A Year is Not a Moment

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I found out on Christmas Day I wasn’t pregnant. It felt cruel to receive that kind of blow on Christmas. A day earlier or a day later would have hurt, but not like that. Not the way it feels to have your heart broken on “the most wonderful day of the year.”

I felt the initial wave of grief for another failed month. But that grief became compounded when I realized here we were in the last week of 2015. The year had come and gone, but there was no child and no hope for one in the near future.

My year suddenly had a shadow cast over it. I felt the loss of the child that was never mine and the time that had gone by too quickly. In that moment, all I could see was what I didn’t have. And I allowed that to define my year and, to an extent, me. 

I sat in this grief for several days. We were with family, but I cried every stolen moment to myself. I felt so empty and overwhelmed with disappointment. But after a while, I felt desperate to feel better. The crying, the pity party, the agony wasn’t working for me. I knew I was only visiting this pain, but I didn’t know how to move on.

And then God spoke and the word He gave me was: stability. I reflected on my year in the lense of stability and realized what a gift God had given me. In 2015, we didn’t move or change jobs. There were no life altering events. Day after day, we settled into what life-as-usual looks like for our family. 

I needed that. I needed for things to stop moving so quickly. In less than 3 years time, I had gone from single to dating to married. From newlywed to new mom. From the place I had called home my entire adult life to a new, small town. From traditional work to stay-at-home-mom. These were huge transitions, and they made it hard for me to navigate at times.

Having another child is the deepest desire of my heart, but I think God knew better. I think He knew I needed a break from the big changes of life. I needed to find a comfortable place to plant my feet before the ground shook again. 

When I take off the despair, and the grief, and look at my year through the lense of stability, it was an amazing year. 

For the first time, I felt confident as a mom and especially as a stay-at-home-mom.

  
I developed such an incredible bond with Milo. He’s just so much fun; I feel lucky to spend my days with him. 

  
I’ve adjusted to being a pastor’s wife. I didn’t feel the same resentment when things like hospital visits and funerals popped up. 

I had an uninterrupted year of running. And it paid off…big. I came within seconds of beating several PRs and placed at every race I entered.

  
I learned to garden. And learned that I loved to garden. That was a big deal to me. I had never kept so much as a houseplant alive. But my garden thrived and I was so proud of being able to feed my family from it. 

   
 And there were so many more moments. Weddings, vacations, projects that added value to my year. I almost dismissed them all because I allowed my grief to cloud my judgment. My year was good. My life is good. 

  
Here’s to all the moments 2016 has to offer. 

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Silence is Golden

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I broke the Golden Rule of blogging: blog. I started out December incredibly strong with I Hope He Thinks We’re Poor. Apparently that post struck a familiar chord with a lot of people because, within days of that blog post, it had 500 views. That’s a lot more traffic than I’m used to. Most people probably would have advised that I ride that train, keeping churning out blogs, in hopes of capturing many of those readers. But I just couldn’t.

It wasn’t that I choked. I didn’t get too busy to write. And it certainly wasn’t that I was void of material. I just didn’t have anything to say that was more valuable than not saying anything at all.

My silence was the sound of me basking in the Christmas Season. For the first time in years, I felt like I was really aware of the Christmas. I felt it’s joy, it’s peace. My fear was if I tried to put it all into words, I would forever lose the moment. So I remained silent and soaked in the holidays.

There was nothing special about it and yet everything was special. We had a simple Christmas dinner of venison, bread, and cheese. But it was amazing because we spent it at home, just our small family of 3.

Milo is too small to understand Christmas, so there was no delight in watching him open his presents. But he was still lavished upon by family and church members, so it served as a reminder of how loved we are.

And we’re not in a position to buy expensive gifts. In fact, we’re not in a position to buy much in the way of gifts at all. As our siblings continue to marry and have children, we now have 22 immediate family members. So this year I crocheted 14 scarves and am finishing an afghan blanket. It wasn’t much and I’m sure half of them will go unworn. But I tried to make up for what we couldn’t spend in money, with what I could give of my time and love.

I didn’t watch a single Christmas movie and I don’t think I even listened to a complete Christmas album. But every morning I did enjoy a cup of coffee in the simple light of my tree.

Even now, as I write this, I find it absurd just how wonderful my Christmas was. Which is exactly why I didn’t write about it sooner. Upon observation the whole thing would have been lost.

I hope that you can forgive my absence and that I didn’t lose too many of you. And forgive me for not caring if you are gone; you just weren’t quite worth my Christmas. But I’m back now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how 2015 unfolds–one step at a time.

Thank God for Family

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Last week I wrote about Milo’s latest bout of sleep troubles. Fortunately we had already made plans to leave that evening after Nick got off to work to go stay with his parents for a few days. Rather than waiting until 4pm to leave, Nick came home for lunch and we took off immediately.

The next couple of days were incredibly restorative. Nick and I were able to go out just the two of us, I took an epic 3 hour nap one morning, and was able to get a massage. Life felt a little more manageable.

