Lots of Honesty

It has been 1529 days since I became a stay at home mom.  Full transparency: I feel like a prisoner many days. I wanted nothing more than to be home with my fat little 5 month old, who was so sweet and so precious.  I had no clue how taxing my new role was going to be.  I recall vividly standing in the shower (a rare treat in those days) and realizing that I had nearly every bodily fluid on me at that moment and being too exhausted to be grossed out.

A little over a year later we added baby #2 and things actually got hard. I stopped sleeping almost entirely.  My oldest hated me for birthing her sister, and wouldn’t come near me for weeks.  My little cried INCESSANTLY.   I was frazzled, exhausted, and depressed.  I hadn’t created anything in months, and my artist’s heart felt like it was shriveling into a forgotten raisin between the couch cushions. I was a hot mess, and well, any mom knows what I’m talking about.

It’s been nearly 5 years since I started my motherhood journey.  I’ve been at the summit of joy and fulfillment watching my girls grow and thrive. I’ve never been more satisfied in my calling to parent.  However, I’ve been in the dankest, deepest pits of exhaustion and frustration, reduced to tears by a 4 year old in a matter of seconds. I’ve dealt with anxiety and sensory issues most of my life, but after the birth of my second and a bout with PPD, it ballooned into a huge, chronic issue I have to navigate every day. Noise, smell, touch, and visual stimuli are all things that can send me tail-spinning into an angry, cornered badger in mere minutes.  Add that to two very strong willed and highly intelligent toddlers and you have a perfect storm for a short-fused, frustrated mom.

Dear reader, I want you to know that I fully understand the depravity of guilt and shame. I’m so flawed in my ability to parent the way my girls deserve to be parented, but I am not disqualified.  I’m exactly where God would have me be.  I struggled for years with infertility and believing that all that heartache would make me such a joy-filled mother when I finally got to keep a baby.  What a shock to find that my experiences didn’t make motherhood any easier.  I used the busyness of rearing little people to excuse my need to go to Christ daily to sustain me and my fragile sanity.  I let exhaustion get in the way of the only strength I had to cling to, and it has wreaked havoc on my faith and my motherhood.  I became shallow and cynical and vapid.

In the last few months, I have resolved to stop making excuses.  My girls need the mama that Jesus can help me be, not the mama I’ve been on my own strength. Bible study is HARD with little people.  The only way I make it work is to give my kids breakfast and cartoons and hide in my room, and yes, I get interrupted… a LOT.  Yes, I usually emerge from my haven of blessed silence to some small disaster in the rest of the house.  But you know what?  It’s OK. I just spent half an hour with the God who can swallow the very stars, and he is the gracious God of the humble things.  He didn’t invite the world powers to his son’s birthday party, he invited to lowliest (and smelliest) members of society.  He invites me to be with him.  ME with my hair standing on end, morning breath, sleep-crusted eyes, before-coffee, kinda grouchy self. He has met me there every morning.  It gets a little easier every day to meet with God, and every day I find myself longing for more time with him.  So, I invite him to fold the laundry with me.  I stand in the laundry room folding the same little socks for the 6000th time, and listen to a podcast or just pray.

Please, hear that I am not special, not more holy, and by no means have my life together. I want to encourage you that you CAN spend time with Jesus even in the midst of raising little people, or whatever hard thing you are called to right now. He sees the mess of your life and desperately loves you despite your mess. He DESIRES to spend time with you. Here are a few of my favorite resources.

The IF: app is the best Bible Study app!  It offers theologically sound studies that are based in scripture and simple to understand but filled with really hearty truths that will challenge seasoned believers.  I’m currently going through the “Enjoying Jesus” study.  The app is free, but they offer beautifully printed books of their studies if you prefer having something tangible to work from. Men, IF:gathering was designed for women, but the studies are rock solid truths for men as well, I’ve never felt the devotional material was designed for women.  Check it out!

The Journey Women Podcast is a new discovery, and I am IN LOVE! 1 hour podcasts for women talking about many different interests/issues and how they relate to our faith and the gospel.  I’ve only listened to 2 and  already love them.  Hunter Beless is the host, and I must say she is pioneering a valuable ministry for women.  You can catch her on Instagram: @journeywomenpodcast

YouVersion Bible App is my go to for the really fast paced days when all I can manage to squeeze in is reading the verse of the day (which pops up on my lock screen) before I look at my phone.

*I’m not affiliated with any of the resources mentioned above.

