Miracles in Everything

Two years ago today, I brought Ethan home from the hospital for the third time in his short eight weeks of life. He had spent 7 days in two hospitals and I was so relieved to be bringing him home.

If you knew me two years ago, you probably know that, in an effort to not be a hypochondriac first time young mother who calls the doctors with a zillion questions and takes their child in for every ailment, I rarely voluntarily took my kids to the doctor. At that point, I had high respect for nurses and midwives, but for the most part, I only took my kids to the doctor at schedule times because that’s what I was supposed to do.

So, on the morning of January 2nd, I sat in the bathroom with the hot water running so that Ethan could breathe. He had a nasty cough and was extremely congested and he was very dehydrated because he could not nurse through his congestion. I was also coming down with something but decided, despite my fever and how I felt, that *maybe* I should take my infant to the doctor.

We went to urgent care and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the doctor told us that due to his age and the fact that he was a preemie, that since he had a temperature over 100.4, we had to go to the ER. I think I was excited to go. They would give my baby an IV, he wouldn’t be dehydrated anymore, and he’d spend the remainder of his sickness at home.

Because he had a respiratory illness, the ER doctors did not give him a spinal tap (thank the good Lord!) and were able to test him for RSV, which was positive. He also had bronchiolitis. They had suctioned out his mucus, given him oxygen, and he was able to nurse, which I thought was amazing. But, given his diagnosis and his age, they decided to admit him. I was hot and cold and feverish and had a horrible sore throat and just wanted to be in bed, or at least have a cup of tea with honey, and to be able to cuddle with my little boy at home, so I was not exactly happy about staying overnight in the hospital. To my eyes, he seemed to already be getting better.

1/2/16 – The ER and his bed that night.

The next day was worse for me, but seemed better for him. He was able to be off of the oxygen for a while. I was ready for someone to tell us we could go home. He seemed OK — not great, but he was alert and he could breathe and nurse, and I trusted my ability to care for him at home. The nurses were great and commented that he looked much better than the night before. This was exactly what I had wanted to hear.

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1/3/16 – A sad look, but he was off of his oxygen and doing OK, especially compared to the previous day.

And then came the resident doctor. “I think we should transfer him to another hospital where they have a PICU and better equipment than we have here,” she said. I was confused — my son was clearly looking better and I honestly thought we’d be going home already.  She explained that with RSV, the peak is usually around 4-5 days, and I had retorted that his cough began last Tuesday, so he was already at/past his peak. She tried remaining gentle and yet firm: “babies this young are like really old people. Sometimes they seem fine, but they can go downhill really fast. The choice is yours, and I will come back later, but I strongly recommend you transfer him.”

That was the hardest night of my life. I nursed him again, wondering if she really said I could lose him so quickly, especially when he seemed so much better. I resented her a bit. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it’s because I really felt like they could only do so much at the hospital. Through tears, I realized, “if I agree to this, it is so he can get better faster.” Around midnight, I agreed to go, and they arranged for an ambulance.

At 3 am, I was woken up by the EMTs. I watched as they strapped my tiny infant into a huge stretcher. The other hospital, where I had given birth to him, wasn’t so far, but the ride felt extremely long. I had on my heavy winter jacket and stared half awake with beads of sweat from the heat at my infant boy, recalling the nervous excitement I felt when I was in the car not even eight weeks before, getting ready to meet him. I didn’t know what to expect this time around, though.

When we arrived at the PICU close to 4 am, he had a high fever and was placed on antibiotics for suspected pneumonia, in addition to his other diagnoses. They started him on high flow oxygen, and I made my bed on a small armchair and went to sleep.

Monday morning, Jan. 4, came, and I familiarized myself with where I was. I went to the waiting room to help myself to some much needed coffee. I was not where I expected I would be only two days before. Those 48 hours seemed like a blur and I wondered when my son got so bad that he had to stay in an intensive care unit. I was confused about what I should pray for. Up until that point, I had prayed that we would get they OK to go home and that Ethan would be healed right away. I then saw a handwritten sign on a Styrofoam plate on the bulletin board there: “God can do exceedingly abundantly above what we ask or can think!”

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1/4/16 – The words I needed at the time.

