me, "Even if I'm in bed all day, and all I can do is worship God, that is the best use of this body and my time in that exact moment." She melted me. What a beautiful testimony. What powerful work God is doing through her to minister to me. 

Like the storm, I felt like God was saying try and trust. At each mile marker this weekend, I prayed and gave thanks. Because God doesn't need me, and yet He graciously uses me anyway. I wasn't moving this weekend, but God through me. This vehicle carrying me and my son is weary, and there always seem to be storms beating against us, but God never tires and He doesn't blink at the lightning or thunder.

As I carry Matthias, as I carry Titus, as I carry my church's toddlers, as I carry branches, as I carry laundry, I know He carries me. This blog post is my rock alter to remember and to worship.

Are you in a testing period of your life? Are you physically or mentally in bed? Worship Him. Whatever He calls you to, don't worry about the hairy details. Try and trust. Allow him to carry you. Then build an alter. Share your story. 

 

 

No More Apologies For Existing. {AKA GUILT}

Right now I'm sitting in my chair, relishing the nap time quiet that is 2:19 PM.

It's been an unusual week for me. 

I've been ignoring the dishes and the laundry, which gives me anxiety and freedom at the same time. I've been sleeping in later. I've been reading and sitting on the floor to play with my toddler. I had a long coffee session with a friend. I let someone bring me breakfast and said "okay" when she said I didn't need to pay her back. I haven't been going to the gym or out on walks. 

I'm being still. 

7 weeks until second baby is due. I'm grappling on to these final moments as a mother of one, and this special season when we are a family of three.

And I don't want to apologize about it, especially to myself. 

But it's a little uncomfortable for me, you know? I'm a do-er, go getter. I've always had too much ambition for my own good. And people pleaser is my middle name.

Then my son says "MOMMY" and runs his face into my skirt. Or he pats the chair next to him because he wants me to sit down. Or he points to the closet and says "color!" And suddenly everything else seems less important than it did a moment ago. 

Maybe this is the calm before the storm of two boys. Or maybe it is the Lord allowing me to risk letting go of some things because I can't be all things to all people all the time. I know I can't have it all. And so. I choose Jesus, my three guys, and hopefully some meaningful relationships and writing and maybe even some books and wine and coffee along the way. 

It's like God is whispering, "I AM the have it all life. And you already have me." And that has absolutely nothing to do with social obligations or a clean house or made up face. In fact, it has nothing to do with me at all.

When I trust that He is everything, than I don't have to be. 

I have a friend who once told me to work from rest, not the other way around. I wish this was easy for me, but I have an old buddy whose name is GUILT weighing me down more than every pound of baby weight. I've always had it, but it has matured and taken on new roles. There is mom guilt, house church shepherd guilt, wife guilt, friend guilt, family guilt, self-care guilt. I could go on. These flavors of guilt usually make my feet hurt by the end of a third trimester day. And not once, not ever, do I feel like I've balanced everything well in a single day. Probably because I'm trying to make myself out to be God, instead of worshiping Him who is actually God. 

I've always been annoyed when someone walks into a room and immediately apologizes. It's like they feel guilty for existing and must announce it upon opening the door. 

But I'm kinda that girl, too. I assume I'm doing it wrong and the world will fall apart and I will not measure up if I don't keep moving. My movement is my apology for existing.

The truth is, I've already been freed of that guilt, too. 

"Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed me white as snow. Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!"

Lord, save me from the chains of guilt that haunt my every move. Help me to worship your perfection, your goodness, your love, and point others to you instead of to myself. Help me to rest in this season and trust you with the disappointment that might bring to others as I do. Help me to see you as my all. 

 

 

I'm not ready

...for another kid. 

You are thinking, "A little late for that, isn't it?"

Right. It's coming, whether I'm ready or not. T minus 8 weeks, give or take.

Confession time. I still don't know how to install the infant car seat. I tried to put up the pack-n-play today so my new baby would have somewhere to sleep if he came before we have a chance to get a bassinet. But guess what? I don't know how to install the bassinet portion of the pack-n-play. I spent ALMOST AN HOUR trying to figure it out and then texted my husband in defeat. I vacillate between being grateful for my genius husband who knows how to do EVERYTHING and being woefully offended that he is smarter than me on a daily basis. I don't have meals in my freezer. I don't have size one diapers in case the baby doesn't fit into newborn ones. I don't have nursing pads, clean bottles, or something to entertain my toddler with while I try to feed the baby in the day time. 