Beauty

Beauty is something that I am passionate about.  I’m not talking about a Vogue kind of beauty, but the kind of beauty that God creates. We are drowning in it, but sometimes we’re speeding through life so rapidly we forget to breathe it in.  I have mentioned that I am a sculptor.  Art is my favorite form of worship.  It took me a long time to understand how I could use that gift to serve God.  In times of inspiration, I enter a sort of artist’s trance and half the time I hardly comprehend how to do what it is I am setting out to accomplish in the mud.  In those moments of clay flying, tools working as extensions of my fingers, studying the anatomy of my model (sometimes a cow, sometimes my dog, occasionally a fascinated elephant at the zoo) I get to see how perfectly artistic is our Creator.  And he teaches me to marvel at his genius and his love of the absurd alongside perfect order.  Think of a snail.  They look ridiculous with their slimy, shapeless bodies and telescoping eyes, and yet their shells represent one of the most fascinating and beautiful mathematical formulas found in the universe: the Fibonacci Sequence.  Everything from snails, to pine cones and roses, to hurricanes and galaxies, even human ears are representations of Fibonacci spirals. Perfect order riding on the backs of absurd, oozing little creatures.

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Photo Credit: Vyacheslav Mishchenko

I’ve learned that God loves the humble things, no detail is too small. Even a chicken, a bird we use for food, can be arrayed in feathers with such beautiful detail that would never be seen by most people.  All of nature points to him!

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I seek beauty in my surroundings because I think it’s how I most relate to God… as a creator. I sculpt to better appreciate the creatures he’s made. I’ve fallen in love with every animal I’ve sculpted. I’ve gotten to watch their quirks, and their fascination with me as I sculpted them.  I see every tiny detail that the creator saw fit to give his creatures, and I have the privilege of being able to interpret those details for others to view in a new way. I get to tell their stories and brag about the artistic genius of the Creator.

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I hope that you will take a walk, and look for beauty. Rest assured that God is in the details so tiny as much as he is in the vast landscapes that leave us breathless.

The Stone: Part Three

Click here to read Part One and Part Two

Through all of my loss and grief, I have learned this: faith is a choice. We choose to believe that God is who he says he is.  When the path set before us feels insurmountable, an Everest to our mustard seed, God calls us to believe he can move Everest. November, December, January, February all crept by. Winter weather for my grief.  But still, in faith, I gave thanks for the sculpting.  A new feeling blossomed in spring: joy. I had come to wear my childlessness well. I had accepted that I could be happy without babies in my arms. The ugliness was falling away from the carving knife. I had a precious god-son, whom I loved immensely. I had learned my sister was carrying my first niece or nephew. These babies would help fill the hole left by my sparrows. Then, in April, the date we women watch for on the calendar each month came and went. I stared in disbelief at two pink lines, emotions surging hot. Why now, God? This isn’t funny, Father. I just learned to be happy!  Trust Me.  

It was time to see what my mustard seed could do.  I opened the big, leather journal I have been writing in since Daniel and I were newly engaged.  The first entry tells of a dream I had 4 months before we said our vows. Daniel and I walked hand in hand down an old market street. He wondered away from me and Jesus came up to me holding a ribbon in his calloused hand. Wordlessly, he tied it around my waist.  It fell to the ground. Twice more he tied it, only for it to fall back to the dirt street.  So, once more he tied the ribbon, placed his hand on my belly and said, “You will have to loosen it as you grow.  I have answered your prayers for a child.” He embraced me, and I woke up. I turned the pages, reading through my journey of 5 and a half years of growing up. Searching. I was looking for Ebeneezers.  Stones stacked by the old miracles to remind me of God’s faithfulness. I found many. Then, I wrote a new entry. I poured out a prayer in black ink into the journal filled with tears. I asked him to help me believe the dream-promise.

The day of my first appointment came.  I believed I was 11 weeks pregnant, and was relieved that the period of waiting would be over by the first appointment. The sonogram told a different story. 6 weeks. My heart sank. I thought I was done with the first trimester, only to learn I had 6 more weeks to go. The tech laughed, “Your due date is Christmas Eve!” My Christmas gift to you. I could never put into words the peace I felt. I knew this was God’s way of reassuring me.

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4 more weeks came and it was time for another checkup.  The checkup that always ended in tears.  My doctor walked us straight to the sonogram room to avoid any trauma with the doppler. I blessed her silently.  Up on the screen was the most amazing image of a tiny, 10-week old baby.  Even the doctor was astonished by the clarity of the image.  We were watching our 2-inches-tall miracle dance!  8 weeks later we learned our miracle was a healthy daughter!

