Monday, November 25, 2013

to my three babies....

As we anxiously await the arrival of the 3rd Ninness in 3.5 years, my thoughts are on the big kids. We are seeing some behaviors in both kids that may very well have to do with their little intuitions that life is about to get cah-razy! Miss Mary Kate has had some potty training regression, having been fully trained since February. She is more emotional and mercurial.  Thomas is even more so attached to mama (didn't think it was possible). While we don't give it too much power, still disciplining disobedience as necessary, it's noticeable. Call it emotional nesting, but I wanted to get a little note down to all the kids, a little piece of mama's heart for them to read later in life. This one is for my babies...

to my mary kate,

You are 3 years and 4 months old. You became a big sister for the first time just 14 months ago. Your transition to having a new baby in the house was truly seamless. You didn't miss a beat, loving your brother immediately. You were just old enough to enjoy other family members and activities but just young enough to not really realize what was going on. I contend that 26 months apart is the perfect spacing but maybe you were just fabulous, and maybe it was easier that y'all were two different genders. Either way, you handled it like a pro. Here we are, just a year later, and you are back in big sister mode. You understand my pregnancy and any time I wince or grab my tummy, you ask me if the baby is kicking. You have gone back and forth between saying you think it is a boy or a girl but lately you tell everyone you want a sister. You tell us her name is AnnaBeth, which is partly mama's fault because this was a name on our short list for a long time. (Due to mom and dad's disagreeing on what her name would actually be, versus what she would be called, this name got nixed :) I'm sure you'll do fine but know it will shock you to see either a boy baby or a name that is not AnnaBeth!

I told dad tonight that you are where I think we will need to really focus when this baby comes. Thomas won't understand a thing and we will just need to keep him from clawing or smothering the baby, but you, you are different. Thomas demands mama. He puts his head on my chest 20x a day, most recently even to eat. He is cuddly and affectionate and wants mama all the time. To describe you as a baby (and now, to some degree), you fell off the bed when we were at a conference with you in Nashville. You were 6 months old and afterward, you laid your head on my shoulder for a long time. Dad and I literally contemplated taking you to the hospital should you have laid there much longer. This is how out of character it was for our girl to be cuddly. Just a few minutes later you were squirming out of my arms, ready for your next adventure and we knew you were fine. To this day, if you are super cuddly, you probably have a fever. The point of all that is to say that sometimes it can seem like you don't need as much affection and tlc. You crave attention and activity. You want to be engaged. You are so like your daddy in this way and he is wonderful about filling this part of your heart the minute he walks in the door. But I know you need snuggles too. I need to remember that you like to be pulled into my lap and smothered with kisses, even if you squirm and pretend you don't. You enjoy some baby play now and like to be held after a bath or when you are hurt. In your little ways, you are reminding us that just because you don't want to physically attach yourself to me like Thomas does, you still need your mama.

So my hope and prayer these next months is that you know how special you are, how unique a creation God made you. My hope is that you see in my tired eyes my intense love for you. My hope is that on days when you really want your mama but two babies need her too, that you give me precious 3 year old grace and that you find the comfort you need in Jesus. I hope you know that my arms will always long to hold you, even if they can't physically do so. I know you will love this new little baby because you are an unbelievably wonderful sister to Thomas. You are generous, patient, loving, nurturing and kind. I promise to do my best to not think you are older than you are. I promise to remember that you are a little girl who still needs her mama and daddy, even if you look and act so much older. I promise to try not to expect too much, but to give you opportunities to excel and shine, like you so often do.

Please forgive me, my angel girl, for the times in the coming months when you will want time and attention and affection and be asked to wait. Please know how precious you are. And one day when you are a mama, maybe you will read this and cut yourself some slack. You'll read this and know that all mamas wonder how they will love and care for another baby while caring for and loving their older babies. Then your family will grow and you will just know. The love, it multiplies, and the things that make each of you unique and special will always be.

I love you, my firstborn angel baby.

