I had planned on writing this post today and saying “farewell” to Summer. Everyone, it seems, is ready for the new season. The stores are lined with pumpkins and jingle bells ring faintly in the background. The smell of cinnamon-this and chai-that waft through the air, and interestingly enough, today is the first day of Fall. So today is the perfect time to reflect on our Summer beach vacation, the salty smells and ocean breezes and begin to look forward to the last three months of the year with even more family memories yet to enjoy.
Have you joined the ranks of liberated women? I have! Jesus Christ has liberated me (praise God!) from so many things I didn’t even know I needed to be liberated from. I truly believe we don’t even realize we are in any bondage, in any chains, until He releases us, we taste the freedom, then look back and see that dark and dingy prison cell we were living in. And Christians can absolutely be in chains too, even though the salvation of their souls is secure. In every new area of my life that Jesus reveals my liberation to me, I look back and can’t believe I was in chains and didn’t know it.
The liberation this world offers (and at one time I certainly thought it was liberation) is a lonely place, full of illusion and darkness. God’s freedom is bright and lovely, and full of the good fruit of joy and peace. So how has Jesus liberated me?
Jesus Christ liberated me from…
…the requirement to follow a law- any law, whether the Old Testament law or any new human law, dietary law, or formula for my life.
…the need to be equal with my husband. God’s design is perfect and full of joy.
…the need to have to outwit death. I do not have to be afraid of death or strive to find perfect health. I will live forever.
…the need to have all my needs and desires met. The more I give my life away to others, the more of it I gain.
…the need to have a purpose that is desirable to the world. My purpose is in God, simply knowing Him and loving Him.
…the need to have to save the world and everyone in it. Jesus Christ already did that. I’m here to do what the Father tells me.
…the need to have my life be about ME. Praise God! On the cross, Jesus liberated us from not only the power of death and sin, but from OURSELVES. The less I focus on me, the more joy I have.
I’m a liberated woman!
Motherhood has been all consuming for me lately.
All consuming as in an angry fire devouring a beautiful forest and there will be nothing left. As in I think I’m going under and I won’t survive this.
I’m starting to resent “those” mom bloggers (including myself) who look like they have it all together: “I’m just a mom, I cloth diaper, stay home, I never feed my children Cheetos or bribe them with Oreos, and I even have time to post all my healthy recipes with beautiful photos to boot. Oh, and I’m beautiful and happy too.”
Actually I can’t stand those bloggers now that I think about it (again, including myself) and I hate that I often (in my happy moments) portray my own motherhood that way too. And motherhood absolutely does have those fleeting moments where you don’t burn the chicken and the children are actually playing with each other instead of yelling, and you actually did wash (and brush) your hair today. But the truth is being a mom is hard work and recipes of the perfect Rice Krispi treat, homemade play dough and ’27 reasons why everyone should cloth diaper their children’ as the pinnacle achievements of our lives trivializes motherhood in the worst possible way.
As mothers we are raising, feeding, caring for human beings. I quickly learned my baby was not a craft project with a detailed list of materials needed, illustrated directions for care and a beautiful expected finished result. Oh dear no, motherhood is messy, aggravating, joyous, hilarious, pushes me to my limit and then some. It brings me to my knees. I have seen the worst and best side of me only in the context of being a mother. I have lived the worst fear: failure. I have yelled, bribed, threatened, ignored, pretended to be asleep and punished unnecessarily. I have hated (can I say that?) motherhood sometimes, the demands and the fact that it never. lets. up.
I know, I know..we have to savor the moments, we have to enjoy, we have to take a zillion pictures and remember everything, and we do. I do. And there’s not really a whole lot I would trade motherhood for, except maybe, an easier version of the motherhood I’m in now. But then if it wasn’t hard- gut wrenching hard, painful and challenging, requiring sweat, sleep, blood and tears- it wouldn’t be motherhood (and fatherhood) would it? We’re in the trenches. We’re in the business of shaping human hearts and souls, fragile, tender, overflowing with potential greatness and love. With so much fragility is it any wonder we sometimes fail, break, fall, make a mess?
