When I am afraid…

God I look to you / I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like you do
God I look to you / You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom / You know just what to do
“God I Look to You,” Jenn Johnson [Bethel Worship]

Last night I bragged on Facebook about how I bravely gave myself a shot of Lovenox in the stomach all by myself. I was proud of myself. Lovenox is an injectable blood thinner to treat 2 clotting disorders during my pregnancy and, essentially, keep my baby alive. Usually this prescription is started as soon as one learns she is pregnant, but my conditions were not discovered until just this week, so I am starting at 16 weeks.

I can’t tell you that doesn’t make me nervous.

After losing 2 pregnancies in the first trimester, I take comfort in the fact that baby has made it this far without such intervention. However, I’m a human and a thinker. What are the risks of starting so late? Is it too late? Is it possible the baby has already died and I just don’t know it yet? Yes, I’m thinking that. Why wasn’t I tested for these clotting disorders earlier in pregnancy? How would I tell my children that their baby in mommy’s tummy died??

I have been thinking these things since Wednesday afternoon when the nurse told me she was calling in my prescription to start ASAP. My husband and I talked about them at length last night. For the most part I have kept my emotions under control. Yesterday my wonderful husband reminded me, “It’s not any medicine giving this baby life; it is only by the Lord.”

I know this is true. But I woke up in the middle of the night/early morning, compelled to pray for our child. I lay still in bed and asked God to cause the baby to move so I could feel something and know everything is okay. It didn’t happen.

But that’s not how I know everything is okay.

Many times during trials, we do wish God would give us clear answers and physical reassurances that the end result is good. But the truth is, we can’t rely on the things of this world, even our own senses and things we “know” to be true. We don’t see the inner workings of our bodies or the miracles God is performing in the “secret places.”  We can know the end result is good because we know that God is good. That fact – regardless of my situation or circumstances or trials or pain or loss – is the one and only unchanging truth. He is good, He is for me, His plan for me is for my good and His glory. This I know.

So today I am not comforted by flutters in my tummy or scientific certainty from a doctor or ultrasound. The truth is, I don’t know the end result. I just don’t. But I know it is good, because the God who holds my life and my baby’s life is good, and nothing will change that.

Today all I have is this, one of the verses all 3 of my kids have memorized:

photo from thelordismylightandmysalvation on tumblr

photo from thelordismylightandmysalvation on tumblr

I will love you, Lord my strength
I will love you, Lord my shield
I will love you, Lord my rock
Forever all my days I will love you

Snow Day Magic

I’ll be honest with you; the last week and a half has been hard. Today is our 12th consecutive day without school, and judging by the forecast, I don’t feel hopeful for the rest of the week.

I really don’t mind being stuck at home. I have done more cleaning this week than in the last month combined (don’t judge me, I’m pre-nesting pregnant). Today I experimented with making my own bread because I’ve been craving French toast. (Free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme prevented me from actually making the French toast… I’ll let you know how it goes next time.)

Of course you want to see my first homemade loaf of bread! I'd share the recipe, but it actually wasn't that good.

Of course you want to see my first homemade loaf of bread! I’d share the recipe, but it actually wasn’t that good.

It’s not really the cabin fever that gets us. We have actually managed to get out several times, which has been nice. Our struggle is the lack of routine. We are a family that thrives on routine. We didn’t intend to become that way, but our children just naturally fell into a pattern, and we realized they are much happier (which of course makes my husband and me happier) when everyone knows what to expect.

Enter SNOWPOCOLYPSE.

The first day was a lazy movie day, because at first it was all ice. The second day they played outside for like 20 minutes before coming in for hot chocolate and Spaghettios. Those 20 minutes cost me 2 loads of laundry. Days 3 and 4 we went to my parents’ house to sled on their massive hill, which lasted a couple of hours (and 3 loads of laundry, including towels after post-sledding baths). Today we finally got a good packing snow for snowballs and snowmen, but they’re all so over it, nobody even wanted to go outside.

During these routine-less days at home, I really want to be the crafty mom making snowflakes out of popsicle sticks and baking snowman cookies with the kids. But I don’t have a “rainy (snowy) day craft supply” budget, and my kitchen is barely big enough for me to bake in, let alone anyone else standing there.

