The Stillness and the Truth

Some many days I feel like I’m just treading water–struggling to keep afloat but not really going anywhere.  Waves come at me over and over, but for the most part the water is still and there is no current.

I used to love being still.  I treasured it.  These days, however, more often than not the stillness is suffocating…and inside my heart is anything but peaceful.

Can I be honest with you for a moment?  Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom is a really lonely place to be in.  Many of my days don’t even involve conversation with another adult.  Amidst the loneliness, I am constantly being bombarded with thoughts that I am not enough…that other women do so much more ministry and work and reaching out to others than I do.

Yet, even with all the stillness of not really “going” anywhere, I struggle to keep my head above water.  My days are full of repetitive, mundane, and yet inexplicably stressful tasks.  My house is never clean like I want it to be, and the laundry is never done.  I can’t even keep up with the “simple” tasks of a stay-at-home mom, let alone find time for “ministry” or “work”.

But then, God speaks to me like He did to Martha.  “Caitlin, Caitlin,” He says. “Do you not know that I have called you for such a time as this?  You worry about many things, but one thing is needed.  Your identity and worth and daily goals should be from Me alone!”

And I look into the beautiful blue eyes of my children, and realize that in the bustle of trying to “do enough”, I have neglected to really look and listen to them lately.  I have forgotten what my days are supposed to be about…training and teaching these sweet little gifts in the fear of the Lord.  I have forgotten to make this the sole focus of my days, and have forgotten to delight in this work as my life work for this season.

And I look into the pale blue eyes of the man who won my heart, and realize that I’ve also neglected my relationship with him.  I’ve forgotten that spending time with him is a must and a need.  I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to stop working and just sit and watch a show with him on the rare day he comes home early from work.  I’ve forgotten to seek out and do what would help him better to do his work.  I’ve forgotten to seek and pursue him.  In my self deprecation I have forgotten that he could care less if the house is spotless as long as it’s tidy.

And I look around at the wonders of creation, and realize that I’ve neglected my relationship with the Creator of it all, my First and Truest Love.  I’ve neglected to sit with Him, listen to Him, and delight in Him.  I’ve forgotten how to just sit and open my eyes to the gifts He’s given me.  I’ve forgotten to see those gifts around me and within nature, and to thank Him for them all.

 

Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful calling You’ve set for my days in this season of life.  Forgive me for focusing on what I’m not doing instead of on what You’ve called me to do.  Help me to find joy in this season of life.  Help me to find joy in the stillness and repetitive tasks.  Thank You, Lord, for the gift that is this stillness.  

 

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5 Truths About Post Partum Depression

5ppdMy husband recently suggested that we go in with his family on renting a lakehouse for Super Bowl weekend like we did last year.

Honestly…the idea sounded awful to me.  Last year during that time I was knee deep in the mire that is Post Partum Depression and didn’t yet recognize it.  I was frustrated with everyone, didn’t want to be around people, and was dealing with this heavy grey fog that I couldn’t explain or shake.  Just thinking about it puts my stomach in knots.

I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it is to not be in that fog anymore.  Yet, my heart goes out to those currently dealing with it, or thinking that they might be dealing with it.

Post Partum Depression is surrounded by a a lot of lies and hearsay.  Today, I present you with 5 truths about PPD…from someone who has been there herself:

1.) Post Partum Depression doesn’t make sense.

You may be incredibly sleep deprived or you may be getting a solid 8 hours every night.  You may be dealing with a ton of stress and worry, or you may have absolutely nothing big to be worrying about.  It doesn’t really matter or make a difference.  The worst part about PPD is that you feel a certain way in your heart, knowing full well that there is no reason that you should be feeling that way.  Why would you secretly want to run away from that sweet baby that you are so in love with and that you know is a gift?  Why would you feel hopeless when new life and hope is constantly in front of your eyes?  It just doesn’t make sense.

2.) Post Partum Depression manifests differently in different women.

Some women experiencing PPD may want to run away from their babies.  Others may be unreasonably fearful of even letting them out of their arms.   Others may switch back and forth and become extremely moody.  The common thread is that you know in your heart that something is not right…something is off.

3.) Post Partum Depression is not your fault.

