When it all seems impossibly hard.

I embraced transparency in 2015 and so in 2016, my goal is to move forward, pursue it harder than ever without fear of being lambasted for it. So there will be a lot of this in 2016.

Dear, sweet mama,

I see you, swinging your arms wildly to corral all your children in the van. Your daughter is walking so slowly you're sure she's doing it just to get under your skin, dragging her coat across the dirty ground, having ignored your 18 requests to put the thing on. Your frustrations are mounting and your temper is bubbling just below the surface. You can feel the pressure build and know it's only a matter of time before you blow up, probably the moment you're alone with them, because you can keep your cool in public.

The youngest screams as you try to get those straps around her chubby little arms. Your oldest two fight in the far back, as if your requests to buckle themselves up were spoken into a black hole, gone unheard. Your three-year-old is sitting quietly in his seat, waiting to be buckled up, and you cup his sweet cheeks in your hands and kiss his pouty, perfect lips, hoping he can feel how much you appreciate his momentary obedience. They take their turns, your four kids, being the obedient one. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, probably because there isn't. They're kids, after all. They're subject to the same daily ups and downs as you and I, with some added immaturity thrown in, but sometimes we forget that life can get them down, too.

When finally you slip into the front seat and turn the key in the ignition to a jerky, somewhat rumbling start, someone starts screaming from the back. Between the wails, you manage to pick out a few words. Hit, mean, book, stop, hate.

Then it happens.


Two of them get silent while the baby begins to cry and your daughter in the back continues her ranting. Your face falls into your hands and you turn the radio up to drown out the chaos.

I said I'd do better today, God. Why am I always failing? I don't understand why you put these four in my care when I'm so clearly incapable of being a loving mother. 

You call out to God often, in those weak moments, knowing you've failed yet again and sincerely wondering what on earth you've done with your life, thinking you would be competent to raise four human beings to adulthood. Sometimes you think he hears you and speaks back, other times you feel emptier than ever, on your own to do this impossible thing called parenthood.

I see you because I am you.

I'm that mama of four who feels beat down on a daily basis. I've lived this way in shame for 15 months, when our fourth baby was born. When people ask me, "Honestly, was there much of a change between your third and fourth?" I can't lie. Yes. There was a tremendous shift in our life between our third and fourth child. It wasn't that some magical scale had been tipped, but a perfect collision of events had occurred. I've been trying to pursue my side business harder than ever, we've set some lofty goals that require a lot of hard work, my oldest is in first grade and it's surprisingly demanding. The guilt of not being able to always be at the school gets to me. But juggling a full-time self-imposed work schedule on top of caring for four (still very young) kids on top of navigating school work and volunteering is a lot. It's a lot no matter who you are.

But so often, I find these thoughts running through my head: "Well she could do this," "Look at so-and-so's mom, seemingly juggling a million things and crafting Pinterest parties and school treats on top of it all!"

It doesn't matter what your own unique challenges are, you'll find a way to stack them against your neighbor's challenges and declare yourself an utter failure. As women (and probably to some extent, men, too), it's one thing we are universally amazing at achieving.

My challenges come in the form of four little kids, a demanding work and home life, the requirements of dietary needs that mean cooking most everything from scratch, and a large home to take care of (first world problem, I'm well aware). For mothers across the globe, the challenges look different. I'm no stranger to the notion that most of the problems we face in America are first world problems, but that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to succumb to overwhelm, to cry on a daily basis, to wonder what we were thinking and to oscillate daily between quitting everything and moving to a secluded location to live a simpler, slower life or taking on even more to either assuage some guilt or provide more/better for our children.

When it all seems impossibly hard, take a moment of solitude and repeat to yourself: I am good enough. I am human. I make mistakes, but I do great things, too. Every mother in the world has moments of failure, and each one suffers fleeting feelings of doubt and insecurity that she should even be allowed to care for her children. Today, I'm allowing myself to feel whatever I'm feeling, and to love myself in spite of it. I allow myself to make mistakes without self-hatred, recognizing that with every mistake, a little forward progress is made by way of learning. 

Maybe it's a little woo-woo for your taste, so make up your own words but keep the premise. You are enough and you were chosen to be the right parent for your child. Take solace in knowing that this is a fundamental part of humanity. We aren't broken. We are human mamas doing human things. And human things include failure. Love yourself so that your children learn to love themselves in spite of their own failures.


