Need a New Read? Try this!

Jesus calls me to surrender and there’s nothing like releasing fears and falling into peace. It terrifies, true. But it exhilarates. This, this is what I’ve always wanted and never knew: this utter trust. This enlivening fall of surrender into the safe hands. – p.158

Above is a quote from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It took me about a month to read it (which is fast in my current life with little ones running around). I savored it. I read passages over and over. I wrote down quotes. And most of all, I began a gratitude journal.

If you are at all familiar with the book, the premise is that she was dared to record one thousand gifts of thanks to God. In her journey of recording gratitude, she learned how to really live without fear, count it all joy, and be in close relationship with God. She learned how to reconcile the parts of life that make many give up their faith. She learned that she didn’t need all the answers, she just needed God. I’m not a book reviewer, so I’ll let that be enough to tease your interest.

It’s like God had Ann write this book just for me. So many of her struggles are mine too. With all of the mental struggle that I have had for over a year, I resonated deeply with her words about releasing fears.

I tried it. Cautiously… This giving thanks thing. She calls is Eucharisteo in the book. One of the kids would get sick, and I would sit by them and try giving thanks. I can’t explain how to do that–just go read the book–but guys, it worked. Thanking Jesus for all the blessings that I could find was the only way that I had peace. I didn’t “feel better,” and I think it’s important to note the difference. I felt peace. My soul wasn’t disturbed in the midst of illness, pain, or chaos.

The hard part comes in actually sticking to it. I could count my blessings and give them to God, and then an hour later be freaking out about the next thing. It was a wonderful read into our nature as human beings. We fling ourselves off of the cliff and into God’s hands, and then let go of Him when we realize where we are and we think we need to save ourselves. Kind of like Peter when he got out of the boat…

The book itself encouraged me to keep at it though. I’ve been trying to keep on giving thanks, even when I forget after a while. Just like we keep going to confession, we keep having to commit ourselves to God and to wanting only Him. It’s a read that I will keep around and read again soon, as it was so packed with wisdom, scripture, and meditation. If you struggle with fear, control, having joy, or doubting God, do yourself a big favor and read this book.

“All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends. did you think I end, that my Bread warehouses are limited, that I will not be enough? But I am infinite, child. What can end in Me? Can life end in Me? Can happiness? Or peace? Or anything you need? Doesn’t your Father always give you what you need? I am the Bread of Life and My bread for you will never end.” – P.161

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Thoughts on Control and Feeding my Baby

My mom and I had an intimate conversation recently about how motherhood changes over time. Perspectives broaden, little things really don’t matter as much, and things that you once couldn’t stand become things you crave.

I breastfed my firstborn until he was thirteen months old. I hated every second of it. I breastfed my second child for four months. Really hated it too, but was resigned to it. I had a lot of conversations with my mom and sister about wanting to love it, but really just doing it as a service to the kids. My mom shared how her perspective had changed through a series of events, both good and bad. She started off hating it for kid one and two, and by kid five, it was her favorite thing! My sister started off hating it at kid one, and ended hating it at kid four. I figured I’d be more like my sister, because I could NOT see myself ever enjoying it, unless something drastic happened.

Something drastic did happen. At four months postpartum, my milk started waning. I couldn’t make enough. I have come to realize that my depression was causing it to decline. It dropped off quickly, and the less milk I made, the less my daughter wanted it! Eventually, she outright refused it, screamed constantly, and we switched to bottle feeding. We tossed around the idea of seeking help for the matter, but the pros of bottle feeding really appealed to me. The stress of finding a consultant, making time to correct the problem and pumping more did NOT appeal to me. My daughter was becoming a great sleeper, loved the bottle, it made it easier for me to be away from her, and I didn’t have to endure sticky milk all over me, sore breasts, being on a timer, and feeling like a cow… So my milk pretty much dried up. I went on my way for a while… I didn’t mind the bottle feeding so much. I was really preoccupied with life. At four months, coinciding with my milk drying up, I began having steady panic attacks. My anxiety got so much worse.

I still didn’t really mind switching. It was inconsequential to me. What I wanted was to enjoy my life again. That meant I needed to control it. I needed her to take bottles so I didn’t have to spend as much time feeding her, so that I could have more time to myself to get everything under control. I needed to be able to be away from her whenever my needs arose. To enjoy my life, I just knew I needed to control it. Breastfeeding my baby wasn’t enjoyable to me. How could I enjoy something that made me feel so without control? I wasn’t going to live with the anxiety, so I needed to control my life, get the anxiety out, and then I could get back to living. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I basically ALLOWED the anxiety to control me. I wasn’t in control like I thought… I thought I quit breastfeeding because I was in control. But in reality, I quit breastfeeding because the anxiety was in control. It dictated my choices. I had this mentality that I needed to stop life for a bit to regroup. Life doesn’t work that way…

You don’t get to stop life. Instead, you fall away from your life and it goes on without you. All of the sudden, my daughter is ten months. She is as independent as they come. She’s no worse for wear even though she was bottle fed! She’s smart, fierce, independent, healthy, and tries her hardest to keep up with the toddler. Bottle feeding/breastfeeding—your child is getting fed. THAT is what matters.

