What is Love?

I’ve rewritten this post twice today already. I’m sure that this won’t be the final draft either. Let’s see how this goes…

Love is complex. There are so many different types of love, and each type can be broken down into subtypes. Each subtype is unique yet somehow still intertwines with other subtypes.

The ancient Greeks seemed to have had a better hold on love than we do today, but even their definitions of the different types of love seem mottled to me.

About a week ago big brother asked me what love is. It was in the midst of an ‘I love you more’ debate. He and I had been going back and fourth for about thirty seconds when little brother chimed in with “I love cookies!” I exclaimed that I love cookies too, and big brother’s wheels started visibly turning.

His little face creased in several places. He turned his headsideways and said, “Momma, what is love?”

I’m sure my face started to crease at that point. How was I supposed to explain that little brother’s love of cookies and my love for big brother are nothing alike?

I said, “Thats a really great and important question. Can momma take some time to figure it out and get back to you?”

He was fine with putting this question on hold, and honestly, I hope he’s fine with waiting a little longer, because I still feel unprepared to explain love.

So far I’ve just attempted to explain what his daddy and I mean when we tell him that we love him. I think that’s the most important piece of the puzzle to him for now anyway, so it sufficed.

It’s not simple though. Some people spend their whole lives longing for love, wondering if they’ve ever had it or felt it. How do we know if we’ve ever been in the presence of love? What does it feel like? What does it look like?

Because the answers to these questions are so complex, I’m choosing to do something that I don’t usually do. Istead of sharing what I’ve learned from a bunch of sources all mushed into one fluid conclusion, I’m going to just talk about one source and my personal experiences. I’m going to limit my definition of love to just the types of love that I have for my husband and my children (which have kind of merged into one type of love over the last year. I’ll explain.) And I’m going to use 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to do so.

I’m using 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 for a few reasons. One, it is the definition of love that I hold as truth (I am a Christian and it’s the definition that I’ve heard the most throughout my life). Two, it is familiar to so many people. It’s a beautiful piece of literature, and I think that many people who know nothing else of the Bible could say that they’ve heard this passage either in a movie or another form of art at some point. Three, it encompasses the type of love that I want to try to define, Agapé, or sacrificial love.

The type of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is said to be Christ’s love for the church. It’s the sacrificial love that the Bible says we are to have toward our spouse, and I believe that it should also serve as a model for how we should treat our children.

I Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends…”

When my husband (then boyfriend) and I first said “I love you” it didn’t look like the love that we have for each other now. It was a feeling, and it was genuine, but it wasn’t sacrificial at that point. We’ve learned that the feelings associated with our first few month of dating aren’t permanent. Our marriage isn’t void of butterflies and flirting, but they aren’t the things that define our love. I’d say that our love now looks much more like Christ’s love described in the passage above.

My husband and I are very different people. I think there’s a lot of truth to the idea that opposites attract. Like many couples, we have extremely different hobbies and interests. When we met my husband was fairly introverted and I was very extroverted. (I think that living with each other has brought us both closer to the ‘outgoing introvert’ personality type. It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it?) He likes the physical sciences, and is a physics genius. I like the soft sciences, and could talk your ears off about social problems and mental health. He likes fantasy games, and I like charades. We’re very different people.

I am christian and my husband is atheist. I still think that the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 4 is a good standard for how I love him. I’d even argue that my husband is better at sacrificially loving than I am. I tend to struggle when it comes to not insisting on my own way, and not being irritable or resentful. He struggles to love me sometimes too, but he keeps it to himself better than I do.

We’re still learning how to love each other! I hope that our love continues to grow, and that we always continue to get better at loving each other. Having kids has taught us so much about love, specifically this sacrificial love. It’s hard to love sacrificially, but it’s a necessity when it comes to kiddos. They need us to make sacrifices to care for them. Parenting has stretched us in ways that nothing else could.

This is where loving my kids and loving my husband meet. There are definitely aspects of my love for my husband that don’t apply to the way that I love our kids, but I think that the sacrificial, or giving piece is the same. Feelings definitely accompany my love for all of the people in my home, but ‘love’ is the action, not just the feelings.

I think that the distinction is that I choose to love my husband sacrificially, and my sacrificial love for my children is the result of their need to be cared for and taught. It’s a good thing that they need me, because some days I’d like to go in my room and take a break from sacrificing. Don’t get me wrong- I love loving my children, but it’s exhausting. When I get tired of actively loving my husband, I just take a break (there are definitely consequences, but no one will die if I ignore him for a bit.) I can’t really take a break from the sacrifices that parenting requires, and when I do, the consequences are far worse.

Paul hits the nail on the head in his definition of love in 1 Corinthians. So much of his definition describes what love isn’t. I think that was a wise decision on his part. Love is so complicated and so broad that it’s almost smarter to define it by saying what it isn’t. So lets explore the ‘is nots’ before we explore the ‘ises’.

Love does not/ is not

  • Love does not envy- I’ve also seen “love is not jealous”. Love is trusting!
  • Love does not boast- or brag. it is humble
  • Love is not arrogant- or proud, or puffed up, it is humble. I like that Paul says this in two different ways. He’s being clear. Love is humble.
  • Love is not rude- or offensive. It is nice, gentle. It is modest.
  • Love does not insist on its own way- it’s not self-seeking. It is selfless.
  • Love is not irritable- or short-tempered. It is calm.
  • Love is not resentful- or bitter. It is pleasant and kind.
  • Love does not rejoice at wrongdoings, or doesn’t delight in evil. It holds accountable and finds joy in doing good.

Love is/ does

  • Love is patient- it is able to accept delays or changes without becoming aggravated.
  • Love is kind- it is benevolent, nice.
  • Love rejoices with the truth- it delights in what is accurate and present.
  • Love bears all things- it takes or carries all things. It doesn’t dodge the hard or unpleasant stuff.
  • Love believes all things- It is trusting. It doesn’t abandon.
  • Love hopes all things- It confidently anticipates good things. It does not doubt.
  • Love endures all things- It withstands, or holds up in the face of difficulty. It does not crumble.

Love never fails! I think that this quality of love could be on either list, so I’m setting it apart a little. Love never fails, or falls apart. It never disintegrates or backslides. It never flounders or slips. Love never goes away.

