Liberation by the word “No”

No.

Such a short word, but it is one with powerful implications. As a Christian woman, I live my live intentionally seeking to deepen my relationship with God and walk the path that he has planned for me. When His answer is no, the internal struggle naturally increases.

This year God has been teaching me to flip this natural reaction. When His answer is no, it is instead an opportunity to draw close to Him in faith and let His might move. His power is on greater display when it is obvious to the world that what is happening could not have been done by my abilities and hard work. In these times I should seek refuge in Him and ask for His peace to fill each caveat of my soul; for His light to shine through my interactions with others.

This has never been clearer to me than during my battle each morning. Due to my hormone health journey of the last 28 months, each morning I wake up shaking, anxious, usually nauseous, and already tired. But. Each day I sit down with God as I eat breakfast and pour my heart out to Him. I listen for His words, and I diligently put on the armor of God. I verbally affirm that I am wearing the helmet of salvation, shoes of the gospel of peace, the breastplate of righteousness, and that I am protected by the shield of faith that quenches ALL darts thrown at me by Satan and this world. I hold in my hands the sword of the Spirit and pray without ceasing for I am an ambassador and ought to speak boldly to bring glory to God. This is my birthright as a daughter of Christ. He is with me now, and will be with me through each step-and sometimes misstep-of the day.

Yesterday I felt Him whisper something I’ve been waiting 28 months for: Stop. It is time.

The answer I hoped for did not come, but I am eager to embrace this alternative answer. It is time to stop trying to fix something that is broken. I’ve tried many medications and seen multiple physicians while attempting to find a solution that would kickstart my body into functioning as a 30 year old body should.

Despite everything I’ve tried, the answer was always “no.” Not this medication. Not this doctor. Still not functioning.

Stop. It is time.

Although I am broken-hearted that I will not have more children, I am thankful for Lilah, love teaching at SML, and have so much fun with my family. Getting off the rollercoaster of hormones and stepping onto the jogging path of stability sounds liberating.

Sometimes when God says, “No,” he is really saying, “Not that path, because I have such great plans to use you here. In this place. With these people. Go out with joy and live.”

 

 

 

 

Promises Kept: Joy Comes in the Morning

Promises kept. Promises fulfilled in ways beyond my comprehension or planning. Our God is the God who has promised from the beginning of time that we are never alone–that He walks with us, within us. Nothing on this earth can separate us. Nothing.

This morning I opened my Bible to three separate scriptures with boxes around them and dates next to them:they were dates of dark times in my life when I claimed a promise that God makes to us. Dates I wanted to remember as fully trusting that God wasn’t ending my story there. God was moving, and one day I would see fulfillment of those prayers . My heat stopped as I recognized which ones God has fulfilled, and which ones I still walk in faith that He is working on.

In that moment, I felt His supernatural peace extend to every corner of my being. It is amazing how He can instantly change your entire world. At times, that change may feel overwhelming, heart-breaking, or devastating. But. Such feelings are of this world. While you’re consumed with negative emotions or despair, God is reaching for you.

So breathe. Pause in the hurricane of life to seek God. He hates the valleys as much as we do, but He has a mighty plan. He is moving through those awful times. Seek His peace. Seek His comfort. Seek His counsel. Nothing else will work quite as well.

Eventually the day comes where you see a glimmer of light, or perhaps one day the entire sun is on display for you.For though the sorrow may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.

Kings battle for their own

Jesus lives the most insane of all sci-fi stories ever. My favorite genre is by far the sci-fi/fantasy one: unlikely hero conquers all adversity despite the odds against him and emerges to shape the world into a better place where there is now hope and peace.

Sound familiar? Jesus is the original sci-fi hero. He literally did things that are impossible, inspired the most unlikely of people, and actually came back to life after dying. Ya’ll. He died…and His story didn’t end there.

He came back! He changed more lives, and then He quite literally rose up into the heavens, but not before leaving us with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit: a supernatural internal guide and presence that will never leave us.

What!?! I can only imagine how this would look on the big screen if talented artists in this genre were in charge of the next Jesus movie. I think it would blow minds. That hero that geeks are always looking to connect with? Yeah, He is even cooler than all the other heroes to date, but He has one added benefit. He is actually real.

I’m a creative gal. I thrive when I have room for my ideas to fully develop, and a place to express them. One negative about being such an internally creative person is that I can have major tunnel vision. I get sucked into trying to fully explore and flesh out an idea to the extent that I can’t focus on other things, time mysteriously vanishes, and if I have to stop before I am ready then I can quickly spiral into a lot of doubt. Worry that I haven’t reached where I need to go, fear that I don’t have what it takes, anger with myself for having let time slip away,and an anxious heart that something is missing.