But for me, bottle feeding became a symbol of my control. I wasn’t going to allow anything I didn’t want to happen to me or my life. I didn’t like breastfeeding, oh well, guess I will just bottle feed instead of taking the hard road to build up my supply again. I didn’t like the anxiety in my day to day, so I was going to ignore its presence and get my life together BY MYSELF, instead of taking the hard road of working THROUGH the challenges. By the way, trying to work through my anxiety alone basically looked like avoidance, spontaneity and a lack of maturity. It didn’t help.

Now, I really have changed my perspective. I really crave breastfeeding. I really embrace the lack of control, because I never could control it anyway. I’ve learned a reliance on God’s care of me. Breastfeeding could have actually helped my anxiety too. If I had stopped trying to control my life, who knows where I would be right now. I know I have a control problem though… And I have a hard time giving myself over to God, my kids, and my husband. I want to do better in the future. And you know what, if I am ever blessed with another child, I can feel the desire in my heart to sit, rock, nurse and bask in the goodness of God.

(I say none of this to start the ridiculous breastfeeding/bottle-feeding war, so if you’re on the hunt to fight on the internet, there are much better places to look.)

Pick Up Your Cross

eliotlake

I have gone back and forth on whether or not to post on this old blog for many months… I have always blogged as a means to really work out my thoughts, share what God is doing in my life, and chronicle those fleeting moments that vanish before we know it. I’ve also made some really good friends through blogging that I still keep up with to this day. The Catholic community that I have found has been such a huge blessing in my life. But to post on here any time in the recent past (last 9 months or so—no I’m not pregnant) would mean that I would need to SHARE. I mean, really share my heart, and share it all. My heart hasn’t been an easy place recently. In fact, it’s been a scary place. The shape of it is best described in the words of Ross, “I said SHARE, not SCARE.” (You’re laughing if you get that reference.)

I haven’t wanted to blast the scariness, the ugliness, and the heartache to the world wide web, because 1) fear of it turning myself into some kind of sideshow and 2) we have so much negativity on the internet already… However, I feel like God is calling me to share now. I don’t know why… Maybe someone will read it that really needs to know these stories. Maybe my post will help others feel less alone. Maybe it will be used as some kind of cautionary tale… I realize that what I have to share isn’t just negative, though. There are too many good fruits in my life right now for me to think that this is all pointless and stupid. This is a story of weakness. This is a story of power too. And this is a story of continuing conversion…the real reason for this entire blog.

Since Joan was born, I’ve been dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety. I really wasn’t prepared for it. I had baby blues with Eliot, and did with Joan too, but they never really went away with Joan… They just sort of morphed into PPD and intense panic. I can remember the exact beginning of the panic too. It started as anxiety two weeks before delivering Joan. There was a lot going on which was anxiety inducing which I won’t bore you with, but those things resolved, and the anxiety stayed.

Then, in a turning point, right smack in the middle of labor, I had a panic attack.

I didn’t really think much of it, because you know, birth, pushing a person out of your body, experiencing awful pain… it’s kind of cause for fear and anxiety in the first place. My amazing Catholic doctor talked me through it. I remember him wrapping up his pep talk by saying, “sometimes, I do have to get to a point to remind my patients that ‘despair’ is a sin!” That did the trick for me to give me the last push I needed (pun intended) to get through that panic attack (worse than the labor, by the way). So as I mentioned before, I really didn’t think much of it. Anxiety grew from day one. It was like a running tab causing the amount on the check I would have to write to be exponentially high. Months went by. Fall, sweet snuggles with my baby, awesome coffee drinks, pumpkins everywhere… Thanksgiving with my best friends. Cooking a real turkey. Camping with our firstborn for the first time. A beautiful Advent. Christmas. And then,

One day in early January, I couldn’t breathe. Again, I won’t bore you with the details of what panic looks like or feels like. A quick google search will provide you with all of the necessary facts if you are curious. But that panic attack came on swiftly and was enough to rattle Daniel.

