Dreams: Forgetting to Live

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Because every good self-reflection should begin with some Harry Potter and Thoreau…and Hillsong worship music in the background as you write.

It’s amazing where you find yourself in this adventure called life.

One day you just wake up and say, how did I get here?

And, where did I go wrong along the way? 

That happened to me this summer.

But to get to the end, it is best to start at the beginning.

I’ve been fairly truthful with what a struggle it has been to be Baby K’s mommy. He turned three this spring, and I had one of those wake -up -and -question -everything moments. Who am I? How did I get here? Where did my joy go?

I used to love being a parent. When I had Baby A, my heart was filled with so much joy and hope and excitement and patience. I loved every moment of being a mom! And my heart was filled with dreams of having more children, lots more children. Maybe 6 children. Klayton and I both come from larger families (Klayton from 9 and me from 5), and with me teaching preschool kids have always been a central part of our lives.

I always thought that I would have a couple of kids and then stop working. My life would be filled with many tiny faces that would look like mine or Klayton’s, and would consist of school drop off and laundry and playing and excitement.

This was my dream, to have a large family, and dreams come true, right?

Well, not for everyone.

After Kreade was born life became such a struggle. He was SO hard, for SO long. And I was SO mentally affected.

And along the way and after several difficult events it became clear that when it came to tiny little faces, we would only be producing two.

But when I woke up this spring and questioned everything, I realized several things.

I  realized that I was grieving.

It may sound weird to say that you can grieve a dream. But that is the only way I can find to describe how I feel.

It’s hard to let go of something that you have always wanted, always imagined, and always planned on.

There is such a sense of loss in knowing that you thought things would be one way, yet life has shown you that they need to be another. And your entire perspective on life has to change. You feel so guilty for knowing that you just can’t do it…that even if you tried, you know so deep down in your heart that it’s just not meant to be…and you’re not good enough, able enough, strong enough to be that person. But you should be – women are meant to be moms, so why can’t you just suck it up and have another kid?

And the little voices sometimes won’t leave me alone.

They attack me and shout at me until I think that I won’t ever be good enough…

But somehow, in these moments, my heart awakens and reminds my soul that His ways are not ours…and I know, this is what is meant to be.

But in the midst of grieving this dream, and surviving Baby K I realize that I also lost my joy.

I lost myself somewhere amidst the cries and sleepless nights, the years of trying to be everything that one little body needed…and failing.

I forgot what it was like to simply be…a mom.

Our journey with selling one house and building another has been somewhat symbolic for me. I dreaded having to live in our tiny 24ft camper while the house is being built.

But, it’s funny where this adventure leads you and what you meet along the way.

And what I thought would fill my life with hardship and more struggle has actually brought both healing and re-discovery.

I’ve met simplicity.

I’ve met time.

I’ve met experience.

I’ve met the person who I once was, and who I want to be again.

And somehow, this simple little life of working and living in our camper has reminded me of who I used to be.

I enjoyed being a parent.

I enjoyed life.

I had hope.

So this move is my fresh start. It’s where I find myself again, and will continue to grow into the person who I want to be.

And while I still know I am meant to only produce two tiny faces, I am hopeful for the future.

Because even if I only have two myself, God can grow our family in other ways.

And besides, I have 120 tiny faces to love on at work.

And even if I only have two, I can still love being a mom…even if it wasn’t the mom I once dreamed of.

So in the midst of this simple summer, I am remembering how joyful it is to just be with my children…to explore the world around us, to investigate nature and all it has to offer, to read and to play…and sometimes, just to cuddle and sing songs until Baby K falls asleep and then snuggle up under the covers with a flashlight and read “big kid” books with baby A.

And of course Dumbledore is right…in dwelling on my dream I forgot to live.

But thanks be to God who can restore both hope and joy, and resurrect me to be who He created me to be.

