What Else, Mama?

So, it’s Valentines Day. I’m aware of this solely mostly because at 11 PM last night I was frantically putting together 26 gifts for my 3-year-old and a dozen more for my little babe to give their friends at school. (I mean, seriously…what do you get babies for Valentines Day?? I was pretty proud of myself here…)

We also got a couple of small things for the girls, and as we sat at the counter for breakfast my oldest asked, “What did you get for Valentines, mama?” I immediately felt unsure of how to answer, because my husband and I had decided not to spend the money on gifts this year when we didn’t really need to.

“Well…I got some flowers from Papa, baby…” (hands-down my favorite Valentines tradition…)

“What else, mama? What else did you get?”

“Well…I got you and sissy and daddy, so that’s pretty awesome…”

“But WHAT ELSE, mama?!”

I couldn’t help second guessing our decision to “skip” Valentines. The doubt crept in…

Should we have exchanged gifts so the girls would see that we got each other something?

Do they think this means we don’t love each other?

I mean, what kind of couple doesn’t celebrate Valentines Day?!

Maybe we should both pick something up today to exchange tonight?

But I stopped myself mid-thought.

…NO.

Because what an incredible opportunity to teach my daughter that we don’t have to BUY each other things to prove our love; to show her that love can be expressed in ordinary, every day actions just as much as expensive, extravagant gifts. Maybe even more so?

So I started thinking…what did my husband get me for Valentines this year? Or, put another way…how did he show me love today?

He got the coffee set-up late last night so this morning when I woke up (before the sun) it would be waiting for me…because he knows my day doesn’t really start until after the first cup.

He fixed a bowl of oatmeal for me to shovel in my mouth on the way out the door…because he knows if he didn’t I would have skipped breakfast all together. And probably lunch, too. Because who has the time?

He got our toddler out of bed, got her dressed and fought her through every bite of a sausage biscuit sandwich…because he knows my mornings with the little involve a lot and if we divide and conquer we all get out the door a little less frazzled.

He made time for the school Valentines Day party in the middle of the afternoon, even though he had a million other things to do…because he knows if he didn’t our oldest would have been heartbroken. And he loves me well by loving our girls well.

He responded to our daughter’s cries from bed that she was a little hungry…then a little thirsty…then that her foot itched…because he knows that by bedtime there’s not a whole lot of me left.

He didn’t say a word when I sat down after dinner…without cleaning up…to have a little time to myself. To eat cheesecake, drink my latte and write…because he knows that sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

He loved me this Valentines Day by showing up.

Correction: He loves me every day by showing up.

So baby girl, when you ask “what else” …that list could go on forever.

 

This is Thirty-Two

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday was a HARD day. Yesterday, I turned 32.

Yesterday — My sweet husband had to work, so I kissed him goodbye in a sleep-deprived stupor long before the sun came up. He got home just in time to jump in on the nightly bedtime routine and fall back into bed completely spent. I missed him. Not because it was my birthday, but because it was an ordinary day. And ordinary days are better with him by my side.

Yesterday — I spent the majority of the day at home alone caring for my 5-day-old baby (formal introduction coming soon). Which means all of the good things (like sleepy snuggles and afternoon snoozes) and all of the hard things (like an explosive baby blow-out all over the bed, which then meant the sheets needed washed).

Sweet baby snuggles.

Yesterday — I was essentially isolated from my older daughter (for the third day in a row) because she was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth earlier in the week. Explaining to a 3-year-old why she can’t stay at home with her mommy and daddy or give her newborn sister hugs & kisses is nothing short of brutal. My heart hurt for her this week in ways I didn’t know it could.

Yesterday — I was separated from my family who is in town because…well…a 5-day-old baby and a toddler with HF&M. And, my poor parents who took the brunt of caring for said toddler came down with their own case of the ick. So…no birthday hugs for this girl.

Yesterday — I ached. Physically, mentally and emotionally ached. Everywhere. Partly childbirth recovery. Partly sleep deprivation. But mostly a hectic, stressful week that looked absolutely noting like I had imagined our first week home with baby would look.

But yesterday — it  was so good. Because all of these really hard things….they are rooted in good things. Really good things.

Coffee and diamonds.

