Happy First Birthday, Sam!

Gendke Family Pic
The Gendkes, November 2014

Today is Sam’s first birthday, so I’m pausing my focus on New Year’s goals to take a look back at one significant way Sam changed my life this past year: my relationships with my in-laws.

This past year I connected with my husband’s family more than I ever have. I think I even started referring to them as my family. And I finally felt at home in Texas. Ironic, right? (If you missed it, we recently moved to Missouri.)

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First Attempt at a Family Photo, November 2014

To understand the change, you have to know that I joined my husband’s boisterous, fun-loving family nearly ten years ago…at a time when I was dejected, depressed, and not good at opening up to people. I was sad and quiet, and the Gendkes were happy and loud. At family gatherings, I felt like an outsider. I thought I didn’t belong in this close-knit family where kids were among the top topics of conversation.

Sam and "Tia" (Aunt Joanna)
Sam and “Tia” (Auntie Joanna), the night before we left Texas

Over the years as God healed certain parts of my heart, I inserted my voice more, but it wasn’t until I had Sam that I felt I could really join the conversation. When Sam came along, and even as he grew in my womb, I saw my in-laws, especially my mother- and sisters-in law, open up in ways I hadn’t seen before. And this allowed me to open my heart to them.

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Sam with Aunt Deb

Sister-in-law Deb orchestrated a beautiful baby shower and lovingly made the only wall decorations that hang in Sam’s room. Mother-in-law Margie dropped off gifts—picture frames, Christmas ornaments, a night-light—in anticipation of our new baby. A few days before my due date, sister-in-law Joanna called to ask if there was anything I needed her to pick up at Target. After Sam’s birth, the aunties alternated gifting baby clothes and toys they “couldn’t resist.”

Sam and "Tio" (Uncle Brady)
Sam and “Tio” (Uncle Brady)

Sam’s uncles, Brady and Bo, even stepped up. When Sam was two months old, pediatric nurse Brady wowed Buc and me with an expert football hold and showed us how to pull the bottle in and out to start a baby sucking again when he’s stopped. Bo would hold Sam for long periods of time in those early months, Sam napping in his arms, until the day Sam decided to cry at the first sight of Bo (sorry, Bo!). Though often chair bound, my father-in-law, “Pop,” even found ways to bond with Sam.

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Sam with Uncle “Bo-bo”

I can’t express how these precious memories overwhelm my heart. And that’s to say nothing of all the times Joanna, Margie, or Deb babysat for me. That’s to say nothing of how my nieces and nephew attached to Sam, or the many times a family member stopped over at just the right time—usually Sam’s five’o clock meltdown—so I could make supper and take a few deep breaths. Oh yeah, and I’m not sure this move to Missouri would’ve gone off without their help.

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Sam with “Nanny and Poppy” ( Margie and Mike)

I credit my mother- and father in-law, Mike and Margie, for building something beautiful with the Gendke family. Though the Gendkes’ Southern/Italian customs, loud conversations, food choices and pastimes did not always translate to the liking of this quiet Northern girl, the love of this family, and its strong bond, has come through loud and clear. Especially now that I have a child.

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(Not to leave out my own side of the family!) Sam with Grandpa Daryl (my dad). My own parents and step-parents have shown the same love to Sam that the Gendkes have each time they’ve had the chance…but living 1,000 miles away for his first year, they had far fewer chances. Ironically, now in St. Louis, we are in the middle of our two families, so we hope to get to see my side more often.

A baby provides a fresh start, a clean slate, for people to grab onto. Maybe adults don’t feel comfortable exposing their true feelings to other adults, who could reject them, or not reciprocate. But a baby is different. A baby needs love, feeds on love, and gives love without restraint (unless you’re currently Uncle Bo. Sorry again, Bo).

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Sam with Grandma Su (my mom)

I understand now, like I didn’t before, that to show love to a person’s child is to show love to that person. I regret that I have not been very good about showing love to my nieces, nephew, and siblings in the past. But until Sam, I wasn’t a kid person, I thought. I wasn’t a family person, I thought.

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Sam with Grandma Juanita (my step-mom)

During this past year, Sam (along with his uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents) has taught me that all human beings have it wired into them to be “baby people,” and “family people.” That doesn’t mean we all need to have babies. Certainly, it is not the best option for all.

Sam and Me, ready to visit a new church
Sam and Me, ready to visit a new church

But after my first year of parenting, I’m glad I’ve gotten this chance. Though life has definitely become more complicated, my relationships have been enriched—not only my relationship with my husband (my co-worker in this awesome job), but also my relationships with extended family. And then, there is my precious Sam. Adorable. Irreplaceable. Heaven sent.

Sam and Duck
“Duck” was Sam’s second word, second only to “Mom.”

Happy one-year, dear Sam! And thank you, Family, for making the first year of Sam’s life great. I’m not sure I would have survived (at least with my sanity intact) without you. Please visit often!

 

 

 

 

I Prayed a Prayer in Texas . . . and Wound Up in Missouri

missouri welcomes you
Photo Credit: jodyandjanie.blogspot.com

Several months ago I prayed: “Something about our lives and our home feels broken; we need a change.” I haven’t posted for the last month because, in that time, my husband got a job in St. Louis that we could not at first make public; and we have been busy moving. Now that we are here (as of one week), I finally have some room to exhale, rejoice, and explain how this move answered my prayer.