In the midst of the miracle pregnancy, we decided to sell our sweet little home to be closer to our ragamuffin friends and our jobs. So, as my belly got bigger, I crawled around the floor we’d layed with our own hands and painted the baseboards. I scrubbed and cleaned and fluffed pillows and swept floors. Every day.  We scoured listings, looking for the right home to bring our Lily home to. Too expensive, too many repairs, wrong neighborhood, too small, too big. I posted a dejected status on Facebook, “I wish we could just pick our home up and move it!” One month later, our pastor called with a proposition. He had seen my whiny status (though he had the grace not to call it whiny), and he and his wife felt like they needed to sell us their home.  Their home was the same floor plan as the little home we loved so much, and it was exactly where we wanted it to be. I was getting the chance to pick up my home and move it. I told Daniel about my reservations of doing business with friends.  I didn’t want to negotiate. The pieces would have to fall in to place perfectly or I was out. We toured the home.  It had the layout we loved plus a sprawling, well kept back yard with a covered porch. Then, my friend took me to her daughters’ room. I was struck first by the paint color: pale green. The exact shade I had planned to paint Lily’s nursery when we found a home. Then, I saw the tree lovingly painted onto the wall, and perched in it’s branches were three tiny sparrows. My heart stopped. This is your home, Kimberly.  God all but spoke the words aloud. So, we walked back to the living room to meet our husbands and talk about how the sale would go. 30 minutes after we walked through the front door to take a look, we agreed on the price that our friends asked for the house. No negotiating. God had already worked the deal out.

We moved in 1 month before Lily was born.  Closing the front door behind us felt like closing the chapter of grief and loss.  We were starting a new chapter.  A chapter that is filled with challenge and hardship, but the theme is joy! Shortly after Lily’s first birthday, I stared once again at two pink lines filled with promise. October would bring another miracle. My Willow. I was still learning about faith, and belief in God’s goodness. But the stone in my chest had been chiseled away to reveal a beating heart, filled with faith and trust in a loving God.

The chaos that is motherhood has consumed every waking hour, and those hours are many. My faith remained, but I stopped having time to talk with God. As a result, I’ve been walking in my own desert. Feeling parched.  I’ve lost my patience, been short with my husband, cried over the tiny things that pile up so high they threaten to crush me. Just try harder. Don’t slow down. You asked for this. For two years, the only prayers I prayed were the simple prayers for sweet dreams as I rocked my babies to sleep, and the occasional desperate prayers for help on the hard days.  So I sat, watching through my notebook as the stones of faith piled higher. What do I write, Lord? It’s been nearly a week, and I know what to write on my stone.

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I’ve traded my stone heart for a stone to mark the ways he’s been good, etching onto it the step of faith I will take. I’m choosing to believe him through prayers that are strong and courageous.  I’m going to take risks with my prayers, knowing that God hears them and believing that he’s good.

The Stone: Part Two

For a year the stone in my chest stayed dormant. Always longing for a baby, stuck between acceptance and fading hope. I’ve been a sculptor for a long time.  Adding lumps of clay to skeletons of wire, watching the beauty of God’s animals take shape in my own interpretation: worship with mud. I had turned the empty nursery into an art studio. It was the only way I knew to heal. Then one day, I tried a new kind of sculpting. Instead of adding clay, building up my medium until I was satisfied with the emerging creature, I aggressively carved deep into a small block of rock-hard wax.  Digging deeper and deeper, gouging out the pieces that were hiding the beauty that lay beneath.  It was purifying. In those moments, I had a deep understanding of how the Master Artist had been sculpting my life.  He was carving away the ugliness that was concealing the beauty he wanted to reveal. It is finished. Wax shavings scattered, littering the table like a battlefield. Two sparrows. Two humble sparrows to represent my fallen babies. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29.  My two sparrows seemed so insignificant to so many people. God loved them… deeply. I cast them in silver and hung them around my neck. I vowed I would tell the story of the sparrows to whomever asked. sparrows

God directed our path to a new church.  I drug my feet.  Hurt deeply by the people in the church who should’ve been surrounding us in love.  Instead we felt shoved aside, no one wanting to wade through the pain with us.  I was scared to try a new church, afraid my story would be taboo here too. I was afraid of only being loved for the fake smile I learned to wear.  Christians don’t like to talk about miscarriage, it doesn’t fit in a pretty God-package. The first day we went we made friends. They invited us to lunch with them. They wanted us in their ragamuffin group of misfits. I have never known such friends.  All with messy, hard lives.  All trying hard to trust God, to bask in his love. These friends listened to our story, they prayed for us. Genuine prayers not just for a baby, but that God would work in our hearts no matter what his will turned out to be.  The stone was growing softer… it was starting to beat again. Miraculous.