Last week God stopped me in my tracks. Like a punch to my gut, I realized that all of those thoughts are actually from my sinful nature. They are tools the devil uses to prevent me from embracing the power that God is so graciously wanting to show others through my weaknesses. They are the Orcs, the goblins, the slithering snakes that seek to break through the front lines and destroy all that is good.

Our minds are the battlefield God wants to display His power on. He tells us to put on His armor, to persevere, to call upon Him to save us. He tells us His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He asks us to let Him do His thing. Do we? When met with an obstacle-internal or external-do we instinctively say, “God, you’ve got this. I’m putting on the armor, stepping back, and claiming my birthright with you. Send your forces here to battle and knock out this evil.”

I wasn’t.  I’m disappointed to admit it, but there it is. When in those situations I responded by trying to fix it myself. By feeling worse and worse as a daughter of God and retreating. The enemy’s forces could easily swell over me. I felt defeated.

The good news is the war is never over. A lost battle isn’t the end of the story. Sometimes it is the catalyst we need to be desperate enough to accept what God has promised us. Sometimes you need to lose a battle, so you can win the war.

This morning I woke up early, to a crazy loud alarm, and my heartbeat already racing out of my chest. I knew I had two options: give in to the crazy thoughts starting to form fearing the day (being new at a job is nerve-wracking!) or immediately start arming myself with all that God has promised. I’m choosing option 2.

Just like my favorite scenes in Return of the King, my King is riding through the battlefield of my mind cutting down all that opposes Him. No foe is too strong for Him. He delights in vanquishing his enemies, and leaving me full of hope and peace. I am not his fiercest warrior, but I am His daughter. He protects His kids. He gives His kids hope and peace despite adversity. He is the King, we are His kids, and each battlefield we face is one He wants us to let Him conquer. Let your King do his King thing. 🙂

 

 

 

Mighty is our God.

I arrived at Saturday’s prayer vigil slightly late because I was outside on the phone with Granny, and we were talking/crying about how thankful we both were to be married to the right man. After more than 60 years of marriage, having been married at 18, Granny was dealing with the emotions of her partner getting ready to join Jesus. Granny is a very plucky lady who I admire greatly. After hanging up, I entered the foyer, didn’t see anyone, and followed the sign on the door that said, “Prayer Cove.” Since I’m relatively new to the Lutheran world, and probably because I was already emotional, I didn’t even think of looking in the sanctuary, instead following the sign to the prayer cove.

It was lit by peaceful candles, had a note from our pastor on the board, and featured a huge cross with a scattering of concerns people had left at the cross. I sat down and began praying. This vigil focused on people battling cancer, so I started with the people I know fighting through it, and went from there. After awhile, I shifted gears and began praying for people within my family who need God’s intervention in their situations. On top of that, I have been struggling with my own health issues over the last year, so I prayed for that too. For many months it became hard to function in social settings. Some of this was a reaction to the medication intended to fix the problem, and some of it was fear of fainting or having a panic attack due to my body not regulating its chemical levels correctly.

I have known for months that teaching at SML is where God wants me to be this year, and have been on a faith walk with Him believing that He will either miraculously fix me or lead me to the right physician to get it done. I’m mollified to admit it, but wanting to feel healthy again has been more than slightly consuming, while achieving nothing useful. As my mind began to spiral focusing in on my singular issue….

God spoke, “You need to stop thinking about your health. You need to think of and take care of my kingdom. Let me take care of you. You take care of my kids while I work on fixing you. I am Mighty and I am Moving. I am providing for you–my Strength is enough, but you need to claim it. Stand confidently in the grace of being my child. Arm yourself and I will fight your battles for you.”

I was floored. I instantly felt a deep level of peace and confidence that God’s might is powerful, and He will give his disciples, me included, the strength needed to do His will. This is revolutionizing my patterns of thought. There isn’t any situation that can impede His plan. Over the past few days I have been consciously and consistently putting on the armor of God and focusing on His kingdom. It has been the first time since the end of March that I’ve felt strong. It is completely due to the Might of our God. It isn’t because of my strength or a sudden ability to handle the signals my body is sending, but is entirely because I am confidently claiming what God told me to–each and every opportunity I have.

Over the last few days, some pretty big events have happened within my family. It isn’t the time for them to be shared in a public forum, but I can confidently say that God is clearly on the move. He is doing mighty things for the health and life situations of family members. He also unexpectedly provided in some life changing ways to Adam and I personally. In addition, He took home my Grandpa Chief late last night. As much as the family will miss him, I have complete peace knowing that He is partying with Jesus and his family who passed before him on this gorgeous, starry night. Chief lived a long life and I am confident he was welcomed into heaven with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

The journey continues tomorrow as Lilah and I begin our school year at St. Mark. I keep getting nervous, and then pulling my armor back up and passing off each worry, doubt, and fear to God’s team. And boy, has it felt like a siege. The devil sure wants to stop me teaching. That’s His battle to fight though. My job is to give it to Him and keep focused on each of those darling kids He has placed in my room this year. God will fight through all manner of things to help us fulfill our roles for Him.