When I prayed my prayer a few months ago, our lives looked pretty perfect. Buc had a good job; we had a nice house, a good church family, and a beautiful baby; and I got to stay home with that baby. But there was definitely a problem: Our family of three wasn’t “gelling” like I knew we should. We weren’t bonding and creating traditions and just “being a family” like I knew God intended.

Details like Buc’s early commute, Sam’s erratic sleep patterns, and Buc’s arrival home around Sam’s bedtime made Daddy-and-Baby time nearly impossible on weekdays. These facts also made it hard for us to eat meals together or have family outings. And for those months when Sam was waking through the night, and waking at 4 and 5 and 6 a.m. for the day, I was plumb exhausted. I had nothing left to give.

As I looked around our home, saw our neglected dogs, overgrown flowerbeds, unused backyard, and the garden Buc had failed to plant, I realized Buc had little left to give either. We were just “getting by.” We didn’t have energy to really enjoy life, and enjoy our baby, together.

You might say there was nothing deeply wrong with our setup; they were just logistical things keeping us from family time. But I would be careful about saying that. A lot of wise people have observed that it’s the little things in life—the daily patterns and routines—that make up the whole life. If we’re not careful about those little patterns that are just a degree or two off target, we will soon find ourselves far from where we originally intended to be.

Originally, we decided to have a baby because we wanted to grow our family; we wanted to create new traditions and spend time together and just be a unit. So the fact that I was doing most of this baby stage by myself, without my husband, was sort of devastating. I found myself growing resentful of my baby and even my husband, and I didn’t want to resent them. So, in addition to complaining at home a whole lot (sorry honey), I prayed.

As I prayed about our brokenness at home, Buc felt things breaking work. Situations pushed him to seek employment with another company. And he started praying too. He set forth a number of conditions that God would have to answer in order for him to move his family over 600 miles from home. Guess what? God answered every single one.

So while our church and Texas family members scratched their heads over why we were leaving such a nice life, I sighed with relief. No more breakfasts alone. No more days of waiting until 6 p.m. to talk to my husband. Perhaps some lunches together (we now live within ten minutes of Buc’s work). Perhaps some suppers out with the baby. No more yard upkeep, at least while we remain in the townhome we’ve rented. No more dogs to take care of, for now (two kind families at our Texas church adopted Bill and Ted). A much needed break from church positions that were gobbling up precious weeknights. Just…a much needed retreat from a life that had grown too busy and clumsy to facilitate a new family learning to “be a family.”

No, I’m not happy to have left all the wonderful family, church members, and friends I’ve gained in Texas over ten years, but I know this is God’s plan for us, for now. And for that, I give thanks. For me, the New Year ushers in an exciting period of growth and change, and hopefully a well maintained blog so I can document what God is doing in our little family of three, and stay connected with my friends and extended family. Happy New Year, dear readers!

Embracing Imperfection

"Hands4" by TACLUDA
“Hands4” by TACLUDA

“I don’t watch TV and don’t feel like I waste my time. So why don’t I always have time for God? What can I cut out of my day to spend more time with Him?”

I asked my husband this question last weekend during a heart to heart about putting God back at the center of our lives. Buc admitted he needed to cut down on media use, but I couldn’t put my finger on any “time-wasters” in my day; everything I did seemed useful, even needful.

“I know what your problem is.” Buc answered. “You’re a perfectionist. You might do all good things, but it takes you three times as long as most people. So you do everything well, but you don’t get much done.”

Ugh. He’s told me this before. And I guess  I haven’t truly listened. But I’m finally starting to, because God has stepped in to send the message home. Over the last few weeks (during which I haven’t posted because I didn’t have time to write a “good enough” post) God has been teaching me that his idea of perfection is not the same as mine.

My idea of perfection looks something like this:

  • I should have morning worship every day
  • I should be a good and responsive mother to Sam (whatever that means while he is without language and can’t tell me what he wants/needs)
  • I should exercise vigorously every day
  • I should get to eat at least one meal with my husband (two would be better)
  • Those meals should be mostly healthy
  • I should get 8 hours of sleep every night
  • I should be writing every day
  • I should be blogging regularly
  • I should be involved at church
  • I should be preparing personalized Christmas gifts on Shutterfly (or similar sites) for my family
  • I should keep in touch with all my friends on a regular basis
  • I should keep my house clean–or, at the very least, should be able to get the dishes done at the end of every day
  • I should have clean hair every day

My daily reality is far from my daily “wish list.” And understandably; it’s an impossible list. Over and over in the past weeks God has been talking to me about my impossible standards, trying to redirect them to his standard. He says his “yoke is easy” and his “burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). That sounds better than the crushing yoke I’ve created for myself.

So what is God’s definition of perfection? I’m working on piecing together an imperfect definition, based on some verses he has directed me to lately:

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” (Ps. 18:32, NIV)

“…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV)

 “…from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the (wo)man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:15-17, KJV)

From these verses, I know there is nothing I can do to be “perfect”; it is only through God and his Word that I can aspire to “perfection.” And what is godly perfection? From James I am starting to understand that I can’t measure my “perfection” by my outward appearance; it has to do with my heart and my state of mind. Also, James tells me the road to becoming “perfect” is messy, paved with trials; and Timothy tells me that it may take some “reproof” and “correction” before I get there.

