Sunday, September 1, 2019

Faith of a Child Meets Adult Sunday Service

This morning, Sunday school classes were cancelled at our church. There was still worship service and the nursery was still open for those under two but if we wanted to attend services today, we went in knowing that Abby would be with us. Last time she was in with us, we struggled. She was about a year and a half old and couldn't sit still or be quiet when it was necessary. We ended up spending so much of our time entertaining her, walking around outside of the sanctuary, exploring the building. Either Wes or I was distracted 100% of the service. It was not the chance to recharge, reconnect, or worship that we needed. It was not an opportunity for us to grow in our faith.
But my anxiety made me hesitate to put her in the nursery. Could someone else really take care of her how I could? Could they really be trusted to get me if she cried, to keep her allergens away from her, to foster her growth? We'd just had a very poor experience at a MOPS group at another church which had left Abby crying so hard she couldn't be calmed down for several minutes. They had clearly let her get far too worked up before paging me. Which left me even more hesitant than before to leave her with someone else. We took the step of faith though and G-d rewarded us richly. Abby loves her class and has grown so much, more than I ever could have taught her on my own. Wes and I have been given the chance to connect as a couple during worship and to grow in our faith.
Since then, we've added another member to our family and far earlier than with Abby, we've also entrusted him to the nursery staff. After proving that I could handle passing off my baby, and the staff could be trusted to keep them alive and away from the things they couldn't handle eating, we decided to see how our independent baby handled being away from Mama. Which again, left us on our own in the service.
We've both enjoyed getting to grow in that way and to spend an hour to ourselves, kid free, each week. Life hasn't allowed us date nights at this season so this small chance has been a nice break from parenthood. And it gives us something to talk about that isn't work or children.
Going into today's service, I think Wes and I were both a little unsure of what would happen. But we came prepared with coloring implements, blocks, a number puzzle, snacks... And we hoped for the best.
It. Was. Incredible. Not only did Abby listen quite well, quiet down when she asked questions too loudly, and do her best to pay attention to what was going on, Wes and I delighted in having her with us. She was curious, she was faith-filled, she was present. While we did take some time during the sermon to give her the tour of the church she requested, it did my mama heart some serious good to see her growing in her faith like that. To pray with my daughter, to get a foretaste of what her future might hold.
Finally, it was the first Sunday of the month, which at our church means communion. Communion is open to all who profess Christ as their Saviour, who have asked Him into their hearts. And although she's only three and a half, Abby has done that. She has Jesus in her heart and has the most precious child-like faith. When I realized this morning that it was communion Sunday, I quickly had to decide whether we'd allow her to participate. Who am I to hold her back? If asked whether she has Jesus in her heart, she will tell you emphatically YES. She will tell you that she's going to Heaven after she dies to be with Jesus and that He died to save her from her sins. Is her faith fully mature? No, of course not. But she has the basis, she has a foundation. Her life is being built upon the Rock of His Salvation and I will not be the one to tell her she can't partake of His body and His blood because she's not old enough.
And let me tell you, more than praying with my daughter, more than sitting beside her and worshipping with her, taking communion with her, watching her eat the bread and drink the grape juice, knowing that her salvation is assured, that someday we'll be together in Heaven... Oh I can't explain to you the way that filled my heart.
While we don't intend to keep Abby out of her Sunday school class every week, we do intend to bring her in more often. Our job as parents is to train our children up and to lead them to Christ. Seeing them start to come to that faith, to mature was sweet balm to my heart in all the chaos that motherhood and life can sometimes bring.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

White Chicken Chili

Years ago now, in college, a bunch of friends got together one night and enjoyed some delicious white chicken chili. Up until that point, all I'd ever known for chili was my dad's. His version involves kidney beans, beef, and tomato. This was nothing like that. We all asked for the recipe. I cannot tell you how many times I've gone back to that email to reference it since that fall. Now, sick of searching my inbox, I share that recipe with you. (Ladies, if you're reading this, it might look just a little different. I've tweaked the seasonings just a hair and added in the changes we made that night. Extra beans, added corn, etc.)