So on my last night before resuming my official role as an educator, I claim for my kids the same words God spoke to me, “You need to think of and take care of my kingdom. Let me take care of you. I am Mighty and I am Moving. I am providing for you–my Strength is enough, but you need to claim it. Stand confidently in the grace of being my child. Arm yourself and I will fight your battles for you.”

What changes could a school see if each kid asked God to fight the human battles, while the kids focused on knowing God and building His kingdom? Check back with me in May and I will let you know.

 

THIRTY.

Thirty.

It’s just a number. It isn’t scary. Except. Except it is.

Thirty represents the closing of not just a chapter, but an entire novella of life. The end of the beginning of adulthood. The beginning of the prime adult years of life.

I entered my twenties with excitement and apprehension. Adulthood was beginning. I was making choices that would impact what doors were open for me and what paths I would travel. I was managing a newly discovered hormone imbalance that I will most likely manage for my entire life. I was head over heels for a boy in a relationship I had no business being in. I felt like I knew so much and so confident in who I thought I was.

I laugh now at my 19 year old self. Sure, I  was more self aware and displayed more wisdom than many other 19 year olds, but…I was still 19. I was judgmental, I viewed the world in black and white, I didn’t have a lot of compassion, and I didn’t stand up for myself. I was quick to anger, extreme in my explosions, and hated myself for it. I didn’t have enough respect for myself to break up with a boy who didn’t deserve to be in a relationship with me. I worried I’d be alone forever.

I had a fortunate decade. My twenties brought me the love of my life, our clever and beautiful daughter, jobs where I truly impacted children, and friendships to make spare time memorable. My relationships with my family grew in unexpected ways, and I even got to marry into a family who I love spending time with. Heck, Lilah and I traveled to Michigan to visit them 4 times in one year. We live next door to Hannah and within miles of Melanie. My parents and Grandpa are even in the same city. It’s pretty awesome. Most people don’t have so much family so close.

Not to mention the adventures: I’ve explored numerous hotspots around Houston, honeymooned in Jamaica, celebrated my 23rd birthday at Disneyworld with my best friend, partied all over Austin, and have begun traveling around the states on vacations. Alabama’s coast, northern Michigan, Cape May, Orlando, Dallas, New Orleans, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Nome. Each place I visit inspires me to visit elsewhere. There is so much to see!!

Everything wasn’t glorious though. I experienced dark valleys that I wasn’t sure would end. I don’t want to write them today, but they happened. Sometimes you soar through trials, and sometimes you just keep moving. Slowly. Like a turtle. A muddy, ancient, turtle.

As I get ready to start the next decade of life’s journey, I am thankful for those around me, the health I have, and the hope of awaiting adventures. I’ve learned to display compassion because I don’t know what others have endured. I value my time with loved ones and intentionally plan to make memories together. I am confident that my opinions matter to those around me, and even if I can’t express it succinctly, I still need to communicate them. I know that life is fragile and an indescribable gift from God. I try to live like it is.

There are many things I hope to do and be a part of in my thirties. They may happen, but then again, maybe life will surprise me. I’m humbled by the knowledge that most of life’s happenings are beyond my control. I can control my response to them, I can make the best choices I am able to make, but so much of the future is beyond my reach. Even so, here goes my list for my thirties:

  1. Expand our family with another sweet child
  2. Travel Internationally: New Zealand, Australia, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Greece, Japan, Canada, Caribbean Islands
  3. Travel Stateside: NYC, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Nashville, Seattle, San Diego, Napa Valley, National Parks, Disneyworld
  4. Buy a house in a neighborhood with trees and a great park within a 30 minute commute to work
  5. Become a master teacher by staying in the same subject and grade
  6. Get my Master’s Degree in ….. Curriculum? Library Science?
  7. Publish my book (sent to several publishers already!) and write more…publish them too 🙂

So here’s to my last Friday as twenty-something! I’ll end this incredible decade by pushing myself in the Tough Mudder tomorrow. Nothing says “adult” quite like paying to race over obstacles and through five miles of muddy trails.

Except. It does.

Signing up for the Tough Mudder held me accountable to weight training five days a week. I’ve gained ten pounds of muscle and am now motivated to keep this going. What’s more adult than changing your habits and holding yourself accountable to your goals? Being an adult is about meeting challenges head on and finding a way to push through them. Here’s to tomorrow, and a fresh decade ahead of me. Happy birthday to me!

Patience Padawan.

