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Thursday, August 18, 2016

As it is

I feel overwhelmingly blessed tonight.  I’m sweeping the floor that is covered in the remnants of dinner.  I step on yet another cheerio and sigh.  But today I also smile.  I smile thinking of Allison throwing her food deliberately off her tray.  I smile because I am so overcome by her captivating smile, her passionate personality, and her adorable pigtails.  I smile at the sweet embrace I lingered in with Garrett before I lay him down to sleep.  I smile because that boy takes any excuse to laugh and his laughs are heart-warming.  I smile that tonight I just wanted to stay forever with Rayna at bedtime and catch the invisible kisses she kept blowing at me.  I smile because already at 4 years old she is becoming an absolutely beautiful young woman.  These blessings that I bask in renew my soul that has been taken to some very low points lately.

I struggle with anxiety.  At most moments I cannot relax enough to just breathe.  My breath feels heavy in my throat.  Sometimes it’s a lump that parallels my mental anxiousness which is consuming, mostly my breath just feels thick because I have learned to live uptight.  I try to tell myself why I should be able to breathe calmly and I feel in my head that I should be able to and yet my body disagrees.

Its been a very difficult last four or so months.  Trapped by my responsibilities that never, ever, stop.  Exhausted by the demands of mothering.  Isolated because I was not doing well emotionally and it is in those moments that I am too drained to initiate the social activity and request the supports which would help me cope and thrive.  I was laden in the guilt.  The guilt of no productivity.  The guilt of not doing the social things I knew people were waiting for me to initiate.  The heavy, heavy, unshakable guilt of feeling like a bad mom and bad wife. I tried to lean into all the promises that I truly believe in as promised by my Saviour; but it didn’t make it any better.   

I’ve been wanting to write, however the void inside has only left me more depressed.  But.  Oh the lovely “but” I’ve been awaiting.  But, I am starting to get space.  I played soccer yesterday evening and it was what I needed.  I was “me” doing something social, physically active that I enjoy.  My mother in law has started taking the twins for part of the afternoon once a week. I can relax, I can actually accomplish things.  It is brief, but sometimes even those regular, predictable brief escapes are enough.  And so tonight as I was sweeping and listening to “made new” by Lincoln Brewster I feel whole.  My breath is still thick, even as I write this piece and feel spiritually alive; but I can trust that indeed this love and freedom beginning to brew in my soul will take root and produce fruit.  I trust in the teaching I’ve received lately.

When Ryan really wanted to go to Camp Oshkidee* this summer, I at first thought he was crazy, then warmed to the idea and felt the Holy Spirit say, “it will be good for your soul.”  It was good in an utterly exhausting, frustrating, nerve-rattling way.  But it was at camp oshkidee this summer that I was forcefully put in God’s presence (which was what I needed) and was able to hear 2 important messages. 
First message: “Open yourself up to me, I will pour my love deep within you, so that it can flow through every artery, vein, capillary.  Love covers.  Open yourself to the gift of love.” Love your loving Heavenly Father to my precious daughter.

This message echoed what was so richly meaningful to me in a church service I attended when my mom was acutely ill with cancer. The pastor asked us to stand and cup open our hands in front of us while he prayed a beautiful prayer asking God to fill us with His love. Reminder: life is life.  There’s lots of junk.  I will do well to always remember that God has an abundant supply of love that he’s waiting every moment to pour into my life.

Second message, a continuation of the first: Ephesians 3:14-20, NLT (emphasis mine)
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I think my highlights make their point on their own.  However, I was interested when the speaker shared this passage, how verse 19, speaks of the “fullness of life.”  When we found out we were having twins I couldn’t help but think of John 10:10, MSG :[Jesus says,] “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  I never dreamed of having 3 children, the youngest as a set of twins.  It has been very “trying” for both Ryan and I and yet I am compelled to believe it is part of the more and better life than I would have ever imagined for myself. 
My 3 small children sleep peacefully in their beds and I cherish them.  And it feels so good to be in a place where I can cherish them with all my being.  Where my heart and my mind both cherish them.  Where to the guts of me I can feel it.  I know how deeply I cherish them because it’s tangible inside me.  It’s thick.  And yes, I have this new anxiety, that is also making my breath thick; but, spring is blossoming.  I’ve made it from the dandelion field to the lake’s shore and have begun to dip my toes in the refreshing water.  And so even though I can’t breathe well quite yet, I know it is coming and I can capture a vision of years to come when life will be abundant in our family as we splash and dance and play and do beloved sports in that lake water.  Oh the beauty of it.  Oh the beauty of my family.  And so as I sit beside a neatly swept, but not yet trashed, pile of spat out carrots and stepped on cheerios I pause for a full moment, to enjoy this moment for what it is and for what it is building for the future.
My children, it is my prayer that God will give me love so compassionate for you that it will burst forth into your 3 little lives.  And I pray desperately (for on our own we cannot do it) that with this love your father and I would be granted wisdom and be resourced without parallel to raise you well to love God, love your family, and love life itself with all the people it draws you to encounter.  You are beautiful children Rayna, Garrett and Allison and I love you.