I would love to be the fun mom out in the snow sledding and playing with the kids. But my kids seem to detest snow almost as much as I do, and they definitely do not enjoy bundling up only to get cold and wet and come in after 20 minutes.

really want to be creative mom who builds elaborate obstacle courses in the house or films a snow-day-dance-party-music-video to share with our friends and family. Shout out to my cool brother for actually doing the music video thing with his kids.

Unfortunately, those things don’t really come naturally to me, and I certainly didn’t plan for them or this much time at home. So today I am striving to be like this mom and simply pause in this moment to treasure the extra time with my family. I may have told Sweet Prince 53 times today not to jump off the top bunk of his bed. But I got to talk to him. I may have listened to Princess sing “Let it Go” for the 95,000th time today. But I heard her voice. I may have wiped Little Man’s bottom 6 times today because apparently he poops when he’s bored. But he still needs me. (Okay that last one was a stretch. Work with me.) And as I put my little pumpkins to bed all in the same room tonight because they are best friends and get lonely when they’re apart, I can look back on these snow days and remember the messes made together, the countless giggles together, the meals together, and the snuggles together. We may be stuck together in this house, but at least we’re together.

Snow day magic <3

Snow day magic ❤

Dear Mom with Kids Younger than Mine…

mcdonalds

Dear Reader,

I promise to always try and keep my blog a positive, happy place. Of course, life is messy, and I promise to be real as I wade through the mess at times. But this is not a place for me to rant. Like my mom always said (heck, she still says it): If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. With this in mind, I will take tonight’s horrible experience at the McDonald’s Playplace and transform it into something beautiful for you. Promise.

As you know, here in Tennessee we are in the midst of #icemageddon15 or #icestorm2015 or #icepocolypse or something of that nature. Basically, lots of precipitation and suuuuuper low temps = Tennessee shuts down for a week. Literally.

Today was the first day this week that you could really safely travel, and most businesses were open. However, school is still out for the rest of the week, and children’s brains are melting from too much TV while their bodies nearly implode from the pent up energy. Parents are losing their minds even faster than the children. It’s brutal. Everyone is desperate to get out of the house. Tonight we took our kids – ages 7, 4, and 3 – to the mall, but the play area was overrun with itty bitties. For the safety of the itty bitties and the sanity of their parents, we left and took the rambunctious pre-schoolers to McDonald’s instead.

While not overrun in numbers, our local establishment contained 4 or 40 – it was really hard to say – elementary aged (read: older than my kids and old enough to know better) boys, apparently celebrating one of their birthdays with 2 moms present. I promised positivity here, so I will spare you the ugly details of our adventure. Although you may pick up on a few clues below. Given this experience, I wish to give you my PROMISE to you other moms with kids younger than mine:

Dear mom with kids younger than mine,

I see you over there, watching your itty bitty just begin to toddle around the play area. She is so excited to explore the world, and you’re here to give her a “safe” place to do so, what with the rubber flooring and padded play equipment. She seems so big to you right now, and you’re so proud… That is, until you see me enter the room with my bigger kids. They may not be that big right now, but one day they will be pushing the height restrictions on this play place, and you’ll be extra nervous. Even now, they’re big enough to trample your little one, and that’s big enough for you to keep an eye on them… and ME.

Yes, I do sometimes bring my kids to fast food playgrounds to play and climb off some steam while I use the free wifi to catch up on New York Times articles or TED Talk transcripts. (Okay, I’m really on Facebook. Sue me.) But I see your little one. And I promise that as long as your kiddo is here, I will watch my children as closely as you are. I have already been teaching them to be careful around smaller tots, but I know children get distracted. I promise to watch them around your baby, and I promise to call them down when they play too rough or too close, so you don’t have to.

I will teach my children to help children smaller than they or those that need a hand. At only 4 years old, my oldest child once coaxed a scared little girl from the top of play equipment where her mom couldn’t reach her. I promise I am teaching this type of care and concern to my boys, despite ugly stereotypes of little boy insensitivity.

If there are lots of little children present, or if my kids don’t mind their manners around yours, I promise we will leave. 