I've been having these vivid, anxiety producing dreams. One that I went into labor. I FELT THE CONTRACTIONS IN MY DREAM. It was so real. It was happening. Last night I had a dream my placenta BURST and we were both hemorrhaging. I know all I'm going to want in 8 weeks is a decent night's sleep, but I'm honestly scared to sleep lately.

I'm not ready for the insanity of sleeplessness. I'm not ready to be scared all the time that my toddler might unknowingly hurt my newborn if I'm not watching closely. I'm not ready to have a body recovering from childbirth and needing to nourish another human being at the same time. I'm not ready to hibernate in my house for a few months. I'm not ready to put my everything on hold again until I can figure out our new rhythm, or accept the fact that there isn't much of a predictable rhythm to having two kids under two. 

I've SOSed a couple of girlfriends who have been whispering me back to sanity.  They've set up a freezer meal swap, volunteered to watch Titus when I go into labor, and told me it's not hurting anyone to be a little ahead on things. 

One friend texted, "I've got news for you. You won't be ready." 

I stopped and read it again, the truth sinking into my swiffer wet jetting heart.

She's right. I won't be.

I wasn't ready to have Titus, and yet here he is! No matter how many things I did, there was still more to do. No matter how long my mom stayed, I still bawled when she left me with my newborn. I wasn't ready to go out of the house, but somehow we got to that first doctor's apt. I wasn't ready for any moment of the past year and a half, not a single one, and it has nothing to do with the steps I took to prepare myself. 

Nothing can prepare you fully for motherhood. Nothing can prepare you for the weight of this responsibility, for the impossible beauty that you can actually bear it, and some days even do it well.

Nothing can prepare you for the new normal that giving yourself fully to another every day would become your biggest joy.

I'm scared because I know I can't do this. I can't swing it. I can't hustle out of the dependence God wants me to have on him while I have a newborn.

I picture myself crawling up the stairs after Titus was born, each one being more painful than the last. I see myself begging my mom not to go. I see myself clinging to my best friend and crying at the sheer exhaustion of driving home from the hospital. I see myself writing on facebook, "anybody else awake?" at three am because I needed to know I wasn't alone. It sounds so desperate! And it absolutely was.  

And yet. Was it not a year and a half ago that God reentered my life as the hero of my story? Was it not then that he started to make my heart oatmeal, soft and moldable again to Him, his direction, his control, his tender love? There, I see us, hours in my nursing corner, holding Titus, talking to the Lord, asking for his help, admitting to him that I couldn't do this by myself, pleading with him that I wouldn't mess up this most important mission of my entire life. The sweetest intimacy I've felt with Jesus paired with the most humiliating dependence upon him and the people he put in my life to care for me. As a new mom,  I learned that dependence and intimacy with the Lord went hand in hand.

You can't give it to him to fix when you are pretending you have it all together already. 

So my prayer today is not that I would get the things done on my list. My prayer is that God would bring me to this sweet dependence on Him today. Don't wait for another eight weeks Lord!  Instead of asking that everything be prepared, I'm asking him to prepare me. My children don't need a perfect mommy. They just need a mom who knows that yes, she is limited, but that she serves a limitless God

I am not prepared. I am not ready.

God is prepared. God is ready. 

 

 

Mama Pom Poms

Did you clean your whole house today and it is already dirty? Me too. Did you marvel at the way your belly is now a coffee table for your morning joe? That's me! Make an entire dinner that took an hour and your toddler threw it on the floor, walls, and to the dog? I'm there! 

Over the past few weeks, I've received encouragement from the most likely and unlikely motherhood cheerleaders. I thought I'd share with you in case you needed a cheering squad too. Over the next few posts, I'll feature some mama pom poms. 

