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“That was fun, but now we’re done.”

*Eli’s birth photos are courtesy of my amazing Corina Riley, who was not only my doula, but captured these stunning pictures, moments I will treasure forever.*

We knew Eli was going to be our last baby from the start. There was no accident in the eighteen month age difference between the him and Amayah.

We wanted more than two kids. Andrew and I both enjoyed multiple siblings, and all the two kids families I babysat seemed to fight more.

After Amayah, the thought of another pregnancy, another birth and potentially another colicky newborn terrified me to no end.

So we made a brave (or stupid) decision to fast track our family and have the last one right away and move on.

My first months being pregnant with Eli were so depressing. I cried all the time, wondering why on earth I had done this to myself – all day sickness and a daughter that didn’t sleep?

It’s funny how a year can fly by just like that and the little boy that I questioned if I should have conceived, has been one of the brightest lights in my life since the beautiful day he came.

There are many reasons why we can’t go through with having another baby, some too personal for even a blogger to share.

But as my baby boy grows at lightening speed, the reality is hitting me.

No more newborns.

That sentence alone can draw tears from my eyes.

When I think about that part my heart aches – it’s such a short season.

I will miss that feeling of extreme pain to extreme joy, and the awe and wonder of a new life.IMG_7881_Edit

I will miss the proud look on my husband’s face as the new baby lays on my chest.IMG_7890_Edit

I will miss the soft cuddliness of a new baby that can hardly move and the thrill of showing a new baby off to older siblings.

All the parts that sadden me the most are over in a few short weeks.

After I had Caleb I thought there was no way that we would get the three kids we wanted. Pregnancy was so hard, and birth so difficult, I believed there was no way we could go through the process again.

But we did. Two more times. And that was the bravest thing I have ever done in my life.

Getting pregnant the first time we were excited and naive, but the following two babies took all the courage I could muster to commit to carrying another life.

I wouldn’t trade my three precious children for anything in the world.

I’m reminded of a Daniel Tiger rhyme: That was fun, but now we’re done. It’s time to say goodbye.

Well parts weren’t so fun, and now we’re done, so I’m letting myself say goodbye to that stage of my life that came so slow and left so fast.

I thank Jesus for the privilege of allowing me three incredible experiences to carry and then birth my babies with no drugs and great skin to skin bonding.

I thank Jesus for a husband who stood by me the whole way through, and continues to loves me even though he saw me at my worst, three times.

Caleb, Amayah and Eli – you each changed me for the better. I’m so proud to say you are our family.
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The Best Date Night Ever!

date night blog.001Now that you have hopefully agreed to go on three dates in three weeks, here are a few things we have discovered that help us with our dates!

Remember I said yesterday that half our dates are out and half are at home? Here are some things we’ve learned about our going out dates.

1. Pray that day. It seems like every time we plan to go out, the kids don’t sleep well, life feels like a disaster and we end up getting in some varying degrees of an argument.This is totally the enemy trying to keep us from this much needed time together. Pray on date day that the Lord would guard your hearts and that no offence would be easily taken up.

2. Choose a question to ask each other. How many times have you got to a restaurant and suddenly felt like you had nothing to say? Or we end up talking about how to deal with a parenting issue that’s been really challenging…or even worse: FINANCES! (we’ve now learned just to never talk about finances on a date…)

I crave deep conversations and too many times I came home feeling disappointed and like we had paid a babysitter for nothing until we started this.

Before we go on our dates we each think of something we are going to ask. It can be as ridiculous as “what animal do you see yourself as?”, to “where would we live if there were no limitations?” or “what has the Lord been speaking to you about this week?”.

Our conversations have taken us places we couldn’t have imagined with a pre-meditated question.

3. Leave the kids. The first time we left Caleb to go on a date, my little baby was two weeks old! It was our first anniversary and we had the blessing of parents close by who we felt very safe leaving him with.

I remember running into someone that night and them looking shocked that we didn’t have our newborn with us out for supper. I felt so guilty for leaving him alone (even though it was really only two hours).

