What Am I Missing?

These types of posts are always hard for me to write. I stare at the screen, watch the cursor blink for a few seconds and I wonder if I really want to start typing. For me, writing things out makes them real, makes them tangible, makes them permanent. Once I write it, I can’t go back. It’s just there. But that’s where I am. I’m at this point where I have to look at myself, my life, and my relationships and ask, “What am I missing?” And the answer is a lot. 

What Am I Missing? || When your goals become distractions from what really matters.

I am a hardworking and driven escapist. I see what I want, I go after what I want, and everything else is just something I need to get through to achieve my ultimate goal. But when things get hard and don’t go as planned, I escape. I’ve always been that way. When I was younger, I escaped to my books or my journals or my riveting imagination. Now that I’m older, when things get hard I escape to my phone. Unquestionably. It is my escape through and through. And when I’m finished distracting myself from confronting and dealing with whatever’s going on, I jump back in to working towards achieving my goal, whatever it might be that day.

Motherhood is one of those things I tend to look at as something I need to just get through. The days get harder when my priorities are out of whack and for a long time now, they have been. I want to write, I want to provide for my family, I want to be a speaker, an author. I want to inspire women and help them be better wives, better mothers, better friends. I want to be a person in the world and make a difference, I want to make the love of Christ tangible and the truth of His word practical, and I want to get out of debt so stinking bad. Those are my goals and my children distract from them. My marriage distracts from them. My laundry, my dishes, my floors, my bathroom, they all distract me from my goals.

Last night, I was taking a much deserved bath after a long day of cleaning, shampooing carpets and parenting. Emery was already in bed for the night, Jonah was watching Curious George Boofest, Zach was at a weekly Dale Carnegie course that he has to attend for work, and the house was quiet so I seized my opportunity. I filled the bath up with hot water and bubbles and tea tree oil, grabbed a book and … ahhhhhh. So nice. It lasted about 10 minutes and then Jonah was right next to me. Pooping. Aw yea. Just what my peaceful bath needed, right? I put my book down and was getting ready to hop out of the bath when Jonah flushed the toilet and sat down next the tub with a bag of marshmallows that appeared out of nowhere. He said, “So. Did you have a good day, mom?”

And then we talked. About nothing and about everything and we ate marshmallows while I got all pruny and it was so sweet. My typical night time routine is to let him play quietly with his toys while I clean up, do some writing, or something else that doesn’t involve directly interacting with him. But last night, that bag of marshmallows shifted everything into perspective. HE is my goal, my life, my biggest calling. Why do I so often let my selfish desires cloud up this incredible gift of motherhood?

And so we read books. I told him we’d read three, but I think we’d read 6 or 7 before we called it a night. While reading the last book, we were snuggled up so close that he felt the baby kick his elbow. He looked up at me and said, “What was that??” When I told him it was the baby in my belly, he started giggling uncontrollably and put his hand under my shirt and we waited for the baby to kick again. And then again. And then again. And every time, Jonah would lose himself in a fit of giggles. “Is she saying hi, mom?” (he’s convinced the baby is a girl) “Is she saying, ‘hey big brother!’?” As he was giggling and we were trying to finish the story I thought to myself, “Is this what I’m missing? Is this what I’m saying no to when I say yes to my distractions?”

What are your yes’s costing you? Have you stepped out of yourself long enough to even know the answer to that question? I know I hadn’t. In a long time. Maybe the pursuit of your “calling” is leaving the ones you love in the dust. Maybe your dreamlining and to-do lists are ruining your social life, and you don’t even know it yet. Maybe you’ve let yourself go, stopped taking care of yourself, forgotten completely who you were before you filled up your time with … what? I don’t know. For me it’s my pursuit of my dreams, but for you it might be something totally different. Maybe being a mom is just a lot harder than you thought it would be, so you escape. You just get through it. Maybe your frustration with the lack of change in your ministry is causing you to retreat and give up and self medicate instead of pressing through and being the change. Whatever your story, step away, look at your situation and ask yourself, “What am I missing?”

