I can’t just praise you when things are going well, when everyone is healthy, when there’s money in the bank, or my prayers are being answered how I want them to be.
I need to praise you in the even when.
Even when the healing doesn’t happen.
Even when the biopsy results come back positive.
Even when the water comes in the front door.
Even when the person you have prayed for seems like they’ll be lost forever.
Even when you don’t get the job.
Even when that friend turns their back on you.
As a believer in Jesus, there is hope because of the work Christ did on the cross. Our hope is that this isn’t our home. That this isn’t all there is.
Last fall I attended a funeral of a 20-year-old who died under tragic, senseless circumstances. His Dad got up there and talked about the hope, peace, and love of Christ. If on the worst week of this man’s life he was able to have hope in Christ, there’s something tangible there. That peace, that joy, that hope doesn’t come from reading a bunch of self-help books or doing yoga everyday.
It comes from Jesus.
Last night our senior pastor passed away after complications from a heart attack. He was 55. It’s a tragic loss. But, his wife exudes this hope. Is she broken and hurting? Definitely. However, she is choosing to praise him, even when the worst happened.
Christ calls us to hope in him in the even when’s of our lives.
Christ alone is what enables us to say “yet I will praise you” even in the worst circumstances.
I’ve learned something revolutionary that I need to share with you.
You have to regularly brush and floss your small child’s teeth. I mean, even when they are a baby.
After you read that last line, you found yourself in one of two groups. One of these groups is the one that knows this, does this, and is baffled/disgusted that I didn’t realize this. The other group is the one that when their friend said something about flossing their 15-month-old’s teeth…you laughed out loud.
I’m in the second group. I distinctly remember a conversation a few years ago in which one of my friends mentioned flossing their 2-year-old’s teeth. I had truly and honestly never even THOUGHT about flossing my 2-year-old’s teeth. That sounded utterly impossible to me. I just laughed and said “Why? They’re just temps anyways!”
There were other warnings along the way. For instance, when my pediatrician would ask at well-checks if my child had seen the dentist yet. I found myself chuckling at this question. I probably should have realized it then that maybe my lack of discipline with my child’s dental health needed some adjustments.
I finally made a dentist appointment for my oldest (Kate) when she was 4. It was an epic disaster. Kate flipped out when the hygienist started touching her mouth and pretty much ended up verbally assaulting the poor woman.
So, after that unsuccessful attempt at the dentist, we just didn’t try again. BTW, that’s probably not the best value to instill in your child “Oh, you don’t like that? Just never do it again!” Hindsight’s 20/20.
Fast-forward to present day. Kate turns 6 next month. A few weeks ago she told me that it hurt to eat on one side of her mouth. So I took a look…at her visible cavity. I finally made a dental appointment for her. The overall damage? 6 cavities. $1600 worth of dental work. Cue the guilt for being the worst dental health Mom ever.
Now, there are some really sexy ways to spend your money. Car repairs, a new water heater, energy efficient windows, just to name a few. But $1600 for TEETH THAT ARE GOING TO FALL OUT? That takes the cake.
So friends, don’t make the same mistakes as me. Brush when you don’t feel like brushing, floss when it sounds like the most preposterous idea in the world…because nobody needs to drop 4 figures on baby teeth.
I mean, a serious tribe of friends. The type of friends that I can laugh with, cry with, pray with, put down as an emergency contact, have chaotic family dinners with, and swap kids with. One of these friends even took care of my 18 month old for 11 days while I was out of the country last summer (she would not let me talk her out of it).
It goes against any notions of trying to live life in my own bubble. We do life together.
So when a member of this tribe came to us with the news that her family is moving to another state…it rocked us all.
As I listened to her sob that day the thing she kept coming back to was “how do we leave this? We will never find this again.”
The more I’ve had time to think through her devastation of leaving her tribe and the relationships she has built (mind you in only 5 years) and reflect on how we got to this level of community in the first place, I’ve come to a few conclusions on the process of building community.
It takes time. You don’t meet a Mom at the park, talk for 20 minutes, then ask her to be your emergency contact person for your kid’s school forms. Foundations of relationships are built from face to face time over hours, weeks, months, and years. It’s not just through a screen, it’s not just being with them a couple of times.
It means going to social events even when you don’t feel like. At least in the initial stages. When we first moved here there was a group of women who got together on Sunday nights from 8-10 at a local Starbucks to hang out. When I first started being around the women that went there I was still teaching and coaching full-time. There were Sunday nights that the LAST place I wanted to be was sitting in a cold Starbucks because I was exhausted. But I went. I was really tired on some of those Monday mornings but I was in the building stages of something more important, relationships. So go, even if you don’t even drink coffee at 8:00pm (I don’t).
