What Magic?

Merry Christmas Eve. Although not usually a great day for me, I woke up with the sun (and my baby that doesn’t sleep) and tried to get my heart in a good place. Today is the 17th anniversary of losing my mom to breast cancer and this day always seems to bring the gaping hole of loss into sharp focus. She was really good at Christmas Magic.

The other thing I can count on for this day is that my husband is at church for 9 hours (we have 5 Christmas Eve services) and I am home with my littles, trying to make magic and finish all the things I left until last minute. And not doing it very well.

This year my husband is sick in bed instead, so that’s fun. I am downstairs wrangling kids and fixing to make my mom’s extra special, better than anything cheesecake and trying to figure out how to watch Charlie Brown Christmas since our TV just stopped working yesterday.

And then I notice that the dog pooped on my new area rug because the grass is soaked with rain and because he’s a little jerk. As I’m cleaning it up, my middle one says she accidentally stepped in dog poop somewhere else and didn’t realize it until she climbed onto the couch and smeared it on the cushion. Just magic I tell ya.

My neighbor was saying the other day that she can’t wait for Christmas to be over and asked, “why does it make people crazy?” I’m not sure she wanted to hear my answer but I engaged it with her anyway. This season seems to just amplify everything- the good in our lives and the hard. We want special and magic and we either work hard to create it for those we love or we feel the empty that comes with not being able to do that. It brings all the crazy (and beautiful) to the surface. Even still, I don’t want it to be over.

If we believe in Christmas Magic it’s probably because we experienced it when we were young. But I am betting that all the things that felt magical to me weren’t always magical for my parents. I’m sure there were moments (like I’ve had) when they thought, “why did we spend so much time, money and effort on this experience only to have the kids cry and complain?” Christmas is a lot of work, but it’s good work and even 10 minutes of magic makes it worth the effort. Advent readings, baking cookies, decorating the house, hosting and going to parties. Shopping for special gifts, cleaning the house again and again, late nights and sometimes crabby kids. My mom was always up until after midnight on Christmas Eve locked in her bedroom wrapping and trying to remember all the secret places she stuffed things. It is a privilege to be the ones trying to create Christmas Magic for our kids and getting tastes of it ourselves.

We kicked off the season with a Thanksgiving trip to Sonoma to be with my side of the family. We planned to take family pictures at the beautiful winery that my brother works for- great idea right? Cute outfits, good camera, 13 people showered and ready and we get up there only to have my middle one in an emotional puddle because her tights itched. This is one of the gems that resulted.

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By the time I had threatened and bribed and we finally moved on from individual family photos, our middle one got caught up with the beautiful place we stood and the special people she was near and forgot all about her itchy tights. She was all smiles. I stopped obsessing over getting a good Christmas card photo (we ended up going back the next day for more) and tried to stop forcing things. The kids were eating left-behind grapes, we stared out at the vines that display my brother’s hard work, the sun started setting and the beauty was overwhelming. I realized what a gift it is to be surrounded by my family that I love so fiercely. That’s some Christmas magic right there.

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Christmas is full of itchy tights moments. Times when the things bugging us or hurting us become so heightened that it’s all we feel. Last year Christmas Eve was the worst. But Christmas Morning was the stuff of dreams. A peace fell over our house that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Every gift our kids opened came with “just what I hoped for” sentiments and grateful hearts. I think they are starting to get the real magic of Christmas, that our gifts to each other show our love and symbolize how Jesus loves us and gave himself as the ultimate gift. I was tired and 9 months pregnant and there were moving boxes all over the house, but for a little while I just sat and let all the good things be the loud things.

Every special experience we try to create will likely have amplified high and lows and we should probably just accept and lean into that. Otherwise we can get so distracted by the itches that we will miss the magic. Often times, the magic just creeps in and shows up in places that we didn’t plan on our calendar. Like last night during dinner we heard music outside and went out to find the high school marching band in the middle of our neighborhood playing Christmas Carols. We live next door to the stadium and hear them practice all year long so at Christmas they show up unannounced and just start playing in the street. Neighbors all come out in their cozy clothes and sing (mostly about Jesus) together. I sat on the curb with my sick husband and our 3 little kids and almost cried. Here’s to Christmas and all its magic.

