Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hunker Down

I'm struggling with how to begin this post. So many things are shifting in my heart this morning, and I'm honestly not positive how much I want to make public.

I guess I'll start by saying this: This holiday season has been a struggle for my little family. We love each other, and we love the Lord, and we are so blessed in so many ways - a house, a car that works (something I don't think I'll ever take for granted after two years of driving a car with transmission issues), friends who are more like family, our health, each other.

But there is a breakthrough we have been waiting on. Expecting. Hoping for. And depending on.

This breakthrough gets delayed. Over and over again. We are promised a date. And we see that date come and go. And so we wait.

And through most of this season, I have heard one phrase in my spirit over and over again: "Hunker Down." 

I didn't realize how rarely this term is used outside of the state of Georgia. For those who aren't familiar with it, we basically use it in two situations:

One, in the midst of a bad storm or tornado. The weather man will often say, "Hunker down, this system is fast moving." In this case, he basically means, "Stay where you are, protect your head, and wait it out." There's nothing that can be done except to wait and survive.

The second use of this phrase is in a football game. (All ye fanatics can correct me if I'm wrong on this next part.) My understanding is that this phrase is used at the end of the game. The Dawgs are exhausted after playing their guts out for four quarters, we're in the lead and on defense. In this case, all we have to do is prevent the other team from scoring. It literally means, "Put your head down, grit your teeth, push back with all the might you have left, and don't give up an inch of ground."

Through this season, as the Lord speaks to my soul, "Hunker down." I have been picturing the former use of the phrase. It's a storm. There's nothing I can do. No lesson to be learned. No action to be taken. Just put my head down and make it through. A storm can't be stopped, but doesn't last forever. Just survive.

But today, as I spend time in His presence, my focus has shifted to the second use of the phrase, and a reminder that we have an Enemy.

I forget about him sometimes. I forget that our battle isn't against flesh and blood.

I am reminded of the story in Daniel 10, where God's response was delayed for three whole weeks by an attack of the Enemy.

And in the midst of it all, I see a humorous, yet sobering picture. What if, on a Saturday morning in Athens, with minutes left on the clock, when our team is ahead, we start yelling "Hunker Down Dawgs!" And when we do, the players follow through with the former meaning of the phrase - they hunch down, put a pillow over their heads, and wait for the offensive line to move past.

It just wouldn't work. It would look hilarious and infuriating at the same time. The opposing team would breeze past them and score, ending the game with a loss!!!

And I realize this has been our life for the past few months. The Lord is telling me to "Hunker Down," and I have just been covering my head and waiting. When the reality is that there is an opponent, an Enemy, doing everything he can to steal my victory.

It makes me angry. Like, boiling mad.

I don't know how or when this barrage will end, but I do know this. It's the end of the fourth quarter, and my "hunker down" is going to start looking a lot different.

Bring it on, Devil. You have no idea.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A day in the life...

There are days in the life of a mom when everything feels like too much.

There are days when there is not enough milk in the fridge, money in the account, or coffee in the world.

There are days when kids are sick, and it's rainy and cold, and nobody likes what's for dinner, and everyone cries at one point or another.

There are days when school work is too hard, and the laundry is too far gone, and one kid is too loud, and another kid is too sensitive, and I am too tired to think about any of it.

There are those days.

But then sometimes, out of the clear blue, for no apparent reason, there are days like today. Days when breakfast is good and filling, and the kids eat it all. Days when somehow, by some miracle, I am able to carve out 45 minutes all to myself, in a hot bath, with a good book. Days when it's easy to ditch the "classroom" and head to the zoo.

Days with cool breezes and colorful leaves and bouncing pigtails and peanut butter smiles.

Days when the zookeepers light up at the sight of three little brown-eyed girls and take the time to tell us about their own little brown-eyed bears.

Days that include skipping, and strolling, and singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs because no one is around except the flamingos.

Days full of exploring new places and taking our time and choosing - just for a moment - not to hurry to the next thing.

Days when we are sure we saw the real Santa and Mrs. Claus delivering a couple reindeer who are on loan from the North Pole.

Days when miracles happen, even if they are fleeting.

Days when the empty milk jug and the empty bank account and the empty coffee pot don't matter.

These days. They remind me why I'm doing this insanely hard parenting thing.

These days give me hope for tomorrow.

And I am grateful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Do the Opposite

It's 8:42 this Sunday morning, and I'm at home with a sick baby. Low-grade fever, cough, runny nose... you know the bit.

Our church's live service doesn't start until 10am, and I am determined not to do housework since today is my Sabbath.

So I guess what's left is this. Blogging.

Can I just confess something? Writing about depression is HARD.  It's raw and vulnerable and putting-yourself-out-there-without-a-safety-net HARD.

I write. And I erase. And I write again. And then it sits in my "saved" file for a week while I try to decide if I'm going to hit "Publish." Then when I do finally hit it, I hover over the Stats page while I simultaneously Facebook my close friends with statements like, "Have I lost my mind?" or "Should I take it down?"

I have amazing friends who encourage me to write write write. Still... it's HARD.

So you'll forgive me if I take a few days (weeks, months, whatever) in between the posts?

Having said that... I do have another Tool in my Toolbox that I would like to share. This one isn't flashy or high-tech. It isn't fun, and it isn't magic. It's simple. And it's HARD.

But we can do hard things, you and I.


I walked into my first counseling appointment that fateful Wednesday afternoon at 4pm. And I talked and cried and poured out all the tears and emotions that I had bottled up over the previous weeks. 

I told him how I felt worthless. Life felt too hard. I told him how just getting off the couch hurt my whole body. I sobbed my way through explaining how taking a shower wore me out, and my arms felt like a million pounds as I tried to lift them to wash my hair. I felt like a horrible wife. I felt incapable of making decisions. I felt my life would be better spent on the couch than trying and failing over and over again. I felt like my children would be better off without me...

For fifty five minutes, I hemorrhaged feelings and tears and pain and exhaustion and all of the gross icky black that I had never allowed anyone else to see.  And when I was completely empty and breathless, my counselor spent the last five minutes of our session speaking a few words that I hung onto for life.

He told me I was not beyond hope, and that - despite my being convinced of it - I should not be committed. He recommended a book, which I will now recommend to you:

Feeling Good, by David D. Burns, M.D.

Then he told me something that has become my mantra when the depression demons sneak back around. He said: The thing about depression is that you can't trust your feelings. Your feelings are broken. Your feelings aren't proportionate to what's really happening. Your feelings lie. 

And if your feelings lie, then you have to do the opposite of what you feel.

Do the opposite.

It was simple. It was hard. But it was a lifeline.

For the following week, I felt like getting out of bed would kill me. But I got out of bed anyway. Putting on real clothes felt like picking up 100lb weights. But I got dressed anyway. Every muscle in my body ached for the couch, and I felt like staying upright would cause me to melt into the floor. But I sat up anyway.

It. Was. Hard.

It didn't make sense.

Every nerve ending in my body was FEELING and screaming for me to lie down and be still and just. give. up.

But I didn't. And through it all, I heard his voice (and what I now realize was the voice of my Father) saying, "Your feelings lie. Do the opposite."

So here's what I'm saying to you on this rainy Sunday morning. Do the opposite.

You may not be able to stop the fear, the anxiety, the pain, the hopelessness, the darkness, the emptiness.

But you can get up. You can pick up the phone and tell somebody. You can get dressed. You can survive this. You can.

You can do it when it doesn't make sense. You can do it when everything in your body says you can't.

You can do it afraid.

And eventually, over time, your feelings will slowly catch up with your actions. They will.

And even if you can't believe that last line, get up anyway. Because you can.

You can. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I told somebody

This was the first, and perhaps the most important step in my healing process.