It means having friends that you probably wouldn’t have hung out with in high school. High school was weird anyways, right? If I was going to classify the people I’m friends with now based on their high school reputation we’d have a few jocks, a youth-group junkie, a preacher’s kid, a choir girl, a math Olympiad team member, a drill team member, and a skater. We probably wouldn’t have all sat at the same lunch table, but it doesn’t matter…because we’re adults. We have an age range of 8 years among us, our W-2 forms have varying amounts on them, and (gasp!) we don’t all vote the same way. Shared experiences and similar life stages make those differences fade away real quick.
It may feel like dating at first. You have to put yourself out there. You have to ask people for their numbers (or just figure out how to spell their name so you can find (stalk) them on the internet). When I walked into a women’s bible study for the first time I sat next to a girl because she had on a cute chevron dress and she looked athletic. We are good friends now, but I totally speed-dated her.
The catalyst may have to be you. If you don’t see people doing life together where you are, cultivate it. You may have to be the person to invite someone over. You may have to organize get togethers. You may need to be the person that creates the group text. It may not be your personality type to do this but most people desire to have close relationships but they are just waiting to be invited in. Invite them.
You have to be willing to ask for help. Doing everything on your own doesn’t create a sense of community. Let your friends help you, even when you don’t think you need it. This can be as simple as asking for prayers when you are in the middle of something tough. On the flip side of this you have to give help as well. Take a couple extra kids for a day, invite the Mom and kids that are solo for the week over for dinner, or drop off rations at a friend’s house who just got hit with the stomach bug (totally acceptable to knock the door and run away in this situation).
Starting from scratch is hard. But, we aren’t meant to close our doors and struggle through life alone. Be uncommon in your relationships and find people to live life together with.
And if you in the Oklahoma City area and you are looking for a friend that loves people in extraordinary ways, I know of one coming your way.
In the past 9 days our town (Kingwood) has seen unprecedented destruction and devastation.
Homes were filled with water, people were rescued by boats at their front doorstep, homes were completely washed away, cars were destroyed, and possessions were ruined.
However, in the midst of the chaos, fear, and heartbreak Hurricane Harvey caused; something incredible happened. Our community came together like never before. It didn’t matter what the sign outside your church was, it didn’t matter what color your skin was, it didn’t matter what your W-2 form looked like last year, it didn’t matter what your ballot looked like in November; none of that mattered anymore.
In the aftermath of Harvey people became who God truly intended for them to be. Each person had (and continues to have) a role. People leaned into their role for the betterment of the community as a whole.
People came from near and far with boats to rescue complete strangers from their homes.
People purchased, prepared, and delivered food to people they’d never laid eyes on.
People showed up in droves in neighborhoods to take out drywall, sheet rock, furniture, and appliances out of flooded homes.
People invited complete strangers into their homes and gave them a place to sleep, take a shower, and eat a meal.
People showed up to their jobs in grocery stores, hospitals, gas stations, fire stations, police stations, etc. despite the personal risk it took to get there.
People watched other people’s children so more adults could be out working in homes and flood victims could safely work in their homes.
People took in pets of flood victims, even people with pet allergies.
People washed clothes for people who were flooded.
People scrubbed and sanitized dishes and pans for strangers.
People comforted and cried with those who lost everything.
People sent money and gift cards for flood victims from every corner of the World.
People are the glue that holds communities together during disaster. It’s not an organization, it’s not a charity, it’s not a government program. People will out perform FEMA every time. When you have a united group of people working together anything is possible.
My husband would tell you that I have an insatiable travel bug. I start twitching on the inside if I haven’t gone somewhere for a few months.
We also have three young children ages 5, 3, and 18 months. This makes traveling look WAY different, but we still do it. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring the world.
Here are things to keep in mind when embarking on a trip with your kids.
Go outdoors. Nature is a huge playground to kids. Take them on a hike and they can find sticks, throw rocks in a lake, race to a tree, climb on a boulder, and see wildlife. The outdoors are free (or super cheap), there are usually no lines, there’s nothing your kids will want to buy, and your rowdy toddler can’t break anything (besides a bone or two).
The time before they can run away from you or give an opinion is a prime time for a trip. Most people go into lockdown mode when they have an infant but I am here to tell you, 7 months and younger is the easiest lap child you will ever have. Another plus to traveling at this age is that they (usually) fall asleep anywhere still so you can wear them/push them and GO.
Renting a house is the way to go for longer trips. Airbnb and VRBO have some great places to stay at affordable prices. This way you can spread out and not be sharing a room with your child(ren) and you have the added convenience of a kitchen. Do you know what happens when a small child wakes up in a hotel room? Everybody wakes up. The last time I shared a room with my 5 year old I discovered that she talks A LOT in her sleep and it is frequently directed at Mom so this did not equate to a restful night sleep.