First one? The Bible. SHOCKER. When your childhood is spent in Sunday School, you have all kinds of Bible phrases in your head that are swimming around with no reference for them. For the past two weeks, I haven't been able to get the phrase, "For the joy set before us" out of my head. Turns out, it comes from Hebrews 12:1-2. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:1-2, English Standard Version

Mamas, I've heard this verse a bazillion times, but my oatmeal heart heard it for the first time this week. First of all, we are surrounded by witnesses who have stood all kinds of tests for Christ. In Hebrews 11, God outlines every character and story worth knowing in the Bible to prove not what great heroes they are, but what awesome work God did THROUGH them. In each of their stories, they witnessed to the story and person of Jesus. While listening to a podcast on this verse by Jen Wilkin, she remarks that every new mama thinks she is the only one who has ever done this before. I smile because I'm sure that was me, and still is sometimes. We ask ourselves, "HOW DO WOMEN DO THIS ALL THE TIME? MULTIPLE TIMES?" But we have SO MANY mothers all around us who prove not only that we can do it, but many who testify what God has given them the strength to! And if you can't find a single one of them to find encouragement from, look at Hebrews 11. Look at the beautiful testimonies of God bringing his people through trials for his glory! 

Second, the verse says, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely." God, you are telling this 26 week pregnant woman to lay aside every weight? Um, sorry, but it is not possible for me to disengage my growing torso at the moment. I feel heavy, ya'll. My feet hurt at the end of the day. My clothes are fitting all kinds of awkward. I'm not weighing myself anymore because that is dangerous. I feel huge, elephant style. 

But you know what is heavier? The thoughts of "not good enough" and "I wish people would stop looking at me" and "I'm not doing any lasting good for anybody in this world." Those thoughts? Crushing. Those thoughts? Self-focused, and clingy, like wet clothes, like superglue, like the crayon stains on my walls. And Jesus says, you know what? Throw that off. In fact, I'll take it off for you. Jesus came to free us mamas, from those thoughts, from our own sin and selfishness.

Let us run the race with endurance, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter our faith. Woah, slow down. I haven't run since the first trimester, Lord. Motherhood is all about endurance. I have a friend that counted the hours of the day when her husband was away for work. 14 hours. 14 hours in a mommy day. I've begged her not to count, more because the counting of all things drives me insane, reminds me I can't get a break either.  As mothers, the races set before us can be the waiting until naptime, the end of this pregnancy, the end of this ear infection, until they finish potty training, until preschool, until college, until...forever. 

But we don't look to the clock, do we? We look to Jesus, who started our faith and whose job it is to perfect it. It isn't my job to do it all right, to count the hours, to count my failures or my successes. Praise the Lord! When we are looking to Jesus, even the most tired, swollen, about to deliver preggo can RUN, because our burden is lifted. He has already thrown off the weight, the sin, and HE is the one doing all the work. He is our mama acceleration, inertia, the tennis shoes to pavement. He has equipped us to endure, because he has equipped us with himself. 

Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. There it is, except it isn't "the joy set before us" it was "for the joy set before him." Remember when I said I hated counting? I once based my life on counting calories and it almost killed me. In the Bible, the only place I remember counting was in James 1:2-4 "Count it all joy, my brothers (sisters), when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Ladies, Jesus met his death, the ultimate trial, and counted it joy because he knew what that sacrifice would give us, would give me. And because I've been given life in him, and because he is before me in this race, I can also have joy. Just think, what joy could be possible if you didn't carry the weight of your responsibilities or the weight of your sin. Just think if you had a perfect, steadfast Savior that could run this race for you? Wouldn't that give you JOY? 

How many times as a mother have I wished that someone else could carry it for me? Could carry Titus? Could carry Matthias? Could just feed them one time, clean up after them, take them to a doctor's apt, change their diapers? How many times have I begrudged the next task because I wasn't aware that Jesus freed me from the doing, the counting, the carrying. 

I have been praying for joy. Joy for the fall when I know things will be hard. Joy for the now when they already feel too heavy. Yet here, God tells me Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. So, for the joy set before me, I can RUN, today, tomorrow, and every day until I die. I can mother with joy because Jesus is in me and before me. 

