52: Quiet

52 Week 16 It's been quiet here lately. August's been a delightfully slow month for us--long, lazy days full of playgrounds and Popsicles and lots and lots of coloring.

This blog's been quiet too. This is in part because I've been devoting most of my writing time to book revisions, but it's also because I've found myself in an uncertain place, asking God lots of questions and not hearing many answers. I'm an introvert, and when things feel shaky, I pull inward, waiting until I find solid internal ground before I fully reemerge.

In the shower the other day, I found myself thinking about how great it will be when I'm done wrestling, when I've learned whatever it is I'm supposed to learn from this time. "I'll be a more effective wife and parent," I thought. "I'll be better able to minister to others."

And then, He interrupted: "Abby, I'm not changing you so you can better care for others. I'm changing you because I love you."

The words encouraged me, and they stung. I believe them to be true and also I do not. I'm good at efficiency, productivity, and achievement. I love thinking of creative ways to do and to do well. I'm not so comfortable with just being loved. It is hard for me to believe that God would care enough about my heart to work in it, not for some greater purpose, but simply for me.

And so I wait here in the quiet, trusting God will find a way to help me understand this sort of love.


Gratitude My world last week was debilitating neck pain.  It was peripheral awareness of ebola spreading and ISIS advancing.  It was sadness for a friend's profound loss.

It was a long, heavy week, the kind of week you survive by allowing the laundry piles to spill onto the floor, the dust bunnies to remain untouched.

On Saturday, we woke up to the laundry piles and the dust bunnies, to children who once again needed to eat and be entertained.  CJ and I snapped at each other, tired and frustrated, burdened with the responsibility of it all.

But somehow, some way, grace broke in.  We ate chocolate chip pancakes.  We listened to our little girl giggle with one of her good buddies.  We invited friends over for a spontaneous lunch, and all four kids played quietly for fifteen blessed minutes. Other friends made us dinner and brought it over, allergy-free dessert and all.  It was a sweet day, and we went to bed feeling gratitude for the palpable fullness of it.

And then there was Sunday and Monday and Tuesday - days marked by the deep suffering of another good friend, by a fussy baby and a napless toddler, by my vain efforts to keep up with the piles and the dust bunnies.

At one point in my life, I would have gotten stuck here, frustrated by these very real days, certain that I was entitled to a week's worth of Saturdays.

But I think motherhood has taught me a particular gratitude for the sweet moments - for the little miracles of both kids sleeping in until 7:45, of children playing in peace, of conversations (and friendships) sustained in the chaos.

Life is hard.  It just is.  Sometimes, it's unbelievably, unbearably hard.  Often, it's simply exhausting.

But every now and then, in the laughter of children, in the swirling leaves of a perfect fall afternoon, in the companionship of seasoned friends, we get a little taste of what we were made for.

And when those precious, holy moments come, I am learning, we don't grab on tight and try to figure out how to recreate them.  We hold them loosely, and we simply whisper, Thank You.  

Where I Am

When people see me these days, with a toddler and baby in tow, they usually ask how we're doing, how our adjustment to being a family of four is going. 

My answer is always the same, "We're doing really well.  Celia's a really chill baby, and Ellie's adjustment has been smooth."  
And I mean it.  To be honest, these first almost-three months as a family of four have been better than I could have imagined.  
Celia is a peaceful baby, generally content unless she's tired or hungry, problems I can understand and easily solve.  Pop her little pink pacifier in her mouth, and she snuggles herself right to sleep.  Set her down on her play mat, and she'll entertain herself quietly for half an hour.  Put her to bed at night, and she generally wakes up 8-12 hours later.
Ellie adores her sister and has risen to the occasion of sharing my attention with surprising grace and patience.  She has her moments for sure, but her overwhelming response has been one of love.  
I know I am blessed.  With her reflux issues and general fussiness, Ellie was a challenging enough baby that I fully appreciate what a blessing Celia's temperament is.  And I have good friends whose toddlers struggled to adjust to their baby siblings.  I've seen how exhausting and difficult that road can be.  
All that to say, I'm very grateful, grateful not only for the relative ease of these transition months, but also for the two sweet, healthy girls I get to spend my days with.  Last night, after bouncing an unusually fussy Celia to sleep and then joining CJ to sing "Amazing Grace" to our tucked-into-bed Ellie, my eyes brimmed with tears.  
My girls are here.  Unlike my Avaleen, I get to hug them and hold them and dance with them and make them smoothies and play Tinkertoys and dress up with them.  Their lives are beautiful, amazing gifts, and I still really can't believe they've been given to us.  
Don't get me wrong.  Being a mom of two kids is hard.  The days are long, and juggling the needs of two little people doesn't leave much time for anything else.  My back aches each night from all of the carrying and lifting and bouncing.  Celia's had some gastrointestional issues that have required me to cut not only dairy, but many of my other favorite foods from my diet.  And when Ellie skipped her nap three days in a row last week, I thought I might go crazy without those treasured moments of silence.  The introvert in me is struggling to find the places of solitude, rest, and reflection I need to feel like myself, to truly connect to God and to others.
Those are real challenges, and each one of them has left me in tears on at least one occasion.  But mostly, I just feel blessed.  Tired, overwhelmed, and disconnected from my heart, but blessed.  I prayed for these girls; God answered; and it is a sweet, sweet thing.