Bon. Bon. Bon. Bon. Keep on running, just go faster. Bon. Bon. Bon. Bon. Squat and hinge and rise and down. Bon. Bon. Bon. Bon. Left and right and left and right. My time in the gym is the only time during the day that I feel normal these days. The extra adrenaline running through my body, the chemicals striving to return to balance, and my restless mind all have peace when my body is engaged in physical training. If there is one thing I can improve on my own, it is getting physically fit.

A year and a half ago I recognized the same signs that I have experienced before that my hormones were not functioning correctly. It is in no way comparable to having cancer or struggling with a loved one’s death or anything truly devastating, but when your body doesn’t work right, it is quite difficult to manage. Since the doctor I had seen prior to Lilah’s birth had moved out of state, I took a recommendation of a new doctor and scheduled an appointment. He ran my bloodwork, commented on my thyroid levels were slightly low and I had hashimotos, but it wasn’t bad enough that he thought it warranted medicine. He gave me a progesterone cream and sent me on my way. A few months later I stopped nursing Lilah, waited in vain two months for my body to regulate itself, and scheduled an appointment with a different doctor. This doctor was the one I used in my early 20s when I first began having such problems. I was less than pleased at my initial appointment in July; however, I had faith that they knew what they were doing and would get me well. My bloodwork showed low estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and thyroid.  Several months later, after every appointment becoming a mess, and feeling worse than I have ever felt in my life, I scheduled yet another appointment with a new doctor.

The latest practitioner I visited ran extensive blood tests, read my paperwork, and came in with an initial plan to help me.  As of now I daily take 5 HTP, DHEA, Cortisol, Thyroid Support, Tirosint, and a cream combining Progesterone, Testosterone, and Estrogen. I can’t say that I feel noticably better yet, but it has only been 7 days.

When you walk through a part of life when your internal chemicals are as messed up as mine are, it can manifest itself through extreme anxiety, panic attacks, tremendously negative feelings, and ridiculous fatigue. I am nervous and ashamed everywhere I go that people will judge me because I’m panicking for no apparent reason. My panic attacks hit frequently and hard enough that I haven’t subbed all month. Each day feels like a battle against myself.

I can logically tell myself that none of this is real, I’m in no danger, and I am excited about whatever place I am going. It is to no avail though–as if a net has covered my brain and trapped the logical calm parts underneath. Instead just a shell of myself remains for now.

Sometimes in life you just endure. You lean on God, take care of your family the best you can, and wait. I’m not good at waiting. I’m very much a go get the job done and do it exceptionally well kind of a gal. I’m a dreamer, a traveler, an adventure seeker. Right now is the time to just persevere. Continue stepping one foot in front of the other through this murky phase until I come out on the other side.

I keep trucking along. I wake up tired in the morning and pep talk myself that today I will get through the panic attacks without fainting. At night I go to bed exhausted and thankful that I got through the day without tremendous incident.

One day soon I know I will wake up and be noticeably better. It happened in college and my mid-20s. It just takes time and medicinal help. Everyone has their battles in life, and this is one of mine. Writing about it makes me wary because of how scared I am of being judged incompetent, weak, and fearful. But. There is a minuscule part of me that feels that maybe writing about it will take away the power of such negativity. Maybe if I’m open about how these are temporary effects of my body’s imbalance that I’m working on fixing, maybe, MAYBE it will help.

I don’t know how to end this properly. I guess I’ll just say that having kids affects everyone differently. Getting older impacts each body. You don’t have to live in a place of despair or frustration forever. If you notice that you aren’t feeling like yourself anymore, go seek out help. Persevere through the difficult phase and I will see you on the other side. And hey, maybe you’ll be surprised when you get through the phase at how fit your body is now. After all, don’t we all want to Live long and prosper?

 

You can keep your sanity and your money at the Houston Rodeo with kids!

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Yee-haw! What an adventure! HLSR is one of the best parts of being a Houstonian. For three weeks a year you can spend endless hours immersed in a citified version of true Texas culture. The rodeo kicks off with the incredible Trail Rides into Houston and the BBQ cook-off. Each of those topics warrants their own article so I will glisse over those topics for today. When the rodeo actually gates open on Day 1 you should gear up for a day of laughter, learning, and a whole lot of walking.

You can pay to park at the Yellow Lot and take the complimentary tram right over to the NRG Center or you can park elsewhere and ride the Metrorail to the entrance gate. School groups typically dominate much of the grounds from about 9:45-12:30. I like to get to the rodeo about 10:00. Coming from Katy that allows me to miss most of the traffic, spend several hours at the rodeo, and still get home before the worst of traffic begins again. Before I leave home I make sure that my snack bag is packed, comfy shoes are on all our feet, and extra sweaters are in the stroller since the NRG Center is an icebox.