One of the biggest lies about PPD is that women who have it are at fault.  They don’t eat enough nutrients or get enough sleep.  They focus too much on themselves.  They don’t focus on themselves enough.  They don’t get out of the house enough.  They aren’t thankful for the gifts they have.  They haven’t turned to God to help.  Or, heaven forbid, they didn’t encapsulate their placenta and consume it.

My friend, all of these are lies.  Post Partum Depression is a mean, hormonal mess that no woman ever deserves.  Simply put, we live in a fallen world and sometimes are bodies just don’t work right or regulate themselves as they should.  Those messed up hormones can control our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to a terrible extent.

4.) Post Partum Depression is a bully.

My biggest memory of my struggle with PPD is that I felt oppressed.  Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelmed me and I felt no power to shake them.  PPD can make you do terrible things like scream at your children or call your husband ugly names.  It can paralyze you with fear to the extent that you’re afraid to step foot outside the front door.  It can make you feel like a terrible mom for not feeling “connected” with your baby.  PPD is a bully in that it intimidates you and makes you act or feel in a way that you don’t want to.

 

5.) Post Partum Depression isn’t forever.

It may not seem like it right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is help.  Hormones do shift back to normal.  The fog is not unending.  Take it from a mama whose been there.  Know that you’re not alone.  I made it through…and so can you.

 

If you’re struggling with Post Partum Depression, or think you might be, please PLEASE speak out and get help.  Don’t try to “fix” things or trudge along alone.  If you need help don’t hesitate to email me at thelifenotmyown@gmail.com . 

 

My Children Are Blessings…And I’m Not Quiverfull

IMG_9149-EditI was trying to quickly put on makeup when I heard the giggles.  I glanced over to my bed where my two children were laughing back and forth at each other.

“What are you two doing?” I teased.

Their beautiful, sparkling blue eyes both turned to me, their precious mouths turned up in wide, uninhibited smiles.  My heart began to ache as it usually does in such a moment…when my momma heart loves them so much that it feels about ready to burst.  I am so blessed, I thought.

My mind raced back to the day before, when the 10-month-old was fussy from teething and the 3-year-old had begun peppering me with his unending questions.  I had snapped at him, and then felt bad about it.  I remembered something I had read recently from another mom, whom I know to be “quiverfull“.  She had had a similar day, had yelled at one of her kids, and then had apologized to him later telling him that “he was a blessing and a gift”.

I found myself apologizing and telling my own son something similar.  The words seemed to sink down into his little soul and he threw his arms around my neck and whispered that he loved me.  In that moment, I couldn’t have loved my little son or his sister more if I’d tried.

My husband and I don’t feel convicted about preventing pregnancy being wrong, nor do we really want a 15-passenger van full of kids.  We take each baby as he or she comes, pray, and follow the Lord’s leading.  Right now in this moment, we have a lot of peace about our two.  I don’t honestly know what the years will bring.  I don’t know if more children will join our family through pregnancy or adoption, or if our two will be it.  What I do know is that, if we never feel led to have more children, it won’t because we don’t see our children as blessings.  In fact, it may just be because we already feel so blessed and our hearts are already so full and content with our two.  Our two children are our arrows in our “quiver”, and I pray every day that they will be straight, true arrows.  I pray that, if we only ever have the two children, that quality will make up for quantity.

There are days when the strain of motherhood clouds my vision and makes me forget that my children are blessings. There are days when they irritate me, strain me, and tire me.  It is on those days that I have to remember that my children are blessings.  It is on those days that I have to remind myself that I don’t have to have baby after baby to see children as gifts from the Lord.  Sometimes you just have to remember to love the ones you have, and to choose to see them for the blessings they are.       

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

wolvesI saw him out of the corner of my eye and my hand involuntarily tightened around that of my three-year-olds.  Part of me felt bad for my reaction.  Christians are supposed to love everybody, and by all accounts this was a good, upstanding man.  I had no “proof” that there was anything underhanded about him…only a few strange experiences and a weird vibe I get in my stomach every time I’m around him.

Next to me, my son prattled on, telling me one thing or another, completely oblivious and innocent.  It was then that I knew that I’d do anything to protect that innocence.  It was then that I knew that I’d rather be overly cautious then to stifle my misgivings at the cost of that innocence.

