Dear Parent of Young Children…

parenting blog

Dear Parent of Young Children,

You are amazing – an ordinary person taking on an extraordinary role. There’s not much that can adequately prepare you for the change of everything that is thrust on you when a small person enters your world. You find yourself facing scenarios that you could not have imagined pre-kiddo. Like, that time when you went to a friend’s house for dinner and found it difficult to concentrate on conversation, because something distinctly smelt like poo. Everyone was chatting, and all you could do was nod and smile while your head was trying to Sherlock the birthplace of the malodour. You were hoping like heck it wasn’t you. Perhaps it was the dog? Oh, please Jesus, let it be the dog. But it wasn’t the dog. Your very own human puppy had left a schmeer on your pants, and was found happily eating his dinner and depositing his payload on a lovely and expensive, fabric-covered dining chair.

Or that time you woke up from a nap to discover that your five-year old had hacked his coif with a pair of paper-only kid scissors. You were tempted to garb your mini Lloyd Christmas in a shirt that said, “I did this ↑ to myself” but you didn’t because it would’ve been cruel (obvs) and also, future therapy sessions… so you sucked it up, and began to learn the difficult lesson that your tiny humans have an independent will, make their own decisions, and not everything they do is direct reflection on you.

And you most certainly will never forget that ill-fated trip to Fred Meyer two days before Christmas. You dropped your little love at the playland to at least alleviate some of the stress of holiday shopping, and headed off into the mass of humanity to complete your task. That’s until you got to aisle three and your heart sunk as the Christmas music stopped and you heard, “Would the parent of <insert name here> please return to the Playland”. That was bad enough, but on the way to the childcare, your blood positively froze as you began to hear the name of every.single.child subsequently called out for their parents also to return. It transpired that your resourceful wee lad had thought the carpeted corner of the room would make a fine urinal and the whole place had to be shut down for an hour while sanitising measures took place. And as you took the walk of shame with your stinky bundle past the other parents in line, you made a decision about the sort of person you are going to be – not the person giving you daggers because your kid ruined their child-free shopping experience (because clearly you had spent months training your child to find creative and inconvenient places to pee), but the person who gives you a knowing smile, because they know, it’s probably their turn next, and we’re all in this together.

No-one ever tells you that you will scroll through Insta pics of child-free people posting pics of themselves at spendy day spas with captions like, “Taking a much-needed self-care moment.” And it burns, because the only self-care moment you can hope for right now is five minutes in the loo without several knocks on the door and at least one piece of artwork being slid under the door for your critique. But they also never tell you of the restorative powers of a small body leaning in for a cuddle while a tiny arm hooks around your neck.

People will tell you things like, “It’s totally fine changing a nappy when it’s your own kid.” But then you discover, it’s not fine. You discover a deep hate for poo outside the watery confines of the toilet, and your reaction if some gets on your skin is just like you’ve been smeared with Ebola. But then you slowly begin to learn that doing the things you don’t like on a regular basis builds character in the way that nothing else could.

So, fellow comrades in the trenches, take heart. You are not alone on this crazy, exhausting, incredible and humbling journey. I have no doubt that Jesus cheers you on as you undertake this most important of roles. You are loved, you are seen, and you are doing a great job.

Much love,

Deb xx

The Tree of Life

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I have been aware of a nagging sense of discontent in my soul of late. I think it’s probably been there for ages, but as the fog of chronic illness lifts, I am better able to see it. It’s a longing for my life to be different; more full, more productive, more exciting, more fun. I miss my old life when I was younger, was firmly entrenched in a solid crew of friends, and had more invites to events than I cared to attend. Yet, if I am honest with myself, I remember that there was a nagging (sometimes raging) discontent in those times also; I wanted to be married, to own a house and live in America(!). In fact, if I am even more honest with myself, I will come to the conclusion that what I think I need is the free time, energy, health and social status of my younger years, coupled with the current blessings of marriage, family, our own home and a decent education. I want the very best bits of each stage of my life to converge into the present. I want these things because my heart, mind, soul and brain has been tricked into thinking that that is what they need to be content.

When I am in a grotty patch of migraines, I feel strangely more content; resigned to the fact that I can only just barely keep my head above water trying to live and keep two little dudes alive. When my treatment kicks in, the discontent starts squirming and making its presence known. I know that I won’t just be stumbling from day-to-day, waiting until I can stumble into a dark room with an ice-pack on my head. I am aware that I could attend events, I could work a productive job, I could get fitter, I could become more social, and attractive, and popular, and successful. My health would allow me the chance to chase after the things that I so regularly pursue to provide what I think I need for joy and contentment.

