An Encouragement for New Moms: What Really Matters In Motherhood

As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend I helped host a baby shower for my sister-in-law. At the shower, I gave the devotion. I kept thinking we should trade me out for someone more experienced and wise than me - an aunt or grandma or well, anyone who's ever raised a child more than 17 months like little ol' me. I was really nervous. What could I have to say that would be helpful to a new mom? I'm floundering just as much, if not more, than she is! I needed to hear a devotion from a wise mother just as much as she did! 

But as I prayed about it and asked God to enlighten me with just a teeny, tiny bit of wisdom to share, I kept feeling like maybe it was a good thing that I could share. I remember - very well - where she's at. I remember the research for what labor and delivery would be like, the anxiety of what color of stroller to select, the feeling that every single decision I made was the-most-important-one-I've-ever-made!

I remember worrying about the big things and worrying just as much about the small things. The fears that it would be harder than anyone admits and the delusions that things would be easier than people say ... I remember it well. 


And I remember all the advice. Both unasked for and sought out. It comes at you a mile a minute when you're pregnant, then a mile a second when you actually hold that baby in your arms. You want to hear it. Yet you want to do it on your own. You're torn. Overwhelmed. Struggling to find the right answer for you and your baby, but it feels impossible because everything is flashy, and loud, and bright, begging you to choose it and it's all just plain confusing. 

Yet over and over again in motherhood, God has brought Romans 12:2 to my mind. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." 

Yes. 

Clarity. 

Truth for the new mother. 

I honestly don't consider myself a wise person. A person who has a deep and clear understanding of the bible, easily drawing out truths from the text. Someone who can read a chapter and actually have a lot to say about it. Or be able to transform a single verse into seven paragraphs of thought, lessons, challenges and encouragements. I have friends and family that are like that, and honestly, I envy them. 

I knew I could only speak from my limited experience. And so my goal wasn't to rock her world with five brand new truths that fit her next role as a mother, it was to remind her of the one truth she already knows, but is so easy to forget in this stage of life. I wanted to be real with her. To identify with what's happening to her now, and what will happen to her later, and remind her of one simple truth through it all that provides direction and certainty in a role that can easily make a person feel lost and unsure: To test everything against God's word. 

And so laid the foundation for the devotion.

And really, it's my prayer for all mothers - especially those of you who are currently pregnant with your first, or trudging through the murky waters of the newborn stage. While this applies at all stages of life - children or not - I think it's an especially important reminder when you're in those stages. So, I've edited my "speech" up a bit to be more generic, to apply to all of you. 

It likely won't blow your mind or totally transform your thinking, but I hope it will remind you of why we're doing this motherhood thing and what really matters when it's all said and done. 

ps. It is meant to be spoken aloud, so the flow may be a bit off as you read it to yourself. 

***********


I keep thinking about how the instant a new mom becomes pregnant, she is inundated with unsolicited advice. And on top of it all, she's also seeking it out, reading books, blogs and forums on where to get the best baby gear deals, how to prepare for nursing, labor relaxation techniques - you name it, most first time moms have researched it.

And while it may feel like you're researching a lot now, after the baby comes, you'll still be seeking out advice - sleep training solutions, how to get rid of diaper rash, and introduce first foods. You'll worry and question and wonder and research until you think you've reached the end of the internet and all the advice available, but there's more. There's always more.

The baby experts - the internet, blogs and books will shout at you, "Do it my way! This is the best way! Only 27 steps to get an angel baby! Here's how to have the perfect child!" And even more dangerous, "Here's how to be the perfect mom!"

But today I want to encourage you: Do not listen to them. Do not be caught up in their lies. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Because the thing is - contrary to what the world will tell you, it doesn't matter in the end if you breastfeed or formula feed, if you sleep train or co-sleep, if you use organic or processed foods. And I know deep down you know that. Those things will fade and die as the new fad comes in, and will not affect who your child becomes. And as you face questions and transition, I pray that you will do what Romans says, to test everything, sifting through the world's shouts to discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect. What is the will of God. Because the things you say and the way you spend your time as this baby's mother will show them what you value and as Romans says, what is on your mind, and as Psalms says, what is in your heart.