Remember that this is a description of Christ’s perfect love, not a gauge to measure all of your first dates with. I believe that Paul is educating the Corinthians as much as he is admonishing them. They were working toward godliness, but they were lacking love. I think Paul is giving them the description of Christ’s love as an act of generosity. I think he probably felt like they wanted to know how to love. His description is a beautiful guideline.

It seems like the Corinthians, like me so often, may have been putting love and relationships on the back burner. They may have been forgetting that they are (I am) nothing without love.

I am so often dumbfounded when relationships fail, especially my own. I think about the rocky parts of my relationship with my husband before we were married. The times when I doubted our relationship because of all the ways that we are so different. I remember wishing that he was more _______ or less ________. I remember thinking “This marriage is doomed to fail because he’s not ________. ” If marriage was about two people being perfect for each other, then no one would ever have a successful marriage, and I think that’s kinda what happens a lot these days. We tend to see the holes where we don’t match up, and we run instead of filling those gaping holes with love.

Again, I am not Biblical scholar, and I’m definitely not an expert on love, but I’ve learned that Paul’s description of love- his guidelines for love that lasts, holds up. When I actively try to love people in this way, they feel loved. When I put my self aside and truly devote my attention to actively trying to love others in this way, I reap the benefits of love in my life.

When my boys are having a rough day and it feels like all we’ve done is butt heads, I often realize that I haven’t been trying to love them like this. I’m not being kind. I’m not being patient. When my husband and I have had a rough week (or month) and I feel far from him, I often realize that I haven’t been trying to love him like this. I am often being arrogant or irritable. I’m not believing and hoping. I’m doubting.

I think that this kind of love transforms. It is powerful. I’ve seen evidence of this in myself. When I work hard at loving people sacrificially, when it’s less about me and more about them, I’m generally more joyful and more full of peace. I’m more confident in my relationships and I’m less anxious. (Hear me loud and clear, please. loving someone in this way does not cure abuse or neglect! If that is the situation that you find yourself in, seek outside help. You cannot fix an abusive relationship! Distance yourself physically and emotionally, and find help. There is always someone at this number who can provide you with resources 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You cannot love your way into a healthy relationship with an abuser, and it’s NOT your fault.)

I want to love everyone like this, but for now I’m mainly focusing these efforts on my husband and my boys. I’m finding that it spreads and kinda becomes part of who I am though. The more I try to love my husband and boys selflessly, the more selfless I am in other relationships too. Also- notice how often I wrote “trying to love…”. Y’all, it’s hard! Being selfless and sacrificial is HARD, and none of us is perfect. I fail constantly. You will fail. You’re not Christ. I think that the reward, or love that never fails, is the result of working toward perfect love, not being perfect at loving.

I still don’t have a plan for talking to big brother about love. I’m hoping that my simple answer about what his parents mean when they say they love him will do for now. If any of you have helpful advice on talking with a kid about love, please share! He’s been using the word love a ton since he asked what it means, and each time I can tell that he’s a little unsure of whether or not he’s using it correctly.

thanks for reading! what are your thoughts on love?

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Learning Contentmemt

Contentment isn’t easy. At least it isn’t for me.

Contentment has a couple different definitions. The Bible defines contentment as freedom from care due to satisfaction with what one already has. Secular literature tends to equate contentment to satisfaction or happiness.

Until very recently I thought that contentment was something to be found. I’m learning that there’s no place where contentment dwells. It can’t be found; it has to be learned.

I have read A LOT about contentment in the past twelve months. I’ve studied the contentment that Paul refers to in Philippians 4. I’ve read about contentment from the perspective of eastern philosophy. I’ve read accounts of contentment in war torn Europe during the second world war. I’ve read mom blogs about being content in modern day, white collar America…the list could go on for a while. If I saw ‘content’ in the title or passage, I read it!

It’s overwhelming to read accounts of contentment in all of these situations and still not be able to attain it. I eventually began to see that none of the people I was reading about found or attained contentment, they chose it. It was an attitude.

How did they choose an attitude of contentment? It’s not as easy as waking up one day and thinking today I am choosing to be content, at least not initially.

After lots of thought I’ve come to the fluid conclusion that an attitude of contentment is more of a disposition than a feeling. It’s a habit. It’s something you wear. It doesn’t waver as situations change. That’s the beauty of an attitude of contentment, it becomes a part of who one is.

If this is the case, does it imply that contentment is inherent? Am I doomed to a life of discontentment because contentment is not woven into the fabric of my personality? I don’t think so! I think that contentment can be learned and integrated into the fabric of one’s being.

Let me tell you a little bit about my personality. Contentment is NOT an inherent part of my makeup (and if it is, it has been suppressed for so long that it had to be relearned.) I am a fixer. I am critical. I tend to live in the past, and often miss out on how good things are until they’ve passed. I wouldn’t consider myself negative, though. I have always worn a smile, and optimism has never been too hard for me. I’m just not easily satisfied. I always see how things could be better, and I’m not super comfortable unless I’m working torward improving them.

I don’t think that everything I’ve just shared with you is bad, but apart from contentment, most of these things have not been beneficial to my heart.

I think that I faked contentment for so long that when I was truly discontent for the first time I didn’t know how to choose an attitude of contentment. It’s easy to seem content when things are easy, or when the not easy things are taken care of for you. I thought I had it figured out until I got married and inherited full responsibility for my own contentment.

I know how lame this is, but I didn’t really feel like a responsible adult until my husband and I got married. Up until that point I always had my parents to fall back on. I ran most of my big decisions by them, and I knew that they would be there to help if everything went haywire.

When I got married I decided that my husband and I were responsible for ourselves. We’d chosen to become a team. He and I were going it alone. I started to feel more responsible for myself. My actions were heavier. I was all of the sudden in control of my own destiny. I (we) could choose whatever I (we) wanted! It was a good and scary feeling.

We moved to Austin, TX two days after we got married in North Carolina. It was a mutual decision that we made after spending some time in Austin for my husband’s job interview. We loved the city, and it fostered my new complete independence. We were so excited to move to Austin, and everything was fun for the first month or so.

Eventually though, I was miserable. I missed the blue ridge mountains. I missed my friends. I missed the cooler weather. I missed everything. Everything in Austin was worse than it’s counterpart in the southeast. I wanted to move back to the southeast, and I made my desires very clear.

