I told my Best that the other day I sat down to write something meaningful here, and it came out rambling garbly-gook. I told her it was so frustrating and I didn't know how to say what I wanted to say. She said write anyways. She said sometimes people don't care if it makes sense or sounds beautiful, they just want to know your heart and hear your voice.
So here I am, willing to offer what I have presently to give, even if I can't make sense of it yet or communicate eloquently. A few incomplete thoughts and a peek into what God is up to in our lives. I decided that it's much easier to make a list than try to write a whole post that hangs together. Will you accept a list that doesn't even have a title!?
1. Bedrest lessons learned / physical update.
Bedrest has been an interesting teacher. It's a very difficult thing to embrace (personally). I went from nesting at 90 mph to smacking up against a brick wall and being told to sit and do nothing. And even when I DID that, my insides were still churning and planning. What I've found is that even if I am outwardly still, the mind and heart and spirit still have a very strong affect on the body. I could have been laying in bed all night, or sitting in the tub for an hour, and still have a cluster of contractions that were most likely caused by things like hearing the kids fighting downstairs under someone else's care, or worrying about what is still left on the to-do list. Sometimes I realized that I tense my stomach muscles when I'm feeling anxious or if the environment I'm in is stimulating or loud. I've learned to be aware of how I'm carrying myself inside, physically. How to take full, deep breaths and release muscles that I didn't realize I was clenching. To slow my pace - mentally and physically. Walk with one goal in mind - not to get somewhere fast, but to get somewhere without having a contraction.
On the heels of these lessons, I'm thankful to say that after 6 solid days of bedrest following my stay in L&D, I had a regular OB appointment and the baby was looking healthy and happy. I wasn't having as many contractions; I was averaging 1-2 per hour at rest, and 5-6 when I would get up (as opposed to the 6-8 per hour I had when I landed in the hospital). The doctor wasn't thrilled with 1-2 per hour being my 'new normal' and said 5-6 at this point in an hour is reason to head back in for monitoring. But overall he was ok with the overall picture and the direction things seemed to be going, and sent me out the door with permission to slowly add a little bit of activity back into my days, unless they increased the contractions.
I still have help just about every day, between my mom or a babysitter. I prioritize the hardest parts of the day and try to have help then. Our plan is for me to keep taking it as easy as I can and have extra help on hand so that we hopefully minimize the chances of early labor. Just 4 more weeks until I hit 36 weeks! Then I think we will be able to relax a little more about bedrest and contraction counting.
Between the Polar Vortex bringing sub-zero temperatures and extra days off school, and my bedrest situation, it's safe to say that we feel as if we are hibernating and it's making us all a little crazy. I keep trying to explain things to the kids as they unfold, in terms they can understand. So I have said that we can't have the baby if there's snow on the ground, but at this point it feels like Spring might never come! Also, Robbie knows more about what a contraction is, what its purpose is, and how to time one than most husbands. He'll see me pull my phone out (to time one) and say casually, 'another contraction mom?', or 'is your belly gettin' tight?'. It cracks me up every time, and usually leads to more conversation or questions about the baby, delivery, or pregnancy in general. I apologize in advance for any awkward conversations or moments this may lead to.
2. The baby.
It's been hard to feel like I can write or share a whole lot about this baby, and that's left me feeling very conflicted. I have friends who are currently struggling with infertility on many levels. I've watched a dear friend's heart and life shatter after having a stillborn baby at 32 weeks, and the depth of that grief is still present nearly a year later. I've honestly felt thankful and guilty at the same time to be carrying our 4th healthy baby. Most of the time the guilt has trumped the gratefulness, and the consequence has been fear.
I've irrationally feared losing this baby since the day I found out about her. A definite case of 'why should I have another healthy baby when this isn't the way it has played out / is playing out for others?'. I've had a hard time celebrating her life, for fear of rubbing salt into the wounds of others. I don't speak or write about her much, for this reason. I haven't found a balance, and I wish I knew how to walk this fine line gracefully.
