Do you feel the world is broken?

October 26th, 2019

It was sometime after Easter (which is shorthand for sometime after our miscarriage) when the church choir got up to sing a special piece.

Tears sprung into my eyes at the very first line:

“Do you feel the world is broken?”

My heart answered back with the choir: “We do”

And in the darkness and difficulty of the past six months, that line has come to mind many a time.

I hear stories of domestic abuse. I listen to the squabbling of “friends” online. I see drug abuse. I ache against the terrible realities of our foster care system, with so many problems, so many hard decisions. A friend’s baby develops an unknown, most likely life-threatening condition. Car accidents land people in the hospital. Uncertainty abounds.

“Do you feel the world is broken?” my soul whispers as I read and as I live. “We do,” I answer back.

And as I ache under the brokenness of this world, the cry rises up within my soul: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

And, tears still coursing down my cheeks, I sing the rest of the song.

Do you feel the world is broken? We do
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do

Is all creation groaning? It is
Is a new creation coming? It is
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us? He does
Does the Spirit move among us? He does
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son
Is He worthy?Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is! He is!

As I groan, I wait in eager expectation for the day when Christ will return to make all things right. He will execute righteous judgment. He will gather his people from all nations. He is worthy. He is!

Cleaning enough to make the next mess

October 17th, 2019

It’s been an age since I got out the paints and let the kids play.

And the dining room wall, our “art wall” for the time being, still wears spring’s butterflies overlaid by “Happy Birthday” posters from papa’s birthday last month.

The butterfly wall

It’s time for a change.

But first, to clean the dining room floor enough that dropped paintbrushes don’t result in painted toys… or a mixed media of cut-up paper, food debris, and days worth of “dust” that materializes with alarming speed on every surface of our home.

I spent a half hour, maybe an hour cleaning up the dining room, taking off the tablecloth, covering the table with butcher paper so we could paint some fall leaves (I cut some leaf shapes from old cereal boxes using the die-cut machine our church has).

Painted leaves

And now I need to clean the table outside so we can eat there, since the dining room table is otherwise occupied.

Don’t even ask about the living room.

The living room (have mercy!)

On Mental Health

October 10th, 2019

I slept four hours last night. Or maybe less. It’s hard to say.

Louis woke me up at two. He wanted a new pull-up since his was wet.

I changed him and got back in bed. I turned on twenty minutes of “waves”, intending to heed my mental health nurse’s advice to get back up and do something boring if I couldn’t fall asleep after twenty minutes. But then the waves turned off and my bed was warm while the rest of the house was cold. I stayed in bed, awake – for four more hours until my light-on-a-timer turned on to tell me it was time to start the day.

It’s one of the many paradoxes of depresssion. All I want to do is sleep, all the time, everywhere. But I can’t fall asleep when I have the opportunity – or I wake up frequently and can’t fall back asleep.

I want to eat but nothing sounds good. Or I have no appetite but want something in my mouth nonetheless. Another of the paradoxes.

I simultaneously don’t care about anything and care far too much. I play worries over and over in my head but don’t feel like I even have the energy to take the first step toward resolving them.

Depression affects every part of me. Physically, emotionally, mentally. It affects what I eat and how I talk. It affects how I keep my home and how I parent.

But, in spite of all this, I am often able to keep silent, to just “do the things” in public. To respond, “Great! – and how are you?” when I’m asked how I am. To laugh off the work that it takes to just survive.

But this year, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was truly not functioning and I knew it. I was putting my children to bed a little after noon and heading to my room myself and staying there – until my husband put food on the table for supper and coaxed me out to put the kids back to bed for the night.

I didn’t have the strength to ask for help.

I waited until my scheduled prenatal appointment and mentioned it to my doctor. He started me on some medication and referred me to a mental health practice. The practice he’d referred me to turned out to be not taking new patients. I didn’t have the strength or energy to find a counselor on my own.

But, by God’s grace, my husband’s workplace participates in a wellness program administered by one of our local hospitals/healthcare systems. Their prenatal nurse navigator contacted me to ask if I’d like to participate in their prenatal program. Now, I’d declined to participate with Beth-Ellen, figuring that I’d given birth twice in the previous three years and knew the basics. And I still feel that way – I’m kinda a pro at this whole pregnancy thing. But pregnancy combined with severe depression? I hadn’t really done that before and I thought maybe the program could do what I didn’t have energy to do – make me an appointment to see another mental health professional.

But what they did was even better. Apparently, they have a mental health program too – and the Mental Health nurse navigator called me a couple days later to get me enrolled and to talk through what was going on. She encouraged me and helped me to identify and take small steps to get through. We visit by phone once a week.