Jesus makes it possible for me to mother with endurance and joy. Jesus makes it possible for me to love my husband with endurance and joy. Jesus makes it possible for me to see myself as he made me, a mother, a wife, and a woman, his enduring and joyful treasure. 

My pom pom for you mom? In Jesus, you can endure. In Jesus, you can have joy. In Jesus, you are a treasure. Let's run the race, shall we? 

 

Bambino's Name, I Love Yous, and Compression Socks

We are heading swiftly, and by that I mean face planting, into the third trimester here in the Vincent household so I thought I would post some updates.

1. Drumroll. We picked a baby name for Bambino: Matthias Pierce Vincent. Matthias means gift of God. It is pronounced Math, not Matt, although we want that part of the name to be after Tim's father, whose name is Matt. Pierce is my maiden name and it means Rock, as it is a form of Peter. We decided to stick with the "us" sounding names to go with Titus. No, we probably won't have a nickname for him, although we said that with Titus and we call him Ty, Little Man, Bubby, Kiddo, Baby, Doodle, Munchkin...

I've been joking with Tim that this is the biggest act of submission that has come in our marriage. (I'm finally not afraid to use that word! Yay!) Why? The act of submission I learned this spring in Colossians means to consider one another before yourself. Our runners up were Lazarus and Tobias. Call me crazy, but last year I felt strongly like God was telling me we would have another boy and we would name him Lazarus. Turns out we are having another boy and even though I've never heard another baby called Lazarus before, a close family friend just named her son that. Tim never loved the name so we kept looking, found Matthias, prayed over it for a week, and knew that this was Bambino's name. I love it. I love my son. I love knowing his name and calling him by name. I love that my husband loves our son and his name just as much as I do. And I love that I will remember that my heart is at peace when I'm considering my whole family above myself. 

2. Titus is a rambunctious toddler. No news there. Remember when your infant was tiny and they didn't do anything but suck milk from you and wake you up in the middle of the night and although you loved them, you just NEEDED a sign they might love you back just a teeny tiny bit? That is exactly when God says "it's time to give your mom a smile" and suddenly they start smiling and you realize it is all worth it and you can keep going another day. I just hit that moment of toddlerhood, except it was so much better than a smile.

We were walking out of the gym. I was soaking wet from the pool because it is one million degrees out. I'm trying to sign Titus out of child watch and juggle him on my hip/hold on to him for dear life while he is attempting to pull off my swimsuit and expose my pregnant self to all of downtown Dayton. When I was done signing him out, I asked, "Can I give you a kiss?" He cheerfully piped back "YES!" Then he leaned in for a smooch. My heart was already melted so I said, "I love you." 

And then. Clear as day you guys. He says, "I love you."

HE SAID I LOVE YOU! MY CRAZY 18 MONTH OLD KID WHO BITES ME MORE THAN TALKS TO ME TOLD ME I LOVE YOU.

Okay. I can go on another day. I remember why I'm doing this. 

Thanks God. I'm never gonna stop crying about that moment and will need waterproof mascara forever, but thanks God. 

I was so excited I told the YMCA front desk ladies and in my distraction forgot to get my parking token. So then I had to march my pregnant dripping half naked self and wiggly toddler back inside to get a token. Oh well. WORTH IT BECAUSE HE LOVES ME!

3. I'm about to search Amazon for some compression socks, "Ted Hose," they call them. First of all, who is Ted? Why are socks named after him? And why in the world am I about to turn 27 and feel like the most geriatric person on the planet? Well, its for a good reason.

BECAUSE I'M FLYING TO HAWAII IN TWO WEEKS! 

I'm overpreparing in all the ways, and one is to keep my vericose veins feeling safe, warm, and loved inside some very sexy compression socks. I'm terrified of flying, for many reasons, the entire six seasons of LOST for one. Another reason are blood clots, which run in my family and are a higher risk in pregnancy. I am under no pretense that these will quell my hysteria upon take off, but a girl can dream. I'm learning to live wild and free, and I think that means not letting my fears hold me back from whatever crazy adventures God wants to takes me on. I've already given unmedicated birth in a pool, I guess I can fly to Hawaii for a second honeymoon with my husband. It's worth it, but thanks to Ted, I'm at least going to fly clotless.