As I ponder and pray over these lessons from God and his Word, I am becoming more okay with days that don’t live up to my expectations. Good rest and good hygiene and healthy meals and quality time with my husband and robust writing production and everything else on my list would be really nice, but we live in an imperfect world–so these things won’t happen every day. So I have to become okay with that; I have to learn to embrace “imperfection” according to how I define imperfection (my shallow, outward definition), and embrace the “process of perfection” God has designed.

My house might be a mess, my hair might be a bit greasy, and it may be a month or more between blog posts…but that’s okay…as long as my connection with God is still intact.

In my imperfect world, maybe all I can do is a five-minute Bible study, or fifty distracted prayers throughout the day while chasing down a runway baby. Maybe I get blessed with an hour of “free” time in which to crack open my Bible commentaries. Maybe I only get to read a few scriptures on my index cards before motherhood calls.

The important thing is to not let the possibility of an “imperfect” Bible study or prayer session keep me from having that Bible study or prayer session. God has told me this recently. He told me, “Lindsey, ALL scripture is profitable for you…so even if you only get five minutes, take them.” And through a new favorite author, Lysa Terkeurst, he has also told me, “Your job is obedience; my job is results” (from Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions).

Okay, God. I will embrace imperfection, as long as you keep helping me (and I know you will). As long you keep “perfecting” me according to your will, I will keep loosening my grip on my own imperfect ideas of perfection.

Messy house, greasy hair, and hasty blog post, here I come! This is my day, and that’s okay.

My Near Brush with Scrapbooking

20140926-083917.jpgDo you ever fall into the trap, like I do, of feeling you must use something just because you have it? Last year I received some lovely scrapbooking supplies for my baby shower, and those supplies sat unused in a drawer for the first eight months of Sam’s life, taunting me, making me feel like a bad mother…until his ninth month, when I counted the cost of what scrapbooking would mean to my already busy life.

Already I was having trouble fitting into my day the things I loved (apart from Sam), and some things I didn’t really love, but really needed to do. I was not finding regular time to blog, read, or keep up with friends. I could not always find time to make healthy meals for my family. And I had committed to an exercise program that required just twenty-five minutes a day—but after completing the day’s demands, sometimes I literally could not find the time (or energy) to keep that commitment to my health. I realized again a lesson my people-pleasing personality needs over and over: I can’t do it all, at least not all at the same time; in life, I have to choose.

best yesHappily, just as I was trying to decide what to do with my scrapbooking supplies, I read Lysa Terkeurst’s book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands—and I knew what to do. The thesis of the book is that God has “best yeses” for us, or things we are definitely meant to do in life; but we have to be intentional about our decisions, always checking them against God’s word and spiritual discernment, or we will trade our best yeses for things we are not meant to do. The two most important words we can wield, says Terkeurst, are “yes” and “no.” She helps readers determine when to say no. She helped me decide that scrapbooking, for me, was a “no.”

Along with Terkeurst’s wisdom, here are some questions I asked myself to determine whether something really deserves my time–along with how I applied it to my scrapbooking dilemma:

  • Will this thing matter in the end to others who matter to me? I decided it was important to preserve some pictures of Sam and some milestones and thoughts, but it didn’t really matter how. In other words, keeping a baby book and a regular photo album is just as good as keeping a scrapbook. Sam will feel loved from these simpler memory makers, so why not go easy on myself?20140926-083931.jpg
  • Will this thing matter in the end to me? In ten years, twenty years, or even tomorrow, I decided I don’t care if I have a scrapbook sitting on my shelf or not. In fact, I’m trying to de-clutter my home, so why would I add another baby book? It would be nice to have, but it’s just not for me.
  • What would I, or could I, do with my time instead? The things I am constantly craving more of right now are reading good books, writing, and time with God and family. These things refresh me, and when I am refreshed, I am a better, more pleasant person.
  • Is doing this thing helping fulfill God’s plan for me, detracting from it, or neutral? In the case of scrapbooking (big deal, right?), maybe the answer is neutral. But between the other two choices, I’d say it’s detracting from God’s plans. It would take time away from my real gift, which my hubby recently said (and I agree) is communicating–talking, listening, and writing to others. On a side note, the recent project I’ve been doing for my church is collecting, writing up, and disseminating info on all our ministries/activities–and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing this, and I feel good about it. The accompanying bulletin board my assistant and I have planned excites me far less (huh, bulletin-boarding kind of resembles scrapbooking), so I am thankful for a communications assistant who is enthusiastic about the board.

At the end of the day, the decision to scrap the scrapbooking was a great victory for me. “Redeem the time, for the days are evil,” the Bible says. Deciding not to scrapbook helped me crystallize what’s really important, and what’s really not–and it has helped me to redeem my time. Take the past twenty-five minutes, for instance. I could’ve been scrapbooking, but instead I got to record these thoughts. I feel better already.

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What things tempt you to trade your best yeses?

If I Were a Single Mother

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Buc is out of town this week, which has given Sam and me extra bonding time. It has also made me wonder: What would this journey of motherhood look like without the support of a husband?

Pondering this question makes me sad. I have friends who are making this journey, some of them in silence. But I know there must be pain. Any time a baby comes into the world under questionable circumstances, there is the feeling of rejection, non-acceptance, loneliness, abandonment. I grew up in a home where a baby was born under such circumstances.

This event—or more accurately, the negative roots, or bad emotions and feelings (and the misguided marriage), that led up to my baby brother–led to my family members eventually turning against one another and the five of us living far apart, both emotionally and physically. Today we have reconciled to a great extent. Forgiveness, understanding, and grace have been extended, and we have made up for lost time by creating new happy memories. But not all can be restored.