During that season, my husband and I were doing an internship at our church. It was an amazing year of leadership development, hard work, and growth.

In the midst of this internship, just as my depression was hitting critical mass, one of our pastors taught a lesson on eating spiritual meat. The idea was that, as seasoned Christians and leaders-in-training, we should not solely rely on the Sunday morning message for our spiritual food. We should learn how to feed ourselves through daily quiet times in the Word and not hold anyone else responsible for our own spiritual growth.

It was good. It was truth. It taught me things that I am still using to this day.

But in my twisted, depression-skewed mind, I heard this: You shouldn't need spiritual help from anybody at any time for any reason. And if you ask for help - especially at the church and especially if you are a leader here - then you are a spiritual baby, and you are disqualified.

That is not what they were teaching. But that is what I heard. And it confirmed in my heart what I already knew - no one can ever know about my depression. Not my family. Not my husband. And especially not my friends at church.

If you skim past everything else I'm writing STOP HERE.  READ THIS. Read it again. Let it sink in.

Depression's greatest weapon - our enemy's greatest weapon - is shame.

Because shame tells us to hide. 

Shame tells us no one can ever know. 

Shame makes us run from relationships, and from God. 

Shame tells us we're all alone.

I was so ashamed. And I couldn't bear the thought of anyone ever knowing about my failures. I was terrified of the judgment, the stigma, the label that would be slapped across my forehead for the rest of my life.

And so I was alone.

For weeks - FOR WEEKS - no one knew. I was spiraling into the pit, and not one person knew.

Finally, on that one morning, when I hit rock bottom, I made the decision to tell three people. Only three people.

I needed someone to take care of my house and family while I took care of me. So I called my mom. Forever my hero, she drove the eight hours of highway between us, then cooked and cleaned and loved on my family and loved on me and basically rescued us.

Next, because my husband would be at work until late that night, I sent him a simple text: I am really depressed. I'm going to counseling as soon as someone will see me. Mom is coming to help.

Finally, I called every counselor in the book.

In the midst of looking for a counselor, I called our church and asked if they recommended anyone. Through a series of my own miscommunications, I filled out the wrong paperwork. I thought I was requesting a private meeting with  a counselor. But I filled out a pastoral request - asking for a pastor to contact me regarding my depression.

When I discovered the mistake, I was mortified. I had missed my internship class for the past two weeks because of my "back pain," and now they would know the real reason why. Would they ask me to "take a break" from the internship? Would they question my spirituality? Clearly, I was lacking faith and a strong Christian walk. And surely, that would disqualify me from any leadership position at the church.

I remember walking through the doors of the church, begging the Lord to spare me a run-in with the pastor who had received my request. But lo, and behold, there he was, walking straight toward me.

I bit my lip in an attempt to hold down the vomit - literally. He walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulders, and said something like, "I got your request, and I want you to know we're here for you." Only it didn't sound like a canned response. It was genuine, and concerned. He went on to say that he had passed my information on to a pastor-friend of mine, and she would be contacting me. I pushed back tears and mumbled something like, "Okay, that's fine. I'm fine. Yep. Fine." And then promptly went to the bathroom and threw up. (It's ugly, but it's real y'all.)

But in that moment, something broke off me. Because there was nothing except love and compassion and concern coming from my pastor. There was no judgment. No lecture. No shame.

No. Shame.

And in that one connection, I gained a little boldness. A little fight. A little courage.

Because that's the thing about shadows and darkness - the only remedy is light.

Over the following weeks, I told a handful of close friends about my struggle, and I was shocked to discover how many of them had their own struggles with depression and PPD.

The enemy would have me believe that I was all alone in my depression, that I was isolated in the darkness.

But the more people I told, the more lights came on, and the more I realized that I was surrounded by "so great a cloud of witnesses." People who had gone before me and battled the depression demons, people who had never faced depression but who would stand in the pit with me and give me a leg-up, people who loved me, who supported me, and who knew - even when I didn't know - that this would not be the way my story ends.

And that was my first step out of  the pit. The moment I realized that I am not alone.

So tell someone today. Tell your best friend. Tell your spouse. Tell a counselor. Turn on the lights. And discover you're not alone. You. Are not alone.


"But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light." - Professor Albus Dumbledore ;)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tools in the Toolbox

At the end of last year, I wrote this post in which I shared with you the beginning of my depression story. In that one moment on that one night, after weeks of fog and confusion and suffocating despair - I had a divine moment of clarity... This is depression.

And I don't use that word "divine" lightly. I mean it. It was Divine intervention that shed a spotlight on the nameless dark that engulfed me. And in that moment, I knew I could no longer fight it on my own.

I told my husband. I told my mom. I called every counselor in the phone book until one said he could fit me in that day.

That began my journey out of the pit.

And it was a journey. A climbing, crawling, clawing journey. There was no Thunder Clap from on high that lifted me out and declared me whole.

There wasn't even a Voice whispering in my ear telling me which step to take.

There was silence. But there was His presence. And as I climbed/crawled/clawed my way out, I leaned on Him. We didn't speak. But He was there.

It was the most intimate of times.

And today, as I battle a new round of depression, He speaks to me and reminds me of those days. The darkest of days, when I clung to Him.

He reminds me of the tools I bought through that season. Tools He taught me how to use so I could pull myself out of the pit and build a sure-footed path.  I grappled and struggled and grasped for those tools. When I finally got them in hand, I hardly had the strength to lift them and fumbled when I tried to use them.

Now pick them up by their worn handles and wield them like a weapon against the PPD that's raging inside.

In the next few posts, I would like to share some of those tools with you. Because maybe you're in the pit today. Or maybe you're sliding down the slippery embankment towards the mire. Or maybe you have been knee-deep in mud and you're climbing/crawling/clawing your way out now.

Or maybe you've been in the pit before. Yesterday. Last year. Or decades ago. If that's you, won't you share too? What tools do you have in your toolbox?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A day with PPD

The thing about a day with PPD is that one can't trust one's feelings.

Because feelings lie.

Feelings are disproportionate to reality.

Feelings aren't real... no matter how real they feel.

In a day with PPD,  feelings don't matter nearly as much as actions.

I may not feel like getting up in the morning, or getting dressed, or getting my kids dressed. I may not feel like doing homeschool or fixing lunch or talking to people... to anyone. I may not feel like cleaning house or answering a crying baby.

But I did get up and get my entire family dressed. And though it didn't look like a "normal" homeschool day, my four year old found something she'd rather cut than paper shapes, and she finally learned how to use scissors. And my second grader pedaled two full rotations on a bike without training wheels. And they both gleaned wisdom as they learned to work out arguments and disputes in a Godly way, with life-giving words.

And they did eat lunch, even if it came from a box.

And I connected with friends via phone calls and scheduled some real-life interaction for the next two days.

And the dishes got washed.

And the laundry is going.

And my baby was comforted and fed and laid down for a nap.

And I put one foot in front of the other, and I deliberately smiled when my kids walked into the room, and I didn't lie down on the couch, and I petted the dog, and I swallowed the lump in my throat over and over again, and I did a million little things that - at one point in my life - I was emotionally unable to do.

And in the midst, my feelings tell my I can't do it. My feelings say it is too much to handle. My feelings are heavy and huge and real.

But, in a day with PPD, feelings lie.

Feelings are disproportionate to reality.

Feelings aren't real... no matter how real they feel.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's Update Time

Ten weeks after my little Penelope June came into the world, and life is just now starting to level out. So as I resume some of the day-to-day stuff of life, I thought I'd pop in to say "hi" and fill y'all in on the goings-ons of the Thixton familia.