After that second attack in January, it began happening frequently. And then it happened daily. And then multiple times a day. Until the basic description of my day turned into this: wake up, cry bitterly, shake, sweat, feel sick, eat little, change some diapers, make some bottles and peanut butter sandwiches, flip on Daniel Tiger or Mr. Rogers, and lay in bed crying and shaking (or with my feet up on the wall—this actually slows down a panic attack by the way) until bedtime. I saw my doctor, multiple times, to try to make some progress on it. Maybe a thyroid issue and PPD, maybe just PPD, maybe some hormone imbalance… All testing came back clear though.

I then went on some medication for my anxiety/depression. Not sedatives, but a common medication for postpartum women. It gave me terrible side effects which made me physically unable to do the minimal amount of living I was doing. I did nothing but try to sleep through it as I was told it needed to adjust in my body. I tried to hold out and did for a few weeks. But the side effects never went away.

One crisis mom visit later (you know what those are, right? When your mom comes to make everything better because all you want to do is crawl into your childhood bed and have your mom stroke your head?) and a long conversation with her about her own struggle with anxiety, and then an even longer phone conversation with my brother who experienced some crazy anxiety too, and I was finally ready to do some battle.

I came to a realization that my PPD, Panic, and Anxiety really has only been helped through prayer and God. Many people find relief through medication, therapy, and other methods. Most days, I wish I was that person. But I’m not. However, what I’ve discovered in this journey, I wouldn’t give up, even though it is such a painful cross.

I began going to Adoration, and for the first time since my actual conversion, really getting it. Adoration is that thing you can’t describe intellectually, no matter how much I had wished someone would. The more you try, the further you get from it. This was the first experience in my life that I truly began to understand, just a little bit, about mysticism. Typing that out is a little too weird for me on this old blog, so I’ll move on. Weekly Adoration. Monthly confession which turned into bi-weekly. Lots and lots of Mass. All of the sudden, I found myself at church way more than anywhere else. And when I was home, I actually opened the bible. I craved it.

This cross has saturated me in the Sacraments and in sacred scripture, and in prayer! I went to prayer ministries across the city, retreats, and even a concert by one of my favorite Catholic artists. In short, my relationship with Jesus is more intimate than it has ever been.

It’s still a daily struggle. So much has happened in the last nine months that deserve their own posts, but probably won’t get one. PPD doesn’t mean life stops. It doesn’t mean you stop loving. It doesn’t mean you are worthless. My life has very much been full to the brim of love, life, adventure and silliness. But it is a daily struggle to make it through. It is a daily struggle to not despair, as my doctor put it. It is a daily struggle to choose joy. But I’ve finally begun to understand what true hope means, and why we are to have it.

If you ever experience any of these struggles…if you ever feel alone or like you aren’t enough… If you find it hard to stop crying and feeling bitter sadness… I am so sorry and I grieve with you.

If any of this is your story too, please remember, you aren’t just a face across the internet. You’re a child of God. That truth will set you free from the sadness. Maybe not in the exact moment that you want, and it may not stay gone forever. But Jesus will take your hand and walk with you if you will pursue Him through it. He will make the burden lighter. He told us to pick up our cross and to follow Him. Will you do that with me?

“And you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Love and Life Right Now

Everything is getting neglected right now. Everything but one thing… the relationships with three of my favorite people on the planet: Ellie Belly, Joanie pony, and darling hubby. 

I’m loving the bonnets I made for Joan and to test out the pattern now that I see her in them! I’ve tried them with and without the lace and I’m all for that cute vintage lace. This was today when we sat around in Eliot’s room and played toys for 2 hours. I love that kid! Joan is a big fan too!

She gets really content when I take her pjs off in the morning, even if she’s squawking. 

We have been baking A LOT to spend time together. I love baking with him! Most people think I’m insane to bake with an infant and a toddler but I love the joy it brings Eliot and how much he learns! And he loves eating the chocolate chips. 

Pjs forever right now. Mine are basically the baggiest clothes I can find, and Eliot rocks some fire truck pjs like they are going out of style. 

Lots of cozy naps. Today he asked if he could sleep in my bed. I told him no only because we’ve made such good progress with him on his own. He now sleeps all night alone!


Daniel and I spend the evening chatting, drinking cocktails, playing video games, or watching a show and it’s awesome. Life is so great right now. I’m still exhausted but that’s having a newborn around for you. Even so, I couldn’t ask for anything more–I’m so happy. 

It’s never perfect

But within the chaos, there’s such beauty. We held a private baptism for our little Joan this past Sunday the thirteenth of August surrounded by many of our nearest and dearest. It was such a beautiful, real moment in the messiness of life. It was small. The toddler had one little meltdown. We didn’t really know the logistics until last minute. But the grace of the sacrament was present, the toddler stopped freaking out the moment that the deacon began praying a blessing and the baby was brought into the church. It was such a special moment. 