When families come apart, there is un-restorable loss. I have my husband today, and I have Sam, and God has healed much of the childhood wound, but there is still a hole.

Anytime we lose a family member, or a family structure, we have holes. And while God can soothe them, and partially refill them, they will remain until we are restored to our heavenly image and the heavenly blueprint for families. Single parents, and kids with divorced parents, and kids who don’t know their parents, and kids who do not get to see their parents, was not God’s plan for the family. No matter how much family members may bother us at times, we are not complete without them. We miss them when they’re gone.

And yet, sometimes during the daily grind, I have thoughts about my husband like:

  • If he weren’t here, I could actually keep this house clean.
  • If I didn’t have to cook and clean for him, I could have more time to myself.
  • I would eat healthier without him around.

Terrible, right? But it gets worse. I’ve had similar thoughts about my baby. (Oh come on moms, you’ve had them, too.) Christian writer/speaker Lysa Terkuerst admitted to wishing her kids were older so she could finally get something done. A friend of mine has admitted that she often wants her husband out of the house so he will stop messing it up. These are just the kinds of thoughts we have, aren’t they? We are so quick to dismiss the blessings God has given us.

But as I look back at my childhood family, I don’t care about the little inconveniences we caused each other, such as my brother’s pranks on me, Dad’s boring cooking, Mom’s “too helpful” comments on my homework. I don’t much remember them, honestly. I just regret losing the support of a two-parent family, and family unity and harmony. I regret the hurtful words that flew between us and the barriers we erected.

If I were a single mother, I would have cleaner house, sure. I would have a better diet, I think. And I would have more free time to write and do my “own thing.” But these things are poor consolation prizes for what I would lose.

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I would lose the joy of seeing Buc make our baby belly laugh. I would lose a warm body to cuddle with at night. I would miss good conversation over dinner (when we are lucky enough to eat dinner together and in quiet). I would miss feeling loved and needed. I would miss relationship.

God created us to exist within relationships, and no matter how full our lives are in other ways, the lack of close, familial relationships leaves us feeling empty at the end of the day. I know. I’ve lived that way. And living that way left me not wanting to live.

I’m glad I’ve gotten these days away from my husband to remember how much I love and need him. This time alone has reminded me to keep the main thing the main thing. If my home is not in order, then it must get my priority attention. There is nothing else more important.

I’m also grateful to remember how Jesus cared so much for me that he addressed my holes…by taking them into his own body and soul. A year ago I was Christmas shopping and came across beautiful poem by Anne Peterson called “I Have These Holes,” framed as wall art. I cried right there in the store as I read it, because it rang so true for me. And I bought two copies. One I gave as a Christmas gift (which I think got forgotten by the owner), but the other hangs just to the left of my writing desk.

Here is the poem.

I have these holes

(Find more from the author at AnnePeterson.com)

This poem still makes me cry because it reminds me how Jesus brought me through the loss of a mother for some of my crucial growing-up years, the loss of a father for a couple more of those years, and the loss of a two-parent family. I can’t say the holes are gone, but they don’t ache like they used to. And they have largely been refilled. And one day they will be completely filled.

If I were a single mother, I would have different holes. But in that case, Jesus would offer different ways to fill me up, to ease the ache, to provide support.

Today, if you are a single mother or dealing with the loss of any family member, Jesus understands. And he has ways to fill you up of which you can’t even dream right now. Just hold on.

Why All New Moms Need a New Wardrobe (and It’s Not Because We’re Fat)

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from theguardian.com’s Money Blog

When I signed on for motherhood, I expected a litany of new challenges; I just didn’t expect my wardrobe to be at the top of the list. Yes, as silly (and vain) as it sounds, for these nine months of Sam’s life, dressing myself has been nothing short of traumatic.

Please don’t get the wrong idea. I am not a slave to fashion by any stretch. In fact, I pride myself on not getting sucked into materialism, either by my clothes or anything else I own. After all, as one of my favorite Bible passages says, the Heavenly Father already knows what I need, so I shouldn’t worry about what I’ll eat or what I’ll wear (Matt. 6:25). It’s a really lovely, warm and fuzzy thought…when you have a full tummy and are comfortably outfitted. But when you are either starving or staring at a closetful of clothes that you’d love to wear but, darn it, they just don’t fit, this aphorism becomes kinda mocking .

So what’s a new mom with nothing to wear to do?

In the beginning of Sam’s life when I could only fit into maternity clothes, I felt depressed, but unwilling to invest in new duds. Later, when I got so depressed I decided to go shopping, I became frustrated both at the challenge of clothes shopping with a baby, and also thinking about the money I was wasting because I planned to fit into my old clothes again (it was just taking much longer than I thought).

I also began taking stock of my wardrobe and having somewhat of an identity crisis. I looked at the rack of teaching clothes–slacks, blouses, and skirts that didn’t fit–and wondered if it was time to just throw those out and usher in a new wardrobe. After all, I wasn’t teaching anymore, and I wasn’t sure when I would again. And what if, by that time, these clothes just didn’t “fit” me anymore–as in, didn’t fit my personality and style as an older woman?

As I’ve descended the scale over nine months to within ten pounds of my goal, I’ve figured out that my clothing dilemma is not  vain or materialistic. My need to fit into my old clothes, and my hand-wringing over whether or not to throw out the old and usher in the new is about figuring out who I am, now that I’m a mother.