By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me
In your name I come alive
To declare Your victory
The resurrected king
Is resurrecting me

-Elevation Worship

 

 

 

Note…Instrumental in my self-discovery this summer has been a book that my friend recommended for me…Simplicity Parenting. I’m only halfway through but I can already say, it is highly worth the read.

 

 

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Mr. Aksel Turns 3 – On Letting Go of Birthday Expectations

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.  – Voltaire

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.  – William Barclay

I still haven’t forgiven myself for failing to have my hospital bags packed when I was a week over due. The irony is that, though my bags were not packed, my homework for the next two weeks was complete ahead of time. But my bags were not packed, and if they had been I would have missed Mr. Aksel being born on that infamous first day that people like to attempt to fool one another one. Alas…

And now it has been three years. Three years and finally most days bring more smiles than they bring tears. And while he still is a challenging child, speech delay and all, I finally feel like we are getting there. Like I can handle each day and not need to talk to a therapist at the end of each day.

But another year older bring another years party…and parties have proven to be all but disastrous for Mr. Aksel. I can’t remember one of his birthdays that have been “fun” or “cute” or anything that you would generally imagine.

Of course, year one he put the candle out with his fingers – and didn’t cry – I should have realized then he had sensory problems 😉

Year two, I can only remember thinking…let’s get this thing over with.

When your child, the birthday star, is clinging to you and fussing through his entire birthday, too overwhelmed to even eat his cake, and dis-interested in opening his own presents you start to wonder if having a party is even worth it.

It is sort of one more thing that I’ve grieved over this boy-I-never-wanted, but the boy-who-God-knew-I-needed.

So I won’t have all of the instagram and Pinterest worthy pictures that every other mommy posts.

So I won’t get to make my daughter’s day planning and decorating for a party (she on the other hand, thrives on parties).

No cute pics. No cute decorations.

I’ll tell ya, you definitely get some weird looks when you tell your family and friends that you are not having a birthday party for your own child.

But guess what?

We didn’t have a party.

And it was the best birthday that little boy every had!

All day smiles and all day celebration.

Ellie and daddy went to the store and got him balloons and a sister-present before breakfast.

He opened his presents from us, played with them, and ran around with his balloons most of the day.

Grandparents and his Aunt stopped by throughout the day to give him a gift and wish him happy birthday.

And we ended the day with cupcakes and candles and singing happy birthday.

Because even though you may think that society expects you to have a party and that is just what you do if you are a good parent – sometimes, it is just not true. And while you yourself may grieve the fact that your baby boy just does not like crowds, and noise, and parties and all the pictures and planning that go along with them…you may be surprised to find out that you like a no-party birthday after all.

Because every child is different. And every child needs different things.

This idea is the whole reason why I began studying child development and chose my career path anyways.

God made them all, but He made them all different too.

And what’s good for one is bad for another. And in learning about your own child you will learn a lot about yourself.

And so Mr.Aksel…I hope that you remember this day – your third birthday. Or at least the feeling of joy that we saw on your face. What a long way you have come! Like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly – finally prepared to face the world in a beautiful way, independent and with emerging confidence.

I pray that you take this gift of life that God gave you and live it well. I pray that along the road He takes you down you will come to understand yourself, and realize your purpose in this world. We are so lucky to have you in our lives…mom, dad and Ellie, you have taught us so many things. And because of you we have realized that it is okay to let go…and now we understand what is truly important in this life. The little things.

 

Superheros and Villains: In Which I Consider Good vs. Evil and How To Explain It To A Four-Year-Old

“In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

While watching the Bruins game with Klayton the other night a commercial for the new ‘Batman vs. Superman’ came on. 

Really? Come on.

I just find this whole notion completely ridiculous.

Superman is a hero. A super-hero. Literally, the definition of a superhero is ‘a very heroic person’. It implies all of the things that we secretly wish we could be – brave, strong, amazing, possessing supernatural powers, full of never-ending goodness, and a life-long devotion to protect the weak.