4. If you can't tell, I'm a walking emotional roller coaster. Glass cage of emotion. Sensitive. Happy Sad Mad Scared all the time. I've hit that point of pregnancy, and I'm okay with it. On Christ the solid rock I stand. He's never moved, even though I do. I'm leaning in to Him and letting Him carry me the rest of the way because it really is too heavy to carry on my own, ted hose or not. Motherhood has nudged me, no forced me, to let go because I physically can't do it all. And so, I'm allowing Christ to lighten my burden and lighten my heart in the process. Enjoy, for once, a not so deep post by this Oatmeal Heart. XOXO

The Shiny Gold Statues (Showers) of Early Motherhood

This week I went three days without a shower. 

I didn't mean for it to happen. 

But one thing led to another...

Tim had to leave early for work. 

The baby woke up early. 

House church and book club left my house late.

And most of the time, I felt like I was unraveling. 

If I don't get a shower IMMEDIATELY, I WILL LOSE IT. 

I used to shower every day. And not just shower. I basked in thirty minutes of sprinkling hot liquid spa heaven. I used every product known to womankind. I sang. I shaved. I lathered. I exfoliated. I solved the world's problems. 

I drove my parent's water bill to ungodly places.

When I got married, I tried to tone this down a little. But by no means did I start taking one minute army showers.

I remember being in the hospital after Titus was born and longing for a shower. I couldn't seem to muster the strength to stand that long or get away from my hungry infant. In the crazy, sleep-deprived thought circus that is characteristic of a mother's post-partum initiation, I truly wondered if I would ever take one again.

And so the choice remained after the hospital, shower or sleep when the baby napped? Which one? Because most of the time it wasn't both, and some days it was neither. 

Looking forward to this fall when Bambino will be born, I'm struck by my fears. It will not be pumpkin spice lattes and orchard picking for us. Tim will be on the hardest PhD schedule yet. He will work from 8-4 on weekdays and then be in school until 7 Monday-Thursday. He might get to see Titus an hour those days. As much as I'm enjoying our summer, I gulp hard when I think what a slap of reality that season will be. Most likely, I will have much less time for writing, working out, reading, spending time with friends and family, showering, and sleeping. Point being, my fears revolve around giving of myself, my wants, my desires. My idols.

Before you go into a defense on how mamas need to take care of themselves, I totally get it. I am aware that at some point, I need sleep. God programmed us this way. I know I'm a better mom days when I attempt to take care of myself.

But bottom line? I need Jesus. That is IT. 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insult, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

Paul is talking about much more intense situations than missing a shower, friends. He is talking about shipwrecks, snake bites, threats of death for his faith and testimony. He's not talking about "me-time." 

I've been studying Daniel with Dayton Women in the Word. In Daniel, the theme of idolatry is presented over and over again. King Nebuchadnezzar called for all people to bow down to his tall, golden statue. Three of God's people refused and were thrown into a fiery furnace. God delivered them, and as a result King Nebuchadnezzar praised the one true God. 

We hope that we would be the three who refused, but in reality, mamas, we are Nebuchadnezzar. And we have great influence over others, including our children, when we lay our idols down and worship the true King, King Jesus.

Thank God that he has given us little people that we have to face the idols we did not know even existed in our lives beforehand. We have to release everything for that swaddled, wrinkled, squinting 8lbs, give or take, of baby. Our bodies, our time, our plans, ourselves.

We have a quick learning curve. In those early days, who is it that must feed that baby in the middle of the night? Hopefully we have kind husbands who will help us. I learned quickly, however, that even with my husband's help, I had to rely fully on none other but the strength of Jesus. Early motherhood stripped me of every reliance had. And thank God it did.

What a relief to be rid of myself, my ultimate idol.

With tears in my eyes, I write that God has freed me of my fear for the fall. Satan will not rob me of the joy that will come when my precious second child will be born. In fact, I crave it. Fall, come quickly! Because what more of a gift could I ask God than for him to help me set down the things I worship that are not Him? I will be utterly stripped, and wear a sweet dependence on my Savior.  I wish I could take this contentment in Christ with me through the long haul of my life, past this season of motherhood, but I know this will continue to be a battle long after my children all start sleeping through the night. 

