Little things are big things: what helped me in my first year as a mamma

 

I doubt any new mom would say their first year was a breeze. Would they? If they did, they’re probably lying or in denial in some way. It’s been a greater change to adapt to than getting married, FOR SURE. Between the hormones, time not being your own anymore, trying to understand your baby’s needs when they can’t communicate, and the opinions of everyone … including random coughing Walmart shoppers who decide they can touch your baby – it’s a complete life change. One that I wouldn’t change for anything, Elizabeth is such a gift! But it’s tough work and super rewarding all at the same time. Elizabeth is almost 10 months, and as I reflect on her ‘almost one year’ of life, there have been some definite things that have helped me navigate new waters.

1) Find a tribe – When I was single, I felt like the “mom group” was one I so wanted to be a part of, but had nothing in common with. I wanted to get to know those women better, but what does one talk about? Once I got pregnant, I suddenly understood why.

When mammas get together, all they talk about is their family. What stage your kids are at. What they won’t eat, will eat, how they sleep, won’t sleep. What school to choose. How you and your husband are doing, or not. It literally is what you connect on, and I finally feel like I can relate.

People talk about what matters to them, and for mammas, family matters to us the most. Home matters.

Since we moved shortly before we got pregnant, I’ve been adopted into ‘already set-up’ tribes of mammas, and because of a mom’s group at my church, I am learning to make friends with other moms. Not to say if someone is single or not married I won’t be friends with them, but there is something necessary in being a mother, that you need to have other mom friends. You just do. I don’t know how many times I’ve texted a friend asking for advice, or felt hormones off (especially in the beginning!), wondering if it was normal. You can’t mother alone, you just can’t. It’s something I crave and am having to learn to be vulnerable with, and let the Lord guide our relationships – both for Troy and I as a couple, and for me as a new mom.

2) Healthy lifestyle – I love good food. When I got pregnant, eating healthy took on a whole new meaning! That value has continued and has actually changed my taste buds. For real. I don’t eat half a bag of chips every night (not even kidding, I could before!). I prefer a bowl of yogurt with berries over a bowl of ice cream for dessert. When I grocery shop, I try as best I can to have lots of healthy options on hand. I now prefer making soup over the canned stuff. But I do believe that has served me well as a new mom, as I needed the fuel and the habit was there to help. Don’t get me wrong – I still love my black licorice and cookies. It’s about balance 😉

I TRY to exercise about 3x a week. Now that the weather is cold, that looks like a pilates or yoga video, or jumping on the elliptical while Elizabeth bounces in her jolly jumper. Sometimes it’s simple stretches, and other days it’s a bit longer. Once the weather warms up, we will get out for walks, but for now, this works!

3) Getting out to see people – For me, I like to get out for a coffee/play date once a week, and out of the house daily, if weather will allow. In our recent -25 weather, many days have become PJ days, so I really feel the cabin fever! I count down the minutes to when Troy comes home! On the days when we can’t get out, I try to Skype my parents or talk to someone, as mothering can get very lonely. Every week I try to connect with a friend or have some ‘social outing’ for Elizabeth and I. This kind of goes with #1. Some people may need to see and socialize daily, but for me, as long as I get some friendship/connection time in weekly, I am good. Getting out in general is good for me, but I’m not one that needs fun connection time every single day. I am looking forward to spring, when E and I can take the dog out for walks/runs, have picnics with friends, and explore our community (as she’ll be walking sometime this year, yay!).

4) Quiet time/connecting with Jesus – This really should be #1. It’s staggering to me how we as Christians can think that we can live victoriously, joyfully, peacefully – whatever – without pursuing to know the One who made us and saved us.

Becoming a wife was refining, and so has becoming a mother. You realize the sin in your heart more, and your desperate need for a Savior. I’ve always valued my time with the Word and just soaking up my Father, and now it’s even more precious. Once Elizabeth was on a bit more of a routine, and I could somewhat predict her wake-up time, I started to set my alarm about an hour earlier. I know, WHAT?! Wake up BEFORE the baby even wakes up? Yep. I get my coffee and do my devo or reading, meditate on God’s goodness – whatever I am soaking up at that time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend an hour, but sometimes it’s 20 minutes or 45 of resting my heart in God’s hands before the day begins.

I think you can have your devo’s any time of day that works for you, but there is something about the mornings. Proverbs 8:17 says “…those who seek me diligently find me…” (ESV) Some versions use the word “early” (NKJV) instead of diligently. You can also find this in Psalm 63:1 – early/earnestly David seeks the Lord. Sometimes this time doesn’t happen until nap time, and weekends I find harder, but God shows up for us mothers in a sweet way. In our long hours at home, I believe that we can set the tone and welcome His presence in our seemingly menial and routine tasks. Sometimes I’ll start worshiping and Elizabeth will belt out “ahhahahahaha”, and my heart melts. I want to teach her to love God’s Word and worship Him in every season, so my heart is surrendering to God daily for help with that as the Holy Spirit shows me how.

Currently, I am using Timothy Keller’s study of the book of Galatians as a guide for my devo time. I find I need some sort of anchor to steer me in this season when time is unpredictable.

5) Time with hubby – I am ever grateful that my mother-in-law lives close, as she has enabled us go get out on date nights almost every month. Funny thing, when you do finally get away from baby, all you want to talk about is her 😉 Sometimes time with hubby is us playing a game (we recently bought Trivial Pursuit 2000’s!), snuggling up with a movie and snacks, or going to bed early because that’s what we need. Our favourite is getting out on the weekend, us three, and grabbing a Starbucks for our outing. We have the best conversations when driving, so it feels like quality time for me! Troy and I joke that my love language is all five – quality time, words, touch, service, AND gifts. Seriously, love me in any way and I will soak it up!!

6) Soak it up – People tell you it goes by quickly, and it does. So I’ve been capturing pictures, video, sitting on the floor lots with my girl, and writing down memories and cute things she does. I know that being home with my girl is a gift, heck being a mom is a gift in itself, so I don’t take it for granted. Quieting the world of to-do’s definitely helps me still my heart to what matters – loving my family well in this season with the grace God gives me.

7) Grace, lots of grace – As previously mentioned, I think one of the biggest things I’ve needed to receive and learn this year is how to receive grace from God, when I don’t know what I’m doing. Give myself grace, when I feel guilty about something or think I could or should be doing something better. And give grace to Elizabeth, when she naps 25 minutes instead of the coveted 1.5 hours. You just can’t predict every moment, and for someone who is a planner, I’ve had to learn to “let go and let God” so to speak. Well, still learning that one. 😉 Remembering that becoming a mom is likely one of the biggest life changes you’ll ever experience, will hopefully enable you to cut yourself some slack and give grace on the days you need it!

So there’s my top 7 things that have helped me as a new mamma. Hopefully some of that will ring true for you too!

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A letter to our baby girl: sweet one, keep looking up

You do this thing where you look up to the ceiling when I burp you. Enraptured by our gallery wall or the lights, you could stare for days. I wonder what goes on inside of your sweet mind, and marvel at your cuteness.

You have completely and totally changed our lives in the nine weeks since you arrived, and the adventure has but begun. As the spring rain finally pours down outside, you sleep softly next to me – wrapped in a pink afghan as The Piano Guys play softly. I count not the days anymore, but the hours to your next feed. Everything is now done quickly – eating, showering, laundry and the few minutes of exercise I try to squeeze in before you call to me again!

I’ll admit, I was afraid of post-partum depression or falling apart in trying to hold you together. Yet God’s peace has sustained in such a perfect way. Oh baby girl, there were days, and still are, where I cry in wonder or tiredness.  There are also amazing sweet moments where Daddy and I laugh and melt at the sight of you, and scary moments like last night where I just did not know what to do; feeling helpless, I called out to Jesus. I find this new parenting thing to be a constant dance of embracing and letting go. The dance of grace; I will teach you the steps one day, darling.

You are growing far too quickly, yet that is a sign of health, so I don’t wish it away. I can see in you a sweet personality developing, and that makes my mamma heart so happy. I could just kiss you all over. And do.

Since time is of the essence these days, I find myself most encountering the Lord as I sing Jesus Loves Me over you at night, more than the daily devotions and habits I had so established before. Part of me struggles with that, and then I remind myself to receive God’s good grace to find a new normal as your mom. And that Father God will meet with me right where I am at.

You know what anchors me when I feel unsure of what to do, my little girl? Knowing that you are a gift, straight from God to us. Your name means “pledged to God” and in the moments when I don’t know what to do or feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that God gave YOU to US and He will enable us to be your Mommy and Daddy!

In fact, I was counting my blessings yesterday, you being one of them, and realized how I am living my dream with your Daddy. I have an amazing husband, you an amazing Daddy, we both enjoy our work, own a home, have you in our lives now, we are healthy and love our families. What more could we ask for? Sometimes in the hustle I forget that you were once what I prayed and asked God for. With you in our lives, we are living our dream, Elizabeth.

So Daddy and I will continue to sing praises over you, continue to lean into grace, and continue to love you with all of our hearts. I look forward to more shopping trips like yesterday (as you smiled at me in the change room, as though approving what I had chosen to model), adventures in the kitchen and beyond, and watching your little personality take flight sweet one.

Elizabeth Grace, we will keep looking up, just as you do so very often. You are a good gift, from our very good good Father. We love you baby girl!

Pregnant, sweaty, and running through the airport: setting the stage for 2016

 

Old MillThis past October I had the opportunity to go to a Christian women’s creative conference at a retreat centre about 1.5 hours from Atlanta, Georgia. I’d followed the group Pursuit Community for a couple of years, and felt drawn like a magnet.

After three days of speakers, meeting new people, amazing food on an old dairy-farm-turned-retreat-centre, my new friend and I were ready to head to the airport. But not before checking out the 100-year-old mill we had heard was close by and worth the view.

My new friend was from Alabama, and had kindly offered to pick me up and drop me off in Atlanta, after we connected over the Facebook group. Praise for not having to drive myself! After we had taken a few pictures at the old mill, we hopped into her SUV. Instead of putting the vehicle in reverse, she went forward. Immediately, radiator fluid started to leak, and within less than a 1km distance, we were out of fluid and stuck on the side of the road. I had about 5 hours before I had to be at the airport. No worries, we’ll figure this out.

A kind local photographer stopped to assess the damage, and visited with us while we waited for the tow truck. Meanwhile, my phone data plan for the US was racking up as I tried to access local car companies and call my husband on my unreliable phone. I was panicking – driving the I-95 in Atlanta traffic was not something I was ready to take on, and I had no idea if there’d be a shuttle available in this small town.

We waited in the Georgian autumn heat, and I immediately regretted not grabbing more snacks for my purse. 16-weeks pregnant and not knowing when the next time I would eat wasn’t boding well!

After about an hour, our tow-truck came and dropped us at a local auto-body shop. I felt terrible that my new friend had me tagging along and likely wouldn’t have been in this mess if I hadn’t been in her care. She felt bad that our great week had to end this way.

As we waited at this hole-in-the-wall auto body shop, I scanned the room for a vending machine. Water cooler. Nothing and empty. The lady at the desk was eating her late lunch, and I almost asked if there was more.

I had made a call to a local cab company and secured a price for them to drive me to the Atlanta airport. ASAP. It was the same as me renting a vehicle and there was no way that was happening! After waiting twice as long as he said he’d be, the Latino Taxi Man showed up. Now, he had a hangry-pregnant woman on his hands! I confirmed the price with him that I had been told over the phone by his boss, and was ready to barter and fight if I had to. He said, “That’s a very very cheap rate.” I responded heatedly. “That is the price your supervisor offered me, and I’m not paying any more.”

I refused to get in the vehicle until he called his boss to confirm. After a quick hug to my new friend and her husband who had come to her rescue from Alabama, the Taxi Man and I were off to the airport.

Immediately, the smell of Lysol invaded my senses, nearly sending me over the edge from hungry to nauseous. After making a quick stop at a convenience store to get some more US cash, I figured I needed to make friendly with this gentleman since we had the next 1.5 hours to drive together to the airport and I really needed some kindness right about then. Something in me needed to be diffused.

From the backseat to the front, I began to ask where he was from and about his family. He was from Guatemala and had six kids, and six grandkids. As we merged onto the freeway, he rubbed the rosary beads hanging from his rearview mirror, and cross his fingers over his chest. That was either a really good sign, or a really bad sign for what lied ahead. I decided to take it as good, and as an open door to talk about faith.

I asked, “Do you pray to Jesus?” With some language barrier still between us, I could tell he didn’t quite understand. I responded, “I pray to Jesus too!” Taxi Man said, “You like that?” “Yes!”

As we talked back and forth about family the best we could, I shared that I was pregnant with my first. He lit up. He said how girls are so good for a father. His heart melted with pride for his children.

After about an hour of driving and still feeling oh-so-hungry, Taxi Man looked back in his mirror and could tell something was right. “You ok?”

The Chik-Fil-A mints I had in my purse just weren’t cutting it. I said how I was hungry and not feeling very well (I didn’t mention the smell of Lysol that added to that!). He reached down to his car door and handed me an aging banana. Never had I been so excited to see a browning banana!

I confirmed again that I was to be dropped at International, not Domestic departures. Again, I wasn’t sure he understood. As we pulled up to the Atlanta airport, he responded that all taxis do their drops at Domestic, and my connection would be just right through the door. I was flying through Chicago, and perhaps with all the huff and puff of the day, hadn’t put two and two together that, yes, Domestic was where I actually needed to depart.

I paid the Taxi Man the promised US rate, thanked him, and was off. As soon as I entered the Domestic doors, I was overwhelmed. I’ve been in a lot of airports, and the Atlanta airport has to be the largest and most confusing I’ve ever been in. Horrible signage. I was certain the Taxi Man had done me in, and dropped me at the wrong departure. After asking for some help from customer service, and watching the talk clicking until I had to be at my gate, the lady said that I needed to get to International (though I didn’t tell her my connecting flight was Chicago).

I found a shuttle that took me the 20 minutes to International. The lady driving the shuttle had a Purpose Driven Life book in her console and looked like Whoopi Goldberg. Again, I figured this was all a good sign. She helped me with my near over-weight bag, and I was off, certain that International was where I needed to be. Looking at my watch, I figured that I had just enough time to get through security and find a quick sandwich somewhere before boarding. Well, as soon as I got through those doors, someone else told me, “No darling, you need to be at Domestic.” I cried. For real.

I went back out to the shuttle pick-up, only to discover Whoopi Goldberg had made her rounds and was back again. “Didn’t I just drop you off?” she said. “Yes, I guess I need to be at Domestic.”

Back on the shuttle I went for another 20 minutes I didn’t have to waste!

Finally, I got to check in at my airline and my bag was just under the weight limit. Sigh. Something was working today! I followed the minimal signage to security, only to be met with the LARGEST line-up I have ever seen! Seriously, over 200 people were weaving slowly through to get scanned. I nearly cried again, but was thankful for that brown banana. But now my bladder was as full as it could be, I was still hungry, and the clock to take-off was ticking.

Because I’m pregnant, I opted not to be scanned, but have a body-pat-down. The lady was a southern black woman, and took her sweet time. She commented on my engagement ring and said to make sure my husband buys me a real good “push present”. I smiled and was off to my gate.

I had just enough time to pee, buy a sandwich and water, and get to my gate. This flight was so full that all overhead bins were consumed, therefore making us late in leaving as they sorted that problem. It was the first flight I’ve ever been on where I was asleep before take-off and woke up in the air!

Knowing this flight was late leaving, I was certain I was going to miss my connection in Chicago. Dollar signs began to ring up on getting a hotel for the night, taxi, food and figuring out the next flight out the next day. I’m like that – think ahead. As we landed just a short hour flight later, the stewardess mentioned the local time. I nearly did a happy dance in my seat. I had gained an hour! It would still be tight, but if I ran, I could do it.

I got off the plane as soon as I could, my back and feet sore, and swoob starting to take over my chest area. Picture a tired, hungry, and frustrated pregnant woman running through the Chicago airport with a carry-on that was way too big. That was me.

I found my next gate and saw they hadn’t even started boarding; they were late as well. Praise! I peed, grabbed some candy, and called my husband on what little battery charge I had left. Huffing, crying, and sweating.

“I made it to my gate. And I have Starburts.” He laughed. His voice never sounded sweeter and I couldn’t wait to be home in his arms. And out of those boots.

Our flight was about an hour late, and I slept and drank a latte on the way. I read some of my Baby Whisperer book. I was waiting for someone to engage and ask what I was reading so I could get some comedy from the day and share that I was learning about breastfeeding. I guess making someone else uncomfortable at that point would’ve brought me slight comic relief.

I finally made it home, after nearly a 20 hour-awake-day. The worst travel day ever, but one with so many moments. I cried as soon as I fell into Troy’s arms.

I share this very very long travel story because a) it’s just downright horrible AND funny b) If I look back on it, it actually sets the stage for what I want from 2016…

In 2016, I want to be more intentional with relationships. Whether it is using my voice to speak into a situation, being more vulnerable, engaging someone who is otherwise unengaged, or just outright connecting with loved ones in a deeper way, I want to connect more. Thank you Taxi Man for showing me what a little bit of kindness can do to soften a situation.

And knowing that this year is the one we become parents and there will be so so many transitions, learning curves, and changes… I want to rely on God’s grace and let my imperfect and high expectations go out the window so that God can give me what His best is for Troy and I. Whether things are what I expected or anticipated, I will trust Him to get me home at the end of the day.

When a day that started in search of some simple beauty, and then ended up very messy, I still made it home, safe and sound. May 2016 be a year where we learn to be thankful for the simple and small things along the way…

Happy New Year to you all!!! xo

 

Missing out on grace

 

3c2e351a045e6baaf579a04a43060b8dI’ve been on a journey the past few years of praying that God would reveal His heart, His character, Who He really is to me… in a much deeper way. It seems that when you pray that prayer, the Lord will reveal things in your heart that are in the way, so that He can be seen so much clearer. A process 😉

You see. I don’t think I truly ever understood grace, because in order to understand the astounding grace we’ve been given, we must see the sin in our hearts. Otherwise, we take grace for granted. Once we see the sin in our lives (which is actually a gift by the way), we must have a deep understanding of the gospel and how the Lord continually redeems us, so that we don’t just stay there – looking at the ugliness of our own hearts. I had never truuuuuly understood and walked in repentance and forgiveness in my own life, so that I could actually experience grace. Honestly, I lived as though I didn’t have a lot of sin to deal with; a good girl. I walked in guilt if I did see sin in my life, rather than grace and freedom to walk out of it.

If you want to learn more about grace, a study of Romans may be a good idea (And is now something on my ‘next’ list!). According to that book alone, grace is:

*obtained by faith – Romans 5:2
*brings obedience – Romans 1:5
*is a gift – Romans 3:24
*our justification in Christ is by grace – Romans 3:24
*when grace reigns through righteousness, it leads to eternal life in Jesus – Romans 5:21
*His promise rests on grace – Romans 4:16
*we access grace, by faith in Jesus – Romans 5:2
*grace is meant to help us reign in life, in Jesus – Romans 5:17
*not based on works – Romans 11:6
*grace enables our gifts – Romans 12:6
*gives us boldness – Romans 15:15

See how much we miss out on when we try to do things on our own, without leaning on grace? And how do we lean on grace, if we don’t KNOW the One who gives it so freely?

In the spring, I started reading Psalms again, and was prompted by some teaching on prayer by Timothy Keller, to really meditate on God’s character, through the Psalms.

I began writing down characteristics of God, when something stood out to me, and find myself going back to it to meditate on it. Worship with it. Pray it. And let a lifetime of things in my head, dig its roots deep into my heart.

I want to share my list of Psalms with you, as it may be something you need as well, to dig deeper into the heart of our Father. Watch for tomorrow’s post on a list from Psalms that I hope inspires you to dig into the Father’s heart just a little deeper…

 

Monday Minute: When sweetness is found in unexpected places

 

 

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It was easier than I thought it would be. I imagined it being one of the harder things to get used to in marriage, but it’s been one of the easiest, and one of the sweetest for me.

Sharing a bed.

I was a virgin when we got married. Never shared a bed. And since I was 33, I just kind of assumed that it would be a hard transition to go from having the bed all to myself to sharing it with Troy. I thought that baring all of myself physically to him would be hard. But it’s actually been one of the sweetest, easiest and most comfortable things for me. Well, that’s all I’ll say about that 😉

I love pillow talk. I love crawling into bed at the end of a day to share a few words with Troy. It becomes more words if we can stay awake for it. Sometimes I near talk Troy to sleep, because for some reason, as soon as the lights go off, my soul decides it’s the best time to share anything and everything. We chuckle at it, as I can be drowsy in front of a movie but as soon as we crawl into bed, it’s ‘ding’!! Pillow talk time.

Something I imagined to be hard, has become a sweet sweet thing to me.

This past week, Troy’s aunty and uncle from out of town were working in the area, so they popped in for dinner. With little notice, I was glad I had just done a grocery shop so I felt prepared! I pulled out the pretty napkins, lit a candle, graced the centre of the table with a small mason jar of flower petals in the middle. It was just a simple BBQ meal, but we love to share our table and home with others. Working from home since last fall enabled me to get dinner on early, try new recipes, experiment. It’s been such a gift – learning to cook for 2. Or four. Or six 😉 And I love it. As a single woman, I had people over on occasion, but really didn’t use a lot of recipes, because it was just me. Cooking for yourself is not nearly as satisfying!

The following day, Troy’s aunty showed up on our doorstep, gift in hand. She brought me a sweet rustic fleur-de-lis bell. She said it can be something that I ring the family to the table with; a symbol of hosting and sharing our home. I squealed! It’s so ‘me’.

Things I thought would be daunting, hard to transition, into, have become such sweet gifts. Now I have this beautiful little bell as a symbol of sweetness found in transition. You better believe I will be ringing our quiver full of children to the table with it 😉 (Did I just say quiver?)

I think the Lord likes to surprise us sometimes. The things in the back of our mind that we think, “Oh that could be difficult.” He finds a way to give us grace. Time. People. Moments. To make it sweet. And we get to stand back, because we had nothing to do with making it happen.

Thank you, Lord, for sweetness found in unexpected ways.

He is good, and He does good. (Psalm 119:68)

xo

(Note: I missed last week’s Monday Minute, due to being away visiting family. Here’s a few pictures from our road trip home to Saskatchewan)

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On our way to a Roughriders game, it was hailing and torrential downpour. The skies cleared as soon as we got to the stadium, and the pre-season game was on! I think us ladies watched Lily (my niece) more than we watched the game!
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At a cousin’s wedding…

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Grandma and Lily at a family brunch 🙂

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Out for a Father’s day walk with the fam

 

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Meandering the farm for potential treasures …

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Road trip essentials… 1.5hours from the farm 🙂

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