Superman can’t be evil.

He is a superhero. He is good.

This is like saying that a red car is blue, and continuing to insist that it is blue when it is really red.

I will never willingly watch this movie. The whole notion is absurd.

But I haven’t been able to get this whole topic of good and evil out of my head.

Good and evil surround us every day.

The other day in Hannaford’s we had the unfortunate experience of not getting one of the three Race Car shopping carts that both fit and entertain Ellie and Kreade. So, Kreade ended up riding solo in the ‘old fashioned’ shopping cart while Ellie had to tag along beside me. Ellie is a very cautious child, and she almost always follows the rules to a perfect T. She helped me fill the cart with bananas, lettuce, carrots, rice, and all of the other things that we needed. What a helpful little dear. But as we were nearing the end of one aisle and preparing to move on the the next she ran ahead of me, out of the aisle, and into the great unknown beyond the reach of my hand.

I had a moment of panic.

Yes, we live in a small town. But you just never know. 

You never know if the other people in the grocery store are truly good, or truly evil. And while you certainly hope and pray that they are all truly good, you really just never know…there could always be that one who is truly evil.

Good and evil surround us every day.

With Ellie now holding on the the shopping cart, and my mind racing all I can think is: how do you explain to a four year old that not everyone in the world is good?

Parenting is hard. It is really very hard. You never think about all of these conversations that you will have to have with your children when you are holding their sweet, tiny bodies in the hospital.

You are responsible for your child’s perception of the world around them. You are responsible for the way that they view people. Their mind is yours, and the stories that you write in it will be with them forever.

Of course, you could simply just avoid these conversations with the age-old “I told you so.” Why can’t I run three aisles down from you?” “Because I told you so.”

But they never really understand.

And as my college professor always said  “they’re short, not stupid”. They will know that you aren’t being honest with them.

We have the opportunity to take these moments up, and not let them pass us by. We have the opportunity to teach our children, and begin to shape and form their hearts.

Yes, parenting is the greatest adventure of them all.

The greatest and the most difficult.

But what do you say?

What a difficult balance between instilling a sense of caution without causing fear. So I do my best to explain to my four year old darling that not everyone in the world has her best interest at heart. Not everyone can be trusted – and some people might even hurt you. So it is very important to stay with mommy so that she can make sure you are safe.

Kids don’t need to be lied to. They need to understand. And the lesson of good and evil begins when they are young – though I wish it didn’t have to be so at all.

But I don’t want to leave her with the caution only. I also want her to be confident. Most people are good. Most people can be trusted. You can smile at people. You can say “hello”. And so much of teaching children to distinguish between good and evil is to talk about things constantly. Teach them to identify good – acts of kindness, reaching out to the shy kid at preschool, staying with mommy in the grocery store. If they know what good is, they won’t have to wonder what evil is.

Give them the confidence to know what good is, and then to go out into the world and BE good.

Because good and evil are everywhere. We cannot escape the darkness that tries to surround. The fear sits there, like eyes peering at you out of the shadows. And your heart begins to ache with the burden of protecting your children from this. From anything that could take the form of evil.

And you fear.

How do you really teach your baby that the world is full of anything less than good?

Because it’s not. And this is our reality.

So, my dear Ellie and Kreade, I want you to know that this world is full of evil. It is full of things that can harm you. Full of people who are anything but good. It is full of heartbreak and heartache and pain. It is a world that is broken, angry, and selfish. And evil is almost everywhere you turn.

I want you to know that evil is there.

But in knowing this, don’t let fear fill your heart.

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Because as long as evil exists in this world, good exists too. You can’t have one without the other.

So, my beautiful babies, I want you to go out into the world and BE good.

This is what God calls us to do in the face of evil. Not to fear. Not to hide. Not to be swallowed up in wishing that evil does not exist.

Overcome evil with good.

Fight for truth and justice.

Though I wish I could always be there to protect you, an imposibility this remains. But God is. Trust your heart.

