Category Archives: contentment

by hook or by crook

I grew up in Texas, and one of the many parts of that home that I carry in my heart is a love for warmth, sunshine, and all things summer. I am also a runner – ever since middle school basketball didn’t work out – and every winter this poses a problem. To be honest, it only took a few years in the Northeast before it stopped posing a problem – I just assumed that I would take 3-5 months off running outside, and then started going to yoga, joined a gym, swam laps – whatever it took to do the bare minimum while I waited for the spring.

As I got married and our family began to grow, my priorities and exercise routine shifted dramatically as I cycled through the months of pregnancy, post-partum recovery, breastfeeding, and sleeplessness (wait, was that last part supposed to be over?). I took 9 or 10 months off running after our last babe was born – I missed it, knew I would get back into it someday, but I just couldn’t quite manage. Continue reading

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celebrate what you have

A bottle of champagne has been sitting in our fridge. First, I was saving it to celebrate when my husband got the new job he applied for. The job was offered to someone else. Next, I was saving it for when our daughter got into the elite school for gifted children, where she was in the final round. A few weeks ago, we found out she was not offered a spot. And the list goes on: each time an opportunity arose, I secretly planned to open the bottle to celebrate once things worked out in our favor. The problem was that nothing worked out. And so the bottle continued to lie at the back of our fridge.

One of the more disappointing “no’s” came this week, and ever since I’ve been fighting to maintain a broader perspective, remember that God cares more about my life and my family than I can possibly imagine, and cultivate an attitude of patience and gratitude as we wait for whatever comes next. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster – at 9am I find myself content and thankful, but by 10:30, I’m sad, disappointed, and discouraged. Again. My head knows all the right truths to preach to myself, but my heart just can’t seem to consistently get in line with the teaching. Continue reading

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#brokenworld

One of the things that I dislike the most about motherhood – and there are a lot to choose from (cleaning up during and after a family stomach bug is definitely high on the list, for example) – is brushing and flossing my oldest son’s teeth. Every time, he pitches a fit. He wiggles and squirms and cries. He tells me I’m “horrible at” brushing his teeth and he hides under the bed. And yet, I persist. I do my very best to brush the teeth of a child who is screaming, crying, kicking, and resisting. Brushing the teeth of a dog or an antelope or a gorilla or pretty much any other creature suddenly seems more appealing. And this happens every day. Theoretically, twice a day.

At the dentist this month, we found out that he has two cavities. Two cavities that need expensive and painful fillings. Two cavities, despite my very best efforts and attempts and all the persistence I can muster. Continue reading

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obstacle course

Last night when I lay

sleepless, thinking,

I turned my problems

from back to front,

then front to back,

trying through worry

to wear them down

to nothing.

 

If anything,

I only made them

loom larger, by slipping

one next to another,

matching craggy edges

until I had fashioned

an insurmountable

wall. Continue reading

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Filed under children, contentment, family, holidays, motherhood, parenting, thankfulness, Uncategorized, writing

what’s done is done

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Today is Henry’s first day (well, partial day) of day care. I dropped him off at 10, rushed to Jacob’s violin lesson, and now have settled down with journal and poetry in hand. It did take me 20 minutes of searching to locate the journal…I was sure that I had one, somewhere, and was fairly certain that it was green. But I had no idea where I put it or when I last actually used it.

And so now I sit here, at a coffee shop, enjoying a “fancy” soup (cauliflower mushroom…or is it mushroom cauliflower?) and my first solo time in thirteen months (although let’s be real: between the violin lesson and picking up my daughter from school, I have almost 115 minutes). It’s a battle, to stop the thoughts whirring in my head: should I have handled drop-off differently? Should I have fed Henry a snack before we left home? Packed him his favorite snack to have once we arrived? Sent one last email about his schedule and what he likes? Will he nap? Will he be okay?? Should I have just kept him at home???

But then I hear a phrase echo in my head, a phrase that I overheard another mom say to her three kids yesterday on the subway: “What’s done is done.” They repeated it after her, almost automatically – a household mantra, I guess: What’s done is done. So I try it out, saying to myself and the whirling thoughts in my head: What’s done is done. You chose to start him at daycare today. This is how you decided to do it. What’s done is done.

It feels good. I stare down at my open journal, the date on the page. What am I supposed to write? It has been so long since I’ve written in a journal that I’m not sure how to start – and while I have a vague idea that I should write about “how I’m feeling,” it’s been so long since I’ve actually thought about how I’m feeling that I’m not sure, honestly.  Continue reading

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the hard work of mothering

I grew up in a home that valued work. My sister and I learned not to waste time, and that working hard was one of the most important things we could do. Following the examples of my hard-working parents, I believed I could achieve anything—as long as I worked hard enough.

When my son was born, I was not ready to return to my previous job after just three months off. So I took a new job: motherhood.