You see, I’ve seen too much of the world.  The people I know that are the most caught in darkness were once masquerading as good, upstanding citizens, from the “Christian” homeschool father and police detective who turned out to be molesting his own daughters, to the cult-like leader who preached strict morals all the while not following them himself, to the uncle raising his niece and secretly molesting her until the little girls’ plea for help from her friend fell on the ears of people who took a stand.  I could go on and on.  I’ve known too many wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I’ll never forget the day in college that we watched a video highlighting a few exemplary teachers from across the country.  I can guarantee that everyone in that room thought something was a little odd about the way the male English teacher rubbed the back of one of his male students.  I can also guarantee that every person in the room quickly pushed those thoughts aside, thinking they were just being overly sensitive.  It wasn’t until the end of the video that we learned that that same teacher had later been convicted of molesting a male student, and that 18+ more former students had come forward saying that he had molested them as well.  He was the Georgia teacher of the year and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and yet all the while…

Wolves in sheep’s clothing.  

Don’t for a second think that being a teacher, being involved in church, being “happily” married, or seeming like a nice person means anything.  Predators are smart.  They want you to believe that they are nice, upstanding citizens.  They want to gain your trust, so that you will let your guard down.  They know that trust gives opportunity.  

The struggle is real, though.  I want to love everybody.  I don’t want to be judgmental or unfair.  I’ve learned, however, that you can still love someone without trusting them.  You can still love unquestioningly without trusting undeservedly.

I hope and pray that someday when I get to heaven that God will say, “You were wrong about those people.”  Yet, I also know that I would rather be overly cautious and be wrong than to stifle down misgivings only to let one of my children or any other child be an opportunity.

Be on your guard, parents.  Educate your children, set boundaries, and do everything you can to prevent these wolves in sheep’s clothing from having access to hurt your children.  You can’t always keep them safe, but you can do everything in your power to protect the innocence of these precious children that God has entrusted you with.   

Just A Mom

I used to think it would be enough for me to be merely a stay-at-home mom.  I had grown up watching my intelligent, PhD holding mother spend her days folding laundry, cooking food, and bandaging scraped up knees.  For her, gone were the days of helping troubled families in the a116d-2013-03-15_11-15-22_890court system and bringing in decent money from her highly-esteemed career.  But she never seemed to mind.  In fact, she thrived and found the most purpose in those quiet days full of simple tasks.  I knew unwaveringly that I wanted to be just a mom…just like her.

The years passed and I became just that.  Yet, I was surrounded by friends and women who were more than just moms.  Women I respected.  Women I enjoyed being around.  Suddenly my confidence and surety wavered.  I began to feel less able and less important than these other women.  I felt like I could never join in and complain about having a messy house or not having enough hours to get everything done because, after all, they did what I did plus some.  They went to work all day and then had to deal with the laundry and cooking and housework.  Some even worked on schoolwork after their children went to bed.  I used to think I was smart, hard working, and highly educated, but amongst these busy, capable women I started to doubt myself.

There were women who talked about how they could never just sit home all day…how they had to be doing something.  And so I questioned myself.  Am I really that much of a homebody?  Do I really do so little?  Am I bored?  Couldn’t I juggle all of those things too?

But God.  Always but God.

That Still Small Voice began speaking to my heart.  I could do all those things…juggle all those things.  I am an intelligent, educated, hard-working woman.  I am just as capable, but in this season of life, I choose something different.  I choose to not juggle all those things and do all those things. Right now, I choose to be just a mommy and just a homemaker.

Mamas who are just mamas: don’t doubt yourselves.  Don’t question your worth or value or abilities.  Remember that, like me, you chose this path.  You chose to find your purpose and fulfillment in this season not in being able to do it all or be all things to all people, but instead in the small little tasks that come along with being “just a mom”.  I know that one day when our kids are all grown up and gone, we will be glad that we sacrificed so much for those extra minutes with our babes.  We will be thankful that we got the chance to be just moms…and that we took it.  

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

“Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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To the Mama Going from One to Two

IMG_6342bThe other day I ran into a friend who had just had her second child the month before.  In her eyes I saw the all-too-familiar stress and panic that adding a second child brings.  She spoke of the adjustment being hard, even though her second was a much easier baby.  She talked of going from being able to get out of the house in 15 minutes to it now taking an hour and a half…of trying to figure out how to be a mom to both kids.