And always know that I love you more than anything.

And yet He loves you so much more.

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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The Boy I Never Wanted…

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” J.M. Barrie

“For each of us there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be. ” Thomas Merton

We all have them. Preconceived notions. Dreams about how life will be. Expectations. Desires.

And we never stop to think that life might turn out to be different than what we expect it to be. Different than what we imagined.

But reality suggests something different than our delusional expectations and oblivious wanderings down the road that we call life.

And then it hits us in the face. Like an acorn falling off a tree. Or a slap in the face. Faster than we could ever dream.

Harder than we could ever believe.

Our first baby was perfect. Looking back, she was probably as close to the perfection of baby Jesus as you could get without actually being Jesus. And we wandered through life, oblivious to reality, and enjoying our delusional wanderings. Dreaming of the next baby, hoping God would give us a boy…further adding to that picture of perfection: a boy and a girl. What could be better?

I always dreamed that I would have a baby boy. Having all sisters, it was hard not to. I always wanted a brother. And there was definitely a piece of my heart that longed for a son. You know, that sweet little baby boy face. With the perfect newborn pictures with sports themed props. That sweet little baby boy that would wear all of those adorable baby boy clothes that I had been googling over for years… The boy who would finally give me what I wanted for so long. A sidekick. A new, exciting adventure. The final piece in my picture of perfection. The boy I always dreamed of. The boy I always wanted.

But dreams are hardly reality.

And sometimes you get exactly the opposite of what you wish for.

Sometimes you get the boy you never wanted.

The cranky, screaming little ball of fury and rage that is more like a parasite than a sidekick. The one that screams loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear if you put him down God forbid for two seconds. The boy who is anything but sweet. The boy who is so hard to love, that your heart stops longing. The one that throws up on, and hates wearing all of the adorable clothes. The boy that is a horrendous adventure, your worst nightmare, and anything but perfection. The boy of my nightmares. The boy I never wanted.

And even when the incessant crying stops, more challenges arise. Now instead of screaming during mommy potty breaks we have moved to blood curdling screams throughout the entire grocery store. Terrifying screams in public places filled with people. Tantrums and meltdowns over the slightest stimuli. And don’t even mention the church nursery…I can’t remember the last time I was able to listen to an entire sermon.

He is what you call a high-needs child. For some reason, one that I still can’t understand, God gave him this temperament.

He was born with it and will live with it for the rest of his life. That’s just how temperament goes – it is stable over the lifespan.

I always wondered what it would be like to have a child with ADHD.

I think that I could have handled that.

I don’t handle the stares in the grocery stores. The admonishing looks as he is half pulling down my shirt our of sheer rage that I won’t let him swipe the credit card while simultaneously chucking a package of baby yogurt because he doesn’t want to put it on the belt. I have cried a few tears in the privacy of my euro-car many times after grocery store experiences. People just don’t understand. They don’t care. And they don’t want to.

And I worry so much that he is going to be totally misunderstood his entire life.

I mean, it took me 18 months of his life to finally understand him. To figure him out. 18 months of day in and day out to finally “know” this boy. So how will others every understand? And how will they ever come to appreciate his temperament for what it is?

Because the reality of the boy I never wanted is this: he was the boy I needed.

Other things I might have understood. I might have dealt with better. But I never would have grown.

Because God has a way of taking our plans and re-writing them to accomplish His plans. His plans in which we actually experience growth, instead of delusions of perfection.

Because we are not perfect. And neither is life.

And maybe Kreade will be misunderstood all of his life. His passion might be mistaken for behavioral problems. The feelings he feels so much more intensely than you or I may get him into trouble throughout his life. His energy might be a challenge in so many settings.

But he is the boy that I needed. The boy his daddy needed. The boy his sister needed.

The boy the world needed.

The boy that God wanted.