I have so much to learn. I wish that I didn’t have to learn it with my children’s hearts on the line. But I’m trying (oh, how I’m trying) to remember that children are resilient and maybe, just maybe, the most powerful thing my children will see in me is my weakness. And that we’re all just human together. We’re all a big mess. A beautiful mess.
Maybe that’s what I need to be reminded of. And that after an all consuming wild fire, with what seemed like only death all around, new life hides in the fertile black soil, ready to spring forth.
I love my daughter’s imaginary friends. They play nicely, eat their vegetables and generally don’t make a mess of their toys. We take them on outings, make sure to buckle them in tight, tuck them in for nap and sometimes play ring-around-the-rosie together. We have gotten to know “Princess,” “Robot,” and “Monster.” Sometimes we forget where they ran off to, my daughter, suddenly realizing, will gasp and ask “Where’s Robot?” to which I will remind my daughter that maybe Robot felt left out and that he really ought to be invited to our play. Sometimes her imaginary friends are sad and I explain the importance of being a good friend and maybe playing a game with one of them, and sometimes one of them dies.
I’m still figuring out what to do about that.
I have only recently begun to get to know these little playmates of hers. They started coming to play about the time we made a drastic family decision: to eliminate the TV from our home. We never were the type of family to watch a lot of television. We never had programs that we just “had” to watch, and I’ve always filtered my daughter’s media very carefully. But the TV habit did sort of sneak up on me.
Maybe it was when she was a baby. Soothing her to sleep and distracting my tired mind with colorful cartoons was an all too common scenario. Or maybe it was when her little sister was born and movies were a way to keep my rambunctious toddler quiet and occupied. No matter the cause, soon it simply became a habit, and she was asking for movies nearly constantly. It was just so easy. She wasn’t making a mess and she wasn’t requiring my patience or attention, but she wasn’t playing either. She wasn’t exploring, asking questions or stimulating her mind with things like dirt and grass- all the things I knew were best for small children. This was one of the many reasons we had moved to the country only a few months ago, and with acres of trees and woodland wildlife our backyard, I couldn’t stand the thought of my daughter not taking in all that nature had to offer. I also highly valued my carefree and imaginative childhood: climbing cherry trees, making forts, pretending to live on a farm and gathering up grass to make “soup”, playing mommy, and making doll cradles out of white shirt boxes- I cherish these memories. And I wanted her to have the same too.
So one day, in a moment of tired frustration and firm resolve, I asked my husband if we could take the plunge and get rid of the TV. We moved it to a dark corner of the attic and it only took a week for my daughter to stop asking for her old pastime. I simply told her that the TV had become very tired from so much watching and needed a long nap. She didn’t question this sound logic. Now in the morning when she shuffles in from her bedroom to come snuggle with me, instead of asking to watch a “moomie” she’s been giving me a hug and asking if I would read her a book. (A book!)
The wall the TV used to be on wasn’t empty for very long. We moved the couch there, and it’s like we’ve never watched a day of TV in our life. We don’t miss it. Now we watch the birds eat from our bird feeder and the squirrel’s silly antics. We take walks and try to spot the rabbit that lives nearby, affectionately named Roger. We listen for our friend the hawk that squawks overhead. We color and do puzzles. We read a lot. And we invite her imaginary friends to impromptu tea parties.
My mama heart is happy and full. This is the childhood I want for my children. I truly believe unstructured play and imagination are the most important skills a young child can learn, and with pressure to structure more and more of our children’s lives, the space to practice imaginative play is becoming increasingly rare. We will never really know what depths and heights of imagination and brilliance our children are capable of unless we give them the unfettered space to try.
And for us, imaginary friends and tea parties are a really good place to start.