Going from one kid to two kids isn’t easy.  I know I had the same look in my eyes those first few months.  No babywearing apparatus, freezer stocked full of meals, or Netflix subscription can really prepare you.  Getting out of the house alone with both children will most likely induce a stress-induced panic attack.  No matter how hard you plan, you will have those moments of chasing your toddler across the parking lot, forgetting to bring a change of clothes for both children, and having to drag both children out of somewhere because they are both crying (the baby because she’s had enough, the toddler because he wasn’t ready to go).  And don’t forget having to deal with your potty training toddler having an accident and your newborn having a blowout at the same exact time.

Staying at home isn’t much easier.  There will be nights where your children will literally just trade off which hour they wake you up with a need, and you’ll get up in the morning wondering if you ever actually fell asleep.  Your first child, whether accidentally or purposefully, will kick the baby in the head, try to feed the newborn a cracker, or eveIMG_5810n drag the baby 10 feet across the floor while you’re just trying to brush your teeth for once.  Your toddler will find the candy you have stashed in the cabinet when they know you are stuck nursing the baby.  There will be many, many times when you have to let one child cry while you tend to the other child’s needs…and picking which child to take care of first is never an easy choice.  You’ll be on the verge of a nervous breakdown and need to get out of the house…until you realize how stressful getting out of the house will be.

But, Mama, don’t lose hope.  The other day as I looked into my friends eyes it suddenly dawned on me that that look had begun to fade in my own eyes.  No, having two kids never really gets easier…just more normal.  Getting out of the house with my toddler and now eight-month-old no longer produces extreme anxiety.  I can even leave the house with both in under 20 minutes.  At home, I can actually clean up the house and make dinner most days.

It’s still hard.  I’m still constantly reminding my older child to be more gentle with the baby.  I still have mornings where I wonder if I actually got any sleep the night before, and now with the baby getting more mobile we’re entering into a basically constant lesson in sharing toys.  But trust me when I say that there are good times that will make all the hard times worth it.  There will be times that will fill your heart so full that you’ll feel like it just might burst.  There will come a time when you’ll hear your children blowing raspberries at each other and giggling in the back seat.  One morning you’ll awaken to hear your toddler over the baby monitor sweetly saying to his sister, “Did you wake up, Sister?  Did you wake up, Stinky Chunks?” You’ll watch your baby laugh and giggle because she thinks her big brother is the funniest, coolest person ever.  And your love for them will only grow and grow.

So, Mama, don’t worry.  Two will be hard…but it will be worth it.  

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When You Have a Sweet One

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My son is one of those uncommonly sweet people.  Every time I pick him up from Sunday school I hear, “Miles is so sweet!”.  And then almost every night I hear our doorknob rattle and turn, followed by tiny little tiptoes across our floor.  My almost-three-year-old then silently climbs into bed on my side and neatly tucks himself in next to me before drifting back to sleep.  It’s hard to say no to something so heart-melting.

He’s the type of little boy who tells his mama often that she looks pretty, and you know he means it.  When I was sick recently, he voluntarily would softly rub my back and say, “I’m sorry you’re not feeling good, Mommy.”

His sweetness goes beyond just loving his Mama, though.  He notices peoples emotions, and it bothers him when others are upset.  When we took him to see Big Hero 6 in theaters, we thought that the movie would mostly go over his head.  However, by the time the credits rolled we were left with a sobbing little boy quaveringly telling us that “Baymax fell into the water!”.  He may not have understood everything, but he understood that Baymax was gone (or had been), and was absolutely torn up about it.

As his mommy, I both cherish and fear his tender heart.  I cherish it because it is a gift, rare in this world, especially among males.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s all boy, from his ability to turn anything into a weapon to his obsession with sticks and rocks (especially the throwing of them).  Yet, he has a sensitive streak in him that not every boy has.

I fear his tender heart because I am his mom and I don’t ever want to see him hurt, and yet I know the heartache that this world holds for those sweet ones.  Often in the world we live in, the ability to emote and empathize is degraded and made fun of.  I know that there will be times that my precious boy won’t fit in because of it.  I know that there will be times that he will be misunderstood because of it.  I know that watching the suffering of others will just about break him apart.

I also know that God has gifted him with this heart for a reason.  

I may not know yet what that reason is, but I pray every day that God will give me the strength and wisdom to nurture this precious little heart that He has entrusted me with.  I can’t wait to see the man he becomes.