1. Penelope is perfect. I mean, really. Bringing a new baby home injects vibrancy into our family like nothing in this world. After the initial shock of sleep-deprived nights and spit-up-covered clothes, there is a warmth and excitement that affects every person in the household. She is a doll. We are all thrilled and in love. Can you blame us?

2. Having said that, post-partum depression hit me like a mother this time around. I felt it creeping around in the corners a few weeks before she was born, and it grew and deepened in the days after her birth. Seven weeks and three days after delivery, I woke up with that familiar sinking in the pit of my stomach and numbing ache in the middle of my chest, and I said, "Nope. We're not going there." Because I've been there. And I'll do whatever it takes to never go there again. A few prayers and pills later, and the world is rosy again. I don't mean to treat this lightly. Because it's not light. The stuff is dark, y'all. But my God is bigger. And I'm learning to accept that sometimes healing doesn't look like a "miracle." Sometimes it looks like wisdom. And compassionate doctors. And good medicine.

3. Homeschool is going swimmingly... now. The first few weeks were touch and go - I ain't gonna lie. But about the time I made the decision to get some help for my depression, Sweet Hubby and I also made the decision to kick our curriculum to the curb. I won't go into all the why's and what-for's in this post, but suffice it to say: it was the best decision we've made this year. Almost instantly, our house was more peaceful and full of life. Now the learning is getting done with no tears. And the church said, Amen.

That's it. Just three little points tonight. I have lots to say. Lots of words stored up from weeks of doing all things other than writing. In time, when there's time, I'll be back with more.

Until then, here are some blogs/articles on depression that I LOVE. Happy reading!

An Open Letter to Women Fighting Postpartum Depression - "And while I still battle depression demons, PPD taught me how to fight. So when they come – and they do – I say, bring it. Let’s party, Depression, because I have been through hell and back, and I know how to roll with you old-school. Okay? Hell hath no fury like a mother who has had PPD."

an open letter (not to Miley Cyrus) - "What I know now is this: It took more faith for me to take the anti-depressant. That is not the way I expected or wanted God to heal me. I did NOT want that to be a part of the equation. But it was."

Depression Part Two - "And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something — it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything."

Monday, August 12, 2013


Three days from today, I will be holding my precious new baby girl in my arms. Three days from now, there will be laughs and coos and phone calls and facebook updates and a little warm body in my arms and tears on my cheek.

And I will look at her and know that there isn't another baby in the world as precious and perfect as she is in that very moment.

And I will thank God for this gift - the gift we have sought for almost three years now.

And I will cherish that moment even more because one year and three days ago, I lost the gift I had sought for almost two years.

For just a few short weeks, I cherished a life in my womb. And I lost that life. And so today, just three days before we meet Penelope face-to-face, I want to take a moment to remember the baby - my baby - whom I will only see face-to-face in Heaven.

An excerpt from my personal diary, written one year ago today:

This journal feels so familiar. Sad. Desperate. Grasping.

I'm not sinking in depression any more, but it is still present. A daily decision to NOT to let it rule that day.

I had a miscarriage. That's the way I'm supposed to say it, right? It's like saying, "I had an ear infection" or "I had tonsillitis." It's medical. Technical. Cold.

The truth is that I lost a child. I lost a future. The moment I saw that little faint blue line, my future changed. I could smell the top of his head and feel his warm breath on my neck. I thought about what a wonderful big sister Maple would be, and I wondered how much Chloe would be able to help. Was she big enough to hold him? Feed him?

She would so love being mommy's helper.

I thought about baby clothes and a painted bedroom. About strollers and coo's and the proud feeling that rises when another woman - at the church, at the store, anywhere - acknowledges what I already know - that he is a precious treasure.

And I alone mourn this loss. To everyone else, it was an illness, something that "happened." To me, it is happening. I am grieving. I have lost. I, alone.

And isn't it strange that in my loneliest moments, God's presence is strongest. He is truly close to the brokenhearted.

And I'm jealous - that He is holding my child, and I am not.

And I'm grateful - that my child exists and lives without knowing the pains of this world.

Mostly I feel silence. No movement in my womb. No sickness in my stomach. No excitement in my chest. None of the signs of new life that were present only a few days ago.

And blood. There's a lot of blood. Days later and there is still blood - a constant reminder of the death of my child. That part doesn't seem fair. In any other death - even a violent one - one only sees blood at the time of death. For me, I see blood everyday, all day. Constantly reminding me that - even in my womb - my child was not protected from the curse of the garden.

And through it all, there is some kind of secret strength that arises inside of me. Below the emotions. Below the silence. Hand-in-hand with the emptiness, there is a stillness. Still waters.

I feel as if I have joined a secret society - one in which women who have lost unborn children walk in a silent acknowledgment of each others' pain. I see women I know who have lost, and I know in my heart - I am one of you. We are the same. We are alone, and in our loneliness, we are the same.

God is close to the brokenhearted. He is close to me. And He is teaching me how precious and fragile life is. And I will learn, and I will cherish the treasures that I have. And I will hold them tightly in my arms and loosely in my heart - because they are not mine. They are the Lord's. And He will do as He sees fit. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Yaweh.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Parent on the iPhone Rant

Okay, dearest readers, I've been holding back on this little rant for a while. This blog post,  entitled "Dear Mom on the iPhone," came out back in November of 2012 and has led to a huge response - both positive and negative - in the blogging community.

I don't mean to single out this one post or this one blogger's opinion, as there are articles everywhere regarding the detriments of choosing our electronics over our kids. Like this one in the Washington Post that discusses the psychological ramification of too much screen time in parenting.  Or this doozie of a blog, that calls it outright child abuse.

So can I give you this humble blogger's opinion?

Seriously. I get that some parents are too plugged in. I get that, being attached to some sort of screen 24 hours a day is too much, especially for parents of young children.

But I also think that raising children who expect our 100% undivided attention 100% of the time is crazy irresponsible.

First, it sets them up for unrealistic expectations of personal relationships. Do you know how miserable my marriage would be if I expected my husband to be completely focused on me and my needs all. the. time.? What about friends? Teachers? Bosses? My job as a parent is to raise God-loving, compassionate, independent, socially-aware, functioning members of society. NOT co-dependent, emotionally needy, high-maintenance adults.

Second, it limits their imagination. Some of my best childhood memories were created after my grandmother (who cared for me, my brother, and my cousins in the summer time) would say these words: "Get out of my sight and hearing!" It was a silly but certain reminder that it was not her job to entertain us. So we played outside. And built tree houses. And rode our bikes. And we were spies. And super heroes. And ninja turtles. (I was the only girl in a yard full of boys - can you tell?)

For my own wee ones, they have "free play" every morning after breakfast. Depending on our day (and how well their free play is going), this can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. That's right: Three. Hours. Basically, from breakfast until lunch. And they love it. And I love it. I love hearing them mimic events in their life: movies we have watched, books we have read. I love hearing them play "mommy and baby" and listening to my words come out of their little mouths as they replay bedtime or bath time or even time out. Even more, I love hearing the stories they pull out of thin air and pure imagination.

And do you know what I'm doing in the meantime? I'm carving out "mommy" time. I have my devotions. I sip my coffee and enjoy breakfast. I check facebook. I blog. I catch up on texts. I catch up on housework.

Which leads me to...

Third, it teaches them that it's wrong to take care of themselves. As these tiny people grow into those God-loving, compassionate, independent, socially-aware, functioning members of society that I mentioned earlier... they need to know that it's okay to take time for themselves. Whether it's creating a Healthy Me for a Healthy We in their marriage, or setting healthy boundaries in their friendships, or simply realizing that an emotionally sick person cannot change an emotionally sick world - I have to teach them that taking care of themselves is an important priority. And I can start teaching them by setting the example: "This is mommy time. Go play." 

