The hardest part about growing up is figuring out where you belong. That really isn’t a question that ever crosses one’s mind as a baby, toddler, or even an elementary student. You live with your parents. Done. Not much else to figure out. But by the time you’re in middle and high school, those gnawing questions continue to get louder. Who do you hang out with? To what group do you belong? For me, moving in the middle of my Sophomore year of high school, chorus was my saving grace. I was an Alto. Although I was painfully insecure, I knew I belonged in that room full of people who loved singing as much as me. Each successive move, new job, and life event is like a rolling wave that forces me to find my feet, put down roots, and reclaim a new sense of belonging.
While I’m still doing the 31 day challenge of writing for five minutes each day on a given prompt, today’s prompt is from the weekly Five Minute Friday. FMF is exactly what it sounds like – set a timer and write for five minutes on the given prompt.
It’s so much easier to share that I was struggling with something in the past, than to divulge that I’m struggling in the moment. While I was in probably the second worst emotional funk of my life after my second baby was born, I felt like I couldn’t share it with my family. They’re so accustomed to seeing me happy and laughing, and the way I felt inside was the negative image of that persona. I had spoken to a family member a few months prior to my baby being born, and she had read a few of my posts online that were pretty heavy and dark, even for me. But they were honest about how I’d felt during the other rough period in my life, about fifteen years ago. “Be thankful for what you have. Don’t dwell on the past,” she told me. It made her sad to know how lonely, broke, and hopeless I once was. I’d always talked up the concerts and baseball games I was going to, and what I was doing at my job. I never shared with anyone how my life really was at that point. And then I felt shamed for sharing it in writing, even though it was retrospective. But guess what? Life is messy. Life is not always fireflies and s’mores and laughter. I’ve learned that when I share how life is in the present, I’m able to help others through the same trials, and also be encouraged by those who have been through it and came out on the other side.
As a mother of a six-month-old and a two-year-old, I find myself asking “Why” a lot more than before I had kids. Or maybe my questions to my two-year-old just sound so ridiculous, I feel like I’m asking “why” more often.
Why are you licking the windows?
Why are you playing with your poop?
Why are you throwing your food?
Why are you spitting onto the floor?
Why did you poke your sister’s eyes?
Why did you take your diaper off?
Then the questions I ask myself are as follows:
Why is she up already? It’s only been a half hour since I laid her down!
Why are they snotty again? They were just sick last week!
Why does my head hurt?
As a mother of two babies, I can scratch the surface of understanding how God feels about me. When I look at my precious girls, I look at their big blue eyes, long eyelashes, ginger curls, dimpled fingers, chubby thighs, knee rolls, doughy bellies, tiny toes, and not quite pinned back ears with adoration. Each part of them is something unique to them, yet still part of me. Everything about them is perfect, intentionally created. Nothing about them physically would I change. How much more love and grace does our Creator have for us, when I can’t fathom the depth of love and grace I have for my own children? I believe God has created each of us exactly how we are supposed to be, despite how we feel about ourselves. Feelings are fleeting, but I know we are each created for a purpose.
This song from Lauren Daigle is so beautiful, and the lyrics hit to the core:
Afraid to speak the words I know to be true
afraid to speak truth
for fear of the repercussions of confrontation.
will the truth be accepted?
0r will the truth be despised?
my stomach is sick, churning like the ocean waves of a storm.
my hands are shaking
my ears are hot
knowing the words I say need to be said
but the fear of your response
gives me pause.
until I realize that the truth will not be spoken to you if I stay silent.
I always have thought that God has a sense of humor, and that He allows funny things to happen to people who can tell great stories. When I meet people I want to know their story. I want to know where they’re from, what their family is like, what their interests are. As a mom, I am interested in knowing what other moms were like before they had kids. Becoming a mother is not a dream killer, we just use our energy in encouraging and fostering our kids’ dreams over our own. There is a story behind the eyes and face of every person, it just takes some intentional digging.
Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is CROWD. If you’d like to join in (or just to read other great bloggers’ work), the linkup is here.
Last week, the meteorologists predicted a beast of a hurricane to blast the coast of North and South Carolina. Initially, it was charging the coast as a Category 4 like a Jurassic-sized tortoise, at under ten miles per hour. My sister called me, just after my husband and I decided to open our home to any willing refugee family members living in Wilmington. She asked if she could drive her two girls to our house, ages ten and eleven, before she was placed on lockdown at the main hospital there. It’s been nearly a week, and blessedly, we have not seen nor felt nearly the ravages that most people who stayed in Wilmington have. Thankfully, my parents, brother, and grandparents are safe despite staying. Their homes neither flooded nor had trees crash on them, but they’re stuck in Wilmington. All roads in and out are blocked by walls of water. Wilmington has become an island. A crowded one. Our house has a few more girls than usual, but I’m thankful they’re here and not adding to the crowd there.
Today, I’m writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group, and this week’s word is RAIN. If you’d like to join in (or just to read other great bloggers’ work), the linkup is here.
When I was a kid growing up in the sticks of Virginia, my mom would excitedly let my brother, sister, and I hang out on our front porch so we could watch as dark storm clouds rolled in. Since our porch was covered, we felt perfectly safe under the roof even as hail balls the size of quarters pelted our front lawn. Because of my mom being so excited for the storms, I never had a fear of those cracks of lightning or window-rattling booms of thunder. I can’t however, say the same, for our dog Shep. He was grateful we all piled onto the porch so he could weave around our laps for reassuring pets on the head and ear scratches. Yesterday, a storm cloud was right over our house, yet the sun was bright in the sky just behind us. I excitedly ran into my 2-year-old’s room and lifted up the shades so we both could see the sun glistening through the fat raindrops. We then ran outside into the downpour so we could look for a rainbow. We came back inside soaked and happy, despite not finding a rainbow.