IMG_6561To begin the day, I like to go to an often overlooked, but excellent show held in the NRG Arena. Note: this is an entirely different building from where the rest of the livestock activities are housed. By the Fannin entrance, next to NRG Center, you can board a tram that takes you directly to the Arena. Do this. It’s quite a walk and you need to save your energy for later in the day. Once you enter the arena you will basically have the entire place to yourself. Let your kids touch real saddles, genuine leather accessories of all kinds, and take advantage of the empty, barely used bathrooms. Once your little group is ready, walk up the short staircase and find a seat in the nearly empty arena. All day, everyday, you can watch various competitions. Check the schedule to find out what you will be enjoying. We got to see cutting on Tuesday. A quick google search filled us in on what exactly we should be watching for. My daughter loved getting to see the horses in action and I learned about a new skill. (Yes, the Arena has cell phone reception!)

For your next adventure, hop aboard the tram back to NRG Center and consider grabbing food before the lunch rush. There are plenty of tables under tents and even some space on the grass for the little ones to run around while you eat. You should be able to quickly and easily locate BBQ, but it might take awhile to decide which delicious place to try. If you aren’t ready for lunch,  you can still use the outside seating to have a snack. You are allowed to pack your own food, so I make sure to take a bag of snacks to keep the Gremlins away.  This not only is better for our sanity, but it makes the rodeo much more affordable. You can enjoy a rodeo treat guilt free if you know that ALL of your food for the day doesn’t have to be purchased.

IMG_6576After your appetites have been satisfied the school rush should be beginning to wane. Just behind the food tents are the petting zoo, pony rides, and kid farming experience.  Make sure to explore these excellent sites when field trips are not present. Not only will it be more relaxing, but the workers are more available to give your little cowgirls and cowboys more individualized attention. The petting zoo is free to enter, but will cost you a few dollars if you want to feed the animals and are over the age of 3. For us, simply petting them is enough. There is much to be enjoy in a petting zoo complete with deer, llamas, kangaroos, sheep, and a variety of goats.

IMG_6556Outside the petting zoo is the most fantastic hand washing station you can imagine. They have a second station next to Mutton Bustin’ and if your little one is wary of washing his hands…send him here. You can explore its delights yourself, and I assure you that there are many. Hand drying has never been sillier! If you don’t smile then you might be the Grinch. Just saying.

 

IMG_6593One of the best exhibits for kids is the outside farming simulation. Kids pick a basket at the beginning and continue on a winding trail experiencing different farming activities. They get to plant seeds (okay, really they are just coins, but the way it is done is adorable), feed chickens, milk a cow, feel the wool of a sheep, play in a giant corn box, and more. Along the way live animals are penned at each station with kid size windows for an up close look at the livestock. The facilitators at each station are knowledgeable, friendly, and excited to be there. This is a can’t miss activity if your child can walk and is under 8.

IMG_6557Your day is in full swing and you haven’t even seen the Pig Races or Mutton Bustin’! These are scheduled nearly every hour and it is clearly labeled in your rodeo brochure. Select a time you’d like and arrive a little early. These are popular events and the best seats will fill up. The tents for these activities are the two huge tents situated in the middle of the carnival. Walk quickly here to avoid carnival distractions. If your little one is 5-6 years old, then he is eligible to ride his own sheep! You will need to complete paperwork and I believe pay $15 for this experience. It is absolutely adorable. I look forward to the day Lilah is old enough to do this! I have a feeling we will spend a small fortune riding the sheep again…and again…and again.  But hey, they can only do it when they are 5 or 6, so it doesn’t last long!

IMG_6564Have another snack and head inside now that the sun is heating things up outside. By now all the school groups should have left, but the crowds shouldn’t be beginning for the night’s events.  Enter NRG Center at the entrance by Fannin to be close to the exhibits for kids. From there you can spread out to conquer what interests your family the most. We particularly love the birthing center because you can see babies that have been born recently. We got to see three lambs that were less than a day old! There are also pigs and cows expecting babies soon. Next to the birthing center you can walk through a red barn to inspect a variety of cows and pigs. Kids can collect trading cards at each section to learn more about the livestock. From there you can walk through the rabbit maze. I had no idea there were so many varieties of rabbits. They usually have a couple of rabbits out for you to pet too.

IMG_6568If chickens are your thing, then there is an entire section just for you! A large pen with several chickens is located behind the inside petting zoo. Next to the chicken pen you will find the two hatching stations. On day one there were zero hatching chickens, but by now I bet there are several! On the shell you will see a number, that number is the expected number of days before the chick hatches. Again, the facilitators are knowledgeable and so happy to teach your little one. Take advantage of this. The more interested you are in each area you explore, the more exciting your day will be. Curiosity is contagious!

