Category Archives: Life with God


For those who have been keeping up with us, you’ll remember that my goal for 2018 was to keep going.


One of my biggest efforts in the new year was to keep getting out of bed before the kids, to sit in my blue chair to think and pray. This didn’t happen every day in 2018, but it happened more consistently than it has in years.


In those times I saw many beautiful sunrises. Some days I saw darkness and just the faint hint of the lines of the mountains in the distance. Sometimes the sunrises reflected my mood or circumstances. Sometimes it provided hope in sadness or a reminder of the darkness that is still with us even when we feel light and free. I did meet the Lord in my blue chair times, and for that I am so grateful.

In 2018, I also wanted to keep going in my effort to build more empathy into our family interactions. Although we are far from perfect, I do think my own self-awareness and attempts at acknowledgement and compassion, are creating a ripple effect among these people I love so much. I look forward to seeing this continue in 2019.

On a practical level, my role in the last year has mainly been a supportive one–to help Jason and the kids keep going as they go out into the world. I’ve planned and packed for trips, thought ahead for activities in the afternoons and on weekends, organized play dates, and made many meals. I’ve organized for holidays and celebrations. And I’ve tried to make our home a warm place to come home to.

One of the very best parts of all this busy work is the fact that I felt more healthy and energized in 2018 than I have in years. I could not only keep up with our goings on, but be intentional about what we are doing and why we’re doing it. This profound change is thanks to my sleep apnea diagnosis and CPAP therapy. At first I felt a bit sheepish about being in my 30s going to bed with a mask and tubing on my face every night. That embarrassment went away pretty fast when I felt ten years younger!

For the kids, keeping going has meant Ian continued on at Ridgecrest Elementary this year. Imogen joined him as a first grader and Beatrice started Pre-K at Westgate Chapel. Ian was not excited about the lack of change, Imogen was excitedly curious, and Bebo just sucked her thumb a lot which kept her from telling us how she felt about preschool. Just as you would with the last born, we are assuming she’s fine with it.




Many of you know it has been hard for me to see my people head out the door, and all at once. I do miss homeschooling, and the kids being around more. I have cried many tears this year about the change, and wondered if we made the “right” choice. Jason has had to tell me “Let’s just keep going with this and see where it leads.” This has been difficult and comforting to hear, all at the same time.

Jason kept going on his journey through a Masters in Finance at Seattle University. Wait, what am I saying, we kept going, because getting a graduate degree is truly a family affair! He has been gone many evenings and sometimes I forget that the kids haven’t seen him for two or three days straight. They have all been troopers, and all things considered, the program has actually turned out to be less rigorous than we expected.

Jason continued his job at McMillen-Jacobs, moving from a contract to full-time position in May. The job is a great fit, a mix of building massive spreadsheets while managing and working with great people. He feels valued and valuable to the company. If you have known Jason and our family for any length of time, right now your heart is burning with an enthusiastic AMEN to all of this. It has been a long, difficult (and sometimes dramatic) journey to this point in Jason’s career. We all want it to keep going!


All set up to commute to work in Seattle rain

Of course we kept our epic summer vacation adventures going this year. Jason and Ian did a road trip that included Crater Lake, horseback riding in southern Idaho, and visiting the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. At the same time Imogen and I went to Minnesota again, Beatrice went to Grandma T’s, and we all met up near Glacier for a Kiemele family reunion.




I’m so glad Jason didn’t get mauled by a bear, despite his efforts to get as close as possible to one.


Immy and I’s Minnesota adventures





Reunited as a fam in Whitefish and Glacier National Park





Summer 2018 also included some glorious bike rides. Jason and I both got new bikes in the spring and by July I found myself riding the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis, country roads around Whitefish Lake, and of course the Centennial Trail in Coeur d’Alene. In those moments keeping going literally meant keeping the wheels turning over the next hill or on to the next viewpoint.




Jason kept up his culinary adventures this year, focusing mainly on cooking meat and making cocktails (I haven’t minded either endeavor!). He added a sous vide, a smoker, and a sizeable bar setup to his collection of cooking paraphernalia. By the end of the year I was getting kind of tired of perfectly cooked ribs, which goes to show how much of a luxurious culinary lifestyle I live.

I think both Jason and I would agree we worked at keeping going together in 2018. We spent some lovely Sunday afternoons at Ridgecrest Pub, planning our budget, dreaming about future travels, catching each other up on our internal worlds. We rode our new bikes together and went on weekend walks with and without the kids.

Together we made some big, important decisions for our family in 2018, and I couldn’t be prouder of how we have worked as a team–with prayer and intention. It has been a hard road for us the last few years, but I can see how God has used our individual strengths and our uniqueness as a couple. It makes me want to keep going.


We ended our year with an exciting addition to our family–an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie named Ruby.


If you’ve never surprised children with a puppy, you really should.



Keeping going with Ruby has meant taking her out to go potty again and again, even if it’s dark and rainy, it’s 7am, and I’m in my bathrobe. But she’s so stinkin’ cute the inconvenience is worth it.

As for 2019, the theme for this year is this:


As we walked through Advent in December the word “waiting” came up again and again. Initially I was hesitant to put the words “Just Wait” on my wall, where I walk by it again and again every day. Patience–ugh!

But I am trying to remember it is a hopeful cause, filled with expectation. It is an invitation to trust God in the places that feel unfinished and unknown. It is a reminder to be patient with others and with myself, knowing that God is up to something in our hearts, and we will see glimpses of His orchestration and movement as time goes on.

On a practical level, I am waiting for graduate school to be complete (March 2020!) and for more family time together. Every day I’m preparing for Jason and the kids to come home. I’m waiting to see what we decide about the kids’ education next year, and wondering what my role will look like in our home and in the world. We are waiting to see if maybe this is the year we move on remodeling our house.

God’s gentle whisper says, “Just Wait.” I think it is coupled with a playful wink.

Here’s to waiting–and a whole lot of keeping going while we wait–in 2019!

*Beautiful handwritten lettering by my dear friend Lauren, of Ink and Eben.



I don’t usually set resolutions for the new year, but as 2016 moved toward 2017 I kept hearing this word come up in a variety of situations, conversations and readings.


To abide, to stay with, to be present, was my aim for 2017. I wanted to get better at abiding with God of course, and I thought a lot about 1 John 4 over the summer months. I spent time sitting with God, offering nothing, just trying to be with Him. It’s not an easy thing to do.

What I didn’t anticipate in 2017 was how much I would learn about abiding with others, particularly Jason and the kids.

I feel good about the figurative (and sometimes literal) blood, sweat and tears, I put into loving God and loving others in 2017. I also feel humbled and blessed by the work God did in me and in those around me.

Related or unrelated, here are some other things I accomplished, experienced, was blessed by, learned, received, saw God do, got wrapped up in, yada yada yada, in 2017.


I finally completed a two-year project, a collection of photos that displays our Haggard-ness. It was a lot of work sorting through images, printing, organizing, matting, framing and hanging. I am a perfectionist, but Jason obliged and did lots of precise measuring and grunt work.


I started going to bed at a reasonable hour. I have battled with trying to get on a better schedule for years, and it’s been a source of tension between Jason and I. Now I go to bed around 10:30pm most nights, and am working on moving that up even earlier to have some quiet time before the kids get up. A book that helped me with this was Laying Down the Rails for Yourself.

I hosted an incredible outdoor dinner party. Jason made the food I requested–soft pretzels, waldorf salad, smoked salmon, lots of dipping sauces, Kentucky mules and flourless chocolate cake. The people were the best part. The ambience was pretty great, too.


I started kindergarten with Imogen.


We put Ian into traditional school in October. That was hard, and it was something I would never have anticipated doing at the turn of 2017. It was totally the right thing to do, for a myriad of reasons which I could go on ad nauseam about, but I won’t right now.

I identified some people I really want to develop deeper connections with in 2018. I wish I could teleport AND clone myself because some of these people live across the country!

I ate one of the best, happiest meals of my life. The food was amazing (poke, lau lau, wasabi chicken), but so were the location (Kauai) and the company (Jason).

With Jason’s support and the encouragement of my in-laws, I created an Airbnb space in our MIL apartment. A few months later we had to put it on long-term hold when other things came up, but it was an interesting and fun experience.


I filled up another journal. I asked a lot of questions, made observations, wrote prayers and processed in my private writing.

I read aloud to my kids, which I love to do. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Hinds Feet in High Places, A Cricket in Times Square, Twenty-One Balloons and a gazillion picture books and bible stories.