Looking back, I see how that was one of the best moves we could have made, setting the precedent off the bat that our marriage comes even before the kids, and that the best thing we can give our kids is a strong relationship between us.

When it comes to babysitters, we totally understand seasons of not feeling like you have extra to pay one. We are blessed to now have a “babysitting fund” that is a top priority in our monthly budget.

If you don’t have family near by, offering to trade babysitting with another couple is a really great idea. We tried this a few times, and it worked great. It was one of my friends, so I knew her kids, and vice versa. Be creative, but don’t give up trying to come up with a way to get on a date!

4. Keep it lighthearted. Studies show that laughing together and trying new things create a bond between a couple that can help carry them through the tough times. Trying new food, walking a new path, or sharing a new experience all can draw you closer.

 

 

 

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Too busy not to date.

It’s the weeks that we look at our calendar and say there is no time for a date, that we know we are too busy not to carve it in. We actively clear two or more hours of our schedule and make one happen.

I’m thankful that with my husband, there is always time for a date.

Our church has taken on the “date night challenge”. You can too, even if you don’t live anywhere near us!

Here are a few reasons that Andrew & I make time to “date” each week. I would say half our dates are at home dates, and the other half we get family, friends or a babysitter to stay with our kids.

1. No matter what is going on in our lives, when we stop to spend time with just each other it reminds us that we got married because we enjoy each other, and that we value one another and put the other before sports, friends or other things that we would enjoy doing in our spare time.

Even when there is no “spare time”, creating this space energizes our relationship as it speaks volumes to one another that we are in this for the long haul.

2. Couples that laugh, talk and have fun together, literally do stay together. Even if it’s a stretch to find common interests, find one thing that you can bond over!

One thing I love about Andrew is that early on in our relationship he took a chance and tried some things that I liked, even if he assumed he wouldn’t. It challenged me to do the same. Turns out even though some of these activities, movies or interests weren’t common in the first place, they are now.

3. Life quickly becomes an administration project. I know with working together, managing a household, dealing with three kids, we can quickly only talk about things that are simply administrative details. Even when we try to avoid it, work and the kids seem to always creep in to our conversations!

This can damage intimacy if we aren’t careful to talk about what’s going on inside of us, and how we’re growing and changing.

When you have deeper, more meaningful conversations with just about anyone else in your life except your spouse, that’s a red flag. Don’t worry though, it only take a little effort to get back on track!

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(Photo booth at the date night challenge! Photo cred: Brooke Haus)

So here’s what our church is doing. We have each committed to go on three dates in three weeks. It takes three weeks to form a habit, and we know that once you experience regular dating again – you won’t want to go back to your routine before!

God gives us another for whatever challenges we may face!

 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

Don’t let the chaos of life dry out your most precious relationship!

More more information on dating your spouse and the Date Night Challenge visit www.datenightchallenge.com

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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

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No Strings Attached

photoAfter my last few mornings at work I’ve come home to a clean house, bathed kids, supper in the slow cooker or something right out of the oven, and a home filled with laughter.

“How does he do it?” I’ve wondered. My husband just seems to have boundless energy, and has picked up a ton of extra work around our place in the last couple weeks as my body has slowed down significantly since hitting the third trimester of this final pregnancy.

I’ve been so relieved that our new 50/50 split of staying home with the kids and pastoring the church has gone so well. My husband has done an amazing job of pushing me to walk in my calling as a mom and a pastor, and he’s embraced his influence with the kids at home while balancing everything at the church. He’s so humble.

But even in the middle of this thankfulness, I get this horrid feeling that creeps up in me that I owe Andrew so much. I feel like I’m constantly justifying myself, reminding him that when I’m not pregnant I am so much more productive, and that he won’t have to do so much for long.

He comes home from his times at work and supper is barely on the table, the house has exploded in the last ten minutes, the kids are screaming and there is peanut butter all through their hair!

In those moments, I compare the situations and get so scared that his love and devotion toward me is going to waver because of the disaster I am.

We started into a series on Galatians at church, and as my husband was preaching on how we cannot earn any piece of the love of God, I was struck by this humbling comparison.

