On the Joy and Sorrow of Mother's Day

Mother's Day I am weary this Mother's Day. Last night, I burst into tears at the prospect of making dinner in a kitchen littered with unwashed dishes, unopened mail, and the food from my daughters' play kitchen.

My husband took one look at me and sent me to bed. "I've got this," he said.

All I really want for Mother's Day is a nice long nap.

As my own amazing mother has always told me, being a mother is hard, hard work. It is beautiful, fulfilling work, but it calls for all of me everyday. Or as it often seems, it calls for more of me than there is to go around.

For this reason, I am thankful for Mother's Day, for a day that honors and celebrates the many women who have sacrificed to give and to nurture life. I think of my own rich legacy of motherhood: my grandmothers, my mother, my mother-in-law, my friends' mothers, and the many, many older women who took note of me over the years, who in their own unique ways encouraged and invested and loved.

These women, some of them mothers themselves, some of them childless or single, taught me to cook and to sew, to see Jesus in the everyday, to value myself and my gifts, to count the nurturing of little souls as sacred, significant work. My own mothering is in so many ways an overflow of what they poured into me.

It is right and good to celebrate these women and others like them. I'm glad for the existence of a holiday like Mother's Day, for the way its regular appearance on my calendar reminds me to stop, take a break from my own busyness, and remember with gratitude.

But I also know it's not quite as simple as that. I remember the pain of my own childless Mother's Day, when CJ and I had been trying for nearly a year to get pregnant. I remember how alone I felt when all the mothers in our church stood to be recognized, how I left the service sobbing.

This Mother's Day, I ache for the daughter who is missing, and I ache too for many of my friends. I think of my pregnant friend caring for her two young daughters, wishing her own mother could have met her sweet babies. I think of my single mom friends, with no one coming home to relieve them of dinner preparations after a hard day. I think of my friends who long for children of their own, of the many brave ways they love and invest and nurture.

I'm sad that Mother's Day can be a hard day for these friends and others like them, even as I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the many amazing mothers I know. It is hard to hold onto both of these emotions. I understand the impulse to ignore the hurting on a day of celebration or to rail against Mother's Day because it can be a source of pain.

And yet, I hope there is another way, a way we can somehow embrace both the beautiful and the broken, a way to sit in both the joy and the sorrow with one another. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I hope, this Mother's Day, that I can do both.


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.  

When Your Friends Prayers Aren't Answered And Yours Are

20140902-Waldron-LaughwithFriends I'm honored to have a guest post running on the (in)courage site today.  It's about being a mom of two living daughters and also being a woman who's experienced infertility and miscarriage.  It's about holding both life and loss in balance as I relate to women currently struggling with reproductive loss.  I hope you'll visit, read, and join in the conversation.

Three Plus Two Months

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  
Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.   You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel."  -James 4:1-2


For months, everyone's been telling me that three is a harder age than two.  Still, the intensity with which you are willing to battle over the smallest of things continues to surprise me.  This morning, it was the long-sleeve Ravens shirt you were determined to wear, even though it's supposed to approach 90 degrees this afternoon.

"I want to be cold," you wailed, even after I suggested a compromise:  you could put the long-sleeve shirt on top of a short-sleeve one until you got too hot.

A few times recently, at the height of your distress over losing a battle of the wills, you've stubbornly declared, "I want God to take the whole world apart," as if to say that if you can't have your way, the entirety of creation might as well be destroyed.

It's made me smile to hear you say that, even in the midst of my frustration and, yes, anger with your outbursts.  It's an apt way to describe it, that desperate desire for control we all feel from time to time.  Sometimes, it really does seem like if we can't have things our way, the world should just come to an end.

I'm trying to remember this Ellie-girl, when our battles arise, that though it feels like you and I are at odds, like I simply need to win, the truth is that we are both fighting the same thing:  the cravings of hearts that want to control.  You want to wear sparkly black shoes and white socks with jean shorts, to eat chocolate for lunch.  I want peace, quiet, order.

I can delude myself into thinking that my desires are more valid and therefore more important.   Perhaps they are.  I've had about 30 extra years to refine them.  But the deeper truth is this:  we are both desperate sinners, and we both in desperate need of a Savior.

If you being three can teach us both this, it will be a good year indeed.

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.

My Three Girls

A few weeks ago, two dear friends of mine gave me a necklace as a baby gift of sorts.  It's a simple silver chain with four circles, a large one to represent me and three small ones to represent my three girls:  the two year old I care for every day, the baby I never got to hold, and this little one we get to meet next week.

It was a beautiful, thoughtful gift, and I cried putting it on for the first time, so grateful that my friends chose to acknowledge the lives of all three of my precious girls.  I love wearing it, love running my fingers over the three tiny circles and thinking about each of my three children, about how I know and love each of them in such different ways.

As the birth of this baby draws near, I find myself reflecting often on what it means to be a mother of three, to hold my love and care for three different little ones in balance.  I think of Ellie and all the changes coming her way, of the attention she will lose and the joy she will gain.  I try to pour as much love as I can into her now, to let her know just how cherished and valued she is and always will be, even as the way I relate to her must change.  I think of Avaleen, who would likely have been celebrating her first birthday this week and of how different our lives would be if she were here, if we had the privilege of knowing her.

