Brutiful Life

I should have been prepared. I’ve experienced it before, but it caught me off-guard and did a number on my heart.

When Levi was born, it took me six months to admit I needed help. Postpartum depression had a vise grip on me and I couldn’t look up long enough to see the beauty in my baby, my marriage, my friendships, my life. Reeling from the inexperience of being a mother, trying desperately to find new footing with Matt as we navigated through exhaustion and unmet expectations, and feeling like I was coming apart and nothing or no one would be able to put me back together.

It was brutal.

And it took time to heal. Time to wade through what was truth and what was a lie. Time to learn who Levi was and fall in love with him. Time to learn to communicate with Matt all over again as our normal had shifted. But, healing came. Thankfully, blessedly, like taking a deep breath of fresh air, healing.

Three additional children later, and then…

Amelia. Our sweet, beautiful, completely unexpected baby #5. The pregnancy I did not want. The change in our life I was not anticipating.

It took roughly five months for me to begin to feel joy and excitement over her life and what a baby would bring to our family. Five months of crying out and imploring God for help because I simply didn’t think I could handle it.

A birth that didn’t go as I had hoped, and Amelia Eve arrived. The feelings were there. I loved her immediately. I cried tears of relief and joy that she was here. Things were good. We were adjusting. It was okay. I was okay.

Until I wasn’t. Again.

And just like with what I experienced before, the whispered lies kept coming.

“You don’t love her. You didn’t want her. You know you didn’t. What kind of mother are you?”

“You’re failing. You’re being a terrible wife. A terrible mom.”

The worst one?

“You are alone.”

Because we had been down this road before, Matt knew something wasn’t right. That I was not myself.

“You’re checking out on us, Erin. You need to talk to me. Please keep talking to me. I know it’s hard. I can’t help you if I don’t know how you’re feeling.”

Although everything within me did not want to keep talking, I did. I didn’t allow myself an excuse not to.

But there were times when it was obvious to others as well that I was struggling. Shutting down.

And they love me enough to reach out and speak truth to me even when I don’t want to hear it. And they, without knowing it, showed me they were willing to fight for me when I couldn’t fight for myself.

And I think, sometimes, this is what friendship is about. Showing up when it’s hard, when it’s messy, when you don’t want to. Because you love someone. Because they matter.

These beautiful hearts did that. They breathed Jesus into my heart and helped me start the ascent out of the deeps I was in. They showed me I wasn’t, and am not, alone.

I still have moments of dark. Glennon Doyle Melton calls these times in life brutiful. As in we have moments, seasons, times of hard, hard things, but there is beauty in it. Because of God. Because of friends. Because of what the hard things bring. I think this has been one of those times. A brutiful time, indeed. I am thankful for those who have been light and beauty during this time more than I can express. Because of them, the light is shining in the dark brighter than it was before.

By the grace of God and my identity in Him, I am okay. By the love of my husband, I am okay.

And by the love of my cherished friends, I am okay.

**When I experienced my first bout of PPD, I put myself in the care of an amazing counselor. Being aware and catching the signs early this time has helped me and Matt tremendously as we navigated this latest bout with the tips and tools I received from my counselor. I do not take my mental and emotional health lightly, and if you are experiencing feelings of depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc., please reach out to a professional to help you through it. You don’t have to do it alone.**

Blessings and love,
Erin

Oh, Daddy…

This morning as I was doing my routine Facebook check, I stumbled across a blog post shared by a friend. The title of the post grabbed my attention and so I clicked over to read.

Essentially, it was encouragement and exhortation to those of us who have small people in our homes. Those of us who are in a season of unending, non-stop care of our littles were lifted up and reminded that yes, this season is desperately hard and a lot of what we do goes unnoticed, but we will have our season of being able to pour out into our communities, friends, and other loved ones. The point was that we are heard and valued. This is our calling right now.

The Lord knows I needed to read that this morning. Our youngest, Amelia, just turned two months old last week and life right now is hard. We have been blessed with five beautiful and amazing children, but our oldest is only six years old. This means that the majority of my children do not know how to tie shoes, get themselves completely dressed without some sort of assistance, need me to prepare their meals, do their laundry, give them baths, and on and on and on it goes. All you momma friends feel me, I know you do. And I don’t even work outside my home! (Dearest ones who pull double duty, I love you. You are my heroes. I cannot begin to fathom how you accomplish all you do. My hat goes off to you.) Matt and I are in a season of transition and adjustment to life as a family of seven, as well as working on our home, finances, and marriage. It gets tough. I feel unseen, unappreciated, and as though life is futile sometimes.