What was my sweet husband to do? He had just moved himself and his new wife to Texas to persue a career that would help him pay off his massive student loans. He consulted her about every decision that he made. He loved Austin! He was making new friends. He loved their life in Austin, and he thought she would too, if she just tried to be content.

The first time he asked me why I couldn’t be content here I lost it! “I am content!” How dare he? The Bible tells me to be content, so I am! As if it was a meaningless label.

It took me five more years of being discontent here to finally realize that I am not content, and it has nothing to do with being in Austin! I didn’t know how to be truly content. I knew how to be happy. I could make myself happy with things in Austin, but when it came to being truly satisfied with my life, I wasn’t.

We’re on year six of being in Austin. Our location hasn’t changed much, but my attitude is changing (slowly but surely). I pray that contentment becomes my disposition (or the thing that people see when they interact with me), but for now I think it’s still something that I’m actively choosing. It is hard work, but it is paying off in so may areas of my life.

Here is a list of a handful of the things that I did to learn contentment. I still try to do these things as often as I remember to, and it turns out that true contentment kinda gives birth to these disciplines throughout my day. The more I do these things the more content I find myself. These things have been the things that have shown me what an attitude of contentment really looks and feels like.

– Practice gratitude. Say “thank you”. Look for things to be thankful for. There is always something to be thankful for!

– Find the silver lining, and admit that I’ve found it. Look for the good in your pain. Look for the lessons waiting to be learned. Try to find purpose in your struggle.

– Use my strengths and gifts. Living a life of purpose is a huge part of contentment!

– Smile. Smiling just makes me feel better. People are more receptive to people who look happy. My kids are happier when I’m smiling. I definitely don’t do it all the time, but when I’m feeling ok, I try to smile. The more often I did it, the more natural it became. I found myself being more content as a result of smiling.

– Use less negative language. The critical part of me had become very good at complaining- even if I never voiced it. I was choosing to criticize everything! When I started to actively refute my negative thoughts about everything I became more content.

I wouldn’t say that I’m content all of the time. I want to be though! I’m still learning contentment, but it has definitely become more of an instinct than it was. Right now I’m still somewhere between choosing contentment and being a content person. Contentment isnt automatic for me yet, and it may never be, but it has become much easier for me to choose an attitude of contentment!

Thanks for reading!

Overcoming Feelings of Inadequacy

I was 16 when I diagnosed myself with ‘complementing tourettes syndrome’. It’s a (fake) condition that causes me to blurt out niceties at anyone and everyone. If you don’t like receiving complements, run!

It has taken me decades to figure out why I can’t contain my need to complement people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a defense mechanism. When I’m nice to others, they can’t see how inadequate I am. My complements act as a wall, shielding me from their potential to harm me. I am weak and they are strong. The power is theirs already, so I give them mine just to make sure that they know I’m aware of our rankings. They are above me. Always.

Until about a year ago this was the way I viewed myself. I honestly saw everyone as better than myself. I’d learned to find comfort there. It was a dark place, but I’d grown accoustomed to putting myself down. When I was small I wasn’t visible, and invisibility haults competition. I was afraid and I was letting it rule me.

The past couple of years have been filled with learning experiences for me. I’ve sought out the answers to questions like ‘who am I?’ and ‘What is my role in…?’. I’ve done a lot of seeking, praying, talking, listening, and reading. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others, but the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that I am not inadequate.

I know that I’m not inadequate (that I’m not unable to deal with life, or that I’m beneath everyone all the time), but sometimes I still struggle to believe it. Sometimes I still (after all of this work and conscious devotion to loving myself) get stuck in feelings of inadequacy. Why?

I’m not a psychologist or a counselor, and I have very little experience with mental health other than my own, but it seems like we all get stuck in our old thought patterns (and behaviors), even after realizing that they’re flawed. I think it’s the whole ‘practice makes permanent’ phenomenon.

Practice makes proficient, not perfect, and not permanent. Practice makes us skilled in doing the thing that we’re practicing. I believe those faulty thought patterns and behaviors can be changed through diligent practice.

So here are some of the things that I try to practice when I can tell that I’m slipping back into patterns of inadequacy.

1. I practice vulnerability. I can’t speak for everyone who battles overwhelming feelings of Inadequacy, but I know that I struggle with a need to feel approved of. Anyone who knows me can vouch for me. I want to be liked by everyone, even people who I don’t like. It’s crazy. It’s suffocating. This desire has kept me from being vulnerable for years. I feared that if I lowered my defenses I’d be consumed. So, I worked tirelessly to never put myself out there or expose any genuinely sensitive part of myself. I only did things that I couldn’t fail at. My relationships were pretty strained (because if anyone had anything constructive to say to me I’d run). My creativity was suffocated. I may have felt safer, but I was unhappy. Now, when I’m feeling especially inadequate, I make every effort to do things that open me up to the possibility of being judged or hurt. I don’t look for opportunities to be hurt, but I stop hiding. I do things like make and sell jewelry, or write blog posts. I stretch myself beyond my bubble, and try to welcome feedback. This exercise has stopped the destructive cycle of self criticism. The more vulnerable I am, the more open I am to support from others! Being vulnerable is scary, but it has been so rewarding!

2. I focus on others. I’m learning that my strong feelings of inadequacy generally accompany isolation or me-centered living. So now, when I’m feeling inadequate, I try to shift my focus to others. I try to do things for others and enjoy the company of others. (I don’t look for someone to ‘fix’ or ‘help’. I think that this is a dangerous slope!) I engage in genuine relationships. I think that we were created to love each other, so I try to fulfill that purpose, especially when I’m feeling inadequate. When I love someone in a way that makes them feel loved I start to get a better idea of my value. My inadequate feelings shift as a result of fulfilling a very important purpose.

3. I take care of myself. Feelings of inadequacy often arise as a result of comparing myself to other women. She’s prettier than I am. She’s in better shape than I am. She has it all. She’s supermom. Shes the perfect wife. I’m none of those things! In the past I would have let these things really sink in. I would have just accepted them, and I might have even taken worse care of myself. I’d eat junk food and sweets to stick it to the fact that I felt fat or unattractive. I’d pick a fight with my husband just to make sure that he was paying attention to me. My logic was super flawed, but I think doing these backwards things made me feel more control over my insecurities. Now I try to do the opposite of what I did in the past. When I’m feeling inadequate because I’m comparing myself to other women, I focus on what positive behaviors I need to adopt to feel less inadequate. I exercise, eat right, drink water, get rest, and bathe regularly. I know that I should be doing all of these things all the time, but I don’t. I notice that I’m slipping when I start comparing myself to other women. Recommitting to good self care helps me feel less inadequate.