I wept. I realized that I didn’t know what to pray, but it didn’t matter, because God had it all in His hands anyway.

For the next few days, I rested. I rested in His presence in that hospital, I rested in the prayers of loved ones, I rested in the care of his incredibly medical team, and I even went home one night to get a full nine hours of solid sleep.

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1/5/16 – Between the oxygen, the feeding tube, and all of the monitors, there were so many wires, but I was so thrilled to just hold me baby.

It wasn’t always easy while he was in the PICU. For starters, I had a 2 1/2 year old who needed caretaking – I couldn’t even bring him to the hospital because he was starting to get sick, too. (With the help of multiple family members, he was cared for every day and I did not have to worry once, and I am ever grateful for such a great support.) I had some issues with insurance that I tried to clear up from the hospital room while on the phone. I learned that Ethan had a partially collapsed lung, which is incredibly scary to hear in morning rounds. But, I also had inexplicable peace which can only come from Christ. I knew that I was in the best place to be at a not-so-great time, and that was amazing enough. I met some other parents who were in the PICU and realized how great I had it, and was able to share in their troubles in whatever small way with the love of Christ.

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1/7/16 – Healthy baby sleeping on me and ice cream sundaes in the PICU.

On Friday, January 8, I got the OK from his pediatrician to take him home. I wept the second I started driving away from that hospital as I listened to the words of the song that was playing: His love is relentless.

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1/7/16 – Ethan’s very first smile, the night he was out of the PICU

I was told Ethan would continue to be congested and his lungs wouldn’t be clear for the next month. When, only days later, his doctor listened, impressed, and said his lungs were “clear as a bell,” my first thought was, “that’s the power of prayer.”

My baby was healthy, the healthiest he had been since he was born. I always felt that the timing, the first week of the year, was very purposeful in all of this. God knew I needed to rest in Him, and I don’t think the timing was coincidence at all. My baby was sick, and I hated it, but received top notch medical care, and was restored to full health and did not suffer much, thanks in part to his medical team, but, as He would prove days later, thanks also to my amazing God.

I could explain most of this by reason. I could just brush it off to good doctors doing their jobs (which, they did do a great job, and that week had garnered a whole new respect for that profession for me). I could say that having helpful family members is the reason I could simply rest with my infant in the hospital. I could argue that the clear lungs were not really that miraculous after all. I could point out coincidences.

But really, God was working miracles in every little step — the main one being to draw me back to Him in a place where I had almost no distractions; speak to any mom of a toddler and a newborn, and I’m sure they’d agree that NO DISTRACTIONS for DAYS is an outright miracle. Being in the right places at the right times were also miracles in all of this — from urgent care, to the ER, to the pediatric ward, to the PICU. Living where I live, with easy access to these places, is a miracle. And I am beyond thankful for the way that things played out in such an uncertain time and that God shows his faithfulness when I needed it most.

I love looking back on that week, because it reminds me how gracious God is. It gives my heart a million reasons to be grateful. And as this new years starts out, I am doing my best to practice gratefulness and to see miracles in everything. Because, if I start seeing miracles in the small things, then I have no doubt I’ll see them in the big things, too.

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1/8/16 – After coming home — the healthiest I had every seen him up to that point.

 

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The Sacrifice and Selflessness of Motherhood

I just read an article called “Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness.

Yeah…

It was enough to make me break my silence here and feel the insatiable need to write.

Here’s the definition for selfishness: “devoted to caring only for oneself, concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” Yup, sounds like every mom I know.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any selfish moments in motherhood. Right now, for example, I am being selfish. I am ignoring what is going on with the boys and the house and my husband so I could sit down and write this response. I am being selfish in that I only care what is going on within this two-foot radius and purposely blocking out anything else for the sake of my own interest, which just so happens to be rebutting (with the occasional snark) the article I just read. Yes, I realize the irony.

But I digress.

The author refers to a phone call she had with her own mom about taking her sons, ages 7 and 9, on a family vacation and her excitement to watch them ride roller coasters and enjoy time as a family. She was upset by her mother pointing out that that’s not exactly a vacation for a mom – a mom needs her own time without her kids.

