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“I’m standing in the flames, It’s a beautiful kind of pain, Setting fire to yesterday find the light, find the light, find the light…”

Do you know how long my hand has hovered over the keys, afraid to hit “publish”?

I like to be good at things. I like my life to be functional, polished. I like to be seen as efficient and effective, capable and strong and brave. I’ll settle for okay, but I prefer talented.

The last six months have been an enormous time of growing for me, both mentally and spiritually, and I can say with certainty that one of the most important lessons I have learned about myself is that I am not good at endurance. I can rock the suffering…as long as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Faith? I got it…as long as I can feel some sense of a lesson in the end. And to be totally honest, some of what I call peace may be a bit of shrugging and giving up. When you have a chronic disease, people kindly say things like “You are brave. I could never deal with what you deal with!”  Horse hockey. Yes you could. You would have no choice. I am not brave, I am afraid. I am not strong, I am terribly weak. I am not skilled at enduring, I am desperately hanging on.

But I love where I am.

Pain is a gift. Oh please, dear one who is struggling, please don’t click away in anger, because I know the feeling that this is ANYTHING but a gift. I know the desperate anger that comes with longing that has no ending, that feeling of just wanting one day, one hour of calm, before your body betrays you and reminds you yet again of your frail humanity. I promise I know, and I have cried plenty of angry tears too. But the pain that batters my body around, reminding me daily of lost time, lost ability, lost babies, that pain extends to batter my heart too and the bruising has made it softer.

But it’s not hard for me to talk about empathy. Empathy isn’t what keeps the hand hovering over the publish button. It’s fear and it’s shame.

I never realized until this year how we conceptualize pain as something to triumph over or give into. We celebrate unmedicated birth as though it is the strong women who can endure. We talk about high and low tolerances. We self describe, using words like “I’m a baby about pain”. We lift up athletes who play through the pain. We see pain as an event- it has a beginning, a middle and end, and like an Olympic sprinter, we give gold, silver, and bronze medals to those who sprint well, with minimal complaining. And the problem is that when you have only experienced a sprint, then a marathon can’t be understood. Sure, running is the common theme here, but that is where the similarities end and the fear and shame begins.

I remember a teacher in high school telling me once “Your reputation is all you really have!”  I don’t think he intended to, but those words stuck with me and made me terrified to ever disappoint anyone. In the last six months, I have had to disappoint people. I’ve had to cancel plans or say no more often. I’ve had to give less effort in order to save energy. I’ve had to rest when I really wanted to play. Shame.

I’ve walked to the pharmacy every single month with my head down, don’t make eye contact, and cried every single time I leave. Don’t get me wrong, my pharmacist has been wonderful, very kind and caring towards me. But the shame and fear I have felt is paralyzing. I hate it. On the outside, I look fine, totally healthy. They can’t see the pictures I saw of my surgery, with my insides bonded together from adhesions and endometriosis. So I fear being judged and critiqued. I fear being thought of as a wimp, a girl with a low pain tolerance, a girl who just can’t push through a little pain. Shame.

Be honest. Come on, you can do it. You’ve had those thoughts about someone. I know I have.

But here’s the gift- in some ways, that teacher was right- my reputation is a big deal. It’s just that I now have realized Who’s thoughts about me are important. I have to let go of the fact that there will be a person, doctor or otherwise, who looks at me and instead of seeing me, they will view my pain through their lens, and how they would handle it.  And I WILL come up lacking. I have to let go of the fact that there will be people, even people who dearly love me, who will secretly think I am just not doing the right things to deal with this disease. I get it- they are sprinters. The gift is that I can love and honor these people without letting their opinion of me hold me hostage in shame.

I don’t know why God has allowed me to suffer. That isn’t the part of the marathon that I get to see yet. But I sincerely would not trade this marathon for the sprint, and miss out on the utter joy of grasping onto my Daddy’s hand daily. The marathon is long, and difficult, and I need Him beside me. There is sweetness in being unable to do anything but pray. There is sweetness in insomnia and taking deep breaths and saying “hold on sweetie. Mommy needs a minute” and giving a hug to a friend who gets it because they are marathoning too. Somehow, that sweetness comes in and invades and chases the bitterness of shame and fear away.

So next month, I will try. I will try to hold my head up when I pick up my medicine. The walk from the car to the store is part of my marathon.

Deep breath. And publish.