Fill in the blank, my life would be more complete/joyous/full if only __________ (I was married/married to someone else/single, I owned a home/boat/car/full head of hair, I was skinnier/stronger/healthier/smarter/prettier/funnier/more popular, I was understood/appreciated/valued, I had a best friend/10,000 followers on Instagram/naturally long and full eyelashes/the magical ability to eat hot chips without gaining weight, I had kids/did not have kids, I had more responsibility/more adventure and less responsibility…).

Unfortunately, when we chase after any of the above and more to fulfil our lives, it’s like sitting down to a meal of lollipops…immediately gratifying and very appealing, but ultimately leaves you with an emptiness within and a longing for something more. The world around us is endlessly whispering to us and enticing us to find life in a million different ways. We get addicted to the sweetness and instant gratification of receiving life from anything other than God, but we end up chasing the proverbial dangling carrot.

I recently listened to an excellent sermon by Tim Keller on the wounded spirit (you can find it on YouTube). In it, he parallels the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden with the Cross on which Jesus died. He suggests that the Tree of Life, which is cut off to us by deciding to live life on our own terms, becomes fully accessible to us through the sacrifice of Jesus. That is SUCH good news!! Do you know what this meant to me? On the one hand, it is clear that I am going to have to do some work diverting my thoughts away from the ways I habitually seek contentment, but on the other hand, it gives me GREAT joy!! Because it means that the longings I have within do not need to remain going unmet, my discontent can be fulfilled, I can eat from the Tree of Life. Jesus can, and wants to be, my everything. I can give up the exhausting, relentless and ultimately fruitless pursuit of the intangible. Now, that is great hope indeed!

 

Bless you friends,

Deb xx

Parenthood

Rant

My sweet little chilled out Macie has, overnight it seems, turned into a scratching, biting, dirt-eating, roaring, running, scaler-of-all-things-high-and-dangerous. This turn of events, coupled with the sassy-pants attitude of Mr. Four, has pushed stay at home parenthood to a whole. new. level. So here goes my requisite ‘parenting is so hard’ whinge. I figure I’m probably due for one…once a year seems about right.

Before I get into it, I feel the need for a disclaimer. This isn’t going to be one of those ‘find the gold in the hard moments’ posts. Not that we don’t need those, of course, we do. BUT, I read a lot of articles that talk about the trials of parenting and then finish up by talking about how precious our kids are, how cherished this time is, and how fleeting it really is. I read these and initially feel comforted, but somehow end up feeling worse…guilty somehow that in the midst of the chaos I’m not appreciating these years enough. SO…please rest assured, I love my kids to the moon and back, I’m trying to milk the loveliness out of these years, and I understand that one blessed day I shall look back with nostalgia and annoy some harrowed mum by commenting that, “I miss those days!” But today is a vent. Hopefully my venting will let you know that you are not alone in your messy house.

I think the thing that causes me to feel like the breath is being strangled out of me some days is the sheer relentlessness of raising kiddos. On a semi-regular basis, my own version of the Hillsong United song flashes through my head, “This kid is relentless.” Having battled ill-health for a couple of years surely can’t be helping, but I sometimes get to the point where I feel like I’ll explode or just disintegrate if I get asked for one more snack. I have, I kid you not, started sneaking around the house at times, hoping that no-one will notice my presence, quietly going about my business, because I know if I get spotted, Thing 1 or Thing 2 will be inevitably uncontrollably compelled to ask me to do something, or hang on my pants until they start to fall down. I swear they think, ‘Oh look, it’s the lady that does stuff. I must ask her to do more stuff.’

I think one of my main problems is that most days I hunt like a starving stray cat for morsels of the life I used to have. I try and trap moments of time that are uninterrupted and whimsical. I dream of the airy freedom of going about life without having my radar out for a small mountaineer attempting a first ascent. I long for the indulgence of having a grumpy day where I can just shut myself in a dark room and watch Netflix all day. Instead, I am the only introvert in a family of extroverts, and I get approximately 3.5 seconds in the loo before it becomes a shared experience.