First, I want to point out that I have a 1- and a 4-year-old. One of my favorite memories from this spring is taking them to the carnival in town. I loved watching my older one play games and win prizes. I loved that we all loved the ferris wheel ride and got to enjoy some ice cream while we were there. But let me repeat, it is one of my favorite memories.

As it turns out, my experience with motherhood is not always as enjoyable as those two hours (which I’m pretty sure contained some meltdowns) on that one night this year. In fact, in the past four years of me being a mother, I can assure you that no memories, good or bad, actually define motherhood for me. Motherhood seems to rest in the mundane in this house, and while we make memories, spontaneous or planned, there’s always more to the picture than what our minds’ eye can remember.

But, perhaps, the part of the article that struck a chord with me was not her idea of a perfect family vacation in which there is nothing but joy and squeals of excitement from the kids and how it was actually a pleasure for her to be with her boys, after drudging at work for grueling hours every day of the year (let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with this picture). Instead, it was her matter-of-fact statement that motherhood is not a job. To quote, “the language surrounding child rearing as a job surely derived from caregivers’ and homemakers’ efforts to be acknowledged as fulfilling an important role.” And, to add further insult to injury, she adds that while it is important for parents to do raise their kids, it brings in no income, so it cannot be considered a job.

I consider myself to be a stay-at-home mom, even though I work part time outside the house. I love my part-time job, but I adore my kids even more. Most often while at work, I am counting down the hours until I am able to kiss those faces again. But my job, in which I deal with dozens of kids every day, is nothing compared to the job of raising my two children.

I am certainly not one of those moms who has all of it figured out. I actually don’t feel like I haven even 10 percent of it figured out. My 1-year-old seems to know the times I set my alarm in the morning, because he seems to wake up a half hour before it, every single morning. I groggily start my day and serve the boys breakfast. Depending on how that goes, I am sometimes too overwhelmed by the sight of breakfast foods that I don’t even want to satiate my hunger any more. The rest of the morning is filled with different things. Sometimes, I’m a good mom and take my kids to the park or the pool or even just go on a walk around the neighborhood. Other times, I make the effort to be a good mom and put out an art project for them to do on a rainy morning and find that it only lasts for ten minutes, and that while I was cleaning up after them, the toddler ransacked every single basket of toys in the living room and now there is literally no space to walk, and it sets a bad tone for the rest of the day. And what feels like most days lately, I throw in the towel, take away some toys in an effort to lessen the inevitable mess, and throw on an episode of Curious George for the boys. Or three.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have other things going on in life right now that take away my attention from the boys (such as studying for a huge exam coming up that I really don’t want to fail), or maybe it’s because I could honestly use a day where I wake up and only have to think about myself for a time, or maybe it’s because my toddler is the most strong-willed and feisty child I have ever known (and has been that way his entire life), but this mothering thing really feels like a job and not at all selfish. In fact, in part due to the fact that motherhood, ahem, surprised me a bit earlier than I was expecting (I have no qualms in admitting that we had planned to have our first son a bit later in life, because I wouldn’t change a thing about him today), but it sometimes actually feels like a sacrifice. And not just the lack of sleep or never getting to eat a meal while it’s hot kind of sacrifice, but also that I had to delay certain ambitions of mine and put aside dreams I had for my future – the same reasons for which people delay having children at all.

But here’s the thing: I adore my boys. It is a privilege to be their mother. And when my 4-year-old gives me a bear hug and sweet kiss as I say goodnight to him, it feels like the greatest reward. I mean, I get to call those two beautiful boys my own. And when I tuck them in at night and say “I love you” one last time for the day, I know that they are my reward for the job of raising them and they are worth any sacrifice.


Maybe the author of the article had a few good points. Maybe we shouldn’t focus on the hard work that comes with motherhood, but the joy that we reap from it. And, maybe, as some commenters pointed out, she didn’t mean “selfishness” in the way that the dictionary defined it. Hey, she’s entitled to her opinion, but if that’s not what she meant, then I’m going to call out The New York Times for publishing a writer who can’t use a thesaurus.

 

 

An Overwhelming Christmas

It was 5:30 AM on a Friday in late November. Ethan had already been up for two hours. I was exhausted. He was screaming in the crib, and Daddy tried to takeover and hold him for a bit.