The Lord takes us through seasons, and I’ve definitely been in a time of humbling. I like doing everything. I like being extremely productive. I want my husband to think I’m superwoman.

And while Andrew is not perfect and I’m sure there are moments where he wishes I was more helpful, God is using him as a living example to show me this “no strings attached” gift of grace and salvation that the Lord has given to me.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Galatians 2:21 says that if I try to earn God’s grace through works, than Christ died for nothing.

So as much as my flesh is at war to prove myself to Andrew, and to God, I’m humbled by my lack of ability to show off to them – I’m saved from my boasting, and Christ died for something.

 

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Taken For Granted

A newly married woman was hanging out with some of her friends on the beach at a church camp we were at. I watched her husband run up, kiss her on the cheek and ask how she was doing in the heat, if he could bring her anything and what she needed from him.

It was a sweet moment, but I was trapped in my own chains of bitterness as I felt overwhelmed by my two little kids.

“We’ll see how long that lasts, just wait til they have kids to look after.” I thought angrily to myself. “How the other is doing will be the last thing on their minds.”

It was a really hot day, and I was stressed out about the kids getting heat stroke, and was constantly worrying about how much water they were drinking and that the bugs weren’t eating them alive.

Seeing that exchange, the thought fluttered through my mind about how Andrew was doing in the heat.

“He’s a big boy, I don’t have time to worry about him.” I silently seethed, deep down missing when all we really did worry about was each other.

In that moment I somehow became “that mom” or “that wife” that I never, ever wanted to be. The kind of annoying woman who says things like “just wait until they have kids”, or “if you think it’s hard now…”, scarred by her own disappointments.

This realization made me break for a heart check, and I saw I was feeling taken for granted. It was all just about the kids. And I fed into making it all about the kids.

Of course each of us are big enough to hold our own and make sure we’re taking care of practical day-to-day needs. But are we married simply to manage to survive caring for little kids? Of course not.

Everyone wants to feel cared for, and it only takes a moment to show that you care about how the other person is doing.

I caught up with Andrew later, and asked how he was. He looked a little shocked by the question (showing that I obviously hadn’t been the most attentive wife lately), and said he was tired but doing ok, then asked how I was.

It was literally just moments, but it was a reconnection that needed to take place.

Later that same day a single girl gushed about how blessed I was to have married such an incredible man. photo

It hit me in the face that I can’t take him for granted. He’s an amazing guy, and if I don’t take the time to show him I care, someone else will.

As I’ve been asking God to help me keep my husband at the forefront of my mind, along with my kids, the Lord has give me this verse of encouragement.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

Genuine affection can just take moments, but it is a powerful sword against taking each other for granted!

Faith, Hope & Love

Give Me A Widow’s Heart

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A group of widows whose husbands were killed in 9/11 were interviewed and asked what they missed most about their spouses. Over and over the women said they miss the things that irritated them the most when their husband was alive.

“I hate when I hear wives complaining about their husbands,” one widow said, “I would do anything to walk into our on-suite bathroom and see the toilet seat up again.”

Tragedy seems to be constantly happening around us. There doesn’t seem to be too many days between reminders to hold our loved ones close, or to treasure them. But after the emotion fades, do we really walk it out in the heat of battle?

Tonight I wept over my kids as I heard of a little boy who has been given just weeks to live after a long battle with cancer. Grief over another’s situation is so strong, I can’t fathom living through my own.

Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, suggested something that has had me thinking over the last couple weeks. He said to pray and ask God for a widow’s heart toward you spouse.

As I prayed this, my eyes suddenly became open to all the things that irritate me that Andrew does. I wondered if my prayer had backfired.

Slowly, God started to show me how broken I would be if these things were missing, and they have actually become joys.

I suppose that’s the start of a widow’s heart.

The same prayer could be applied to your kids. The things that drive me crazy, I know I would give anything to have them back.

I don’t want my torn up emotions to be only a superficial experience that doesn’t change the deepest parts of who I am.

Lord give me a supernatural love and appreciation for my family, that does not come from having to lose one of them. photo