YOU CAN TAKE KIDS SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN DISNEY! I’m yelling this because I don’t think it gets said enough. Disney does a fantastic job of marketing and making you believe that this is the ultimate vacation for a family, but I’d argue that there are much better options out there for a young family. You can go a lot of places with the money that a Disney Vacation would cost you (Europe, if you are super thrifty). Also, if you haven’t been to Central Florida before I have some news for you, it’s really hot and humid. The fact that I already live somewhere that is hot and humid (Houston, TX) probably adds to the fact that I have no desire to make a lateral move in terms of heat. There are also a lot of lines at Disney World. For everything. I’ve waited in a long line with a one-year-old before, now I have Amazon Prime and I get my groceries delivered through SHIPT because it is literally the worst.
So say yes to the trip, because you and your kids aren’t going to tell stories years down the road about that one night you stayed home and watched Netflix.
I’ve birthed 3 humans. I’ve been pregnant 3 times. When you go through a pregnancy there are a few different ways that your body can react.
Scenario 1: You could go on “I didn’t know I was pregnant” as a guest. You somehow, against all odds, don’t look pregnant at all. When you tell people how far along you are they are utterly shocked because there is no way you could be 38 weeks because you look like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner, not a bowling ball. You get maternity pictures taken because you are still cute. Your OB talks to you about gaining more weight and you have no idea why people equate pregnancy with swollen ankles. You, my friend, are an anomaly in nature.
Scenario 2: It’s obvious to strangers that you are pregnant…but only when they see you from the front. You gain the suggested amount of weight steadily throughout your pregnancy and you look like your usual self with a basketball underneath your shirt. People say things to you such as “you’re all baby” or “I couldn’t tell you were pregnant from behind.” Also, super lucky.
Scenario 3: You are pregnant everywhere. You are pretty positive there is a baby in each of your thighs at this point and you aren’t sure how those babies are getting out of there. Your face looks like a perpetual allergic reaction for the last 3 months of your pregnancy which makes random strangers offer you Benadryl. You laugh when people ask if you if you are doing a maternity photo shoot because why would you want to look at this down the road? You go to your Doctor’s appointments in the least amount of clothing possible and your lightest pair of shoes, which you still take off for your weigh-in. At this point the comments you receive are along the lines of “Are you sure it’s not twins?” or “I think your Doctor got the wrong due date” or “Wow” or even worse, complete silence. I feel you, I’ve been there.
After your darling, fat-producing, cuddly baby makes their entrance into the world the real fun begins. Losing the baby weight.
For scenario 1 and 2 people this comes pretty easily. Breastfeeding (if you decide to nurse), some walks or runs, and not eating entire cakes by yourself will pretty much do the trick.
With my first pregnancy I was a scenario 2 person. I gained 40 pounds. I was also 27 at the time so my metabolism hadn’t completely flown the coop. I even wore a bikini that summer after having a baby in March (not normal). I ate M&M’s while I would breastfeed. I’m a runner so I did that but I didn’t go nuts about it. It was easy. Looking back, ridiculously easy.
Then I got pregnant with baby number 2. I became a scenario 2 and 1/2 person with this pregnancy. I gained 50 pounds this time around. Losing it was more difficult. Some factors that made this more difficult would be that I had 2 kids to manage at this point, I could no longer do any type of jumping in my workouts, and my metabolism had started packing its bags because I was 29.
I ran on occasion, I ate M&M’s, and I drank beer. This combination is not a winning weight-loss strategy by the way.
I rationalized that I was breastfeeding and that is pretty much like running 5 miles a day so surely I could still eat food I liked and not workout every day of the week.
All it really took was the realization after about 8 months of this that I needed to run more and drink less beer for the weight to eventually come off.
Then I got pregnant with baby number 3. This pregnancy was all sorts of scenario 3. I gained 65 pounds. I ran until I was 32 weeks pregnant and I didn’t eat entire boxes of donuts…but the weight just kept coming. My maternity clothes from previous pregnancies didn’t fit by the time I hit third trimester. I’m pretty sure someone was injecting fat into my salads. I was 30 this time around. My metabolism didn’t even write me postcards anymore from wherever it went. We had a great run together but it just wasn’t enough to keep her around.
After I gave birth to my cute little fat producer I was on a serious mission to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. Here’s how this went:
Five Weeks PP (Postpartum): I went running. It hurt real bad. Not like hurt my uterus, but my knees. Understood why overweight people don’t go running for exercise.