Here they are! My list I’ve been compiling of my top 20 grain free recipes that I just really really love! I’ve been “flirting” with the paleo diet ever since the beginning of this year. At first it was like “Whoa- what in the world do I eat?!” Then I totally missed all those “wonderful” foods that I had left behind, so I went back to them – with a vengeance, and suffered the bloating and fatigue too. So after going on and off paleo many times, I’m back on, and dabbling so much in the paleo world for the last 6 months, it’s been a smooth transition so far. While there is something to be said for going paleo “cold turkey” it has definitely benefited me to ease into it slowly over time.
I hope you enjoy these recipes and that they are ones you might not have normally thought of when going grain free. They are all grain free and processed food free and only 2 require dairy products (Real Food “Ranch” and World’s Best Chicken). So get to the kitchen, eat up and tell me what you think! (This is for you, Linda!)
Perfect Paleo Biscuit — Yes. Perfection.
Nut-free, Dairy Free Pumpkin Bread – Pumpkin perfection.
Spaghetti Squash “Noodles” — Our household staple.
World’s Best Chicken –Seriously. World’s. Best. If you can tolerate dairy, make this right now.
Rosemary & Raisin Almond Crackers – The perfect cracker!
Paleo, Vegan Chocolate Avocado Pudding – I am forever indebted to you, M. V!)
Sweet Potato Dip – Great for breakfast or snack.
Real Food “Ranch” — For my sis. Back away from the Hidden Valley.
Scrumptious Paleo Seafood Chowder – Oh my…more perfection. Like eating in a fancy restaurant.
Baked eggs in a avocado – Creamy warm avocado and gooey egg yolk.
Paleo “Fried” Green Tomatoes – Pair with the Real Food “Ranch”
Turkey Roll-ups – Easy peasy.
Enjoy! And come back and tell me which one you loved the best!
We walked in the house around dinner time the last day in February 2011. We were coming home from our unexpected transfer to the hospital after birthing my baby girl, Marlee, at home. It was already dark. My mom was rocking my little baby and I was jealous to hold her. She was mine and I was anxious to be that perfect mommy like I had always envisioned. I had wanted this my whole life. I had always been desperate to hold any baby I had ever been around. But now that I was here and had one to keep right in my very arms, I felt a little lost. I had no idea what I was doing, and I really didn’t even know who this baby was. While in the hospital, not really even missing her, I wondered what had just happened to me. A 19 hour labor at home pushing a posterior (“sunny side up”) baby, then bleeding because my uterus would not contract and blacking out. Then a trip to the hospital leaving my baby at home in my mother’s care. Did I really go through all of that? Was that a dream? Or maybe just something I imagined? What was I doing here and who was this baby waiting for me? Did she really come from me? I had only been with her about an hour before I left, and it wasn’t the most conducive to bonding with her. She hadn’t even nursed! What was waiting for me here finally as a mom?
Once home we tried to settle into some kind of routine. We went to bed and we put her down but she cried a lot. She spit up even more. I continued to feed her formula for a couple of days. That was what they had started her on (clearly she needed to eat and I wasn’t around) and I didn’t really know what to do. How should I start this breastfeeding thing? Soon I started to nurse her. It had always been my dream to breastfeed, and I just knew it would complete this ethereal and instant bond I would have with my newborn but that was far from the case. Instead of that image of a peaceful mother with a content baby snuggled in one arm, latched at the breast, cocooned in heavenly bond, I experienced excruciating pain. What was I doing wrong? I remember sitting on the couch, cross legged, holding my baby with a pillow underneath her, a pillow behind me, and another pillow under my arm, bending over a little trying to manipulate my breast in her mouth, back and shoulders aching and feeling pain (from the latch) that rivaled my worst contraction. I seriously thought about giving the whole thing up, which shocked and confused me, since I never thought I would want to give up so easily on something I wanted so much. The next day a wonderful and warm lactation consultant came over and put me at ease. She showed me better ways of nursing and suggested I wear a nipple shield to help her latch and for the pain. It was like a miracle. It enabled me to breastfeed without feeling like I wanted to be knocked out with drugs. It was annoying to have to wear the nipple shield, but now that it was bearable, I was determined to continue.