Jason and I completed the Love & Logic parenting course, with Josh and Sheree as our coaches. It was really helpful in practical ways, but it also served as a springboard for lots of thoughts and prayers and experiments in what it means to abide with my children.  There’s that word again.

Imogen and I went on our first mother-daughter trip. It was delightful to travel to Minnesota with her, to sleep in a bed next to her, and to see her so excited to be with family. She finally got to play in Nana’s Cupcake Cottage. And I learned more about her in those few days than I had in a year!



I shed a lot of tears, but then again, I am a cryer. Each drop was purposeful.

I rode my bike up and down, on urban trails and country roads, through a coulee, past wineries, alongside mountain lakes and the Mississippi River. Sometimes it was in solitude, other times with Jason.





I hiked the rocks and cliffs on the southeast side of Kauai. That was a glorious day.


I had more heartfelt, intimate, encouraging, and earnest conversations with great people than I can count or remember in detail. This is the milk and honey of life!

I bought a Roomba, which has totally changed my life. Jason named him Bubba, but because he’s like another member of the family to me I get confused and call him Bubbo on a regular basis (a melding of Bebo and Bubba). I find that amusing since Beatrice barely does any chores (we’re working on that).


I went grain-free and mostly sugar-free with Jason for a couple months, and it has overall changed my eating habits and outlook on care for my body.

I bought an incredible faux fur coat that looks like I skinned a snow leopard (I didn’t–snow leopards are one of my fav wild animals). Ironically, I purchased it at Goodwill for $20, but I feel (and look) way more luxurious than Macklemore did in his music video.


I listened to my dad talk about his childhood and share stories I had not heard before. It was delightful. It was not planned, or I would’ve recorded it.

I slept in a yurt complete with a croaking frog outside, a gazillion stars overhead, and a vineyard out my door.


I celebrated ten years of marriage to Jason and 11 years of knowing him. One small little line of words written out, yet so much encapsulated in all that time.


I said an emphatic “yes” to Jason starting grad school in 2018.

I listened to lots of Sandra McCracken, NeedtoBreathe, and Nathan Partain‘s A Lovely Wait. The latter had a profound effect on my abiding with the Lord.

One of the greatest epiphanies I had this year was realizing that laughter in the midst of sadness is not an offense to pain, but it’s friend, ready to bless and comfort.

I showed my kids Montana. There’s so much more to see, but we’ll do that Summer 2018.


I watched Jason walk through one of the hardest years of his life. I fumbled as I was given opportunities to abide with Jason, but I saw God help me many times along the way. I suppose time will tell where the fruit grows. I’m grateful there is grace to fill in the gaps.

What’s next in 2018? I don’t know, but this is my theme:


Beautiful lettering done by my friend, Lauren of Ink & Eben.


My life with anxiety, right now

I started to write this post about a week ago. I write quite a few posts that I never publish, and I figured this would be one of them since it is uncomfortably personal.

But lately I’ve felt compelled to share the uncomfortable.  My friend Jessica has started writing frankly about her struggles with a chronic illness called POTS, and although I knew she was sick in a theoretical sense, now I know so much more what it’s like to be her in her sickness. And because I care about her, that really matters to me. Her writing is a gift to me, though I know it’s hard for her to share.

Second, several months ago an old acquaintance connected me with a woman here in Seattle named Kimberlee Conway Ireton, who wrote a book called Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.  Naturally, this topic is up my alley. Kimberlee and I have not had a chance yet to meet in person, but her book showed up in the mail a couple of weeks ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Just as Jessica is honest, Kimberlee writes about how hard her life was after she had twins, and how crippling her anxiety became for her.  She writes about how hard it was to hang onto God and how hanging onto God just didn’t seem to be working.  She writes in detail what her anxiety felt like from both emotional and physical standpoints, her rational and irrational fears, the thoughts that gnawed at her.  If I were her I would have edited out the most uncomfortable parts (and maybe she did), but I gotta hand it to the lady–she gets really real.

If Jessica is laying in bed feeling awful and sharing the details of the cross she’s bearing and Kimberlee decided to write an entire book about the hell she went through, then maybe it’s safe for me to put my pinky toe in the water.

Nah.  Who am I kidding, I might as well just cannon ball-it.

I am struggling with anxiety right now. That right now is really important to state because I usually talk about these things after the fact.  If you were my friend and you probed a bit, I would probably throw you a bone and say something like “You know, I’m okay.  I’m having a rough go of it at the moment.” But I wouldn’t go much further than that.  If I were to, I might start crying and that will make both of us uncomfortable.  And oh my, what would I do if we were ALL uncomfortable? That would make me even more anxious!

On the other hand, when I’m in the middle of an intense bout of anxiety, I talk about it in great detail to Jason.  And some of it goes to my mom, too. This is partly because I am self-obsessed and partly because when it consumes me I am constantly accessing how I’m doing, what I can handle, if I’ll be able to handle it, how my body is feeling, what the next moments or days might look like, etc.  I feel the need to speak it. I suppose I want some coddling, some reassurance from others that I’m okay.  But after a while even I get sick of myself.  Jason definitely gets sick of it.

Thankfully, you are all a fresh audience . . .

My first distinct memory of anxiety was at the age of six.  I remember being very worried I wouldn’t be able to learn how to read and I’d fall behind in school.  I was the hardest working first-grader in my class.  This is first grade, people. I should’ve been playing double-dutch or picking flowers or something.

In the third grade I remember being so afraid I wouldn’t learn the multiplication tables (because I had convinced myself I was terrible at math) that I would have my mom lay with me in bed at night and go over and over each table so I could have them completely memorized. To my credit, when we played those math speed games in class, I was fast.

Then there was the phase where I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night, which I thought would make me so tired in the morning that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the school day. I think that was fourth or fifth grade.  Ironically, in all my years of schooling (even into college) I have NEVER fallen asleep in class, no matter how tired I was.

I remember the weird phase in grade school where I had to take two showers a day and I counted everything in even numbers.  I remember how superstitious I was because it kept the anxiety at bay.

I remember the stomach-aches I would get as a child that never amounted to any kind of diagnosis.  I remember telling my mom that I was worrying, but I wasn’t sure about what. I felt like something bad could happen, or was about to happen, and somehow worrying about it would prepare me for it.

I remember waking up one Saturday morning my senior year of high school, so paralyzed by anxiety that I didn’t show up for one of my last cross-country races. I had trained all summer and fall to complete a season. I also didn’t run in regionals that year for similar reasons.

I remember sitting at my desk at my first real job after college, staring at my computer screen, completely overwhelmed and afraid.

And then, after Imogen was born there was all that stuff.  It entailed paranoia, some OCD tendencies, lots of insomnia, anger, panic, depression.  Ummm yeah, not gonna go into much more detail about that.

And now, Beatrice is going to turn one next week.  We have made it to the other side, so to speak.  I slept and I took care of her, and lots of people took care of me, and we made it.  More than that, many days I was more than okay.  My anxiety didn’t come even close to overcoming me.

Until now.

Now I feel like I’m crawling back into that abyss, that hole that I was in over two years ago that I never, EVER wanted to venture back into. I vowed to myself I wouldn’t, as if I have some sort of supernatural control over that sort of thing.

No, I’m not at the bottom.  I just feel like every few days I step down another rung on the ladder.  Or I slip down, that would be more accurate. And that is just NOT okay with me.

It started like this: a little storm was off shore, enough out at sea for there to be a little concern. But that storm built and it turned wild and then it was a hurricane, which eventually reached shore.  It crashed into me.  And then, to further ensue chaos, the hurricane decided to step back out off shore to give me a reprieve only to come slamming back in.  It continues to do this with little order.

How am I responding? To milk the metaphor, I’m spinning around trying to figure out if it’s safe to open my shutters, or if I should be boarding them up and hunkering down.  Or maybe I should be out there picking up the debris from the last blast?  Should I run to the store for supplies? Is it safe? Can anyone tell me? Will it ever be safe?

Okay, I’ll just say it plainly.  Some days I wake up with a jolt, my heart racing.  I am not sure if I could ever get out of bed.  I’m scared to.  I can’t handle what’s outside my door, my life, my duties, my children. I can hear it all out there. But I’m really not sure I can do it.  I lay there, frozen.