There are probably several other things that I could be practicing, but these three are serving me well for now. Practicing vulnerability, focusing on others, and taking care of myself are things that are hard for me to do. I feel less inadequate when I’m challenging myself in these areas.

I don’t know that I’ll ever completely overcome feelings of inadequacy, but these practices are helping me calibrate. I think I now have a much more realistic view of myself and the people who I have always put above me.

Thanks for reading!

Expecting the Unexpected, and how to be “Flexible”

Inflexibility is one of my biggest flaws. I’ve learned the value of flexibility. Now I’m trying to figure out the “how”. How do I become a more flexible person?

Having kids definitely forces flexibility. I realized that I was no longer in control of my time when my oldest son was about three days old. Now, three years later, I’m definitely more able to go with the flow.

I have no problem with changing course when the poo hits the fan, and I’m pretty good at unexpected things that come up as a result of toddlers being toddlers.

ER visits? No problem. Diaper explosions? Bring them on. I’m very proud of how much more flexible I’ve become in this area. (And I know that it had nothing to do with me. It was necessary. I think I blacked out at some point and came to with flexibility super powers. There’s a “parenting necessities” chip in me somewhere- I just know it.)

I don’t like the unexpected when it comes to parenting, but I’m able to accept it. I can let my disappointment roll of, because toddlers can’t be held responsible for not living up to my (sometimes unrealistic) expectations.

What bugs me so badly about myself is that my flexibility is so limited! My expectations of situations and people can sometimes be so rigid that they shape the way I experience reality.

Today my family and I took a short trip to Waco, tx. I had the whole trip planned down to the food truck where we’d eat lunch.

We were going to go to Magnolia Market. We were going to play Nerf football and have a picnic on the lawn. I was going to get sweet pictures of my boys at the silos. We were going to walk through the garden and talk about all of the different plants. We’d leave around 2, so the boys could nap in the van on the way home. It was going to be the perfect family day/ tiny vacation before little sister arrives.

My expectations were that my plans would go off without a hitch, we’d wake up early, drive to Waco, get breakfast at the silos bakery, everyone would be in an awesome mood, and we’d have a blast doing exactly what momma wants to do (for once dangit! I packed a football for goodness sake!).

The reality of the situation is that life happens.

Yesterday was the day that we finally got the ball rolling on kitchen renovations (it’s a long story, but our kitchen flooring has been MIA for months as the result of some water damage. It took homeowners insurance a long time to approve stuff…so, here we are.) We picked out flooring yesterday and we were told that it would be installed in the next couple of weeks. Awesome! Kind of. This meant that we needed to figure out cabinets asap!

My husband suggested that we cancel waco and go to IKEA today, but I convinced him that we could do it all! We went to IKEA yesterday afternoon. It was a fairly productive trip. We left with a good idea of what we’re going to do in the kitchen.

This morning my husband said, “let’s go to Waco.” I was so excited! I frantically packed everything and got the boys all cute for their silo picture.

We got in the van and off we went. The drive was smooth, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.

We made it to the market and it was a mad house. There were hundreds of people crammed into the market. The line at the bakery was far too long (food can’t be that good, can it?!). Our double stroller definitely wasn’t the right choice for all of the bobbing and weaving that we were doing, and I became anxious.

Our sensory sensitive three year old started to get very uncomfortable. He acts out when he’s overwhelmed, so he started screaming.

I started to feel super guilty for looking around while my husband was trying to push a giant boat full of angry toddlers around a crowded store. I told him that he could take them outside to play if he wanted to.

He decided to park the double stroller and get the boys out. Our boys have a reputation for being happier when held, and the store was too busy for the stroller anyway. Big brother’s sensory tantrum continued. He needed to leave the market, so we went outside to regroup.

My husband told me to go back inside and shop. He’d hang out with the boys.

I went back inside and shopped for a few minutes. I was rushing and I wasn’t enjoying myself because my expectations weren’t being fulfilled. I wanted everyone to be happy!

I went outside to see if my family was having fun. It was sweltering, my husband was melting, and both boys were fussing about wanting to play soccer with some older kids on the lawn.

When I’m feeling particularly anxious I like to find (or create) problems to solve. If I’m home this looks like tazmanian devil style cleaning. Today I decided that everyone was super miserable because of me, so the least I could do was go play with my boys, at a zillion weeks pregnant, in 100° weather, on a lawn full of flying balls and running kids.

So I dug the Nerf football out of the book bag and got Big Brother out of the stroller. We played for five minutes or so before little brother joined in. My husband sat on the bench.

There were some high school age boys tossing a football around. Little brother started to follow their ball as it flew through the air. There were several times that I thought he was about to get squished. There were a few times that I thought I was going to get squished.

I took the boys back over to my husband and explained that momma had to stop to keep little sister safe. It was getting too crazy over there.

Big Brother tried to argue before he exploded. He told me that it hadn’t gotten crazy and he still wanted to play football.

My expectation had been to pass the boys off to my husband when I tapped out. The reality of the situation was that daddy wasn’t being difficult by sitting and watching, he was preserving himself. He didn’t want to run around with the boys and get sweaty because he hadn’t brought a change of clothes.

I looked at my husband and he suggested that we leave and go to the Waco z-o-o.

The lump in my throat grew, and I started to tear up. I told him that we could leave.

He informed the boys that we were going to go see some animals (something that they both usually love).

Little brother was excited, but big brother, still in his upset state, shouted, “no! I want to play at the silos!”. He screamed this about 20 times on the way back to the car.

I don’t want to go either! I want to play at the silos too! I want to eat lunch at the best food trucks in the world. I want to buy some new dishtowels for out nonexistent kitchen. I want to soak in the smell of Joanna’s signature summer candle. I want to…

My internal winning was interrupted by a sighting of the silo baking company food truck. It was so close! I could just grab something on the way to the van. I looked up and saw that my husband and screaming sons were too far ahead. There was a line. It just didn’t make sense.