We are so, so excited to meet our daughter. We are beyond grateful for her life and the health God has blessed her with so far. And I am letting myself dream about her birth and who she will be without wondering about how long she will be with us. God is writing her story, and her days are numbered (as all of ours are). If they are in the single digits or if she outlives us, I will humbly accept whatever God sees as best - for her and for us. I will thank Him for the beautiful gift of her life, and do my best to hold His gift loosely. I can't control the outcome by worrying or fearing the worst. And I can't make anyone else's pain less simply by entering into it personally in a way that matches theirs. That's really what it comes down to - wanting to take that pain away and never, ever being someone who adds to it. All I can do is trust that God is in control (because He is), and be with Him each day. Walk the road He's set before me, with faith. And enjoy the blessings He gives to us along the way - not minimize them.
3. Finding your voice/purpose vs. listening to/seeking God's.
I find it fascinating the way The Lord is teaching us all something different at the same time. Sometimes we can identify with others in the way our faith is being built up, and sometimes it feels like no one understands or identifies with you. For the better part of the last year, I've felt God raising up the same theme over and over again in my heart. "Listen to MY voice. Seek ME. Make much of ME. Humble yourself, be willing to be quiet. Don't undervalue faithfulness and obedience or trade it for outward posturing that is empty. Listen. Pay attention. Reach out to the vulnerable. Love every day, even if it's in seemingly small ways."
I keep coming back to these thoughts, whether I'm reading through a new book by a Christian author, or doing my Bible study, or spending time in prayer. I keep sensing this theme as being what God wants to teach me now, setting a foundation for the rest of the life I will live.
I've noticed that this phase of life that my girlfriends and I are in? It can be a little bit of a point of crisis. There's nothing like being a young mother raising a family and entering/exiting the babymaking-and-birthing process over and over to leave you wrung out and wondering what your purpose is. Especially when your days are made up of monotonous routine chores like running the dishwasher, laundry, driving kids to school, making dinner, bedtime routines... the spontaneity of life is replaced with curiosity over who will throw up next or run a fever in the night. We give every part of ourselves to birthing and raising our kids, until we are unrecognizable even to ourselves. Sometimes it leaves us wanting more.
I can see how this affects so many women I know. There are searches for purpose, for meaningful 'work' or causes to get involved with. There are hopes and dreams of doing something 'big' someday and maybe starting that process now. There's a lot of general discontent and restlessness. It's not all bad or wrong, but I'm noticing that some of it comes from a place of discontentment - with who we are in Christ and what He calls us to.
And yet I feel God's call to remain small. And by small, I mean humble. Aware of who I am in relation to Him. Understanding that His voice is more important than mine. His ways are above mine - mine, which change every day and with every new circumstance or challenge. I feel His call to seek Him first, to spend time with Him most, to love Him the deepest. To allow myself to be totally consumed with and by Him.
When I am in His presence, anything I might do or say feels like the small potatoes that it really is. Yes, God can use us in powerful ways. But our human nature can cause us to desire to be used for our own satisfaction or glory, and limits our ability to find contentment and peace and satisfaction in Him alone - by simply being with Him! We think have to DO for Him, SAY things for Him, prove success by writing a book or having something concrete to point to that validates who we are. I'm struck by the thought of living a quiet life in Christ that is powerful simply because HE is so thick in it, because He's become the only source of life and breath and the single desire of my heart. That He is what pours out of me, out of my mouth and heart, constantly, in every situation. Not because I'm the one holding Him out alongside whatever else I'm invisibly pursuing or trying to accomplish or grasp. But because He really has captivated me and worshipping Him is all that matters.