The icing on the cake was the magic that Nick’s mom, Denise—aka Mamaw, had over Milo. She was able to get him down to sleep every night with minimal resistance. He slept all night, every night we were there and even took two hour naps during the day. That is completely unheard of for Milo!

It was wonderful to have the extra hands to care for Milo and to have the love, support, and time with Nick’s parents.

As if the weekend couldn’t get better, my younger sister, Malorie, came down for a couple of days. She babysat Milo Sunday afternoon/night so Nick and I could go to a party in Chicago for his brother Zack’s company, TongueSpank. Again, the time just the two of us was healing and Milo slept through the night (although he did give Auntie Malorie some trouble going down).

So we’re getting there. Thank you for your prayers and support, they’ve obviously been felt and appreciated. And we’re so grateful for our families who will drop everything to love on us and especially on Milo. I think we just might get through this!

It Takes a Village

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After writing my post about how hard I’ve worked to keep running, I have felt the need to follow it up. Because my fear is that I came across as some kind of self-made-woman. Nothing could be further from the truth; it has taken a village to raise this runner.

It’s important to recognize those who have helped raise and shape you. Partially for humility’s sake, but also because these will be the people you lean on when times get tough. Your village can help carry you when you don’t have the strength to go on.

My village (in no particular order):

Joe and Kelly Bails
Joe has been my running coach since the early summer of 2009. It makes me proud to say I’m the first client he ever took on. A mutual friend had referred me to him, encouraging me that if I were to get some short term coaching I could learn a few things to become a faster runner. She was right, Joe made me fast. Under his care and guidance I broke PRs in every distance. But it wasn’t because he made me faster that I’ve remained a client, it’s been his care whenever we’ve hit an obstacle. Life is full of them and it’s helpful, necessary, to have someone guide you through them. Joe has directed me out of injury, recovering from my surgeries, and through the chaos of my pregnancy. He was the one making sure I did no additional harm to my body and was also the voice telling me to be patient, that we would make it through whatever was standing in the way.

I include his wife, Kelly, in my village because they are a coaching duo. But also because I’ve gotten to know her personally. She’s inspiring the way she coaches her clients, especially her Women’s Beginning Running group. She truly believes in a person’s ability to run and reach goals. I’ve also gotten to watch her train first hand and the dedication she has.

But Joe and Kelly are more than just coaches to me, they’re family. They took me in. Literally. I lived in their home for 6 months. Pretty sure I’m the only client they’ve done that for! They sowed me so much love and hospitality. So when they encourage me to keep going, I know it’s not about retaining another client (though I wouldn’t say that’s their mentality with any client), I know they sincerely care and are rooting for me to succeed.

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The Dragonuks
My younger sister, Malorie, is the President of my fan club. She hasn’t been able to physically cheer me on at every marathon, but those she is at she always has a poster made for me. A few of those posters hang in my basement as a means for daily encouragement. Whether she’s at the race or not, she composes a playlist for me. It’s amazing her ability to select songs that just really pump me up and provide extra encouragement. She gets it and she gets me; I couldn’t take a step without her.

My mom is my official cheerleader. She’s been to 10 out of 11 marathons. This year was my first marathon without her; she passed the torch on to Nick. Getting to travel to Boston and New York with her as been so incredibly special. The time together has brought us so close as mother and daughter, but also as friends. It takes a lot to stand around for hours, just to get glimpses of me going by. But my mom would never complain. She hops fences, catches trains, runs down streets to see me as many times as possible. And while I’m not around, she makes friends with other people in the crowd. Seriously, after every race she’s telling me about how she met so and so who was there to watch what’s their name. I love running for the community of runners, and my mom has found her own community in the crowd.

My dad is the best. His work schedule makes it difficult to be at a lot of my marathons. I usually run one in the spring (planting season) and one in the fall (harvest). But he does his best to make it to the ones he can. And when he can’t and it’s a larger marathon, he takes advantage of the runner updates via texting. On occasion he’s been known to email his coworkers on my progress or how I finished. He’s a very proud dad, which is all the more encouraging to me.

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MY Family
Nick and Milo are the newest additions to my tribe. In some ways, they’ve taken over the roles of my parents and Malorie (though they are in no way complete substitutions). Nick plays a vital role in the day in and day out training, making sure there is time in the day for me to run. He celebrates the every day runs, making it easier for me to keep at it. Milo has no idea how important he is yet, but nothing’s sweeter than seeing your baby’s face at the finish line. It’s exciting for me to think about how he’ll grow up with a sense of normalcy about going to Mommy’s races.

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I could go on and on. My friend Jenni who is another cheerleader. Ricki and Kimmy who have been amazing training partners and friends. The list of names just keeps growing. But the point is my greatest accomplishments in running, in career, in family, have always been at the hand of those around me. I think that’s a general rule of thumb. That at any given time, you can think of your own village who has supported you through life’s ups and downs, twists and turns. Even more exciting to me is the thought that I’m a part of someone else’s village.