Two Months PP: Signed up for a half-marathon that was 4 and 1/2 months after I gave birth. Figured there was no way I could run 13 miles while overweight. Stopped buying M&M’s.
Four Months PP: Ran half-marathon. Ran really slow. Found out that you CAN run 13.1 miles while 30 pounds overweight, it just hurts real bad.
Five Months PP: Worked out like a crazy person. Not losing weight anymore.
Six Months PP: Still on plateau of weight loss. Not sure what to do since this has never happened before. Start googling adult beverages that contain fewer calories than beer.
Nine Months PP: Come to the stark realization that I can’t consume bread, pizza, dessert, pasta, beer, or anything delicious anymore. Start eating salmon and vegetables most nights. Husband is bored with menu at home. Start losing weight again.
Ten Months PP: Look into options like the 21-day-fix. Decide I probably shouldn’t cut that many calories since I’m still nursing. Still have 15 pounds to go.
12 Months PP: Kept nursing through the Holidays purely because it burns calories. Got rid of clothes that used to fit but don’t because there’s no reason for them to take up closet space anymore.
13 Months PP: Stop nursing. Decide to do a 3-day juice cleanse to kickstart some weight loss. Nothing happens besides being really hungry and using the bathroom more often. No change in weight.
16 Months PP: 10 pounds left. Wonder when the statute of limitations on the phrase “baby weight” occurs. Think about writing to my metabolism to see if there’s any chance it’s coming back.
The moral of this story being losing weight after 30 is the worst. Also, M&M’s won’t help you lose weight, you’re welcome.
You just brought home your new bundle of joy! Congrats! Being a new parent is a whirlwind of emotions and can be quite overwhelming at times. There are so many books and resources out there that you may have read about your new baby, but there are some things people leave out when they talk to you about having a new baby, let me fill you in.
Your belly is still going to look pregnant. It does go away eventually but for the time being avoid brutally honest preschoolers or that Uncle that thinks he is hilarious. “Yes, I’m positive there isn’t another one in there.”
Forget that you own non-maternity jeans for at least the next 5 months. I’ll tell you right now, they aren’t going to fit well. Don’t bother trying them on because it will only add insult to injury. This is why elastic was invented. Use it to your advantage.
There are going to be people that have ZERO boundaries when it comes to touching your baby. Wearing your baby is the easiest way to combat this BUT there will still be a select few (generally people you don’t know that well) that will put their hand on your child’s head, foot, etc. I have yet to come up with a tactful way to say, “Excuse me, your hand is less than one-inch from my boobs, what the heck are you thinking?” Let me know if you figure something out.
Your baby will cry and need you at the most inopportune times. For example: when you sit down to a hot meal, when you answer a phone call, or when you are in the middle of washing your hair. However there will be times when they WON’T cry: when you get pulled over by the police, when a random stranger goes into great detail about their birth story, or when it’s your partner’s turn to wake up in the middle of the night with them.
If you get invited to a trampoline park, a jump-a-thon, or a workout class that involves jumping jacks do yourself a solid and bring an extra pair of pants. You’ll understand why.
Now is the time to pick a television series to watch. If you are breastfeeding you are going to have a lot of time to sit. It doesn’t have to be child-appropriate when it is your first born because those little eyes are only seeing your boobs and their own eyelids so they won’t be traumatized by Prison Break, House of Cards, etc. Live it up now because if you have subsequent children you are going to be feeding your child while watching Curious George.
Accept help. If someone wants to bring you dinner, take it. If someone wants to fold laundry, let them. If someone wants to hold your baby while you take a shower for the first time in 3 days, let them.
You are going to know things you had no prior knowledge of. It’s weird, but Mother’s intuition is a real thing. If you haven’t been around babies much this will almost feel like an out of body experience when you start spitting knowledge of your baby and what they need. Just go with it.
They are more resilient than they appear. They won’t break by you putting clothes on them no matter how terrifying it is to pull clothes over a screaming newborn’s head but rest-assured you won’t do any permanent damage unless you are secretly the hulk. They also won’t tell their therapist when they are 30 about crying for 10 minutes while Mom finished taking a shower.
Your brain is going to go on a vacation for the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure where it goes but it won’t be with you. You may have been forgetful during pregnancy “pregnant brain”, you’ll forever have “Mom brain”, but “newborn brain” takes the cake. For my firstborn I completely forgot it was my birthday; I was truly wondering what the heck all these alerts on my phone were. For my second child at his one-week well check I left my car running unattended in the parking lot (mind you, it is a Prius and makes no noise) for 1.5 hours. Now is NOT the time to defend your thesis or make life-altering decisions.
It gets better and don’t worry, you will block out the next couple of weeks because otherwise no one would do this again. Best of luck.