Several days passed and the shock of giving birth didn’t seem to wear off like I thought it would. At first I felt traumatized from my experience, although over all it was a good birth. I only needed IV fluids and rest at the hospital- nothing was seriously wrong with me, and I had birthed a healthy baby all naturally at home like I wanted. So what was I feeling? I felt scared and sad. I couldn’t understand what I was scared of though. My mom stayed with us for a week and I remember her up at night one night watching TV and me breaking down in front of her. I couldn’t understand why I felt so traumatized from the birth. No it wasn’t a “perfect” birth like we had planned, but I was still shocked by it and so afraid that it had even happened to me. What had I done in having a child? My mom tried to comfort me. Was I just worn out from a long labor and unexpected transfer to the hospital? It didn’t help that my baby seemed to oppose sleep and that she spit up constantly. I didn’t really know what to do with these feelings, but I knew I had a baby to take care of so that’s what I did. I nursed and bounced and swaddled and tried to sleep when I could, but when I tried to, all I could think about was my birth, and the fears swirling in my head. This dark foreboding began to creep ever nearer as the days went on.
The days seemed long as my baby grew and I wondered if she would start feeling like “my” baby soon. Of course I loved her. but I didn’t feel like I really loved her. I felt I didn’t even know her. For a long time I easily imagined that she was actually someone else’s baby. Life inside my head seemed to grow more cloudy with fears and anxiety. My life flashed before my eyes everyday. It was a strange emotion: overwhelming fear for the future mixed with a very real and present loss. I felt I was experiencing death and with that the knowledge that I would never again be able to see my baby grow up, to be with her, to help her as she matured, to watch her marry and to know her children. I saw her a young woman, on her own in this big crazy mixed up world without her parents to guide her, and the grief threatened to destroy me. The grief was extremely real and even as I held her, I felt a deep loss I couldn’t explain. I felt a deep sadness that nothing would ever be OK again. Shouldn’t I be happy? Shouldn’t I be enjoying this? Well meaning family, friends and strangers would congratulate us and comment “Enjoy the time, it goes by so fast!” But I wasn’t enjoying the time and I felt terribly guilty because of that. I felt I was missing out on our precious new life together as a family of three. I was taking care of my baby but I didn’t feel very connected to her. I’m so glad I continued to breastfeed because I felt it was our only real connection to each other, and that somehow, by breastfeeding her, I could get to know her and love her.
At home, my husband was the only one I let see me fall apart. I would cry tears of deep sorrow. I had this bundle of precious new life, but I felt like death had surrounded me. It was very real to me and I felt as though I were mourning the loss of my life and the life of my baby although I never actually thought something would happen to either one of us. The only thing that I could rationalize in my head that gave me comfort was that I believed in Jesus, and maybe if Marlee did too then one day we would all be heaven together, and I would never have to lose her. Although it sounds crazy now, this truly was the only thing that kept me from drowning in my dark hole of grief and allowed me to face each day with a little bit of solace. Instead of enjoying our gift from God, I clung to the hope that maybe I would see her again one day in a heavenly future.
The days would pass with family and visitors praising our new little daughter, but as night began to fall a sense of terrible deep dread and panic would fall upon me. It was a dread deep in my soul, so deep I didn’t think anything could touch it, relieve it, or make it go away. As night began to fall, family and visitors went off to their infant-less homes, my exhausted husband went off to bed and it was just me, the night and my baby. I would begin to cry for “no reason,” especially as the day wore on. I dreaded being alone, I dreaded the night, I dreaded the thought that everyone all around town were all going to sleep and no one would be up to help me or watch me or convince me that things were really going to get better. All the distractions were gone: the TV shows I watched during the day weren’t on, the stores were closed, family was asleep and I couldn’t bear to wake anyone, even in my loneliest of moments. It was beside the fact that I had to take care of colicky infant all night by myself, I just really didn’t want to be alone. I was scared to be alone. I didn’t know what I might do or say or feel. I didn’t know if the abyss of sorrow and fears that followed me would swallow me completely, and I didn’t know how I would act around my daughter.
