When you need to be birthed into a more human way of living

The hours and days immediately after birth, I felt spilled out like the hidden contents of a purse. I didn’t know I had anything to hide until I felt so poignantly exposed.

It wasn’t the physical nakedness so much as the nakedness of writhing in pain before an audience, the rawness of screaming and pushing, the humility of losing control of my bodily functions, the shear humanness that I had no idea about…the things that I had no concern for in the moment, but afterwards made me feel like a wild animal who could not regain her dignity as a “lady.”

I treasured and cherished the days that followed my first birth.  But the tidy, middle class American life I had known floated up into the stale hospital air, as I was birthed into the fleshier side of things.  My everything ached, and my body felt strange and foreign, my belly suddenly a bowl of Jell-O, and nursing this little stranger with parts of my body that had never served this purpose. I felt bizarrely empty missing the life that had dwelled within for so many months, and abundantly full holding this member of my family, with whom I suddenly couldn’t imagine life without.

In the subsequent weeks, hormones flared, emotions spilled, joy and sadness, elation and terror, blessing and loss of what was known, giddiness and despair all collided in a messy heap in the walls of a physical body I did not recognize.  And the normalness of the experience – that most women have been through it – did not make it feel an ounce more normal.

This…is motherhood? I would never trade it, but this feeling that I would never be able to climb back into the skin and spirit I used to walk in – it created a flurry in me that I couldn’t ignore.

The world began to spin with a new depth and beauty and heaviness and fear – life with a new fleshiness.

If your mama’s story is one of adoption, I imagine your first days felt similarly messy. Showered with congratulations, while wrestling with feeling raw and exposed with all the feelings and fears, questions and invisibility of the experience that feels so much the same and so much different from other birth experiences.

Birth, new life, growing a family – it’s divinely beautiful, transcendent…

but not tidy.

For me, the experience has become a bit of a metaphor for life. There are these moments when we are faced with a loss of innocence, learning that life this side of heaven can be painful and grueling, that our bodies are fragile and temporary, that God’s intention cannot be for us to keep it all together and do our best to avoid the hard parts.

There are these moments when we realize the ones we love can hurt us and can be hurt, and that we actually cannot make guarantees for tomorrow.

We come to learn that our life and interactions with one another here on earth look less like painting a slow and well-designed landscape and more like splattering our mess of vibrant and contrasting color at the canvas of God, and letting him make it beautiful.

In the untidy days after birth, and the days like them, there is a freedom in the spilling out of our humanness – physically, emotionally, spiritually, as our pain and faith and questions and joy and discomfort collide.

Life is messy. Joy is lost when we fight against it, and struggle to squeeze ourselves back into the metaphorical skinny jeans of being tidy and dignified. In moments like this, perhaps freedom is found in letting ourselves be birthed into a more human way of living.

Perhaps freedom is found in admitting that we have never had it all together, even when we pretended to, and we cherish the sacredness of these fully alive moments.

Perhaps joy flows when we let it, rather than creating a buffer so that we feel more in control.

Perhaps there is a love that now bubbles over the rim of a heart that has not fully grown to the new size required of it, and we don’t have to try to fit it all in.  We can just let that love spill all over the floor. Perhaps we let the tears flow, and snuggle all night if we need to, and get on our faces before the Lord with the overwhelming rush of it.

Perhaps we hand our heart over to allow God to hold it and change it’s shape, rather than trying to put it back together in it’s old way.

All of this language, even as I write it, feels a bit lofty and ethereal, even vague, but I believe in the most concrete of ways that there is an intentional “letting go” required, in order to experience the joy and blessing of these messy days.

And maybe all the days are messy – more like birth – if we let them be.

We have to choose to submit our spirits to a God who created us in this unbecoming way – from dust-to-dust. To take any other way is to miss an opportunity to live some of the most alive days we will ever have a chance to. I’ve not lived a lot of years, and I know I’ll look back in another 34 and laugh about how much I thought I knew. But with each year of living, I see a bit more that real life happens in the untidy places. It happens in the deep soul grief, in the moments of uncontrollable happiness, in the spaces where love for someone makes you vulnerable enough to be squashed, and in the moments when you can’t “keep it together.”