All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t. I decided to use that time to go on my phone to buy the main Christmas gift for the boys: tickets to a Christmas train.

I had it all planned out — we were going to take a mini-getaway a couple of hours from home, and go on this train that was the perfect blend of coziness, affordability, magic, location, and fun. The hotel was already booked, and I had meant to buy the tickets, but when I checked a few days before, I didn’t have my credit card with me, so I could not reserve the train tickets.

So, when I was met by the giant seven letters of heartbreak, SOLD OUT, I immediately started sobbing wailing. So now, my husband had two crying babies he had to try to console.

My reaction may seem a little extreme (it’s laughable now), but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated as it was, and probably PMSing. But the thing that got me is that it felt like I was the biggest failure as a mom at that point. I had planned the most perfect gift for my boys and due to my failure to act, I could not give them a part of me.

Side note: Roland was a gem through all of this. So kudos to him. 😉

Fast forward to today, almost a week after our mini-getaway, I can tell you that the train ride would have been awesome but we had a great time as it was. (Because I know you’re curious, we went to a car/train museum and then to a nice hotel with a great indoor pool for kids. Joshua had the time of his life, and Ethan was perfectly behaved.)


Then today, as I was reading the story of Christmas to Joshua, I wondered how Mary felt. Each day, we focus on different portions of the story because Joshua is 3 and we have attention span issues with longer stories and I feel like there are so many important details to focus on. Today, I thought of Mary placing her newborn baby in a feeding box for animals because she had no other option.

Did she feel like a failure?

Did she, the woman who was hand-picked to carry our Savior, feel like she wasn’t cut out for the job?

Was she overwhelmed that at such an inconvenient time and place, her body was going into labor?

Did she question how she was going to raise this child when she realized that he would be born in a stable that night?

Did she wonder if she should have had a plan? Shouldn’t she have known that the census would be around this time? Wasn’t there someone Joseph knew who they could stay with? Did any of these questions go through her mind?

As a mom, it’s so easy to feel like a failure. Especially around the holidays, when we try so hard to make everything special for our kids but realize by December 15 that it’s more stressful than not and then wonder if it’s best to not soak up in the holiday magic or push through it anyway, and what about the Christmas gifts?

But Mary… she was a young girl who had one of the most important jobs this world has ever known. She was the vessel that God used to bring Jesus Christ into the world. And even she did not have all the answers. Heck, she even forgot her kid and did not notice until the next day.

So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect moms? Why did I sob over one mom fail when my kids were perfectly happy, despite my one mistake (which was so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things). Why do we especially strive to make things so overwhelmingly magical during this season? (Emphasis on overwhelming.) Don’t you think our kids would be equally happy with a little bit less stuff, planned events, and stress?

When Mary looked at her perfect baby lying in the manger, I don’t think she was thinking about the fancy bassinet that she did not have. When she saw the shepherds coming and bowing down before him, I don’t think she thought twice about the kind of mother she would be.

I think she was perfectly content, knowing that her baby boy was in her arms, that her Savior was in the world. I think the more she just sat and stared at his tiny face and took it all in, the more overwhelmed with peace and joy she became.

I want to do that. I want to focus on the fact that Christ came down to this earth for the every wounded heart, every broken soul, every crushed spirit, every afflicted body,  and even every financial problem.

I want to be overwhelmed by his goodness this Christmas.

I Am Woman.

I’m not sure how to start this. How do you address a month+ gap in writing? Maybe we can just not address it and sweep it under the rug? Heh

Well, part most of my absence can be explained by my starting work in the past month and a half. My husband and I had been talking about it for a couple of months or so before I started and I have to tell you, I was so nervous to start. I didn’t want to have to work and I was sad for the times that I wouldn’t be able to see my beautiful family.

I ended up getting a part-time afternoon/evening job at a company that I had worked at previously and that was happy to have me back. The thought of giving up family dinners a couple of times a week broke my heart. The thought of not seeing my husband when he got home from work on those nights made me sad. I wept when he, in a proud and encouraging way, called me an “official working mom” the night before I started.