If my child’s Pump It Up party gets cancelled due to weather conditions and I have to move the whole shebang to McDonald’s, I promise I will not allow my child to open his birthday presents in the middle of the restaurant, thereby inciting wonder and jealousy among every other non-birthday child there. I will not allow my child to run his remote control car up under your feet. I promise.

I promise to never give my child a laser pointer. Ever. Under no circumstances will my child have a laser pointer, at least not until he or she is old enough to understand the repercussions of pointing the blasted thing in someone’s eyes. (1. Possible blindness; 2. Possible punch in the face from someone who doesn’t want an obnoxious laser pointed in their eyes.) If someone gives my child a laser pointer, I will promptly confiscate it until we get home and I can safely throw it in the garbage. I definitely will not allow my child to point it at strangers, including you and/or your child.

I promise to never allow my child to run at full speed and/or throw objects, big or small, all around any area where other people are gathered, especially one where those people are eating. If my child does spontaneously throw an object, I promise to yank them to the bathroom for a lesson in respect before that object hits you or your child or your table or any of your private property. If said object manages to dishonor your family or your personal space on the first offense, I promise to personally apologize to you and offer to buy you an iced coffee as a peace offering. I promise I will NOT completely ignore my child while he or she acts like a wild animal.

I promise to respect you and your family in this public space. Even if I am catching up with an old friend who I haven’t seen in 3 days 10 years, I will be a mom first and make sure my children behave like decent human beings, regardless of their age or yours.

While I admit I would feel defensive if another adult called down my child – because that’s my job – I promise that you won’t have to, because that’s my job.

I am so excited for you on your journey in parenthood! I’m not perfect, and my kids certainly aren’t either, but I do hope that my family will be an inspiration as you raise your own and not the subject of a blogosphere rant. Or positive-spin anti-rant post. Ya know, whatevs.

Love and luck to you,
Mary Beth

7 Things I Didn’t Know Before I Had Kids

This past Sunday, my eldest child turned 7. She is smart, beautiful, caring, and compassionate. She wants to be a teacher because she loves being in charge. Oh and helping people too, I’m sure. She sings and sings and sings, and she is over the moon for both the guitar her Papaw got for her birthday and the forthcoming piano lessons he promised. She loves the spotlight and people cheering for her. She also recognizes how good that feels and wants to share it with others. She dotes on her brothers and regularly encourages them when they do something well. She looks out for peers who are loners or outcasts and deliberately engages them and tries to make them feel special. She refers to the special needs class at her school as “those kids who are really just like us but sometimes need a little help.” She sees people for their potential for good. This child is gifted and called by her Creator, and good heavens I feel so unprepared to be her mother.

But here I am, her mother.

I admit, I don’t have it all together. All 3 of my children remind me every day how much I don’t have it together. But I have learned a thing or two in the last 7 years of officially being a mom. So, to honor my Princess’s 7th birthday, I give you:

7 Things I Didn't Know

1. How much detailed information I could actually retain while simultaneously not remembering anythingYou know, the way I remember the exact dosage each child can have of Infant’s/Children’s Tylenol based on their weight at the last well-check (thank you, Tylenol, for combining these into the same concentration for infants and children!), but I can’t remember how many ounces are in a cup. Or how I know exactly when each child pooped last, but I can’t remember when I last showered.

2. Poop can be projectile. Yeah, non-parents, you heard me. All the parents out there are laughing at the non-parents for their horror at this fact.  This was one of my first lessons as a new mom. The day we brought Princess home from the hospital, my in-laws came for a visit. Hubs was showing Grandma the nursery, and Papaw watched while I changed my first diaper at home. Little did I know, as I gently lifted her legs to wipe her with a freshly-warmed wipe from the warmer (that thing got tossed before child #3 ever saw daylight), the pressure on her belly triggered a violent reaction that literally sprayed poop all over my shirt like a squirt gun. I dropped her legs, and my first instinct was to rip my poopy shirt off right there! I got about to the top of the full-panel maternity pants I was still wearing (and continued to wear for 5 or 6 months) when I remembered my father-in-law was standing right next to me. Thankfully he found all this to be hilarious and kept an eye on the poop-gun while I ran to the bedroom and changed.