Baby Spica Cast Adventures {The End, sort of}

When I think back to 10+ weeks ago when our baby was in a Spica cast, I find myself thinking, “we did that?” It almost seems like it was someone else. What an ordeal. During those 3 and a half months I thought the end would never come, but it did and we survived. Everyone says that when we look back it will seem like a small snippet in her otherwise long and full life. And I believe that.

Those first couple weeks cast-free were glorious. Poppy had her first bath in 98 days. And we celebrated with an Island themed “Cast-Away” party where she got take her first dip in the pool. I strongly encourage parties, especially ones that celebrate the end of something hard.

But our ordeal isn’t over yet and today it still feels like a long snippet. Poppy is now wearing a hip abduction brace full-time and will be for a couple more months. I’m already fed up with it, but it is important to note (and to tell myself daily) that it’s way better than the cast. She can wear some normal clothes, have baths, show off her irresistible chubby little legs and for a whopping 15 minutes each day she can be free.

But she can’t move like she wants and still can’t fit in typical car seats, highchairs or baby things in general. She can’t sit up for long without falling over (into impressive straddle splits) and is getting to the age where mobility matters to her. She gets frustrated trying to pull herself around in that big thing and is less independent because of it.

But we’ve come so far and we can handle those things. What I can’t seem to handle is that she isn’t sleeping. Since she was 3 weeks old she has spent every night in some sort of orthopedic apparatus. And to keep that interesting, we have had to change what “get up” she was in SEVEN times. First the pavlik harness for 5 weeks, then the hip abduction brace for 2, back to the pavlik harness until surgery, then spica cast #1, spica cast #2, spica cast #3 and now we’re back to the hip abduction brace. Each time it changed, her sleep regressed for a couple of long hard weeks and then normalized. We are 10 weeks into this last stage and it’s not getting better. She is waking up more than a newborn combined with a teething toddler and it’s not awesome.

My theory is that is has to do with her age. She is 9 months old now and wants to move. Maybe when she comes to a light level of sleep like we all do, she wants to adjust her body to get comfortable and she can’t. So, she wakes me up to comfort her instead. And I don’t have the heart to refuse. Who knows, but we’re sure getting a lot of time together.

Recent studies show that being sleep deprived is equivalent to the alertness you have when you’re drunk. Add to that being irritable and unmotivated and that’s how my days are going. So if you see me around and wonder why I look like such a wreck, there you go.

As I think through how hip dysplasia will have colored the entire first year of Poppy’s life, I am searching hard for the beautiful colors. The ugly ones are always obvious. Today I am holding onto these 4 shiny things:

I’ve got some time to pray. There are plenty of heavy things weighing on me (and the world) and apparently I need lots of “middle of the night” time to sort them through and lay them down. In a noisy house with needy kids, this is crucial time that I would be going without if not for my sleepless little lady forcing it on me.

I am getting serious about self-care. Buzz phrase or not, it’s a real problem in my life right now. I have “let myself go” to take care of my people and it feels like it’s starting to backfire. So the lack of sleep has just pushed me into a desperate enough place to get me motivated toward making changes and placing more value on my personal health. More on that next week when I share some of those strides.

We are in the home stretch. We are beyond so many hard days. We have learned incredible lessons. We have a baby that has two healthy hip joints (that are almost fully formed) and she will be walking before we know it. 

I’ve got a baby to hold. I waited for this baby, prayed for this baby and lost three babies before her that I don’t get to hold. And when the house is quiet and dark, I get her all to myself. No brother and sister smothering. No noise distracting us. No electronics. Just her soft squishy self all nuzzled close. I am trying to memorize her smell, her noises and the feeling of being able to give her all she needs. 

My heart for this blog is to find the golden threads and to help you find yours too. What is the bright side of what you’re going through? What meaningful thing can you draw out of the hard place you found yourself in today? They’re there, I promise.

 

7 ways to help your kids love each other (eventually)

The other night my kids spent 20 minutes fighting over who would get to sit next to the baby at dinner. Our 9 month old daughter Poppy is especially popular right now. She is of course, the “queen of all the babies” and can do no wrong at this point in her life. I’m sure this will not last.