As I was processing what I read and how much it encouraged and spoke truth to my heart, I watched my wonderful Matt as he was soothing Amelia while trying to pay attention to the newly-turned-two-years-old Clara as Levi, Seth, and Eliana were running around in a circle just for fun. It was madness. And a small voice in my heart said, “Erin, if that’s what you needed to feel encouraged and heard, what does Matt need?”

We’ve seen so many articles and blog posts devoted to applauding and lifting up mothers, and rightly so–being a momma is hard work!–but it dawned on me that I have rarely (if ever) seen anything to encourage the dads out there. I don’t know if dads need a post for them, but it can’t hurt to try, right?

So, dads, this post is for you.

Our friend Dustin was talking with Matt several years ago, and that conversation has stuck with me ever since Matt shared it with me. They were talking about being fathers and working (my friend Joy is also a stay-at-home mom; she and Dustin have three gorgeous kiddos) and how challenging it can be to balance both areas when Dustin said to Matt, “It’s like this. We have two full-time jobs. I clock out of work and clock in to work at home when I walk through the door.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never, ever, thought of what Matt did as a responsible working adult and being a father as two separate jobs. My job (and all moms’ jobs regardless of whether they work in or outside of the home, although, again, you mommas who work outside the home, this is also your reality) as a mother is 24/7. I don’t clock in, I don’t clock out. I am on all. the. time. It seems, at times, interminable and as though I am doing it all alone. To step outside of myself for a minute and think about it from Matt’s perspective was enormous.

This morning, as I was watching Matt, I then thought about everything that I don’t have to do because of what he does. (And disclaimer: I realize every marriage is different, every husband is different. But I have a feeling a lot of husbands are like mine in a lot of ways. This is not to say this is how every family should work. You all know what works for your family–do this. If what I share about me and Matt gives you some fresh ideas, awesome!)

Because of how Matt gives of himself sacrificially, I can count on one hand the number of times I have taken the garbage can and recycling to the curb. He handles ALL of the yard work, because if it were left up to me, we would be up to our eyeballs in grass and weeds. The majority of mornings, he is the one to get breakfast for the kids while he is getting himself ready for work or the day. He sees that laundry needs to be done and does it (I still fold the laundry, but hey, I don’t have to schlep down to the basement in between tantrums to start or switch it!). He will do baths and bedtime without being asked. He rarely tells the kidlets ‘no’ to them asking him to play with them. He doesn’t complain about the lack of housework that gets done during the day or what I make (or don’t) for dinner. And there is more. He does all of these things at the same time that he works 40-50 hours a week.

Dads, you’re not alone. What you do is hard, and we know it. You are not unseen or unappreciated. While we forget sometimes to say thank you for what you do, it is not futile or worthless. It does matter and your support, provision, and love are hugely instrumental in how we view ourselves as mothers. You are of immeasurable worth and for all of us wives and mothers, thank you.

Thank you for working hard to provide materially for your families. Thank you for pushing beyond the tiredness of the work week to engage with your children, especially if they are small (they are like tornadoes sometimes, no?). Thank you for looking at your wives and really seeing them and seeing the girl you fell in love with all those years ago. Thank you for giving verbal encouragement on those days that just plain suck. Thank you for appreciating what we do. It means more than we can tell you.

Dads, you rock. Keep on keepin’ on. We’re in your corner.

Blessings and love,

Erin

ps. Mommas…you are awesome, too. I love each of you and know the world is a better place because of you.

For the Love….of all things Book Launching

I’m baaaa–cck! Did you miss me? No? Well, okay then.

In all seriousness, I don’t know about you, but life has blown up in my face with busy-ness and summer and birthdays and babies being born (yup, I am no longer pregnant; let us take a moment and bow our heads to PRAISE THE LORD because man alive, that is a birth story to end all birth stories.) that as much happiness and laughter and good times there have been, it. has. been. hard.

Seven people in my family. Five of them aged six years to a whopping two months old. Chaos reigns supreme most days.

But, I digress. Today is not about me or the brilliant idea I had for a blog post (seriously, it is brilliant and I can’t wait to get all the thoughts down to share). Today is the day that we get to celebrate Jen Hatmaker and the launch of her new book, “For the Love”. Remember she’s my new BFF?