Inside NRG Center there are also multiple arenas that show livestock throughout the day. Consult your schedule for the latest postings and be sure to head to an arena when you need to sit down. The HLSR doesn’t have many areas designed with seats, so go to an arena if you need to sit down. You can rest and your kids can learn about cattle, goats, sheep, or whatever animal is currently competing. After resting you can walk to the back of the arena and take the back way around the center. This is the side where the real rodeoing happens. It isn’t showy back here. The animals are penned, the competitors prep their animals, and the people are serious about being here. You can get an interesting, and different, experience from hanging out back here. Again, don’t be shy! Say hello to some folks and ask them questions. Participating here is a passion of theirs and most people are happy to talk to you. An additional benefit of this area: the bathrooms! There are bathrooms back here that probably will be less crowded than at the front. There are even family bathrooms throughout the center, so keep your eyes open for those. Nothing helps a potty training toddler more than having a quiet, personal bathroom.

If you still have energy at this point, you can shop! Take advantage of the space in your stroller and load up with western treasures for yourself or to use as Christmas gifts. It’s never too early to start your Christmas shopping. If your kiddos are on their last leg, or your legs are about to give out, find the middle of the giant room and head out those doors. Just beyond those doors…are….more bathrooms and food! There is an incredibly delicious corn stand here. Or. If corn isn’t what you want, you can have ice cream or BBQ.  Personally, ice cream always seems to do the trick in the middle of the afternoon.

Take your snack and mosey through the exhibits in the hallway. You don’t want to miss the exquisite quilts that are on display. This is also where the art competition winners are available to peruse. The artistic talent that some youngsters have is astounding. By some miracle, if you are still going, then take the elevator to the second floor where you can find even more educational exhibits.

Honestly, I haven’t made it up there yet. Maybe next week!

IMG_6608We absolutely love the rodeo, and I love that you can do so much of it without truly spending a lot of money. If you keep your cowboys and cowgirls engaged with the vast number of agricultural exhibits then you can essentially bypass the entire carnival.

Before you hit the road to sit in Houston traffic again, open up that cooler of snacks you packed and grab a special momma snack and drink. It might be a long journey home, but the memories you made today and the enchanting photos you took should help melt away the traffic stress. Enjoy your trip to the rodeo and maybe we will see you there!

 

Tomorrow’s memories are today’s adventures

The Williams Family loves adventures. We intentionally approach our activities as adventures and strive to create incredible memories together. Lilah now even chants “Adventure!” complete with a Superman arm motion.  Lilah is smack dab in the middle of being two, and I will not hesitate to say that I am loving it. Being the mom of a two year old is more fun than I ever imagined. I have a hunch that it isn’t just about Lilah’s age or the incredible blessing that I have in working part-time this year. (Although I know that plays a role–having the opportunity to focus mostly on my little family is the best experience ever. I absolutely love it.) It’s also about my conscious change in attitude towards motherhood’s challenges. For just about every story I share of an amazing adventure that Lilah and I have completed, someone is bound to utter one of the following:

“Just wait until you hit the terrible twos…”

“Oh the threes are worse than twos…you’ll see…”

“When your kids get older–THAT is when parenting really begins.”

Oh dear. I cringe each time I hear statements like these. My inner dialogue rapidly spirals for although I shared the highlights of our adventures, I know about the low points too-and sometimes they are quite low, “Gee, thanks for succeeding in making the glass look even emptier than it already feels at this moment. I don’t think I handled that act of defiance as I should have. I’m not fit to be Lilah’s mom. Why did I have a kid again? Wait…what is even my purpose here? If I can’t get it straight with my tiny human when I’m not working full-time, then what hope do I have of any success?? This feels really difficult, but if this is just the beginning then I’m screwed!”

And so on. And so on. Before I know it I am mentally sitting at the bottom of a deep well feeling trapped, claustrophobic, and rapidly consumed by despair. And this can happen after we’ve had an incredible day together! I can recognize that people don’t intend to send me to the Black Hole of Doom when they make such innocuous statements, but truly, what is the point of such ominous warnings?

Few people feel comfortable randomly warning: Just wait until your metabolism and internal chemicals shift gears. Oh, you’ve got some tough times coming when the doctor calls you back from that annual check up…yikes, the news is never good. When you get to be 70–THAT is when your serious health troubles really begin.

No! It’s not generally socially acceptable to proclaim doom is upon the horizon. When it comes to young mothers though–almost everyone feels comfortable informing us of the miserable and difficult times that are ahead. People feel it is their right to belittle our current struggles by suggesting that we have it easy now and that it is inevitable that dark times will soon consume our waking hours.