I think of King David dancing before the Lord, much to the chagrin of his embarrassed wife (2 Samuel 6: 14).

I think of an undignified father – heart bursting – running and kissing his prodigal son returning home (Luke 15: 20).

I think of a woman anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair in the most unbecoming fashion (Luke 7: 36-38).

I think of a group of friends shamelessly lowering their loved one through a neighbor’s roof in order to reach Jesus (Mark 2: 4).

I think of sitting in a puddle of tears with a friend in grief.

I think of jumping with joy after God has performed a great miracle or answered a desperate prayer.

Real living happens in these untidy, undignified, spilled-out moments.

So, my sweet sister, my heart for you in the days after birth, and all the days that feel like them, is for you to be gracious with yourself, and let the enormity of the Lord wash over your smallness.  Lean into the sloppiness of it.

Whether or not you have ever given birth in the physical, or ever will, let yourself soak in the moments of your heart not being large enough to hold your love for your people… the moments when you feel your humanness and the mess of life spilling out all over the place, and invite the big-enough God to hold you. Climb into His lap like a toddler after a nightmare.

Let Him minister to your quaking heart.


A gift for the mama feeling pressure to do and be everything




Several days ago, when winter was still heavy on us, before the springtime air rushed in and refreshed every fiber…I had one of those days when everything felt like entirely too much.  I scurried in the door on that bitter February morning, and could still feel the wind cutting through me and stinging my nose. But something cut deeper still, swept right through and left a mess of me…

Too many of my things that morning came from a place of “should” or “have to.” Too many of my things came from wanting to be productive, a “good mom,” to have something to show for my day, or to win some imaginary battle for someone’s approval (that was likely never in danger).


There is something in the air that presses on a mother, making her feel that the weight of the world is on her shoulders and like she has to do it all right.

Pressure piles, and says “Do all the things.” Guilt sinks deep, and says “You are never enough.” Sometimes this thing turns my eyes inward and threatens my joy.
Do you feel it, sister?
And no matter what “they” say…the “shoulds” and “have tos” are shifting sand. I don’t know about you, but I need some more solid ground to stand on.


I have to think it’s getting harder to be free in this mom space.  Courageous women have fought long and hard to lay claim to the freedom and value and beauty and equality given us by God, from voting rights and sports and career and salary and leadership and in all the ways…

We are equal!  And all one in Christ.  (Gal 3: 28)

I love how Jesus so beautifully offered equal love and acceptance and value and appreciation and calling to the women he encountered, in a culture that said and did the opposite.  Jesus was the first on the battleground of women’s liberation…women’s freedom.

Heaven rejoices as women find their voice…the voice they were always meant to have.

But I’m afraid that somewhere along the way, motherhood shrunk into the shadows a bit. Now that women can do anything, we can too easily feel pressure to do everything.


The world is loud with all we can and should do.


If you listen to the noise, you might feel pressure to have the babies and the perfect body; to be strong but not prickly; to do the house, the laundry, the cooking, the teaching and shepherding; to do the sports, the girl scout troop, the volunteering, the picture-perfect Christmas cards, the leading, the hosting, the crafting, the blogging, the class cupcakes and Valentines; to have the dream career, earn the full-time income and do the full-time mom thing (or one or the other, depending on the day); to be a fun friend and an adoring wife, intelligent and professional, but not too uptight.  Also, be a laid-back mom, but not so laid back that your kids get rowdy, or hurt…

And, by the way, the noise says that most of this is just a side note to what you’re really doing with your life.


I’m exhausted just writing it. And, you and I both know that list could be so much longer.


It feels like expectations have been added, but none removed.  I’m not talking about working because you love it, or because you’re providing needed income for your family. I’m not talking about making time for the things you love, and how it leaves your schedule a little full. I’m not talking about Saturday mornings full of the joy of watching your little people run their hearts out on the soccer field.

I’m just trying to put a name to whatever it is for each of us that brings that gut-deep hollowness that says “You’re not doing enough.”