Our ragamuffin friends rejoiced with us when, after three years of waiting and trying to conceive a third child, we learned I was pregnant.  They prayed over us and our child. They asked God to be glorified through this pregnancy no matter how it ended. On October 20, 2011, I called my dearest friend.  Pray with me? The next day, I was going to the doctor for my 12 week appointment.  I was scared, fearful, knowing that I had a choice to make.  I had to choose to trust God’s plan. I needed to choose to trust in his goodness no matter what. So, on a park bench on a perfect autumn day, we talked and prayed while sharing a box of Fruit Loops. The sun rays shone through the amber leaves, warming me like the peace that was thawing the fear.

October 21, 2011. 5 years to the day that Daniel knelt in the dirt, us embraced in the boughs of the massive magnolia tree where he carved his love for me into its branches. I lay bravely on the table listening to the sadness in my precious doctor’s voice as she confirmed what a small part of me already knew. It was over. Daniel and I were kneeling in the dirt together now, embraced in God’s peace. I remember only two things from that day.  The doctor’s office and crying quietly on the couch longing to be with my babies.  I cried, talking wordlessly with God and choosing to not let my beating heart turn back into stone. I remembered Ann Voskamp’s mission to give thanks, even when it was hard. So, I said thank you, not because I was happy, but because I felt his carving knife on my heart, and I knew that he was sculpting.

The Stone: Part One

In my previous post, I told you about IF:Gathering.  I told you how thousands of women wrote on a stone, marking the step of faith they would next take.  A tangible, solid promise to God.  I sat watching them pile the rocks high while the band led the masses in beautiful worship. What do I write, Lord? I prayed and pondered, waiting for God to stir my heart, wishing for an answer. Nothing… yet. I’ve prayed about that stone all week.

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I’ve been intentionally introspective this week; a habit long since shoved aside for the busyness and exhaustion of motherhood. What am I doing? Why am I angry, impatient, and frustrated? What do I want for my life? What’s on my altar?  Hard questions that lead down ugly roads.  I’ve stopped living intentionally and just started rolling with it. Don’t be brave, keep your head down and just finish this task. Don’t look for beauty, you’ll get distracted.  I have allowed myself to be robbed of so much joy.

My relationship with God has always been something I’ve struggled for.  My biggest struggle has been with prayer. I never believed my prayers worked.  I experienced catastrophic loss through highschool. My grandfather, my uncle and young cousin, my horse in a barn fire.  I cried out to God in anguish asking him to fix it. He didn’t. I stopped believing he was good, just… loving. I didn’t believe prayer worked.   Then, I got married. A couple months later, I got pregnant.  Pure joy!  But as I sat alone at a routine 12 week visit trembling as the doctor searched long for a heartbeat, my joy was leaking through a whole so big it might have swallowed me up too. Once again, I believed God had turned a deaf ear to my prayers.

A little over a year later, we found out we were expecting a second baby.  There was joy, but it was not unbridled.  I had lost the naive innocence that believed this pregnancy would be joy-filled.  I didn’t trust God. So I prayed, unbelieving, for God to give us a baby in July.  A week before my birthday, I relived the horror of that 12 week visit. Silence. Baby dead. World crumbling. This time, I wasn’t alone.  I was too gripped with fear to ever go to another check up by myself. We made a fast decision to have surgery only 2 hours after that damning check-up. We wanted answers. So I went to sleep with my second baby still inside of me, and woke up empty… numb.  I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t yell at God. What was the point?  I was so numb, I didn’t feel God move.

I was begged by a friend to attend a Bible study.  I went for her.  God worked, he began to thaw my heart.  Hope was returning that maybe he was good.  I met a new friend.  She felt my pain as deeply as I did.  She had said goodbye to two babies as well. Her two rainbow babies, one adopted, one biological, only 4 months apart, were little beams of hope. She told me that she wouldn’t change losing her babies.  She told me that one day, I would see how good God was not in spite of my miscarriages, but he was good in my miscarriages.  I wanted to believe her.  It sounded so much better than the anger, pain, and hopelessness.