Another thing that works against me, is that I am so driven by productivity. There’s nothing that I love more than putting my hand to a worthwhile task, and while I KNOW in my rational self that there could be nothing more worthwhile than raising tiny humans, the productive part of me dismisses the mundanity of daily childrearing as a box I cannot tick at the end of each day. I want to finish a tangible project, email it off to the appropriate parties, and receive constructive feedback and praise on what I have accomplished. Instead I get to scrub the floor, only to have Thing 2 post his newly dismantled banana over the side of his highchair.

I have become scarily adept at spotting the sound of Caleb’s truck arriving home from 14 miles away. Macie runs to the door to greet his D when the workday is done, and I’m about one step behind him. I get almost giddy to have my teammate back at my side. I read an article from a Psychologist recently who mentioned that parents of young children always feel overworked and underappreciated. Never a truer word. But at least the two of us are both clinging on to the same flogged horse together!

So there you go friends, rant over! (For this year). I pray that in this time of our lives God will grant us grace and strength. I also pray that through the continuous squeezing, our characters and personalities become more patient, loving, kind, peaceful, good, gentle, and self-controlled. You are not alone dear parent…and you are doing a great job.

 

Much love,

Deb xx

Musings on Motherhood

imageIt has been some time since I have blogged – the advent of a tiny human tends to hamper ones abilities to do almost anything. So I find myself with a couple of hours to myself, sitting outside at a cafe on a blissfully sunny day, finally with thoughts semi-coherent enough to write. Since my days of late have been nothing but kiddos, poopy nappies and endless renditions of ‘watch this trick mum’ (followed by a suitably unimpressive trick), it is fitting that motherhood should be the topic of this missive. So please find below an absolutely random collections of my musings of late (as befits the state of my addled mind):

Life with a newborn can be terribly isolating. I have to get up multiple times in the dark night while the rest of my family sleeps. My ability to do everyday tasks that used to be simple is greatly hampered; meaning that I can’t get out of the house with ease, and even when I do get to catch up with people, my mind is distracted by lack of sleep, a threenager, or giant froggy-eyes begging me for feedies and more feedies. Additionally, the breastfeeding culture here strikes me as a little less free and easy than it is at home, and even though I use a hooter-hider, I have been in the middle of conversations and had people leave when Mason gets hungry. I get that it can make people uncomfortable, it just adds to the feeling of isolation.

I am nothing without my yoga pants.

People that bring food and coffee are the very best kind of people.

I am struck by the fact that Mason in all his tiny newborn vulnerability and immaturity will never be more or less loved by God than he is right now. It is such a lovely reminder to me that I am wholly loved by Jesus just because I am Deb and not because of anything I do.

Wine.

My theological books can take a backseat for now. In attempt to feel somewhat productive I pulled out one of the more weighty tomes on my shelf and wasted some of my precious downtime trying to read the first three sentences. There will once again come a time when I can put my mind to the advancement of my understanding, but that time can wait until my brain less resembles a pudding.

No-one tells you that the contents of your three year old’s potty can rival that of a middle-aged man the morning after Christmas Day. Then you have to congratulate him whilst trying not to vomit.

It is so easy to allow dissension to enter the marital ranks in the midst of the parenting chaos. I have had to be really careful to stop and put myself in Caleb’s shoes. I have found myself getting jealous that he is allowed to sleep through the night and then leave the house to go to work. In these moments I try to imagine going to work and coming home without having the space to unwind; it helps me to remember that we’re on the same team. We each face different challenges in this season, and it’s essential to the health of our marriage that I do all I can to guard against the seeds of bitterness.

I really need to have a ‘no Face-Booking after 10pm’ rule. I go to bed, my mind starts whirring and I have these ‘epiphanies’ that must be shared with the world – only to wake and discover I’ve posted the half-mad ramblings of a very tired person.

Gin and tonic.

I get perverse enjoyment out of witnessing other people’s kids acting out. It makes me feel better about my son’s behaviour.

Having a newborn is extraordinarily hard on my desire to be in control of life.

Coffee.

Love you friends, so nice to blog again! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a wee bit more now that the fog is slowly lifting.

Deb xx

Thanksgiving

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With the occasion of Thanksgiving I had planned to pen a cute and peppy wee list detailing the things for which I am grateful. However, as I pondered this list, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I am not grateful for a million things; I absolutely am. All the usuals; Jesus, family, friends, a lovely home, food on the table, clothes on my back, health etc. But somehow as I considered my list, there was no energy behind it. It would be rote and from my head. Because my heart these days is suffering from what I can only describe as ‘ennui’. (Gilmore Girls super-fans, you’re welcome).