Have they forgotten the journey that began in a strenuous and exhausting labor? Have they blocked out the sleepless nights that followed for months? The waking every hour, maybe two or three, to feed and comfort their little one?  I’ve heard many a tale of restless babies who put their mothers through the ringer trying to figure out WHY their precious bundle of love continued sobbing for seemingly no reason. I’ve been that mom.

Then there were meals. Months of eating with a baby in your lap-hopefully you got to eat when it was hot, but probably not. Trying to leave the house could easily become too complicated between trying to get ready and feed the baby, pump for the baby, and clean everything up. And the walking: endless. walking. Babies often want you to hold them and walk…start channeling your inner Dori because you might find yourself needing the encouragement: Just keep walking. Just keep walking. Tra la la la la. ::Repeat::

Or maybe their lives weren’t that way at all! Maybe their lives were sunshine and rainbows because they had peacefully slumbering babies, with no difficulties eating, no post-partum complications, and a significant other who was their equal parenting partner in every way. That wasn’t my experience though. I have a fantastic spouse, but I would never say that figuring out motherhood has been easy. My hormones have been a mess, my sleep schedule has been a wreck, and I’ve consistently struggled to minimize stressors.

BUT. God has a great plan for you (and me!). Although bad things will happen, that doesn’t mean that His plan can’t handle them. Our kids will go through phases or have moments that drive us batty, but that isn’t something to dread as seasoned parents unintentionally (I hope) sometimes lead us to believe. Live in the moment and prepare the best we can (I suspect Adam is glowing that I’m paraphrasing him). Then meet our hurdle graciously and confidently. God wasn’t just saying that He would be with us–He truly meant it. He will help us find our inner strength to handle our challenges. When it gets to be too much, He will even carry us through it. It’s up to us to trust Him to do this though.

I used to exist in a place of constant mental anxiety over all the bad things I envisioned to be waiting around the corner for my family. I still struggle with this in all honesty. It’s a constant effort to focus on God’s grace and hand over my worries. At some point I grew up enough to be acutely aware that there is nothing stable and infallible in our world. That knowledge frightened me to my core because I want things to be stable so my daughter can live a safe, healthy, and exciting life with all of her family members. There are so many locations to explore and adventures to be lived. I want us to live our lives fully!

Motherhood will always have its challenges, but it is also full of promise, love, and thrills.

The beauty is that we can choose how we meet the obstacles and opportunities in our path. We can dread the next phase our children will pass through, or we can embrace the adventures we will have as our children mature. As Lilah’s mom, I want her to always know that I will be with her when her life feels difficult, I will not lose my patience because she has lost hers, and I will seek out the adventures that God has prepared for us…especially in the dark and difficult times.

If you’re in the midst of early motherhood, a frequent tantrum phase, or praying for guidance in dealing with a defiant child, take heart. This too shall pass, and when it has passed you will be left with the memories that you created while you endured this challenging phase. What will your memories be?

 

 

Good Job Star Wars! (a spoiler filled reflection)

This contains spoilers. Not incredibly detailed ones, but spoilers nonetheless. What follows is my reflection upon viewing the latest Star Wars Film…Read at your own peril.

 

 

Finally! The movie powers that be have finally decided to give us an epic action saga that is led by a GIRL.

Stop. The. Presses.

Did you read that correctly? The latest Star Wars film centers around a young woman who may or not have Skywalker genes, but who is definitely a woman. To add to that, never once in the film does a single character comment on her gender, gorgeous features, slight physical frame, or make any other “witty” comment that points out how surprising it is that she is kicking butt. The previous Star Wars films all had multiple lines of dialogue objectifying Leia and Padme. They were fantastic heroines, but they were always secondary to Luke and Anakin.  Even in their moments displaying strength, they relied on men to truly be free of their situations.

I would venture to bet that if you are a man, you didn’t even notice this. As a woman who loves a genre dominated by male leads I was stoked to emotionally invest in a saga where the lead character is my gender. I anticipate watching this with Lilah when she is older because the barrier is finally down. Strong women have played important roles in all of my favorite cinematic adventures, but their journey has never been the focus of the film. They are always ancillary characters whose journey is important as long as it progresses the male lead character’s story line. We now have the biggest franchise of all time leading us into a new age of cinema by creating Rey as the lead heroine. There is great hope that books featuring female leads will now make it to the big screen with proper production. There are opportunities for this generation of girls to watch strong, independent, clever women ruling the screen without concern for their physical appearance. Movies for girls may no longer be dominated by the sappy romantic comedies or Nicolas Sparks tragic love stories.

In addition, from the beginning of the film we got to see a character immediately assumed to be evil actually quickly turn out to have a moral compass. Here was a guy who was tragically taken from his family, raised as a number by despicable men, and knew the truly dark inner workings of the dark side. And yet, in his first battle, he made the conscious choice not to take part in this atrocity. He then quickly found a way to escape this horrid fortress and desired to start a new life. His heart was not changed by meeting a love interest, but was changed by his own recognition of how morally reprehensible the actions he was tasked to do actually were. Good does not need to be taught to people, it is already in their hearts. They either choose to follow it, or they choose to ignore it. Throughout the film Finn continually chose to do things because it was the right thing to do. He is a stark foil to the character he battled with in the forest.