3. How much of my life would revolve around poop. Meconium. Little yellow seeds. Pea soup. Baby food poop. Teething poop. Diarrhea. Constipation. Chronic constipation. Glycerin suppositories. Manually pulling out poop that gets stuck. (Yep, done it more than once. Those last 4 may be related…) Potty training. Oh the potty training!!!! Trying to remember when everyone pooped last and who needs how much Miralax today. Then I get pregnant again and I have to add myself in that mix… Seriously, guys. POOP IS LIFE.

4. Having a child just like me is actually quite terrifying. My daughter is totally a better person than I am, and I thank her wonderful father for that. But in a lot of ways she is just like me. I thought that would be so cool, to have a little mini-me,  but it’s actually scary as heck. All the problems I struggled with, insecurities I took years to overcome (and some I’m still working on), the hard lessons that were so painful to learn… I get to watch all that roll out in third person. The difference is that I know the outcome, and in hindsight I know the solution, but I can’t do anything about it. She has to walk that road for herself, and as beautiful as her little life is, watching your kid go through hard stuff is WAY harder than going through it yourself.

5. How selfish I really am. I wish I could tell you that I’m the kind of mom who had kids and turned into this domestic diva whose world revolved around the children. Really, I do. If you are that mom, I so admire you. But the truth is, I’m not. I’m a stay-at-home mom who sends my kids to preschool for the mental break. When they are home, I once occasionally sometimes often lock myself in the bathroom and pretend to be pooping so I can be alone for a few minutes. The kids are used to all the poop in our life; they just accept it. I catch myself looking at Facebook instead of listening to my kids. I turn on the TV when I don’t feel like playing. I don’t always make the kids brush their teeth before bed when I’m too tired to deal. I forget to read to them. (Is 20 minutes a week okay?) I forget our family devotions. I yell. Marriage and parenthood have both taught me more about Christ’s love than anything else ever could… including my dire need for it.

6. How little control I actually have. As in, like, NONE. That helpless feeling when your baby is crying and you don’t know what is wrong. When they are sick and can’t take medicine or blow their own nose. When you witness kindergarten injustice and can’t fix it for them. When you get that diagnosis, or that bad news, or that lost promise. If there is one thing I have learned through 9 1/2 years of marriage, 8+ years of ministry, 7 years of motherhood and 6 children, it is that I am not in control. At first that is so scary. We spend 9 months of pregnancy (or years of trying and waiting) preparing to be the perfect parent, then when we get there it’s like this punch in the gut: you don’t actually know what you’re doing! But with years of experience also comes acceptance and even rejoicing. I am all too aware of my propensity to mess things up. In fact, just about every time I take the reins and try to make something happen or work on my own terms, I fail. FREEDOM comes when I realize that I don’t have control, but I know who does. Parenting has caused me to rely on Jesus literally every day, because I honestly have no other choice.

7. Stewardship matters. When my father walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, the preacher asked the standard, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” My dad’s answer was far from standard though. He explained (as we all cried) that I was never his to give away; I have always belonged to the Lord, and he and my mom just tried to be good stewards. That tear-jerker wedding statement became the center of my parenting: these children belong to the Lord, and I am just a steward. I have written before about Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and how important it is to wisely care for that which has been entrusted to us. How much more so must we care for the children in our homes! Those tiny humans won’t always be tiny; in fact, one day we’ll blink and they’ll be moving out on their own. My job right now is to prepare them for that day. Every day matters. Every choice matters. Thank God his grace is sufficient to cover our shortcomings! But we have to keep looking to Him for the wisdom and discernment we need. Because when we’re really honest with ourselves, we’ve got to admit we can’t do it alone.

This list is obviously not exhaustive. I couldn’t contain in a week of chatting (and my friends know I can chat) all the miraculous, frightening, hilarious, wild things I have learned in 7 years of parenthood. I am so thankful for a wonderful husband and amazing children to make the journey more enjoyable. What would you add to the list? Share in the comments! I would love to hear from you.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Baby Bump

Well, it seems the next logical step after announcing one’s pregnancy is to start taking pictures, right? I’ve actually been taking pictures for a while, despite the early stage of my pregnancy. It seems that after 3 normal pregnancies, one’s body recognizes those hormones and says, “Hey! We know how to do this! Alright, organs, lets moooooove on up!”