My health turned a corner at about 21 weeks pregnant, and I only face migraines roughly once a fortnight, as opposed to the daily battle that was occurring prior to now. So I’m not as sick as I was. But I’m tired. So tired. I sleep about 10 hours every night and then nap for at least an hour during the day. Doing almost anything requires what feels like a superhuman effort. To add to this, the weather has turned. It is on the verge of snowing on a regular basis, the sky is icy and unfriendly, and my 3 year old has just discovered for the first time that he really doesn’t like going for walks in the cold anymore. I feel housebound, deflated, purposeless and there’s a newborn on the way. Help me Rhonda.

Whilst out for a wee walk (waddle) the other day I was pondering the things for which I am thankful. The train of thought followed something like what I have detailed above; I have a list in my head, but it feels devoid of warmth, so what then do I really feel grateful for in my heart at this moment? And the answer? Redemption.

No matter what craziness happens to us, around us, in us or through us, Jesus is in the most hope-inducing business of making the broken whole, beautiful, purposeful, radiant. I know this to be true, not just because the biblical narrative is predominantly a redemption story, but also because my own life narrative has already taken some stunningly redemptive turns. When I look at the state of my inner and outer world over time, I see formerly painful and dark areas I had just accepted as normal, now peaceful, flourishing and light-filled. This has been purely the result of Jesus’ redeeming work in my world. This gives me such hope.

The thing that fills my heart with joy, is that this journey from death to life is not just for my world, but for the people around me, our societies, cultures, and ultimately for the earth itself. Outside a school down the road, I was struck several months ago at a little plant root that had grown up through the asphalt. Even despite the best efforts of a bunch of hot bitumen, this tiny wee plant had raised its tiny head and cracked through to find the light. And so shall my heart. And yours. Maybe not today, maybe not in the near future, but barring all else, most definitely in eternity. Although, can I just say hurrah and thanks be that Jesus does give us great hope, and often beautiful resolution in the here and now!?

So as I go about the days ahead, as grey and murky as they feel right now, I will continue to look for the small glimmers of redemption that are popping their heads above the clouds. And I will remember that those glimmers represent a tiny portion of what will one day be full restoration. Amen.

Love you,
Deb xx

Row, Row, Row your Boat

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Some of our very favourite people were in town recently for a conference. They popped in for lunch, and over tomato soup and toasties, we caught up and discussed some of what they had heard at the conference. One of the speakers had just shared a message about seasons of obscurity, which struck a chord for our friends, but also for me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It feels like there’s nothing quite so obscure as being a stay-at-home-mum. I don’t get paid. My kid pretty much only says ‘thanks’ because we’re trying teaching him to not be a snotty brat, and he knows he doesn’t get what he wants unless he uses his manners. When I clean the house it takes all of 36.5 seconds for it to get undone again. Nobody gives me high fives for creatively arranging the afternoon-tea plate.

I have to stop myself from longing for the day when my as-yet-unborn son is old enough for kindy and I can get on with some ‘real’ work. Work where I get remunerated for my time, where I get to be part of a team building something valuable, where my ideas count for something and I receive recognition for my efforts.

In a bible study this week, I learned that the Greek translation for the word Paul uses as ‘servant’ in 2 Timothy alludes to the rower of a big ship. You know those big old ships that had a whole heap of slaves at the very bottom of the boat? Now surely THAT is the very picture of obscurity! Stuck in the bowels of a filthy great ship, no windows, no idea which direction you’re going, and breathing the meaty sweat of a shipload of smelly dudes. So unappealing, yet this is the kind of servanthood we’re called to. One in which the work we do is not for our own glory and gratification, but for that of our Captain Jesus. Now mercifully, God does so often give us tasks and work that ARE enjoyable and fulfilling. But we need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of using our gifts, abilities and daily tasks to meet inner needs for significance and love.

I quickly learned in church life that if I could be ‘good’ at doing Christian stuff, I would get plenty of encouragement and admiration. I felt significant if ‘important’ people recognised my hard work, so I got real good at doing what it took to gain that affirmation. When people were falling off the bible-in-a-year bandwagon left, right and centre, there I was still going strong four years in. I was the moral police amongst my group of friends at school, correcting a swear word there, casting disapproving looks at anything that, in my holier-than-thou opinion, may tarnish the good name of the Gospel. In fact, looking back now, the true miracle is that I had any friends at all! (I’ve since thanked some of my old friends for putting up with me. For real.)