Some nights I start feeling anxious about the idea of going to sleep an hour or two before bedtime.  I feel consoled by the thought that I’ll take my medications and when they kick in I’ll feel relaxed enough to go to sleep.  Last night that reasoning didn’t work, I don’t know why, and it scared me.

Even with an increase in my medications, I get a few good hours of sleep and the rest of the night I feel like am sleeping with one eye open.  I wake up feeling unrested. In the morning I count on my fingers the hours I may have slept, hoping the total makes me feel better. But really, I don’t even know what happened each night.  It’s one big anxiety-inducing blur.

On three separate occasions, in the evenings before bed, I became overwhelmed to the point of panic.  This makes me sad to think about because 1) this hasn’t happened for over two years and 2) now that it’s happened here in this house, I will live with memories of it happening here.  That was at the other house, I tell myself.  That’s done, I tell myself.  But no, it’s not.  It’s in my bathroom, on the floor. Sometimes I have been alone, but the last time Jason was there with me.  That made it so much better.

A few days ago I was texting with a friend and it came out that I was, as I say, having “a rough go of it.” She knows me well enough to get the gist of what this means.  She offered to bring us a meal and I accepted.

Last night she came over to drop off the meal. It had been an awful, awful day.  And because of that, I really needed the particular brand of grace of a hot meal  delivered to my door. I thanked God for the timing.  But I didn’t really want my friend to see how much I needed it, because that’s hard and my life is already hard right now.

Well, she came and was her gracious, kind self.  Jason, her and I chatted a bit.  I think I seemed relatively normal, though I probably looked like a hot mess.

When we got to the end of our small talk, there was a pause. And I said, “Thank you for bringing this, it couldn’t have come at a better time.” And I started crying.  And I hugged her because I didn’t know what else to do.

She was sweet and she told us that her and husband loved us and that it would be okay. I looked at Jason and I think he was tearing up, but I don’t know for sure. I like to think that he was.

After she left I asked Jason, “Was that awkward? You know, me being real about how things are right now?”

“Yes,” he said.  “But it couldn’t have been any more perfect.”

I love that man.  He’s got this God-given intuition, this knowing about people and relationships, and love, and what it could all look like, what it should look like–if we all weren’t so fucked up.

But, I digress.

I know that other people live with anxiety.  It seems to be everywhere.  Our culture feeds on it and we are scared and nervous, even if scared and nervous aren’t our natural default.

But for those of you who struggle with anxiety, or depression, or OCD or bipolar, or whatever particular brand of crazy you or others have slapped on your medical file, this is for you.  It is an abridged version of my mental tape deck. It’s one step farther than my “thank you for this meal” incident.

These are the questions that go round and round in my head when anxiety grips me.  They are the questions that quiet down when I feel like myself again, like I’ve got my feet solidly back on the ground.  But then they come back, when the next round hits me.

  1. Why do I feel anxious? What am I doing wrong? How do I make it stop?
  2. What if it gets worse? What will tomorrow look like? Will I be able to handle it? I HAVE to be able to handle it because these little people are here and they want things from me and they need things from me.
  3. Maybe my medications aren’t working.  What if my doctor is wrong about my diagnosis and treatment? Can I trust him? Does he really understand me or my symptoms? Maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough the last time I saw him . . .
  4. What if these drugs are what’s making me sick? Maybe I would be fine if I just wasn’t taking them. Or maybe I should be taking different ones. How would I even know?
  5. What if I would’ve been diagnosed sooner after Imogen was born? How would that have changed things? How much simpler could this all have been?
  6. Why didn’t God reveal it to us before it got so bad?
  7. Why was I so afraid to ask for help back then? Why did I think I had to do postpartum life on my own?
  8. Will I ever sleep unassisted again?  I am so afraid I won’t. And what if, even on medications, I’m not able to sleep?
  9. Preface: I had an eating disorder. What if these pills cause me to gain weight (a common side effect of some SSRIs)?  Do I have to be fat to be happy?  And honestly, in my vain little world, is it possible to be both at the same time? Is God displeased with me for thinking these things?
  10. What would I be like if I wasn’t on medication?  Would I be like I was before all this happened? What was I really even like before all this happened? What even is “all this?”
  11. Is this God disciplining me?   Or is this just part of my broken world?  Or is it both?  How does it all intersect?
  12. Why am I so resistant to go to God when I feel anxious? Why do I feel like there’s nothing He can or will do? Why do I feel like I have more power than He does in these situations, even if my power feels so miniscule?
  13. Will I ever be “normal” again, for any considerable length of time?  Or will my anxiety taunt me by coming back just when I think it’s gone for good?
  14. When can I be regularly counted on to help others in their time of need?
  15. Will I ever feel strong enough to ride my bike and run again? I felt alive when I did those things and I miss them.
  16. What is my mental illness doing to my marriage?  What am I doing to my marriage? What if one day Jason just can’t take it any more?
  17. What memories will my children have of me? What is this doing to them?
  18. What if the anxiety I’m feeling now so colors my world that I can’t remember what my kids are like in this season?  
  19. What if this kills me?  What if the wear and tear of anxiety causes my body to give into something much bigger, like cancer or heart disease?
  20. Or, what if taking all these medications is what eventually kills me?
  21. What lesson am I not learning that God feels the need to keep bringing anxiety into my life so that I’ll learn it? 

I have my own thoughts as to what the answers are to some of these questions. I entertain them a lot when my anxiety consumes me, but it’s just more crazy-making.  And, I may never know. God may sit me down in eternity and get real with me about all this, or some of it, or He may choose not to.

But bringing my questions out into the light has a purpose now. Maybe someone, somewhere, understands a little bit more about what anxiety is like.  Someone who knows someone who struggles with it. It is hard to understand when you don’t have it.

And even more than that, maybe someone, somewhere says, “Yes, I know.” Anxiety is a sickness of loneliness, I think, and if someone feels a little less alone, then I’ve provided some tiny, tiny break in the storm.

I am a Christian. I believe a lot of things about God, the things that He has revealed to me through His Word and through my own experience of Him. And I have to honestly admit, I’ve experienced a lot of Him in the short ten plus years I’ve been a believer.

But as you can see from some of my unanswered questions, this is a faith struggle.  My anxiety is at odds with my head-faith and even more, deep down, it is at odds with my heart-faith.  And the heart, well, that’s where the crux of everything is.

When my head is sick, when my brain is sick, my heart has a hard time crying out to God, or even wanting to. I want to want to.  At least I think I do . . .?

But, there are a couple good things.

A few days ago, as I lay in bed, not wanting to get out, I read this:

“Christ is the Great Burden-Bearer. You cannot bear His load and He only expects you to carry a little day-share” (God Calling, Jan 4)

I prayed an honest prayer in that moment: Lord, I really don’t want to even carry my little share today.  I don’t even know if I can carry it.

And yet the day went on and it had it’s hard parts, but I am okay.

Second, is the image of this: me, as a little girl, standing with my short, pudgy arms wrapped around my Jesus’ legs, my face buried in his robes.  I’m not sure if I’m hiding my face for shame or comfort or both.  But the image feels good.  It feels real. And I can use all the reality I can get.

This is my anxiety story, right now.

And heck, at least I’m writing again.

Heartfelt thanks

During this pregnancy my psychiatrist told me I needed to find a significant amount of help for the first 12 weeks postpartum.

12 weeks is a long time.  That’s 2,016 hours that could potentially be filled with tearful meltdowns, bored children up to no good, sleeplessness, a colicky baby, piles of dirty laundry and dishes, hungry stomachs, poopy diapers, and other variations on the definition of chaos.

In the months we took to thoughtfully prepare for our new addition, I continued to get the impression from the Lord that this prescribed help would come from a lot of different people.  And that a good portion of that help would come from people I didn’t know all that well.

This made me uncomfortable.

But, as we drew closer to Beatrice’s arrival, God sent people who committed to help. Sometimes it was because we asked; other times people knew to ask.  That 12-week period ended a few weeks ago, but we didn’t even have to contact all the people on our help list.  That’s a blessing I did not anticipate!

I want to publicly thank those that have supported us in the last few months, and that’s what the rest of this post is for.  I also wanted to write this all down so I can come back and remember.  This is how Jesus came to us in this season and got us through.

*These thanks are not in any particular order and if I’ve forgotten anyone please, please forgive me and know that I appreciate you.

Jason – you are still married to me because 1) you are extremely loyal 2) God has given you incredible strength and 3) He holds all things together.  Thank you for not only wanting me and us to get through this, but for wanting us to thrive and for doing so, so much to see that happen.  You are also amazing for doing night duty for three months.

