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He was tall and handsome and laughing next to a gorgeous blond when I first laid eyes on him. I can't tell you what it was about him that caught at my heart. Maybe it was the big, full smile. Maybe it was the blue eyes. Or even the red WWJD bracelet on his wrist? All I know is that with heart beating wild, I stopped him in the hallway one afternoon after Art class and invited him to Youth Group. He looked at me completely surprised, and said, "yeah. Sure." And smiled. I was done for.
Way before we became an official "thing", we talked on the phone for hours and hours and hours. No topic was off-limits. We dreamed of Heaven and giggled over cloud cars and trampolines in our mansions. He sang Shania Twain songs to me when I had a bad day. I yearned for him to hold my hand when I drove him to the Salvation Army parking lot where he was to be picked up after church. And I thought of him as I drove to visit a college 2 states away, wondering where this friendship was leading us.
The night it became clear to me that I wanted to be with him forever, he had just gotten his driver license. I had just gotten off work, and there he was, sitting in the parking lot of Runza, big goofy grin pasted thick, eyes shining. I knew it was the night to tell him I loved him. I had brought my "future husband" folder with me, prepared to utter the 3 words I had only ever told my daddy. I wasn't going to wait for him to make the first move. I knew I loved him. I knew he loved me. And it was time to officially start dating. Everyone knew we were headed that direction, and tonight was the night.
We sat there, nervous, both of us feeling the seriousness of the moment. It was December, cold and frosty, the van was warm, and my heart was beating wild. I brought out the folder, more sure about him than I had ever been about anything in my life, that he was the one I was to give this to. I was only 17, he was only 16, and it felt crazy, but love makes you do crazy things.
He took it with tears in his eyes, and he told me he loved me. It took me several minutes to say it back, the fear of past boyfriend's words and actions plaguing, fear of committing myself so thoroughly to another person. But as I said those words, I felt peace. Great, rushing peace. What was God doing? We had only known each other for 3 months, and it already felt like years. He was home, he was family, he was my future.
Our first kiss was on the floor of my grandparents living room, country music videos playing on the TV, and he got a bloody nose and bled all over my face. I was mortified. Not only because we had just kissed and that was new and weird, but also because HE JUST BLED ALL OVER MY FACE. We laugh so hard about it now, but then, oh my young self was so disgusted she didn't talk to him for days. During our first dance his braces cut my forehead and we just knew, one day, all these moments would make us laugh in remembering those awkward growing pains of young love.
9 years....it's been 9 years to the day since I saw him for the first time, and my heart really does still beat wild. When he's holding Joey and singing to him, rocking him to sleep. When he wrestles with the 3 big boys and gets them to laughing hard enough to give them all the hiccups. When he's talking about his love for Jesus and his passion for ministry. When we're sitting together on the couch in a silent house and I look at him and see that 15 year old boy, so different, so changed, with the same big heart and blue eyes.
He is home, he is my family, he is my future. I don't know what that future holds, if I will have to say goodbye before I want to, or if we have 80 years left together...but I'm no longer afraid, because my God is able to sustain me through anything. Right now, I can grab Trevor's hand any time I need to, knowing it's always there to hold me up and lead me on.
Today, I celebrate what God did 9 years ago when he brought us together, high school sweethearts, young and crazy and in love. And we're still young and crazy and in love, with 4 beautiful babies that daily remind me of their incredible daddy. Thank you, Lord, for, in your wisdom, bringing Trevor into my life almost a decade ago.
Let's just get this out of the way before I get too far- I'm LAZY. Yes, all caps. I can't keep a schedule down to save my ever lovin' life. I love to sit and read and do all the mindless things. I love to sleep. Oh, how I love my soft squishy pillow and cozy warm blankies. When God called me to home school, I looked behind me, sure He called the smarter, more disciplined and organized and more patient and nicer mamas behind me instead. "What? Oh....ME? Seriously?! Me? You're joking right? You're not joking. Crap. Crapcrap. This is not good, God. This is bad. I cant' even brush my teeth every day. I can't blog once a week. I can't do laundry. How am I going to equip my boys to live life and SUCCEED and not end up playing video games 20 hours a day eating Doritos on my COUCH AT 30 YEARS OLD!"
I find myself preparing for preschool homeschool, for my almost 5 year old, who just yesterday said, "Mom, I'm ready to read. Teach me. I'm ready." And I just sat there and looked at him and my heart stilled. My fears stilled. My anxious thoughts stilled. He believes in me. He looks at me and he says, "She can teach me. She knows. She is my mom and she is smart enough to teach me to read." And I guess I can teach him how to be nice and be patient and be calm but he's going to have to get in line behind me on that one because I'm still learning as well. Maybe on that we'll take hands and go down that road side-by-side.