One of the things that inspired me to begin writing for mothers is this thing I see happening to our spirits…this pressure to do All The Things.


On days when it feels a small miracle to put on clothes, All The Things still press in on me.


At times in my mom journey, I have found myself in a perpetual cycle of self-criticism. I feel weak if I get help with cleaning, or less-than if I have to say “No” to the baseball league or piano lessons, as it feels that everyone else has their children in sports and lessons of every kind from about age 3.

You might feel inadequate because other moms seem more on top of life, or you think the other moms must never yell at their kids, or because the other moms went organic.  Or you haven’t greeted your husband well, or hosted the dinner, or showed up to the party, or returned the phone call…and it all weighs on you.

Maybe you feel guilty for not keeping up with doctor’s appointments or homework or the kids’ dental hygiene. Maybe you showed up at the doctor’s office and fumbled over birthdays, or found out your child had a fever you didn’t know about. Or, like me, you didn’t know the answers to half the questions about whether your child knows his last name or the parts of his body.

Since when is this a milestone? I missed the memo.


We might compare ourselves to the mom who has daily devotions with her children, or the one who wears real clothes and mascara every day. Or we envy the mom whose body snaps right back after having a baby.


Social media can be a flood of perfect pictures and extravagant birthday parties and family outings and magazine-ready living rooms and put-together mamas. As we take in pretty images of other’s lives, we have more material against which to judge ourselves and our families.


And the isolation that often comes with the little years can distance us from other mom’s hearts that say “me too.” When you’re alone, it’s easier to trust your snap judgments that have you convinced you’re the only one falling behind…the only one failing.


I have to believe that our days as mothers are not meant to be shadowed by guilt and regret and self-criticism, by comparison and pressure.


The pressure to be a certain kind of mom – or all the kinds of moms – leads me to do all kinds of things I don’t need to be doing. I can wander into the dangerous zone of boundary-less-ness, feeling like I should do everything and be everything…


There is this illogical drive to be all the most perfect versions of a mom – to somehow have the best parts of every mom I’ve ever met.  I want to be the crafty mom, and the organized mom, the creative mom, the let-your-kids-cook-with-you mom (AHH!), the PTA mom, the easygoing “they’ll be fine” mom, the mom with the color-coded calendar, and the spontaneous road-trip mom, the clean-house mom and the mom who is totally present for the puzzles and dance parties.  I want to be the mom who always responds quickly to her friend’s text messages and the mom who is not on her phone when her kids are around.

I want to be the right kind of hostess – the one with the idyllic calm, the homemade snacks and the fresh coffee.

And the right kind of wife – or every kind of wife – the perfect housewife and the wife with exciting dreams, the elegant and fun wife, and the wife unfazed by the undignified nature of days full of spit up and temper tantrums.   I want to be the wife who is not caught up in her appearance and also the wife who can walk confidently and feel sexy after five babies.

I can easily fall into a continuous state of failure.


The cards have been dealt on the handful of things I’m good at and all the ones I’m not.  I think freedom is just being the one kind of mom and human God made me.  The necessities of life go on, and I actually can’t be in all the places at once.  I think freedom looks like letting myself just be in the one place doing the one thing.

“Be everything to everyone” makes me bitter. It makes life feel arduous, and I begin to choke on every need or demand anyone has of me.


If I let myself live under this kind of pressure, it leaves me longing for easier days, for affirmation, and frankly, for everyone to leave me alone. This is the pressure that makes me want to run away. Those are the days when the constant comments at the grocery store about how my “hands are full” nearly crush me.  Do you have days like that, friend?


Mamas, we must make a strong choice to reject these lies of pressure to do and be All the Things, and we must be washed in a new truth:

We were never meant to be everything.


If the weight of being everything is on our shoulders… If we were meant to fix the world for our children and everyone else… If it was our job to save their hearts, and satisfy them in every way… then Jesus died for nothing.


We were made human and finite and dependent and weak, on purpose. Raising our children to believe that their mamas can do everything and fix everything and be everything is a surefire way to lead them into the heart of disappointment.