To my Tom,

Oh Tom.  Never in my life have I felt as loved by anyone as I do you. There are all these sayings about mamas and sons and every cliché rings true. This boy does love his mama. You didn't sleep through the night regularly until around 7 months, after I was pregnant. I'm sure if I hadn't been sick with this new baby, I would still be getting up to nurse you. I know how to make babies sleep at night. But I couldn't bare to hear your cry. I rock you most nights and you happily lay your head on my chest. Lately, you do it during the day, too. You are mischievous and want to be off finding trouble, but if you catch sight of me, you want to be in my arms. This has made for a very uncomfortable 3rd trimester, especially since you are showing no signs of walking at almost 15 months. But as uncomfortable as I may be toting around two big babies, one little tilt of your head under my neck is all it takes. You need and desire my presence in a way no one else ever has and I'm a sucker. Dad asks often, "what are you going to do in December?"  Your dad is an eternal, unfailing optimist. But even he wonders how I will manage the constant needs of a newborn with a one year old who has staked his claim. The answer is, I don't know and it keeps me up at night. While lately I see your sister showing me that she may have a harder adjustment with this baby than she did with you, I have not a clue what I will do with you. As most people say, you will just survive. You will either rise to the occasion and share mama, or you'll learn to like other people :) I have shed many a tear about you being asked to share your mommy when you are still very much a baby. I can easily become sad at the thought that your new brother or sister may need to be fed at a moment you just want to be held.

But then I remember what I have heard from mamas of children close in age. I remember what we believe about growing families. We know it will not be easy, on any of us. We know we will all cry and have sad moments. But you, my love, you get a best buddy just one year younger than you. This new baby will walk side by side with you through much of your life. You will not have any memories without this new person. And with lots of intentionality and effort by mom and dad, as well as God's sweet grace, you and your siblings will grow up to truly love and enjoy one another. We hope that you all will be playing badminton in the back yard as adults, sharing a beer and a laugh and will be thankful that your parents were willing to endure those hard early years with lots of young children.

So, sweet boy, I live for your snuggles. I live for the immediate smile you shoot me when I walk in the room. I live for the moments when you are fussy or upset and a few seconds with mom soothes you. The next few months will be an adjustment for both of us. I will want to put you to bed when Mary Kate or new baby really need mom. I will want to snuggle you when everyone needs to eat. And I will simply have to trust that the part of you that needs to be held and soothed, can be held and soothed by Jesus in that moment. I will trust that our heavenly father can meet any need that I can't (and more) and believe that you will not suffer irreparable harm because you had to wait to be held. You may be a daddy one day, and if you are, remember that you and your precious wife are not doing this alone. You can never meet everyone's needs. You can, however, always point your babies to the ONE who can.

I love you, my most precious Tom.


New baby,

I'd call you by the names we think we have chosen but those changed as recently as three nights ago so we'll just have to see. You, little one, are the biggest surprise of our lives. I am looking down at the biggest belly I've ever had, wincing at the "kicks" that can bring me to tears they are so strong and powerful. I am admittedly ready for you to come in some ways, as this pregnancy has been so physically demanding. It's like the exact opposite of your brother, having been on bedrest with him. With you, every movement feels like climbing Everest. (You and I can both blame the physical toll of schlepping your brother around.) But wow, parenting a toddler and a baby while carrying what feels to be a very large baby is rough stuff. A friend told me parenting those two kiddos with a newborn is so much easier than being pregnant with that baby. I sure hope that 's the case because newborns aren't mama's forte. Anyway, your brother and sister have sweet stories about our desire to have a baby, right around the exact time we got pregnant with both of them. I don't love the word "planned" but, planned they were. You, dear heart, while planned by God, as a friend so sweetly reminded me, were not exactly planned by mom and dad. And THIS, this makes you so special. We know and trust and believe that God knows what our family needs. We know and trust and believe in HIS plan for us. We know and trust and believe in HIS ability to walk us through the challenges of young babies close in age. We know and trust and believe in HIS promise to make each of you feel loved, desired, cherished.  I'm not sure how much I know and trust and believe that mama will remain sane through it all, but am growing in my faith here ;)

You will make your appearance sometime soon, likely during Advent, this holy season of waiting for Jesus. Like the people of old waited for that most precious baby who would change the world, we wait for you. We wait for our 3rd baby, our most unexpected gift, who we know will change the world too. Because, sweet baby boy or girl, this world wasn't meant to be without you. God took the reins from our hands and made it so that His beautiful world included you. We are a little anxious and a lot excited and even more thankful.