Making Memories

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My mom has a go-to story about me when she talks about how routine I am. I was only 3 or 4 when we drove from Galva, IL to Randalstown, MD to visit our extended family. It was a 14ish hour journey. The house we lived in had a manual garage door, so when we got home my dad was too exhausted to bother with getting out of the van, lifting the garage door, getting back in the van, and pulling it into the garage. So instead he decided to just park the van in the driveway and would take care of unloading it the next day.

This is the point in the story when I had a major breakdown. Apparently I just started crying for (what seemed like) no reason. My parents tried everything to console me, but nothing was working. I’m not sure which parent came up with it, but one of them wondered if I was upset because we didn’t pull the car into the garage. Already exhausted from the drive and then my crying, my dad took me back out to the van, buckled me into my car seat, and pulled the van into the garage. I stopped crying. All was right in my world again.

My mom will laugh when she tells the story. In its own crazy way, it’s hilarious how much I depend on routines. But this passed week was the first time I realized, that must have been torture on my parents when it was happening. Sure my mom will laugh about it now, but I bet they were both at their wits ends in the moment.

On Sunday evening we headed out on our first family vacation: a 16 hour drive to New York City. Our first leg of the trip was the 2 hour drive to my parents’ house to drop off the dog. Milo slept the entire way, so it seemed like we were getting off to a really good start. We dropped the dog off with my parents and had a quick dinner with them.

We got back on the road and, within a half hour, Milo was crying. It started off as a whine, just a little whimper. Slowly he started to escalate until he was screaming and an hour had passed. I was driving and Nick was in back trying to soothe him. I focused on my part, driving, but all I could think was “he needs to fall asleep. What if he screams the entire way to New York?!” He fell asleep for a half hour and then woke again. It took another 30-60 minutes to calm him down.

I was taking another shift driving at 3am through the hills of Pennsylvania when I started thinking about it. Was this one of those moments we’ll tell stories about 20 years from now? This is how it happens, isn’t it? It’s not always the glorious moments, it’s the moments you wonder how you will survive that turn into the stories you’ll tell over and over again. I think stories about me from childhood are hilarious, but I wasn’t on the receiving end of them. Now that I’m a parent I realize how the process of making these memories can be quite painful at times.

Needless to say, we all survived. We had a wonderful week with family and wouldn’t change a moment of it for the world. The trip home even went slightly smoother than the ride out. But yes, someday I will tell Milo’s spouse about that first vacation. And I will warn her that someday she will have her own stories to tell.

Life Here

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It’s better. There’s no doubt about it: life here in Bartonville is better. It’s slower, more peaceful and even the dog is happier. The way we live is better and where we live is better. It’s amazing how a change in jobs and a move can make such a huge difference.

It’s quiet. We don’t hear people coming and going from our building any more. There’s no longer a small child living above us running around and crying. Instead we can hear the birds chirping in the morning. There is the occasional car that drives by our house. Other than that, it’s silent.

And we have space. Milo and Diesel have room to play without fear of being trampled. Milo has long stretches of uninterrupted floor that he can roll and squirm across. Don’t even get me started on our yard. Diesel is a dog in heaven running around in the backyard. Even Milo loves exploring the outdoors. I’m starting a very modest garden. It’s just a couple tomato plants, a bell pepper, basil, and mint but it’s a start.

Life as a family is better. We have dinner at the table every night. (Confession: until Milo was 6 months old, we had never eaten at our table.) Most nights of the week, we go for a family walk after dinner.

I love my work at home. Milo can be challenging at times, but it’s amazing getting to watch him learn and develop. More and more personality is showing up and I truly delight in spending so much time with this little boy. I’m also getting to explore the handy/crafty side of myself. Already this week I made a valance for one of my kitchen windows (cost me $3!!!!) and painted a pair of lamps to go in the master bedroom. I love having the time to do these projects.

Nick is happier. He comes home every day proclaiming how much he loves his job. He’s really jumped right in to these churches and is getting very positive responses. He’s loving and caring for these communities in ways they have felt for many years. He is definitely in his element.

Yes, life is so much better for us here. But just like any place this side of heaven, it has its challenges. And I think it’s fair to say, in our household, I’m the one who’s struggling.

I still don’t know how I’ll make friends here. It would be easier to meet people if I was working; that’s a sacrifice I knew I was making. Fortunately, Nick has some good friends here and they’ve befriended us.

I’m also struggling to find my place in the church. I was very active at Windsor Road; not just because I was staff, but I was also involved with the high school ministry. I really love my high school girls and feel called to work with that age demographic. We don’t have any students at either church. Milo is the only regularly attending child, so I don’t know how to get involved. Nick is working to develop a pastoral ministry in the church who will visit our shut ins. That’s not my giftedness; I’m not exactly a people person. So for now I’m the pastor’s wife. I’m just another person in the pews. That’s really hard for me.

And then there’s the ongoing struggle for balance. How do I not feel like all I do is work? And how do I work in order that Nick might have times of rest?

It will just take more time. My father-in-law was texting Nick and I the other day and he made the comment “find the blessings every day.” So that’s my goal: to quit worrying about everything I don’t have figured out and to enjoy the joys each day offers.