Seriously, I wish all of you could have a copy of this book. If I could, I would buy a whole bunch of copies to give away to everyone I come across, but you know, babies.

What Jen shares in this new book is something I believe everyone needs to hear. Especially the church. She speaks truth in a honest, but extremely loving way. Chapters like ‘Letter to the Church’ and ‘Letter to Pastors’ spoke deeply into my soul and I shed buckets of tears when I read her letter to her children. Nothing is too frivolous, fun, or serious for Jen to talk about. She shares her heart wholly, whether it’s talking about how leggings are NOT pants (um, amen!), her own version of Jimmy Fallon’s ‘thank you notes’, recipes that will have you thinking you can smell what she’s cooking, or how flawed our American theology can be at times.

This book breathes grace. This book is for everyone, regardless of where you are in your journey with Christ.

So, please, for the love, if you are weary or heart-sick, if you are happy and whole, if you don’t know about this whole God thing, pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

And Jen, not that you will see this ever, but thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your launch team and the amazing experience to be on a small corner of the roller coaster with you. It has been life changing.

Blessings and love,

Erin

My New BFF (Shh…it’s a Secret!)

A couple of months ago, my small group started a new study. We chose ‘Pulling the Thread’ by Jen Hatmaker, who, if you don’t already know about her, is HYSTERICAL and wise and witty and so full of Jesus that I really want to be her when I grow up, even though we’re close enough in age that it’s not feasible.

I was first introduced to Jen last year at the inaugural IF:Gathering. I had no idea who she was (or that she was such a superstar getting ready to have her own TV show on HGTV [we don’t have cable, satellite, or anything beyond the five basic channels; yes, we live under a rock]), but when she spoke and taught that day, my spirit lifted and responded in a huge way. I still remember taking notes like a crazy woman during her session and writing in ALL CAPS (because I’m awesome like that), “Love Jesus, Love People.” And that, to me, really sums up Jen and her heart for the world. Not to mention she makes you feel like you are totally her real-life friend and she wants nothing more than to make you laugh and commiserate over parenting mishaps and bad fashion making a repeat appearance (hello, ’80s and ’90s, I’m looking at you.).

So you could say I developed somewhat of a little crush on Jen after the IF:Gathering and then hearing her speak this year was no exception. Truth coming with every word spoken, love radiating earnestly and sincerely and you just knew she meant every single thing she said.

Cut to a couple of weeks ago, when I saw that Jen was forming a launch team for her next book, ‘For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards’ and that she wanted the launch team (and subsequent endorsements) to be formed of people like yours truly, I threw caution and reality to the wind and filled out an application. Seriously, I took five minutes out of my afternoon and sent it off without ever thinking I had a chance in Hades to be accepted. Because, people, they asked if I have an Instagram account. Umm, you do remember me sharing that I do not own a smartphone yet, correct? And my Pinterest account is pretty much nothing but recipes and how to cut boys’ hair and clothes I will never, ever be able to wear because, hello, I’m pregnant for the fifth time in six years and whatever elasticity I once had has vanished. Twitter? I have one, but again, not lighting up the interwebs. Blog? …………crickets chirping……….. You can see why I didn’t think much of my chances to be a part of this.

But then. THEN! A few, very short days later, I got home after my small group (where, yes, we were still discussing ‘Pulling the Thread’) and checked my email. My darling Matt was still awake, so thankfully my squeal of excitement didn’t wake him as I saw that I was one of the people chosen! Not sure exactly what the powers that be were thinking, but you know what? I’m so not complaining. From what I have read of this book so far, it is excellent and amazing and so full of truth and I really, really wish I could put a copy into each of your (all five of you) hands so you can read for yourself. But until I can do that, you can go here to pre-order it for yourself (it releases on August 18th). Seriously, you won’t be disappointed. And over the next couple of months, I will be talking and sharing more about what God is using this book to do in my life and heart. (If you’re impatient like me, you can also just do yourself a favor and pick up ‘7’ and ‘Interrupted,’ too.)

So, yup, I have a new BFF. I figure it’s safe to say that because, you know, she totally knows about me now and we’re on a first name basis, and I am helping her promote her new book, so to my way of thinking, this is just a natural conclusion. (Except, not really, but let’s let me have my little fantasy for a bit, m’kay?)