My 4 & 7 year olds on the other hand, insist on fighting like dogs and I can hardly take it. I know they adore each other, but it’s off and on again like a high school romance. Yesterday they argued (about him leaning his head on the headrest of her carseat) the whole way to pick up our car from the shop. But then as soon as we switched cars and her brother hopped in with dad, she turns to me and says, “I miss Sawyer.”

I have dreams of my kids growing up to be each others biggest fans. Ones that can always turn to each other, ones that want to turn to each other. Celebrating, supporting and sitting around big dinner tables laughing about how they drove each other nutty through the years. They are after all, built in companions.

Their first lessons in sharing, protecting, fighting for their rights, facing fears, exploring and grieving will be with each other. The amount of experiences they will share before (and after) they leave home is second to none.img_2482

I am the middle child of three and I depend very much on the love and support of my sister and brother. We are still finding new ways that we need each other. Life isn’t getting easier (surprise, surprise) and those years of building trust with each other is really paying off.

Apparently my eyes light up when I talk about my siblings. A friend pointed that out to me years ago and then asked what my parents did to help that happen. While I can guarantee my parents did not have some well thought out plan to make us adore each other and they are not ultimately responsible for how it all panned out, they did (and did not do) certain things that have shaped our relationships.

So many things- personalities, gender, birth order, age span, family dynamics, tragedy, faith, wellness, etc, impact sister/brother relationships and no family is the same. But I believe these 7 things can help parents fan the flame of sibling love.

  1. Celebrate their uniqueness. It’s a lifelong process to embrace the unique person we were created to be and to become comfortable in our own skin. Parents can help that journey start in a positive way. Verbal affirmation from you is a powerful model. It helps kids identify their personal strengths as well as the strengths of their siblings. Teaching them to admire each other (as well as feel thankful for their own gifts) is a beautiful thing. At the same time, we need to (constructively) help them see areas that need growth and help them accept that some things just won’t come naturally to them. As you guide this process, be cautious not to label them. They need the freedom to grow, change and not be stuck in the way they’ve “always been.” The language we use can make a big difference.
  2.  Don’t be afraid to give attention to one child’s special moments while the others sit back and cheer them on. It is good for kids to watch other kids get recognized. It’s his “end of the season” party, her recital, his award, etc. Harper’s birthday doesn’t need to include gifts for Sawyer and Poppy. It’s not about them. Just make sure to find the strong and special in each family member and celebrate them in turn (mom & dad too!)
  3. Don’t allow one child’s (talent, sport, hobby) to dominate the family’s time and attention. When one child is especially talented or is involved in something you love, the temptation (and pressure from others) is that you must be on every-all-year-expensive-traveling club. The cost of time and resources on your family can take away from the other kids and communicate that you value their sibling above them. I know some families are able to keep the balance while one of their kids becomes a superstar, but it must be hard to do well.
  4. Don’t use comparison as a motivator. This is a natural temptation for most of us, as we do it to ourselves daily. I want to say, “Your brother could ride his bike when he was 5.” “Your sister isn’t crying about that.” But I am trying to let them be themselves and not pit them against each other. Positive peer pressure is really effective, but there is a difference between using it to inspire and using it to shame. I’m trying instead, “Your brother really enjoys riding his bike without training wheels and I think you will too.”
  5. Develop a strong “Home Team” identity. The trust that is built inside our home is foundational. We are a family. We help each other. We tell the truth. We pitch in around the house. We comfort each other when something hurts. We eat together around the table. We speak highly of each other. We have each other’s backs. We are a unit and we work together and play together and no matter where we move or what trials we face, we have each other for support.
  6. Take family vacations. Get them away together and make memories. The #1 thing people say when I ask how their parents fostered good relationships among them is “taking vacations.” The adventure, the absence of distractions, the close quarters and the concentrated time together goes a long way. But I’ll bet the real magic is in the message it sends- “We value this family so much that we will take time off work and money out of our pockets to have this experience together.”
  7. Talk through the conflict. Teach them to “live at peace as far as it depends on them.”(Romans 12:18) Teach them to confront, forgive and reconcile. If you suck at that yourself, start working on it in your life. You can’t model something you don’t wear.