When that baby comes, I guarantee, even with the hours of research and preparation under your belt, very quickly, you will feel inadequate, unqualified and unprepared. You will want to run to the flashy book covers, the 10-step solutions, the easy promises. And while I'll be the first to admit - a 10-step solution can actually be very helpful in getting your kid to sleep through the night - that is not what matters.

What matters is another book: The Bible. What matters is that you give your child Jesus. That you love them well. That you instruct their heart. That you are present. That you overwhelm them daily with the grace of God. That you teach them about Job's suffering, Sarah's laughter, Paul's zeal, Ruth's loyalty and Peter's bravery. 

That you teach them to love what God loves and to hate what God hates.

When you're in the trenches - when you have questions about when to introduce the pacifier or whether or not to get scented or unscented wipes - though they are real things that need to be dealt with, and at the moment feel so very pressing - the deeper question you should be asking yourself is, "How am I showing my child God's grace? What will they learn from me? At the end of each day - what will they say their mommy valued?"

Although your child's faith is ultimately out of your hands, you will have one of the biggest influences on their heart. As that verse in Romans says, TEST EVERYTHING. And how do you test everything? Through renewing your mind by spending daily time with Jesus. Memorizing scripture, reading the word and laying raw the multitude of worries, fears and anxieties you will have as a mother at his feet. Through doing these things you will be able to discern what is worth it and what is not - you will have the ability to do what is good, and acceptable and perfect for your child.

The shouts of the world will quickly fade, and the still, small voice of Jesus whispering to you will soon be all you can hear.

I'm only 17 months into this motherhood gig, and already I can tell you that parenting well and with intention is not easy. I know it will take years of consistency, thoughtfulness and intentionality to nurture and grow a soul that will someday, hopefully, love and follow Jesus.

My prayer is that your child's story follows the narrow path. That they would grow up to not only know their Bible, but to love it as an old friend. That they wouldn't just know how to recite a memory verse, but that its truth would root deep down in their heart, beating life into them right along with it. That they would not only know the old hymns, but that their meanings would make their wavering soul steady in the midst of trial.

And you as the mother, because of God's grace, you will have influence over this. My prayer is that your child would say their mother raised them with grace, forgiveness and purpose. That she was present. That she was oh, so fun. That she was inspiring. And most of all - that she loved the Lord and showed them Jesus.

As you embark on this journey, test everything against God's word. Know truth. Believe truth. And enter this amazing adventure of motherhood with confidence that you walk in God's grace and he will guide your path. 

Rustic Fall Baby Shower & DIY Giant Kraft Paper Flowers

Last weekend, I helped host a baby shower for one of my sister-in-laws. She's due just 2.5 weeks before me and I couldn't be more excited for my kiddos to finally have a cousin on my husband's side of the family!

The morning of the shower I had major deja vu; it felt like not that long ago I was headed to my own shower for Eli. I remember being so excited to see everyone I loved and just have a chance to talk ALL morning about MY baby and what was happening and what was to come.

And I was also really excited about the food. Probably a bit too excited. But that's just what makes a pregnant lady's world (and belly) go round, you know?  

We wanted to make the shower super special for my sister-in-law and our original plan was to have to shower outside in my mother-in-law's beautiful backyard. But the Minnesota weather proved to be a bit too cool (It was about 55 degrees out when we were supposed to be having the shower.), so we decided to host it inside so people didn't freeze. Luckily, my mother-in-law has a gorgeous home outside and in, so it was still a beautiful shower. 

It was just one of those things where you do tons of planning, crafting and preparation with one thing in mind, then have to totally repurpose it to work somewhere completely different at the last minute. Had we known, we may have planned it a bit differently, but I think it turned out well with what we were given. 

Today I'm going to show you one of the biggest things we crafted up that made a huge impact on the decor, these huge, nay, giant kraft paper flowers. Perfecto for baby showers, bridal showers or really anything that needs a lil' fall/rustic touch. 
But first, a bit of info on the shower. While I won't go into full detail of all we did, the food we served, etc., as rustic showers are a dime a' dozen on Pinterest, I will tell you that a successful rustic fall shower is made up of plenty of two things: ditch flowers and burlap.  