But teaching our children how to move slow, how to trust that we were only meant to be in one place at a time, how to be free to be weak and in desperate need of a Savior.

This is a lesson that lasts.

And their Savior Jesus will never disappoint.


We were never meant to be everything. And we cannot write the whole story of the lives of our children. Under the loving care of the Infinite God, we have a specific and limited role.


As mothers, we were given a measure of authority, but God holds their hearts and spirits. As humans, we have an opportunity to partner with God in beautiful works…

but we run ourselves ragged in vain.


God has the role of winning the hearts of our children. Jesus came to save their souls. Our Father in Heaven holds them. He knows where each precious child fits.


The Almighty God has the role of being everywhere at once. We can just be in one place.  If we choose the wrong one, He can handle keeping the world spinning another day.

Today, be free to be just the mama you are…good at the things you’re good at and not at the things you’re not.

Today, be free to be in one place at a time.

Today, let your Heavenly Father carry the weight of the safety and future and faith of your children. Let God hold all the people and places that seem to need you.

The pressure is off, sweet friend. Go, enjoy your freedom!



A Reflection On The Strange And Beautiful Mystery Of Wanting A Baby


I cuddled that sweet six-pound baby boy in a dear friend’s hospital room, and for the first time, the miracle of it all – new life – meant something new. In a landscape of stiff chair cushions and drab white walls, freshly‐mopped tile floors and the aroma of antiseptic, I felt my imagination rest in the stale air, on just one thing:


When might it be my turn?


My heartbeat quickened. I snuggled, and dreamed, and ached with joy-filled wonder, for a child that looks like some beautiful, mysterious mix of my husband and me.


This, the first truly animal-like instinct I could name: I wanted a baby.


It’s so strange, really. To wake up one day and decide we want to give up our full nights of sleep and our freedom to travel lightly or sleep in on Saturday mornings. A desire to go through the pangs of pregnancy and childbirth, and to be needed deeply and desperately and physically, each day in varying degrees for the next six or seven thousand days…


But this beautiful thing lies deep within – in the part of us that reflects the creativity of our Creator…reflected in our longing.


We long to create, to nurture, to teach and leave legacy, to see the next generation do it better. We have eternity written on our hearts, so we have our strand in the great eternal cord hanging down from heaven….


and we want ours to count.


From the first moment of desiring to grow our family, fear crept in. What if I couldn’t get pregnant? What if it took a long time? What if God didn’t intend for me to be a mother at all? What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I miscarry? What if I gain 100 pounds? What if my husband doesn’t like me pregnant?

Even the thought of becoming a mother opens up a world of fear and anxiety, worry and turmoil that I never knew existed.


This fury of unknowns swirled, and some mysterious new beat drummed in me.


A day or two later, without naming my change of heart on our old claim to wait 3-5 years, I looked into my husband’s eyes and talked about the newborn I had snuggled, with a desperation that I couldn’t name, for fear that I couldn’t withstand rejection in it.


Somewhere in the preceding days I had transformed from a halfway reasonable and pretty highly functioning person into a wild, audacious, gratuitous feminine beast, who just…


Wanted. A. Baby.    I was scaring myself.


I hoped that my motherly longing would look somehow beautiful to him, and he would melt into a sweet daddy puddle, in which he would surely proclaim that he wanted a baby, too.


But somehow, undaunted by my newly mother‐like eyes, he offered a tender but logical and stoic statement about how fun it would be someday after we got financially stable and had time to “just be married.” His words moistened and hung in the air, and suddenly the room felt all hot and sticky.


For some number of months, my gentle ache sat in silent retreat.


And then one day, my tenderhearted husband declared that he wanted to grow our family. The ever-moving target of 3-5 years suddenly shrunk to “How about today?”

My heart soared, and then immediately sunk into terror of infertility and miscarriage and unfulfilled longings.

One part in me felt like beating my chest and demanding it of the Lord, and another part of me shrunk down in an unworthy heap, believing God would be fully justified to never grant me a pregnancy.