Fast forward to now, and I love my job. We have a new normal in our routine and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on as much family time as I feared. In fact, I feel more purposeful with my time now that I am gone several hours a week. I knew when I had started work that being a stay-at-home-mom was draining on me most days, and though that is still my title for half the week, it feels like it doesn’t take as much of a toll on me. It feels like I have found a nice balance in my life with this new job.

Since I start working (even as little as I do), I feel more confident, have more boldness, feel like a better mom, am a better worker, and feel slightly more satisfied with myself. I feel empowered.

But here’s the thing. I don’t need to be a working mom to feel empowered. I don’t need to work outside the house to feel like I have a purpose. I don’t need to contribute financially to the house to feel like I’m doing something.

My body has the power to grow life and then sustain it. Shouldn’t that be enough to make me feel empowered?

I love being a mom to my boys. God has blessed me with the most amazing ones and I can’t believe I get to kiss those faces every day! But occasionally, in the midst of all the exhaustion and chaotic monotony, I would feel like what I was doing at home with the boys simply wasn’t enough.

Where did that lie come from?

It’s election day and I can’t help but think that tomorrow I may wake up to news that we will be getting our first woman president. Yet, I wonder why one woman is being praised for running for office simply because she is a woman, when eight years ago there was another woman running for a position almost as prominent and she was ridiculed because she her accent made her seem less educated. (This is not a political statement, just a view on how we, as women, view women.)

Since I had my boys, I have been asked by many well-meaning women if I work. Most of the times, it’s an innocent question just to make small talk, but sometimes it felt like I had to justify myself when saying that I’m staying at home with my boys.

I have never had a man tell me that I wasn’t good enough at something (or if one has, I gave him a look and moved on, forgetting all about it). A man cannot know what a woman is. Yet, over my lifetime, girls and women have done things and said things that stick with me and make me wonder about myself.No rejection stings more than from someone of my own gender.

And why?

There is no rule for what a woman should be, do, or how she should dress or act in her life. (I believe in modesty and acting in certain ways, but that’s not what I’m referring to.) 

I’m talking about the times I was teased in 4th grade for how I wore my hair.

I’m talking about the cheerleaders in middle school who were snubbed by other girls who insisted that cheerleading was not as a sport and soccer was a way better option.

I’m talking about the virgin in high school that other girls made fun of, unaware that it was her choice to remain that way.

I’m talking about the pregnant teen who other girls labeled irresponsible and shamed her for the life she has inside of her.

I’m talking about the women in college who wanted to major in chemical engineering and were told it was too hard by other women.

I’m talking about the woman who didn’t go to college because she chose to get married young and be a housewife.

I’m talking about the woman who is still single because she has no interest in committing at this time in her life.

I’m talking about the woman who wants so badly to have a life companion and is told by women that she is not independent enough.

I’m talking about the mom who formula feeds for no reason other than she doesn’t want to breastfeed and is judged for her decision, despite her healthy kids.

I’m talking about the mom who breastfeeds, baby wears, and uses cloth diapers who is viewed as over-the-top.

I’m talking about the single mom who other moms feel like she just isn’t good enough.

I’m talking about the CEO of a start-up who hears whispers of women saying she works too much and is not a good enough mom.

I’m talking about the vice presidential candidate who was mocked because other women thought she was weird.

I’m talking about the middle-aged woman who is still a stay-at-home-mom even though her youngest is in high school.

Why do we, as women, feel the need to berate or belittle other women because of their life choices? Why do we question their success and their methods? Why do we find fault in what they do? Why do we feel the need to dwell on their mistakes or faults?

I am strong, emotional, a self-doubter learning to be confident, empathetic, nurturing, a good listener, a tad insecure, and smart. I do not need to be extremely successful in my career to feel like I made a difference. I do not need to play with my kids every second of every day to feel like I’m a good enough mom. I do not need a woman as president to tell my future daughter that she can be anything she wants to be.

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a worker, a child of God.

I am woman.

 

 

Pumpkin Muffins – Refined Sugar Free

It’s fall, y’all!

(Sometimes I think I have a secret southern side of me that likes to come it at random times…)

With fall comes all sorts of things, like back to school, apple cider, and, I have no shame in admitting it, pumpkin spice everything. It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, but I am really excited to try out some pumpkin spice ones. 