As I was walking Jonah to his bed last night, he asked me if I wanted to lay with him for a few minutes. That’s a habit we broke a while ago because he was starting to become dependent on us to fall asleep. But every now and then, Zach will cave (he’s a sucker for a snuggle) and lay with Jonah until he falls asleep. I don’t do that. I have things to do at night. But last night, I said yes and we both crawled into his little toddler bed and snuggled up underneath his “brown blanket” (his lovey, if you will). We prayed for his cousin Charlie who’s getting his tonsils out in a few days. We prayed that God would help us find a new house and that Jesus would make us strong and brave. And then Jonah told me that if the foot clan came, he would fight them off and protect me and Emery and the new baby because he’s a big strong brother. And then he dozed off with is face as close to mine as he could possibly get it (something that would usually annoy the hec out of me) and he blinked his little eyelashes on my forehead and I shed a little tear and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

This. This is what I’m missing. This is what I’m too busy for. This is what I’ve been distracting myself from. How did I get so far of course? I still have my dreams and the things that I feel I’m called and equipped to do, but the second those things start messing up my ultimate calling, they’re just things. They’re not important anymore. They pale in comparison. My marriage and my motherhood are my ultimate callings and I don’t want to mess them up. It’d be so easy to.

So, mamas, friends, fellow dreamers, escapists, entrepreneurs, and talented creatives, I challenge you to put on your perspective glasses and see what comes into focus.

What are you missing friends? Go get it.

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And hey — having a tribe of like minded people is good for the soul and essential to keeping your dreams in focus and your priorities in the right order. Bloggers and creatives, you’ll love the #fireworkpeople community. I don’t really know how to describe it, except that it’s a group of several hundred women who are grabbing their dreams, making them happen, and giving each other incredible encouragement along the way. Just jump in. You won’t regret. (To all my #fireworkpeople stopping by today–hi i love you.) And anyone and everyone — you’ll love my Thrive Intentionally group. We keep each other accountable, encourage and challenge each other, and I’ve never seen a second of negativity in there. It’s a beautiful community of moms, a few dads, bloggers, business owners, single men & women (maybe I should start a thrive dating service?), and just a whole lot of people who are living and happening to life. We’d love to have you.

If This Baby Is A Boy

When I was pregnant with Emery, everyone thought it was a girl except me. I knew from the day I peed on that test that it was boy. Don’t ask me how, I just knew. But all of my family was holding out hope for a girl. On my side, we were three grandkids in and all of them were boys. So when we found out Emery was a boy, Zach and I were thrilled, and of course my family was just ecstatic that it was a baby, but there was a little disappointment that we put another “stem on the apple” (as my Dad says).

It wasn’t until after we announced that baby was a boy that I realized having two boys in a row was somewhat undesirable. We couldn’t have been happier. I’d always imagined myself as a boy mom, so it just made sense to me. But I had people actually offering me condolences. I’m not kidding. Someone came up to me in church and said, with the most sympathetic eyes, “I heard you’re having another boy. I’m so, so, sorry.” Someone else told me, “Now don’t go doubting God’s faithfulness. He gives us the desires of our hearts and you will get your girl next time.”

You guys. I had literally never expressed any interest in having a girl. Ever. I think it’s just kind of assumed that once you have one kid, you naturally want the opposite gender, but for me, it wasn’t until this pregnancy (my third) that the desire ever entered my mind. So when people were saying, “I’m so sorry” that my baby was a boy, I got really ticked off. This was after a long season of dealing with infertility issues and thinking I would never have another kid, so for people to express any kind of disappointment about anything having to do with my baby…it was infuriating. I was just happy to have another baby growing inside me, who cared whether it was a boy or girl, right? Well. Apparently a lot of people cared. But that’s neither here nor there now. Emery is here and everyone loves him. Strangers cross rooms to come and talk to him because he’s simply contagious. I can’t imagine not having him a part of our lives. How did we go so long without him??

So anyway. Naturally, now that I’m pregnant with my third and I’m two for two in the boy department, the questions and comments started coming in right away. “Are you hoping it’s a girl this time?” “I bet it’s a girl!” “It’s gotta be a girl!” “If it’s a boy, will you keep trying for a girl?” “It HAS to be a girl!” “What would you do with three boys??” “Oh no. What if it’s another boy??” Well. I’ll tell you what if.

If this baby is a boyIf this baby is a boy …

It will be so much easier on Zach and I because we’ve already done the boy thing twice and we won’t have to learn how to parent an entirely different gender. Or learn how to wipe a different set of body parts.