I like to imagine my stomach saying that to my lungs. Because they have been next-door neighbors since about week 8. 

Feeling pregnant has been sort of an ambiguous mash-up of a huge range of emotions. My husband (bless his heart) often asks me to explain how I am feeling, to which I generally reply, “Ya know, I mean, I dunno, just like… I dunno.”

First, there’s excitement. Of course there is. Then, pretty much immediately following comes the anxiety. The oh-God-I-can’t-bear-another-loss feeling of what if. The first few weeks were a big, beautiful/ugly mess of both of those. The doctors gave a confusing combination of “looks good” and “we don’t really know” for several weeks. I kept praying to throw up.

Pregnancy following a miscarriage is probably the only time in a woman’s life she will beg God for morning sickness.

Hallelujah, it came. It came with discomfort and general body changes and wicked insomnia (that one’s a new symptom for me).

Then came my belly. Seriously, already?! I wasn’t entirely sure if it was a combination of my lack of gym time (from the sickness and insomnia) and “safety” eating (for the baby, of course), or if I could honestly be showing so soon. Then I overheard that pesky conversation between my stomach and lungs, and I realized they were just doing their job waaaayyy sooner than necessary. At least they’ll already be in place when baby starts kicking, right?

Check me out at 9 weeks pregnant. Yes, I said NINE. Good grief.

Check me out at 9 weeks pregnant. Yes, I said NINE. Good grief.

Aaaand here I am at 11 weeks. Unable to wear normal pants.

Aaaand here I am at 11 weeks. Unable to wear normal pants.

Strange realization about pregnancy after loss… You feel SUPER guilty for not being SUPER excited all the time. Can I please just be honest with you and admit that I am not SUPER excited to have a gigantic belly again? After several years of literally working my butt off and losing 60+ pounds, it is a huge mental challenge to get used to a growing belly (and hips — thanks for that, lack of gym time and “safety” eating).

My husband and I went to a conference that weekend when I was 11 weeks. I had to leave early one night to run to Target for maternity pants because I was so uncomfortable. (I ended up with leggings. Maybe I’ll save that conversation for a post that I want to go viral. Ha!) Thankfully my friend gave me a belly band I was able to use with my normal pants for a few more weeks.

…Until now. As of Wednesday I am 14 weeks pregnant, so a little over 3 months for those of you who don’t like math. Last weekend I bought the one pair of maternity pants-pants that I will be wearing until there are holes in them or it is warm enough to wear my leftover spring/summer maternity clothes from 4 years ago. So, don’t judge me for wearing the same pants every time you see me. I promise I am wearing a rotation of sweats, yoga pants and leggings at home.

I’m sure I will post more about my crazy emotions in the coming weeks, but I know you all are only here for the belly pics. So, now being into the 2nd trimester and fully adjusted to comfortable maternity wear, behold: I give you today’s abdominal engorgement…

14 glorious weeks of swole.. and look! I put on makeup!

14 glorious weeks of swole.. and look! I put on makeup!

Hope you enjoy! Have a happy Friday, everyone!

Childbirth is Complicated…

Since we told him I am pregnant, my 4-year-old son has been asking to see the baby. “You can’t see it now, honey, it’s hiding inside my tummy until it grows big and strong.” This does not satisfy him. Sweet Prince is my explorer, adventurer, experimenter, eager to experience and learn as much as his little self can. He needs to know!

Tonight he asked how the baby would come out.

I have never been one to lie to my children or make up euphemisms to mask the truth. I try to explain big concepts in small terms, and when all else fails, I give scientific answers that are so involved they get confused and give up. Try it; it’s amazingly effective.

But this is not a topic so easily glossed over. Thankfully I have had the pleasure of 3 scheduled, complication-free Cesarean sections, so the honest-to-God truth is that the doctor gives me medicine and then cuts me open to pull the baby out. Then he closes my belly using glue and staples, and I go home happy and healthy with my new baby. This answer satisfied my then-3-year-old daughter when she asked about her youngest brother’s birth. She never seemed bothered by it until last summer when she randomly started BAWLING in the car that she did not want to have a baby because she didn’t want to be cut open. That is a hilarious story I hope to share one day! But my Sweet Prince seemed troubled.