And his name will serve as a reminder. A guiding principle or belief. No matter what people think of him, he is loved. And God has a plan for this passionate, energetic, intensely feeling child. And he will be what God wants him to be.

Kreade, I want you always to remember that even though I never wanted a boy like you…I am so thankful that God gave you to us. Seeing the world through your passionate eyes is an experience that words really cannot describe. Everything is so much brighter in your eyes, so much more exciting, and so much more beautiful. You were the boy we needed. The boy who has taught us so many things – to trust, to let go of perfection, to breath.

I want you to know that God understands you and has created you with a purpose in mind. Use your passion to show the world His love. Use your energy for His glory. Use your intensity to be great for Him.

And if you feel as if others view who you are as anything less than perfect…remember this:

“”My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Because the world may view your temperament as an infirmity, as I once did. But now I understand…God views it as a strength.

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A Little More

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Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you

And grace tonight will pull us through
Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you
And grace tonight will pull us through
Until the tears have left your eyes
Until the fears can sleep at night
Until the demons that you’re scared of disappear inside
Until this guilt begins to crack
And the weight falls from your back
Oh, my dear, I’ll keep you in my arms tonight.

~ Tenth Avenue North

We are going on month four of Kreade’s metamorphosis from cranky, colicky baby to happyish, well-adjusted toddler. Honestly, those days of terror are starting to fade in the wake of new, happier memories. But before I completely forget those dark months, there is one thing that I want to remember: Ellie.

Because colic isn’t just hard for Mommy. And while it’s definitely hard on Daddy too, it’s also hard for the siblings that are forced into the whole dreadful experience by no fault of their own.

And they really just become sort of lost.

Their whole world was just turned upside down, and after two years and three months of being the ONLY sparkle in Mom and Dad’s eye, now there is this baby to contend with. And when that baby turns out to cry more often than he doesn’t cry (I won’t even say smile, because that’s totally unrealistic), that poor little two year old gets lost.

Lost in a life that she never asked for, never knew existed, and doesn’t really understand. How could she understand that most babies don’t cry this much? How could she understand why mom was so stressed out all the time? How could she know that it was okay to love this little bundle of fury?

Because colic wasn’t just hard on me. It was hard on Ellie too. And only now, coming out of it, can I look back and see just how likely traumatic of an experience that was for her. We lost ourselves. We lost so much in an effort to cope and just get through it all.

Positive guidance gave way to bribes and “whatever means necessary to prevent both these twerps…er children-who-i-love from crying at the same time”. Cuddles and stories became sit on one knee while mom bounces the still-crying-Kreade on the other and reading over his screams. No kidding. Can you imagine? We loved books together. And here came this awful, crying baby who ruined it all.

Gentle instruction on social interaction and sharing has basically come to a halt. I mean, really. How COULD I ask her to share with him? He already was taking up so much of our time…so much of our time, some of which should have been hers.

Quiet and peaceful bedtime routines instantly changed to “tiptoe and whisper so Kreade doesn’t wake up”.

Playing outside and exploring and having adventures was put on hold because, well it would just be rude to make the neighbors have to hear Kreade crying.

We lost ourselves. I lost my patience. And I’m only now beginning to get it back…and realize just how much we lost.

But while it is certain that we lost so much, it is also certain that we have so much to gain.

And while those days were definitely oh so hard on Ellie. But there is much to gain.

We are all starting to get to know Kreade, Ellie included.

She is starting to talk about the old Kreade. I guess even three year olds can recognize such a dramatic change. While before her usual complaint was “why is he crying?!” now she complains that he isn’t big enough to do all the things she wants to do with him.

Now they play together. Now Ellie talks with him and is starting to gently guide him. She is starting to learn that it’s okay to love him. That he can be loved. That is is more than just tears and cries and very difficult.

Every time I see them interacting with each other, my heart stops just for a moment.

And now I realize just how hard it all was for her. I feel so bad.

But what can we do? Reality is, life isn’t happy all of the time. Life is hard. Life is really hard. People are hard. People are really hard.