And then there are the people who have responded to my “Not good.” The friend who asked what she could do and then brought my family lunch and played with my kids for hours so I could take a nap on several different occasions. The other friend who brought dinner. Another couple of ladies who baked us muffins and banana bread, supplying several days worth of “teatime” snacks. The multitudes of other women who have spoken encouragement and prayed for us and given us hugs.

Despite my failure to ask for help, God has provided it abundantly.

On this “World Mental Health Day”, I am thanking God that although depression touches every part of me – God’s mercy touches far beyond.

I Take Everything You Say with a Grain of Salt

October 1st, 2019

For another month here, I have four children four and under (plus one in the oven).

Two in diapers, one in the middle of potty training, one potty trained with not-infrequent accidents.

I have three children who can turn on the sink faucet, two who can turn it off. All four can climb to get their hands under the faucet and splash water over the entire room (and beyond).

I have four children capable of pulling clothes out of drawers and dragging them through messes. None of them can wash, dry, fold, and put away those clothes.

I have four children who need fed four times a day. None of those children can provide any meaningful help in the kitchen.

This is an exhausting season.

I’m clinging to the idea that it’s just a season.

One day, these children will be able to consistently go potty in the potty chair and be able to wipe properly once they’re done.

One day they’ll all be able to turn off the faucet after washing their hands AND they’ll be able to clean up the water they spilled on the floor.

One day, they’ll be able to do their own laundry – and if they don’t do it I can let them deal with the natural consequences of their inaction.

One day, I’ll be able to send them off to the kitchen to tend the oatmeal in the morning or to reheat the leftovers at noon or to prepare tea in the afternoon. One day I can turn over even some dinners to the children.

These days of doing everything for everyone are numbered.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

But so many of you other mothers say “It only gets harder” and “just wait until they’re teenagers.”

I try to smile politely, but I just can’t believe it’s true. Sure, the rest of parenting isn’t a walk in the park, but it can’t be like this or worse for twenty years.

And then a fellow mother of many, a dozen years beyond me in the parenting journey, asked me how I was doing. I told her a bit about how hard right now is, how I feel like all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, trusting God to carry me through the next hour (sometimes even just the next minute).

She said she remembers that. When she had five under seven, it felt that way. And then, somewhere along the way, the children started to be able to do some things for themselves, started to be able to actually help. And it’s not just making it through the next hour for her anymore.

I could have cried with relief. Someone to confirm that the hope I’ve been holding on to isn’t a vain one.

Now, maybe it’s just confirmation bias. I want to hear what this woman had to say and I don’t want to hear what all those other mothers have to say about it only getting harder.

But the reality is that the mothers who were telling me it only gets harder? They’re mothers of two, three or four years apart. They haven’t experienced the utter exhaustion of having five little humans completely dependent on them for every aspect of their care.

So forgive me that I take what you say with a grain of salt while I cling on to every drop of encouragement that falls from the mouths of the women who’ve done this “many small children at once” thing.

It’s not that I don’t love you and value your input – it’s just that this crazy life my family is living right now is a whole ‘nother ball game.

Reading My Library (13 Years)

September 23rd, 2019

I briefly resurfaced from under the dark waves to discover that I’d missed an important anniversary – the 13th anniversary of my massive project to read every book in my local library. So, instead of giving my totals as of September 5, I’ve got totals as of September 23 – when I realized I’d forgotten to write an update.

TOTALS as of Sept 23, 2019 (13 years and 18 days or 4766 days)

Category Items this year Total Items Total Categories Closed
Juvenile Picture 323 1980 611
Juvenile, Board Books 31 543 285
Juvenile, First Readers 2 77 3
Juvenile, Chapter 0 92 7
Juvenile Fiction 4 324 25
Juvenile Nonfiction 133 413 14
Teen Fiction 3 52 5
Teen Nonfiction 6 11 0
Adult Fiction 22 490 78
Adult Nonfiction 49 1002 52
Audio CD 488 1421 116
Juvenile DVD 8 61 2
Adult Fiction DVD 5 112 9
Adult Nonfiction DVD 18 63 2
Periodicals 33 127 2
Total 1125 items 6786 items
2.94 items/day 1.21 items/day

We made two big gains in the past year, closing the board books entirely per challenge rules (543 total books by 285 different authors) and closing the picture books by author last name B (979 total books by 335 different authors).