Blessings and love,

Erin

On Chocolate Cake

I make a really, really good chocolate cake. I’m not bragging; it’s just that good. I made one last night and frosted it with chocolate sour cream frosting (oh, so rich, but oh, so good) and Matt and I pretty much devoured two huge slices with glasses of milk in about two minutes. Sometimes, I’m just not sure life could get better than my cute husband and chocolate cake.

Today, though, as I was talking with a friend before service, she asked me what God has been teaching me lately. And, to be quite honest, I didn’t have an answer at the ready. There has been a lot going on in my heart and much that I have been mulling over since the IF:Gathering and with this surprise pregnancy, and I believe wholeheartedly that the Lord has been a huge part of all of those things and has been using them to speak to me, but it was challenging to put into words.

Since finding out last fall that I am pregnant again, I have gone through what I can only describe as a grieving process. My first reaction to seeing that positive test result was an avalanche of tears and crying out to God with, “This is not what I want. I can’t be pregnant again. I can’t do this again.” Four babies in five years has been a roller coaster with amazing highs, but to be perfectly frank, some really deep lows with the challenges that come with having so many small people in that short amount of time. I spent the first few weeks alternately crying and avoiding the presence of a new baby even as I was coping with the worst case of morning sickness I have ever experienced. Bursting into tears at the derailment of my plans and what I thought was the direction God was taking our family. Putting up a wall so thick inside me that it only started crumbling two weeks ago, 5 1/2 months into this pregnancy.

I had begun reading Jennie Allen’s ‘Anything’ long before I found out I am pregnant, and the words she wrote and shared resonated deep within my spirit. I realized that I was in a season of wanting to say yes to anything, anything, God had for me. Anything He wanted me to do, anywhere He wanted me to go, anything He wanted me to say, yes, I was His girl.

And then it dawned on me one night before bed, as I was crying to Matt about my fears that five children six and under will be the death of me and that I won’t have the emotional capacity to love and care for each of them fully any longer that this is my anything. This IS what God is saying, “Erin, will you follow me? Will you trust that I AM in control? Because you’re right. YOU can’t do this. You never could. But I can. And I will. I already have. Will you say yes to this anything I have for you?”

I realize it sounds incredibly callous and cold to talk about grieving over something that is a miracle and joyous. But it really put me through the wringer and I know God has used it to show me deep in my secret places where I still need to surrender and release to Him.

Then came the IF:Gathering. Whew. I still can’t fully put into words what God did in my heart through that weekend. If last year’s inaugural gathering wrecked me, this year’s lifted me off my face and planted me right at the front of the crossfire. There were so many amazing moments and such truth spoken that I can’t pinpoint any one highlight as the apex for me (although, Christine Caine….every time I listen to you speak and preach it’s like a slap in the face and I want to ask you for another. You are a force for truth and Jesus with which to be reckoned. You too, Jen Hatmaker. Oh, and Rebekah Lyons. And Jennie. Oh, let’s just say everyone. Sheesh.), but I remember coming away from it with a clear sense of God saying that just because what I thought He was bringing me into prior to this pregnancy (a broader scope of ministry, more time to invest in people and love them) isn’t happening yet, what He is bringing me into is just as vital. And to keep persevering. Be persistent in loving the people around me. Be persistent in leaning hard into Jesus when the days are long and the minutes longer. Be persistent in having the hard conversations with Matt about where we are and where we want to be and where we see disconnect between us and our joint walk with Christ. Be persistent in loving my little people when the last thing I want to do is clean up for the umpteenth time. And no, it may not be grand, and it may go unseen much of the time by those with human eyes, but it does NOT go unseen or unnoticed by the One who matters most.

What does that have to do with chocolate cake? Besides that I really just wanted to tell you that I made a chocolate cake and that it’s delicious, I think what it has to do with this post is that I think I now have an answer for my friend. That God is teaching me that what He has for me may be hard, it may be messy, it may not be glamorous….but it is by far more satisfying, more filling, and more delicious than the best of treats. His way is sweeter, and when it tastes bitter in my mouth, I can cling to the truth that He knows what He is about.

Blessings and love,

Erin

Odds and Ends

Ellie turned three this week. I think this picture best sums up how she felt about her birthday.

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Clara has FINALLY started to show interest in walking. She’s only 17 months old, so, you know, we’ve really had to hold her back there.