More fuel for my pity party.

We got in the van (big brother still upset- neither my husband nor I had the patience to help him through this tantrum. It felt hopeless.) My husband asked little brother if he wanted to go see animals. We decided on the zoo and set our course on the GPS.

We got there. Everyone was happy (except momma). We had a great day in Waco with the boys. Big Brother really enjoyed the animals (he even fed a giraffe some lettuce, which momma was not expecting! Bad sensory tantrums can sometimes last all day.)

I was miserable through most of our day at the zoo. I smiled and played with the boys. I did all of the things that a momma has to do on a trip to the zoo. I took pictures, and wiped my kids Cheeto faces. I held conversations with my husband without being difficult. I was trying to be somewhat pleasant, but I was so incredibly disappointed that my day had been ruined.

I wiped stray tears off of my cheeks all day.

Y’all, I was miserable because I was behaving flexibly, but I wasn’t really being flexible! My expectations were ruined, so the day was ruined. This is not the first time that this has happened.

I often choose to be unhappy because I cling so tightly to my expectations. I let myself get hurt by people when my expectations of their behavior outweigh how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking.

I hold on to what I wanted long after the situation has changed directions. I let my broken expectations fester.

What I should have done yesterday (hi! It’s a new day now, and my pregnant brain is too muddled to try and write as if it’s not. We went to Waco on Friday. It’s now Saturday.) was let go of my expectations when I realized that my plans weren’t going to work. This moment was much sooner than when we actually left the silos. I’d say that I knew we wouldn’t be able to stay longer than 30 minutes (about how long we were there) as soon as I saw how crowded it was. None of us does well in big crowds, not just big brother.

I should have expressed how upset I was that my plans weren’t going to work, and I should have proposed that we do something else in Waco. Without expecting my husband to say, “oh no honey, this is your day. You stay here and enjoy yourself and I’ll take these two crazy children and find something to entertain them for who knows how long. The heat is no problem.”

I should have stopped grasping for control of an uncontrollable situation! I should have let myself feel so I could move on. I should have corrected all of my negative thoughts about how unfair things were. I should have choosen to dwell on the good parts of the day, but I didn’t. And I almost missed out on a great day of memories with my family.

I’m not flexible, and I give my expectations too much power, but I’m desperately trying to learn from situations like these. I don’t like feeling disappointed, and it’s up to me to change how I perceive situations. No one else is responsible for my happiness!

Moving forward I’m going to continue to choose to learn from difficult situations. I’m going to try to be more aware of my unrealistic expectations, and I’m going to choose not to get stuck in a negative head space. I don’t want to nearly miss sweet memories again!

Thanks for reading. I’d like to hear about some of your unmet expectations and what you’ve learned from them. Leave a comment below!

What is an Apology? A Thoughtful Take on the Meaning of “Sorry”

I say “I’m sorry” like it’s going out of style. I apologise for the way I look. I apologise for the noise that my boys make when we’re eating dinner at Panera. I say “sorry” before I start speaking sometimes…for no apparent reason. I even apologize for asking simple questions like, “where’s the bathroom?” “Sorry, ma’am, can you please tell me where the bathroom is?” How dare you?! Find it on your own!

So today I want to talk about what purpose the word ‘sorry’ (as an apology) is supposed to serve, and how I’m learning to use it correctly in my relationships.

If you’re like me, ‘sorry’ is used as an easy out. It somehow pacifies your feelings of guilt, even in insignificant circumstances. I say it when it has no meaning, but I struggle to apologize when I really should.

A genuine apology is intended to be reparative. We apologize to preserve relationships and reputations.

When I was working with autistic teenagers we emphasized that an apology isn’t just reluctantly saying “I’m sorry” to get out of being in trouble. An apology is acknowledging that you did something wrong by accepting responsibility for the negative impact of your actions, and genuinely planning to avoid repeating the same actions in the future.

‘Sorry’ isn’t meant to convey weakness. Saying it doesn’t mean that you’re taking responsibility for everything. ‘Sorry’ is useless if it’s forced or parroted to appease someone. There really are appropriate ways to use the word. It looses it’s power when we use it incorrectly.

But, when it’s used in the appropriate context, and after thoughtful consideration of the person to whom you’re apologizing, it can be the most meaningful and loving way to heal a relationship.

When I think about apologies my brain always goes straight to marriage. There’s probably no other relationship that is as refining as marriage can be.

I know that my marriage is the relationship in my life that is tested the most. It’s the one where my pride most often gets in the way. It is where my ability to apologize is truly tested.

Early on I’m our marriage I never apologized, and neither did my husband. I think I was too afraid that if I apologized for anything it would make him more aware of my short comings. Like, if I highlighted the fact that I’d been crazy or hurtful, he’d see it more clearly. I think I assumed that if he saw everything clearly, he’d bolt.

Neither one of us was very good at communicating our needs, and we were both super needy (all humans are…all the time. I don’t know why ‘needy’ is seen as a negative thing. Maybe I’ll write a post on this later.)

We got married to be in relationship with one another, to encourage and support each other, but I was so afraid of messing it up that I completely avoided all conflict and communication. How can I support and encourage a spouse who is forced to walk on eggshells around me? (No joke, y’all. Id start crying if he even raised his eyebrows during a conversation.) This made communication nearly impossible. I’d put up walls to keep myself safe from the one person who had chosen to legally bind himself to me.

No communication was happening, so apologies definitely werent happening, and they needed to be. We eventually went to counseling (not because we were at the end of our rope, but because we realized that things were off, and we wanted to fix it before it was too late. BEFORE we resented each other.)

In counseling I learned answers so some questions about myself and my husband, and I learned that communicating doesn’t only unveil things, it also helps to repair brokenness that’s already been seen. It opens the door for apologies.

The more we practiced communicating, the more I saw it as a good thing- a great thing! Communicating about difficult stuff is never comfortable, but I think it’s necessary. Genuine apologies can’t appen in the absence of communication. If you’re not talking, and you’re wanting an apology, you probably won’t get one.

So, for the sake of this post, I want to create a scenario for you. This is not my marriage (though tiny pieces of it reflect where we’ve been and how we sometimes behave).