2 T oil
1 pound diced, cooked chicken
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
29 ounces chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1/4 t ground cumin
2 cans white beans
1 can corn or 1 cup frozen
salt and pepper to taste
lime, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, and cilantro for serving

1. Heat oil. Cook onion and garlic until soft.
2. Stir in broth, tomatoes, chiles, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add chicken, corn, and beans. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Serve.

I'm planning on trying this in my new instant pot this week so I'll update with pictures and how to use that device successfully soon.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Socialization and Anxiety

To those who know me well, I don't think it will come as much surprise that I'm an introvert. I can quite happily curl up on the couch with Netflix or a book and be content for hours. When I worked as a barista, my job alone was enough to fulfill most of my social needs. (The fact that my coworkers at the time were awesome didn't hurt though.) Now that I'm a nanny, I have to find social interaction. Even introverts need some. Most weeks for me that means lunch at my in-laws on Sundays, Monday night dinners (affectionately known as Dragonland), story time at the library on Wednesdays where I talk the librarians' ears off, and the absolute highlight of my week is my mommy group Thursday mornings.

But lately, our Monday night host has been travelling out of town, I've had to drive my husband to work which interferes with story time, and the location for mommy group closed down. So I haven't been getting my social life fix. Finally, yesterday, with the return of our second vehicle to working order and a rescheduled mommy group hosted at someone's house, I was able to get some socialization. And I needed it. To be able to hang out with my friends, let the kids play, and, as a bonus, my daughter and I were able to eat everything but the cheese cubes without worry. (She has food allergies which impact my diet too.)

While I love my time with my friends, and I desperately need the adult interaction, the minute I leave, my anxiety roars its ugly head and makes me question, makes me doubt. I walk out the door and I begin to analyze every thing I did or said. Did they know I meant this? Did I come across like that? Did I talk too much? Am I too self-centered? Am I too needy? Did I ask enough questions about the other person? If I had my phone out, did I spend too much time on it?

My first anxiety attack, that I can recall, I was 8 years old. That means I've been dealing with this monster for 18 years. If my mental illness was a person, he could vote and sign a contract and get a tattoo. I have what's considered high functioning anxiety. It doesn't stop me from doing many things (except for the semester in college where it sabotaged my efforts to meet my chapel requirement). But every interaction I have gets replayed in my head over and over several times. It gets questioned and disected and analyzed until even I am sick of it.

If it was as simple as not thinking that, trust me, I'd stop in an instant. But that's just not the reality. My brain goes into overdrive and I cannot turn it off. I can't stop these thoughts like I can stop the faucet on my kitchen sink. And at the end of the day, they can get overwhelming. They can get to the point where I just want to scream or rip my hair out or revert back to how I coped in high school and hurt myself. Because if I'm in pain, I'm not focusing on the interactions I had all day. I'm focusing on causing the pain, dealing with the pain, and then after I'd be focused on the guilt of making that choice. (The guilt would then consume my brain, I wouldn't be able to turn those thoughts off, and it would end up an awful cycle. This is why I haven't done that in about ten years.)

I wish I could just change on a dime. I wish it was that simple. But I've done this my entire life. Until recently, I thought everyone did. I didn't know this was a symptom of my anxiety. I thought it was just exaggerated for me. Which makes me wonder how much of my standard behaviors, thoughts, things I say are part of my mental illnesses. They impact every aspect of my life. Even when they're under control. I'll never be able to get twenty years of my life back from this monster. I'll never be able to go back to Germany and attend those drink nights that I skipped because I wasn't sure exactly where it was or those times I bowed out from events in college because I didn't know who would be there. I'll never have that back. Maybe someday I'll have an afternoon with friends where I don't leave and second guess every single thing I said and every single thing I did. In the mean time, I won't let it stop me from going to my mommy group, from messaging my friends about German or haircuts or babywearing. I won't let this illness hold me back the times I'm able to overcome it. And when I'm not able to overcome it, I will seek help. Because as my husband said, that's an awful way to live.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Voting in the Kingdom

Today is Election Day in America and I have never been more scared for the results.

I have my opinions on who is or is not qualified for the position of president but that is not what this post is about. This post is about how I'm coming to peace with the possible results of the election. While you may gather what my vote is from this or from other conversations with me, please do not make this about that. Any comments campaigning for or against any candidate will be deleted.

