Where did all my troubles travel?

I am a sucker for Christmas. The music. The lights. The snow. The magic. It’s all beautiful.

Each year that I come to this season, I have some unspoken expectations. I want some chances for fun Christmas shopping that involves caramel brûlée lattes from Starbucks. I want to have an exciting twinkle tour with our kids and lots of peaceful, relaxing moments with my family.

True Christmas magic.

As the snowflakes were falling the other night, I couldn’t contain my holiday joy any longer. We had to decorate.

About ten seconds into decorating sugar cookies I realized this was a complete disaster, and Amayah was not really old enough for this kind of activity. photo 1

About five seconds into setting up the tree, I realized that my child safe ornaments were not the ones that the kids were going after. They heard “these are the glass ones the kids can’t hang”, and went directly for those. Amayah then started smashing them together!photo 3

Needless to say it was a really wonderful night, because I’ve done the whole toddler at Christmas thing before, and was fairly prepared for the on the fly changes that need to happen.

Adjusting to a child’s needs is one thing, but what about an adults?

Christmas can bring out unrealistic expectations in all of us, and getting a bunch of people in one place with unspoken expectations can be like having a bunch of flammable containers close to a flame. Eventually things will blow up.

While listening to some Christmas favourites the other day I was struck by the line in “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” that says “from now on all our troubles will be miles away.”

“from now on all our troubles will be miles away.”

While it’s just a fun song, it really speaks to the unrealistic hopes that we place on the Christmas season.

All my troubles are not going to magically ride away on Santa’s sleigh.

Even if I had enough control over my own issues to not allow them to come up over the holidays, what about the other people in my life who I have no control over?

A friend once shared this verse to help get through the holidays with realistic expectations. I have found it to be an incredible help to keep me levelheaded.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:3-4

These verses hold it all. Ask those closest to you what they are hoping to experience this Christmas, and figure out a way that you can value them and serve with love.

Don’t just worry about what you want, but take an interest in what’s on their heart too.

The gem in that song is the line earlier that says “let your heart be light.”. We can choose to enjoy what comes our way, treasure the memory making of the holidays and not focus on what isn’t going according to plan.photo 4

Get On The Winning Team

Now that we’re on our third newborn, I can see how my husband and I have really grown up together over the last few years.

I remember way too many middle of the night fights when in an exhausted haze with our firstborn.

Then the second baby we were sure would be the end of us (not our marriage, just us as individual people). We had a lot longer to work out our middle of the night issues with her, since she didn’t sleep well for a long time.

One particular night, early in my pregnancy with Eli, I was walking back and forth with Amayah, trying to get her to go to sleep. My baby bump was just big enough for her eleven month old body to put a lot of strain on me.

After a while, Andrew came to switch me off, and I cannot remember the details of what happened, but we ended up arguing over how to put her to bed. In a selfish huff, I told him to go back to bed and let me deal with her.

(In hind sight I’m not sure why on earth being right outweighed sleep…crazy mama).

As the situation escalated Andrew finally said loudly ,“We are on the same team! This is not me versus you. We have to win or lose together.”

Details of that night are hazy to me, but whether or not I backed down in the moment, by morning those words really resonated with me.

So often couples (and we are so guilty of this) approach a conflict as “her versus him”, instead of the couple versus the problem.

The enemy wants nothing more than to turn us on each other so we become disillusioned and miss how he is stirring up trouble.

If we fight each other, we can’t resist the devil’s schemes.

I still have remind my highly competitive self that I am on the same team as my husband, and not be out to do things my way or prove him wrong. 38138_10150214931000431_7879917_n

We’re definitely learning that the winning team, is the one we’re both playing for.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

1 peter 5:8-9

The Loveliest Ragamuffin

My daughter generally has hair in her eyes, that is then stuck to her forehead with lotion that she’s smeared through it. She won’t let us put any sort of clip or headband in it, and I’ve been trying to grow out her bangs long enough to tuck behind her ears.

She’s also an extremely messy eater. And she has the best bed head around. I’m not too worried about changing her clothes right when they get dirty, because she’ll simply dirty another set.

She is wonderful. She’s carefree. She loves to have fun, explore, keep up with her big brother and sometimes that means getting dirty.

I love it.

This morning, as we were getting ready for church, out walked my little ragamuffin from her room, and honestly she was a mess. Her pajamas were soaked from her cereal, her bedhead was out of control, she had pooped her diaper, and it smelt terrible.

“Come here, lovely.” I said to her without thinking.

Then I heard it, clear as day. A word from the Lord right in that moment.

“That’s what I call you no matter what you look like too. No matter what your heart, mind, soul or body looks or smells like. You are lovely.”unnamed-2

It may not sound profound, but it was this realization that I know my daughter IS lovely, always, regardless or anything in her life. And likewise, I am lovely and captivating in the eyes of my heavenly Father.

No matter what.