I’ve also made significant headway with the audio CDs, trying to listen to one CD from each Library of Congress classification. I’ve “cheated” a bit with these, though, listening to albums that are available on Spotify that way and (mostly) only checking out stuff that isn’t available on Spotify. That way, I’m listening at home in addition to in the car. I have not, however, been faithful with recording what we’ve listened to on Spotify – which means I likely have an additional couple dozen albums that haven’t been logged.

I was hoping to get picture book authors “C” read in 2019, but it’s looking like that might be a bit of a challenge since the kids have decided that nonfiction is really where it’s at. We have read just about every book the library owns about new babies and about construction vehicles, as well as a fair bit about tools and floods. And then, of course, there are giraffes and states and butterflies and “black knights”. The children almost always tell me as we’re walking in to the library what topic they’re interested in researching this visit.

I’m a little surprised to find that I read a little over 80 books for myself (not counting re-reads). I really thought my personal book consumption had slowed almost to a halt over the past year, but apparently not!

Why We Waited

September 13th, 2019

I’ve never been one to delay telling the world I’m pregnant.

A baby’s a baby no matter how small – and I’m no good at secrets after all.

But after we miscarried in April, life has been hard. We didn’t get pregnant for several cycles (okay, just three – but we’d always gotten pregnant on first try before). We’ve had uncertainties with our foster daughter. We’ve traveled a lot, which kept me off-kilter. And I’ve been depressed – debilitatingly so.

I spent the summer worried we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again. Worried that Beth-Ellen would be our last biologically. Worried that we’d also lose our foster daughter and that it would tear me apart.

We found out we were pregnant the day Daniel left town to pick up our beef. I started bleeding the next day.

The bleeding stopped, but my worry didn’t. My basal body temperature has never been consistent (probably because I never sleep for 3-4 hours at a stretch), but it bounced up and down instead of staying high like it should for a pregnant woman. I stopped measuring it after a month. It wasn’t serving me – but the worry remained.

My depression deepened. I was grieving I wasn’t sure what. Grieving the baby, certainly. Grieving the closely-spaced family I’d dreamed of. Grieving the difficulties our foster daughter has faced and still may. Grieving saying goodbye to two foster children already. Grieving the things I used to be able to do but couldn’t now.

How could I share the joy of a new baby in the womb when joy wasn’t even half the emotion I was feeling? When I thought of saying something, I contemplated what I might say: “We’re pregnant again and I’m just hoping the baby’s alive. No, I haven’t had any morning sickness, really, I just can’t function after 11 in the morning because I’m too exhausted and everything is overwhelming and all I want to do is cry and scream and cry some more.”

When they offered me an appointment on Daniel’s birthday, I thought “Great. Daniel can get the news that this baby is dead on his birthday.” But I didn’t ask for a different day. I know that only means waiting longer, and I’d much rather know than keep worrying.

I’ve never had an early ultrasound before. I know exactly when I ovulate – no need for an ultrasound to check dates. But this time, I didn’t have any of my normal questions prepared. I had one main question: is our baby alive?

After I knew that, I had decided, I would tell the world. Then they could rejoice with me or grieve with me with some level of surety as to which I ought to be experiencing.

The baby is alive. Moving around enough my OB couldn’t really show us what was what in real time.

A weight off my heart.

But not the whole weight. No, this weight is much heavier than one baby or even two.

And that is why I, so unused to delay, waited so long (okay, nine weeks gestation) to tell you all that we were pregnant.

It was complicated. It still is.

Please pray.

Thankful Thursday (2019.09.12)

September 12th, 2019

Friday
… thank you, Lord, that my children love to sing and dance. Louis was singing a new song: “Everybody dance for God the King” and leading the others in a circle dance of sorts. Such a delight to a mama’s heart.
… thank you, Lord, for a husband who holds me as I cry and prays for me at 3 in the morning when I can’t get back to sleep because I’m so overwhelmed.
… thank you, Lord, for easy-to-assemble shelves and being able to see (some of) my fabric collection again
… thank you, Lord, for children’s naptimes
… thank you, Lord, for hot tea with honey to soothe a raw throat

Sunday
… thank you, Lord, for plant sales and finding everything we needed
… thank you, Lord, for Daniel’s diligence with tiller and shovel to get our new bed prepped
… thank you, Lord, for easy-to-plan Sunday school weeks
… thank you, Lord, for hugs from former students
… thank you, Lord, for honey from our neighbor
… thank you, Lord, for mail order curtains that turned out to be a lovely color