Mom – you’ve done pretty much everything for us around the house.  And you never cease to entertain us either! You’ve also listened to me when I’m crazy and empathized when I’m in tears.  You’ve just generally been motherly and I have needed that.  And you’ve been there for Ian and Imogen during a time when they need extra love and attention.

Sarah T – you have kept our household from falling apart!  I can’t say thank you enough for your care of the kids, your hard work, your flexibility, and your asking how I am.  You and your family are a Godsend.

Cindie – thank you for being there, once again, for the birth of a Haggard baby.  You have given me such thoughtful and personal care and counsel with each pregnancy, but especially this one.  And you are always so good to remind me that you are thinking about me and praying for me.  You pray harder than anyone else I know.

Sherri – for giving breastfeeding expertise and encouragement in the first days and weeks as Beatrice and I tried to figure things out.  It was so nice to have you come over or to know that I could call if I had questions or didn’t know what to do.  Nursing has continued to go smoothly.

Jessica – for being my dear friend and now I can also say, my doula.   I am really glad you were able to be such an integral part of this pregnancy, labor and birth.  One more drama we’ve walked through together!

Jane – you just kept bringing food.  And more food.  And more.  It was wonderful.

Ben & Allison – thank you so much for taking care of our kids on the spur of the moment, on several instances.  They had a lot of fun and just today they asked if they could go over to Isaac’s house again 🙂

Sara B – for seeing me at preschool in the months while I was pregnant and getting the sense that I needed some help (which I did!).  Thank you for giving Ian rides home from preschool.  I’m glad Ian and Ellie have become buddies and I really hope to get to know you more in the future.

Alicia – for donating breast milk I could use in the early days after birth.  It really took the pressure off of me and aided my ability to sleep at night.  And thank you for offering to continue to pump if needed.

Amanda R – for being so excited for us when my water broke that you stayed up the rest of the night and then still took our kids for the rest of the day so I could go about the business of having a baby.  Also, for dealing with my inconsolable child who didn’t want to sleep at your house.

Lynette – for bringing us your amazing pot roast plus other food, as well as handmade baby gifts and a big tub of clothes to go through.  And that day you took my kids for like five hours–that was amazing, too.

Emily N – for coming over, taking care of your kids and mine while also somehow managing to clean parts of my kitchen that had been neglected for months.  I don’t really know how you did that!

Amanda D – for your life coaching and for offering to be my birth assistant.  I really felt honored that you would ask and want to be there.  Also, for the great foot rub.  I look forward to pow-wowing with you soon and setting personal goals for the future.

Michelle – thank you for supporting me through prayer and emails as well as the specially made Chinese postpartum food.  Also, when you nod your head when I share parts of my story at BSF it makes me feel like I’m not so crazy after all.

Brenna – for knowing I could call you if I needed to talk and for calling at the right times to check in.  I really appreciate it.

Kathy – thank you for offering your postpartum doula services to us at just the right time. You’ve helped me gain confidence as a mom and it has been so nice to know I can ask an expert questions when I have no idea what to do with my baby (which is more than you would expect with a third child).  If anyone needs postpartum help, connect with Kathy!

Brittany – for coming over and doing night duty (and doing it so well), even though you have a little one at home to care for.  We got some great sleep that night.

Lisa – thank you for giving us your Sunday afternoons so many times and finding creative ways to entertain the kids.  I know Jason especially appreciated that he could nap during that time since he was so dead tired there for a while.

Monica – for being so excited to see me back at BSF and for praying for us.

Nathan and Natalie – for coming over and cleaning all the floors in our house (they were nasty!), and with smiles on your faces.  They looked so shiny and pristine, which is a treat for me, and so I am thankful for your elbow grease.

Sarah L – thank you for being so available to come over and help and for being so persistent in getting here even though Jason gave you the wrong address!

Linda – for spending the good part of two days of your visit here cooking in my kitchen so I could have delicious freezer meals to get us through the last few weeks.

Alyssa – for the absolute perfect voice mail you left me.  I still have it on my phone to listen to on particularly crappy days.  It makes me miss you, too.

Ashley – for holding my baby so I could take a shower, even though your baby was screaming on the floor.  I found it amusing, I’m not sure if you did at the time!

To everyone who prayed for us.  We really needed it and God was faithful through your intercession.

To everyone who responded to my requests on our church’s website for baby supplies – absolutely everything you’ve donated or lent has come in incredibly handy.  Julie – I especially appreciated all those newborn diapers!

To everyone who made food for us.  It was delicious and we had plenty extra to carry us through.  Also, thank you, Blythe, for organizing meals for us and for everyone else in need at our church.

To friends and family who sent cards, money, gifts, and congratulations.  It feels really good to know that those who are far away are thinking of us and celebrating with us.  It’s also nice to get a fun treat in the mail or put cash towards diapers or medical bills 🙂

After this experience I can say that it has become a lot easier to ask for help (and that’s saying a lot).  It also makes me look forward to the day when I am more fully able to help others – hopefully that day won’t be in too long.

Many, many blessings,


(and Jason, Ian, Imogen & Beatrice)

My variegated camellia

I know it’s been a while, and that’s to be expected since we’ve been busy since Beatrice was born.  I do have a couple blog posts half-written (one being her birth story) but for now I wanted to share something shorter.

Wait, what am I kidding; I don’t do short.

With what I’m about to share I don’t intend to portray myself as especially godly.  In fact, I feel the opposite;  I am in a season of spiritual dryness.  I remember experiencing this after Imogen was born, too.  I feel tapped out mentally and emotionally.  I’m barely doing my daily BSF homework and my prayers feel like they are words spoken distantly and with little intention.

When the end of the day comes I just want to sit down on the couch and watch Parks & Rec on Netflix.  In the moments where I have some quiet while breastfeeding I sit and watch clips of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  I tell myself I need light and superficial, that I can’t handle much more.

Despite this desert, there is a little sprout.

We have a big picture window in front of our kitchen sink.  On the other side of the glass sits a camellia bush (more like a tree in our case).  We moved in July so we didn’t see it bloom last spring. Actually it was only recently that I even looked closely enough to recognize that it was a camellia.

And then, this last week, right in the center of the window, this happened.

A lone bloom.  And a pretty spectacular one at that.

I was very pleasantly surprised.  I have never seen a camellia bloom with stripes before.  I posted a photo on Facebook and was told it’s called a variegated camellia.

I have been walking by this window or standing in front of it doing dishes and thinking. Not too deep, mind you, but at least it’s a start.

It’s a little gift to me.

My mom gave me a devotional for Christmas called God Calling.  If you’ve read any of the Jesus Calling devotionals, it is similar in style but a bit more obtuse and written in more complex, older English (which I like).  In fact, it is the book that inspired Sarah Young to write her books.  If you’re not familiar with these devotionals, they are written in the first person, as if Jesus were talking directly to the reader.

This last week I was flipping back through a few day’s worth of devotionals that I’d missed and I came across March 11th, entitled “Seek Beauty.”  This stuck out at me:

“I am with you. When I wanted to express a beautiful thought, I made a lovely flower.

When I want to express to man what I am–what my Father is–I strive to make a very beautiful character.”

There you have it; that’s what my variegated camellia bloom is–a beautiful thought from God.

I gave up Facebook for Lent.  Well, I sort of did.  I’ve been back on a few times but it’s been quick and usually to post a picture.  I have not been trolling it like I ashamedly have spent a lot of my spare time doing in the last few months (years?).

It was–it does–pretty much eat away at my soul.  I’ve tricked myself into feeling, with every “like” I get on my status update, that things are better, that I’m better, that life is better, heck, even that I’m better than others.

I hoped that during this time of Lent I could empty that part of my mental and emotional space and fill it with whatever the Lord wanted to put there.

Emptying hasn’t actually been that hard, but filling back up with the worthwhile has proven much more difficult.  Yes, I troll more on Pinterest now.  And I’ve been obsessing about how my sweet little baby girl is overtired and won’t nap.  I’ve been looking in the mirror at my soft, lumpy body, discouraged. I’ve been imagining how I’m going to organize my laundry room.  Everything will be neat and organized and in control–it will all be wonderful!

I am encouraged that somehow, in the midst of all my chaos (let’s just call it what it is–idolatry) something of the goodness and purpose of Lent has gotten through, all because of that variegated camellia.