If this baby is a boy …

I will be one lucky lady because everyone knows that boys love their mamas. Girls do too, of course, but there’s nothing like the eyes a little boy has for his mama and I know every boy mom out there can back me up on this one.

If this baby is a boy …

He will be the luckiest boy in the entire world because he gets the coolest, sweetest, best looking, most hilarious, big brothers ever who will love him as much as they love each other. And that’s a lot.

If this baby is a boy  If this baby is a boy

If this baby is a boy …

I will never have to worry about learning how to fix a little girl’s hair. I can barely even do my own.

If this baby is a boy …

We will thank the Lord often that we won’t have to deal with anyone’s PMS but my own.

If this baby is a boy …

I won’t have to wait too much longer until I have four people in the house who can reach things and lift things for me. #shortpeopleproblems

If this baby is a boy …

He will be set for life in the wardrobe and toy department. Really though. For. LIFE.

If This Baby is a Boy

If this baby is a boy …

The world will thank us because he has an incredible father who is already teaching his big brothers to be kind, selfless, strong, and confident men. We need more men like that and three LaValley boys in the world is better than two.

If this baby is a boy …

Even though I’ll have three boys that will grow up and get married and leave me, I know that I will always be home to them. Even after boys are men, they hold a special place in their hearts for their mamas that no other woman can replace. Ever. I know this for fact because I see it with Zach and his mom and I love it. He’s raising our boys to love and respect and cherish me they way he loves, respects, and cherishes his mama and I think that’s fantastic.

If this baby is a boy …

Zach has to do all of body, puberty, and sex talks. Mwahahaha.

If this baby is a boy …

We will be super stoked to have another boy with another set of interests that we can all fully indulge in as a family. Also then Zach and I can continue to impress Ninja Turtle propaganda on our children.

If this baby is a boy

If this baby is a boy …

We will all snuggle him, and swaddle him, and kiss his little face, and love him as fiercely as we can. Just like we would do if this baby is a girl.

Feeling Invisible

You know how moms are really good at capturing dads being incredible dads? I see Zach doing the most normal things like walking with our kids on a nature trail and I’m like, BAM. Framer. I’m always ready to capture a moment because seriously. Just perfection.

Invisible

My kids will never wonder if their dad was present in their lives because I have meticulously documented as many beautiful moments as I can. I’ve captured late night fussy baby couch sleeping adorableness and wrestling matches and baseball throwing and hot dog sharing and all of the seemingly meaningless moments that years from now will mean the world to us. But where am I in all these photos?

I always feel weird when I’m having a moment with the boys and I tell Zach to take a picture. It somehow feels less authentic if I want him to capture it, but why shouldn’t I? I’ve had many a talk with him about trying to capture a candid moment of me and the kids from time to time, but he just doesn’t think like that, and it’s not a big enough deal for me to push it, but sometimes I just want photos of me and my kids to not look like fabricated selfies. Not that every moment has to captured, it really doesn’t, and I do try to live in the moment and not for the moment’s photograph-ability (is that a word?). But when I look through photos of the past three and a half years of motherhood and can only find a handful that I didn’t throw a camera at Zach and say, “TAKE A PICTURE!”, it irks me.

And it’s not so much that I’m not in the photos. I know that when my kids look back at the photographs I’ll one day print off for them, they’ll see that I was totally obsessed with them and they’ll get the unique experience of seeing what raising them was like from my point of view. Which I’m totally ok with it. I think that’s pretty sweet.

What bothers me most is that I don’t feel noticed. I see Zach snuggling with our boys and I take a photo of it, not because I want to share it with the world and shove it in everyone’s face how adorable my family is, but because I want to remember that forever. I see him being an awesome dad and it gives me all the warm fuzzy feelings and I’m full of joy and pride and the only thing I can do is grab a phone or a camera and capture it. Somehow I think capturing it proves that what is happening is important. Zach’s fatherhood is important. Snuggling our sick children is important. Teaching them to throw a baseball is important. Reading to them at bedtime is important. I see these things, I notice them, and so I capture them.