Some time after she was born, thoughts of harming my baby would invade my mind. I knew deep down that I would never truly harm my precious daughter, but these thoughts, almost urges, were powerful and strange. I had images of her being hurt by a sharp knife or being crushed or smothered. Ashamed, horrified and confused, I didn’t know what to do with these unexpected thoughts except push them as far away as possible. But they continued and I was genuinely afraid to be around her. I didn’t know what urge might possess me at any given moment. I feared to be around sharp knives in the kitchen or anything that might be dangerous. I feared that I would lose all self control and in one split second act on one of these thoughts although I despised the thought of it and never had any intention to do so. These thoughts haunted me for many months after she was born.
I honestly felt like my life was over, that I would never be the same as I was, I would never again be happy, and nothing in the world would ever be the same again. And of course nothing is the same as it was before you had a baby, but this ran much deeper than just having a new member of the family to take care of. I wanted desperately for the things to go back to the way they were before. I wanted to feel the same about myself, I wanted to feel the way I did before about my husband, I wanted the responsibility, the fear, the exhaustion, this grief and guilt and dread to all go away. And the fact that I thought it never would go away made it all the more unbearable.
Besides having this presence of dread and foreboding I also felt intense anger, maybe even rage. I remember one night when Marlee was very young, she was up in the middle of the night of course, crying and difficult to console. I was so tired. I had been up with her before and it seemed I just couldn’t get a break. My husband was sleeping, and I hated him for that, but I reasoned that he really needed to sleep because he had to get up and go to work. At least I could take a nap in the middle of the day. I was in my daughter’s room feeling completely overwhelmed. I buried my head in my arms, and I can’t remember why he got up but when my husband came in I suddenly yelled at him, “YOU’RE NOT HELPING ME!”Although I didn’t say it quite that nicely! Then on the bed I collapsed in a heap of uncontrollable sobs. I just remember saying “I can’t do this.” I didn’t even recognize myself.
Another time during the middle of the night Marlee was actually asleep but I woke up being very thirsty and needed to get a drink. I remember being so in rage over this that I got up and as I was calmly walking to the kitchen I suddenly threw my cup across the room as hard as I could. It was plastic, thank goodness, so it didn’t break, but I wanted to break everything in that room. I just wanted to sleep, damn it! I had this overwhelming urge to tear the house into pieces. I hated everything. My body for needing to get a drink, and this whole motherhood thing, and not getting sleep, and not being able to do anything I wanted to do, and always being demanded of. The rage felt like it would swallow me whole if I didn’t do something with it. But I couldn’t, I reasoned, I just couldn’t act that way. So I tried to calm myself down and went back to bed.
I really felt like I was going crazy. I felt like I would never be normal again and this really would never end. I heard people say being emotional was normal after having a baby, that the “baby blues” would soon pass, but somewhere I knew this just couldn’t be normal. I just knew that having constant fears that I would stab my baby with a knife or that I would suddenly have the urge to drop her on the ground just couldn’t be “normal” fluctuations in hormones. I only reached out to my midwife once. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I talked to her, “what can I do?” I asked her, but I didn’t dare tell her about the thoughts of death I was having. I was too ashamed. She gave me some natural remedies to help my mood and assured me that it was normal and would pass, but I’m not sure I believed her.
I don’t know why I didn’t seek more help. I promised myself I could never tell anyone what I was really thinking, the thoughts about my baby dying, not feeling in love with her, feeling like I was going crazy, never wanting any more kids, feeling like I would never ever be normal again. I had to be her mommy so that’s what I did. There was no one else to do it, and so I mustered up the courage and the strength to keep picking her up when I didn’t want to, to keep rocking her when I wanted to leave her alone, to keep breastfeeding when it hurt, and to keep being “mommy.” And somehow, somewhere things got easier with time. I don’t recommend doing what I did. If you’re feeling like I did, you should talk to someone, you should seek help. But I didn’t. Instead I prayed A LOT, had a lot of loving family members around me (although I’m sure they didn’t know what I was going through) and I got through it. Does it affect me still? My baby is now 3 and I’m just now coming to accept that I had Postpartum Depression (PPD). Even writing that now seems awkward and scary, but if I had accepted this when she was young I might not have heaped so much guilt on myself for feeling like a “horrible mom.” I might have recognized it for what it was- something that was happening to me not who I was.