I look at it, again and again, by the mere fact that my daily routines center around that window.  It takes me away from Facebook and Pinterest, away from the way things should be, according to me or to the world, to actual reality, where God resides (which is much better).

He makes beautiful things and He’s making me beautiful.  The former is evident, the latter I ask for faith to remember and believe in.


Also, along similar lines, I have appreciated what Amy Lepine has been writing about Lent and also her post entitled “The Long, Hard Winter, Right?” at Making All Things New.

And here’s some photos from February and March.

Big news for the Haggards

Since I last blogged in May, a lot has happened.  I may as well just dive right in with it.

1) We bought a house

and . . .

2) We’re pregnant.

Yes, I know.  When it rains, it pours.  And even if what’s falling out of the sky are good things, I’m going to be honest and say I still feel at many times that I need to run and duck for cover.

And I mean, didn’t you expect this from the Haggards (even if we don’t even expect it from ourselves)?  Have we ever failed to shock or entertain you?  (Dear God, may we please fail you someday, for my own personal sanity and my husband’s well-being.)

Many of you know either by direct conversation or in some roundabout way about either one or both of these things.  If you didn’t, well I suppose now you do because it’s on the internet.

As far as the home-buying is concerned, some of you will find it ironic that Jason got himself into the real estate market.  That is because you’ve heard him go on and on about how buying a house in Seattle is ludicrous because the market is so overpriced and yada yada yada.  I have liked renting for its security; if anything unfortunate were to happen financially we could be out of our house immediately.

But, at the beginning of May we started thinking about a house.  This was propagated by the fact that Jason’s parents were in Seattle and we were discussing the possibility of finding a home with a MIL unit that they could live in while they were helping us.  In future seasons we could use the unit to host friends and family and for our family as it grows.

We weren’t thinking all that seriously.  In fact we told our new realtor, “You know, we just want to warn you – this could be a year or two from now . . . or maybe never.” Ha.   She was probably smirking on the inside.

But despite our hesitations, some big things needed to get resolved for us in the month of May, and where we would live was one of them.  The other two were as follows:

1) Will my in-laws stay in Seattle or move on?  They weren’t having much luck finding permanent housing and figured they should make a decision by June.

2) Am I pregnant?  Yes, a little off topic.  But I knew there was a slim possibility.  Because it was so slim, I was not thinking much about it, but because God designed nature as it is, I would eventually (as in a month) find out if I was or wasn’t.

I remember very distinctly my prayers about these things.  I prayed with hopeful expectancy, which is very unlike me.

The first answer we received was that I was in fact pregnant.  I must have, deep in my subconscious, dismissed this as a real possibility because I was completely shocked.  And sort of freaked out.  I am a crazy lady and now I’m a crazy lady having another baby What, people, could possibly be next for the Haggards?!

[I will interject to say that I am pro-having babies and I am pro-having this baby.  But I was shocked nonetheless.]

Jason was also surprised but of course supportive, and he’s a flexible person to begin with. He jokes that he got what he wanted with the time frame moved up, which is fine by him.  If we found out we were having twins he would consider it an absolutely perfect situation.  Maybe, that is, until the twins actually came out of the womb and I handed them over to him.

Now that we had to factor into our living situation another human being, we knew we were going to have to move in the next nine months – whether Jason’s parents stayed or not.  Hmmm.

We had looked at one house at the beginning of May (minus a few at-home Redfin stalkings I did on my own). Amazingly it had fit all of our requirements.  It already had a MIL unit, the layout was great, it was in a pleasant neighborhood, had a backyard, was close to friends, there was easy access to the freeway, and it was not a complete dump.  If you live in Seattle, you know this is a gem.

But we both decided it was just okay.  We didn’t get any major impressions when we walked in or afterward when we talked it over.  We dismissed it because at that point we thought we only had two children.  And we moved on for another week or so, waiting for answers.

But now that I was pregnant that house was looking better and better to me.  And not even in a desperate sort of way.  I started to be excited about its possibilities and the space it did afford.  I started to feel like I could see us living there.

In a totally random sort of way we put an offer in on the house.  It had sat on the market another week and our realtor thought we could offer what we wanted to, which was significantly less than the asking price.

And that began a journey that only included a few brief conversations between Jason and I on the couch and the conclusion that we’d take one step forward, and then another, and we’d see what would happen.

And now we live in this house.  And it has been truly, truly a blessing.

In the end, our in-laws decided to move back east.  This was really hard for us. But, it has brought about a great God story.  As of a few weeks ago we have a couple living in our MIL unit, JT and Sarah, and their 10-month-old son, Josiah.  In exchange for the living space, Sarah takes care of Ian and Imogen during the weekdays so I can rest.

I cannot tell you how truly great this has been, in numerous ways.  It is helping me get better and it is a comfort to know there will be extra help when the baby comes.  And we really like JT and Sarah, and we are glad our families can mutually bless each other.  They moved out here from Michigan and were looking for housing when they saw a post I put on the Mars Hill’s website.  And now they are here with us.

[This is where I was going to post a picture of our new friends, but I figured I didn’t want to totally creep them out if they ended up reading this.]

JT is looking into church-planting and Sarah has plans to finish a nursing degree and become a midwife.  How perfect to have a future midwife in our house!  Sarah and I have had some good conversations on the subject.

Jason and I took possession of the house at the beginning of July and for that month Jason worked away, getting some things remodeled, re-plumbed, etc.  Thank you to friends and family who also helped, you are very much appreciated.  You worked so that I didn’t have to.

The kids and I came back from Mother T’s at the beginning of August and JT
& Sarah moved in shortly after that. And now we are that couple who works on the house after the kids go to bed.  We’ve spent more money at The Home Depot than I care to think about.  I’m hanging pictures on the walls, Jason’s out gabbing with the neighbors, and the kids are scratching the newly refinished hardwood floors.  I guess that means we’re making it home.

Not many have actually seen the house, so I will give a few glimpses.  I preface this with the fact that you will be disappointed with these photos – they are few and not all that exciting.

Here’s the white trash side of our house.  Note the appliances and furniture in the driveway, and I left the garage door open for the full effect.  I would personally apologize to the neighbors, but I’m too much of an introvert at the moment to do so.

This is the other side of the front.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it’s beautifully landscaped (not by us).

Ian requested I take a picture of him, of course.

Here’s the first room we finished.  Yes, it is light pistachio, and no, Jason does not like it.  But, he loves his wife so that’s the way it is.

These are photos of the MIL unit. Technically this was the first area we finished, as we wanted it ready for JT & Sarah.  We mainly painted, cleaned the carpets, replaced some appliances and did some plumbing. (“We” means Jason).

I promise to take more photos.  I really wish I had taken some befores, but that didn’t happen.  But, here’s more general photos from July and August.

So, in the end, I still ask myself “How did we get here?!  What is going on?  Am I still having this baby and do we really live in Shoreline?”

I know I’ve fully explained it, but I still wonder sometimes. Jason and I are amazed at God’s impeccable timing and His provision.  And how simply it came together.  I mean, as simple as buying a home and being pregnant can be.

The last time I posted was over two months ago.  I was, of course, thinking about all the what-ifs, and I did imply that some in my writing.  But I was also stuck on this: “Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Cor 7:17).

How fitting that was when I found out I was pregnant – it was assigned.  And so was the house.  And our new tenants.  And even my struggles with depression and anxiety, as I work to overcome them.

There is peace in knowing that God’s will happens.  It is happening for us Haggards.

What do you do with the downhill?

In high school cross country, my most favorite race was on our school’s home course.  It was also probably the hardest course in our league of schools.

The first mile was really nice paved path, a bit of up and down, but it overlooked water and beautiful mountains.  The second was a relatively flat trail through woods.

The third mile started right around the time you hit what was (and maybe still is) infamously called “Goat Hill.”  It’s only probably 30 feet long but it’s steep, narrow, and dusty, just a little opening in the trees.  You obviously couldn’t pass anyone and in order to get up it you literally had to grab onto branches to pull yourself up. By the time you got up it and hit a paved road, your quads were screaming.

But oh no, it wasn’t over then.  After you crossed that paved road you were about to hit 800 meters of uphill trail.  Not steep, but not gradual either.   At this point, you already feel like you just want to lay down on the side of the road and die, but there’s more.  And more.  And believe me, those 800 meters feel a lot longer than the first two miles.