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“The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear and I don’t know the reasons why you brought me here. But just because you love me the way that You do, I’m gonna walk through the valley if you want me to…”

I was thirteen years old, an 8th grader at Pease Middle School, and it was spring. I remember because it was that time of year that the P.E. teacher started letting us run laps outside and we all tried ways of getting out of it. I was in the girls locker room getting dressed when I was hit by a truck of pain. I sat down, sure I was about to pass out. Elizabeth, a girl who always had perfect bangs and doused herself in Exclamation perfume, looked at me and said “I get cramps too!” It was a bonding moment.

The problem was, these weren’t just cramps. These were my insides being ripped apart by a thousand tiny chainsaws. I limped over to the coach and lied and said I had hurt my ankle. (The teacher was a guy, no way I was telling him nothin’ bout no cramps) He eyed me suspiciously but let me sit out. I think he caught on when I forgot which ankle was supposed to be hurt.

And here I am, 23 years later, and I am still sitting out of gym, trying to deal with the pain and not let my teacher know. Now it has a name- Endometriosis. I was officially diagnosed after a laparoscopy when I was 27 years old. Since then, I have had three other surgeries, hormone treatments, countless medications, and a long list of holistic treatments to try to control the progression of the disease.


One thing I have realized in the last year is that part of what happens with chronic conditions is that you don’t feel like you have a disease, you feel diseased. And those are completely different.

On average, it takes a woman 5-10 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. This is due to many reasons, but one of the main reasons I’ve personally encountered is a lack of education on what endometriosis actually is, and dismissal of women’s reporting of their symptoms. One doctor figuratively patted me on the head when I was 21 and told me that I was way too young to have anything seriously wrong with me, and that all women have cramps.

“All women have cramps”- this is the sentence that smacks the hand over our mouths and tells us to buck up and quit complaining.

In high school, I missed days of school because of pain and bleeding. I remember wanting to try out for a play so badly, but I knew that the pain could happen at any time, and I couldn’t take the chance that it would happen during an audition or rehearsals. I remember classes where I would watch the clock, just waiting and praying for time to move faster so I could just go home. I auditioned for All State Choir my senior year, and almost had to stop in the middle of my audition because I was sure I would pass out from pain. I thought it was normal. I wasn’t TRYING to be stoic or stubborn. I just…thought it was normal.

I was introduced to shame at seventeen, when I visited a gynecologist for the first time and he prescribed birth control pills for the pain I described. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and I said yes. He said “well, these will help with that situation too!” I was mortified and told him that I was not having sex. He rolled his eyes. I didn’t fill the script. It was the first time I felt embarrassed to be in pain, like I had done something wrong, like it was my fault.

So why do I write about it now? Well, it’s not because I have magically gotten over any embarrassment or shame or the feeling of being diseased. I write about it for a few reasons.

It comes back. This is a chronic condition that is managed, not cured. I had a complete hysterectomy three years ago, and was hoping for a long reprieve. It lasted two years. For the last year, I have been trying to treat the low-level back pain that occasionally flares into serious pain. In the last few months, I have been getting recurrences of abdominal pain as well. I can read the writing on the wall. I visited several back doctors, thinking maybe there was another cause to the pain. One doctor was a nut job who told me to crush up muscle relaxers and eat the powder throughout the day. The other doctor sent me to physical therapy and told me he wanted me to take medication continuously to let my body rest and heal. After a few months, the physical therapist told me that she didn’t think I needed PT and that she didn’t think my problem was muscular or spinal. I consulted the doctor and told him that I was frustrated that he was prescribing this medicine, even when I didn’t need it and that he still couldn’t tell me if anything was wrong with my back. He snapped at me that if I was his patient, I was required to fill all medicines and take them according to his instructions or he wouldn’t see me. He told that eventually, I would have to have surgery on my back. Obviously, I didn’t return to his clinic. After that I just tried some diet changes, added some yoga and stretching, and…managed. But this month has been rough, and I gave in and saw my Obgyn again. It’s interfered with life- planning my days, how much I am able to accomplish, physical stamina…and writing. Endometriosis can mess with your immune system and cause fatigue as well, and I definitely have felt that. There is a weariness that I push through most days, and some days I give into.

I write about it because I still have to convince myself that having endometriosis is not a character flaw. It has forced me to confront my people pleasing habits- I hate feeling misunderstood, and there is a lot of misunderstanding in this disease. It is hard for me to accept that I might go to an ER someday and be seen as a hysterical female, or worse, a suburbanite drug dealer. It is hard for me to accept that I can’t control that. I have been forced to let go of the fact that there will be family, friends, and doctors who dismiss me. It has forced me to confront my theology of suffering.