I cannot get all the things done with the 5 minutes I clear to be productive. It's nearly impossible. Almost. It's amazing what you can get done in the 5 minutes before the husband gets home. But alas, if I am to conquer these wild and ugly beasts in our home called illiteracy and laziness, and climb Mountdirtylaundry, I have to get this lazy behind into high gear. No amount of coffee will magically make me more efficient and more organized. Maybe more manic and psychotic, but that would be hard. And not very effective at teaching homeschool. Highly entertaining, but not very effective.
So I've joined this Rise and Shine challenge at Abundant Mama. She says this:
We are so busy during the day that it’s really hard to fit it all in. But if you are someone who wants to fit it all in then you have to be willing to put in the hard work and Rise & Shine early.
|Click on picture to join me!|
|Jericho and Mommy|
When I was 8 and curious I watched my Mom take a bath. As the suds ran down her tired and worn body, she explained that she had fed 3 beautiful and healthy babies with this body, and that's why it looked the way it did. I wanted to look just like her when I grew up. Beauty to that 8 year old was stretch marks and saggy boobs and love-filled eyes. Callous-ridden feet and bleach-red hands. Hair stuck to face with sweat. Soft words of encouragement despite the heavy, ugly words thrown at her every single day . For all the pain she inflicted by her addictions, my Mom showed me what true beauty looked like.
|Jeremiah and Mommy|
|Judah and Mommy|
Joseph was different from the beginning. I cried and cried because he just wouldn't latch. I heard God say, "Marybeth, it's ok to bottle feed him." But I ignored Him because this was going to work. I would do this. I used a shield and that helped but I was afraid of using it indefinitely, and then one day he just latched on his own, no help, and it was good for 2 months.
But then I got sick. It was a nasty chest cold that left me barely able to breathe, and it lasted for weeks. My supply dropped and dropped, and I tried and tried to get it up. I didn't notice, how could I not notice? I didn't notice his weight drop. He was fussier than usual but he hadn't pooped in several days so I thought it was constipation. Looking back on that week brings me great pain, and everyone says not to beat myself up, but how could I not have noticed that he was losing so much weight? He weighed 8 lbs 5 oz at his 2 week check-up. At two months he was only at 8 lbs 12 oz.
I sat with him in the emergency room, nursing him, him sucking so hard and gulping mostly air, and I cried over him, my tears mixing with his. I wanted so badly to be successful at nursing. It's what is "healthiest" and "the best" and "natural" and whatever. It went deeper than just fearing other people's opinions about me and breastfeeding, although that was part of it. I believed I was better because I could breastfeed. A better mom, a better person. The thought of giving him a bottle of formula, it made me feel like I was losing a child, like I was lazy, like I was a failure.
Why was this so hard for me, when other moms can easily give their babies a bottle and it's all ok? I wanted to be like my mom. She was a woman of immense strength, immeasurable love for her babies. She breastfed successfully with all her babies, why couldn't I? "What is wrong with me?"
I didn't want to hear God whispering, "Marybeth, it's ok to bottle feed him. It's ok." And I fought with God. "if breastfeeding is the BEST and you created me to BREASTFEED him why can't I!? It's not fair!"
|Joseph and Mommy|
I nursed him for the last time a couple nights ago, 2 am and him clinging to me and holding my hand, and I let it go. I just let that perfect vision of us go, because it was a false picture. I embraced the real-life picture of me and my precious boy, right here, right now, and accepted what I had fought against for so long.
He's sleeping peacefully now. Something he rarely did the days leading up to the emergency room visit. He smiles now, and talks to me, something he never did before the hospital stay. He's chubby and rolly and pudgy. He's HAPPY. And right now, this very second, that's the only thing that matters to me.
Whether you nurse exclusively, bottle-feed your baby pumped breast milk, supplement and nurse, or exclusively formula feed, you are feeding your baby and YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB. I am proud of you and you are a good mommy. Say it out loud RIGHT NOW, right where you sit. "I am a good Mommy." How you feed your baby doesn't matter, when it comes down to it. The fact that you are there, present in mind, body, and soul, and lavishing love on that tiny bud of sweetness, that is what matters. And it's enough.
"I want off this ride this very second or so help me GOD!" and other such tidbits concerning life right now.