Bob and Susan have been married for thirteen years. They have three kids, 11, 9, and, 5. Bob works out of the home full-time, and Susan has a side job as a pampered chef representative.

Bob and Susan spend most of their time as individuals. They no longer call each other on their lunch breaks to discuss how in love they are, and their communication in general takes a backseat to the kids and their busy schedule. They are like most married couples with kids.

One evening after work Bob calls Susan and tells her that he’s going to a friend’s house to help him move a piece of furniture. Hetells her it shouldn’t take too long, and makes sure she’s ok with it before hanging up the phone. Susan tells him it’s fine.

Susan hangs up the phone, gets a plastic container out of the cabinet, and loads it with Bob’s favorite meal, chicken cordon blue. She’d been expertly stuffing chicken breasts for the last hour because it’s Bob’s favorite meal. She would rather lick a changing table than handle raw chicken, but she does it twice a month because he loves it (and she loves that he loves it.) How could he forget that tonight was chicken cordon blue night? Had he stopped loving her cooking? She’d had the world’s longest day… The kids were impossible when getting ready for school. One of them left lunch on the kitchen counter so she’d had to drive all the way back into town, and when she got there she got trapped by a hoard of angry pta mom’s. She’d been forced to sign up to bring homemade muffins to the meeting tomorrow. Homemade?! Can you believe the audacity of those PTA mom’s? Just put muffins on the sign up sheet! Who the hell cares where they were made? She’d gotten home to a million and one messages about pampered chef stuff. Did she really want to keep doing parties? It was so much work! Then she finally had time to clean the kitchen from last night’s disaster meal, and cut her finger. She made the dang homemade muffins, made few phone calls, cleaned the kitchen again, picked up the kids, helped them with homework, and made dinner. She had to make dinner. She got over everything and pulled that gooey raw chicken out of the fridge. It was therapeutic. Chicken cordon blue fixed everything. She shoved it into the oven with a sigh of relief. Her day was almost done. Bob would be home soon. He’d tell her how delicious dinner was, and everything would feel less heavy. Bob calls.

Susan and the kids eat dinner. The kids all bathe and get in bed. Bob gets home four hours later with a hint of Guinness in his breath. Susan is fuming, but she’s too tired to pick a fight. She’s silent. Bob tells her that he and his buddy had a beer after moving the dresser. She believes him. They go to bed.

Bob never knows that Susan is upset, and Susan never finds out about Bob’s difficult meeting with his boss. Layoffs are coming soon, and though Bob’s job is probably safe, he’s going to have to deliver the bad news to a few of his subordinates.

This is how they have lived for three years now. This is their norm. They’ve slowly grown apart. They definitely resent each other a little. They haven’t had a conversation that’s lasted more than five minutes in years, and no one has apologized for anything since the time that Bob forgot to take their oldest kid to his soccer game…when he was six. It was the last one of the season and Susan couldnt be there because she had to take their middle kid to the doctor for strep. They gave out participant trophies and he hadn’t gotten one because he didn’t make it to the game. He was devistated. Bob definitely apologized that night.

So years of not communicating led to years of backed up apologies. How could anyone apologize now? There’s just too much.

My husband and I try to reset things when we feel ourselves getting close to this situation. We don’t want to get so far from each other that it feels too late or too hard to fix things. But it still happens. We get busy and forget to ‘check in’. I sometimes get so busy with the boys that I don’t have a clue what’s going on in his life and vice versa.

Say “I’m sorry”! It has to start somewhere. Pick something, anything, to apologize for. There are probably a dozen things that I could apologize for at any given time.

My last apology happened far too long ago, and it was something like this, “I’m sorry I’ve been kinda absent lately. I know work must be stressful. How’s finding a new engineer going?” It sparked a conversation that led to other issues we’d been having and it really resulted in some reparations. I learned about his work stress, he listened to me talk about how difficult things had been with the kids and our house (that’s a mess from some water damage in the kitchen). We heard each other.

Apologizing doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t always need to be all encompassing to be effective. It’s essentially just stepping back, letting go of pride, and showing someone that they’re important to you.

It’s too easy to lose the people who we love. They could be gone in an instant. I’m learning not to let my fear and pride get in the way of opportunities for sweet moments with friends and family (even my kids. I apologise at them a lot!)

So, try it!

Thanks for reading.

Postpartum Anxiety and how I Finally got Help

We all know what anxiety is, right? Or at least we think we do. It’s something that we all talk about, feeling “anxious”, and it generally has a negative connotation- at least it did to me.

We’re told not to be anxious, as if it’s something that can be controlled by conscious attempts and efforts to keep it away. That’s wrong. That’s very wrong!

Anxiety is not anyone’s fault. It’s not a behavior or a mindset that we choose. It is a mental health disorder, and it requires as much (or more) attention as a broken leg. It wont get better without intervention.

Post partum anxiety is extremely common, but somehow it plays second fiddle to it’s (exually important to talk about) coconspirator, postpartum depression.

So what is postpartum Anxiety?

All new moms experience some anxiety. It has an evolutionary purpose, after all. A momma who thinks about the dangers present in her child’s life is more able to plan ahead and prevent harm to her child.

All new mommas have some stress and emotional uneasiness. We’re all exhausted for a little while, and we all have concerns. Postpartum Anxiety comes into play when a mom becomes consumed by anxious thoughts and emotions. It has been said that the true mark of anxiety is knowledge of irrational thoughts and concerns without the ability to stop them.

Some mom’s with postpartum anxiety report changes in sleeping and eating, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, hot flashes, and even nausea. I dealt with all of these things, and more.

I woke up one morning when big brother was four months old feeling off. I went to big brothers crib (that was still in our room), scooped him up, and carried him to his nursery where I did my morning pump for liquid gold.

My husband went to prepare a bottle as I began to pump.

When my husband came to collect big brother for his feeding I told him that I wasn’t feeling well. I was dizzy and foggy (which had been extremely common symptoms for me throughout my pregnancy). I could see him filing the information away- we’d been trying to figure out what was causing these sympotms (and others) for almost a year. It was so frustrating and discouraging.

My husband scooped big brother up and they went to our bedroom. About ten minutes later I yelled down the hallway to inform my husband that the feeling had worsened. I was now feeling numb and was unable to move well.