If you’re a runner, maybe you just laid your head down on your desk or a tear  trickled down your cheek and you whispered out loud “I’m so sorry . . .”  Or you got this surge inside that made you want to put on your running clothes and hit the pavement.  Or maybe both emotions happened at the same time.  There is sort of this weird paradox or ambivalence I think all runners have about the sport.

If you’re not a runner, then you probably are confused or you just think I’m crazy for running in the first place.  Stick with me, though.

The last time I ran the course at Farragut State Park was fall of 1999, as a senior.  I still distinctly remember those 800 meters.  I put my head down, dug in, and ran. And ran. And ran.  I was passing groups of girls as I went.  Even though it was hard, I felt a little bit superhuman.  I was surprising myself.

After you reach the top, the last couple hundred meters are flat and then downhill grass into the finish line.  It’s the reward, I suppose.  It’s what everyone wants, right?  Well, they want the finish line, but next to that, the grassy downhill feels quite nice.

Even at 17 years of age, I realized the downhill was not what I wanted.  I am no different now. I want Goat Hill.  And more than that I want that hellish 800 meters.  When I run downhill I feel like I’m flailing, like I can’t control myself.  Frankly, I feel kinda like an idiot.

I found this also to be true when I started riding my bike a few years ago.  When I told Jason that I actually like doing hills he told me there are a few categories of cyclists.  There are descenders, sprinters, and you guessed it . . . climbers.  And inside I take some pride in the fact that I can call myself a climber.  When I ride downhill I’m constantly wanting to hit my brakes.  I can’t just let the bike go.

I have found similarities in labor and childbirth, too.  The first time I labored, it was like I was running the hardest and longest race I’ve ever ran.  But I put my head down and I dug in.  And I did it.  And again, I surprised myself.

I got a baby out of the deal, and that’s Ian.  And it’s not like I wasn’t glad it was over.  But I really liked that it was hard.

But what do you do after you cross the finish line and have achieved probably the best race of your life?  Or, even greater than that, you hold that beautiful gift of a child in your arms?  What do you do when everything is all congrats and happy times?  To me, accepting these things is harder than it is to walk through hard stuff, if that makes any sense.

These “easy” times, these times of joy and peace, I resist them far more than those 800 meters. Or, the transition or the four hours of pushing a baby out.  Or the steepest hill I’ve ever climbed on my bike.

I’ve had a lot of the hard stuff in this particular season. I’m not denying that it has been scary, excruciating at times, confusing.  I’ve wanted it to go away, like right now.

But now I’m getting what I wanted. I’m having more good days, and I don’t know what to do with them.  With the plenty, the energy, the clarity in my head, the predictability of the days, the motivation, the feeling like myself.  How do you live life with God in that?

I still have some hard days and I cry out to the Lord (mostly).  I need Him.  But on the good days, it just feels like I’m flailing on the easy downhill that is this world, tempted to be satisfied and pleased with what temporary things are constantly offered to me–money, stuff, distractions, reputation, image.  There is this weight of guilt just hovering about it all, and I can’t shake it off.  I can’t just let go.  But there’s got to be a way of running the downhill a different way.

And so oddly, I feel like I’m grieving the loss of feeling bad.  I want a little more of it because it’s painful, it’s familiar.  I know how to talk to God in the mess, and I sense deep down He hears me.  Maybe I feel like I deserve it or I’m earning His love in some way.  I haven’t quite figured it out, but what do I expect when I follow a religion, a Person, that is somehow simple and complex all at once?

The last few days the lyrics to a song I’ve been listening to by Tenth Avenue North have been stuck in my head.  In fact, they were part of the inspiration for writing about this particular subject.

Don’t stop the madness
Don’t stop the chaos
Don’t stop the pain surrounding me
Don’t be afraid, Lord, to break my heart
Just bring me down to my knees

Don’t stop the uphill, Lord.  Yet, yeah, I could use a break, that would be nice.  I don’t know what I want, dangit, and I certainly don’t know what I need.  Only you know that, Lord.

I know life feeling bad can’t go on forever.  There aren’t races out there that are completely uphill, at least I don’t think there are.  People wouldn’t run them (except maybe me and a few other crazies).  And my husband and kids and family and friends can’t handle my uphill forever, and they shouldn’t have to.

The Gospel talks a lot about suffering, but it does talk about indescribable joy.  There are times when the Lord is speaking of the receiving of it in eternity, but there are others when He means joy in our days on this earth.  It’s not like we receive our inheritance then; in many ways, we are receiving it now and moving forward in it.

The Bible talks about the dead coming back to life, and the lame being healed.  Jesus did not expect Lazarus or the beggar or Jairus and his daughter to go looking for some other fatal illness that would make life scary and miserable and end in paralyzation or death.  Suffering would inevitably come again for each one of them, but He gave them indescribable joy in those moments of healing and in the times that followed for each one of them.

I picked up Brother Lawrence’s little book to help me see if I could resolve this a little more for myself.  He has been a dependable help before.  But as I read his words, all they did was irritate me.  Practicing the presence of God just seemed to come so easily to him, even from the beginning.  Being a glutton for punishment, I need some struggle!  I suppose I should just keep reading, life gets miserable for everyone at some point.

But do you see, I’m still missing the point here?  And so God leads me back around to try to learn this life lesson again.

Right now there are days when I’ve got to run the downhill because it’s part of my life’s course.  There will probably be more of these days ahead.  God will decide.  So how do I practice His presence, live my life unto the Lord in the daily running about of getting things done?  Or parenting, marriage, friendship?  How do I not live in a worldly fashion, in a superficial way?  How do I talk more to God than just think about Him?

And heaven forbid, how do I do the things that I really love doing and not feel like in some way I’m doing them disobediently, apart from Him, or avoiding Him? I told you, I’ve said it, I’m a glutton for punishment!

But, these are the things I tell myself: If I forget about God or my heart doesn’t want Him, I have grace.  I still have HimHe holds all things together, regardless of their state.  He’s in the uphill and the downhill, He’s in the plateaus, He meets us at the finish line.  Although that “us” is corporate to followers of Jesus Christ, it also means me, because damn it, I’m His.  When will this sink in?  I hope it’s before I see His face.

On the good days, help me cling to these truths, Lord.  Do not let my fingers loosen their grip.

Maybe someone reading this can relate.  Maybe you’re a climber, too.  Or maybe, you thrive on the downhill and your fist raises up to heaven when the uphill comes; that’s when you loosen your grip.

Either way, we keep going and we try to figure it out.  And then we realize that trying to figuring out how to get up the hill or how to get down it is actually working against us.  And then God helps us do what we’re called to do–let go.

A chip off the old block

Ian started preschool the beginning of February.  To be honest, I just wanted and needed some cheap childcare (can I get an amen from any other parents on this one?)  I wanted someplace else Ian could go where there was a wholesome, pleasant atmosphere, where he could show & tell his stuff, obey adults, be nice to other kids, run around, and get his craft on.  And, I could be with one less kid for a few hours.

Many of you saw the photo on facebook the photo that confirms to the world that Ian loves preschool (and that picture was taken before he even got there on his first day!). I figured he would.  I think he was getting a little bored around our house.

I don’t care, at least at this point, about academic rigor, but he is learning some things, particularly about letters and their sounds.  And word around preschool town (and from Grandma Becky who’s got the direct line to other grandchildren) that four-year-olds have the ability to write their own name.

Well, Ian doesn’t do that, at least he didn’t (*spoiler alert*).  I’ve haven’t cared.   I’ve read those lists on Pinterest, the “Everything Your Kids Should Be Able to Do Before They Get to Kindergarten” ones and my half-hearted response has been “Whatever, he’ll get to it.”  It’s so shocking hear myself saying this, but this is something I don’t worry about (this category runs small for me).

Well, a week or so ago we were coloring at home (Ian had markers, Imogen was designated to colored pencils.  Note: Don’t EVER, EVER give markers to a toddler).  Since we had grandma reinforcements, I was feeling more on the confident side, so I casually mentioned to Ian, “When you’re done with that picture why don’t we work on writing your name?”

He was mildly disinterested but said “okay”.  So I wrote him an “I” and he tried to copy it.  There was a little bit of push back, but it came relatively easy so we went onto “A”.  That’s when the back-peddling started. “Nooooooo! I CAN’T DO IT!”  This was said over and over, with increasing desperation.

You and I know this is not true.  With his duplos, Ian can practically build a miniature-size version of Ludwig’s castle or a Blackbird stealth.  And then he can somehow pull both creations together into one self-entertaining epic storyline (which he whispers to himself – did we all do that as a kid or was that just me and now my offspring?).