This way of looking at the world was unfortunately encouraged by many a sermon and youth conference; where the altar call was all too often given only for those felt called to ‘full time ministry’, or to be a businessperson for the Kingdom, and occasionally, if you were lucky, a full time missionary. There was never a mention of the person who wanted to be a P.E. teacher, chef, artist, builder, bus driver, stay-at-home parent, shopkeeper or accountant. The clear preference of the cultural climate was that one should aspire to something with social prominence. Or in other words, minor Christian celebrity. The upshot of which meant you had people auditioning for the worship team who couldn’t sing to save themselves, and a dearth of volunteers willing to help with the kiddos.

What I’m slowly learning over this season of my life, is that it will never get more significant than a moment spent singing a song to Jesus on my back porch, just the two of us. Or making a meal for a family in need. Or sitting with my son while he takes an inordinately long time to squeeze out a wee treasure on the potty. ‘Cause the thing is, Jesus is the prize. He is it. And we get Him whether we’re manning the oars or captaining the ship. We are significant because He loves us, not because of what we do. And that, my friends, is true joy!!

Love you,
Deb xx

Oh Baby! (Part II)

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You may or may not have noticed that it’s been some time since I last blogged; the reason being, I have been feeling really unwell. I’ve had a spate of migraines varying from foggy soreness to hold-my-head-howl-at-the-moon-and-spew ones. My head has been feeling like it’s not attached to my body. I’m feeling nauseous. And exhausted. Just bottomed out. But, yes Sherlock, as you’ve probably suspected by this point, I’m pregnant!!

The blog I posted a few months ago (https://adventuresoftheordinaryblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/oh-baby/) outlined the unexpected fertility journey we found ourselves on. Shortly after I wrote that blog, we headed away on a trip to California for our fifth wedding anniversary. We had been planning to go somewhere amazing in the Dominican Republic, but then we bought a house, so ended up heading to Bethel Church to spend time with Jesus instead. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

We stayed at a guest house run by a couple that are involved with prayer ministry at Bethel. The moment we arrived, they asked us why we were there, and we briefly told them about the issues my body was facing. We told them that we where heading to the Healing Rooms the next morning to receive prayer. Naturally, they prayed for me then and there. Rick is one of those dudes that seems to have a direct line to God – he just prayed for like two seconds, then his face split into the most infectious grin, and he goes, “It’s time!! Ha ha, it’s time!!”

The next morning we attended the Healing Rooms, where they prayed for me again, then we had the funnest day eating out and napping, going to the movies, drinking coffee and all the fun stuff that’s not relaxing with a toddler. The next morning at church a man next to me interrupted me in the middle of worship, saying, “Excuse me, but are you wanting children?” So he prayed for me. Then we had breakkie with a Kiwi buddy before we left on the long trek home, and I told her about Rick saying, “It’s time.” To that she replied, “That’s exactly what popped into my head the very first moment I saw you.”

I won’t go into gory details, but let’s just say that all the cramping and issues I’d been experiencing stopped from that weekend on, and now I’m almost 11 weeks preggo! I had an early scan at seven weeks and got to see our little sesame seed and hear its wee rapid heartbeat.

I was SO excited to finally have a new little Schnoops onboard! And I am still so grateful, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s been TOUGH!! I really don’t recommend being a sicky preggy with a toddler, if it can at all be avoided. I don’t know who I feel most sorry for; me, Caleb or Judah. It’s been a family affair, this trimester. Grumpy mum has made too many appearances. Judah, sensing the changes afoot has been acting out and pushing my buttons with the skill of a neurosurgeon. Caleb has been picking up the extra slack along with starting a new business. (But since I’m voting for two, my ballot box wins).

One thing I’ve been learning throughout this journey is that God doesn’t do things my way. Or in my time. Or to my specifications. And that there are moments when life seems unbearably hard, and it’s difficult to understand why He doesn’t appear to intervene. However He is always there. The very worst migraine I had was last week. I was wracked with pain, couldn’t stop vomiting, and just so over being sick. And as I sat there in the dark room, there He was. His love was all around me. He just loved me. And it was so sweet.

So! New Hargrove on the scene Feb 2017!! Eeek!! (That was the sound of excitement/nervousness – not, as Caleb would say, the squeak of ‘Preggy Piggy’ approaching a Big Mac. Although, let’s be honest, it’s that too). I’ll blog when I feel up to it, otherwise, love you friends, I hope you are well!!

Deb xx