I am their mommy. Their first line of defense. Their best friend (for now, at least). I am their playmate and their chef. Their chauffeur and their counselor. Their teacher and their advocate.

We carve out time in each day where they have my full and undivided attention. We have story time. And early morning snuggle time. And evening talk time. And lots of little moments in between.

But we also have time apart. Time for them to develop into individuals - and not just attachments of their parents.

They have their time. I have my time. And everyone - EVERYONE - in our house is better for it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Operation Sanity Part 2B: More Drops of Sanity (Out of Sight, Out of Mind)

If you missed parts one and two of this little series, be sure to click on the links below to check them out.

Without further ado, here is another little tidbit of sanity we have added to our home in the past couple months:

5. Out of sight, out of mind. This point requires a post all unto itself because it has completely changed the look and feel of our house.

I super duper love little organized and labeled containers. Sweet Hubby makes fun of my housekeeping because, while the room itself may be covered in clutter and dust bunnies and unfolded clothes, the closets are immaculately organized. Matching baskets, labeled plastic shoeboxes ($.99 at WalMart and my absolute favorite size/style storage box. I seriously might own 50.) So in my perfect playroom and child's bedroom, there is a shoebox for Barbies. One for Legos. One for doll clothes. One for small figurines. One for cars. One for tea sets. One (or five) for doll house accessories. And they would all be neatly labeled - preferably with pictures of the items contained. Ahhh...

But my kiddos are less inclined to utilizing storage containers, and more inclined to dumping out every. single. box. to find the one toy that doesn't match any of the labels. And even more inclined to just throwing the toys back into any random box they see fit and completely ignoring the labels that were so painstakingly photographed, laminated, and decoupaged to the box.

I'm not bitter. Really.

So after multiple attempts at what felt like brainwashing (you will love the $.99 shoe boxes... you will admire and respect the labels...) I gave up. Toys now go in a central location that looks like a dump but that can be hidden by a door or lid. See more about that process in part one.

And once my storage-container-loving heart grasped the amazing awesomeness of the "out of sight, out of mind" concept, great things began to happen.


- I hate doing dishes at night. Seriously, when dinner is over, the table cleared, baths given, bedtime stories read, water delivered, covers tucked, and kiddos asleep... this mama is DONE for the night. So every morning, I wake up to a sink full of dirty, crusty, day-old dishes. Ugh. The quick fix? HIDE the dishes in soapy water. Out of sight, out of mind. Mountains of soap suds are actually pleasant to look at, and the dishes are so much easier to wash the next morning.

-   Ok, Friends fans, remember Monica's closet? I totally have one of those. It's for items that don't have a home or whose home is in our attic. Like the big glass Santa Clause plate that somehow missed the departure date of all the other Christmas paraphernalia. Or those last few items of winter clothes that were in the bottom of the dirty clothes basket when all the other winter clothes were neatly stored in tidy, labeled boxes and put in the attic. Or decorative items we don't actually need and I will eventually take to Goodwill. Or the random cables and cords that we haven't used in two years but that I'm sure, upon throwing them out, we would discover are indispensable to the use of some valuable appliance or electronic. All of these items (and many more) were constantly floating around my home, in random boxes or under random cabinets. Now they are in a central, unorganized, chaotic location... that is completely unseen behind the solid wood door. Once every couple months, Sweet Hubby pulls out the items that belongs in our attic and puts them in their appointed boxes, thereby clearing space for any other random pieces of junk household items that need temporary storage. In the meantime: Out of sight, out of mind. Perfection.

-  When having people over for dinner, dishes that were dirtied in the cooking process go in a plastic bin on top of the fridge to be washed after the shindig is over. She cooked this huge dinner and has no dirty dishes in her sink? How does she do that? Out of sight, out of mind. That's how, friends. (Note: Just don't forget you put them up there, only to remember a week later when you're wondering what that smell is and you can't find your frying pan. Ya know, not that I've ever done that.)

I have a plethora of other examples, but I think I have exposed my home's hidden places enough for one post.

What about you? Do you have any "out of sight, out of mind" places in your home? Do you love them or hate them? Tips? Comments? Random bits of trivia? Let me know!

Catch Up:

Operation Sanity: Girl Stuff (part 1)

Operation Sanity Part 2A: Little Drops

Monday, June 10, 2013

Space to Breathe

Yesterday, our pastor finished up his four-week series "Anchored" with a message on the Sabbath. It's the first time he has ever preached on that subject at our church, and I was so encouraged/convicted throughout the whole service.

He said a true Sabbath looks like this:
1. It can be any day of the week.
2. It needs to be one full day each week.
3. It can't include anything that has to do with your job or daily work.

Number 3 got me. Because, really? As a SAHM, it's incredibly difficult to have a true Sabbath, based on that criteria. 

If I don't wash the dishes today, then I will have two loads to wash tomorrow.

And if I don't cook dinner, my children won't eat.

And then there's the kajillion and one other things that I do as part of my "job" every day. There's feeding, bathing, clothing, educating, and rearing tiny people. There's also wiping, scrubbing, tidying, and de-cluttering the space in which those tiny people live.

So many of the things we SAHM's do as our daily "job" cannot be put on hold. A true Sabbath for us would be a kid-free day in a spotless house and budget for eating out. Yeah... not gonna happen.

So now I'm on a quest. A journey to create space for a Sabbath day in my life.

I'm thinking Fridays, because (during the summer, at least) that's the day Sweet Hubby is home.

It's also the day after Thursday, which is my big laundry day. (Theoretically, all of our clothes are washed, folded, and put away by the time I go to bed on Thursday nights.)

In preparation for my Friday Sabbath, maybe Thursday will also include cooking a couple good "leftover" dishes. Maybe chicken salad? Pasta salad? Anything that can be dipped out onto paper plates and count as a "healthy" meal for the kiddos?

I don't really know how this is going to look, but I am completely, utterly, willfully determined to create a Sabbath in my life.

What about you? As a SAHM (or as a working mom) how do you give yourself a Sabbath?

Monday, June 3, 2013

10 Random Thoughts On Our First Day of Summer Vacation

1. We started the homeschooling trial today. I won't go into all the details, but I will say this: When I walked into the kitchen to find Chloe standing on a chair, singing her math facts at the top of her lungs, I thought, "Yep. This is definitely her style of learning."

2. My Sweet Hubby (who teaches summer school) starts getting home at 1pm every day, and has Fridays completely off. I cannot tell you how ECSTATIC this makes me! Today, we're hitting up the grocery store, farmer's market, and the zoo. I love love love him because he pushes me to get out of the house and be deliberate about making memories. BUT, he also loves doing things on his own with the girls if I am too tired/hormonal/hot/grumpy/pregnant to join them. He is the calming presence in our home AND the adventurer. I couldn't ask for a better combination!

3. Today starts the 10-week countdown to meeting our sweet baby girl! Penelope June is due in mid-August, and every week between now and then is packed to the max! Here's to slowing down a little bit and savoring these last few weeks of pregnancy....

4. Lest you think I'm all butterflies and sugar lumps about this summer, allow me to tell you this: My ankles are totally swollen by 10am everyday. It's a mild summer, by comparison (only a high of 78 today... in June!... in Memphis!... unheard of!), but I am HOT all. the. time. And when I get too hot? I vomit. And when I vomit? I'm sick the rest of the day. And sometimes into the next day. So... yeah... I plan on doing what I can to savor the next 10 weeks, but I will also be SUPER DUPER MAJORLY STOKED to be DONE with this pregnancy.