But surely, if it isn’t captured in a photo, no one will remember that I was there snuggling and wrestling and reading too. The majority of my days are spent with just me and the boys. No one is there to see me and acknowledge how awesome I am and document it for the ages. So when I look back on photos of our family, and sometimes just in the day to day, I feel invisible. Does anyone see me? 

when you feel invisible

Before you start calling me names, I already know that these are self centered and selfish thoughts. I’m not even going to pretend like they’re pretty or even mature, but there they are. Sometimes I feel invisible. To my kids, to my husband, to the world. Which really shouldn’t matter, since I didn’t choose to be a mother so people would appreciate me. That would be hilarious if anyone actually thought that would happen. Motherhood is a mostly thankless job, but are we really invisible? I don’t think so, but some days it really does feel that way.

Does it really matter, though, to be seen? Is that why we do the things we do in motherhood? Of course not. No one will ever see the day to day, seemingly meaningless things that we do with and for and because of our children. Very rarely will someone see and acknowledge the amazing sacrifice that is raising your children. But being “invisible” and the lack of recognition that accompanies it should never disqualify us from feeling like the awesome beasts of motherhood that we really are. Remember that the most important little eyes are watching you, learning from you, loving you, and seeing you. We are doing important work, mamas, and even if it goes without thanks and even if not a single candid moment is ever captured in our entire motherhood journey, we can still look back with confidence and say, “Yea. I did a good thing.” So keep taking those fabricated selfies without guilt and keep raising those babies even though nobody is watching and praising all of the incredible things  you do every day. (And yes, changing diapers and wiping snotty faces absolutely count as incredible.)

And sometimes, just sometimes…the husband nails the shot.

walk with jonah

Bed Rest (insert unhappy emoticon here)

If you follow me on instagram or twitter, you’ve probably seen me complaining and bemoaning my current bed rest situation. It’s totally annoying. I won’t bore with you with the details, so let’s just sum it up by saying that on Wednesday night I was a sobbing mess of pain when Zach got home from work. We called the midwife and she confirmed what I assumed the problem was : round ligament pain. I figured I’d just have to tough it out until it eased up a bit. Zach tried to work from home the next day, but around lunch time, I started bleeding. There’s nothing that will freak a pregnant woman out more than bleeding. I tried not to panic, but duh. That’s what I do. I immediately jump to worst case scenario, and then I Web MD that sucker. Clearly, the placenta had detached, or my appendix had burst, or I had preeclampsia, or I was losing the baby. I immediately called my doctor’s office and we went in for a slightly emergent appointment. Cause again — bleeding, pregnancy, unbearable abdomen pain…all bad things.

As soon as I walked in, the nurses were commenting on how terrible I looked. In the most loving and empathetic way, of course, but it was clear I looked as bad as I felt. The good news is, though, that the baby is fine and we’re gonna survive. There’s no sweeter music than the sound of your baby’s heartbeat and it calmed my anxious nerves down immediately. Once I heard that heartbeat, I didn’t even care what was wrong with me, I was just so stinking relieved. Long story short, I have a bacterial infection that no one can figure out how I was so lucky to contract. But contract it I did, and now I am confined to the couch/bed/floor/chair until the pain, bleeding, and infection go away.

being on bed rest

I’m a terrible sick person and I always have been. All weekend, I kept trying to get up and clean and help with the kids, and even convinced Zach to take me out of the house for a little while. All bad ideas. All of which I paid for heavily the rest of the day. I can’t climb stairs, or lift Emery, or bend over, or do anything that exerts any kind of energy without doubling over in pain and losing my breath. It’s all quite dramatic, I assure you. But I’m learning to let go and breathe deep and just … rest.

However, t’s hard for me to sit back and watch Zach play with the boys, dress the boys, feed the boys, clean, cook, run errands, etc. and do all the things that I should be doing. And it’s not because I don’t like the way he does things, or feel the need to correct him or whatever, it’s just that I feel so bad about it. Even though it’s not my fault and there’s nothing I can do about this little medical situation, the guilt is strong. And so of course when I feel guilty, I act out and get emotional and snappy and Zach’s just like, “What the hec is going on right now?” Oh that man. He endures so much from me and yet he still brings treats of the flowery and flannel nature. I lucked out, ladies. *swoon*

bed rest

ANYhoo. So bed rest. I’m doing a lot of pinning, a lot of eating, and maybe this week I’ll dust off my crochet hooks and make a new scarf or something. All I know is I. am. done. Zach needs to get back to work and make them dolla bills and I need to get back on my feet and do some laundry. So please send all the good thoughts and prayers our way! And if you happen to be driving through my neighborhood, feel free to stop by and watch an episode of Call the Midwife with me. We can cry and eat chocolate together. If I have any left …