Monday
… thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to futz with prototypes
… thank you, Lord, that my sewing space is starting to take shape
… thank you, Lord, for children singing praises
… thank you, Lord, for news of a coming baby now made public. My brother and sister-in-law just announced baby #4 – who will be my parents’ 16th grandchild (plus a foster grandchild and 4 in heaven)
… thank you, Lord, for a little girl who stays in bed (even when she’s chattering her whole naptime away and is perfectly capable of opening the door)
… thank you, Lord, for not-too-messy sensory play this morning
… thank you, Lord, that your mercy is more – more than my sins, more than my failure, more than my lack of energy, more than my unmet aspirations – and that your grace is sufficient for this weakness

Tuesday
… thank you, Lord, for encouraging evenings
… thank you, Lord, for a relatively smooth morning (kids dressed and ready, bags packed, breakfast eaten, lunch packed, supper in the crockpot, books dropped off – and still made it in time to drop the kids off in three different rooms on three different levels of the church and get to my Bible study before it started at 0915).
… thank you, Lord, for several encouraging interactions with women from church
… thank you, Lord, for grocery pickup
…thank you, Lord, that I’m home at last and can emote freely while the children nap (I’m exhausted, which means I’m also kinda a wreck)

Thursday
… thank you, Lord, for crayons and big paper and how long those keep my kids occupied
… thank you, Lord, for my husband’s gracious acceptance of a doctor’s appointment on his birthday that meant no birthday cake, no birthday meal at all, and a dirty house to boot.
… thank you, Lord, for a doctor who takes me seriously when I say I’m depressed
… thank you, Lord, for a baby who is jumping around vigorously and whose heart is beating strong. It’s such a relief after the past couple of months of wondering if we got pregnant only to experience another early loss.
… thank you, Lord, for a new Bible study (Nancy Guthrie’s Better Than Eden) that reminds me of your good purposes amidst the wildernesses and teaches me to long for the consummation of all things – which will indeed be even better than Eden

Thankful Thursday on Friday (2019.09.06)

September 6th, 2019

Friday
… thank you, Lord, that we have lots of dishes, which means I’m not scrambling when I go a whole day without washing them
… thank you, Lord, that my children laugh with one another (even when it sometimes seems all they do is poke at each other)
… thank you, Lord, for this necklace from my sister, this skirt from my aunt, and these socks from my Beloved, reminding me of the many people who care for me

Sunday
… thank you, Lord, for processes that work. All the preschoolers in our church gather in my Sunday school classroom for 15 minutes of singing on Sunday mornings. It’s been utter chaos, with the youngest kids (just barely two) crying and classes getting mixed up and students from other classes inadvertently left in my room. And the disorder of the process has meant we haven’t always had time to get to the meat of our own Sunday school time – lessons and memory verses and small group time. We’ve been making incremental changes week by week (this is just week 4 of a new year of Sunday School) and this week I think we finally got it! Students got in and out with a minimum of crying and confusion, meaning everyone could focus on the important stuff – praising God together and learning from His word.
… thank you, Lord, for a friend who listens.
… thank you, Lord, for a 60% off coupon that saved me $30!
… thank you, Lord, for novels
… thank you, Lord, for how my husband regularly lays down his time and energy and pastimes to serve me
… thank you, Lord, that I realized I had a Christmas dress for Tirzah Mae for this year before I bought fabric for (or started making) a new one!
… thank you, Lord, for the many people who have blessed our family over the years with outgrown clothes. Despite sending complete wardrobes home with two different children over the course of the last year, Beth-Ellen and our Sweet Pea still have had plenty of clothes for this season (the size we sent home with Baby J) and the next season (the size we sent home with little C).

The rest of the week
… Thank you, Lord, for cheery sunflowers on either side of my front porch steps
… Thank you, Lord, for what must be the fourth or fifth flush of blooms on the rose bush my friend brought me in honor of our baby
… Thank you, Lord, for quick in and out appointments (less than a minute waiting from when we came in the door to when we exited!)
… Thank you, Lord, for a husband who regularly shares or bears my burdens, daily sacrificing for my good and that of our family
… Thank you, Lord, for Advent songs. I’ve been preparing an Advent playlist (I don’t want to rush into Christmas and December is not my best time for doing anything intentional like assembling a meaningful playlist, so I’m prepping in advance to avoid listening to the same old hackneyed Christmas stuff come December) and some of the Advent songs are exactly what I need in this, my season of mourning.

“Comfort, comfort ye my people
Speak ye peace, thus saith out God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness
Mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load
Speak to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover
And her warfare now is over.

Make ye straight what long was crooked,
Make the rougher place plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble
As befits his holy reign
For the glory of the Lord now o’er earth is shed abroad;
And all flesh shall see the token,
That his word is never broken.”