Which…was…amazing. The battle was between Finn, who grew up in utter darkness, with Kylo Ren, who grew up with fantastic parents and yet allowed himself to be swayed to the dark side. Watching their scene made me reflect on how we are all presented with opportunities to do what is honorable…or not. It is never too late to do the right thing.

Kylo could have chosen to say no to the darkness within on a daily basis. Just in this film we saw multiple opportunities for him to resist evil. Each time he chose to continue further along the dark path. What would happen if he decided to truly fight the darkness in his heart? We know his family would do anything to help him, but he consciously pushes them away and chooses a different path. Although I was angry that Leia’s son would turn out this way as a young adult, I realized that this type of thing does happen. Despite being loved by our parents, we don’t always make the choices we know are the right ones. Kylo is an extreme example, but what happened to him that made him think the dark side was the best option? Why does he keep choosing it when his family clearly wants him back?

So many conversation starters were presented by the way the Star Wars developers decided to film this movie. It wasn’t just another action film, nor was it heartless sci-fi saga. It highlighted a clever young woman, showcased a broken family seeking reconciliation, flawed characters, and hope that if we do what is honorable, we can vanquish evil…maybe not once and for all, but for this generation.

As a geek, a mother, and a woman, I am sold. Bring on Episode VIII!!

 

What they didn’t tell you

Life will never be the same. Your days of sleeping are over. Say goodbye to nights out and hello to the DVR.  Enjoy it–they grow up too fast. 

When you are expecting your first child even strangers are bursting to share their own labor stories, words of wisdom, and child rearing expertise. You listen politely and nod your head, occasionally widening your eyes and forcing laugh at the often odd stories that people feel compelled to share with you. I can’t tell you how many people stopped me at HEB in my ninth month of pregnancy alone! There’s something about the glow of very pregnant lady. It connects people.

Sure, it is fun to crack jokes about sleep deprivation and diaper explosions, but these jests don’t capture what it truly means to have a child. The bond of motherhood is astounding. Perhaps these strangers feel the electric pull you radiate since you will soon experience the new mother love. No words can ever capture the intensity of this love. Some are lucky enough to catch it in a beautifully timed photograph, but even that doesn’t do this particular love justice.

No one told you that your heart and mind would be full of such burning and pure love that you feel as if you’ve been blessed with a glimpse at how God loves us. Suddenly Jesus’s sacrifice for you takes on a whole new meaning as you feel to your core the aching need to do whatever you must in order to procure safety for your child:

Nothing is off limits. You’ll blindly sacrifice everything you have.

You’ll break any human law necessary.

You’ll go to the limits of the Earth and fight every obstacle with dogged determination. You may tire, but you will never give up.

You will always persevere because it isn’t about you anymore—it is about that precious, innocent life that God has put into your safekeeping.

What a beautiful burden! To be able to nurture a blessed child of God from birth–to guide your child back to Jesus, to teach her compassion and kindness, to explore her talents and show her how to use them to bless others. Seemingly mundane tasks take on new joy as you see them through the eyes of your little one. Chores are no longer annoying, time consuming tasks, but are now opportunities to show how hard work and cleanliness benefit the people you love. They offer quiet moments to make incredible memories.

No one tells you that the best moments of the day will be the sound of tiny feet running to you, chubby arms eagerly hugging you, and that sweet voice calling your name.

No one tells you that you can spend hours having dainty tea parties, twirling in circles, and dressing up. You can read of magical lands, unlock the mysteries of the alphabet, and turn everything into song. Your voice is music to your daughter’s ears and your smile lights up her face. You can make each day enchanting through adventures, giggles, and a sprinkle of whimsy. You practically transform into a fairy godmother.

No one tells you that you will be even more excited than your baby is as you watch her discover she has fingers and toes. Each small milestone is a huge moment in your lives because your baby can now do something that she couldn’t do yesterday. She can control muscle movements, communicate her ideas, and react to the world she is so raptly observing. Each time you see her do something new you think, “THIS. This is it. This is the best it has been, and it can’t get better.” but. it. does. No one tells you that.

Or maybe people do. Maybe people do try to tell new soon-to-be parents about the joy they will experience when they lock eyes with their baby. Maybe the pre-parent mind is locked out of truly understanding what people are trying to share. Perhaps the key lies in those soul searching eyes that lock on yours after arriving in this world. Those little eyes that coo, “Mommy. I’m here. Daddy. I’m yours.”