But some have told me not to worry about getting to my original size. It’s okay if I don’t, they say, because “I’m a mom now.”

For me, who has always been a sporty girl, likes to exercise, and is health conscious, I wonder if motherhood means I can no longer be fit or healthy? Is it to give up the joy of exercise and feeling good and being a healthy weight?

For awhile, as I struggled to find time and energy to exercise, and as the weight lingered and lingered, I thought so.

Some have told me not to worry about fitting into my old clothes again; just get new ones, because “I am a mom now.”

Does this mean I pitch, along with my slacks and blouses and skirts, the professional identity that helped me grow up so much and that I’m so proud of? During my first teaching years, when I felt small and unsure of myself and my authority, I found strength in dressing the part of organized, got-it-together teacher. Maybe my classroom discipline was a mess, but at least I dressed the part. Looking good helped me feel good.

But does becoming a mom mean I should drop all expectations of looking put-together and just flash my “mom” card? Is motherhood a license to be frumpy until my kids leave the nest?

I felt like this is the message I received from at least a few older mothers. Mothers who, by the way, had a little junk in the trunk or, sorry ladies, looked kinda frumpy.

I think some women confuse motherhood and self-sacrifice with sacrificing their own health and/or their looks. It is virtuous, to them, to give all time to their families, and as little time and thought as possible to their looks–including their body as well as what covers it. Once you become a mother, it is selfish to take time to exercise and shop for well-fitting, flattering clothes.

But this is a terrible mistake. I think rooted below a frumpy and/or flabby exterior, are issues of low self-esteem, or perhaps an undeveloped identity that wants to hide behind the identity of a child.

One reason I waited for eight years to have Sam, besides the fact that I was emotionally unstable and emotionally unable to imagine having kids for most of my twenties, was I wanted to have a clear sense of who I was before bringing a child into the world. I’d seen numerous mothers relinquish the work of developing their own personalities, skills, and minds to the task of mothering. Their lives became their children. Without children, I’m not sure they’d know who they were.

I didn’t want to be one of those women.

I am a person, separate from Sam. And much as I love our growing attachment, it’s important for me to remember the parts of myself that existed before Sam, and that go on when he’s not in the room.

Losing weight and deciding on a post-baby wardrobe have not just been vain endeavors. They have been important steps to remembering who I am and who I was before Sam.

So what is the current state of my wardrobe?

Thankfully, I’d swim in maternity clothes at this point. Thankfully, most of my old shirts fit again. Regrettably, most of my jeans don’t. But for now, I am loving the reinstatement of my (mostly) daily workouts and our daily strolls, and to celebrate feeling comfortable in my own stretched-out skin, I have bought more stretchy pants–that is, I’ve invested in new workout clothes. I will make a determination on my teaching and church clothes when I can again fit into all of them, but for this season of life, I am getting skinny again, and I enjoy my “sporty,” not “frumpy,” clothes.

Now, I proudly wear spandex not of necessity, but of choice. I am embracing my new identity as “Sporty Mom.” This is an identity that combines my past and present lives, and anytime the best of those two worlds combine is a beautiful thing. As long as my hair doesn’t get three-days-greasy and I can slap on a little eyeliner, I can rock sneakers and ponytails.

A post-baby wardrobe, then, might not, for all women, be about getting back to their original size, depending on their values and lifestyles (either sporty or sedentary). Whether or not all moms care about blasting those last ten pounds, I think we owe it to ourselves to take stock of our wardrobes and, when needed, make updates. We are playing the biggest, most important role of  our lives as we enter motherhood, and when mama looks and feels good, everyone feels good.

So there you go, new moms. If you’re stressing over clothes you can no longer wear, stop it! If the decision to keep or to cut those clothes is too traumatic now, put them aside until you are in a position (and at a weight) to decide what to do with them. And until then, take this argument to the bank (or to your hubbies), use it to buy a new wardrobe for the new you (Goodwill counts), and feel great about yourself, no matter what the scale says.

 

 

Call Me a Desperate Housewife

I’m not gonna lie. Even though I’ve had what I call an “attitude change” about motherhood, I still have days when I feel like a desperate housewife. And not the sexy, Hollywood kind either. See below for the depressing details, but then keep reading…this post ends well!

sleep deprived 1Picture me bedraggled and frumpy as I haul myself out of bed at 1:50 a.m. to change a poopy diaper, administer medication, and give a bottle. At 3 a.m. he cries because he doesn’t want to go back to sleep. At 3:30, I cry because now I can’t go back to sleep. Sometime in the 4 or 5:00 hour I fall into an uneasy snooze, but by 6 a.m., the telltale wakeup cry pierces the monitor again.

I roll out of bed scowling and muttering. Buc, my husband, is in the shower and will be gone by 6:30, and it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to blame him for how I feel like a single mother during the workweek. When he emerges from the bathroom, I break my vow to speak peace and instead pounce, listing all that’s wrong with my world. These are the only words he will get from me for the next twelve hours until he returns again. This is his sweet sendoff. Man, I feel terrible. This is where I realize yet again: I am a desperate housewife. Desperate for sleep, yes, but also desperate for wisdom to handle these days when adequate sleep is but a dream.

About four months ago, or half of Sam’s life ago, I made the remark to a fellow parent, “At least the hardest part is over.” He only laughed at me. Now with Sam’s mobility, I know why. Yes, the sleep is better some nights. But not always. And days have gotten 100% harder. Now during waking hours, Sam needs constant supervision, because he will almost certainly hurt himself if I’m not there to catch him, redirect him, or take something away. When does this phase end?