Matt and I have discovered that it is going to cost a LOT of money to have our attic finished. Which, isn’t all that necessary, except, we’re having another baby in June, and I’m betting that baby would like to have somewhere to sleep.

I haven’t written about having another baby, have I? Whoops. Well, that will be a post for another day. It’s been a journey. Five kids. If you don’t pray for me, I may just lose my mind.

It is so, so, so, so cold here. I haven’t left the house to do anything other than go to church or Bible study. And that will change tomorrow, as we have no milk, no fruit or pretty much any other edible items in the house, and these kids keep insisting that they need to eat.

The Super Bowl is on Sunday and this year I am honestly really only looking forward to the commercials. I can’t stand the Patriots or the Seahawks, so I don’t care who wins, because I’m bound to be upset. I guess by default I’ll “root” for the Seahawks, because the Patriots have had my loathing for a lot longer. And can someone please tell Bill Belichick that hoodies, with or without their sleeves cut off, do not count as professional clothing? You’re a head coach for pete’s sake. Show some class. Oh, wait, he can’t. Never mind.

And because I can’t really think of anything else to share, I will leave you with another picture, but this time, it’s of the cutest little Clara you’ve ever seen. Seriously, I defy you to find another Clara cuter than her.

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Can’t do it, can you? Thought so. 😉

Blessings and love,

Erin

Why I Quit Facebook (or the day I lost my mind)

On a whim, I deactivated my facebook account. It’s been a long time coming, but it never felt like the right time to pull the plug. “I’ll miss keeping up with out-of-state family.” “I’ll never be in contact with old friends.” “I won’t have any idea what’s going on in anyone’s lives.” The list of reasons to keep up with the checking of my newsfeed were plentiful and never lacking. Some of them I do consider to be valid, even now.

But today was the day. I don’t know why, I can’t pinpoint any one thing that made me think, “Yup, that’s it. I’m done.” In a fit of folly or complete foolishness, I deactivated my account. I’m done. Probably not forever, and probably not for as long as I should. I’ve officially been “off” Facebook for about a half hour and already I’m feeling the itch to log in as if nothing ever happened just to see what’s going on.

I think what it really boils down to for me is that I am tired of the roller coaster I allowed myself to be taken on via this social media site. For whatever reason, I increasingly found my self-worth and identity being parsed down to the number of ‘likes’ and comments I would receive. Or I would hover on the brink of depression upon seeing Instagram picture after Instagram picture of perfectly groomed women, children, homes…picture perfect moments that just do not happen in my house. Never mind the fact that in the year 2015 I still do not own a smartphone and probably will not for the forseeable future. So, those gourmet meals everyone snaps a picture of and immediately posts for oohs and ahhs? Yeah, forget that. Not going to happen from this kitchen.

Then there were the more subtle attacks on my heart and spirit. I am aware enough of my own failings and weaknesses to know that I struggle mightily with needing to feel needed and valued in my relationships, especially friendships, and that when I don’t feel that way, life sucks. This feeling would manifest when I would see friends posing for cute pictures on coffee dates that I wasn’t invited to (not that I needed to be) or shopping or whatever and Satan would automatically sneak in with thoughts of, “See? No one even thought to call you. You’re of no value to them as a friend. Look at how much they get together without you. You think you’re their friend?” And on and on and on till I was a shell and desperate for validation from every possible source except for the one that matters the most, and the only one that speaks truth into my heart every time.

Facebook was becoming my identity. And I didn’t like it. I feel like I have come too far in my relationship with Christ, too far in releasing and surrendering old hurts and wounds to allow this to happen again. My longing, if I am honest, is not really for the fleeting feelings of acceptance and self-worth from a website, but for a continuing depth and intimacy in my journey with Jesus. To spend time at His feet, learning more about who HE says I am, not the world.

So, I left. Until I pass through this season and can with confidence say that Facebook, as ridiculous as it sounds to even me, holds no power or sway over my emotions and self-worth, I am done.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. My hope is that this will help me invest more deeply into those friendships and relationships that are life-giving and are of immense value to me, and that I won’t feel further disconnected. But ultimately, I’m looking forward to realigning my heart with the truth: that I am a beloved, worthy, and cherished friend and daughter of Christ and that I am of immeasurable and invaluable worth.

No matter how many ‘likes’ that would ever get.

Blessings and love,
Erin