Hold it.

“Hold it!” 

“HOLD IT!” 

“Hold. It. This drink. HOLD IT!”

“THIS DRIIIINK!!”

“Hooooold it! Hold it? Hold it? This drink? Hold it?”

These phrases seemed to run endlessly across my toddler’s lips as I pulled out of the Chick-fil-a parking lot after retrieving our lunch from the drive-thru window.

“Not right now, baby. You can have it when we get home.”  I told her.

She was desperate to hold the lemonade I got for the two of us to share, but I didn’t want her to have any while we were in the car. I needed her to wait until we got home and I could pour some into her own cup so she wouldn’t make a mess.

I was going to give her some. I hadn’t changed my mind about that. But at the rate the words flew from her mouth and the way her volume knob seemed to be ever increasing by the minute, you’d thought I had tossed that cup of lemonade out the window and told her she’d never ever have lemonade ever again. Ever.

Then it hit me.

How many times do I ask God for something and He answers me with, “You can have it, just not right now.” And instead of being patient out of obedience to Him and remembering He has my best interest in mind, I start whining.

And begging.

And whining some more.

“But, you said I could have it! I want it NOW! Please, please, please?” 

“What if I ask nicely?”

“What if I wait just a few minutes longer and ask you again?”

“What if I raise my voice a little?”

“What if I whine SO annoyingly that I think you’ll give in… can I have it then?” 

And still He holds firm with me, like I do with my daughter. Because He knows what is best for me, just like I know better than a two year old what is best for her. And what’s best for her is waiting to get home so mommy can pour lemonade into her sippy cup so she doesn’t spill it all over herself trying to drink it in the car.

How many times have we prayed and asked God for something and He answered, “Yes, but not right now.”

And how many times has He asked us to wait on His sovereign timing and be patient, yet we fail to be?

I could make a list a mile long of instances where I was impatient with God’s timing. And, honestly, the more that I think about it, I’m struggling to even find a handful of times where I was genuinely patient on the Lord. But look what happens when we do wait patiently on the Lord:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Psalm 40:1-3a

He hears our cries.

He lifts us out of our despair and gives us a place to rest.

He gives us a new song to sing — one that I imagine has a lot less whining than the one we were singing before…

When we finally got home, Lucy had to wait just a little while longer to get her drink. I put on Sleeping Beauty for her to watch while I put the baby down for his nap, took the dog out, and retrieved the lemonade from the car (because, of course, I forgot it in there…). As she saw me open the door with the cup of lemonade in hand, I noticed her tune had changed.

“Yay! Drink!”

“Yay!”

I got out her purple sippy cup from the cabinet — the one she likes with the little birds on the front, and poured some lemonade in it.

She took a big sip, looked at me and smiled and said…

“Thank you.”

A Letter to my Fourteen Year Old Self

Dear Janine, 

I know you’re only fourteen, but you’ve been through a lot already. And it’s hard. And that’s okay.

Buckle up, because the next few years are going to be a crash course in this so-called life. You’re going to feel like your whole world is falling apart. It sort of is.

Your mom decided to leave, your sister is off to college, your first love broke up with you, your best friend abandoned you, and your dad is too depressed with the fact that your mom wants to divorce him after twenty years of marriage to even know how to begin handling your very real, young, tender-hearted emotions. He’ll show you that her scent hasn’t left the cool, dark place underneath the pillow on her side of the bed if you lift up the corner just so. He’ll even offer you some of the sleeping pills he is taking at night in case you have trouble sleeping, too. (Don’t worry, you won’t need them.)

You’re going to feel like you have to be tough. All. The. Time. Strong enough to navigate level 5 rapids on your own. In the dark. (Fourteen years later you’re still mildly afraid of the dark — and that’s okay.)

You’re going to be put in a really difficult position where you feel like you’re not allowed to cry or fall apart in front of your family because they’re all doing that and things are starting to get pretty messy. You’ll feel like you have to stay neutral; not take sides — like you’re not allowed to be mad at your mom even though you are. (You won’t be in a few years.)