5. By choice, we are down to one car for a season. Hoping and praying for a minivan by the end of summer!

6. My washing machine broke the night before we left for the beach. But have I ever told you how much I love the coin laundry? Well, I do. Like, seriously love it. I can knock out 4-5 loads of laundry in about an hour. And while they're washing? I sit. And listen to the hum of the machines. And read a book. Or listen to music. Or sip a green tea frap. Or do whatever I want. Without guilt. And without kids.... It's totally like a mid-week mini vacay. So until we get the washer fixed (which should be in the next couple weeks), I'll be scheduling weekly mommy vacations laundry runs.

7. This will be my last summer in my 20's. Turning 30 in 2014...

8. I'm thinking of getting my nose pierced. It's one of those things I've always wanted because, ya know, my nose is just so bare without a tiny jewel on it. And, what the hey, I'm almost 30.

9. I haven't shaved my legs in 2 weeks. And I was at the beach all of the second week. I'm pretty sure the jelly fish left me alone because they were scared of getting stung.

10. I'm pretty sure my mom just gasped in horror at the last two points. And I love her for it. I hope I'm just like her. Except, you know, with a nose ring and hairy legs.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Operation Sanity Part 2A: Little Drops

One of my favorite things in the world is to watch colors swirl in water. When we dye Easter eggs, we use clear mugs, mainly because I love to watch that single drop of food coloring twist and flow and spread itself so far that the entire liquid changes in appearance.

My morning routine goes like this: coffee, then creamer. Never the other way around. Because there is something so soothing and visually melodic about watching the cream disappear beneath the surface of the black and reemerge in its milky tan spiral as I stir.

I love it... it soothes my heart.

Let's call that endearingly quirky instead of super weird, mmkay?  

I bring this up because our family has recently added a few drops of sanity into the otherwise chaotic waters of life, and the resulting color change has been magnificent. These are small changes. Insignificant. When I tell you about them, you will say, "That's it?" And I will say, "Ah... but watch it swirl."

So without further buildup (because, seriously, these are minor, minor changes), here are our little drops of sanity:

1. I threw away my kids socks. Matching  up socks is the bane of my existence. Seriously. I hate it. Hence, socks rarely got matched. I cannot tell you how many mornings went in the red zone (interpreted: everybody screaming in a panic because we're so late the school day might actually be finished by the time we get there) because I was digging through a basket of socks trying to find that one pink sock with the green stripes that I knew had been sitting on top of the pile the night before but now had disappeared into the heart of the mountain, never to be seen or heard from again. So one day a few months ago, I blindly threw them all in the trash in a fit of sock rage I methodically gathered them up and disposed of them without uttering one single curse word. Then I went to Target and invested in three packs of the exact. same. socks. My girls are close enough in age that they can share socks, and I have matched nary a pair since that day. Socks go in a central location, and when mommy says "Get your socks on," the girls know to grab one for each foot and proceed to don said respective feet. The end. No more matching. No more digging through baskets. No more cursing under my breath at that @#$(&% missing pink sock airing out my sock frustration in a perfectly healthy, Christian way.

2. The girls tidy their rooms every morning. Who woulda thunk that adding yet another item to the laundry list that is the morning routine would be in any way peaceful? But, oh my word, I love it. We started by spending some time in each room, pruning and organizing. This was not as drastic as it sounds. I put each girl's toys in one big container/box/basket in their respective rooms (more on this in Part 1). We also created space for their "treasures" (tiny scraps of paper, flower petals, stones, and dried play-doh that appear to the naked eye as trash but are, in fact, priceless childhood possessions that, if ever missing, will cause massive weeping and wailing and gnashing of the teeth of tiny little females). Maple has a small desk with a drawer. Chloe (who has significantly more tiny treasures) has a shelf above her bed and her two bedside table drawers. We also put a laundry hamper in each room for - you guessed it - laundry. So every morning, the girls take two minutes (usually while mommy is watching cream swirl and doing likewise productive things) to put everything back in its place. And since we do it every morning, it has never taken more than two minutes. Ahhhh....

3. The girls make their own beds. And I don't fix them. Not even Maple's bed. Which is made up by Maple. Who is three. As much as it goes against my control-freak nature, I have never, not once, corrected or "remade" the beds after they are finished. And you know what I see on their faces when they're finished? Pure and unadulterated pride. They are so proud of their clean rooms and made up beds! If there is a morning that I take for granted that it's been done, Maple pulls on my elbow (which inevitably spills that first sip of coffee) and says: "Hey mommy, wanna come see my woom?" Sparkly eyes are so much better than perfect sheets. And semi-spread beds are so much better than wadded up blankets in the floor.

4. We speed clean. My kiddos are notorious slowpokes. Whether it's getting dressed or eating or cleaning up, neither one has a hurry bone in her little body. So our cleanup time was often peppered with "if this toy is still here the next time I come in here" or "I'm not going to say it again" or "how many times do I have to step on a lego before you realize your mother needs both her feet and maybe you should pick them up!?"  Until flylady saved the day.
I have tried flylady methodology in the past, and I just can't seem to wrap my ADHD cleaning brain around the concept. But one thing that stuck is the timed cleanup. If a task seems too overwhelming to even start, I tell myself, "I'll work for 15 minutes (or 30 or 45 or whatever), and when that time is up, I'm done, regardless of the condition of the task." Most of the time I finish the task before my timer goes off. Sometimes I am so engrossed in the task I don't even hear the timer and end up finishing it anyways. Occasionally I leave the task when the timer goes off and do another timed cleaning the next day. It works for me. I love it.
So I tried it with my kids. I started timing their cleanup. And it worked! What I love about this is that there is no nagging or begging or threatening. They just spring into gear!
Note:  I don't say "If you're not done by the time I count to 3..." Instead, it sounds more like, "Hey kiddos! I bet we can get this cleaned up in 30 seconds! Ready... set... GO!" And I count to 30.  Also: I don't use a timer. Something about the sound of my voice counting helps the girls stay on task, and I can speed up or slow down the counting as needed if a task is taking less or more time than the allotted 30 seconds. I also have a really big mouth, so I can yell my counting from whatever room I happen to be in. 

I have more little drops of sanity, but this post is already a kajillion miles long. Kudos to those of you who stuck through it. I shall attempt to come back soon and finish up! Love y'all bunches!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Operation Sanity: Girl Stuff (part 1)

It has been 10 days since I wrote about using business skills in my homemaking efforts.

I actually started this process a couple weeks before writing about it, as the Lord was prompting my heart to see this whole SAHM thing as a long-term gig.

It's going swimmingly; so I thought I'd give you a few updates. 

From hence forth, any such attempts shall be part of the larger production: Operation Sanity.

So after making a kajillion and one lists, Operation Sanity began with one project: Girl Stuff.

Girl Stuff is all the pink and purple and polka dot and rainbow and sparkly things that take over my house.  This includes toys, shoes, clothes, hair bows, pillows, bags, books, and DVD's. But mainly toys (because if I step on one more lego....)

Seriously... this stuff was EVERYWHERE! Especially between 5pm on Friday and 8am on Monday. It goes like this: On Friday at 5pm, the last of the parents pick up their wee ones from my house. Enter Hurricane Girls Gone Wildly Messy (HGGWM). It rips through my house and leaves me with a FEMA-worthy destruction site by the time Chloe gets on the bus on Monday mornings.

It took me all day Monday (every Monday) to put things back in place... mainly because I had lost the use of my feet after stepping on shards of piercing shiny plastic torture devices (aka, legos).

I have tried many toy-organization systems in the past. Most recently, we divided toys into 5 containers and rotated the containers every couple days. My only rule was that each container had x number of toys. So if they wanted to keep and play with a toy out of container 1, then they had to pick a toy from container 2 to put back, etc. We ended up with four containers full of toys nobody wanted, and one container full of I-will-fight-you-to-the-death-for-these-because-every-single-one-is-my-very-favorite-toy toys.