Us country girls at heart know how to take full advantage of those ditch flowers. Ditch flowers are totally free and I love how you can transform something that looks sorta lonely on its own into something so beautiful when you combine them together. You just have to be willing to get in that ditch and deal with all the wildlife near those wildflowers. I nearly stepped on a snake, I kid you not. It was all I could do to not run straight back inside and never come out again. But over the years I've learned to remain chill in front of a snake, so don't worry. I looked super cool in front of him as he slithered by. 

I'm sure he was impressed.

For the burlap, you can snag burlap at about three bucks a yard (then of course, be sure to apply a coupon!), so it's awesome to use all over the place with a shower like this.

For the centerpieces, we just lined some simple trays with burlap, vases with ditch flowers, lanterns filled with raffia, and tea lights.

We had a few placemats that already fit the rustic theme, but we needed quite a few more, so we cut additional ones from burlap. After you cut them, you can easily fray the edges by just pulling out a few threads. No sewing required!
We also mass-produced about 50 feet of bunting. Our original plan was to hang it like a garland in the trees, so when we used it inside we basically had enough to cover the entire house with it. To make it, we cut simple diamond shapes out of pretty paper, folded them in half over some yarn, and hot glued the tips together. So easy!
And what's a baby shower without some fauxmosas? We filled glass Ikea jars with cranberry juice, Sprite and OJ to make fauxmosas for the group. Some people even combined all three ... weirdos.

But as my mother used to say to me, "Don't judge, no one is making you drink it."

Touché mother. Touché.
Also, I need to tell you about these pumpkin cream cheese muffins. Ahhh-mazing. You should make them NOW. Don't they look like they came straight from a bakery? We made these the day before then left them uncovered on the counter overnight and they were perfect the next day.

And the day after.

Yep, I totally pulled the pregnancy card and owned those leftovers.

They're a bit putzy, but they were soooo worth it.
Now let's talk about these flowers, shall we? As I said, we were originally hoping to have the shower outside, so our plan was to create these huge kraft paper flowers to hang in the trees. Since we didn't have any trees to hang them on inside, we hung them with command strips all over the house.

Here's how easy it is to make 'em. 

Supplies: 
  • Large roll of kraft paper for petals (I purchase mine at Home Depot - way cheaper than any craft store!)
  • Pretty paper for the stamen/eye of the flower. You'll need two coordinating pieces of paper per flower
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil

To make the eye, or stamen, of the flower, cut out two circles from two different colors of paper. I just used mixing bowls as a template, one was 11" and one was about 9". You don't need anything exact here, just one larger circle about 12" and one smaller circle.
After you've cut the circles, take your scissors and "fray" the edges. Just eyeball it, cutting strips about 3" deep and 1" apart. After you're finished cutting, hot glue the pieces together and fluff the frays up with your hands a bit.
To cut the petals, draw a shell shape on a piece of kraft paper. The base or straight edge should be 9" long, and the overall petal should be about 12-13". Don't worry about making it perfect, nature is not perfect, so the more "organic-looking" the better. I did create a template so I could move through them faster and ensure they'd be similar, so feel free to do that as well.

Once your petal is cut out, cut a line about 5" up the middle of the petal. Create eight of these.
Once all your petals are cut out, overlap where you made the 5" deep cut and hot glue the two pieces together. An overlap of about 2" is all you need, just enough to give it that "cup" as a petal.

Repeat for all your petals.
Next, assemble the flower. Layer five of the petals together, creating a star shape. Secure each petal to the next with hot glue.

Once you have a base, glue in your three additional petals on to make it look more full.
 You may need to glue some of the petals together further out, just to help the flower stay open.
 Once all the petals are glued together, glue in the stamen to finish.
And that's it! You're done! 

Fast and easy, right? 

Eli - 17 Month Update

Naps: One or two naps a day, depending on when he wakes up. Trying to transition to one nap a day for good. 
Feeding: Two percent milk (16-20 oz./day), water all day, and table foods three times a day with a snack after his afternoon nap.
Clothing: 12 - 18 month.
Bedtime: 8 p.m. Sleeps 12-13 hours consistently each night.