To take all the fall in, we went pumpkin picking as a family last weekend. Joshua had a blast figuring out which one he liked best. 


This is why I love the fall. 🙂

So, back to the muffins. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 c quick oats
  • 1/4 c organic sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/3 c sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp maple agave syrup 
  • 1/2 c pumpkin purée*

*I didn’t have time to make the pumpkin purée myself, so I just used canned organic pumpkin from Trader Joe’s. In case you were wondering, here’s how to make pumpkin purée (which is much like roasting squash):

  • Preheat oven to 350° F
  • Slice pumpkin in half
  • Scoop out seeds and insides with metal spoon (rinse pumpkin seeds, lay flat on paper towel to dry, and roast them to get full use of the pumpkin!)
  • Spray some oil on the pumpkin
  • Lay flat side down on baking sheet and put in oven for ~45 minutes
  • You can test the pumpkin’s doneness by poking the skin with a fork and making sure it’s tender, even soft, to the touch

Making the muffins is pretty simple. 

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. 

2. In large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Mix lightly until well blended. 


3. Once blended, add in all wet ingredients (oil, egg, milk, syrup)

At this point, the mixture is more like a sticky dough, and less like batter.

3. Add in pumpkin purée and fold into dough until well blended. 


4. Scoop batter into muffin tins. Make sure you fill the cavities to the top!

I made mini muffins.

Optional: top with some cinnamon for some extra spice. 🙂

5. Bake muffins in oven for 13-15 minutes for mini muffins. If you’re making regular size ones, double the baking time. 

This recipe yielded 21 mini muffins and would make roughly 6-8 regular-sized muffins. 


Don’t they look so good??

Store them in an airtight container, and keep them at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer, depending on when you’ll want to enjoy them. They last me about a week at room temperature, though I wish I would have put them in the fridge after 2-3 days. 

Tip: pop them in the toaster oven for a few minutes before eating to enjoy them warm. These go great with tea or coffee!

The Day I Didn’t Hold My Son

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Sometimes I feel like that saying rings true even with my own kids.

I love my boys more than I could ever express, but sometimes I just see hear a little bit too much of them. I need time alone to recharge, and sometimes it feels like that time should last a week.

My husband and I have been toying with the idea of me returning to work part time. While figuring out hours and making sure my boys are well cared for are my main hindrances, I think about all the positives that come along with me leaving the house for a few hours a week. Aside from the small amount of extra income, I think about the time that I would be away from my family. A small part of me grows sad thinking about it, because I’m so used to being with them day in and day out. Yet, I imagine that the distance apart would make the times together that much more special.

Almost anyone who is a stay at home parent, especially to more than one kid, knows that breaks are few and far between. When I had just Joshua, his naps were moments of freedoms for me, time to regain sanity and accomplish some chores, do some schoolwork or just have a cup of coffee in peace. With two, nap times are rarely at the same time (if Joshua takes a nap at all), no matter how much I plan out the day.

This moment was so rare that I had to take a picture of it.

It isn’t uncommon for me it have to fold laundry without one of the boys “helping” or make dinner while begging Joshua to get out of our teeny kitchen.

What was once a mindless chore for me to enjoy (yes, enjoy) in peace and quiet, often turns into a battle where I feel like I’m losing my mind if I don’t remember to practice patience.

Today was one of those days. I put the boys down for a nap at the same time. We had spent some time in the heat outside, jumped and danced around with Joshua, and counting how many hours they had been awake, I was sure they would both sleep indefinitely.

Joshua never slept. Ethan took a nap that was half as long as normal.

I was tired as it was from cleaning different parts of the house all day and even more frustrated by this lack of quiet time. I brought the boys downstairs while I finished folding laundry. Ethan has this thing where he doesn’t cry, he screams. And it’s the perfect pitch to shatter my ear drum. So I listened to that while I tried to finish my chores.

Eventually, we got to a peaceful enough point when dinner was almost finished where I made an alphabet tracer for Joshua with a $3 chalkboard from Target and chalk paint.

He’s writing in his own H. I think it’s his favorite letter. 

Wouldn’t it be great if every moment was like that? Would I value more time with them like that if I was away from them more?