It was all downhill from there.

So, about three weeks ago, after a particularly harrowing weekend of HGGWM and I-will-fight-you-to-the-death interventions, I decided to get drastic(ish). I put all the toys in one huge pile in our living room. Then I had the girls take turns picking which toys they wanted. Maple's picks were labeled with an "M," and Chloe's toys were labeled with a "C." (I'm nothing, if not creative.)  The only toys not labeled were legos, kitchen accessories (that go with their play kitchen), books, and dollhouse furniture. 

The rules go like this:  

 Your toys stay in your room. 
Only the four categories listed above (legos, kitchen, books, dollhouse) may stay in the play area, in their designated spaces. 

You MAY share your toys with your sister...
 but if a fight breaks out, the toy goes to the person whose initial is on it. 

I will ask you to pick up your toys once. 
After that, they will be transported to an undisclosed location to be returned to you upon completion of one chore - the time and task to be determined by yours truly.

I also ditched the idea of keeping the toys in small, categorized containers (another system we have tried in the past, to no avail). Because Chloe chose mostly small figurines and Barbies, she throws all her toys in a large wooden toy box in her room. Because Maple chose mostly stuffed animals and dolls, she tosses her toys in the bottom of her closet. Neither place is pretty, but both can be hidden (behind a lid or a door) and thereby completely ignored by mommy. (Adapting an out-of-sight-out-of-mind mindset is another part of my new sanity plan. Perhaps I'll write more on that later.)

It's only been three weeks, but I think that has given me enough time to claim that this has been BY. FAR. the most successful toy organization system we have ever used. It goes perfectly hand-in-hand with the new "speed cleans" (which I shall write about in another post), and there have been no tears over toy-sharing in three. weeks.  (Can I get a witness?! ThankyouJesus!!)

Of course, being sisters, the girls have found new things to fight over. But any argument that starts with toys ends with one question: Whose initials are on the toy? The. End.  No more whining (about toys). No more tattling (about sharing). And no more threatening to take away every toy you own because some children have no toys and would love to have as many as you have and you should just choose another of your kajillion toys instead of fighting over the one that's in your sister's hand!  

But mainly, I haven't stepped on any legos. ThankyouJesus!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The seasons of summer

Yesterday was a fun day for the Thixton crew. After daddy headed off to work, we three girls went to our beloved McD's for sausage biscuits. (One of the things that went out the window when I decided to stay home was our eating out budget. So dollar menu biscuits are a rare and cheer-inducing treat for the wee ones.)

Then we dropped Maple off at her beloved "Titi Liz's" house. Maple loves her Titi, who cared for her and loved on her while I was working full time, and many of Maple's best friends still go to Titi's house. Maple was so excited to see them all, and almost started crying when I didn't get her out of her car seat fast enough.

After being completely ignored by my three year old, who couldn't care less that I was leaving her for the day, Chloe and I headed to her school for 1st grade field day. I absolutely loved seeing Chloe interacting with her peers, lining up caterpillar-style so they could all slide down the slide at once, busting a move to "Move it, Move it," and pretending to hate getting wet in the water games (though vigorously volunteering to be the one who gets soaked).

(This was yet another reminder that we are not being forced into homeschooling. We have another option, and it too is a good one.)

Then: a picnic on the grass, a battle to drag Maple away from Titi's house, a short nap, a sweet little boy with blonde curly hair and big blue eyes (who comes to my house a few days a week), and a walk/bike ride to get Chloe off the bus.

And because that clearly wasn't enough fun for one day, after the curly-haired cutie left, we four (and a half) Thixtons decided to go swimming.

(And through it all, I kept regretting that last "drop and crash" that rendered my phone's camera completely kaput. Note to self: start saving for a decent point-and-shoot.)

It was all wonderful and fun and a day I don't think I will soon forget.


Days like yesterday - full of life and fun and short naps and late bedtimes - lead to mornings like this - full of meltdowns and tears and (on my part) a desire for more coffee.

That's life, isn't it? I've come to expect these mornings after those days. But I choose those days anyway. Because I know those days only come around every once in a while and all-too-soon will not be an option for us anymore.

So while I'm listening to my sleepy three-year-old cry over her scrambled eggs (because the cheese and eggs are touching, apparently), I'm remembering the way the setting sun shone off the top of her head in the pool. And how the only thing that outshone that reflection was the sparkle in her eyes while she waited for her daddy to toss her in the air.

While I'm threatening my six-year-old, for the third time this morning, to please get dressed or I will put you on the bus in your pajamas, I'm remembering how I only had to ask her once if she wanted to jump in the deep end with me and how she squealed with excitement as she broke up through the water and shouted that she had touched the bottom with her feet.

And while I sip my coffee and make the guilt-free choice to plop my sleepy preschooler in front of Toy Story 2, I'm remembering that yesterday was TV-free and full of fun and excitement and summer goodness. And I'm remembering that everyday can't be like yesterday, and everyday won't be like today, and it's the balance and the seasons and the change of it all that makes life what it is. Blessed. Busy. Worth it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Get 'er done!

I'm sitting here this morning, sipping my coffee, planning my day (laundry, mopping, dusting, playing outside, maybe some play-doh?) And I'm so grateful to be able to do all that... to be wearing clothes besides pajamas... to have shoes on...

I've never had much compassion for women who complained about being on bed rest. You've been told by a medical professional that you're not allowed to do housework, cook meals, buy groceries, or otherwise exert yourself. You get to lie around and watch movies all day, without the typical "mom guilt" because there is nothing else you "should" be doing. What on earth are you complaining about?

... Until they put me on bed rest... for only TWO DAYS... and I felt like I was going out. of. my. mind.

So, my apologies to any of you moms who were put on bed rest for weeks or months at a time. I might have silently judged your complaints. And I am humbled.

Everything is fine. I'm no longer on bed rest, and I have a check up next week where I'm sure the doctor will tell me everything is exactly the way it should be for this point in the pregnancy.

But this weekend gave me a scare... mainly because I still have so much to do! I'm 15 weeks away from my due date, which sounds like a lot... except that 15 weeks ago, I was hovering over a toilet on New Years Day praying to God that my breakfast would stay down... and that feels like it was yesterday (oh wait, that did happen yesterday... but you get what I'm saying, right?) 15 weeks is not that long.

Especially when I consider everything there is to do between now and then: field day, end of school parties, Maple's birthday, a wedding, a vacation, kids camp, a trip to Haiti (for Brandon), and lots of prep for our first year of homeschooling.... not to mention actually getting ready for the baby. You know, things like buying a baby bed, and making space for a baby and all her stuff... oh yeah... and picking a name.... we should probably do that.

So today... since I'm NOT on bed rest... I'm motivated to take advantage of the time that I have.

I will do laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. I will detail clean my living room (mopping, dusting, and tackling the stuff that's hanging off my ceiling fan). And at the end of today, I will be one step closer to being ready for this summer... and ready for baby.... At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Monday, May 6, 2013

SAHM success

I have been a Stay At Home Mom three times in my life.

Once for a year in Korea, where I was a "Samonim" (pastor's wife).
Once for a school year, while Sweet Hubby and I were interning at the Life Church.

Both of those seasons were temporary, and I knew it. I knew that at the end of that year-long season, I would seek employment outside the home. I have never considered being a full-time, long-term SAHM. Ever.

So it has taken quite a mental shift for me to see this whole SAHM gig as a full-time, long-term deal. And, I'm not gonna sugar coat it, I've been treading water.

Because when you know that something is temporary, you are constantly working for the end goal. "When I go back to work, I want to have X, Y, and Z completed at home."