Eating:
I transitioned him over to two percent milk this month! It really wasn't a big deal at all. One day he was drinking whole milk and when that ran out it was two percent. The pediatrician said I could at our 14 month well-check since Eli was so "healthy," but it took me a while to really feel comfortable with it. After a bit I just got sick of buying two different types of milk, so I put the whole family on two percent. Besides that there's nothing really new in the eating department. Still obsessed with dipping sauces - particularly mustard. I've caught him multiple times trying to suck it straight out of the bottle when he can get his hands on it. He loves bananas and will shout "Nanas!" when he sees them - anytime, anywhere. Even when grocery shopping. The produce section is dangerous for my hungry kid I tell ya. 

Sleeping:
Sleeping has been sorta all over the place. Not bad, but different. Traveling was tough on him again. Our little "curtain room" trick didn't work for long - on our next trip he was awake most of the night, so I ended up co-sleeping with him while Mike took the couch. For the record, co-sleeping is amazing. I totally get why people do it. Although I have to admit too that I'm glad I don't have to do it every night. But sleeping by that snuggly, soft little boy, well it makes all the crying and awake time at night totally worth it when he finally falls asleep. 

At the end of the month, Eli began working on four new teeth, two of which are molars. Last week, his bottom two teeth finally popped through, but he's still working on those top two. He's been much more sensitive and woken a few times at night, sometimes with a low-grade fever. I've co-slept with him a couple other nights in the guest room when that's happened and it makes the night go a lot easier. He always seems to "feel better" in bed with me, so I tell him, "Eli you can lie here with momma, or you can go nigh, nigh in your crib." Without fail, he lies down. But, I will admit, I have to say it about 12 times before he actually stays down for good and falls asleep. 

We've also nearly completely dropped his morning nap! It was sort of a happy accident. As I mentioned, we traveled a ton, so often he didn't get his morning nap since we're out and about. We also had a lot of busy mornings when we were back home, so there were many days I just couldn't give him one if I wanted to. For now, if he wakes up after 8 a.m., he definitely doesn't get one. But if he wakes before 8 a.m., I watch him and if he seems tired, or we have a low-key day, he usually still takes a nap around 10 a.m. - Noon, then again around 3 p.m. On the days he takes one nap, he goes down at 1 p.m. and will sleep anywhere from 2 - 4 hours, but it's different every day, and more often than not on the two hour side of things. 

Development:
Eli's vocabulary continues to astound Mike and I. This month, we've noticed he's gone from saying new words only when prompted, to repeating us on his own, usually just the last word we say in a sentence. It's crazy how we'll be talking to one another in the car or in the kitchen or something, then hear Eli pipe up with, "Shoot!!" (whoops!) "Coffee!" or "Church!" Obviously, he doesn't know the meaning to those words, but he's still attempting to talk all. the. time. He'll pretty much say anything we try to prompt him to say, with the exception of most words that begin with "A" and "L." He won't for anything attempt to say "Love you!" Gah, working on that one! He can say all his aunts, uncles and cousins names, except for one of his cousin's names is Cal, to which he always lets out a deep "Mooooo!" for - sorry Cal! 

He knows about 10-15 animal sounds, and I totally attribute it to this app (free!) on the iPad that you all recommended when I asked a while back on Facebook. He also knows all of his main body parts and can point pretty accurately to them, and he's just starting to understand that everyone else has those parts too. So now when I ask, "Where's Momma's nose?" He chooses to pick my nose instead of his. Okay. Cool. He's also crazy about my earrings. He loves turning my head back and forth, looking and pointing at them and saying, "Errr'gs!" I'm pretty sure he thinks they're an actual body part of mine. 

He's also learned how to jump - er, attempt to jump, we just call it his "deep knee bend" and spin around in a circle. He has a lot more dexterity this month and has more interest in helping me do things around the house for longer periods of time. Things like picking grapes off the stem and putting them in a bowl, or unloading silverware and handing them to me one at a time to put away. 

He also continues to be more and more brave - last month he took a scary fall down our deck steps, face-planting into a pot of Impatients. Understandably, for a while he was pretty scared to go up or down stairs, but by the end of the month it seemed like he started to get his confidence back and is more willing to climb stairs on his own or go down with assistance. He still won't go down backwards like I know a lot of kids his age will. He really wants to go forward with me holding on to BOTH hands. Ahh, well. I'm just glad he'll go up them on his own again. 