He helped me get to our bed after finishing big brothers feeding (remember, none of this was exactly new). I laid on my back in the bed and I could feel my limbs grow heavy. I told my husband that I couldn’t move.

My husband coached me through this terrifying situation in a way that now seems impossible. He helped me stay calm by asking me clarifying questions about what I was feeling. A few minutes passed before we decided that the hospital needed to be our next move. This was not what I’d experienced before. This was much worse.

He asked if I could get to the car. Nope. I couldn’t even move my legs or arms. I started to cry. He called 911 and they were there within moments.

They asked the same questions that my husband had been asking me (my head/mouth/eye control was fine, but I literally could not move anything else.) After checking my blood sugar, blood pressure, pupils, and other things, they put me on a board and took me to the ambulance.

The ride there was filled with more questions and reassurances that we were going to finally find some answers. One of the men on the ambulance even said that he thought this might be the final straw. He said he just knew that we were going to get answers.

He wasn’t wrong! After a long visit in the er, followed by four more long days of hospitalization and rigorous testing we learned that there was no physical reason for my symptoms.

The staff psychologist at the hospital came in and asked me how I felt about mental health. I told him that my undergraduate degree was in psychology, and that I have a high reguard for his profession.

“Good”, he said. “I think you have conversion disorder.”

I’d never heard the term before. He went on to explain that it’s a mental health disorder that displays itself as neurological sympotoms. He told me that it sometimes requires tons of intervention and medication, but not always.

He then asked me if I was feeling stressed or anxious.

“Not at all”, I said.

He looked at me like I was a crazy person. He reminded me that I had a four month old baby and I’d been dealing with terrifying neurological sympotms for a year. He told me that I should be feeling stressed.

We talked for a while and finally got to the conclusion that I was stressed, probably more than stressed, and that I was going to try counseling.

He gave me a list of counselors to follow up with and he instructed me to start thinking about my thoughts and emotions. He told me to write things down, that writing was a good place to start.

By day four of my hospital stay everything was almost back to normal. I was still very weak, but I could move. I was released from the hospital feeling hopeful, and very eager to get home to my kid!

I called my OB when I got home to explain what the psychologist thought had been going on (possibly throughout my pregnancy). She had me come in and fill out a questionnaire. She told me that I was dealing with postpartum anxiety too, and we talked about medication to regulate my hormones for the time being.

I reluctantly agreed to go on medication. She assured me that it wouldn’t interfere with breastfeeding, and that if this specific medication wasn’t an ideal fit, we’d find one that worked. She encouraged me to follow through with counseling, and told me that she was encouraged by the thought that my symptoms were being caused by something treatable (as opposed to being possible residual effects of the brain surgeries I’d had as a kid.)

I started the medication and counseling (though I didn’t see my counselor as often as I should have- a decision that I regret now that we have almost three kids and even less time!), And I started to feel so much better.

I started sleeping better. I didn’t eat as much junk food. I started eating meals. My dizziness and weakness slowly went away. I started exercising. I didn’t cry as much. My heart stopped feeling like it was going to jump out of my chest. Swallowing got easier. I was able to talk to people again. Every area of my life had been impacted by postpartum anxiety and I had no idea!

I’m convinced that addressing my anxiety is what made my conversion symptoms stop. I never had to undergo biofeedack or rigorous treatments for conversion disorder. I am fortunate, because so many people with conversion disorder have much more severe cases!

When I am anxious I still notice neurological symptoms like slight weakness and dizziness, and now I’m more able to recognize them for what they are instead of passing them off as nothing.

I didn’t permanently ‘fix’ my anxiety. I don’t know that it’s something that’s completely fixable. What I did do though, was learn ways to cope with it.

Now I write, talk with counselors (when I actually take the time to do it…I should go more), listen to music, pray, use my support system, rely on medication (when I need it, I’m not currently taking medication, but I’m not opposed to it if the need arises!), Exercise, and take breaks to cope with my anxiety.

I’ve found so much healing in the willingness to call it what it is and seek help.

If you or someone you know may be dealing with anxiety or depression, know that it’s not wrong. It’s a diagnosable, treatable condition. It’s not a personal flaw or a weakness. It can, and does, happen to anyone.

If you are a new mom and you think that you may be dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety, please talk to your doctor! Untreated postpartum mental health issues can lead to horrible things. You are not alone. You are not ‘bad’ or broken. You deserve to feel better! Don’t wait to get help.

Postpartum Support International is a fantastic place to start finding resources and information, but I want to stress the importance of letting the people around you know what’s going on. Sit down with your doctor and talk about your concerns.

I’m so thankful for my conversion episode. I don’t know that I would have become aware of the underlying issue without it! Pay attention to your body. Know your baseline so that you can be aware of changes that may be pointing to mental health issues. Take care of yourself! It’s so easy to get swept up in being a new mom. It’s so easy to loose focus on yourself. You’re worth it!

Thanks for reading. Like, share, follow, and comment if you’d like. I’d love to know about your experiences with postpartum mental health!

Unexpected Emotions

When big brother was 9 months old we got pregnant with little brother. Little brother was planned and wanted, and we were so excited to be adding to our family. Little brother was a blessing from the day that we learned we were pregnant, but I was sad for the last three months of my pregnancy. The night before his birth was the most emotionally conflicted 8 hours of my life.

Today I’m going to share my experience with unexpected emotions, and how I’m choosing to let them wash over me. I think that we mommas (and women in general) get bad press for being ’emotional’. When did it become wrong to feel? Men do it too!

For years I was stuck in a cycle of intense feelings and repression. I felt like emotions had to be wrong because the strong ones only led to bad things. I’m learning that emotions are a wonderful part of how I learn about myself and the world. I’m learning how to better address my emotions, and they now often lead to very good things.

So, I was pregnant with little brother before big brother was a year old. We wanted to have our kids close together because my first pregnancy had been complicated, and I knew that if we took much of a break I just wouldn’t want to get pregnant again. I know that people thought we were crazy after having seen everything that I went through during the first pregnancy, but it’s what we wanted.

We only tried for little brother for a few months. Big Brother had taken a bit longer to conceive. We were overjoyed! I’m an only child, so I think I was kinda shocked for the first few months of my pregnancy with #2. He was an impossible miracle. So many families aren’t able to conceive even one, let alone two. We were the lucky ones. I cried tears of joy for weeks!