Some of us experience this when we are much older, and some of us experience this when we are two.

And Ellie, I never want you to forget. Because people are hard. People are difficult. Some more than others. But God in His infinite grace calls us to love them nevertheless; waiting for Him to turn their ashes into beauty. And all the while we wait, to hold them in our arms. Though you may feel lost, trust that He will pull you through. And pull them through. Because people are hard. But they’re worth waiting for.

And Kreade, never forget that your sister loves you. She learned to love you through all of your crankiness and tears. And through his grace the tears have left your eyes, and now you literally can sleep at night. Ellie asked me “when is he gonna be god enough like me?” The truth is, you will never be just like her, and you will probably always require a bit more patience and love than she does.

But like I told Ellie, that’s the point.

Some people need a little more love, and a little more grace. But people are always worth it.

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Blessings

Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes. ~ Nightcrawler

I haven’t been able to get these words out of my head all week long.

It all began last Sunday, with molten chocolate lava cakes and an X-Men movie marathon with some awesome people while Baby K munched his snacks and played with his toys and Ellie enjoyed a marathon of Doc McStuffins. There is no doubt; I am a huge science-fiction fan. Fantasy, science-fiction…that’s the way to go; call me nerdy, but I love it! And when a totally profound statement such as this is gleaned from a movie as entertaining as X-Men is…it makes my inner nerd go crazy!

But seriously…that dark skinned, tattooed mutant’s words have been stuck in my head all week long…

Most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.

And I know that he is right.

Our eyes have a way of seeing without feeling. Of seeing without acknowledging. And they tend to turn away from anything that is less-than-pleasing.

We like to focus on the good things. The blessed things. You know, how all of your friends are “-feeling so blessed”. That little end note tacked on to the end of what seems like every status. Blessed that it is sunny. Blessed that the baby slept. Blessed that their husband works so hard. Blessed that they got a new car. Blessed that they had an awesome day out shopping with friends. Blessed by the sunrise at the beach. The blessings go on and on…everyday our eyes see nothing but our own blessed lives.

While your next door neighbors kids just witnessed their mom assault their dad. And that new family at your church has been eating Cheerios all week because that is all that they can afford. And the little girl down the road is running around bare foot on a cold and dirty floor with her mother yelling at her to “just quiet down”. A young boy has what you would avert your eyes and call a tantrum, spending a half hour screaming, kicking, spitting, and crying when his mom drops him off at school…when really all he needs is a hug. The lady in front of you at the grocery store check out is frowning at you (while what she really needs is a smile to encourage her – because little do you know she is a victim of domestic violence).

And the children. So many children affected by so many things.Children experience poverty with their hands, minds and hearts. Living in an environment that provides little stimulation or emotional support to children, on the other hand, can remove many of the positive effects of growing up (UNICEF,2015). And it doesn’t matter why or how or whose fault it is…but 32.2 percent of children are living below the poverty line. And I’m not talking about somewhere far away. I’m talking about right here. Right now. In your community. And that simple statistic puts those sweet little children at risk for so many things…and a life full of so much heartbreak and not much hope.

And yet we don’t even see. We are so focused on our blessings that we fail to see the curses that haunt those around us.

And I know that Nightcrawler had it right…most people will never see. Because they choose not to.

Oh…but what am I going to be able to do? I don’t have money to give…I don’t have time…

Maybe all you have to do is look beyond what you see. Look beyond yourself and your blessings, and see the need that is much closer than you may have thought.

Volunteer at a local school or after school program. Donate your kid’s old clothes to a community agency. Smile at the mom who looks stressed out in the grocery store. Say a prayer for that little kid whose mom is saying demeaning, negative things to him in the Dollar Tree.

Don’t hide in your safe little world, admiring all of your blessings. See the world and be a blessing for it. And your blessings will seem even sweeter, because you will know just how much you have.

Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach
.

Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see

-Brandon Heath