What kind of glue? Do the staples hurt? Does the doctor use a knife or scissors to cut you? Do you hurt? Where is the medicine? Why was Daddy there? Did you cry? These were among the slew of questions he asked over dinner, trying to understand this grown-up procedure in his pre-school mind.

He didn’t say much after dinner, but he was especially lovey at bedtime. I am never one to turn away extra snuggles, so I hugged and kissed and tickled his back. As I walked out of his room after saying goodnight, he held his arms out for one last hug. I leaned in, and he squeezed my neck tight.

“Mommy, are you going to die tomorrow?”

“Oh no, my prince. I’m going to be just fine!” I tried to reassure him. “The doctors will take good care of me, and in a few months you will meet your new baby brother or sister!”

I tried to tell him all the wonderful things about having a baby, and what a great big brother he will be. He was barely a year old when his little brother was born, so he doesn’t remember visiting us in the hospital or seeing my scar heal. He is so driven by his experiences to shape his understanding of the world. He doesn’t want to take your word for anything; he needs to see for himself.

This exploration-driven nature has caused me to feel most challenged in parenting my Sweet Prince. His need to know leads him to get into everything and push every limit. It is clear God’s plans for this child include great adventure and risk that I would not be willing to take. His life is bright and bold and exciting. Nothing will hold him back.

His need to know will also lead to some heartache in life. Understanding consequences will cause him pain, both in his own life and as he observes those he loves. He will witness suffering and be unable to forget it. He will be driven to heal the wounds he sees in the world.

But at 4 years old, he can’t heal the wound he foresees for Mommy. His mind thinks “cut,” and that means “pain,” maybe even “death.” This one is a thinker. I pray that this tender moment with my Sweet Prince will remind me to be careful with my words – both to him and those he can overhear. As an intelligent boy with a heart for adventure, he needs me to be his safe place to help him explore and discover, not cause him to worry.

And I pray he went to sleep dreaming of a wonderful baby, not a hurt Mommy.

Parenting is tough, friends.

So maybe I helped him get started, since I'm a cool mom that encourages his gifts. But Sweet Prince made most of the climb on his own, and would have gone to the top had I not stopped him!

So maybe I helped him get started, since I’m a cool mom that encourages his gifts. But Sweet Prince made most of the climb on his own, and would have gone to the top had I not stopped him!

But God

You know, it’s funny how intimidating your own success can be.

While my last post hardly “went viral,” it garnered more hits in one day than any of my other posts, and over the course of a week outperformed any of my previous months of blogging. So, in my tiny little fledgling blogger world, that was pretty successful. It came time to write again, and I was like, how do I follow that?

Which is kind of a weird thing to say of yourself.

I haven’t necessarily been waiting to post until I had something that would blow your minds, but, at least if you know me personally, this might just blow your mind…

Baby #4!

Baby on board!

That’s right, I’m having a baby!

Not particularly noteworthy in the context of world events, but it’s pretty major in my life for a couple of reasons. First, I mean, it’s a baby and all, which is more significant to the mother than pretty much anyone else in that child’s upcoming life. Secondly, my older three kids are super close in age, so this one coming four years later is a bit of “starting over” for our family.

Mostly, though, this is a big deal because this isn’t my 4th baby. It’s my 6th.

New Year’s Day 2014, my husband and I sat up late that night and talked about the great sense of anticipation we had about the coming year. We had been feeling a build-up of spiritual tension in our lives, and we felt we were on the edge of breakthrough. We didn’t have a clear picture of what God had in store for us, but we knew it was big. We were so excited  to learn what surprises the year had in store.

Surprises indeed. After 3 healthy, complication-free pregnancies between 2007 and 2011, I had 2 miscarriages in the first 6 months of 2014. I knew it to be true before I had lost a child, but I could not have understood the searing pain of loss one feels after a miscarriage, regardless of the gestational age. In the last year, I have been so broken, so angry, so ready to give up hope.

But God.

Those are my favorite scriptures, when you know how things ought to go, the way things appear to be going, BUT GOD steps in and changes the plan. He makes a way where there seems to be no way, and out of the ashes of our pain, he brings healing and joy and LIFE.

This is my story, and I invite you to follow me on the journey. Happy 2015, y’all.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart:
he is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26