We love you already!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's a small (er) world

4 years ago my world was big.  My world of opportunity to do good, to serve, was big. I was an HIV social worker in an inner city hospital. I was seeing the sisters at the Gift of Grace house regularly, helping them in their ministry to the poor and sick. I was active in my church ministries. I had recently traveled to Africa. I had a big desire to do good things and a big platform on which to do them. Every day brought new opportunity to, as the sisters pray, "let them look up and see only Jesus." (It goes without saying that at any given point in a day, anyone could look up and see a very un-Jesus like person, a very selfish and sinful person in me. But the point is, if I had it in me to do some good, there was opportunity everywhere I looked. I considered this a huge blessing.)

Fast forward a few years and my world has gotten smaller in some ways. Particularly since the move, and with a baby who takes two naps a day, I am at home a lot. My heart has grown exponentially, but my opportunities for service, at least in the way I used to view service, are fewer. Ross and I believe so strongly in "to whom much is given, much is expected." We marvel at our blessings, sitting in awe of His goodness to us. And yet, we sometimes feel that we need to pay it forward more fully. But often that feels difficult because, really, who wants me to come volunteer with Thomas the destroyer in tow? Sure, I can help from 11:30-1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm at your service. The requests for my time and talent are not exactly abundant.

Last night, I had a small chance to make a miniscule difference so I jumped on it.  My precious friend Natalie hosted a Noonday party for Paige Knudsen. Noonday sells beautiful jewelry, clothing and accessories crafted by people trying to use entrepreneurship to climb out of their poverty. Like most every woman, I love to shop and this idea of "purchasing with a purpose" is right up my alley. (Ross is now very, very afraid.) It was a wonderful night of adult conversation and knocking out some Christmas list items while not padding the pockets of my beloved, but not so needy, Target.

It was a fun night and I was ready to go home and get cozy. As I walked to my car, something caught my eye. At one point during the party, I complimented a friend's boots. They were from my "when I have absurd amounts of money to play with" store (i.e. I go in once every 3 years), Anthropologie. I teased this friend that we wore the same size shoe and should she grow tired of them...When I walked to my car, the boots were outside my door. This friend took OFF her shoes and after a series of texts, affirmed that yes, she wanted me to have them and she was wanting to simplify. Okay y'all, I will simplify all day- with my stash of target shirts and Goodwill finds. If I buy a pair of boots from Anthro, um, no. I'd probably have them insured.

Awestruck, I came home and talked to Ross about how this affected me. I am around other moms all the time. We are all trying to shed light where we can, when we can, with our gremlins alongside us (or darting away if you are my gremlins). But for me, it's hard. Because I compare the me of today to the me of four years ago. I don't doubt for one minute that the back breaking, heart wrenching, patience testing work I do with these kids is my purpose right now. I know that this world, while smaller, is the one in which I should be putting all my energy. But it does not mean I have any excuse  to walk around with my eyes closed. Last night I was blessed by women like these who, by their quiet and humble example, remind me to stand watch. Where can I help? What small good can I do today? Is there an idea of Courtney's that can help the kids and I bring some joy today?  Does my husband need a word of encouragement? Does the lonely widower in Savannah need a card with pictures of my kids? Does a MOPS mom need a letter telling her she's doing great work?  

I left last night inspired by my friends, in disbelief that these are the people God surrounds me with, whether or not our kids let us ever finish a sentence to each other. I left knowing my world is smaller, but no less full of opportunity to pay it forward. I miss being a social worker. I miss holding the hands of the dying and fighting for the rights of the oppressed. Given the chance, I'll do that any day. But I was on the receiving end of small kindness last night. It wasn't life saving or life changing, but it was a reminder of just how it feels to be a thought in someone else's heart. I doubt I'll ever wear those hand me down boots without a heart full of gratitude for what they represent. I sit here with tears at God's provision of women who remind me to get my behind off my often self-absorbed shoudlers, who encourage me to look beyond these walls I rarely leave, who spur me to see where a very pregnant, very tired mama with very wild children, can bring Christ's love.

Women’s empowerment here in the USA often carries has the connotation of bra burning and male trampling. In India, it means ending child marriage, promoting female literacy, ending female feticide (caused by the dowry system), and enabling women to see their full potential. It means women looking in the mirror God made for them and seeing His image reflecting back.
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