On our second wedding anniversary we got the answers we were looking for.  Trisome 13. Not compatible with life. Carrier. Will probably happen again. We were also told that we wouldn’t be getting the little home we had fallen in love with.  A double whammy.  We sat dejected on the bench on my parents’ porch.  What now? Where will we live? Do we try again? We should’ve been toasting our marriage and talking excitedly about what this new year would bring to our union.  We should’ve been decorating a nursery in our new home.  Instead, we were nomads living in a tiny room above my parents’ garage slapped in the face with the reality that we would probably relive the nightmare again. We chose to press on. To pick up the pieces and keep trying.  It was messy… there were a lot of pieces. In the midst of a disappointing needle-in-the-haystack search for the perfect home, we got a call. We were getting the little home we loved after-all! It took us a month to get it cleaned and painted and polished.  We filled it with our hand-me-down furniture and piles of books. I put nothing in the room I would’ve wanted for the baby.  I closed the door. The stone sat heavy in my chest.

To be continued…

IF

I had the incredible opportunity this weekend to attend IF:Gathering via simulcast (I love the internet!)  I agreed to attend so that I could escape the daily grind of motherhood, hoping for just enough refreshment to face another tumultuous week of potty training. I chose to walk in with no expectations and take it in as it came.  What I walked out with was a heart and head filled to the brim with encouragement from women I admire.  I walked away with a challenge to be bold and courageous in my faith, even when it’s only the size of a mustard seed.  I was challenged to really believe that my God is who he says he is.  Just. Loving. Powerful. For me. With me.

I was challenged to repent of my secret sins: the impatience, pride, and jealousy… the fear.  Unrepentant hearts keep us from God’s will.  We become so callused to the “small sins” that we allow those things to become the status quo.  Then, we believe we don’t need to repent of those things.  After all, they’re only feelings. But God sees our hearts.  God made our hearts. He made our hearts to be without sin.  Sin is like rust. Just a tiny spec doesn’t seem like much, but it grows without notice, eating it’s way to the heart of the metal until the integrity of the steel is so compromised it will eventually crumble into ruin. Rust can prevent things from working long before they are destroyed entirely.  Confession and repentance allow God to remove the rust of sin from our hearts so that we can draw near to him and hear his call.  Like the carpenter doesn’t use rusty tools, neither does God use unrepentant hearts.

Every woman that spoke stood up and talked about courage and faith.  It was powerful and provocative.  Christine Cain said it well: “I am not fearless, I am faithful.”  Faith is simply a choice to believe that God is who he says he is.  It’s not supernatural, but it’s an invitation for God to do the supernatural.

The way IF:Gathering was closed was so powerful.  Each person in the live audience was given a stone. An Ebeneezer. And just like Joshua and the Israelites stacked stones on the other side of the parted Jordan to mark what God had done for them, the women of IF stacked over 2000 stones inscribed with the next step of faith they would make. Stones to mark God’s faithfulness.

Fairy Treasure

As an artist, I’ve dreamed of teaching my little girls how to create beauty in their worlds.  Lily and I have experimented with crayon, watercolor, and play dough the past year, but I was ready for a more challenging creative endeavor.  The struggle comes when you consider how you can involve a two-year-old without things getting ruined or scissors finding little locks of hair.  Then, it came to me!

I’m not the kind of person to keep things that are not sentimental or useful, but I have kept this silly Chinese tea box for nearly 3 years because it was pretty and I knew it had a purpose. So it remained tucked away the past few years waiting for inspiration to strike!  Lily and Daniel take walks together when she needs to blow off some toddler steam, and she’s always bringing home little treasures.  Giant acorns and river pebbles were her most recent discoveries.  So, we sat on the couch watching our Friday morning movie (Tinkerbell), and the box caught my eye, and I knew then why I had saved it!  I grabbed the box and Lily and I went hunting for Fairy Treasures!  We grabbed her acorns and pebble, then I found some beautiful mallard tail feathers Daniel brought me once, and some old tarnished charms from a long-unworn charm bracelet, a few bottle caps, buttons, corks, tea tins, tiny turquoise dice, and other various trinkets.  We put them in our Fairy Treasure Box to save for making a fairy glen.fairy treasures

I wish I could describe the joy on her little face when we started putting it all together!  She made a table of an old thread spool and her pebble and placed buttons for plates.  The bottle caps make the perfect seats for little stools made from wine corks.  I think I may make a special place in the flower bed just for her fairy glen and it will be an ongoing project for many years.  What do you do to inspire creativity in your children?