But the main reason I write about it, the reason I chose to be open about something so personal, is this- it’s because when I finally read stories of women who can’t wear jeans for an entire day because the pressure on their stomach cause nausea, I cried.

I’m not the only one. 

Because I read about women who search for years for answers and help and who are dismissed and patronized.

I’m not the only one.

Because I read about making the hard choices about pain medicine, hormone treatment and surgeries.

I’m not the only one. 

This is precious to me. This is comfort from Him and I am thankful. And I write so that someone will know they are not the only one.


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“The road is long with many a winding turns that leads us to who knows where, who knows where, But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him, he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…”

My name is Josiah and I want to tell you what it’s like to adopt a little brother. I was really little when my mom and dad told me that we were going to adopt another child. I think I was like, four years old. I remember that I was really hoping that it would be a boy. I already had a sister. That was enough.  I also remember being nervous because I never had a brother before and I hoped we would get along and he would like me. I also was excited because I never met anyone from another country and I really wanted to meet someone who lived somewhere else. I REALLY hoped he would be younger than me. I told my mom that it didn’t matter, as long as it was a boy, but actually I really really really wanted to stay the oldest but I didn’t tell her that. My mom and dad prayed and I remember that they taught me how to pray for a new brother or sister.

I remember that Ms. Amy came over to our house to talk about adoption. She was really nice and pretty and she was nicer than I thought she would be. I thought she would be not as nice, kind of like Professor McGonagall. Not as strict as Professor Snape, but still pretty strict. My mom made cookies for her and wouldn’t let us have ANY. That was so weird. Ms. Amy even gave us hugs and she had cool clothes on. My sister Selah and I went into the back of the house and played while she talked to my mom and dad BUT my sister and I were hiding and trying to listen. I was listening because I thought maybe Ms. Amy had a brother for me in her car and she was waiting to see if we wanted him. Selah was just listening to see if they were eating all the cookies. I remember that Ms. Amy looked at our rooms and I messed up Selah’s room so it would be messy because I wanted Ms. Amy to tell my mom and dad that the little brother should only sleep in my room. I never told my mom this but I cried really hard after Ms. Amy left because I really thought she had a brother in her car. Mommy heard me crying but I didn’t tell her why.

I don’t remember very much about when we found out about Malachi. I was only four, remember? I remember that mom took us up to my daddy’s office and she didn’t even notice that I didn’t have shoes on and my sister had her swimsuit on. I remember that I sat on Daddy’s couch in his office and everybody kept coming in and crying and stuff. I could tell it was happy crying though you know, like the kind girls do a lot when they wave their hands and stuff. I saw a picture of Malachi and he was the cutest boy I’ve ever seen. His hair was HUGE and I remember telling my mom that he and I looked exactly alike because we both have brown eyes. I know, that’s crazy because I have peach skin and blonde hair, but I was four. Remember that I was four. Mommy also read that Malachi had breathing problems. I remember telling mommy later that maybe God put Malachi in our family because I already have asthma and so I can tell him that it’s not that bad and I can hold his hand if he doesn’t like breathing treatments. I remember that mommy cried and did that hand waving thing when I said that.

My sister and I stayed with my MawMaw and PawPaw and I remember that they took us to NASA. I remember that PawPaw told me about a space shuttle that crashed and I cried later because I got scared about the plane crashing. I also remember I had to sit in time out but I don’t remember why. It might have been Selah’s fault.

The day that my brother came home is one of my favorite days. We got dressed and went to the airport which was so boring. I remember that there were lots of people there waiting and we made a really long sign to hold. When mommy and daddy walked out, I ran and hugged my mom first. I didn’t hug Malachi right away because I wasn’t sure if he would like me, but I remember being a little mad because everyone was crowding him and I was thinking “back off, that’s MY brother!”