About two months ago when I noticed my attitude consistently lurking in the pits, I recognized a desperate need to get back to the basics. Hence the attitude change I blogged about a few weeks ago. This change happened as I committed to using my “spare time” to uplift my soul, as I paid attention to everything I fed on, from food to books to music and television. I made sure I put good “fuel” in my brain, such as Christian radio programming, the Bible, and other inspirational books. And it helped. Tremendously.

sleep deprived 3aBut then Sam started having trouble sleeping again. And it didn’t matter what nuggets of wisdom I found time to gobble up (not many, by the way), not as long as my hunger for sleep went unsatisfied. Despite my prayers and good intentions and promises to myself that I would not be unpleasant, I often woke up a witch.

Things came to a head as this weekend hit. By Friday, not only had Sam strung together several bad nights, but my babysitter for that day got sick and canceled, and then I started to feel sick. I fought to get Sam to nap in the afternoon, but my best efforts only resulted in a half hour siesta for both of us. Late Friday afternoon found me, head buried in hands, moaning, “I’m a failure,” texting Buc at work and asking if he could sneak out of the office early to help me. I was tired, I was sick, and I felt like a failure as a mother.

I had read enough books to know that babies can be trained to sleep well, and I knew several moms whose babies slept well every night, but I had obviously failed in that department. “Lord, help me!” I cried. I was, indeed, a desperate housewife. And until I got Sam’s and my sleep sorted out, I knew the desperation would continue.

To make a long story short, Buc stepped in like a champ this weekend to give me a much-needed break, time to regroup, and time to tune in to the wisdom God has placed all around me. While he and Sam went to church Saturday morning and to my in-laws’ for Saturday lunch, I rested, read the wisdom of Proverbs, and refreshed myself on what the sleep experts in my parenting books said.

sleep deprived 2The verse that spoke to me in Proverbs was: “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success” (15:22, NLT). Proverbs has a lot to say about fools, and I faced the fact that I’d been a fool on the sleep issue, too often going with my feelings instead by wise counsel. Ever since Sam’s separation anxiety (and his “mommy” attachment) manifested, I’d become lax on having him fall asleep by himself and instead often allowed him to fall asleep in the stroller, with a bottle, or in my arms. It was no wonder his sleep had gotten worse. I had been coddling him far too much. But being soft on the sleep issue was not kind to him or to me.

So on my sick Saturday morning off, I spent several hours poring over the wise counsel of the sleep experts (whom I’d silently shut away on my bookshelf), and then I wrote out an action plan for what to do at naptimes and bedtimes. I knew myself: if I didn’t have a plan, and if I didn’t rehearse it in my mind before testing time, I would resort to what “felt right” when Sam cried—and we would go on and on in our desperate, sleep-deprived cycle indefinitely. But I needed still more help. When Buc got home Saturday afternoon, I enlisted him as my assistant. I ran the plan by him, we tweaked it a bit, we prayed, and then we implemented it last night at bedtime and this morning at naptime. And guess what? It’s working!

I don’t believe in “crying-it-out” indefinitely, but Sam can go five minutes, then ten, by himself. (I am relying heavily on the method known as “Ferberizing,” for those interested). So far, we haven’t had to wait more than about fifteen minutes for him to go to sleep. Of course, this morning after he went back down at 5:15, I was wide awake. But that’s okay. I had gone to bed early as a preemptive strike, I felt strangely rested, and I got to write in blissful silence for a whole hour and fifteen minutes!

How I have missed this! Not just the writing, but the quiet morning time. The settling, centering time before the day wakes. This is how days were meant to begin. This is what I need to refresh my soul. Quiet time with God and quiet time with my pen and the blank page.

parenting-quoteI’m glad I can admit when I’m desperate, because that’s when God can help me the most. He helps me by telling me where to go: sometimes to bed early, sometimes to the writing desk. He helps me by telling me who to talk to: this weekend, my husband. He helps me by telling me what to read: down to specific scriptures, and sometimes specific parenting books.

And he also talks by just whispering to me in his still, small voice: “You’re not a failure, my child. You’re just learning the ropes. And as long as you lean on me, you’re never a desperate housewife.”

So maybe I shouldn’t call myself a desperate housewife. But maybe I should. It made for a good blog title; and honestly, I never want to stop being desperate for wisdom. Because when I ask, God answers (James 1:5).

 

 

 

Attaching

IMG_1260Last week my sister-in-law babysat Sam (as she is doing now), and I surprised myself by feeling a little sad when he left. I don’t remember feeling this way last spring.

I think I’m finally attaching to Sam because he is attaching to me. We’ve had time to get to know one another, and now he interacts. He registers all kinds of positive emotions in response to my voice, my presence, my touch—joy, delight, contentment. And best of all, he says “mom-mom.” If ever there was a way to melt a mom’s heart, it’s her baby saying her name.

He woke me one night last week in the 1 a.m. region, not really hungry, but just wanting to cuddle. So I held him and I rocked him, and in his sweet little voice he said “mom-mom,” “mom-mom,” against my chest. I wasn’t angry about getting up that night.

A week ago Sunday he stayed with my husband at my in-laws’ for a couple of hours while I did other things. After two hours, Buc texted to say Sam was being “awful,” and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. But after I got there, Sam was fine. He hardly fussed the rest of the day.