It’s easy to believe that it’s too late to help your kids love each other well (or to appreciate your own siblings) but I believe there’s always a chance for restoration. And I also believe that there are hard seasons that might just turn into sweet ones down the road. Sibling love is one of the most precious kind and it’s worth aiming for greatness.

 

BRIGHT SPOT
Two wise women who ADORE their siblings share their stories…

Rachel + her sister

When you asked about being friends with my sister, I had this distinct memory of us playing school in our parents’ living room. My parents always encouraged us to play together, but it was never said out loud that we had to be friends. They just raised us to be good, decent human beings and love everyone. And that extended doubly to each other.

They also just let us be ourselves. They didn’t micromanage as parents (though my mom did have to tell me several times that I was not the mom of Marissa). They let us sort out our own arguments, though there weren’t that many of them.

And my parents made family dinners a priority. Even through high school and various practices and rehearsals for both of us, pretty much every night we sat down at the dinner table (TV off) and enjoyed one another’s company.

And lastly, they taught us to have a sense of humor about life.

Stephanie + her brothers

The number one thing that my parents gifted my siblings I and with was time with each other. We took long road trips together in a motorhome – like, weeks at a time -, and we would spend months during the summer on a little lake in Washington for close to 15 years straight. Those long, uninterrupted times that we had together as kids were spent playing games, making up stories, wrestling, and finding adventures. We didn’t have any tv or technology with us, so all we had for entertainment was each other

When my middle brother and I were 18 and 20, my parents bought us round trip plane tickets to Europe, gave us $2000 and a couple travel guides, and told us, “we’ll see you in 6 weeks!” We landed in London with no place to stay and no idea what we were doing. We ended up getting eurail passes and visiting 8 countries. We returned from that trip with a bond that will be unbreakable to the end. I know a trip to Europe is not realistic for most people, but we talk all the time that it wasn’t that we were on another continent that was significant; it was the uninterrupted time and problem solving in the unknown together.

The other big thing my parents did was to always emphasize to us that our siblings are the people that knew us first and that we will know the longest, and they really pushed us to develop our own individual relationships with each other outside of my parents and our wider family unit. We all have the perspective now that it doesn’t matter what we do, that the three of us are our priority.

10 Key Things I’ve learned About Marriage

Saturday marked 10 years since the day I vowed to walk through life committed to Brian. I was 32 years old that day and after 5 years of dating him, I assumed that I was as prepared as anyone could be. But you can never know then what you know now. I have learned countless things, but these 10 stand out as nuggets- the gold when it comes to a healthy marriage.

1. Remember that you’re on the same team

Don’t make important decisions without the other, don’t be fooled into thinking you are better, don’t compete with each other. Keeping score never works. Remember that you are meant to be companions, helpers and partners. Brian and I tend to do the team thing well, but life is still full of unexpected, hard, crappy stuff and is always trying to make us fail. At least that’s how the past few years have felt. So whether the challenges are in your relationship itself or hardship just keeps banging on your door, you must work together or you will fall apart. You were made to be better together than you could be alone. (Insert 100 different quotes and books written on what it means to be a team and that will just scratch the surface of how important that is in marriage.)

2. Try really hard not to “parent” your spouse (even if they want you to)

All of us come into marriage with deficits. Things we suck at, things we never learned, broken and hurting places that we use childish coping mechanisms to cover. But treating your spouse like a child will not strengthen your marriage (or help them as an individual.) Straight forward and loving conversations, championing them and supporting their growth, professional counseling; these things will go so much further than the condescending, nagging or co-dependent things we might want to do or say.

3. Stop trying to prove that your way of relaxing is superior to theirs

Early on I realized that I am a “do-er” and my husband is a “be-er” when it comes to down time. I spent a good while being convinced that I was somehow more productive, less lazy and generally superior to him when it came to “resting.” Over these 10 years we have rubbed off on each other and are both more balanced as a result. But it required me to stop trying to make him just like me. People are different (light bulb) and need different things to rejuvenate. There are plenty of instances when bad or unhealthy behaviors need addressing, but more often we just need to focus on embracing who our spouse is and let them be themselves.