Likes/Dislikes
He (like most toddlers) is crazy into music and as the song on Pandora turns over, he'll look at me and say, "More? More?" then clap and smile like a crazy person when it comes back on. I think he thinks I'm magic since I don't even have to touch anything and the music comes back when he asks. If I get him started, the kid can't stand even two seconds without music. This feels pretty good when I'm the one singing to him, although we did have a car ride where I started singing too early. I think I sang for a solid half hour to him to keep him from crying. I hated singing at the end of that trip. 

Of course, he still loves walking, so for most of our errands I skip the cart or let Eli push it if I really need it. He follows me around like a little puppy, kinda doing his own thing and getting distracted by anything in the shape of a truck or covered in fake fur, but for the most part, he stays pretty close to me. (Same aisle at least!) He waves to people and shouts "Hi!" as we walk - he'd make an amazing politician - he has the parade wave down pat. 

Speaking of trucks and fur, those are by far his favorite things - he's still crazy about his stuffed animals, letting out audible sighs and loud kissy noises when he holds them. He also became somewhat fascinated with the show "Mighty Machines." My mom had them on DVD on a family vacation for the grandkids, and I couldn't believe how well all the boys sat still to basically watch a boring construction site. I found all the episodes free on YouTube and Eli will probably watch an episode for about 15 straight minutes, while shouting, "duckt!" (truck) or making "choo choo" noises. Because of his love for trucks, I also got him a few new toy trucks this month when I realized we didn't have any. They're just the CAT knock offs - and Eli went bizerk when the Amazon box came. The trucks were of course strapped down in their box and Eli kept saying, "Out?" "Help?" over and over again as I was working on getting them out. Pretty soon he was in tears because I wasn't moving fast enough - way to show your thankfulness kid. 

All this to say, these days, if I make one of Eli's stuffed animals drive his skid loader, the kid's in heaven. 

Momma/Daddy Update
This month, Eli has started showing more parenting preference. It's kinda hard for me to admit, but he loves his dad "the most" about 70 percent of the time. Whomp. Whomp. He was actually was calling me "Dada" for a while - it took everything in me to respond as if he had said "Momma" and not just ignore him until he remembered my name. Lemme tell you, that'll bring your parenting ego down a notch or two. He gets much less time with his dad, so I know it's more exciting to be around him and I'll be honest, Mike's just more fun than me. And, when you're only with a kid one hour a day, it's easier to be THE FUN ZONE the entire time you're around than if you're trying to spread that same "fun energy" over the course of a full day. It's not that Eli doesn't want me, it just I can tell he'd prefer to have Mike hold him, etc. And honestly, I'm totally fine with it. It makes me super happy that Eli loves his dad so much! And the good thing is, anytime Eli is super tired, gets hurt (Often by his FUN DAD!) or doesn't feel well - who does he want? Me. Me. Me. Me! I'll take it. 

Overall, we're doing really well. Mike says his favorite part of the day is putting Eli to bed, and those two crazies take AT LEAST 30 minutes to get ready for bed in the nursery. While I'll pop my head in every once in a while, I know it's precious alone time for Mike to soak up with Eli, so I love just listening to the giggles that float down downstairs while they're supposedly "unwinding." (Although it sounds to me like they're winding UP.) Every night, Mike comes down saying something along the lines of, "Oh man, that kid is so fun." 

As for me, I love hanging with Eli all day every day. He's totally one of my besties (is that bad?) and my favorite part of the day is actually putting him down for a nap - so I get why Mike likes putting him to bed so much. Real (and fake!) laughs from Eli, tons of unsolicited kisses, attempts to sing with me and snuggling in the rocker while he sucks his thumb. It's definitely the most awesome part of my day. 

Worth Sharing

Some good tips in here if you're working on decorating a room in your home. But I think even with all the tips in the world I'll never be able to nail it perfectly ... I've said it before and I'll say it again - decorating is so hard!