On abortion

I've been struck lately by a million things. This is definitely The Year of the Wrestling with Everything.

One thing that has been challenging me to my absolute limits lately is learning to be at peace with others who differ from me politically. I don't mind political differences in and of themselves, but I definitely battle with coming to terms with my brothers and sisters in Christ being conservatives. And even more so, the notion that they think I am a confused, lost soul who can't possibly be a real Christian because I lean liberally. 

I've talked about it here on the blog before and I've only grown stronger in my convictions the longer I've known Christ and the deeper my faith gets. But the Lord is showing me a lot lately. He's showing me that one cannot possibly align themselves with any political party and claim that it is the "Christian party." We can vote on our morals, but no party is a Christian party and we would be remiss not to talk about that. In this country, there has been an accepted "fact" that to be Christian is to be conservative for far too long. It's been refreshing to see that notion being challenged on a greater and greater scale as I find more likeminded friends all the time who are devout Christians and tend to vote for liberal ideals more often than not. 

God's showing me that it's absolutely okay to surround myself with Christians with all different sorts of belief systems. I've grown in the process and I've learned in the process and I'm continually being refined and remade. Because there is no "Christian party," I'm free to have close friends who differ completely from me who are my sisters in Christ, because God isn't calling us to choose a political side and only be in relationship with others who choose the same side. I only hope we can learn from each other as we live out our lives during our brief time here. I only hope we have open ears and an open heart that gives out grace in the sometimes-murky waters of disagreement. That said, I hope you'll have open ears and an open heart and give me some grace as I make my own rebuttal to the constant cries I hear from my conservative Christian friends who ask me how I can possibly be liberal because abortion. 

Abortion is always the thing. It's always the thing that divides and often the thing that leads Christians to call themselves conservatives. While I am pro-life (ahem...all life; sorry, I had to), I will likely continue to align myself liberally for the entirety of my life, provided I don't have a total heart change. That's because I don't believe either party will abolish abortion, so I consider it a non-issue when choosing a candidate. No conservative has been able to overturn that decision, and while it is a talking point during the election, it is rarely a talking point once a conservative is in office. And at the very least, the law won't be overturned. 

Conservatives, on gun control, often point out that gun violence is a heart issue, not a law issue, but in the same breath that they slam increased gun control, they demand that abortion be outlawed. While it's a tough pill for me to swallow, I do believe deep down that more important than abolishing abortion is the need to work on matters of the heart, on educating our children and most importantly, on supporting women in crisis pregnancies and then mentoring them after. 

That last one is THE one. It's the thing I believe in most strongly when it comes to changing the face of abortion in America. Making it illegal isn't going to put an end to abortion, though it will decrease them. What it will do is increase dangerous abortions which not only take the life of the baby, but often the mama, too. We know this because we've lived this as a country. 

Today, I filled out my form and agreed to go through 18 hours of training to become a counselor to women in crisis pregnancies. I'd encourage you to look into doing the same in your town. Most don't need a huge commitment. Even 4 hours a week is amazing. Tim and I have talked at length about what it will look like to support women in crisis pregnancies in our own family. We're only one family, but we hope to inspire change. We have an extra bedroom and extra resources, and we want to use those to help women who desperately want to keep their babies but don't see any way out other than abortion. With no support, financially or emotionally, keeping a baby is an absolutely terrifying prospect. I know this fact well. In a documentary I watched recently, something like 70% of women who walk into the clinic to have an abortion desperately want to be saved from it. They feel forced into it, with no help and no clue how they could possibly care for and support a baby on their own. 

Many people picket abortion clinics with their signs and their loud voices, proclaiming damnation and evil. That will never work. What we need more of is loving people with their understanding (not judgment) who step up to the plate and care for these women during their crisis pregnancies. We care for them by taking them into our homes, by educating them, by loving on them, by donating our time, money, baby clothing and more. We need more families stepping up to the plate to foster. Many kids who end up in foster homes are the product of mothers who weren't prepared to have those babies, whether emotionally or financially. They had little support, little education and in desperate times, they did terrible things. Often these mothers grew up in their own cycles of abuse, being exposed to atrocities we can't even fathom. Raising children, for them, can be an impossible feat without any help or outside love. 