Back to the name writing thing.  By this time, we had moved past frustration.  I sensed some tears coming on.  I sensed fear.

“My name is too hard to write!” Ian said.  Too bad that excuse doesn’t work since we gave him the EASIEST name in the world.  When both Grandma and I told him this his response was that he wanted a new name.

I told him he was too young to change his name and besides, Mama had prayed a lot about what his name should be and I felt that God had given Ian his name (it means “God is gracious”).  You can’t argue with God.  But, for fun I said “Alright, Ian, what would you want your name to be?”

He hesitated a moment and then sheepishly said, “Helga.”

I’m sorry, I laughed.  And Grandma laughed.  What the heck – Helga?!  Besides, that has a “G” in it.  If you won’t write a capital “A” good luck writing that one, Ian.

Thankfully, our laughter did not shame him.  It actually put the teeniest, tiniest crack of a smile on his face.

So, Ian mustered up the resolve to try an “A”.  He tried to copy the “A” I wrote and it was not a bad first attempt at all.  It looked a bit more like a crooked, wobbling “H”, but heck, I’d take it.  And I praised him for it.

Well, Ian did not like his “A”.  In fact, he hated it.  He hated that we praised him for it.  “It’s NOT PERFECT!”

This is when I went into my time warp.  I can’t remember how young I was, but it was pretty young, when I started saying this to myself.  And I’ve been saying those words for a long time. I’m still saying them.  It has kept me from doing things in life, or it’s imprisoned me into doing them half-heartedly, or just giving up on them altogether.  And to be honest, I get angry about it, just like Ian does.

In the midst of my self-revelation, I was able to step outside myself for a moment and realize an invisible door was showing up.  As our pastor says, your kids “flash” you, so to speak. They show you what’s really in their heart, past the clenched fists and the evil eye.

I have been told when you see this flash, this invisible door, you leap headlong through it before it shuts in your face. And you pray and hope God shows up and you don’t mess things up.  Parents of older children can correct me if I’m wrong on this one (or least give us newer parents tips on how to successfully get through the door and not create dysfunction once inside).

Well, I went in that door.  It was double doors, because in actuality, this was just as much about me (maybe even more so) than it was about him.  Ian’s resistance shined a bright light; it brought me back to my own fears of things not being perfect.  Things HAVE to be perfect, gosh darnit!

I told Ian how there have been so many times I have been afraid to do things because they are hard.  I am scared, just like him, that I can’t do it.  I thought about all the things I tried as a kid – horseback riding, synchronized swimming, piano lessons, a myriad of art classes, basketball, golf, tennis, choir.  Some of these things I wasn’t good at, but some of them I could have been good at.  Some of them I was actually kinda good at and maybe, with time and practice, I could’ve been really good at them.

I need to make a side note to say that one of the only things I stuck with is writing.  And a degree in English Literature tried to suck that one out of me.  But, here I am, and truth be told, all those papers on literary criticism probably made me a stronger writer (and thinker) about life.

And so there Ian was and he listened to my speech and he understood as much as a four-year-old can about how some new things are scary and hard to try, but that God gives strength, and we can be proud of ourselves for trying and completing them, that practice makes us better at them, etc., etc.

And then he finished writing his name.  He still got angry when Grandma and I praised him for following through.  There were some more protests and slamming of his fists on the table.  But he did it.  This first attempt was written on the outside of a letter to Grandma T, but here is his second version, written underneath a painting of a big boat hooked up to Grandpa Brad’s red truck.

A few days later I was dropping Ian off at preschool and we were making small talk with one of his teachers. I encouraged Ian to tell Ms. Laurie about the new thing he learned how to do.  I had forgotten about the name-writing; I thought he was going to tell her how he’s riding his new two-wheeler (which was a cinch for him to learn), but instead he said “I can write my name now!”

He will always remember when he learned to ride his bike. It will probably be a memory of glorious freedom.  But I think in writing his name (at least I hope) he will remember God gives strength and courage to do new things.  They don’t have to be perfect the first time, or even ever.  And we can start on new things because we know these truths.

And I hope that I sit down at that beautiful piano that was such a wonderful gift to me and I play, even though it scares me.  And I write more and sing my heart out in the choir at church on Easter, and get the sewing machine out more than once a year and make something even if the stitch doesn’t come out absolutely perfect.

Thanks, Ian.  Thank you, God.

This beautiful mess

What do I say about the last few weeks, months? It’s been November since I’ve said anything publicly about our family’s situation, though some of you close by have picked up details along the way.

What I can say in the simplest way is that we’re in the midst of a beautiful mess.  This is my dear friend Keisha‘s statement about life (thank you in advance for letting me borrow it, Keisha, I know you understand).  I can’t think of a better way of putting it. As I ramble on with my thoughts maybe you can make sense of it, too.

So back in November, I was on an upswing. Yes, I did wish I was all better, but I was getting better and that can feel so amazing, even before you get to being actually well.  My mom even said to me at one point “Yes, you are definitely doing better because you’ve started to boss me around again.”

December came and we had a lovely Christmas, with all kinds of fun and festivities, candles and music, Pinterest inspiration and delicious sweets, hosting and going to parties.  I wanted to post about these things, but I didn’t because I was worried that other moms reading my blog would think “Wow, she has PPD and she’s doing this?! And making 250 Christmas cookies with her husband? And writing her own liturgy for her family for Advent Sundays?!  What kind of mother does that make me?”

Well, at the time I felt really happy.  I was feeling a deep sense of satisfaction about things in life that I had really forgotten existed.  I felt invigorated (returning back from what you thought was hell can do that to a person).  And I like being crafty and I like Christmas, so sue me.

But in January things changed.  And now I’m the mom who drops her child off at preschool every Monday and Thursday wearing the same sweatpants, winter hat, and my glasses (to distract from my face if I’m not wearing makeup or have been crying). And now I’ve just let out all my self-protective methods of coping.

And did I mention that my mother-in-law has to drive us all to preschool drop-off because I’m on the kind of happy medication that makes it difficult for me to safely maneuver a large moving vehicle with precious children in it?

Yeah, you don’t see any of that on Pinterest.  But then again, maybe you should.

To clarify, there were numerous factors as to why January became such a hard, hard month.  These included changes in medication, tanking sleep, and just the toll this has taken on Jason and I’s relationship.  Jason is trying to help me function while growing a small business and transitioning his career, and finishing up his accounting classes to eventually take the CPA.

Because of the load he carries, sometimes I ask if he wants to partake in any of the wide of array of medications I’ve acquired in my own personal pharmacy.  He turns me down because he knows I’m kinda crazy right now.

I don’t mean to be jokey and sarcastic about this and to make too much light of it.  When it hurts, it hurts a lot.  When it’s scary, it’s really scary, and my personality is one that naturally wants to stick to fear anyway.

It’s also hard to know what to do with myself and I get the impression it’s hard for other people to know what to do with me, too.  There are a special breed of people out there who know just how to listen, what to say and not to say, how to speak or act the love of God into a person’s life who is struggling with mental illness.  I am thankful I know some of these people and they have shown me the love of Christ in hard times.

But, I can’t say that I’m even one of those gifted people and I don’t blame others who aren’t either.  It’s just a hard, uncomfortable, invisible, intangible thing that’s messy.

But back to my original metaphor.  It is messy, but it is beautiful, even on the hardest days. And here are some reasons why:

  • I’ve listened to The Welcome Wagon’s version of “I know That My Redeemer Lives” many times.  I just keep listening to that album over and over.
  • I run (which is such a wonderful thing in my life), even if it is with tears streaming down my face.
  • Even though there have been many times I’ve been so mad at Jason for one reason or another (founded or unfounded), he goes and writes me a love letter on Valentine’s Day.  He tells me that he misses the true me, but that he loves the me that I am now just as much.
  • I think about eternity every day.
  • In the middle of a panic attack, laying on the floor, at least I can look up and see my husband’s face and feel his hand holding mine. I am not left alone (mental note: must repeat that to myself a MILLION times and continue counseling for this very reason).
  • The other day, even though I was feeling down, I found myself sitting at a sunny Golden Gardens in the grass with Ian in my lap, watching the sailboats come in and out and talking about whatever came into his mind.
  • The invigorating and practical conversations I’ve had with my BSF small group and all the ways that what we’re learning about Abraham and Isaac and God’s promises to His children applies to my struggles with such timeliness.
  • The expertise and insight my psychiatric nurse practitioner has given me that has guided me through confusing and unknown territory.  God has used her to talk sense to me and she allows me to share what I believe about God and what He’s doing in my life.
  • Some friends and pastors praying over me and anointing me with oil. It felt like a very natural thing to do (why is that surprising to me?).  And I did not feel shame in sharing or being spiritually cared for in this way.
  • How Ian saw my tears this morning and he came up and started singing me a song he made up about how God is good.
  • Our prayers to God to bring us help for our family when we felt totally at a loss as to what to do next.  And how my mother-in-law was the answer to that prayer by stopping her life in Georgia, taking medical leave from her job indefinitely and coming up here to help our family get through this time.  How is that not God’s beautiful provision in a royal mess?