But when there is no end in sight, well, it's like the difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. In one case, you at least know in which direction to head. In the second case, you're really just doing well to keep your head above water. Know what I mean?

So I've spent the past few weeks praying and asking the Lord for vision and purpose in this new, long-term season.

Part of my frustration with staying home as been this: at one point in my life, I was a fairly decent business woman. I had organizational skills out the wazoo... created filing systems... moved personnel around to suit their strengths (and the needs of our department)... stood toe-to-toe with other department heads... set and completed weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals.

I couldn't stand for my desk to be a mess because I knew that a messy desk meant less productivity for me, and more time looking for files and phone numbers. I expected my department to be run in the same way... and I expected everyone in my department to do their part to make sure it happened.

At one point in life, I was good at what I did.

So I have had these two pictures of myself. One - in a work environment where I was on my game, successful, flourishing, organized. And another - at home, in a messy life, with a messy schedule... treading water.

But this past weekend,  it was as if Someone took those two pictures in my head and merged them together.

I was good at business because I knew my strengths and I played on them: I was organized. I managed people well. I could see the big picture AND the little details. I saw long-term goals and the short-terms goals we would need in order to reach the long-term ones. I spent TIME and ENERGY planning my days, looking at goals (long and short term), and implementing new systems when the old ones were no longer working.

And for some reason, somewhere along the way, I decided those skills were irrelevant in SAHM-dom.

I know, right?!

So last night after the kiddos were in bed, I decided to put some of my strengths to use. (Oh, the lists!!!)

First stop: revamping the way we use our "extra" money each month... and figuring out how to spend less of that "extra" money so we can make and reach some long-term goals.

Second stop: revamping chores (like I revamped my department) where EVERYONE has a vital role to play as well as daily, weekly, and quarterly goals.

Third stop: revamping our eating with goals to improve our nutrition and cut down on our grocery budget.

I might blog about some or all of the journey. I'll def keep a journal of it for myself (just like I did at the office) so I can keep track of successes and failures and know what works for the future.

At one point in my life, I was successful. I'm ready to do it again. Starting today.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homeschool Thoughts - In, and not Of

A frequent topic of discussion around the Thixton home has been homeschooling. Right now, Chloe goes to public school just a few minutes from our house. 

I'd like to start by saying that we are happy with her school. We love the VP's heart for the children; the staff is very friendly and helpful; and her teacher has been amazing this year. We have no complaints about the school.

This fact, in and of itself, somehow gives me more peace as we discuss the homeschooling option. Private schools in this area are crazy expensive. So our only choice is homeschool or public school. I'm so grateful that it is truly a choice. We don't feel any pressure to homeschool because we know that, if we decide to leave her in public school, she is in a great place.

Chloe is doing well. She has friends. She makes A's and B's. She seems relatively happy.

So why would we even consider it? That's a questions I have been asking myself for over a year now. Why does this option of homeschool even enter my mind when she's doing fine where she is? Why is it something Brandon and I are even thinking about?

So last night, I sat down and wrote out all the reasons "why." There are many reasons (and some of them I may write about in future posts). But the one that pricks my heart - the reason I can't seem to let go of the whole homeschooling idea - sounds something like this:

I still want to be the primary voice in her life, at least for a few more years.

She will spend the rest of her life listening to the voices of world. Teachers. Friends. Enemies. Music. TV. Magazines. And many of those voices will tell her that she is not enough... or that she's too much. They will tell her she's too quiet or too loud. She's too skinny or too fat. They will talk to her about her complexion and her bra size and her hem length and her shape. But more than that, they will talk to her about heart, and they will tell her that the good girl comes in last. They will tell her that she can (and should) use her body to pay for love and that her esteem is only as good as the people who like her. They will give more value to her grades than to her character, and they will define her success by her job, her car, her house, her bank account, and her social life.

For the rest of her life, there will be voices telling her - shouting to her - that she is not enough... or that she's too much.

And in my heart - with all of my being - I want to drown out those voices for a few more years. I don't want to shut them out completely. She will still have teachers, and friends, and enemies, and music, and TV, and magazines. They will still be speaking into her life. But I want my voice - and the voice of my Father - to be the loudest, most important voice for a few more years. So when she is finally "in the world", and when those voices from the world start telling her she's not enough, she will hear my voice - and the voice of my Father - ringing in her ears: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." When they tell her she is too much, she will hear my voice - and the voice of my Father - shouting down the world: "The godly are as bold as lions." And when some boy or some magazine or some song lyric tells her that her body is only worth the love she can earn with it, she will hear my voice - and the voice of my Father - whispering in her soul: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

I have such a short window of time that I am allowed to be that voice - the voice of my Father - in her life. Eventually, she will make her own choices. She will choose what voices she will and won't listen to. But for a few more years, I have the opportunity to guide her through those choices, to be the voice that matters most.

How can I pass that up?

"In the world, but not of the world."

Monday, April 29, 2013

A healthy 'me' for a healthy 'we'

Last week didn't exactly turn out as I had planned when I woke up on Monday morning. Lots of kids and errands and a tummy bug and canceled "grown-up time" left me feeling depleted and spent by Friday mid-day.

And I have this habit of taking a small period of time (like a really hard week) and turning it into a commentary on my life. "It was like this all week, and it will be like this next week. And FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE I'M GOING TO FEEL LIKE AN EXHAUSTED ZOMBIE SHELL OF MY FORMER SELF."

It's enough to send any semi-sane person over the edge.

Today I'm back on this side of sanity.

(A big shout-out to my Sweet Hubby who flew into the house Friday evening and took over all the mommy-related tasks for the whole weekend. The only thing I "had" to do for the family was take the girls to ballet... which really means I got to sit with other mommy friends for 2 hours, sipping coffee, and getting in some real life grown up time. And while I was gone? He washed dishes, folded clothes, and tackled the disaster that was our bedroom floor. Yeah, he's pretty super amazing.)

In what would seem like completely unrelated news, our Pastors (an amazing couple who married in college, lived overseas in the early years of their marriage, had kids at a young age while building a church far away from their family and friends) (sound familiar?) have been teaching together on Forever Marriage.

I have LOVE LOVE LOVED this series. The first week of the series, they taught us that we must "Build a healthy 'me' so we can have a healthy 'we'."

All weekend, as I was recuperating from the stinkin' thinkin' of the week before, that phrase continued to ring through my mind.

One of the things I was able to do when I worked full time was guarantee that I had SOME time each week to do things that *I* liked. One of the benefits of having  kids in daycare was that I got a WHOLE HOUR. EVERY DAY. to do what *I* wanted to do. It was called a lunch break. It was fabulous.

Many days I just sat in my car... in total silence... or listening to talk radio...

Some days I went out to lunch with friends who were also on their lunch breaks.

Or I wandered the aisles of Target, usually stopping in the stationary section to look at journals and candles.

I very rarely had a to-do list for that hour. Nothing else that I "should" be doing. That was MY hour. And I don't think I realized how much I enjoyed it. I didn't realize that my one-hour-a-day break helped me build a healthy me.

Looking at my life now, I can't have an hour a day to do whatever I want. It just doesn't work that way with small children and a 24-hour household and a hard-working, but always-busy husband.

But I have decided I need to add some things in my life that I enjoy - things I do for myself for no other purpose than I like to do them.

I might work on my blog some. I might go to the library by myself to pick out a book just for me. I might organize a closet (yes, that is an enjoyable thing for me). I might just lay out in the sun and be. quiet. for a bit.

Whatever I do, I have decided it can't include the following things: children, a husband, any to-do list of any kind, TV, facebook, or guilt.