Like my husband — who kissed me goodbye before the sun kissed the morning sky (after the kind of sleepless night you have with a newborn). Yes, he was gone on my birthday. On what would have been our very first Saturday at home together as a family. But…he is providing for our family with a career in an industry he loves. His passion provides his paycheck, and that’s pretty rare. Also…he made sure that I felt not only loved  on my birthday, but also known. I woke up to a fresh pot of coffee, the sweetest card and a beautiful ring — baby band #3. Did I mention the coffee? Because he knew this mama would need a whole lot of #coffeeandjesus to get through the day. That’s love.

And this newborn baby — whoa. I started my day, also before the sun came up, feeding her from my own body (which was then demanded of me again and again throughout the day). I answered every cry and met every need. I cleaned up poop and spit-up and spilled milk. Because I am her mother. And that is a miracle that’s not lost on me. And through tired eyes, I got to watch the night turn into day and then the day turn back into night with her snuggled soundly on my chest. Holymoly I am #blessed.

And my Lexi girl — she had a long, hard week. Probably the hardest of all of us. Monday she woke up and her baby sister came into this world and everything changed just like that. Add on the awful discomfort of hand, foot and mouth and several days that she couldn’t be around her mama and sister…it was enough to make any person break, let alone a 3-year-old. But she is tough. So, so tough. I saw her resilient spirit more clearly this week than I ever have before. And it made me exponentially proud to be her mama.

And then there’s my family — Y’all. There are not enough good words in the world to describe them. Last weekend they loved, supported and comforted me through three days of agonizing pre-labor. They were there to welcome our sweet girl into this world and handle all-of-the-things I couldn’t. And my parents pretty much earned their Sainthood taking care of Lexi full-time so we could keep everyone at home as healthy as possible. Their love is supernatural and sacrificial. And even though our first week at home was not what I’d hoped…I am beyond words grateful for the incredible support and love that surrounded me each day. How lucky am I to bring my daughters into a family like that?

Every discomfort, every ache, every tear this week was so worth it. Because sometimes, the most beautiful things grow and flourish in the most difficult places.

So this is thirty-two. It’s not a birthday I will remember because there were extravagant gifts or a spectacular party. It wasn’t glamorous and there are no Instagram-worthy photos to commemorate the day. But it’s a day I will never forget, because it so perfectly embodied the hard stuff and the good stuff of this every-day life I get to live. And the humans I get to love through it all. And those things are far better than gifts and cake and parties any day of the week.

With Grace,

Jen

The First Cup

The past few weeks (or months) have been particularly…challenging. We’ve entered into a very vulnerable season in our marriage…and in our family as a whole. We’ve chosen to face issues that would have been easier to ignore. We’ve wrestled with old demons and new guilt. We’ve had to choose – daily – between our selfish desires and sacrificial love. And sacrificial love, when you are already running on empty, is a difficult thing to choose.

I say all of this as a preface to “the thing” I really want to talk about. The thing that, I believe, has transformed not just our marriage but who we are and how we’re living our lives as a whole. We’ve started giving our first to God.

For me – it’s my first cup of coffee. When my feet hit the floor each morning, I head out to our back porch with my cup. As it is emptied, I am filled. Whether it’s listening to songs of worship, praying intentionally, or just allowing myself to be with God – He gets me before I let any of life’s chaos in for the day. This seemingly minor shift in my daily routine has been truly transformative. When I start my day being filled by Him, there is more of me to give to others – including my husband. I’ve heard many times over “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and I am seeing this daily in the most powerful ways.

My husband, who graciously preps the coffee and sets the alarm for us each night, has chosen a different route. He spends the first half hour or so of his day on a walk with our dogs and his thoughts – giving God his first mile. He sets off before the sun comes up on a path behind our house we call the dirt road. It is one of our family’s most sacred places to be together, and for him, it now holds even greater meaning and purpose. It’s where he has the space to just be before giving to everyone else who needs a piece of him throughout the day.

 

When the alarm goes off (much earlier than it used to) we say our “good mornings” and head our separate ways. We both know – for the sake of ourselves and one another – that we need to be filled up before we can pour out. So before I get him or he gets me, God gets us both.

This small step has been the catalyst for us changing the trajectory of our marriage. We are all soooo busy, right? It’s society’s badge of honor. But it’s bogus. Yes – our lives are full. We both have full-time jobs, we have the show barn full of pigs, families that count on us (ahem, Kade) to help feed/prep for shows that now go on year-round, the daily grind to upkeep a farm, a toddler we’re constantly trying to keep up with…oh yes, and I am 38+ weeks pregnant so there’s the physical and emotional prep for a new baby as well. So then, when are we supposed to find the time for our relationship with each other and with God?! Unfortunately, for far too long, we were letting the latter two slip. Because there just wasn’t time. We bought into the lie that we were too busy. There were too many things that needed done. Too many people we still hadn’t gotten to that day. What we didn’t realize was the two things getting the least effort and attention were the fundamentals….the foundation for everything else in our lives. Our foundation was cracking…and the rest was starting to crumble with it.