Laying in bed tonight, fear gripped my heart. My mind was reeling with confusion and anxiety. It was a Monday from Hell, with Judah screaming and acting outrageously defiant and wayward. He, my second child, has the most tender heart, so loving and kind. And he can throw a fit and a punch better than most. My head was pounding as I lay there, silent tears streaming as my husband prayed over our boys. In my head I cried out, "God, help. Just, help. Miah with his defiance and me feeling like I'm always on him about something. Judah and his screaming and just plain not listening to me. Coco with his whining and fits. Joey not taking a bottle for me well, or nursing well. I'm coming apart at the seams of my soul."
Sunday our Church brought Supper for the Teen MOPS group here in Brandon. Me and a couple of women served and stayed for the meeting, and it was as if God Himself took me by the hand and led me there for a specific purpose. As the speaker began telling her story, I knew I was meant to be there. At one time, she had 3 kids 2 years old and under. No twins. Just like me. And she had postpartum depression and anxiety. Just like me. My mind flew back to when Miah, our oldest, hadn't even hit 2 1/2 yet, Judah our second wasn't even a year and a half, and Jericho, our 3rd was born. Those were dark days, full of screaming and yelling and tears and frustration and anxiety and fear. Anger and grief. And she gave me the hardest hug I've every gotten and looked me straight in the tear-filled eyes and said, "You can do it. There is hope. They will grow up, I promise."
I've been so tired lately. I have 2 cups of coffee and a full night's rest, and still, I am exhausted by the middle of the afternoon. And I joke with friends about chocolate and food, and yet this vice has it's poisoned talons deep in my soul. I turn to food and sugar and junk and death. I give up one vice for another, and I just want to take a knife and cut that part out of my soul, that part that yearns for something other than Him, that desires something else to numb the stress and anxiety and fear. Because there is so much fear. And I haven't been standing on His truth, His promises, His Word, and I feel how death knocks at the door of this lifestyle. Waking up without Him, walking through the day without Him, going to bed with a nod in His direction. I feel as shriveled as a dried up apple core at the bottom of the garbage can.
Something has to change. I've been cutting out as many dyes and preservatives as I can. Trying to make healthy choices on a small budget. We're eating less but eating healthier. I'm buying healthier versions of laundry detergent and dish soaps. Adding probiotics and vitamins and oils and syrups. And still I am plagued with this discontent and anxiousness that something I'm doing, something I'm feeding them or not feeding them, is the source of all their problems and behavioral issues. It's driving me insane. I'm focusing on the wrong sustenance. The wrong bread.
I am so incredibly blessed with my 4 boys, ages 4 and under. Every day is a roller coaster ride, complete with screams and thrills, close calls, and absolute excitement and fear. And puke. And tears. And someone yelling, "I WANT OFF THIS RIDE THIS VERY SECOND OR SO HELP ME GOD!" Every.Single.Day. And it's perfect. Absolutely messily, imperfectly perfect.
Starting today, July 1st, I am going to be doing a 30 day sugar detox. I've already been off pop for 9 weeks now, and I feel amazing! But my body just needs more. So I'll be quitting all unnatural sugars for the month of July. I expect it to suck, to stink, to hurt. And I'm ready to be brave and kick my body back into gear. I just want to feel healthy, and have the energy to keep up with my babies! If you want to join me, I'll be Instagramming my journey with the hashtag #mbs30daysugardetox Join me, and let's claim our days back!
I had traced you down to a crappy apartment, decrepit and abandoned. I stood before the door, breathing hard, tears at the back of my throat, knowing I was so close. I could smell that tang of your Noxzema cream, your oily Maybelline makeup, I could hear your girlish giggle, your stern mommy voice, I could feel the softness of the grafted skin on your forearm, the roughness of the bottom of your feet. A part of me I don't understand wanted to turn around and forget it all, but a stronger part stepped forward. There, taped to the door, was an eviction notice, and I knew you had slipped away once again.
But in real life, even when you were right in front of me, a mere inches away from my outstretched heart, I still couldn't find you. I remember the last day we were that close. You, in your tiny cut-offs and white peasant blouse, laughing as you danced around in the freezing river behind your trailer. We were visiting you in the summer for the first time. You hadn't even drank anything that day, and yet you were still so far away, your heart somewhere else. Or maybe the problem was just that...there stood your heart incarnate, 3 little blonde girls you hadn't seen in years, and you were faced with all your imperfection and weakness. Is that why you wouldn't look me in the eye?