A healthy 'me' for a healthy 'we'... starts today.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

SAHM Rambling

This is one of those times I want to write, but have absolutely no idea in which the writing will take me.

Parenting is hard. Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. (Can we all agree that we seriously need to put some creative thought into that term and come up with something MUCH better? It's 2013, people.)

I'm incredibly grateful. There were days when I sat behind a desk, talking on the phone with people who didn't even know my children existed, praying that Chloe's runny nose wouldn't turn into a full-blown fever-inducing cold before the end of the work day. Days when I missed a class field trip or couldn't shake the desperate look of my screaming, clinging child as I dropped her off and trusted her well being to a perfect stranger who would collect half of my paycheck at the end of the week.

I have enjoyed some of the jobs I've held since becoming a mom. I have also had some incredibly amazing people who have loved on my children while I was working those jobs. But there were many, many days that I longed to be home with my children. Days when I was grateful for an ear infection or low-grade fever because it meant I got to be home all day with my little one.

So sitting here in my toy-littered living room, staring at the spit up stain on my couch, with my hair pulled up in a three-day-old pony tail, I am grateful.

But I'm also saying it's hard.

A study came out last year that said SAHM's are more depressed than moms who go to work.

There there were several more articles and blogs that came out to say why

I don't know why. I just know that, sitting here today, I understand it.

There's no "checking out" at the end of the day. Because no matter how much was accomplished in the day, there's always more. And at the end of the day, regardless of whether I'm sitting in a bubble bath, crashing on the couch to watch TV, or sitting on my deck engrossed in a novel, I am surrounded by all of the things I didn't accomplish that day. There's a ring in the bathtub and a basket of dirty clothes in the corner (if the clothes actually make it into the basket). There are dust bunnies under the couch and a pile of unsorted mail sitting on the coffee table (not to mention the toys on the floor, peanut butter smudges on the TV, and crayon marks on the lamp shade). And even outside, on my deck, there are weeds to be pulled, steps to be swept, and backyard toys to be rolled into the shed. There is absolutely no way for me to "leave work." Work surrounds me and reminds me of all the things I haven't completed today.

I'm glad to be home. I want to be home. There are so many moments when I thank God that I am the one spending their days with them. I pulled Chloe's first tooth. I get to be home when she gets off the bus, ready to talk about her day. I get to finger paint with Maple and go for walks at the park

It is rewarding and wonderful, and I am grateful.

But it's also hard. Can we all just agree on that point? Sometimes, it's really hard.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thoughts on a new baby

I have a dear friend who is expecting her first baby (a girl) in 2 months. Ten weeks later, I will be expecting the arrival of my third baby girl.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking of all the things I wish I had known before the birth of my first child. I was also thinking that, in all the sleepless, hormone-pumped days that follow my next delivery, it is highly likely that I will forget most of the lessons in which I am so confident today.

So in honor of my friend and soon-to-be new mommy, and in preparation for the days and nights that will follow both of our deliveries, I give you:

A Few Things New Moms (and three-time moms) Should Remember.

1. Spend less time reading books about labor and delivery, and more time reading books on practical parenting.  For a list of books that will offer real-life advice, search under the following topics:
  • How to wash poop out of your newborn's hair. 
  • Breastfeeding: it's not for sissies
  • Bottle Feeding: "now where did that nipple go?"
Having said that...

2. Ignore most of the books, especially any titles that include the following phrases:
  • How to get your baby to sleep through the night at 2 days old
  • Enjoying every. single. minute. with your baby
  • A complete guide to no-tears parenting
 As stated in #1, there are some very good, practical books on taking care of your baby. But there are also a LOT of books that are simply created to tell you all the things you're doing wrong. Which leads me to number 3...

3. There is no "right way" to love your baby. People will tell you the "right way" to hold her, feed her, rock her, raise her. They will tell you that a schedule is the most important thing, or that a schedule will ruin her for life. They will tell you to let her "cry it out," and they will tell you that a baby who cries will grow up not trusting the world....

Sure, there are the basic, common-sense things that you will naturally do from the second she is born. Clothe her. Feed her. Hold her. Love her. But the bottom line is this: YOUR way is the RIGHT way. And for her, it will be "the way mom does it." 

4. Babies cry. It's what they do. They will cry after a busy day because they need to release some emotion. They will wake up screaming when you are mid-shower with soap in your hair. They will cry when you don't fix their bottle fast enough or if the wipe you use on their bum is too cold. They may even have a certain time of day that they cry for no reason, everyday.  If you live those first few months trying to always prevent or stop the crying, you will drive yourself mad. If she's in a safe place (her crib, swing, etc.), finish your shower. Don't rush warming up the bottle (this from a mom who once scalded her hand trying to dump out the boiling water too fast). Know that she will not be permanently traumatized by a few wailing moments, and your sanity/peace will contribute to her well-being much more than a stress-filled feeding. Hence...

5. Relax. Practice deep breathing and meditation before she arrives. While it may or may not help during delivery, it will most definitely help during the midst of those crying fits discussed in #4. For me, the longer/harder she cries, the more tense/stressed I become. And the more stressed I become, the more my babies cry. About two months after Chloe was born, I learned that if I could relax myself, I could often (but not always) relax my baby. So hold that screaming baby, close your eyes, relax your shoulders, start taking deep, slow breaths. And know that, even if the crying doesn't stop immediately, your peace comforts your wee one and lets her know that all is okay.

If all else fails, remember this...

6.  It came to pass. This was my mantra when baby #1 came around. In the middle of the night, when the baby just wouldn't stop crying! When I was washing spit up out of my hair for the second time that day. When I went to bed with spit up in my hair because I was too exhausted to take a shower. "It came to pass." It won't always be like this.

But it's also good to recite this mantra when your freshly-bathed baby is napping in your arms. When she flashes that first toothless smile. When she wraps her little fist around your finger and melts your heart. "It came to pass." And it won't last forever.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thoughts on suicide in the church.

The death of Rick Warren's son Matthew has made headlines this week across the nation, in Christian circles and out. It's heartbreaking. Tragic. And for those of us who have suffered or do suffer from depression, it hits close to home.  As a friend commented on her facebook page, "there but for the grace of God go I."


As I was discussing this tragic loss with a family member, I was convicted by a statement that was made during course of the conversation: "I don't understand how it could happen, when he came from such a great Christian family, and he was planted in such an amazing church."

Because that's how many of us Christians think, isn't it? If we love God, have a supportive family, stay planted in an active, thriving church... then depression shouldn't affect us. And it certainly shouldn't drive us to suicide or suicidal thoughts.

We see suicide as shameful and selfish and not something that should happen to us or our church family.

And we're right, in part. It shouldn't happen. Neither should cancer. Or heart failure. Or divorce. Or death. Or any heartache that comes to us as a result of The Fall. It's not "natural." It goes against our sense of rightness and justice. Because we, the human race, were not created for a broken world.

Still, here we are.

So I guess the question prompting my heart this morning is simply this: where do we go from here?

In a fallen, broken, hurting world... with our fallen, broken, hurting bodies... and our fallen, broken, hurting minds and hearts... where does our "religion" fit in? Can we create a place for this kind of brokenness within the walls of the church? Can we accept that, like any other illness, God sometimes chooses to heal us... and sometimes He doesn't?

What I do know is this... before I personally battled my own season of depression, I did not understand - and often judged harshly - those who took (or attempted to take) their own lives.

Now, on the other side of that dark season, my heart breaks for Matthew Warren and so many like him. I love them, though I don't know them.

And if I, in my finite, feeble, human heart can find compassion and love for those who suffer in their minds, how much more does our great, patient, gracious, infinite Father love them and care for them where they are?

 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalms 34:18

Oh, that the Bride would reflect her Groom.

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood