8 Ways Mothers are Courageous

We moms don’t think of ourselves as courageous.

When you wake up in the morning, you can guess how the day will go. The toddler will demand breakfast. The kindergartener will dress himself in something strange. You will make all breakfasts and lunches within 30 minutes of your day and make the mad dash that is getting everyone out the door. You do your best to not ignore your husband as you tend to the children and the thought might cross your mind — what do I need today? — before you shove it aside to keep up with the clock.

The day continues in this manner (feed the dog, throw laundry in the wash, put away the dishes, wash dirty dishes (again), etc. etc.) until oldest children come home, dinner gets made, husband comes home, the desperate pleas to  the children to go to bed begin, and you are finally able to collapse in bed only to begin again 7 hours later.

There are times when the day feels hectic, tiresome, plain.

Rarely heroic.

Definitely not brave.

And yet as God is calling me to be courageous this year I wonder, can motherhood be courageous?

Webster‘s defines courage simply as

the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

Contemplating courage, I look around at the mamas in the world and I see them persevering through the troubles of our fallen state within the world.

I see you, mamas, learning how to be mothers in the face of dangerous health complications, mental distress, and daily trials. You are courageous.

I see you, mama, nursing your child, supplementing with formula, trying to figure out why he or she is not gaining weight. You are courageous.

I see you, mommy, running to your child who just fell from the slide across the playground. You are courageous.

I see you, mama, walking your screaming child all hours of the night. You are courageous.

I see you, mommy, sending your child off to school with his special needs and unique behaviors. You are courageous.

I see you, mom, setting aside all of the work, the chores, the tasks in order to listen carefully to the thoughts and dreams of your child as you tuck her in at night.

you are courageous

Yes, you mama. Every day you prove that you are able to do the difficult. The dangerous.

You give of yourself without a second thought.

You provide daily needs to a child who might turn against you as a teen.

You love without abandon in a world of death.

Can motherhood be courageous? Yes, mama. Yes it can. And yes, mama. Yes, you are.

Motherhood is courageous. Motherhood is the ability to do something that you know is difficult and, at times, dangerous. Every day we mamas are courageous. It’s time for us to start acknowledging it, claiming it, living in it. And when we feel we are not, cannot, will not be courageous, we look to the One who is in us, who supplies it all, and find that courage is right there in Him, in us all along.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – Jesus (John 16:33)

be strong and courageous mini


In case you’re wondering about the website in my graphic, The Toothless Grin will be moving with me to http://www.LeahDEverson.com very soon!!

How Grieving Has Brought Me Joy :: A bit of my birth story (and a Giveaway!)

When my son was born, the experience was anything but what I anticipated. We planned for a natural birth, but 12 days before his due date an ultra-sound told us he was breech, amniotic fluid was low, and the cord may or may not have been wrapped around his neck. We were already in the maternity ward for an external version, so within an hour Jack was delivered via c-section.

prepping for surgery

prepping for surgery

My memory of that hour is fuzzy as my eyes blurred, my heart pounded, my anxiety built. I held my breath during the spinal and tried to control my body one last time as I lay down only to be reprimanded by the surgeon. I searched my husband’s eyes for hope as they put the pressure on my belly needed in order to squeeze Jack’s 6 pound 12 ounce body through the incision. My ears strained to hear my baby’s first cries from the other side of the blue sheet which divided me from him.

As they wheeled me from the operating room I wondered, “Did I just give birth?

It was hardly the story I envisioned and, in a state of shock, not one I could rejoice over.

But I had a healthy baby. And that’s all that mattered.

Or so they said.

_______

What do you do when life should be joyful, but it’s not? A fight breaks out the third day of your honeymoon, your beloved infant develops unexplainable colic, a dream job turns out to be beyond your ability to handle?

As Christians we are often taught to bite back the tears, cling to “the joy of the Lord,” put on a happy face, and move on.

But according to Margaret Feinberg, “When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve well, something inside us dies.” (Fight Back with Joy, p 79) Grief is not an experience to be swept aside, but an opportunity that is vital to our ability to have joy.

“Sometimes we need to give space for grief in order to make room for joy. No one is immune to sorrow, and only those who learn to grieve well can recapture the healing it brings. Just as light needs darkness, so joy needs grief.” (FBWJ, p 72)

________

At the end of my pregnancy with Ben, I received the news that he was also breech. After many failed attempts to flip him (including somersaults in the pool, standing on my head, and an external version), I faced my second unwanted c-section. For the first time I let myself feel. Feel the disappointment, the pain of Jack’s delivery. I wept over my sense of failure. I lamented my fear and shock. I mourned the loss of a vaginal birth (which I still inexplicably desired).

Grieving the painful circumstances of Jack’s birth freed me from the negativity of my past. Mourning my experience enabled me to see God’s work at the time. Fear of my feelings was replaced by confidence in the good grief brings. For the first time in three years I was able to say with certainty that I gave birth to Jack. And I would give birth to Ben the same way.

If anyone knows about seeking joy in the midst of the worst circumstances, Margaret Feinberg does. Diagnosed with an aggressive cancer before the age of 40, Margaret decided to not only fight the cancer, but to Fight Back with Joy. Her new book (Fight Back with Joy) documents her journey through the diagnosis, chemotherapy, grief, loss, and pain all with the firm belief in the power of joy.

morethanwhimsy

I am treasuring her words as Margaret shares her story in Fight Back with Joy with vulnerability, courage, and hope. She is teaching me, the often pessimistic, perfectionistic, mother of two, that Joy is possible. Even when it is least expected.

_________

fightbackwithjoyTo win a copy of Fight Back with Joycomment below on how grief and joy have coincided or collided in your life, subscribe to The Toothless Grin blog, share this post through your favorite social media, like my page on Facebook, Follow Me on Twitter. Up to five ways to enter! Be sure to let me know how you have entered by writing a comment below! (if you already subscribe, like, or follow me, then just tell me!) Giveaway ends on January 22, 12:00pm MST.

This post was written as part of Margaret Feinberg’s Partymob blog tour for the release of Fight Back with Joy. To purchase a copy of Fight Back with Joy check out Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Or for the 6 week bible study DVD series for your small group, click here.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

I am Reclaiming Date Night

Before children we were so good. On Tuesday nights we would get dinner, sharing an entree, going to the cheap theatre, being together. We took walks in the moonlight. We held hands. We chatted. We were together.

16d5 4580_93990421388_562111388_2424922_3889001_n a007 9-16-2006-04.

Then Jack was born. We went on our first date as parents when he was 6 weeks old and struggled to talk about anything except him. A few gracious friends offered to babysit that first year and we got out every once in awhile, but, you know, we were just. so. tired. Going out took energy and money and time.

Slowly, date night fell away. Until it didn’t exist anymore except on that rare occassion when it was unearthed like a rare gem. We stared at it and each other, uncertain what to do with it. We tried to enjoy it, but it was so unique… what do we do with it? Pretty soon, it was buried, forgotten again in business, stress, fatigue.

Until this December when I looked up from my phone to look at my husband and realized I don’t feel I know him right now. He has his inner world of thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears need to be invited to be shared. Unlike my prattling and verbal unloading, Tim is careful with his words. Not one is wasted. If I’m not listening, they won’t be said.

If I don’t take the time to be with him, I might never hear his words.

Common wisdom says that the secret to being good parents is being a good spouse. Or that we love our kids best when we love each other best.

I have fallen into the cyclical pattern of tending to those who are loudest. My kids whine, pout, scream, shout for my attention, while my husband silently waits for his turn. When the day is over, I’ve spent all of my energy on the boys without reserve.

This is not good, friends.

This is a habit that is hard to break. A reaction instead of an intention. Acting without purpose and instead in frantic fear of controlling the littles who are instead controlling me with their outbursts.

So I am turning to dates to break this pattern. A bump in the week that pulls me away from the children in order to gaze solely at my husband. I am hoping to arrange one a week for awhile. That sounds like a lot. But you guys, we need it.

date night

We need to start living out those vows of love and commitment instead of letting the days go by with little more than  peck on the lips or a side hug greeting.

So, on Saturday, I took Tim on a date. I anticipated it. I looked forward to it. I got all dressed up for the movies and Fazoli’s. I danced to “Shake it Off” Radio on Pandora while I dried my hair and did my make-up. I left light hearted, expecting the best. The best of the movie, the best of conversation, the best date in months.

Tim saw me excited and I think it made him a bit more light hearted. I let him see me be happy to be with him. I giggled and flirted and engaged.

For the first time in weeks, we laughed. We talked. We held hands. We snuggled. We kissed.  We were together.

I am looking forward to our future date nights. I am pinning ideas, looking for “at home” solutions, seeking out sitters, and anticipating more great times with my husband. My beloved. My friend.

What about you? What would it take for you to reconnect with your spouse?

sos 6_3

I’m Giving Up the Normal Life

Jennifer Garner is my new hero. On the Ellen show, she faced rumors concerning her “baby bump” with confidence, poise, and style. Smiling triumphantly, she said,

I do [have a bump]… I am not pregnant. I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on ladies I will have a bump. And it will be my baby bump. And let’s all just settle in and get used to it. It’s not going anywhere.  I have a bump; it’s name is Violet, Sam, Sera…

(you’ve gotta watch it)  

As I considered the whole New Year’s Resolution thing over the past couple of weeks, I realized a couple of things. Not only did I realize why I would not follow through with my resolution to keep the house clean, but I realized that with many of my ideas I was seeking to become something I’m not: childless.

Topping my list were:

  • Keep a clean house
  • Get rid of baby bump
  • Be more structured and productive with my time
  • Get more sleep

… basically, have the things I had before children. Rewind the clock and become the person I was 7 years ago before my skin stretched, my eyes sagged, and my mind got fuzzy.

But in a moment of peace – while stroking my son’s boyish hair and touching his delicate fingers, after one of his all out blood-curling, screaming, horrendous tantrums – I started wondering, do I really want to take back the last 7 years?

Am I so interested in erasing evidence of my pregnancy, my child rearing, my family that I would dedicate a year to those things?

IMG_20141226_191734

Is what I really need to return to a “normal” life (because that’s how I often think of life pre-children, normal)?

Or can I settle into the life that is? Accepting that I cannot function at the same energy levels I had pre-pregnancy. That now my time and brain are roughly divided between my two littles, my husband, and my pursuits. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for extra things such as working out or cleaning more hours of the week.

Can I finally settle into the reality that I am a mommy? That I am a mommy blogger. That that I cannot expect to have hours of uninterrupted time to myself. That  I will not be a marathon runner, a master crafter, or a foodie-chef. I will not always have the house as clean as I did before Jack was born, and that’s ok. No. That’s fantastic.

Mommy

I will drop everything when my kids bonk their heads playing power rangers.

I will kiss the invisible boo boo on the middle finger that is extended towards my face and giggle incessantly inside.

I will wake up for sickness, bad dreams, nighttime snuggles, and everything in between.

I will tend to my needs within the needs of everyone else. I will take the time I need, but I won’t expect more than I can have.

I will accept these limitations.

I will be content.

After all, I have a baby bump. And its name is Jack and Ben. It’s not going anywhere. So, let’s all settle in and get used to it.

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 

-Psalm 127:3

The One Thing I would say if I Could Speak to the New-Mama-Me

Yesterday was my son’s 6th birthday and today this beautiful picture my sister made showed up in my Timehop feed:

Kaihoi's Pics 137

I look at my son, my face, the quote, and I feel a surge of emotions. I remember how shortly after this picture was taken I became overwhelmed by Jack’s inability to latch, I remained in a semi-state of shock from an emergency c-section, and I began to feel incapable of mothering my son. A feeling that lasted for months.

Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “dear.” And I think to myself, if I had 5 minutes and could tell my new mama self anything, knowing what I know now about myself, about my son, about my marriage, about breastfeeding, about having a c-section… what would I say? Let’s find out…


 

Dear New-Mama-Me,

Congratulations! You hold in your arms the little boy who will steal your heart.

IMG_0675

Right now he is a stranger and it feels odd to hold him, and that’s ok. But in a few short months you will begin to feel that you would die for him without second thought. You will pick him up while he is sleeping because you will miss holding him. You will delight in his contagious laugh and his natural empathy for others. You won’t remember not being his mama and you would never go back.

But between now and then, you are going to struggle. And when I say struggle I mean you are going to scare yourself because of your extreme feelings of fear and pain. This is the hardest thing that is ever going to happen to you. The greatest transition, the greatest task, with the most difficult emotions.

Though you will love your son, at times you will resent him.

Though you will love your son, he will make you cry.

Though you will love your son, his birth just stirred up your hormones and you will be depressed again.

And I know how scary depression is for you.

You feel out of control, terrified of what it could bring, and are at a complete loss for what to do about it.

New-Mama-Me, if I could go back and tell you one thing it would be to seek help. I know you don’t like your OB much and she has the intuition of a gnat. When she says, “Don’t you just love him to pieces?” Answer honestly and say, “No.” You will probably cry. And that’s ok. You need to cry. You need to get help for this thing called Postpartum Depression before you’re looking back at the first year lost to illness.

Don’t worry, even if you don’t tell her the truth, you will be ok. Jack will grow to be a compassionate child. And you will get help for your depression during the middle of a 6 inch blizzard on an October afternoon.

But just in case you can hear me, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Because you’ve never done this before. And it’s hard. It’s hard for every New-Mama. I don’t think it comes naturally to anyone.

Oh! One more thing you need to know: You’re doing the best you can. And that’s good enough. I mean it.

 

New-Mama-Me

I’ll see you soon,

Me


This post is part of the larger Five Minute Friday community found on Kate Motaung’s blog. We write, for five minutes, together. No major edits. No second guesses, just writing to connect, to grow, to be. We would love to see you there.

What Every Mama Wants to See

The Way of Gratitude: Day 5 (originally posted here)

way of gratitude (2)

A note before this repost. Reading and watching this, I am filled with glee. While back then I was grateful for a milestone, today I am grateful for the relationship that has developed over the last 3 years between my boys. They may fight, but they are always there for each other. THAT is something to be thankful for.

Tonight I’ll make it short and sweet. I’m grateful that Ben can finally walk so people will stop worrying about him. He’s a late walker, but so was Jack. Here’s a video I put on YouTube, but I can’t seem to imbed it on this page from my phone. I guess technology’s not all there yet. 😉

And I’m grateful for this moment with my boys. Jack was always trying to get Ben to walk to him, but he freaked the poor kid out with his enthusiasm. 🙂 So, this was fun to see.

Of course now he’s getting into everything, but this is a post about being grateful, so I won’t go there. (But I really hope he doesn’t climb onto the table again when my back is turned. Or the back of the couch. Or grab something off of the stove. Or a knife from the dishwasher… Child proofing is tough!)

When Life Feels Gray, Just Add Color

way of gratitude (2)The Way of Gratitude: Day 2 (originally published here)

Today started out quite plain. Get dressed, eat breakfast, kiss Tim goodbye… And then I pulled out Jack’s Make-A-Plate kit (a gift from Aunt Teri, thank you!). Caps came off markers, coloring books were used as templates and Jack drew a plate exactly as pictured on the box… (I wonder how many plates Discovery Toys receives from kids who can’t get the one idea from the box out of their head. “But that’s how you do it!”) except “without a dog.” He doesn’t like dogs. (update: He now loves them. We’re getting one soon! Stay tuned…)

After coloring the plates came play dough. And after the play dough, watercolors. It was quite the colorful day. (Ben was inspired to give himself multi-colored zebra stripes on his arm.)

20130718-214724.jpg

When the colors had died down (and Ben had a bath), I began looking around our house thinking, When are we going to make this place our own? It could really use some new paint. There’s some nice vineyard feeling detailing in the dining room and living room – Tuscan, you might say – but I really don’t like the colors in the kitchen. And our bedroom is white. Blech. So I called Tim, inspired and excited to get started, when he reminded me, the outside needs to be painted first.

Oh yeah.

It’s bad. Really really bad. Not only is it fading in some places and chipping in others – ok, flaking might be a better description – if you even touch the house, you’ll have dusty white paint on your fingers. Not ok.

Inspired to paint the inside, I agreed to start with the outside. But first, colors. How can one truly work towards the finished product without color cards encouraging you along the way? So, I packed the boys into the car, went to Home Depot (or The Big Men’s Store as my Dad taught Jack) and picked up a bunch of colors!

20130718-215823.jpg

Aren’t they pretty?

Honestly, before feeling inspired to paint the house, I was feeling fairly discouraged for rather complex issues I can’t do justice here. But the very idea of making something new, of reviving our tired looking home had me so inspired and hopeful… I just couldn’t be more thankful. In the midst of a bleak circumstance comes a ray of light, soon to be reflected on our creamy, yellow home. And I’m grateful. Because without that inspiration, I probably would sit around wanting it to get it done without feeling like doing it myself.

And after the house comes the kitchen. Yay!!!

update: ok, the kitchen never got painted, but here’s a before and after of our house. Before I could take the “before” my  husband had already taken down our ugly forest green shutters. We are going to add some gray frames to the windows soon. And make the trim the same color gray since we switched halfway. Whatever! It’s so much better than our before!

house

And if you ever come over, you are likely to see crayons, markers, paints, and coloring pages spewed around our home. My new motto: when life feels gray, just add color.

 

WHEN LIFE