Unfiltered

Last week, I started writing some really honest thoughts about my current state of mind. But as often happens when I do that sort of thing, I got too scared to hit publish. Sometimes I don’t know what people what to read from me. I like to inspire and I like to tell it how it is, but I’m always afraid to cross too far into the vulnerable side of my writing. I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable and I know that’s sometimes the outcome of transparent blogging. But then one of my lovely readers requested that I talk about where I am right now emotionally, mentally and spiritually. 

So this is where I am, straight up and unfiltered.

unfiltered

I am not content.

We’ve been in my parents’ basement for 8 months now and we’re all over it. I want a place of our own, but Zach’s job continues to be a big question mark and we’re not willing to sign a lease without the confidence that his job will continue to be able to pay most of the bills. We’re talking about me going full time with the blog/social media consulting thing, but with a new baby on the way, it’s probably not a wise idea to make that sort of commitment. I think I would regret it if I worked full time through this baby’s newborn stage, so I’m nervous to jump into that, even though Zach is incredible and rocks at the stay-at-home dad thing. And so then I question what my motivation really is for staying home. Does it matter who is at home? Do my kids need me specifically? If what I’m doing right now has the most income potential, shouldn’t we be diving into that completely? Could I handle the pressure of providing for my family through something as fickle as the internet? Will the people of the internet continue to love me and support me or is the thrill of Kristen fading? Should I jump into writing my book full time? Should I go to Nashville and convince Zondervan to give me a book deal?

And then in the midst of all of that, there’s this lingering feeling that we’re missing something. What is God’s plan for us? It’s been almost two years since we moved to Knoxville and we’re still struggling. We know that God called us to step down from our youth pastoring position, and we have never questioned that decision. Not once. But ever since leaving New York, nothing has made sense. Although God has been faithful and has taken care of us completely, we have struggled and strived and have seen very little fruit from our labor. I’m struggling to trust and follow this God who is silent and distant and a bit confusing right now. However. The Influence Conference was an incredible experience for me. I wasn’t expecting to have my spirituality challenged so deeply and refreshingly. It helped me get out of my situation, look at it with a different set of eyes, and evaluate my heart. In the moment and in the fog of our day to day lives, I’d convinced myself that I was completely surrendered to whatever God had for us. But now I realize that’s not exactly true.

When God is silent for a long time, people tend to take things into their own hands, and that’s what we’ve done. We lacked direction and guidance, so we just jumped into things, trusting that since God wasn’t saying “no”, he’d bless us whatever we chose. And he has, but we’re still struggling and that just doesn’t make sense to us. So now we’re in this weird place where we’re almost desperately seeking answers and direction. We feel kind of lost.

Stepping down from ministry was a bigger life change than we originally thought. After spending four years in bible college and over 10 years in ministry, we made a huge career change. It’s awkward to think of ministry as a career, but it’s what we went to school for, why we’re in so much debt, and what we had dedicated our lives to. And now? Now ministry looks a lot different and we no longer take a paycheck for what we’re “called” to do. I have so many thoughts on this ministry to layperson transition that  I’m having to pour them all into a Pages document that maybe eventually will be a book. But right now we’re still in the thick of it and it’s not easy and we’re trying to figure it it out. It’s messy, but it’s good. 

Even in all of the doubt and confusion and anxiety, we know that God is good. We know that one day, we’ll look back on this season with thankfulness and we’ll be able to see God’s hand working in the question marks. But right now, we’re frustrated and that’s ok. God never promised things would be easy, but he did promise that we wouldn’t have to do this whole thing alone.

So we’re owning where we are right now. This is a season of life that definitely isn’t pretty on the outside or the inside, but it is what it is and we’re embracing it and doing our best to thrive right where we are. It doesn’t do any good to eagerly anticipate when things will be different because who knows when that will happen? Embrace where you are. Bloom where you’re planted. Those are the things I’m learning these days.  So what about you? Where are you at these days?

bloom