There are many more, but there’s one last one that I want to share.  It’s just so my personality to have just one more thing to say.

I had seen the millions of heart balloons hanging all over Fred Meyer for weeks and I decided I wanted to get one for Ian for Valentine’s Day (remember, I am superficial about this holiday).  He had a Valentine’s Party that day in preschool and I was going to pick him up and bring the balloon to give it to him when he came out the door.  I wasn’t sure if he would think it was lame or absolutely love it, but I knew there would be no in-between reaction.

Well, he LOVED it.  He thought it was the best thing in the world.  There’s a little courtyard outside preschool where the kids run around, and he bolted out there to pull it around in the air, so proud and excited.

But then, within five minutes, the unthinkable happened.  That shiny red helium-filled heart detached from the string and gently floated away.  It wasn’t like Ian was yanking on it.  In fact, he just stood there as it happened and watched.

And then the tears came, and I think some shame, and he walked over and burrowed his face in my chest.  It was going away, it was gone.  At the very least, I hope someone, somewhere saw it floating in the sky and it put a smile on their face.

Well, we went right back to Fred Meyer and the nice, older ladies thought Ian and his story were precious and were happy to give him another balloon.  This time he picked out a blue heart.

But now here’s where the mess gets really, really beautiful.  We got home and were walking towards the front door and out of nowhere Ian said to me, “Mom, when Jesus comes back for us I want to bring my balloon with me. It can just be me, Jesus, and my balloon and we’ll hang out.”

That, people, is the beauty that God is bringing us all to, in the Kingdom He is making, even now as we deal with hard things.

Ian held onto that blue balloon all day.  He held it as he sat on the couch and watched TV.  He defended it every time someone insisted it was really purple.  He felt extremely threatened with the mention of it being taken away as a suggested consequence.  He loves that balloon so much I think it has become a permanent fixture in our home since he’s attached it to the handrail of our stairs in such a way that we can’t get it untangled.  And we don’t dare cut it with scissors.

Why am I telling you all these details? Because it’s a story I want to remember.  And to say that life has hope even when it’s really, really shitty.  Jesus is coming back, but He’s also here.  God makes a beautiful mess out of it all.  And to Him it’s not really even a mess, but He must understand when we use that terminology to help make sense out of what’s going on in our lives.

This is my story today.  And though I question it at times, many times even in the course of a day, it is beautiful.

“I am convinced that if I had been healthier, I would not have been able to write this book.  I might have been able to write a different book, but I could not have written this one.” -Sarah Young, commenting on the writing of her devotional Jesus Today

On postpartum depression

I’m here on this blog again and ready to do some sharing.  And from seeing my title, you can guess where I’m going with this.

To give a brief update, about a month ago things took a sad turn for me.  Literally sad.  I had been dealing with what I considered adrenal fatigue for the last year and a half, but in the last months I was starting to wonder if it was not postpartum depression.  My dear neighbor read this blog post and suggested that maybe PPD was the problem.  I wasn’t sure at that time; my mood has generally not been great for a while now, but I was functional and I figured when I slept better I would feel better.

And then all of the sudden I felt absolutely miserable.  For a few weeks I vacillated between tearful bouts of feeling overwhelmed, to yelling rages to really elevated anxiety. Then what came a few weeks later was sadness–really sad.  It felt like my brain was sick. And I knew I had ventured into territory that confirmed it was PPD.

Maybe that was the problem all along, I don’t know.  Now that I’ve had some really good days, days where I am able to take deep satisfaction in the daily things of life, I realize that I haven’t felt that way in a very long time.  It feels good now, but it certainly is a contrast.

I am thankful that it became so obvious.  I didn’t like the way I felt or the way life was going or what it was doing to our family, but at least there was clarity as to what the problem was.  Through the last year I have always wondered what is really wrong with me.  So many times it just felt like I was shooting in the dark.  That is torturous in its own way for someone who struggles with wanting to be in control.

It’s been a month since I sat tearfully in my midwife’s office and told her my story.  I have received such great care there, I am really thankful for that, too.  For those of you who have dealt with this sort of thing, you know it still takes time to feel better.  And that has been my journey.

I am thankful for Jason who has listened even when listening means dealing with an angry, fearful person. I’m thankful for the times he’s come home because I’m overwhelmed.  Really, he’s done a million different helpful, compassionate things to make this situation more bearable.

I’m thankful for the friends who have prayed and asked me how I’m doing.  Those who have brought food to us or given hugs or even just acted normal around me so I can feel like life is normal, too.

I’m thankful for family who have come to visit and helped me with the kids and given me time to myself.  The time alone has been really beneficial, especially now that I have some more brain space to do some thinking.  And in that thinking the Lord has given me a couple of observations that I’d like to share.

First, I was finally able to find a metaphor to help me make sense of this experience. It’s like for the last two years I’ve been walking around with a big net cast over me.  Some days I walk around and it gets all tangled to the point I can barely move; those are hard days. Other days it is freer and I may forget its there for brief periods.  But then it catches on something or restricts me or I’m just that’s it there.  And I can’t get it off on my own.

Thankfully, even though I’m still recovering, I am not feeling this way anymore.  But as I said, this word picture was an “ah ha” for me.

The second revelation I had happened while I was running.  I haven’t been exercising regularly for a long time, but last week I felt particularly good and started running again.  Dad & Linda had the kids for me so I headed for the Burke.  I think it was the first time I had ventured there by foot in over a year.

I crossed Leary at the traffic stop, as I have done so many, many times before.  Even though it has been a long time, the movement of my body, the places my feet step, the things I look at, they all come back again as habit, like riding a bike.

As I got to the other end of the cross walk and turned toward the trail I had this thought:

“Right now I just want to pretend I’m the person I was two years ago, before all this happened.”

And for a moment that sounded like a good idea.  And then as I thought about it more, it sounded like a really dumb idea.

I don’t want to be the person I was two years ago.  If I still was, I wouldn’t have her:

Or wrinkles.  I don’t like them, but I like the wisdom I have received in the acquisition of them.

Or two years of living life with Jason and seeing his new career take shape or seeing how God is working on him in this struggle.  How he has held me and let me cry, with no way to explain what was wrong.  Those moments have been like salve in areas where our relationship is wounded.

Or the honest conversation I had with my neighbor and the wetness in her eyes when I told her that I wanted to have more kids but if it was going to be like this again, I couldn’t imagine it.

Or the look on my doctor’s face the time I sat in her office and shed tears as I told her that I was having a hard time with fear since my last miscarriage.  The look on her face was one of compassion and empathy.

Or the conversation I had with a close friend on the phone and how her story has been so different from mine and yet there are parts of it that tell me that she understands the loss I feel about certain things.  She has given me many wise words to ponder.

Or the email I received from my father-in-law who said he was praying hard for me and that Jesus was holding me in His arms.

Or the long conversation I had with my mom, sitting in the back of the van in the dark, sharing some things with her about my situation that I had not before.  She listened and mothered me and put things in perspective.  And of course, as any good mom would do, she called me the next day to see how I was holding up (she does this frequently).

Or how I’ve seen God take care of my children in a time when in a lot of ways I haven’t been completely present to them.  Somehow I’ve been able to teach and discipline and listen and give to them; not perfectly, but well.  How they have passed through this time is a miracle.

And what about all the times I have had to call upon the Lord because I am so tired and weary?  Or the times I’ve been forgiven for my anger, my complaints, my quest for control? These are precious jewels to me.

If I sat and thought about it longer, I would come up with many more stories. It’s true that in my darkest days, I didn’t feel that God was doing anything good with this.

But as you can see, I am seeing His goodness more and more.  And maybe at some point, what I went through will of help to another weary mom–I can hope for that.