A family I've known my whole life lost their second child yesterday. They have a son who is a toddler and lost their second son when he was born without breath. His father wrote on his Facebook that though his child was stillborn, his hope was still in Christ. My fear this morning was not for myself, but for my children, yet, these parents' faith encouraged me. What a beautiful example of hope beyond this world, beyond what we think we need, beyond even the gift that is our children. Yes, indeed, mamas, even our children we must hold with an open hand to the one whose hand is our (and our child's) very breath (Daniel 5:23). 

When God gave me Titus, I recognized for the first time that a shower is a gift from God. For the first time, I thanked him for it. I worshipped the giver, not the gift, not myself. 

Mamas, lets thank God when He gives us good gifts. But most of all, let's be thankful for the giver. He is our ultimate prize and goal. And so we can make it another day without a shower. Or we can call our new mama friend and offer to come hold her baby while she takes one. And we can get on our knees and thank God for our children, who allow us to share in the sacrifices Jesus made when he gave up his life for us. 

 

 

 

 

The Victim Mentality and Jesus

We need to talk.

Friends, I am grieved. Like can't sleep, even in my bestie's "bump nest" pillow she lent me that is freakishly comfy for a preggo like me.

Over the past month, I have probably had a bazillion difficult conversations with other Christ followers. Community has been super messy lately, ya'll. Asking forgiveness. Encouraging forgiveness. Navigating tricky communication. So many exhausted relationships from the amount of wrongs to make right. How much time did I spend asking God for the right words, the right push towards peace?

When so many believers have so much beef with one another, we are distracted from sharing in the love and joy that is Christian community. We don't invite others in, because what is different about us than the rest of the world? When we are petty, claim "personality clashes" as reasons we can't hang out with one another, or we can't let go of when that person said that one thing that one time, or we expect everyone to meet our needs before we even voice them. 

This is not love. That is not grace.

What is love? 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 says "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres. Love never fails."

What is grace? It is God's unmerited favor upon us. God giving us something we do not deserve. Grace is God giving us his very son to bring us life, freedom, forgiveness, and so much more.

The truth is, it dumbfounds me that if we have truly understood and recognized the depth of God's love and grace for us, that we could not in turn extend those to someone else, indeed, to everyone else. The love of Christ does not stop when someone has a personality that clashes with your own. Did not Christ love the vilest of this earth? The ones that had made the poorest choices according the standard of the day? 

Don't get me wrong. I am sure you are right. I am sure we could find something that person did that offended you. But is the problem that person's actions if you are offended by just about everything? By just about everyone? 

Everyone is sinful. Everyone could be more sensitive.

And. Everyone needs God's abundant grace, just like you do, just like I do. Or are we so prideful as to think that God's grace is reserved only for one person? For me, myself and I? 

I've got news for you. Until you realize that no human being on this earth can fulfill that gaping hole in your heart, that ravenous, never satisfied, never happy with another, never happy with yourself, cavernous, twisty, empty, endless hole, you will continue to look to anyone and anything for that need. You will continue to feel left out and lonely. You will continue to see everyone as harsh, out to get you. They will leave you disappointed again and again and again. And you will suffer from the endless failings of those around you. 

Because fulfilling that need was never their job in the first place.

Because we are all dreadfully terrible at playing the role of God.

In John 4, Jesus encounters a woman at a well. She is trying to satisfy herself with men. She has had five different husbands and yet she is still unquenchably thirsty. Jesus says to her, come and drink from my well and you will never be thirsty again. 

1 Corinthians 12:7-10 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamitities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." GOD'S GRACE is all sufficient! We can be satisfied in him, no matter the status of our relationships. We can be content with insults, because was Jesus not the most insulted on the cross? When he was spat upon, gambled over, nailed hands and feet to die for the very people who were insulting him? It sure puts the offenses of others in our lives in perspective.

In Colossians, it describes Jesus coming to reconcile ALL to himself. Not just you and the people who don't ever do anything to offend you. All. Everyone. 