It just felt right to tell my story now. I don’t know what people will say or think but I hope any mom out there will be encouraged by my story and not feel alone in this crazy thing we call Motherhood.
For more help on PPD go to this great site:
I have to begin this post talking about my sister. She is the inspiration behind this post and the beginning of my new art journal. I really can’t take the credit for any of this. I have been watching her paint and draw for over a decade now and witness her passion for art and its healing benefits pour out of almost everything she says and does. Recently she offered a fun “art night” with our ladies from church and the response was overwhelming. We all enjoyed it so thoroughly: we gained fresh perspective, it was relaxing, it was therapeutic, with art we were able to get away from our “heads” and really tap into our hearts and our non-thinking selves. Art is amazing that way. It is how we can speak with no words. It is how we can express what often can’t be in this sometimes confusing difficult world. It is how we can get out frustrations and anger in safe and healing way. It is how we can show joy and elation where words fail. It is transformative and so much simpler than we make it out to be. And I am learning so much. All that I know so far I have seen from my sister.
Art can be a page of pen scribbles. Art can be a glob of paint then smeared with fingers. Art can be a page of words. Art can be a newspaper clipping and a ticket stub. It can be a photo, stickers, tape, color, or black and white. It can be a realistic still life. It can be a list or a paragraph or an upside down two-headed pineapple. It can be anything and everything. Whatever you need it to be, it can be. Forget (almost) everything you learned in art class, art is simply wordless expression and more profoundly, expression of the soul.
Inspired by my sister, and needing a way to express myself, I bought myself a hard cover black art book filled with blank white pages. (I can’t wait to share more with you on the genesis of this “black book” art journaling) With the help of my sister in buying some basic art supplies (water colors, paper cut outs, various glues) and trying not to think too hard about anything, I simply began.
Some of the first pages…I used some of the decorative paper cut outs as stencils then glued a couple in too. Later I used sparkle glue over it then after it was dry washed the whole thing with watercolor.
Art doesn’t always have to be “art.” I began a chart for essential oils and their benefits.I can’t tell you how excited I am about this new art journal. I am finding new things out about myself- new ways of expression, new talents I didn’t know I had, and of course being able to process my life, my hopes and dreams, frustrations and losses in a whole new way. There are no rules to an art journal, you just start. And the hardest part is just to keep doing it. Don’t give up, don’t stop, don’t judge what you’ve done, don’t compare it to someone else.
Art can heal, soothe and temper all things. Art can reveal and help us to let go. My sister would say everyone needs art; everyone is an artist. Forget what you think an “artist” is- you are one.
We’ve been needing a little boost around here. This tea is great for respiratory ills like coughs and congestion, the peppercorn and ginger helps to expel mucus. This is the first time I’ve tried making tea from scratch. I was afraid it would come out too peppery- too strong- too garlicky, but it actually came out perfect! Not too strong, and with the help of a bit of honey even my 3 year old drank it!
You don’t have to bother peeling the ginger or garlic before grating it. Grating it on the finest grating will automatically peel it as you go. Once you have all the ingredients, put them inside a clean mesh tea ball.
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 fresh garlic clove unpeeled and grated
thumbnail size piece of fresh ginger root, grated
raw honey (optional)
mesh tea ball and a big mug
Boil 2 cups of fresh filtered water over the stove. Put all the ingredients (except the lemon and honey) into a tea ball and place at the bottom of a big mug. Pour freshly boiled water over the tea ball and place a clean cloth over the mug to steep. Steep for 20 minutes then remove tea ball and discard contents. Add a slice of lemon or a teaspoon of raw honey. Drink to your health!