Before I became a parent, I had no idea there were so many "types" of parents. I thought there were two categories: good and bad. Well, apparently there are many more than that. Parenting terms decoded. 

Did you see the new Apple Watch? We can't say we didn't see Back-to-the-Future type watch coming, can we? Not sure this is something I ever see myself sporting, but then again, I resisted the iPhone for YEARS and now it has me firmly under its thumb - er - case?

Along the technology vein (this one might be even crazier), the world's first family robot, JIBO, has plans to come to public market at the end of next year. Watch this video to figure out what exactly the "first family robot" can do, but essentially, it'll take photos and video for you, read and tell stories to your kids, parent for you - er, not that last one. Hopefully not at least. Check this site for all the details on JIBO's production and the fundraising campaign. Who knows, maybe in four years I'll be sporting the Apple Watch while JIBO reads me my text messages.

Maybe what I really need to do is stop reading about people's crazy inventions and try my hand at a distraction-free iPhone. Here's how one guy did it for a year. Could you do it?

Back in the day I served my time as a barista at a local coffee shop on my college campus - but I can't say I've ever had that many deep thoughts about people's coffee orders. What your coffee order says about you from a barista. 

Six things the happiest families all have in common. Overall, I'm impressed to say that my parents really did do all six of these - even the family mission statement. Mike and I made one a few years ago for our family, which reminds me that we should pull it back out and review it. When we wrote it, I'm pretty sure we didn't think we'd be well on our way to two kids just a few years later. Not that the core would change, but some things maybe?

Just Let It Be Hard

I felt the burn crawling over my chest. It slinked out of my heart and crawled through the rest of my body. I bit my tongue to keep from saying something I shouldn't, but the words were still there, right at the tip.

I was listening to another mother, lamenting about her birth and how incredibly hard it was - the details don't matter, but suffice it to say I pitted the two of our birth stories against one another in my mind and obviously, I came out the clear winner for who's was "harder."

I wanted to tell her she had no idea what hard was. That she needed a little perspective in birth stories. That she should be thanking her lucky stars for only being in labor for eight hours and that she didn't have to deal with the myriad of "problems" that my precious little self did.

I would say it nicer than that of course, but the heart would remain the same: bleak, black and bitter.

Do you know the feeling? You smile. You listen. You seem supportive. But inside you have your own little monologue running. Taking in their words and spitting them out with your own opinion on where they should land on the scale of hard.

"She has no idea how hard it is to do that with three kids under foot."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have twins, it's double the work."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have a child that isn't a good sleeper."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have a picky eater."

"She has no idea how hard it is to not be able to nurse, even if you give it everything you've got."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have family living far away."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have an over-involved, controlling mother-in-law living five minutes away."

"She has no idea how hard it is to stay-home all day, with stuffed animals and PBS as your only company."

"She has no idea how hard it is to work all day, and not get to see her kids whenever she wants."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have to fight for a pregnancy, to wait years for your children."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have an unexpected pregnancy rock your world."

"She has no idea how hard it is to have a miscarriage."

"She has no idea."

"No idea."

"No idea."

Why is it that we mothers feel the need to develop our own scale and place each other on it? We take what one mom says was hard and compare it to our story - deciding, if in fact - their assessment is accurate.

That day with the mother and her not-so-hard birth story, I pridefully assumed that I was the standard of hard. That through the words she shared, I'd judge her experience, place it on my self-centered scale, and tell her exactly how hard it was.

But why can't I just let her hard be hard for her?

We mothers are all going through hard things. The hard reveals itself at different times, in different places, in different ways, but no one is immune. Sometimes I tell myself I'm just trying to make them feel better, to help them understand that what they're going through is really not all that bad. That if they just understood what could be, maybe they'd learn to appreciate how easy they really have it.

And sometimes that's true, my heart is (mostly) pure, but more often than not, it's just me wanting validation for my feelings and experiences. Wanting pity, sympathy, honor, accolades and admiration for what I've struggled through. Fought through. Battled through.

I'm drawing a line in the sand, according to my hard, and ranking people according to my standard. She's more involved with her children than I am. She's less involved with her children than I am. She's more put together than I am. She's less put together than I am. She's more industrious than I am. She's less industrious than I am.

She's more.

She's less.