Sometimes, I think we reserve the hard work of forgiveness for the big leagues. When we feel truly victimized, then somehow we have to work though our stuff, give it to the Lord, or else we would never be able to move on in life. But maybe we don't realize how that mentality carries over to every small offense in our otherwise, very normal, healthy relationships. We don't realize the hard work continues in every single conversation. Our identity becomes the victim, and it shows up when we walk away from every conversation feeling more hurt. Spending countless hours replaying conversations. Analyzing. Then often, venting to other friends. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for working through conflict. I'm all about communicating well, hashing it out in a healthy way. I'm also all about finding my identity in Christ. The freedom we have in Christ means we are no longer a victim, no longer beholden to what everyone else thinks or does, no longer a slave to our station with the person next to us. And our identity in Christ means I can give someone else the benefit of the doubt, think of myself less, and think of others more. 

That is freedom. 

I've never thought about Jesus as a victim. Yet when I look to the cross, I realize his identity could have been just that. He was crucified! Ultimate victim status right there. But no. That is all wrong. I see The King. Who conquered death. Yet even as he was dying, he forgave the very people who put him there, the robber next to him that deserved the punishment he was getting, and incredibly, unbelievably, me. He forgave me. Goodness gracious. 

You know what that means? You and I aren't victims either. We are subject to this sinful world. Things are not as they should be. But we are redeemed from that victim status in Christ. We are free. 

If my identity and fulfillment and freedom are in Christ, then I too can easily, without thinking twice, forgive. And maybe I will have less to forgive in the first place, because I will not be thinking of how that other person rubbed me the wrong way.

I will be thinking about how I can love her. I will be thanking God for the precious sister in front of me who is God's glorious creation. I will be inviting her for coffee, asking to watch her children, sending her words of encouragement, sharing my life with her, because Jesus died and rose again for her.  I will be on my knees in prayer for her, because Jesus was on his knees in prayer for her, for the both of us, the very hour he was led away to his ultimate death. 

Lord, may it be so in my own life. Help me to love as you do. Unify us Lord. Bring this grace and peace to my people and to my own heart.

Grace and peace. Grace and peace. Grace and peace, 

Jillian

 

 

 

 

Guinea Pig

I'm so very sorry, my sweet first child. 

You are the guinea pig. 

We have already and inevitably will continue to make a million mistakes with you.

We will probably be harder on you than the rest of our kids.

We will probably confuse you with how many strategies we try on you. 

You will probably be dragged along to the pediatricians office the most for the silliest of reasons. 

I'm sorry you will be the one that in our life, gets me as the bad guy most days. We both love your Daddy, don't we? We love supporting his PhD dreams. But I get jealous when you smile and run to him after a long day of me pulling my hair out. I'm sorry sometimes that you get the best of him and so often see the worst of me.  

I'm sorry that I'm the most insecure mama with you. I genuinely hope I can focus less on myself when your baby bro or sis comes on the scene. I hope I'm more confident in the decisions I make for the both of you. 

I'm sorry I will compare you to other kids the most because I've never done this before. I'm sorry that I will forget to cherish you in your exact stage when other children around you are at different stages. 

I'm sorry I will forget you are your own little person with your own little personality. I'm sorry I will forget you aren't me and you aren't an adult. I'm sorry I lose my patience with you, expect you to know better when I haven't yet taught you. 

I wish I could have the ease and comfort of a mom who has been doing this for ten years. But I don't. You get the new, inexperienced mom. And I'm so sorry.

But I promise you. You have all of me.

Yes you will have all my imperfections and failings and all my inexperience. You will get the brunt of the newness. But you will get an oatmeal heart. You will get my joy. You will get my enthusiasm for your life. You will get a mama who loves you more than you can ever imagine. You will have the pictures that show in our faces just how much you were loved right here, right now, in all the mess and mess ups and I'm sorrys. You will have the one on one toddler time mommy dates at the library and the family dates just the three of us at the market and the park. And you may just get the most prayers, at least, the most times that I will ask God "Am I doing this right?" and "HELP GOD!" 

Forgive us in advance. We will pay the therapy you will need later because of us.

We love you little Guinea Pig. Don't you ever forget it. You are the best gift we have ever been given, so forgive our over enthusiasm and over worry and over doing it because we just love you so dog-gone much.