As much as I love to read the next new book or blog by great authors and speakers, I've gotten a little tired of people making much of themselves when it belittles The Lord himself. I want more of Him. I want to be encouraged to pursue Him to the degree that I find myself lost in Him - dying to myself and my selfish desires. I want to be encouraged to set myself aside, set aside the desire for the comfort that comes with feeling like I have a platform or mission that is clearly defined. I want to be encouraged to be who God has made me to be, in the place He has me in right now. And if that seems 'small'? To be OK with others seeing that as small or insignificant but not letting it steal my joy, or my faithful daily obedience. I want to love and serve my little family well, and encourage a knowledge of the Lord that grows into deep love among us. I want to love and serve those around me well. I want to have an eye open for the vulnerable, and be willing to serve in small ways with great love. And most of the time? I want it to go unnoticed. I want to be free from the desire for self-validation that comes from other people. I don't want to write a book for the sake of writing a book, or blog for the sake of blogging. I certainly don't want to lead a small group for the sake of being the leader, or get involved in a specific ministry so that I can hang my hat on it and check the box and feel like I'm proving my worth or pleasing others. I pray that nothing I chose to do, nothing I open my mouth to say, not a thought in my mind elevates me above The Lord Himself, replacing His will with mine, speaking out of my limited perspective for my own glory when I should be listening to His voice and letting Him speak through me.
And sometimes that's why I'm quiet on the blog. :)
4. Things that make me weep.
I saw this picture on twitter the other day, while I was getting my hair done.
I literally could not help the tears that immediately welled up and spilled over, and had to distract myself with something totally mindless in order to pull it together and compose myself. This breaks me open for a hundred reasons. The mere thought of it is enough to bring me to tears each time. I'll admit my first response was "give me this little girl and let me love her. I will raise her". I've since researched the photo, wondering about the origin of it and found mixed reports of it's validity. Someone claiming to be the photographer (the little girl's cousin) says that the girl was just playing outside and fell asleep - that she's not an orphan and the story isn't what it seems.
Regardless of who this particular girl is and what her story is, this picture is still a representation of many orphans around the world who do desperately miss their mothers, or have never known the love of a parent. The response this picture evokes in our hearts is what matters most, I think. The way this image masterfully displays the heartache and loss that is felt by a small child who has lost his or her parent(s)... it will stick with me forever.
5. The ways God has blessed us.
I've been overcome with a deep sense of gratitude lately, for the ways God cares for us. He has come to me so gently through the things we are walking through, providing for our needs and reminding us that He is with us. One of the things I struggle with most is fear or anxiety that I won't be able to care for our family adequately. I struggle with inadequacy issues in general, and so it's no surprise that bedrest stirred up those old familiar feelings of "how in the world am I going to manage this / pull this of?". I've learned that the first step is always bringing my concerns to The Lord, telling Him why I'm afraid or what my need is, and asking Him to provide for me. The next step is trusting that He will, or that He has purpose in the struggle.
Since my little stay at the hospital, I've hired 3 new babysitters. I already had one or two that come over occasionally (and are awesome), but their limited availability was leaving me feeling vulnerable the other days of the week, especially if I was going to need help on a daily basis. God provided 3 more women to watch my kids when I need extra help - through a friend and through one of my current sitters - and I now have someone I can call every day of the week for the hours that Rob is at work. In addition, my mom has been so helpful and present - coming over nearly every day to help me with the kids and the house, encouraging me to rest, driving little ones to school, etc. And then there are my friends... sweet women who have brought us dinner, sent emails and texts of encouragement, checking in on us... one who took all 3 of my kids to a matinee of Frozen in the theater so that I'd have a quiet afternoon! Just above and beyond love and care from every side.
I feel my anxiety over inadequacy melting, not because I feel more able right now than I have in the past when I've faced challenges. But because I am learning that we need each other. I really CAN'T do this alone... I'm totally inadequate to raise these kids (with Rob) and be pregnant and have another baby and manage this life well on my own. I need The Lord, and I need others. When I allow God to direct my steps, and I let go and follow Him... when I allow friends to step in and serve, to help me with what I think is mine to manage... I can be OK with my limitations. I can allow my plans to fall apart or the way I like things done to fall by the wayside. I can open myself up to Someone bigger, to something better than living life out of my own sufficiency and strength. It's a new way of understanding and embracing community, and it's a new level of humility. It's a stretch, and it's uncomfortable. But I'm going there and praying God uses it to do a work in my heart that has yet to be done. I know it is building a greater compassion inside of me, and a more beautiful picture of the way God desires us to live with one another.
And now I'm hitting publish before I edit these thoughts or think twice about sharing them! Here's to a new week of growing to love Him more... wherever we are, whatever we are facing.