No matter how discouraged I get with my post partum, stretched marked body.

No matter whether I manage to get ready for the day, make up on or off.

No matter if I think terrible thoughts about someone.

No matter whether I’ve prayed or read my bible.

No matter what.

I am lovely. I am His. I am like a jewel in His crown. That’s my standing. I just AM those things.

You are lovely. You are His. You are like a jewel in His crown. That’s your standing. You just ARE those things.

 

And nothing can change it.

Birthing Eli

At five a.m. my contractions suddenly started. They didn’t come softly or give me much time to ease into them. I had left a few things to the last minute because I had long labours with my other two.

I sat at the kitchen table writing a list of instructions about the kids in between contractions, while the rest of the family slept.

Before I went into labour the Lord continued to speak to me the song “Steady Heart”, and I had planned to listen to that album while I was in labour.

Things started progressing quicker than expected, and we weren’t able to wait for my in-laws to arrive, we had to call a friend so we could leave.

I climbed in the van and fell on my hands and knees. Tears started pouring down my face. I didn’t think I would make it to the hospital. We had an hour and a half drive, and these contractions were coming so strong and so close together.

I managed to sit up which lessened the intensity slightly. Andrew got in the driver’s seat, and I said through my tears “I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this drive!”

My wonderful husband encouraged me that I COULD do it, and turned on my previously selected Steffany Gretzinger album (The Undoing).

God is so good in the midst of pain and fear. Each song that came in just spoke such peace to my soul, and her soothing voice helped me breathe down each contraction.

The line “sometimes it’s painful to be brave, to look fear in the face and know your name”, came on and I felt this inner strength to be brave and take on this labour and delivery with everything I had.

Such peace filled the van, I will always remember it.unnamed-2

We did make it to the hospital, met our doula (who I could not have imagined getting through that intensity without) and got settled into a room. Labour progressed very quickly (for me), and Eli was born with a total of eleven hours in labour.

Everything went smoothly, until a couple of hours after delivery.

They told me to try to go pee, so I went into the washroom and suddenly lost what was to me a terrifying amount of blood. Being sore, exhausted and emotional from just giving birth, I felt so panicked. Could I live through losing that much blood?

That’s when an amazing nurse came in, grabbed my shoulders and looked me in the eyes and said “Monica, I promise I am going to take the best care of you, and you are going to be absolutely ok.”

I kept losing a lot of blood and massive clots. A team of doctors and nurses came and worked quickly to get the situation under control. I am so incredibly thankful for their calming presence, when in reality Andrew and I were so scared.unnamed-1

Needless to say, that little incident slowed my recovery quite a bit, but God’s hand was totally in it all. I had been miraculously fit in for an iron infusion right before going into labour, which stopped me from needing a blood transfusion.

Having a baby is always a very spiritual event for me, as much as that might sound strange. This time was no exception. Seeing the Lord hold fast to his promises to me is alway incredible.

I had my husband pray this verse over me in labour, and I’ve claimed it in each stage, through another round of mastitis, joint pain and exhaustion.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
(Ephesians 3:16)

HE IS FAITHFUL!unnamed

Treasuring Eli

Unless you are one of my personal friends, you may not have heard that we had our baby just over two weeks ago!

Tuesday, October 28th at 3:45 p.m. we welcome a beautiful little boy named Eli.

It’s hard to believe it’s now been over two weeks since that day. There are so many little things that I have been treasuring. I feel like Mary, the mother of Jesus, as it was said “she stored up all these things in her heart.”

Seeing my older two kids meet their baby brother, although a little stressful administrating who got to hold him, felt like Christmas morning. I could hardly wait to see their reactions, and they didn’t disappoint! 10432933_10154737644570431_7235834682934578742_n

Amayah’s initial elation and maternal instinct has cooled a little as she processes not being the baby anymore.

While I’m still recovering and getting stronger after losing a significant amount of blood after delivery, there are many little things that I’m enjoying once again.

Like coffee. Oh I forgot how good coffee that doesn’t give you heartburn or increased nausea tastes.

Or giving hugs without a rock hard belly in the way, I haven’t felt miles away from my husband or kids.

Like the smell of a sweet newborn and their unbelievably soft skin.

When I was pregnant with Eli, the Lord told me he was going to be my “peace baby”. I had a lot of fear around having another baby after dealing with a fussy second born. So far he seems to be the fulfilment of that promise.

Having Eli has been a beautiful reminder to slow down. Not feeling strong has actually been a blessing. I’ve sat in my comfy leather wingback chair and cuddled each of my kids as long as they’ll let me. unnamed

A beautiful peace, like the soft snowflakes falling this morning, has descended on us during these weeks as the most important things have simply been eating, sleeping and showing our kids that we love them.

I am happy to watch baby grow up and run around with his big brother and sister, but in this amazing, beautiful, tiny newborn stage I’m simply treasuring Eli.unnamed-1