I had worked hard building my career as a professional musician and arts administrator. Yet I believed spending time with my son during his most formative years was important—even if it meant leaving a job I loved and had worked hard to achieve. I now wanted to work hard to train up my child in the way he should go.

However, I often found myself longing for a different life. I grew jealous of friends and colleagues as they achieved professional success, some even having children of their own along the way. The past three-and-a-half years have been a struggle to find my place—as a mom, as a freelance writer and musician, as a Christian, as a driven and hard-working woman.

***

I’m delighted to be writing again over at the fabulous website Off the Page this month. Won’t you join me there to read the rest?

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amazing grace

My baby Hannah Grace is two years old. And the second verse of Amazing Grace just keeps playing on repeat in my head.

T’was grace that taught

My heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

Hannah Grace, each phrase is true. Your presence in my life has taught my heart to fear. The moment I first learned you were on your way, I was terrified. I didn’t think I could handle having another baby so soon after your brother. Your earliest existence made obvious to me that my control over my life was just smoke and mirrors. I had a perfect plan, and this wasn’t it. I was not in control, and I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, wouldn’t be able to love you well, wouldn’t be able to love your brother well, wouldn’t be able to take care of our home and all my responsibilities. I was scared to be a mom of “two under two.”

But two years ago, you began to prove me wrong. After nearly 42 weeks of pregnancy, you made me a mom of two under two. You showed me that I could do this thing that I had feared – if I trusted God and relied on Him for everything that I lacked. This life that He’s given me with you hasn’t been easy, but each day, He relieves my fears by another degree. And now, I understand that this began before I even met you.  Continue reading

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Filed under children, contentment, faith, family, God, god & faith, love, motherhood

When Work Feels Fruitless

It’s easy to think of “work” in the ways our society does – as something only related to money, status, stability. But God-given work is bigger.

Sorry for the radio silence around here. Head over to Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work blog for a short post I wrote recently on the frustrations of God-given work. . .

**

My primary work is as a mother. I have several advanced degrees and I spend hours sitting on the floor, wiping runny noses, or standing in the kitchen, washing dishes. Many days, it seems like everything that I do backfires. It is easy to feel like what I’m doing is a waste of my time and education. I know that raising kids is about delayed gratification – after all, “your works will praise you at the gates” – but I could use a little more affirmation along the way. The work of being a full-time mom is hard, grueling work.

It’s not unusual for work to feel this way.

Read the rest here!

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Filed under career, children, contentment, God, god & faith, idolatry, motherhood, parenting, work

splinters

My 20-month old daughter got her first splinter last week. It was one of those early spring days in New York, when everyone is both afraid to be overly hopeful and also completely ecstatic. We spent the afternoon at the playground, and I didn’t even notice the splinter until the following day. The shard of wood was long and deeply embedded. The skin around it was red and probably infected. Removing the splinter was awful, and I think everyone in the family cried.

Splinters don’t hurt much going in – they seem to slip under the skin so effortlessly. But removing the wood requires digging deeper into the surrounding area. Sometimes you have to cut open more skin in order to fold it back and grasp the splinter firmly enough to pull it out. In my childhood memories, the removal of a splinter was far more painful than acquiring it in the first place. Sometimes I even purposefully hid them from my parents to avoid it – but in the end, removal was always necessary.

My daughter suffered as my husband dug gently into her hand to remove the wood. This pain was necessary for healing. Without it, the infection would have worsened.

I have had many splinters in my life. Some have been identified quickly and removed without many tears. Others have embedded themselves deeply, and the discovery and then removal process has been painful, filled with struggle and suffering. My deepest, most infected splinters are not splinters of wood beneath my skin, Continue reading

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Filed under body image, career, contentment, God, god & faith, identity, idolatry, music, viola, work

go slow, respect others

 

This is a sign that I’ve seen probably hundreds of times along the many shared walkways and bike paths in New York City. Recently, I noticed it in a new way.

Go Slow, Respect Others.IMG_7954

It was like God speaking right into my life. That morning, I’d been frustrated with my son. He was supposed to be getting dressed for school and instead of putting on his pants, he stripped off all of his clothes and proceeded to run around the room shouting, “Naked dance! Naked dance!” (He’s three-and-a-half, after all.) Then he kept getting distracted by one thing or another and it felt like this simple task of getting dressed was taking for-ever. And I, of course, wanted to get out the door.

Then there’s my daughter. She’s at that “do-it-myself” stage. This includes walking instead of riding in the stroller. We live on a steep hill. She wants to walk up the hill. On a recent morning, the whole family left at the same time. I walked more quickly up the hill with my son, and at the top we turned around to check on the progress of Sister. She was only a few yards behind, and the grin on her face was bright enough to see for a mile. I’m almost there! She beamed. I’m a big girl now, like Brother!

This sign along the river isn’t just for bikers. This sign is for me. Continue reading

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