So we tried something new. And it is changing everything.

The first cup, the first mile, or the first five as you drive – what this time “looks like” is far less important than how It feels and what it does for your soul. Maybe you do something like this already – I’d love to hear about it! Maybe you’re reading this desperate for a solution to your own struggles – I hope you give this a try. Wherever you are, I pray for you the gift of Romans 15:13:

”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

With Grace,

Jen

Washed By The Water

Yesterday was a kind of big deal day…

After many months of consideration on his part (and many years of prayer on mine), my sweet husband decided to publicly declare his love for and commitment to Jesus through water baptism.

I’ve prayed over this decision for him the entirely of our marriage. Early on, there were a couple of things I knew for sure – I so desperately wanted my husband to get to this place in his faith, but I also wanted him to get here by his own free will (read as, not deciding to get baptized because I wanted him to and it would make me happy).

Watching the man I love walk to this place of submission to the Lord has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I am beyond words proud of him. I am eternally grateful for his strength (and my patience) to let the story unfold exactly as God had it written. After all, He is the perfect author of life.

As our motorcycle riding, cowboy boot wearing preacher said – there is nothing magic in the water. There will be peaks and valleys in his faith (and mine) over the course of our lives and our marriage. Yesterday was definitely a peak. But even when the storm comes, we are washed by the water – and the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

With Grace,

Jen

Dear Lexi Rae…

Walking with daddy after your first Cubs game.

Walking with daddy after your first Cubs game.

I want to take a minute to talk to you…about your daddy. You’re not old enough yet to recognize what you have in him. And, at some point in your life, you may lose sight of what you have in him. I hope in those times this can be a reminder…

The two of you have something so incredibly special. A rare, intangible bond. I see it in your eyes each time he walks in the room. You adore him. Sometimes I just watch the two of you – whatever you are doing – and if it weren’t for my heart nearly exploding with love, it might be filled with envy. Your relationship is so pure. Your daddy is the light of your life, and I pray in some way he always is.

You’ll learn through the years that your dad isn’t one for grand gestures or elaborate gifts. But he is all the things that matter – loving, selfless, gracious and kind. He will give you everything he has and so much more beyond that. He will provide you will all of the things that money can’t buy.

Those things look different now than they will in 5, 10 and 15 years down the road. So I wanted to take a minute and share with you just a few of the things your daddy does at this stage in your life that are a reflection of his heart for you.

I'm ready for breakfast daddy!

I’m ready for breakfast daddy!

1) He has become an early riser, even though morning really isn’t his thing. Each day, he is the first one out of bed. He fixes your breakfast before waking you up and starting your morning routine – oatmeal w/ bananas and milk, followed by diaper change and play time. He takes half an hour out of his day to connect with you before letting the rest of the world in. Believe me when I say, this. is. huge. 

 

Reading your very favorite book.

Reading your very favorite book.

2) He reads to you…lots. When we were in the hospital with you and your sister even before you were born, he started reading a book to you each night before bed. And he never stopped. Charlie the Ranch Dog, Giraffes Can’t Dance, Max Explores Chicago…these are a few of your favorites. He’s helping you learn, grow and discover with each picture, each page and each plot.

Go Wildcats!!!

Go Wildcats!!!

3) He carries you on his shoulders, simply because you like the view. Expanding your outlook on the world is one of his greatest goals. It’s a simple thing, but it delights you.

4) He takes you on ranger rides, throws you in the air and races you down the stairs. You have a spirit for adventure. He not only recognizes that in you, but he helps fuel your fire. He lives to adventure with you.

Our adventerous, blue-eyed baby.

Our adventerous, blue-eyed baby.

5) He loves me. You will always hear this is one of the greatest things a father can give his children. You will never lack in this department. This is critical, because it will teach you how one day you should be loved. Don’t settle for anything less.

Sweet girl, these things may not seem like much now. Taken at face value, they may appear insignificant. They are anything but. You daddy is building a solid foundation for an unbreakable bond. I am in awe of his love for you, and I cannot wait to see your love for him continue to deepen and grow as you do.

With love,

Your Mama