No matter what my vote, or yours, that's not the important part. Don't get me wrong, I believe voting is important and I believe we should be informed voters. I've come to peace with my decision. I've picked the candidate that most closely aligns with what is most important to me and I will be casting my ballot after my daughter wakes up from her nap. But I was still struggling this morning when I woke up with worry over the results. Would the rest of America make the choice that I believed was best? Or would they do something I thought would be detrimental to our country and to the world in general? Like it or not, America has a huge role to play in the way the world functions. But you know what?

It's not up to me.

This election is in bigger hands. If G-d controls my life, why wouldn't He have a say in who runs this country? No matter who ends up President, be it Trump, Clinton, or Johnson, my King is in control. My prayer these days is "Thy will be done, above all else. But selfishly I pray You'd keep my family safe, my daughter safe, and give me peace." No matter if tomorrow we know our next president will be the first female president or whether we will have another Mr. President, if you were my friend yesterday, you'll be my friend tomorrow. If you were family yesterday, you'll be family tomorrow.

So go, educate yourself, and vote. But please, pray about it too. Let Him guide your ballot.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loving Me Instead of Liking Me

There's a difference between being okay with who you are and loving yourself.

A friend challenged the ladies in her group to name something they love about themselves and then comment on something they love about the others who had commented. I was one of the first to see the post but at least half a dozen women commented before me. Not because they were so quick to respond but because I had to think.

And think.

And think.

It took me about two hours to come up with something I loved about myself. Two hours. I thought about the fact that I didn't go through a crisis of self-confidence after giving birth. I didn't struggle with my self-image. I accepted my squishy belly and my tiger stripes almost immediately. But I'm realizing it wasn't a struggle because I didn't love my body before I got pregnant either. I was okay with it. I accepted it as a matter of course. It was like an old car. It got me where I needed to, didn't cause too many problems, but I didn't put too much effort into it either. It just was. I didn't like it but I didn't dislike it either. But that wasn't something to love about me.

I thought about the breakdown I had the other night about how I felt about my attitude, my personality. I thought about all the mean things my anxiety and my depression tell me are true. That I'm mean and selfish. That other people don't really like me, they just put up with me. That I'm no fun and I'm awkward. That I talk too much. I thought about all the things I don't like about me. Clearly, those weren't answers either.

I tried to think of one thing about me that I loved. I love being a mom but that's not really about me. It's about a blessing I was given. It's about my daughter. It's a fact of my being. But I thought about the things I love about being a mom. Wearing my daughter in our wrap, holding her close, nursing her, spending time engaging with her, snuggling her, sleeping with her in my arms. So many of those things required me to do research, to know what I was doing before I tried. I needed to know how to wrap before I could try it with her. I had to know it even existed as an option!

I had to know so much more about breastfeeding than I thought possible. Knowing what hunger cues were and the reasons why babies need to eat on demand and not on a schedule. Why she might actually be hungry even though she just popped off an hour ago. That breastmilk is so easily digested. What things meant I might have a low supply and what things didn't. Why topping her off with formula would have done more harm than good in most cases. Things I see women question daily because we've lost that cultural knowledge. Once upon a time, our mothers passed us that information. But in families like mine, the last nursing mother is three generations back and she passed away before I got to this stage. It's not something we grow up with anymore. It's not something we're familiar with or that we're used to. We have to learn it. I've been successful because I read voraciously while I was pregnant.

There are many other things I had to learn to be confident in the choices I've made as a mom. And I don't think I'm by any means done learning. But rather than being a daunting prospect, I look forward to the journey. I love to learn and to research and I love my thirst for knowledge. That, ultimately, was what I shared with the other women in the group. But it took me two hours to come to that conclusion.

Until today, I thought I was doing pretty good in terms of self confidence, self esteem. Because I didn't have a litany of self-hatred pour out when I looked in the mirror and because I like my body, I'm proud of the stretch marks that cover my stomach, that show I grew an entire human being, I thought I was doing well. But liking yourself is not loving yourself and I realize that now. I realize I'm not where I need to be. So today I'm starting a journey to love myself. To forgive my imperfections and to move from liking me to loving me. To treat me the way I want my daughter to treat herself. I'm not sure how I'm going to get there but I know I have to try. Care to join me?