She's more.

She's less.

And it seems to me that no matter where someone falls on my self-created scale, I usually sit there to try to find a way to believe that overall, I have it the worst but have come through it the best.

We treat our hard like a game of cards, looking at the ones that match or beat the other mother's across the table. Whether we play them or not isn't the issue. It's the fact that they're always there, and in the back of our hand lies our go-to trump cards of hard that allow us to feel validated in licking our wounds and making ourselves feel better. We may be playing the game kind and fair on the outside, but inside we like to tell ourselves that we hold the hand that makes us the winner.

Why can't we just fold our hand of cards, shove them to the side of the table, and soothe our fidgeting fingers by picking up a cup of coffee while choosing to listen without the scale?

To hear another mother right where she is at. To listen to her hard without the background noise of our judgement. Because in that moment, that hard thing is her reality. Her world is exposed and that is all there is for her. The feelings are fact. The feelings are valid. The feelings are hard.

And no matter what we've been through we are not the judge or the standard of her hard.

So just let her hard be hard.

I am not superior because of my hard. I am not a better woman, mother, wife or friend. I am not tougher, smarter or stronger. I am not more talented, more balanced, more logical, more helpful or more appreciative.

I just am.

I have my hard and you have yours.

So let's just let that be hard enough.

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It's Time. I'm Stealing It Back Comparison.

I was up on and off all night. Tossing and turning. There was no real reason for it. Just my desires fighting with my reality. There is something I've been wanting to happen for a long time, but each night I go to bed and each morning I wake up the answer has been "No." Or at least, "Not yet." I had spent most of the day in my own little world, half heartedly interacting with my son, doing my duties, making him laugh, reading him books, but heart wasn't in it. My husband had come home and I fed the family dinner, but didn't enjoy my boys like like I usually do, like I should do. The thing I had been wanting, the thing I felt like I somewhat deserved, had happened for a few people close to me in recent days, people whom I was happy for, but also envious of.

That night, I got up to take a shower just to do something, anything different than lie there and wonder, "Why not me?" I'm not a sentimental person by nature. But in the shower that night I found myself looking at my ever-expanding belly and in a moment, I felt for the first time the weight of it all. That new life is the most amazing, incredible, marvelous, awe-inspiring thing the human body can do. That I, an unadmirable, untalented, everyday, normal, nobody was chosen to actually create a life through no true work of my own. I felt such gratitude for what my body could do - what it's already done once with my son, and what it's doing yet again with my daughter.

I felt the guilt rush over me for the day I'd wasted moping around feeling sorry for myself. And the thing was, it wasn't just a day I'd spent feeling sorry for myself, but weeks, months even. There were days or moments I didn't remember my so called, "sorrows," and I was able to truly enjoy myself, but most days, it was there, hanging like a cloud over my heart, blocking the sunlight of blessings that I had been given but was choosing not to count: My loving, involved, intentional, too-good-for-me husband (that words truly cannot describe). My joyful, spunky, outgoing son. My daughter that clearly has her nights and days flipped and reminds me every night that she's a comin' soon. My amazing extended family. My health. My family's health. And on and on I could go.

And what I realized is that comparison doesn't only take away those things we have to offer, it also takes away those things we don't even have to offer - those things which are offered to us.

Comparison is a vicious thief. It doesn't just stop at taking away the use of our own talents, it steals away the joys of life in life that no matter how much effort we think we can offer, are not in our control. It doesn't just short change yourself, it short-changes everything and everyone around you. Comparison steals our attention-span, our ability to be present and to enjoy what is right in front of us. It replaces what we value with something that is usually, not even all that valuable.

I am currently in a season of waiting. But while I wait for that coveted answer of a firm "Yes," or "No," I am choosing to step out of the shadows of comparison and into the light of the multitude of blessings God has gifted me with. It's time that I get my values back in order and recognize what really matters. That life is not about what I don't have, it's about what I do have. It's about investing in, being there for and actually recognizing those things that have been given to me that make my life full and wonderful.

I'm sick of living halfheartedly. With one foot in my reality and the other in a swamp of envy, covetousness and self-pity.

It's time. I'm comin' for you comparison. It's about time I steal my joy back.