We chalked it up to separation anxiety, and I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon ever since. While separation anxiety makes my job as a mom harder, seeing evidence that he actually needs me, and me specifically, is changing my heart.

I’m starting to feel more of the “mom” feelings I’ve read about, such as that fierce love that puts baby above all else, and that righteous indignation at the thought that someone could ever mistreat or abuse him. I understand better the verse that says “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2, NIV).

A God who understands parental love, who created parents and children, and who is a parent himself, authored that. How much he loves us.

I consider that my love for Sam, though it is growing, is still imperfect. I can’t fathom being as loving, giving, and self-sacrificing as Jesus was when he came to this earth, walked with us, suffered like us and for us, and died for us. But with Sam, I begin to see why and how a God could do that. It’s because he is a Father.

The amazing thing is that often we, unlike an eight-month-old baby, ignore our Father, hardly speak his name, and act like we don’t need him. Could I be so giving to my son if he treated me so indifferently? I hope so, but I’m not sure. Would I feel attached to him right now if he hadn’t recently attached to me? But God demonstrated his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I’m so glad God’s love doesn’t depend on my actions—as it seems my love for Sam (sometimes) depends on his. Incidentally, Sam gave me another tough night last night (fewer “moms,” more tears), and today I wasn’t nearly so sad to leave him. I am praying for more of Christ’s love for Sam: namely, an attachment to him that would make me willing to suffer and die for him, if need be.

For My Thirtieth…an Attitude Adjustment

IMG_1580For my thirtieth birthday, I got a makeover…of my attitude. I haven’t blogged for two months because I took time off, intending, in fact, to come back a “new woman.” But when I said “Goodbye for July” (and August, as it turns out), I only intended to revamp my website and my writer persona—not my whole person. God had other ideas.

The makeover God wanted to give me was not primarily professional. It was more, shall we say, domestic? He wanted to make me into a loving, attentive mother. Self-sacrificing, patient, and wise, like Jesus was as he dealt with his children. This is not the woman I was focused on becoming as I signed off for July—at least, not the woman I wanted to be full-time.

I wanted to have this separate space in my life for the writer persona that has emerged through this blog and my other projects in the past two years.

On my new (but hardly dazzling) website, I have branded myself thus: “Lindsey Gendke: Writing True Stories for His Glory.” I wrote that tagline for potential memoir publishers, and maybe even clients one day (and because it describes my recently published works). I also wrote a lovely bio to characterize this blog and direct my future writings: “I am a happy writer, wife, teacher, and mom who doesn’t mind sharing that she used to be depressed,” et cetera, et cetera.

But after I signed off for my break in July (and after life got really busy, and Sam got really mobile), I couldn’t find time to write. I became unhappy, and I didn’t  want to share that with this audience. Ironic, huh?

It didn’t even matter that my first book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel, was published during those weeks (more in my next post). I still felt rotten.

Suddenly I became hard to live with because all I could do was complain about the lack of time I had to write. I found myself repeatedly apologizing to my husband for my nagging and hurtful words, and vowing to do better the next day. But the next day I only repeated my word crimes again.

Confession: sometimes when I’m stressed, I swear, and these negative months were no exception. Buc told me I better get my sporadic swearing outbursts under control before Sam was old enough to know what I was saying. But I knew I needed to get more than my words under control. I looked around at my life—beautiful baby, loving husband, nice house, good friends, PUBLISHED BOOK!—and I could not understand all the negative words flying out of my mouth.

I tried to write this post a few times…but found the words coming out so negative that I just couldn’t publish them, not in their totality. Here is one paragraph of clarity that slapped me in the face, though:

“I am disturbed sometimes by my lack of patience for Sam, my annoyance at how he disrupts my plans. I hate the wrong attitude I see in myself. Where is that love that conquers all? The love that doesn’t mind beginning the day at 4:20 because your sick baby is ready to get up? The love that is happy to put someone else’s needs before your wants? Sometimes I hate what motherhood shows me about myself. I hate how selfish it tells me I am.”

Yikes.

There it was, in plain black and white: I needed an attitude adjustment. That’s when I started doing everything I could think of to redirect, and correct, my thinking, flooding my mind with positive influences such as Christian radio programs, Scripture, books on mothering, and encouragement from my mommy friends.

I did not feel an instant change. Over a period of weeks, I had good moments and bad. But little by little, God spoke to me, until finally one day, He gave me a breakthrough.

As I tried to write this blog post one last time, and as I looked at the negative words I had previously penned, a switch tripped in my brain.

Wow, I thought to myself. Why am I complaining so much?

Suddenly, God brought to mind all the prayers he had recently answered.

  • I asked him for a book published by age thirty—he gave me one.
  • I asked for a baby—he gave me one.
  • I asked for a calling to touch hearts—and I believe he gave me one through the writing of my memoir.

With the realization of these answered prayers came instant repentance, a prayer of thanks, and my much-needed attitude change. Really, just like that.

I suddenly understood that it was time to rest from writing—at least in the professional sense. I understood now that writing more books might happen during later seasons of life, but right now is not one of those seasons.

I also suddenly remembered telling Buc, before we conceived, that I wanted my thirties to be a decade of relaxing from work and enjoying family. Now, I felt absolutely convicted that my first duty was to my family, and I regretted that I’d brought so much negativity and resentment to that sphere, treating my home duties as burdens rather than my calling. I understood that I had entered a new season of life—family, motherhood—and while I might find a moment here or there to write, writing could not be my primary focus right now. Not when my baby needed me, and not when my husband needed me.