Today, I’m back writing with the Five Minute Friday community writing group after a several month hiatus, and this week’s word is RUSH. If you’d like to join in, the linkup is here.
I can remember my mom half-joking with me growing up that she had “people to see and things to do.” She no doubt said that to me because I was notoriously slow in getting ready. Everyone in my family knows it, and now my dear patient husband knows to give me at least a half hour buffer so I’ll show up on time. While I am totally aware of the fact that I dawdle and lose track of time, I am not patient at all when it comes to other people making me late. I have zero grace for that, as hypocritical as it may be. And yet, I have a nearly six month old and a two-year-old girl. I have a feeling God is trying to teach me something. If I have a plan in my mind to go grocery shopping or to get to the YMCA or some other place, inevitably, my two year old will take her sweet time eating her Cheerios one. at. a. time. If I’m already running late to get somewhere, of course, my baby will have a huge blow-out diaper I have to change. When I really think about it, my childhood memories are so sweet. The long days of summer seemed to last forever. Birthdays and Christmas and Thanksgiving took a lifetime to arrive. I don’t want to rush my babies through each day. I want to breathe them in. Savor the bubbles of their precious, fragile, and fleeting childhood.
It was my second time back to my twice-a-month moms group after giving birth to my second baby girl. Several moms there asked me how I was doing. At that time, my baby girl was six weeks old. I was able to tell them all, without the tiniest inkling of feeling like I’d cry, how things were a million times better than they were even two weeks prior. “You were having a hard time two weeks ago?” I was asked with shocked expressions. I must have been putting up quite a brave front. Maybe I was wearing makeup? I had been on the verge of tears for four weeks straight two weeks before. I’d felt like I had pulled an all-nighter since my baby had been born. My 2-year-old would question me in my apparently surprising bursts of laughter, “Mommy crying?” because for most of the day, I had been streaming tears. While seeming to be perceptive on one hand, she would also lunge for her baby sister’s head with her fingernails at every opportunity. She would angrily bark, “No!” every time her baby sister cried, which ripped my heart out. As I drove home from that moms meeting, I was heavy-hearted. Had I not shared the truth about how I felt because I didn’t feel like the opportunity was there? How many people do we encounter that are struggling but we never ask, because they seem to have it all together? Or worse, maybe we don’t ask because we don’t want to go that deep with people.
Motherhood is incredibly isolating and lonely, particularly as a mother of babies. Prior to moving to Charlotte last July, we lived in Connecticut and I had just two close mom friends. It wasn’t a lot, but those two moms were exactly what God knew I needed to get through the first year of my first-born daughter’s life. Those women were my lifelines. I met my first friend while working at Yale New Haven Hospital. She was a PA and I was a research coordinator. She had three boys ages 1, 3, and 6, and invited me over at least once a week. I was terrified to drive anywhere with my tiny new baby in that huge car seat, but I drove to her house every time, which made me braver at each visit. Initially, we would just have coffee in the morning, but then our visits turned into all day events. We’d have coffee, lay our babies down for naps, we’d do an exercise video, and then sit on the couch or work in her garden and talk about life. I met my second mom friend in our church’s community group. She had her baby boy a few months after I had my daughter, and it was such a sweet time of life for us to figure out together breastfeeding, sleep schedules, introducing first foods, and how to maintain a relationship with God and with our husbands when our babies were getting the first and best of us.
Sharing life and being completely transparent with those two women did not happen overnight. It was a little awkward at first, but as we continued to see each other each week, we felt more comfortable and could share more intimately. Along with prayer, they truly brought me through the first year of motherhood. I don’t think I would have held on to my sanity or my joy without them. Intentionality is the key to any relationship that is worth maintaining. We must be intentional about getting together and/or having conversations, and we have to be brave and be willing to be real. Facebook posts and texting just doesn’t cut it. We were created for community. Especially as moms, we need each other. It seems the harder life is with small children, the harder it is to get out and be social. I find myself not leaving my house for millions of reasons, like my baby is fussy, or because my two-year-old has a runny nose, or it’s a hundred degrees outside, or because I’m exhausted. But I can feel the lack of kindred adult interaction drain me. When life is hardest and least convenient, that’s when we need encouragement and community the most. Motherhood, and life in general, is messy, frustrating, gut-wrenching, emotionally and physically exhausting, but it is also beautiful, rewarding, and challenges us to become better.
We can only realize the full beauty and joy of raising children when we ourselves are filled. We cannot expect our children to fulfill our souls’ need for friendship and community. Firstly, God alone fills that hole. He is our creator and only when we have a relationship with him is our identity found. Secondly, we need other moms around us. And not just any mom will do. We need moms who are real, not afraid to bare their tears or scars through smiles and laughter. We need moms who will not flinch when the truth is ugly. We need moms who love their children for the God-given gifts they are, and who want to raise (or have raised) their kids to be bright lights and world-changers. We need moms whose lives are also messy and inconvenient, but still choose to make the time to go deep. This year, I’m jumping in. I will be the first to be that mom.