The truth is, it’s easy to get annoyed when I’m trying to finish up dishes and Ethan is screaming bloody murder from the high chair, begging to be held. It’s almost easy to stay annoyed for the rest of the day at my tired baby, because I know that if he would have had a normal nap, he wouldn’t have been tired at this time.

But at the end of the day, I look back and wonder if I should have held him more, regardless of how I felt or what needed to be done.

See, back when he was in the hospital in January, during his first day in the PICU, I wasn’t able to hold him. I had asked the nurses, but from what I understood, they didn’t want compromise with all the wires and machines that they had hooked him up to. I felt so helpless, watching my sleeping, helpless, frail baby fight for his life. As his mother, my innate job was to give him life and I could not do a single thing about his condition at that time.

It sucked.

The next day, the nurse on shift encouraged me to hold my baby boy. I was as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. It was the sweetest feeling in the world.

This was such a wonderful moment for me. I held him for what felt like forever.

So, on a day like today, when I imagine how good it would be to get out of the house, away from my screaming boys, I find it important to remember that there was a day when I couldn’t hold my baby. I hold on to Ethan extra long at night, after he’s fallen asleep, and stroke his sweet face and hold to his little hand. I want to savor every part of him, in the moments when I can. Whether I’m at home all day or work full time outside of the house, I want to take advantage of the time I have with my boys because I do not want to imagine another day where I long to hold my baby but cannot.

Learning to Dream

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:1‬ ‭ESV

This October will mark four years since I found out I was pregnant with Joshua. It will mark four years since I realize no matter how much I plan, God has the final say.

Roland and I were newlyweds at that point. We were young and excited to embark on life together. Things were not always easy, as anticipated, but we made sound plans for the future. We planned foreign excursions, budgeting, home ownership, and eventually a family. But that October afternoon was when I realized that God had a completely different plan for our lives at that point, one for which I was not quite sure that I was ready.

That season in my life changed my view on life and planning and living for the future. I decided that I would not make such a concrete life plan for myself or our family. I would devote my future to God’s hands.

I would still have goals — reachable goals — in my heart. I would still go after them. But I would not tie myself down by setting such specific goals so that I could allow room for God.

And that’s great and all, but

My goals were too reachable. My goals did not make me wonder how I could make them happen. They were small enough that they didn’t seem impossible and low enough on my priority list that my world wouldn’t be shattered if God stepped in again and messed up the plans.

But I heard God speak the other day. “Why are you thinking so realistically? Don’t look at the numbers, just dream.”

The truth is I was putting my goals and dreams inside of a box just small enough for me to still have some sort of control over them (or to keep what I would potentially have to give up to a minimum). As such, I was putting God in a box.

All these years, I never realized it. I thought I was being a good Christian by allowing my future to be so open-ended, enough for Him to freely play around with it.

My thought process was not bad. A “Lord, guide me” approach requires faith that God will take you where He needs you. Acknowledging that His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9) is biblical.

But I also let fear get in the way. For a short while, I was angry with God that October four years ago. I didn’t understand why or how He would take the dreams I had and not allow me to live them out as I had planned. I wanted my future to play out a certain way and it did not. I was scared that I would dream up another future that would also not happen.

The truth is, four years ago, I did not see where I would be today. In some senses, I am where I swore I would never be and in others, I’m in a better place than I could have imagined then. No matter the dreams or goals that I have today, no matter the plans I make, however detailed, I still will not be able to see four years down the line, let alone forty.

In the meantime, God is placing dreams in my heart. In some areas of my life, I feel more of a burning desire to just go out and do and in some other areas, I still have some apprehension as I wait for God to speak. Some of the dreams He has placed in my heart seem completely impossible. Some seem hard but I have a heart that is ready. None seem easy.

And yet, I have a promise in Proverbs 16:3.

I mentioned in my last post that God has created me (as He has created you) for special purposes. I trust that the dreams that He puts in my heart are things to further His kingdom, ways for me to live out that purpose.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming. There is nothing wrong with planning. But God’s ways are so much higher. His thoughts are so much higher.

I cannot continue to keep God in a box by dreaming small, by having goals that I can easily attain in my flesh. If I do, I don’t have a reason for Him to be in my life.