4. Celebrate milestones

Life flies by and if we don’t plan special experiences and mark milestones along our way, we will miss out. Both Brian and I wanted a glamorous, relaxing and romantic trip for our 10th anniversary but with no extra money and a nursing baby, this just isn’t the year. Instead, we drove our little family up to the place we got married to share with them and be reminded ourselves of the sheer gravity of that day. As another wedding was about to be underway, we snuck up under that pomegranate tree and spoke again the vows that we live by. For better and worse, richer and poorer- those words carry even more weight these days. Our 7-year-old videotaped and took pictures, I hadn’t showered and was wearing an old maternity shirt, we left our sleeping baby in her stroller on a path below, delivery trucks drove by…glamorous maybe not, but life-giving and powerful for sure.img_2448

5. Take vacations

Even if you are on a tight budget. Even if your kids are small and it takes more days to get ready/ recover than the whole vacation itself. Even if getting out of town feels like it takes an act of God. Go. We all need a change of scenery, a different pace and concentrated time together. The shared adventure will draw you together and help build your history. If you don’t value get-aways now, check back with me after you’ve taken one and I’ll bet you’ve changed your mind.

6. Commit to reconciliation

If you have an argument, get your feelings hurt or feel misunderstood- DON’T PRETEND IT WILL GO AWAY. Revisit the interaction and set an expectation in your marriage that those things will not be stuffed under the rug. Take responsibility, apologize, ask for things to be different next time- whatever you need to do. Keep talking until there is understanding and reconciliation for both of you. Again, you are on the same team and no one should be trying to win against the other.

7. Know & love Jesus

The reason we even know love, commitment and sacrifice (and everything else really) is because God did it all first. He IS love, He sacrificed himself to the fullest extent and He will never leave us or forsake us no matter what we do. Being in relationship with Him and relying on the strength, wisdom, self-control, forgiveness and example he provides is exactly what we need in our marriages. And the reported divorce rate among couples that pray together daily is less than 1%. Not kidding.

8. Don’t look to your spouse to make you complete

Marriage can bring about happiness and healing. Marriage can be really fulfilling. But marriage isn’t magic and it is not capable of meeting all of our needs. When we expect our spouse to fill all the void, replace all our friends and make everything right, we are setting everyone up for disappointment. When we recognize that we are lovely because God loves us and that it is Him alone that is capable of making us complete, we can offer our whole selves to our spouse and love deeply.

9. Keep the important things important

Success in marriage is not measured in paid off houses and retirement plans. Good things of course, but rather empty if the marriage relationship isn’t rich. With so many important things to put our efforts toward, it’s easy to lose sight of which matter most. Our culture celebrates and often demands hard work to the detriment of family, child-centeredness to the detriment of marriage and chasing dreams to the detriment of being present. In order to keep marriage central we need to be prepared to fight the current.

10. Invest in your friendship

My dad’s advice on my sister’s wedding day video was to “be best friends and find things you love to do together.” For my parents that included playing tennis, going on trips and working in the yard. Shared activity helps create a closeness that eventually lends itself to confiding in, depending on and trusting each other. And if you play together and enjoy casual time, the deep and serious times feel less draining and more natural. It might be easier to call your sister, your dad or your best buddy to first share your triumphs and heart breaks, but try choosing your spouse first. They are your person. Marriage gives you a built-in confidante and when trust is in place, it can be the best friendship of your life.

I have learned that there is so much more to learn. Marriage proves to be stunningly beautiful, excruciatingly difficult and surprisingly powerful. Here’s to the next 10 years!

 

Baby Spica Cast Adventures {part four}

Poppy is 6 months old now and we have officially been living with a spica cast for 12 weeks. She gets her final cast off in just 2 weeks. I can hardly believe it. I can’t wait to snuggle her little body, give her a bath, take her for a swim, not stress about the weather, let her play in the sand…and the list goes on. She will have to wear a brace for some months afterward, but that’s a walk in the park compared to what we have been doing.