And I think of this new baby, of what feels like an incredibly long road to her birth.  I think of loss and doctor's visits and tests and waiting and nine months of fear and anticipation and anxiety.  I think of the moment I will hear her first cry, and I pray it will be a sweet, redemptive moment, that in meeting her some of the pain of losing her sister will be healed.  But I know too that she is her own person, and I pray also that we will be able to see her that way, that her life will be defined by the unique person she was made to be, not by the sister who was lost before her.

My brain is full of all these thoughts, jumbled together, unclear.  I'm not sure how to hold things in balance, how to be a good mother to each of my three girls at the same time.  I feel very aware of my limitations, my humanness.  My emotions simmer just below the surface of my smiles, sometimes breaking into unexplainable overflows of tears.

I do not know what I am supposed to feel at a moment like this.  I'm not even sure exactly what I am feeling in this moment.  But I do know that God has given me three girls, that each of their lives has been a gift, that I am blessed to be their mother and to carry them as I do right now:  in my arms, in my womb, and in my heart.

Theology and the Two Year Old

Earlier this week, Ellie suddenly announced, "God is everywhere."

"Yes, Ellie, that's right," I returned, impressed at her early grasp of this truth.

She giggled.  "God is eveywhere.  God is everywhere.  God is everywhere," she repeated, obviously rather proud of herself.

"Who told you that, Ellie?" I asked, wondering where she'd picked up this sudden fascination with God's omnipresence.

"Mommy," she declared, emphatically.

I smiled, remembering that sometime in the past few weeks, she had asked where God was, and I'd tried to explain that He was everywhere.  At the time, I hadn't been sure she'd gotten it.  Now, I felt rather proud of how I'd seized the teachable moment.

* * * * *

Last night, I was giving Ellie a bath before bed when holding up her washcloth, she suddenly announced, "I will show God this washcloth."

"But Ellie," I said, smiling at the thought of Ellie proudly showing her wet pink and green striped washcloth to the God of the universe, "remember God is everywhere.  You can show Him right now."

Without missing a beat, she replied, "When God comes from everywhere to our house, I will show Him."

I guess we're not quite as advanced as I thought we were.

Parenting Paradoxes

I have been editing photos the past few nights, sorting through hundreds of images of the last several months:  Ellie in her pink teddy bear suit at the Christmas tree farm, our little family in front of the National Christmas tree, my little squirmer sitting still in the arms of her fragile great-grandfather.

These are sweet images, special memories, moments captured but fleeting.  Already, my baby is not really a baby.  She has teeth.  She's taken her first step.  She can feed herself. 

It goes so quickly, everyone tells you; enjoy it.  And it's true.  I know that I'll blink, and Ellie will be one year old.  I know I'll miss her at this stage, when she still occasionally falls asleep in my arms, when her world is so thrillingly fresh, when she thinks I'm pretty much the greatest person ever.

It is going quickly, but it is also slow.  The days at home, just the two of us, when I often don't even take out my camera because it all feels so mundane - those days are often long.  The introvert in me screams for more quiet moments than my power napper permits me.  Too often, I count the hours, the minutes until naptime and then until Daddy's return from work.

Life with Ellie is full, and this is both sweet and exhausting.  I must die to myself daily, but I receive the gift of participation in the miraculous blossoming of new life.

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...


When you have a new baby, everyone suddenly wants to tell you stories about babies - their babies, themselves as babies, the story they once heard about a friend of a friend's granddaughter's baby. 

They tell you these stories, and you start to realize that there is this whole body of information about people you thought you knew well, stories that somehow they'd never thought to tell you before.  You learn that your husband didn't sleep well until he found his thumb and his Humpty-Dumpty doll.  You learn that your grandmother breastfed her babies even when it was discouraged.  You learn that your best friend's baby only took 30 minute naps.

* * *

When he heard that Ellie had acid reflux, my Dad recalled a story I'd never heard before, a story about himself as a baby - his own fussyness, spitting up, and the miracle solution my grandmother came up with to cure him. "I think it had something to do with giving me cow's milk at an early age," he said, "but I"m not sure."

My grandfather couldn't remember either. "I remember Eva being rather proud of herself for figuring it out," he said, "but I can't tell you what it was."

For the first time since my grandmother's death over ten years ago, I realized that there were many stories that had died with her, stories only she could tell.  My Dad and grandfather are both masterful storytellers who can recall in vivid detail adventure after adventure on the farm where my Dad and his four brothers grew up.  They have stories to tell about bums sleeping in the barn, stories about chasing rats in a chicken coop, stories about my uncle falling down into a well and almost drowning.  But neither of them can remember what it was that helped my Dad as a baby.  That story, a story that might have helped me care for my own baby, was my grandmother's, and it, like her, is gone, never to return.