We are blessed beyond measure. 

Tales of an Amateur Thrifter

As I grew up, I watched my mother expertly find wonderful bargains on second hand clothing for five children. We never lacked the clothing needed to get us through the hundreds of growth spurts, ripped knee holes, fancy events, and hot summers. It was through watching my mother that I learned to look for a bargain. We continued to thrift throughout my teen years. Some of us children became thrifters and some refused as we came into adulthood. I was a child who loved the thrill of the hunt and as an adult, I grew to love thrifting for other purposes besides clothing. 

Since I got married when I was only nineteen and went straight from my father’s house to the home I made with my husband, I learned a lot of thrifty tricks, and they do come in handy with my own children too! It’s how I managed to furnish our home and clothe all of my little family! I’ve always loved seeing the things that other people score at the thrift store, so I thought it would be fun to post some of my favorite non-clothing items that I’ve thrifted over the years. 


First, I know I blogged about it at the time, but I bought this fabulous little rocking horse for Eliot when he was only a year old. It moves its head and neighs and Eliot dubbed him “Rocky.” He’s been a friendly and fun addition to our days. 


We needed a bassinet when Joan was born so I found this adorable one online for only twenty bucks! It’s been really useful. 


Just recently, I discovered a thrift store that had a lot of handmade blankets! We bought 3 for around five dollars each! Life has never been so cozy or cute! Once we get to wintertime, I know we will be so glad of these when the three of us that use big blankets start fighting over them. 


Sweet basket to hold diapers? Just a buck and handy to keep the massive amount of new diapers contained. 

Glider and ottoman? I’ve got two! I bought one and my mom bought the other. We use and love both of them. This nice cushy one was only thirty-five!

Today’s find includes some extra train tracks for Eliot’s trains for only a few dollars. He’s already in love because I found a train tunnel!


Cute curtain pullbacks which look amazing against our blue accent wall. A dollar for the set. 

What kinds of things do you look for if you thrift?

Sixteen Summers

I only have sixteen summers left with my firstborn. 

Sure that’s a stereotype and overgeneralization of the time it takes to parent. It could be less. It could be more. We don’t know anything about the time each of us has for anything, much less life in general. It’s a speculation. 


I guess I’m realizing how “up close” the perspective and lens to view the world seems to be in parenting. We don’t linger long on the big picture. It’s too easy to get caught up in the part of the frame where the toddler whines a lot and has an excessive amount of needs. Or the part where there’s no time for adult conversation and connection with the spouse. Or maybe the part where the daily grind consists of coffee, diapers, nap, peanut butter scraping, bedtime, repeat. All of that sounds so bleak. There are so many bright moments too! But it’s hard to see those moments unless you widen your perspective and try to see more of the picture. 


For instance, the toddler whining has a much less powerful influence on my mood when I take into account that it comes with complex concepts that he is learning and a huge amount of information he is taking into his overtired brain and emotional being. He can count to ten, knows our Christian names, understands the days of the week, prays his own prayers, and recognizes the subtle difference of emotion in someone else. The whining seems small in comparison to the amazing stuff I get to witness in addition. The witnessing of formation of a little soul and citizen brings a lot of joy to balance out the frustration of our close lens. 


And as things form and fuse together, a sense of permanency arises with it. My firstborn has a wonderful sense of empathy. It is one of the factors that contributes to how sensitive he is and why he feels such strong emotions. That is probably not going to change, so rather than wishing away the moments and hours of frustration, I need to help him cultivate this gift and navigate the negative emotion that comes with it. After all, sixteen years is not a long time in that big picture. I don’t want to miss out on the wonder of this boy before he becomes a man. 


He needs me now. He won’t always need me. He needs an extra sippy of milk, an extra story at bedtime, and an extra set of minutes to snuggle alone. He needs patience when he can’t understand and guidance when he faces a problem for the hundredth time that day. If he does not get these things, he will find a cruel world awaiting him that he will form and fuse himself to and that little flame of empathy will be put out. It will be replaced by cold, unfeeling, cynicism and desensitization. He will have much work to undo in his behavior if he even makes the realization that there is work to undo as he becomes a man and a citizen. 

He will struggle to find joy unless I can find it first. This up close view is so important and I can only react properly if I take a step back and fit it all into the frame. 

That is how we laugh at the ridiculous, cry at the sorrowful, and love when it’s hard. That is how we see the joy when it’s difficult to find. 


What am I going to try to do with these sixteen summers? 


Give a little more, fight less battles, spend more time taking a step back to look and listen, and ultimately, be a joyful mom. Life is too precious to waste it without true joy in each day with whatever we have been given.