I got sad the other day thinking about how she is already 6 months old. Her “firsts” feel like “lasts” to me, knowing that my baby making years are over. And although I have held her obsessively and played with her constantly, I still feel as if the whole thing is flying by. The saying, “the days are long but the years are short” is really resonating with me lately.

Rather than just enjoy every moment, I (like all the rest of you) have to do life too. I have to feed people and clean stuff, answer hundreds of questions and break up hourly fights. I have to work on 50 million things and in the midst of it all, there’s this hip dysplasia junk. Some days I feel like it has slowed me down in a good way. It causes me to look into Poppy’s eyes and sing her songs longer than I might have if nothing was “wrong.” And other days it feels like it’s eating up my precious time. Worrying about it, driving to children’s hospital, replacing the moleskin on the cast edges.

I have been feeling nudged these past couple of weeks to stop waiting for this to be over before______ (fill in the blank.) Before we go to the beach, before we do fun things as a family, before we settle into a good routine, before I take a deep breath, etc. With so many things in life, it’s really tempting to wait until.

I hear it all the time. “I will travel after I get married.” “We will start a budget when our life calms down.”  “I will have that hard conversation after that event.” “We will buckle down with our discipline really soon.” “We will go to counseling when I’m ready.” “I will start taking care of myself eventually.”

The practical work of setting priorities, managing time and pacing ourselves can be overwhelming, especially with loud children and so much mail. But somehow it’s already 2016, I am 42 years old and my 10th wedding anniversary is in a couple months. My kids legs look so long and 2/3 of them are babies no more. Believe Steve Miller when he says, “Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future.”

So my word for the day is deliberate. Life done consciously and intentionally. Plenty of us side on the extremes- either hyper controlling our calendars and our every move OR living so reactionary that nothing we hope to do ever gets started. I think in both extremes, we look back and wish we had cultivated more special moments.

What are you waiting until?

Invited In

Our little Poppy gets a lot of attention these days. We get plenty of stares and strangers asking questions- because it’s not often you see a baby in a cast. People are curious (and mostly kind) and I’ve found that if I engage them, they do their best to encourage. And sometimes they say dumb things. But most people just end up ooo-ing and ahh-ing over Poppy’s sweet round face, her clear blue eyes and her smile that just won’t quit.

And I’m glad to engage. I am generally at ease with others and I don’t have deep wounds of betrayal, so letting people in comes pretty naturally to me. I have obviously welcomed people in by sharing and blogging so it’s my own fault that it takes a half hour to walk across the courtyard at church lately. It’s like having a new puppy.

I recognize that it is not always a simple choice to open up. It isn’t always safe. It isn’t always productive. It can come with unsolicited opinions, input and even criticism. And once someone has been brought into your stuff, they feel invested and want to have a say in what happens next. It can be complicated to invite others in, but it is often better than choosing not to.

You know the friend you have that never tells you what is hard until it’s already solved? “That WAS a rough time, but now I’m better.” They might think it makes them appear strong, but mostly it just exposes their fear. Like my roommate who wouldn’t tell me before she was interviewing for a job or going on a first date. She didn’t realize at first why she was hiding things (or even THAT she was hiding things) but after talking through it she admitted she was protecting herself. If she didn’t get chosen, then people wouldn’t even have to know she tried. Or if she told us after the fact, she could play like she didn’t really want it anyway. It killed her to put herself out there because it felt vulnerable.

True vulnerability is exposing my current self. Sharing my unsure, speaking what I think and feel now, showing my ugly and being in the midst of the thing and inviting someone in. The “I have already conquered this” stance creates a wall of protection and keeps others from really meeting me in the depths.

Stories of my past can help others understand me and give context, but they are no substitute for vulnerability. The practice of sharing before I feel good about it, before I’ve overcome it and before it’s solved is crucial.

But then who? Who do I choose to hold my things carefully? I don’t want them dropped and I don’t want them used against me later. I don’t want to feel ashamed or to appear silly and weak. Of course these are the very reasons we use to talk ourselves out of being vulnerable. And all those things could happen- this is risky business. Your people aren’t always going to do all the things you need. I have failed people who have shared deeply with me, I know I have. But the more chances I get to be that sort of friend, the better I get.