You’ll feel like you’re not allowed to talk about happy things anymore either because no one really seems happy… because they’re all trying to figure out life now, too.

But, don’t forget the things that make you happy!

You’ll need them. And you’ll realize that making things and playing the piano and writing and singing are very, very important to you. They make you feel happy. And they remind you of who you are. They ground you.

You’re also going to feel like the parent. And at times, you sort of will be. And that’s okay… for now. It gets better, and this part doesn’t last forever. But, you’ll never really get to experience a “regular” teenage phase of life. You’re getting thrust into deep waters and you’ll have to learn how to tread water as soon as you penetrate the surface.

Hang in there!

It’s going to feel tough to breathe sometimes as your head barely bobs above water. You’ll begin to feel the water rise cool against your temples and just touch the corners of your eyes as you lean your head back and look to the sky to take a breath. Just focus on breathing for now because your arms and legs are going to get extremely tired from the constant movement. You’ll feel hungry and angry and exhausted and you’ll want to cry. Do it! It’s okay to cry! (Although, you will encounter people who continue to make you feel like you’re not allowed to cry later on. Just do it anyway.)

You’re only going to cry at school for a few years though because your mom, dad, and sister aren’t there, so it’s okay. You don’t have to cry in front of them so it feels safe — it’s your place. However, most of your teachers won’t understand when you spontaneously burst into tears because you just can’t hold them in anymore. Those are the teachers that will label you as being lazy and worthless; a lost cause. And all because  you didn’t make time to do your homework when you got home because you were too busy filling your head with distractions so you wouldn’t cry.

You’re not lazy, worthless, or a lost cause. Don’t believe them.

But, there will be teachers who do understand when you begin to fall apart in the middle of a midterm. Cling to those teachers that get it — the ones that ask you why you’re crying and let you excuse yourself so you can gather your thoughts and splash some cold water on your face. One of them will even offer to let you come over to her house for dinner just in case you need someone to talk to. These teachers will inspire you to pursue becoming a teacher yourself someday. (Don’t be mad at me… but you don’t end up becoming a teacher. You realize part way into your college career of becoming one that deep down you are an artist and that’s who God created you to be — teaching was just an excuse to find a “real job”.)

Eventually, you’ll start to see that there are other people in your life that “get it” too. They’ll get YOU.

There will be plenty of other people that don’t get it, and don’t be afraid to let go of them. The letting go part will be pretty hard because you will be afraid of being alone for awhile. But it’s okay, you’ll never actually be alone — God has never left your side. He’s been there the whole time holding your head above water making sure you’re able to breathe deep. And there will also be people who enter your life that really do “get it”. Those are the ones that you should invest your time and energy in. They are “your people” —  they are truly a gift.

You even marry one of those people that get it! (And he’s really cute!) He’s your best friend, and he teaches you that it’s okay to cry in front of the people you love. He also teaches you about tears of joy — and the ones that happen when you laugh really, really hard. It’s okay to let go and be real and feel all the things you feel inside. He will be your biggest supporter and believe in you so strongly that you actually begin to believe in yourself.

You believe you are not lazy, worthless, or a lost cause!

I don’t want to tell you too much more about how things are going right now, because I don’t think you’ll actually believe some of the adventures that lie ahead. I just wanted you to know that you are okay now. You turn out okay. Better than okay, really. You’re strong, empathetic, sensitive, and wildly creative. And, you actually get to be happy and really, really feel it. You don’t have to hide anymore.

You don’t have to tread water or will your arms and legs to keep moving for fear of sinking. You’re standing on solid ground now. And sometimes you even get to sit on a nice, sandy beach next to your best friend and enjoy the sunshine.

You get to rest — you get to enjoy life.

You are loved.

 

Love,
Janine

 

 

 

This post was inspired by this and this

Loving two.

When Andy and I talked about having another baby, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions and worries I would feel once we got the wonderful news that we would, in fact, be welcoming a new baby into our home.

The old worries of my first pregnancy — feeling like I wasn’t going to know what to do, being scared of the impending labor, worrying that I wouldn’t have all the “things” in our house that we needed to take care of the baby — those worries have come and gone.