Time passed, and I quit my job to prepare for being a sahm of two. Staying home with big brother proved to be both very stressful and very rewarding. I was seeing everything that he did. I was a part of his firsts, and I got to wipe his every tear. It was an incredibly emotional transition for me.

One day, as big brother napped, I held my bump and thought about who little brother would be. I thought about how big brother would interact with him, and what they would have as brothers.

I imagined them playing, and fighting. I even looked at a stuffed monkey on the floor and imagined big brother holding it up over little brother’s rock n play. Then I fast forwarded a year or two and pictured them playing tug of war with the same monkey.

I thought about all of the good things that little brother was going to bring into big brother’s life. Then, out of nowhere, I was overcome with thoughts of what little brother was going to be taking away from big brother. I couldn’t stop thinking about how big brother was no longer the baby- my tiny little boy was being pushed out of his role, and it broke my heart.

I’d say that all of these emotions landed on me when big brother was around 14 months old. I was still filled with joy at the thought of meeting little brother and integrating him into our family, but I was so sad for big brother at the same time. I couldn’t calibrate, so I shoved everything down and tried not to feel it.

I thought I was rocking it, and that the emotions had passed (because how dare I feel?!), but they always resurfaced late at night. I cried a lot- my poor husband is a champ!

We went to my high risk ob for my 37 week appointment and the sonographer did the usual ultrasound to measure little brother and make sure he wasn’t in distress. She left the room after giving us a couple of images of little brother. About five minutes later my doctor walked in and said, “you’re having a baby tonight, momma.” She was full of joy, but my heart sank.

My fluid levels had dropped too low and little brother was in distress. She was worried that if he didn’t come out soon he might not make it. I asked her how long we had. I needed my hospital bag and I wanted more time with big brother. I wanted all of the time with big brother! How dare she steal these last two weeks from him? We were supposed to have more time!!

She told me that we could go home to get my bag, but we needed to head over to the hospital that evening. She left the room and came back a few minutes later after speaking with my regular ob (the one who has delivered both of our boys. I love her.) She informed me that my doctor was about to be on her way back to Austin from a trip, and that she said she’d perform my surgery first thing in the morning. She said that little brother would be fine until then, but that they were going to monitor him throughout the night just to be sure.

We did as we were told. I went home, got my bag and tons of pillows (first time c section moms…you will need all of the pillows!), and hugged big brother like it was the last hug I’d ever give him. We drove to the hospital, checked in, and I got hooked up to the monitors.

Little brother and I were doing fine, so my husband ventured to p. Terry’s to get me a double chicken burger in a lettuce wrap with Swiss cheese and extra pickles (my gestational diabetes craving that pregnancy).

As soon as he left the room, I fell apart. I sobbed over everything. I mourned the time with big brother that I was loosing. I feared for little brother’s safety. I was angry that I wasn’t more upset about little brother’s distress. I begged for more time, and a healthy baby. I prayed for my doctor’s travels and asked God to give her strength to travel through the night. I prayed that she’d be energized for my early morning surgery.

By the time my husband got back to the room I’d stopped crying, but it was evident that I had been (freckles, remember?). He hugged me and told me that everything was going to be ok. It was somehow extremely soothing, even though I knew that he had no knowledge of the future.

I scarfed down the burger because surgery was set for 7, and I’d been told not to eat anything for 12 hours before surgery. It was 6:30.

That evening we watched episodes of the office and listened to little brother rolling around on the monitor. I wrote a post about my emotions on a mom group that I was in and so many mommas offered their support.

Many of them related with my conflicting emotions. Many of them were terrified the night before their second c section (more so than before their first ones.) They told me that I had more to loose this time if something went wrong.

I thought about my husband and our two boys. Would they go on without me if something went wrong during surgery? Would big brother remember the time that we had together? Would my husband remarry so the boys would have a mom, or would they grow up with just one parent?

The thoughts and emotions raced, and I continued to try to hide them from my husband.

The night passed and little brother was born the next morning. My doctor was a rockstar. She was supportive and encouraging through the entire surgery, and she stuck around the hospital until the afternoon (her scheduled shift had been later in the day. She came in so early just to deliver little brother. She assured me that she’d nap in the doctors lounge, but I didn’t believe her.)

That was it. Little brother was here, and our lives were changed forever. Big Brother and little brother love each other so much, and they fight so much. Big Brother gets just as much of my time as he ever did, it just looks different now. Now there’s a little tyrant involved too. Now I mourn the fact that little brother and I have never had significant alone time.

I regret having stuffed all of the emotions that I was feeling during my pregnancy. I don’t think it was good for me to ignore them. I think that putting them out in the open could have resulted in some helpful conversations that could have led to healing. I think I could have enjoyed my pregnancy more. But I don’t regret feeling them! I think that they were the result of my deep love for big brother, and the fact that having major surgery is scary!

Now I choose to feel what I feel. I let it consume me, for a moment, and then I write it down or talk to someone about it. Sometimes I even file them away to readdress at a more appropriate time (usually naptime), and make a point to come back to them. We have to process our emotions! If we don’t, they become too powerful- all stuffed away. They become cannon balls! They cause major damage when we least expect it!

A few months after little brother was born we moved and I started going to a church regularly. There I made some connections with other moms (these women are still my friends and I’m so thankful for them). All of my stuffed emotions eventually came out. I was a wreck, and they could all see it. They loved and supported me through it, and things eventually got way easier.

I was an anxious mess because I hadn’t given my emotions the respect that they were due. We feel things for a reason, and even when our feelings don’t reflect the truth, we need to acknowledge them. We need to learn from them.

Women, don’t be ashamed to feel. Feelings are a part of our compasses. We need them! I am a Christian, and I whole heartedly believe in a God who is relational. I believe that he let’s us feel to teach us about our hearts. I believe that each emotion that we have is meant to refine us, not hurt us.

Anyhoo- these have been some of my experiences with unexpected and conflicting emotions. I hope you enjoy enjoyed reading some of my heart.

Feel free to like, comment, follow, and share. Every action that you take on my blog helps make it visible to more readers, which helps me someday monetize it. I’d like to turn this into a little extra income for my kiddos and I to go on adventures with. Thanks a ton!!

LJ