So if you don’t like where I am going with this and your “run for the hills” response is welling up, here are 3 good, golden, bright, WORTH IT reasons to invite others in (and a kick in the pants from Brené.)

It’s brave. Bravery opens up chances that guarded people don’t get. Like Bear Grylls, unprotected and open to experience whatever comes. Brave people experience thrill and rawness and all the feels.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

It connects us. Receiving acceptance from someone that knows the real you is powerful. The sort of connection that is rooted in intimacy can bring joy, healing and can create pathways for other kinds of depth.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

It allows support. The reason that I blog is because I am convinced that there are golden threads woven into all of our experiences. Good, valuable and meaningful things that need to be drawn to the surface. For me and for you. But the unexpected benefit of sharing this way has been the personal support and encouragement I have received (and have been able to give.) When we are deeply connected as people, support overflows.

When Poppy first started using the pavlik harness, we learned that all she could wear were onesies and baby leg warmers. After my first post about the hip dysplasia and the crazy harness, leg warmers came out the woodwork. Every pair were given to us. This might seem small, but it is tangible and represents the thoughtful ways others contribute to lightening my load.FullSizeRender (2)

It is fair to say that if you are dealing with deep wounds of betrayal or if shame has a hold on you, all of this sounds flowery and unrealistic. Even just plain not worth it. You’re saying to yourself, “I can buy my own dumb leg warmers if I need them.”

But living fearfully, disconnected and alone is not really life at all. Give yourself time, but not too long. Eventually you must pursue healing and take steps toward healthy people. “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ― Brené Brown

God created us to live abundantly, to be deeply known and to hold each other’s hands while we do it. And His ways always win out in the end.

 

 

The One Thing Every Good Dad Needs

I grew up with a dedicated father and I know what a gift that is. He miraculously figured out how to “dad” well, even though he only met his own father once and had no example to follow. And of course he isn’t a perfect father (as no man is) but he is a great one.Steph6

I know how he coached almost every team I played on and how he was present at each important event in my life. I know he thinks I’m smart and that I should probably run the country (or at least whatever place I work at) and how he thinks I never hustled enough on the field. I know he protected me, made sure I wasn’t lazy and made me laugh with dumb songs he made up. And I know that he taught me what he knew about God and how to live life well.

I don’t know about all the things he sacrificed, all the ways he hurt or how many hard decisions he made. I don’t know every challenge he had to overcome or each dream he set aside for us. As kids looking up to our dad, we don’t see all the pieces to the puzzle.

It’s a different experience to watch fatherhood from the seat of motherhood. My husband and I are working out our parenthood side by side and so I get a front row seat. I get to share in his thoughts and fears, defeats and delights and I see what goes into each day of being a dad.

brian&kids

photo by the fabulous Paloma at http://www.palomalisaphotography.com

Watching Brian work through the stunningly big job of being a dad has taught me more about fatherhood than I’ve ever known. As we talk through the struggles, I have discovered that the single biggest challenge of fatherhood is to find balance.

How much does he work to provide well and contribute to the world with his career, yet be home to support and enjoy me and our kids? How can he have high expectations but also make home a safe place to fail? How much time is okay to take away from us to nurture his own health and hobbies? How much does he teach vs. how much should they discover? How does he give our kids both firm discipline and tender understanding? How much protection? How much freedom? How does he give them both roots and wings?

Balance means to “keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall” or to “offset the value of one thing with another.” There are plenty of dads out there that just can’t figure out how to do that in life and the effects on kids can be rough. Finding balance everyday as a dad is a huge challenge. For every thing/person that gets his attention, another one is not. And dad’s attention is a very valuable commodity.

But for every dad that is showing up, being teachable, expressing love, establishing priorities, trying again when he fails, asking God for wisdom and finding ways to achieve some balance- I salute you.

As you honor the fathers in your life today, tell them that you see it. That you recognize there are 30 million things a great father should do- and that how they manage to figure out how much of this and how much of that is a beautiful thing.