God in the Mess, Part Two

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-20

Ellie's spit-up hits the floor with a slap, a puddle of curdled milk on my recently cleaned hardwood floors.  I know that the process of wiping it up will not only soil yet another burp cloth from the stack that just came out of the wash, but that it will also leave an unsightly smear on the floor's shiny surface, the very one I worked so hard to achieve.

"Oh Ellie," I sigh, shifting her to my left hip, squatting down to clean up the mess with my right hand.  Part of me feels bad for her, for the discomfort the spit-up must be to her, but mostly, I am tired of dealing with it, tired of the ways it messes with my neat little world.


When I read Matthew 6, I usually think about money and worldly possessions, about wanting more stuff and pouring too much energy into getting it.  I tend to think it doesn't have much to say to me.  After all, I'm content with my '97 Saturn, power locks and sunroof long since broken, gold interior fabric drooping from the ceiling.  I don't buy (or want to buy) Coach purses.  I cut coupons. 
But Jesus doesn't define treasure so narrowly.  Based on the context of the passage, He defines treasure as anything that captures our hearts, anything that is of earthly value, anything that won't last until eternity.  That includes my shiny hardwood floors.  It includes my new $10 shirt from Target that Ellie stains with her spit-up.  It includes my image of a perfectly clean and tidy little house, an image that I work very hard to "lay up for myself."  These are things I treasure.  They are things Jesus says I should not treasure.
This is one way that God is present in the mess.  He is using Ellie's spit-up and her toys all over the floor and her baby food finger painting to remind me that my treasures of neatness and order can be destroyed and stolen, that my heart must be captivated by greater treasure.

God in the Mess, Part 1

Right now, I feel like I spend my entire life cleaning up messes.  My daughter spits up some forty to fifty times a day, spewing vomit on her clothes, my clothes, our furniture, the carpet, the hardwood floors, her toys, her car seat, pretty much anything that comes within a few feet of her mouth. 

After months of this, I've gotten used to the perpetual damp patches on my clothes, to the smell of halfway digested milk that lingers everywhere.  I don't even bother to change my clothes anymore unless I am completely soaked.

But now that Ellie's started solid foods, her spit-up messes are not only wet and stinky; they also stain.  I have to inspect each piece of our family's clothing before it goes into and after it comes out of the washer, pre-treating green, orange, and brown stains, making sure they have come out in the wash. 

Sometimes, when I watch her pea and carrot puree make its way back out of her mouth and onto the cute little off-white onesie I just finally got all the stains out of the day before, I want to cry.  Sometimes, I do.

Naptime and nighttime, when Ellie is sleeping soundly in her crib, are pretty much the only times of the day that I am safe from spit-up.  Even then though, there is cleaning to do - toys to be picked up and sanitized, laundry to fold, cloth diapers to wash, a dishwasher to unload, bathrooms to be scrubbed.

The hardest part for me is that it never ends.  Before kids, I could do laundry on the weekend and not have to touch it again until the next week.  I could clean the whole house one day and not have to worry about it for two weeks.  There wasn't much to tidy as CJ and I spent most of our time working and are pretty good at picking up after ourselves as we go.  No longer.  I hate living in a perpetual mess, feeling like I am always losing the battle against dirt and disorder. 

But this is where I live these days, with a burp cloth in hand and Oxy Clean my trusty laundry companion.  I want to believe that God is here too, that somehow there is meaning and purpose in the seemingly never-ending piles of laundry and dishes, in wiping up Ellie's 221st spit-up of the week.  It is hard though, hard to see where the eternal meets the mundane, where there is significance in these tasks that, to be honest, sometimes feel below my pay grade.

Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it."  I don't know how to rejoice in spit-up.  But I want to.  God's been giving me a few glimpses of what that looks like, but I have a long, long way to go.  So I'm going to do what I've always done when I'm in the process of learning something.  I'm going to write my way through.  And I'm going to write about it on the blog, in hopes that as I seek God in the very literal messes in my life, others might find Him in their messes too.

More to come soon...