* * *

To be a mother, I am learning, is to be, among many other things, a keeper of stories, the caretaker of a vast body of information that no one else in the world is likely to pay particular attention to or to remember.
Of course, fathers remember many things, and I am sure there are some fathers who remember more stories and more details than mothers.  But it does seem that mothers have a unique capacity to store up and hold on to the stories of their children's lives.
We see this in Luke Chapter 2 where twice Luke notes that "Mary treasured up all these things in her heart," referring to the many unusual particulars surrounding Jesus' birth and early years - visiting shepherds, angel choirs, prophetic utterances, and of course, Jesus as a preteen teaching His elders.  Surely Joseph noted these things too, would have thought them remarkable and significant, but what Luke tells us is that Mary treasured them.  She is the one who valued these stories, held onto them, took care of them.

I imagine Mary as the teenager she herself was when Jesus was born, watching incredulously as these events transpired, marveling at the little body that had somehow come from her and still lay in her arms, knowing too that He was somehow God, that His coming marked a pivot point in all of human history.
* * *
In some ways, Mary's treasuring seems so different from my own.  Ellie is very much human.  There was no angel choir at her birth, just four beaming grandparents to sing her praises.  No one has prophesied anything about her, except I suppose, the same grandparents who are convinced she's smart, active, and extroverted.  And her birth, while monumental in my life and the life of our family, is just one of millions in human history, a rather ordinary, everyday occurence.
In other ways though, Mary's treasuring feels very much connected to my own.  I too am watching my child with wonder, knowing that she has been created to be someone unique and special, waiting to see her story unfold.  I treasure the glimpses of her personality I am beginning to see - the smile that lights up a room, the little body that won't stop moving, the way she tries to catch her Daddy's eye.

I don't yet know who she will become, but I am grateful that God has appointed me to be her mother, to carry her story close to my heart, to pay close attention to each chapter, to walk with her through every page.


Photo Credit

"Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” - Matthew 13:32

The past few weeks, I've been watering the soil in our front yard, hoping that the grass seed CJ had planted there would eventually grow. Day after day, I looked at the brown earth, at the little white seeds, and thought, "This will never work. It looks the same as it did yesterday. Surely the grass will never come. It is too late in the season, too cold. I have not watered it as much as I should have."

But then, one morning last week, a few tentative shoots appeared, suddenly. One day there was nothing, no sign of life, and the next, life was emerging in tiny little bursts of green all over the yard. Now, the shoots have stretched and blossomed, dainty grean stalks covering more and more of the soil everyday. We do not have a lawn yet, but we are on our way. I no longer doubt that we will get there.

Growth is like that, I suppose. For the longest time, it seems like nothing is happening, that nothing will ever change, that all of your efforts will prove futile. And then one day, you wake up and realize that life is really different, that somehow all that waiting and watching and watering you've been doing really did matter, that something really did happen during all those endless days of plain old dirt.

I'm trying to remember that raising a baby is like this, that when all I see is the "dirt" of seemingly endless fussyness, sleeplessness, and neediness, growth is happening. One day, I will wake up and realize that Ellie has remembered how to sleep through the night again or that she is no longer spitting up all over the place. One day, she will walk and speak and dance and help me bake cookies and go off to school and grow up big and tall.

Elliana's First Month

Elliana Grace Waldron

April 3, 2011, 10:03 p.m.

8 pounds, 3 ounces - 20.75 inches long

Ellie has decided to celebrate her one month birthday by napping all day, so I am celebrating her one month birthday by attempting my first post since she was born. Yesterday, she went on a sleep strike all day long, so I thought I might never shower again, let alone manage a blog post. I am quickly learning that life with a newborn is very different from one day to the next!

It is hard to believe Elliana has already been here for one month. She still feels so tiny and new and fresh, and I still feel so far from from being an "expert" mom. At the same time, it is hard to imagine CJ and I without her - it just feels right that she is part of "us" now.

I love so much about her. I love the full head of hair I didn't expect her to have. I love the way she curls up against my chest and falls asleep, the rhythm of her small chest breathing in and out, the delicate coos and whimpers she makes in her sleep. I love the way her tiny lips curl up in smiles - involuntary or not. I love that I can (sometimes!) calm her down when she is crying, that she feels safe in my arms. I love watching her with her Daddy, love the tenderness in his eyes when he looks at her and the fact that he calls her both "Sweet Pea" and "Stinker Butt." I love the way she holds her hand by her face, pinky finger extended like she is ready for a proper tea. I love the way she makes strangers smile.

Don't get me wrong. The past month hasn't been a rosy walk in the park. Breastfeeding was awful at first, so much so that I thought it could never work for us. Getting up in the middle of the night is never fun. I've felt helpless and overwhelmed, frustrated that Ellie won't sleep, doesn't like the Moby Wrap, isn't eating enough. I've worried about her future, about all that I can't protect her from. CJ and I have fought about parenting decisions. In fact, yesterday at this time I was in tears, telling God that I couldn't do it anymore.

But in spite of the hard times, I am so grateful that God gave us Elliana. She is a beautiful answer to many prayers, and I am honored to be her Mommy.