A new list of thoughts and worries have taken their place.

Will Lucy be upset that I can’t focus only on her any longer?
Will I actually have to figure out how to deal with a jealous toddler?
Will I be mad at myself and feel guilty for dividing my attention?
How will I ever maintain the sweet, sweet relationship I have with Lucy and still make room in my heart for another baby?
Is there even room in my heart to love another?
Will the new baby be quiet, happy, and laid back like Lucy?
Will the new baby be dramatically different?
Will I be able to handle life with a newborn and a toddler?

The list goes on…
Sigh. 

 

As I was praying through my worries (Psalm 55:22), laying them at the feet of the Lord, (1 Peter 5:7)… I was prompted to Google.

Maybe that sounds really crazy to you, but for those of you who know me, I Google everything. And… God has always had some really interesting ways of communicating things to me. (Ask me about the time I was in the middle of singing at church and had visions of the animated movie Feivel Goes West.)

So I Googled, and came across the following poem that beautifully walked me through my emotions and safely brought me out on the other side. With tear-stained cheeks of course.

 

Loving Two

I walk along holding your 2-year-old hand, basking in the glow of our magical relationship.

Suddenly I feel a kick from within, as if to remind me that our time alone is limited. And I wonder, how could I love another child as I love you?

Then she is born, and I watch you. I watch as the pain you feel at having to share me as you have never shared me before.

I hear you telling me in your own way, “Please love only me” and I hear myself telling you in mine “I can’t”. Knowing in fact that I never can again. You cry, I cry with you.

I almost see our baby as an intruder on the precious relationship we once shared. A relationship we can never have again.

But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to that new being, and feeling almost guilty. I’m afraid to let you see me enjoying her — as though I am betraying you.

But then I notice your resentment change, first to curiosity, then to protectiveness, finally to genuine affection. More days pass, and we are settling into a new routine.

The memory of days with just the two of us is fading fast. But something is replacing those wonderful times we shared, just us two. There are new times — only now we are three.

I watch the love between you grow, the way you look at each other, touch each other.

I watch how she adores you, as I have for so long. I see how excited you are by each of her new accomplishments.

I begin to realize that I haven’t taken something from you, I’ve given something to you.

I notice that I am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both of you.

I find that my love for each of you is as different as you are, but equally strong. And my question is finally answered to my amazement.

Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you, only differently.

And although I realize that you may have to share my time, I know you’ll never share my love.

There’s enough of that for both of you — you each have your own supply.

I love you both and I thank you both for blessing my life.

—Author Unknown

My heart is still heavy sometimes at the thought of sharing my love, but I know there are many  mothers who have gone before me who have realized that indeed a mother’s love for each child can be equally strong, but just as different as her children are.

My prayer is that I will be at peace knowing I will have enough love for both of my babies.

They will each have their own supply.

Love,
Janine

Joy.

I am my own toughest critic.

It’s so easy to compare my life with the lives of others: people I think have it all together. Especially moms that have mopped floors, perfect hair, no giant laundry piles in plain sight, cook dinner every night, AND go to work. They magically do all of this while I stay home and try to keep my curious baby girl out of the dog’s food bowl, while dutifully reading to her, singing to her, teaching her basic physics and calculus, giving her piano lessons, distracting her from things she shouldn’t touch and climb on, and occasionally remembering to clean the toilets, scrub the showers, vacuum the carpet, and fight off the ever present laundry monster. (The list goes on…)

Just thinking about it all exhausts me.

And how am I supposed to DO everything AND enjoy it? How am I supposed to do everything and enjoy it all without comparing and complaining and falling into a sad, pitiful pile of exhausted mess.

Well, I didn’t really know at first, but I think I have an idea now and I’ll tell you.

I keep seeing this quote on Pinterest:

Comparison

Now, I’m a skeptic when it comes to the things I see and read on the internet, so I can’t tell you for sure that Theodore Roosevelt actually said that. However, if he did, I’d like to thank him and shake his hand! (His alive hand… if I could actually go back in time and shake his hand when he was alive… this is all hypothetical of course.)