   *Camp Oshkidee is in Meadow Lake provincial park in Saskatchewan and is where Ryan and I were married.  Ryan grew up attending these week long family camps and I began to join him as soon as we were dating. I instantly fell in love with the place.  It is a Christian camp right on the water.  Accommodations best suited to us are a cedar lodge that has walls which essentially function as visual barriers (think – stress that your baby’s going to wake the neighbors), dining facilities in a different building with sandy terrain inbetween. Etc. etc. Essentially logistically tricky for our family.

The Horrible

(Written July 2, 2016.  Not brave enough to post until now)

I’ve been hanging out in “the horrible” lately.  I blogged when I was pregnant about a twin mom commenting on how the early days were horrible and how I was certain my own days of horrible would come.  They did.  And yet they have surprised me.  Perhaps, its because they did not appear when I expected them.  I amaze myself how I got through those wakeful nights and first months of such great demands on me that I had no personal time, unless you count showering and eating which were a struggle to squeeze in.  I look back and don’t know exactly how we got through the crazy crying, Ryan’s struggles in the beginning, and the incredible demands.  But I was desperately needed then and I was able to step up and keep stepping up again and again and again.  It was not in the first 5 months that “horrible” happened.  Sure, I had bad days and challenging weeks.  But, in some form I had resolve.  And then my resolution began slowly dissolving.  Perhaps, it was hitting the coveted full nights sleep and realizing that life was still so very demanding.  Perhaps, it was realizing that this is gonna be real hard for a long time yet.  Perhaps it was my social supports become less tangible as family and friends started coming much less frequently.  Perhaps, it was an accumulation of all that had been demanded of me.  Whatever it was that brought on the “horrible,” months 6, 7 and 8 were gradually darkening shades of gray.

I have wanted to write this blog for weeks.  I have had this desire to be able to be real in the junk of life.  I felt awful inside and I am certain other mom’s live here too: feeling unappreciated, feeling unaccomplished, feeling unable to make goals because theres no time or energy to achieve them, feeling stuck, feeling like no one really gets it.  And this is where I wanted to shout, “women, mothers there must be some of you who really get it, where are you????” and “Not every mom feels like those on Facebook who post of these days with little babies being absolutely beautiful and they wouldn’t trade them for anything, do they??!!” and (privately) “I definitely am NOT a baby person!!!”  I have wanted to blog these feelings, these struggles, to acknowledge, to voice, to proclaim, to document these crazy hardships that have me thinking of Eve’s curse of motherhood.  I did not want to wait until the “horrible” passed to be able to share it.  And yet, I found that in the deepest of the horrible, simply making it through the day was all I could muster.  In fact, I probably could have greatly benefited from help, help which I relatively easily could have found; yet, I did not even know where to start to ask for help.  And so following the climax of a week of pure awful of sick babes, and 2 nights of going to bed right after the kids, I finally find myself in a place to write.  To share, to document.  It is okay that motherhood holds the horrible.  Indeed I will make it through (there were days on end when I was not so certain).  Today I feel blessed. Today I kissed my kids heads and told them I love them, and I wanted to stay in those moments.  Today I did not feel like the crazy was pushing me deep into insanity.

BUT, I have come to realize (through discussions with my sister who has 5 kids), that motherhood with any element of crazy, be it twins, closely aged babies, 4 or more kids, special needs etc.  In these situations everything must align perfectly (and health must prevail, which doesn’t happen much with multiple young children) for the crazy to feel fun, enjoyable, life-filled.  So, I guarantee that horrible will return. Hopefully, now that I have learned something about horrible I will be better versed to weather it.  Though, I am certain that horrible and graceful do NOT go together.  However, I am also certain that it is okay that they do not.  And I am certain that I will make it through the horrible.  And I am hopeful that by speaking out more mothers will share their own stories of horrible, so that when we are living in the horrible we are able to readily realize that this does not make us horrible.  And as I look at the verse I have posted beside my bed “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  I have decided that choosing to get out of my bed and face the day may be the extent of joy and gladness I can produce.  And this is okay.  Keeping my children alive and well so that I can cherish better days ahead is important too, isn’t it?  I’m rambling, but please allow me one more “and”.  And, it is okay that I have so much to be grateful for, and I know so deeply that I do, and I still struggle in the horrible.

The horrible: when we really start living, life is full of it isn’t it?  However, this I’ve been thankful for:  that I have a partner, who so truly feels like a partner as he is the one person who really understands what life is like for me these days.  And this past week as I spoke to my mom one evening, I got off the phone and felt so very thankful that my mother is still alive for me to talk to.  There are few people in life whom one can talk to unguarded and I so appreciate being able to do so with my mom.  And isn’t it fitting to be thankful for my mom in days when the struggles of being a mom are getting to me.  Here is where one of those jumbo smiley face emoticons belongs.  And here is where I need to say to every mother starting with my own, “You are doing a great job!”  We don’t say it enough, but women, mothers, mother-figures you are doing a great job and we need to say so more than just one day of the year.  When all else feels like its crumbling remember that indeed you are doing a great job!