Thankful Thursday (2019.08.29)

August 29th, 2019

It’s been a rough past several months. Between welcoming a new baby and miscarrying and several trips that kept my routines off kilter, I’ve slidden into a pretty severe depression (at least for summer time.)

After several weeks now of just-about-debilitating despair, I realized (by the grace of God) that what I need is to revive my old practice of remembering God’s grace and reciting His goodness.

And so, this week’s recitations, recorded daily, because I forget to build an altar of testimony if I don’t gather the stones while I’m traveling.

Tuesday
… thank you, Lord, that I did not have a headache today like I did over the weekend and into yesterday
… thank you, Lord, that the children and I got to all three grocery stores (two for pickup, one to go in) without any meltdowns
… thank you, Lord, that I remembered that the trash needed to go out and got it to the curb before the truck came (a delay that is a clear evidence of grace)
… thank you, Lord, that despite this deep well of depression, you have given me grace to consistently be in your word this summer
… thank you, Lord, that the children napped today
… thank you, Lord, for energy to make progress towards meals in the freezer

Wednesday
… thank you, Lord, for reassurance that the (rather big) change we made last week is producing fruit
… thank you, Lord, for clean kitchen counters
… thank you, Lord, for reminders to press through rather than giving in to paralysis
… thank you, Lord, for the ability to take pleasure in Christmas music (even if it’s the wrong season)
… thank you, Lord, for little steps in the right direction – one load of laundry out of seven folded and two bathrooms out of three swished and swiped
… thank you, Lord, that my sourdough starter isn’t dead (yet)

Thursday
… thank you, Lord, that I was able to spend the evening browsing and buying good books (this go-round of our Friends of the Library’s semi-annual book sale netted me ~60 books for $10)
… thank you, Lord, for my husband starting the dishwasher last night. It was such a blessing to be able to empty clean dishes this morning instead of trying to scrape and wash day-old dishes.
… thank you, Lord, for an unexpected cancellation that means I don’t have to leave the house today
… thank you, Lord, for the wealth of information available on the internet and the fun that it sometimes is to lose myself exploring other nations’ holiday traditions

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,’
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”

~Psalm 139:11-12 (ESV)

Thank you, Lord, that this darkness that seems to cover me is as light to you – and that, as I gaze upon your brightness, I too can see light.

“For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.”

~Psalm 36:9 (ESV)

According to Plan

July 9th, 2019

I would have been pleased if we’d gotten pregnant soon after we were married. I’ve wanted a big family for as long as I can remember and was already feeling the time ticking.

But we’d decided that we would use my salary to pay off both our student loans so I could stay home with the kids without that extra financial stressor. We had a plan and I would stick to it.

We got pregnant on the first try, just according to plan.

I would have been thrilled if we’d have gotten pregnant soon after Tirzah Mae arrived. I love how close (in age and in relationship) I am to my siblings. And if I was going to have a large family, well, my time was ticking.

But we’d decided that we wanted to increase the chances that we could have a vaginal birth after c-section, so we were going to try to time the next baby’s due date 18 months plus 2 months fom Tirzah Mae’s birthday – to make sure we got 18 months between deliveries even if the next baby came as early as she did. We had a plan and I would stick to it.

We got pregnant on the first try, just according to plan.

Ditto our post-Tirzah Mae planning only this time post-Louis. I wanted that VBA2C and I’d wait to get pregnant to help it happen. We had a plan and I would stick to it (well, we almost did.)

And then after Beth-Ellen was born and my recovery was rough and the prolapse was horrible and we started fostering. I decided that two years would be better this time. I needed to recover, needed to get the prolapse under control. I had a plan and I would stick to it.

Just as planned, we got pregnant with a due date just a week before Beth-Ellen’s had been, three weeks before Beth-Ellen’s second birthday.

And then we miscarried.

And we haven’t gotten pregnant again.

And my plan of a big family closely spaced feels like it’s becoming less and less probable as I move closer and closer to that terrible 35 and its “geriatric pregnancy” or “elderly multigravida”. That’s where I’m at now – any baby conceived after this would be due after my 35th birthday.

This isn’t my plan and I’m floundering.

It’s so hard. So, so hard.

I want to trust God. I know that he’s sovereign. I know that he’s faithful. He’s proven himself to be so over and over and over again.

But all I can think of is the plan, my plan – and each ticking day. Bleeding and ovulating and bleeding again. No baby. What is God’s plan in this all?

I may never know.

But, Lord, give me grace to stick to it.