A new friend looked me in the eye yesterday and casually asked if you had come up to help me after Joseph was born. I was shocked to the core- is it not obvious to everyone else, as it is to me, that a vital part of me is missing? As if you could look at me and see that I have no hand, no leg, no Mother? In the split second after she asked that, the life we could have had flashed before me. And yet the reality is, you would have had to of been a completely different person to live the life I was imagining. I'm okay with that. I don't hold those weaknesses, those imperfections, against you. Not anymore.
I see other people's mothers, still alive, and they can't find them either. They are lost in selfishness, bitterness, immaturity and sickness. I see the near-hidden pain in a few of my friend's eyes, the wounds their moms are still inflicting on them so fresh and raw, and I wonder, who really has it better? My mom is absent and the hole is gaping. Their moms are present and absent, the wounds festering.
After I told the new friend you were gone, and she uncovered the dysfunction of my childhood, she wore the most genuine smile, her blue eyes lighting up with such hope my heart ached, and she said, "And you'll be an awesome mom because of it." Said with such assurance, such finality. "I hope so..." I half-whispered, half-moaned, the fears I have for how your emotional, physical, mental absence throughout my childhood, and your physical absence now, will affect my own mothering.
This world is so broken. Drugs, alcohol, anger, fear, adultery, godlessness, selfishness, death, sickness....so much pain, so much hurt. And at 2 am, I'm hard-pressed for an elaborate, beautiful, inspirational ending paragraph. Life just plain sucks at times. For some people, a lot of the times. There's no denying it. But God...BUT GOD. He came to bind up those wounds, to give a reason for the suffering, to give us HOPE, that beautiful 4-letter word that can inspire the person that is so lost to hold on just a while longer. And even though there will be scars, maybe some big, ugly scars, evidence of the fire we've walked through, we'll be better for it having happened to us.
Let it make us better.
I want to write all of this down before I try to catch a nap. I had tried writing earlier, but my pain meds made me so incredibly sleepy, and I'm sure I just sat here and stared at the screen for 5 minutes before I realized I was just sitting there....so after a shower, I'm ready!
Meet little Joseph Abram, born on Friday, April 25th, at 8:18 am. The name has no family significance, we both just absolutely loved it! He was born on his Grandma Cathy's birthday, so that was very special. So far, each of our boys has been born on a birthday of a family member. So cool! He was 19 inches long, and weighed 8lbs 5oz, which is exactly what his Daddy predicted he would weigh! I had guessed closer to 9lbs, but I'm sure that was just the end of pregnancy getting to me. I felt gigantic! Today, Jeremiah exclaimed, "MOMMY! Your huge tummy is gone!!" I felt like dancing. I'm not pregnant anymore!!!
The past 2 days have been a whirlwind of well-wishes, pain, new love, and not much sleep. I had my 4th scheduled C-section, and this one was by far the hardest. I'm not sure if it's because my body isn't as strong as before, or just because it naturally gets harder each time, but before, during, and afterwards, it's been a lot harder than I remember it being. God has been so gracious, each time I have called out and cried for strength, whether it's because I've been trying to figure out nursing with Joseph, or the pain this C-section has brought, or dealing with outside issues....He has supplied rest, peace, and His presence. He has been so near the past few days.
Joseph is such a dream! He is chunky in all the right places, which is everywhere. His skin is so incredibly newborn soft. He loves to watch me while he eats! I am so in love, guys. He is so amazing.
My heart has grown 89 times what it was just two days ago. Mostly because I've witnessed my 3 boys fall in love and welcome this tiny little guy into our family. They have been loving on him so hard, and rarely are they visiting and not holding him.
Jeremiah calls him baby Moses now and then, and loves to talk about all the technicalities of brotherhood and babyhood, explaining why Joey cries and what he loves. He is always asking to hold him, and asking so many questions about Mommy's surgery and owie and Joseph's cord. He wants to understand everything, and it's so fun to see what his mind comes up with!
And Jericho....watching him bloom into a big brother right in front of our eyes has been incredibly touching. He loves baby J so much. He randomly says, "I wuv baby J." Constantly. And he loves laying his head by Joey's head, and kissing him. All three of them are doing much better than I had anticipated. Of course, we haven't brought him home yet! I'm praying that transition goes smooth!
So many people have congratulated us and visited us. We feel so blessed by everyone's love and support. It's so amazing to welcome a new baby into the family, but it's also a huge adjustment, and we feel like we have an incredible support system to help us through. Now I must try to nap before Joseph wakes up! Yay babies =)