It felt so freeing to hear God speak to me that way, and I’ve felt peaceful ever since. Over a week has gone by, in which time I didn’t do any writing, but I was okay with that, because I was taking care of my family—my primary job.

So, now that I have undergone my attitude adjustment, what happens with this blog?

I have decided to keep the “Writing True Stories for His Glory” tagline, because it describes the professional work I have completed, and one purpose of this site is to promote that work.

IMG_1647But as far as future posts? Right now I am a mother at home with my baby, trying to work out my faith through the trials of everyday life, and hoping to find a little writing time on the side. In a way, I guess my blogging counts as a story for His glory, because humans need to see faith worked out in the mundaneness of everyday life—otherwise, what good is faith?

God is doing something beautiful in my life, and it doesn’t exclude writing. It just means writing is not the end goal of my days right now—not for this season. That said, I hope this blog will be a witness to God’s continuing transformation in my heart and my mind. Specifically, I want to become more Christlike through my role as a mother, and I think that’s a story worth telling.

 

 

Duck Dynasty, my “Mommy Coworker,” and other Goings-on in my Crazy, Busy Life

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I am thankful this morning for unexpected good things, including my new Ford F150 (our first family vehicle) and Duck Dynasty. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write. I never pictured myself driving a truck as my primary vehicle, or watching those “silly” rednecks by choice. My main focus for now is still working on my book during naptimes—now I’m on to my book proposal, with a particular editor in view. But in the meantime, God continues to fill my life with other interesting stuff, and I’m glad for it.

For instance, I’ve made a new friend in my next-door-neighbor, who gave birth to twins two weeks before Sam was born. She has been such a blessing to this homebound mama, because she has become almost like a “coworker” (in the business of mothering babies) to commiserate with and compare stories. (We SAHMS miss that coworker/adult banter.) We take the babies for walks once or twice a week, swap books, discuss those books (a built-in book club! What could be better?), and text each other. Tonight we will attempt a movie night at her house once the babies go to bed. God has given me lots of friends over the past few years, and I love their awesome uniqueness equally, but there is something to be said for having friends, and family, close by. Logistically, you can do so much more with family and friends who are physically close.

Construction, and reconstruction, on parts of our house continues—now we are moving into month two. I skipped writing about it when it began, but the short version is that a plumbing leak led to gutting a bathroom and a hallway, and the resulting insurance money spurred us to proceed with other home improvements we’ve wanted for five years. So lately most days around here are noisy and messy, with subcontractors tromping in and out of my backyard and the back rooms of the house. Included in the work are new walls (to replace sliding glass doors), a new window, new carpet, and new paint. I’ll be glad to get this over with, but with the mess around me, my next home project may become purging more of our junk.

Duck Dynasty. I rolled my eyes a couple years ago when some family members described the show, but now my husband has introduced me, and I’m hooked. This is the only television I watch besides a half hour of morning news, mind you. I could easily live without a television. But this show makes me laugh at the end of a hard day; plus, I am encouraged by the Robertsons’ strong example of family togetherness and their un-ashamedness of their faith.

Speaking of faith, my new neighbor friend asked if I would like to read through the Bible with her in forty days to refresh ourselves on the big picture of God’s Word. I said sure, but it definitely won’t get read in forty days! More accurately, I read from two to five chapters a day (I’m almost to Leviticus, and I’m thinking of skipping it this go-round…anyone want to hold that against me?). The more I read the Bible, the more new insight I get. This time I’ve picked up on a couple new things. One example is in Exodus 20, where, directly after God gives the 10 Commandments, he repeats the injunction not to worship or make other Gods—making a special point to warn them of the exact sin he knows they are about to commit with the golden calf! In the instructions for building his temple, I am reminded that God pays attention to detail, and he cares for the details of our lives. In his instructions to hire skilled workers, I take encouragement for my book project that God wants us to be skillful in our trades, and thereby glorify him.

P90X. The weight loss effort continues, with s-l-o-w success. I am still twenty pounds away from my goal (pre-pregnancy weight). But I am working out 3 to 4 times a week after Sam’s bedtime, usually with one of these extreme workouts, so I resist feeling bad about the weight that won’t (yet) come off. I’m doing my part—also trying to eat right—and I can’t do more than that (unless I give up chocolate like my neighbor…and I’m not quite ready for that!).

What else? Sam is doing great. He’s had a few bites of rice cereal, so that will probably become part of the routine soon, to keep up with his nutrition needs. He is spitting up A TON…but I hope that will level off soon with him taking some cereal. Also, my one-day-a-week babysitter, my sister-in-law, is done now that her kids are out of school. So Sambo and I get lots of quality time! Hubby took Monday and Tuesday off for the holiday weekend (which was so nice for our family!), and when he had to watch Sam from about 2 to 4:30 one day (Sam’s fussy time), he asked me how I do this every day! Like with anything and everything else in life, the answer is with God!

This post has been a hodgepodge of goings-on, and I want to end by thanking my Creator (and Re-Creator) God for all of them. My life is so full right now I almost don’t know what to do with myself! But once upon a dark time, I didn’t even want to see the light of day. When I think of the depression he brought me out of years ago, there is only one conclusion to be made: God is worthy of my worship, every single day, and every single moment of this crazy, busy life!