I’ve laughed with friends about this strange maternal thing that comes over some of us – I felt crazy and ashamed and confused by it. But I can’t say I’ve seen it treated as anything more than an extraterrestrial-like phenomenon, for those of us weak enough to succumb to it. But beneath the embarrassed admissions, I’ve wondered if instead it’s all a part of a unique and lovely design of an Almighty God.


I’ve heard the confused ache in the voice of dear friends who have struggled with infertility. They are surprised by their reaction…deep grief and longing. They always assumed, like so many of us, that if they couldn’t get pregnant, they would simply accept it, or “just adopt.” The words feel sharp as I type them, and think of the deep wounds I’ve felt with these friends.

There is so much more than a matter‐of-fact reality that some procreate and some do not. There is an undeniable thing written on our spirits – a longing to join with God in this piece of creation, and a part of our identity is deeply entwined with it.


I know that not every woman feels this way, and that God has clearly and graciously set some apart for an exponential capacity for career, ministry, spiritual mothering, adoption, or another beautiful purpose.

But there is a commonality among so many women, and lies of weakness and shame and smallness have attached to it…that do not belong. Science can call it a “biological clock,” but what if God meant it for beauty and purpose and love? What if the God of the Universe designed for women to share in His image in this particular way? He created us out of the love of the Trinity, in His image. And He granted us with this miraculous ability, biologically or spiritually or both, to do essentially the same thing – to create out of ourselves, in our image, as an overflow of our love for one another as husband and wife, and/or between God and ourselves. Giving life through love – a heavenly notion.


I see women without children birthing spiritual children by the droves, and I am saddened that there is little freedom to call out the beautiful maternal-ness of that, either.


I admit that I’m squirming with political incorrectness.  But I can’t ignore the beauty that lies here begging to be uncovered.  We might need to sweep away some dust left from seeking equality in all the things that make a woman the same as a man, and call out something that makes us beautifully different.

For our treasure lies substantially in a most certainly equal, but different place.

Women have something unique to offer in every space we fill. Whether a woman ever has a biological child, or ever wants one, there is a thing that makes her a woman that lies far deeper than anatomy. As I sit today, on the other side of five children, I desperately long for the world to give space to this thing, and to attach beauty to it.

I believe we mamas have a battle to fight, a critical duty to live and walk in the beauty and joy of what we are…being a mother is only one part, and one version of a woman, but it is a beautiful one.  A child comes from a place of intimacy, vulnerability, and complete dependence on divine intervention. It is raw mercy.

Those of us who have been given the gift of conceiving and giving birth to children may claim no pride or right to have done so. And the same is true for those who have applied and interviewed and prepared and waited and received and loved an adopted child, not of their own blood but allowed to completely intertwine with their hearts and souls and homes.


It is purely and simply miracle.


Even in the longing to have a child, there is a beauty and a joy to be found in the way that we reflect the Creator, in the way we long to grow and multiply, and love new loves.


Motherhood – from dream to empty‐nest and beyond – has been draped with shadows, and I want to cast them off.


There are shadows of fear…of failing or being small, of losing a career or body or freedom, of wasting our lives.

There are shadows of insecurity…about how our bodies and babies and honor students compare, about their behavior and performance, about what kind of mom we are or are not.

There are shadows of shame….around our bodies, our failure to get our baby to breastfeed or sleep, our toddler to potty train or stop biting, our school-aged child to read or to stop wetting the bed. And the stakes just get higher as they grow. I see shame around working or not working, having children too early or too late, too few or too many, too close together or too far apart, too “on purpose,” or too “by accident.”

Let’s not let these things cast a shadow on the radiance of being a co-creator of human life.

If we are given an opportunity to mother, and we believe it is for our blessing and the blessing of our children, than it ought to be a journey of joy.


So, today, I’m celebrating the strange and beautiful mystery inside of me that led me to this place of motherhood. I’m choosing to believe that it was put there on purpose to reflect the incredible, abundant love that drove the Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit –to create us, his children.


Ecclesiastes 3: 11, Galatians 5: 1, Genesis 1: 27