Ole Teddy boy must have been reading my (imaginary) diary when he penned those words. The entry where I scribbled down all my “woe is me” sentences and believed the lies that something must be wrong with me or I have to change or I have to try harder and do better because no one else ever has a dirty house or an unbathed kid or unwashed hair or a dog who obsessively licks feet and faces.

And then I saw that quote.

It made me wonder if comparing my life with the perceived lives of others around me was actually stealing my joy. Where is my joy? Where! Shoot! Some of it has been stolen!

And because I honestly still don’t believe Theodore Roosevelt said it, I decided that maybe I should investigate the one source I actually do know as Truth.

The Bible talks about a lot of things. I’m not here to give you statistics on all the “things” the Bible talks about, but I do know that it talks about jealousy and joy. And the more I investigate, the more I have begun to realize at the root of all my whiny comparisons is jealousy. I am really being envious of what others have and that is stealing my joy.

I think God was onto something when he told Moses to tell the Israelites:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

Maybe you’re saying to me, “Janine! It’s all good, you’re not coveting your neighbor’s house… just the clean floors! And you’re definitely not coveting your neighbor’s wife, servants, ox or donkey…” (Well, maybe that’s really what I was saying to myself so I could justify all the whining.)

But the reality is I am. Just like the Israelites.

I am coveting the things I see that I do not have. The things I want and things I think I need (mopped floors, clean babies, well-mannered pets…) in order to be happy and content with the life I’ve been given.

When in reality, I have more than I need (food, clothing, water, shelter, and lots of love!) and mostly everything that I want. (Except that spotlessly clean house!)

Jesus said:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:10-12

So, Teddy. If you really did come up with that whole “comparison is the thief of joy” thing. Well, thanks. You helped me to investigate the root of my comparisons (jealousy) and the source of my joy (Jesus).

Remember your joy!

Love,
Janine

 

 

 

Dear Lucy.

A letter to my three month old daughter.

Dear Lucy,

You changed me.

You changed me, but not in a bad way. And not just in the cliche’ way on the day you were born — changing me simply from woman to mother. But you changed me. The day I knew you were going to come into my life — the day I found out I was pregnant and going to be your mom, a process began.

I found myself riding the wave of emotions. Fear, excitement, elation, joy, terror, self-doubt. All these things; the beginning of change.

As I journeyed through the process of carrying you in my womb, I was amazed at the thought of your tiny body forming inside me. Marking each week of your growth with more excitement of the reality that one day I would actually get to hold you in my arms.

I prayed. I prayed a lot. I prayed a lot of selfish prayers that you would be completely beautiful, brilliant, and definitely have all your fingers and toes. I selfishly asked God to give you your daddy’s dimples and my red hair. (The dimples you got… I’m just waiting to see if your hair really is red or if I’m simply wishing the slightly auburn hue I see into existence.)

And you changed me some more.

I started praying differently. My heart was changing and I realized that more than a beautiful, brilliant baby girl with dimples and flowing auburn hair, I wanted to raise a little girl who would grow into a woman who loved the Lord with all her heart. I wanted to be the kind of mom who would be capable of raising you (under God’s direction) to be bold, honest, strong, confident, honorable and steadfast.

Your tiny existence changed me.

As I continued to pray, it became deeply aware to me that in order to raise a fiercely God-fearing woman, I needed to be one. In order to be that kind of mom, I needed to be deeply rooted in the knowledge and awareness of who God is in my life and who He wants ME to be. I need to be your example, little one. I need to show you what it looks like to be loving, honest, upright, steadfast, and strong. And that is my prayer.

It is my prayer that I will be the kind of woman you look up to someday. The kind of woman you are inspired by. I want to be the example for you of what it really looks like to live a life fully devoted to Jesus.

I’m scared though…

I’m still excited and filled with joy with the privilege it is to be your mother, but I’m scared because I know I will fail you.

So. My dear, sweet, Lucy Marie — Please know I’m trying my best.

I am praying for you. I am praying for me. I am praying that I will be given the wisdom that I need to be the mom you deserve to have.

Your presence has changed me. Forever. For the better.

Love,
Mom

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6