What I often see in the conservative party is a vehement pro-life attitude that stops at birth. Yes, it's a talking point. But more than that, it is TRUTH. Some of the same people who cry out that abortion is the very worst plague on our nation do nothing for the moms in crisis. They not only don't support them personally, they get furious that their tax dollars are used to support them after baby is born. They deem them lazy, scum, leeches and worse. 

Even in the very worst circumstance, let's imagine a mom who keeps churning out kids to collect larger checks. Let's even pretend she drives a fancy car and - God forbid! - sometimes buys crab legs with her food stamps. Maybe she has the newest iPhone and a designer handbag. What we don't see is the broken life that brought her to that point. The child abuse at the hands of her uncle. The violence she saw firsthand from a tender, young age. What we don't see is that deep down, she is fiercely loved by God and desperately wanted by Him. Our duty as Christians is not to slaughter these people with our words. Our ONE SINGLE DUTY is to love them and thereby show them Jesus' love. Loving them looks like kindness and help and relationship. It looks like embracing them, weaknesses and all, and slowly and patiently trying until you're allowed to be let in. It is sometimes a slow process. It can sometimes feel impossible. But that person, leech or not, is just as worthy of love as you are. Let's not forget that we're all sinners. I sin every single day. Even when I try so impossibly hard not to. Her sin might be taking advantage of the system because it's the first time in her life that she felt some tiny semblance of being cared for. That doesn't make her a terrible sinner and you the good kind of sinner. You were lucky not to end up in her shoes. Yes, you were. No matter your own life experiences, it was not your doing that lead you to success. It was God's doing and God's blessings. I've experienced some really hard things in my life. Most of them I've never talked about publicly. Even so, it is by God's grace and love (and the fact that I was lucky enough to be raised by two good parents in a safe neighborhood and was introduced to Christ and His love) that I am okay today. If you use God's blessings to slam others and deem them evil or worthless or a drain on humanity because they haven't fared as well as you, I fear you will greatly regret that decision on judgment day.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ - Matthew 25: 34-45
Friends, there is no Christian party. I align myself liberally mostly because I believe so strongly in caring for the least of these, so in that vein, it is always the Democrat party who fulfills those morals. But no political party is perfect. In fact, they are all far from perfect. I don't align myself with either party anymore because they're all corrupt. But I'm pumped to vote for Bernie. When I went to his rally a few months ago, my friend and I cheered as he described getting our country back, making it work for the average Joe, ending corporate greed, changing the landscape of political fundraising, etc. But we both stopped cheering as he talked about women's rights. As Christians, we couldn't possibly cheer about the idea of abortion. You should never align yourself so tightly with a candidate that you agree with every word that comes out of his or her mouth. If you do find yourself in that position, you've probably either drank the Kool-aid or are fooling yourself.

Still, I'm not your typical pro-lifer. I can't say in good conscience that I agree with outlawing abortion entirely without regard for special circumstances and I can't say that I agree in any way that that's the way to go about ending abortion. It's way too complicated an issue for such a simplistic solution. I know, from experience as a former pro-choicer and as someone who is friends with many pro-choice people, that most people don't celebrate abortion. Most people view it as a necessary evil that is occasionally needed in extreme cases. We yell and scream at each other from across the aisle, but we often miss everything we have in common. Let's have open ears and an open heart that gives grace to all. 


Questioning Everything, Part One

The last few months have been some of the most monumental, heavy, emotional and exciting months in our marriage. I've wanted to blog about it all so many times, but I've been so, so busy and when I do have down time, all I've wanted to do is get some rest in. I miss the feelings of relief and release that come when I've had a blogging session, so today I'm making it a priority to put these feelings and thoughts on paper, no matter what. If I don't do that, it will never happen.


An eczema update

It's been over a year since I posted our eczema success story. It's horrifying to me every time I point someone new to this blog post to try to help their kiddos, and I see these old pictures and am reminded of how challenging life was for them at that time.

I've had a few people ask me how things are going now, and someone even emailed me on Etsy yesterday after finding our last post and not being able to find a recent update (I guess I need a better contact button on my blog, eh?). So here's our update!