If you already have kids and you want to adopt another, I think you should. I think adopting from Ethiopia is really cool, but there are lots of kids everywhere that can be adopted. My brother calls me his best buddy for life, and I am! He makes me really mad sometimes like when he ruins my legos or he won’t let me sleep in or when he won’t stop singing trouble trouble trouble because my sister is like, obsessed with Taylor Swift, but I love him and he’s awesome. I’m sure there’s more that happened but remember, I was only four.

photo (19)

“The mountains are steep and the valleys low, Already I’m weary But I have so far to go, Oh and sorrow holds my hand and suffering sings me songs, but when I close my eyes I know to whom I belong…”

Today, a mom and dad woke up to the clamor of three kids vibrating with nerves. They eat a special breakfast designed to say goodbye to the summer. New clothes and teeth, pictures and kisses. Mom cries while kids squirm because it’s so embarrassing, mom! They will watch the retreat into the building and decide how to make sense of the quiet.

Today, a father listens to the screaming quiescence as he sips his coffee. She left with the kids this summer. Regrets woven with anger flash behind his closed eyes, but both of those are drowned out by an overwhelming sorrow. He wonders what his daughter’s backpack looks like and if it’s made the transition from barbie to boy bands. His gut churns as he thinks about his son, the one starting middle school today, and thinks about how he’s probably scared, but acting like it just doesn’t matter.  His son comes by that honestly. He wonders if he will ever get another first day with them, with her.

Today, a teacher slips into her classroom to have a moment of peace before the kids arrive. She’s tired in a way that coffee can’t help as she finds herself bracing for the day. She thinks back to just after college when she walked around with the green glow of confident inexperience, when the smell of laminating got her high and her loss of sleep was due to excitement. Not pain. Not resentment. The politics of teaching, the lack of support from her principal, and the capricious demands of parents have drained her of that love. The bell rings and she sends up a quick appeal for help, please Lord, just help me love this again.

Today, she avoids Facebook. She usually can handle it. Not today. It’s been five years and the baby clothes she gleefully bought then have long been put away. Her husband gives her a sad smile, his thoughts on the baby who would have started Kindergarten today. Tonight he will hold her as tears fall, and they will pray for a chance to see the first day of school.

Today, a child walks down the hall, grateful that she picked out the shoes that don’t squeak. She thinks that if she hurries, they might not see her. She lost weight over the summer and got a new haircut, but it probably won’t matter. That group of girls will see what they choose to see, and their own insecurities paint her with a bulls eye. The bruises from last year have faded, but the blisters on her heart are just as fresh as they ever were. She decides going to her locker isn’t worth it. She decides the library isn’t such a bad place to eat lunch. She decides maybe having friends is overrated.

Today, a teacher heads into her classroom and takes a shaky breath to quiet the memories of huddling with frozen children as an unthinkable tragedy occurs just outside her door. She misses her colleagues. She still mourns the children. She can’t help it- scanning the classroom for possible hiding places and escape routes. Shaking her head and breathing in and out, she gets ready to teach and protect and love.

Today, a boy will be comforted that school has started so he can escape the smell of alcohol and the slurred shouting of a father.

Today, a girl will promise that she won’t make herself throw up. She will fail by lunchtime.

Today, a mother is terrified because this is her baby’s senior year and she doesn’t know who she will be when he leaves home.

Today I send my kids off to school.

Jesus, open my eyes to the ones who hurt! Don’t let me sit content in my own little world. Thank You that in the middle of all the chaos and pain, You are there and we are not forgotten. Change my heart to be more like You, so that those around me don’t see me anymore, they just see You.

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“Well, did You grow up hungry? Did You grow up fast? Did the little girls giggle when You walked past? Did You wonder what it was that made them laugh? And did they tell You stories ’bout the saints of old? Stories about their faith? They say stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight …”

Dear Monkey,

You’re lost. Are you in a trash bin somewhere? Maybe you got picked up with the other blankets and washed and you are waiting for someone to notice that you don’t belong there. Maybe you are behind a desk somewhere, one of those things that will be gotten to when there’s time. Maybe you are on some kind of great blanket adventure in another city, backpacking and sleeping in youth hostels while you drink wine and pretend you know how to smoke. Maybe you are sitting under a pile of other things left on a plane. All I know is that you are not here and that’s not right.

You’re old as far as blankets go, and far passed your ability to keep anybody warm. Your print has faded and your edges are frayed from 3,614 nights of being wrapped around this little blonde boy. You’ve never been apart from him, you’ve been in every car trip, every sleepover, every asthma attack and late night breathing treatment. You’ve visited four emergency rooms. You started off wrapping him up in puppy softness, his tiny hands and feet poking out because he really didn’t like being swaddled. I know you’re not supposed to let your baby sleep with a blanket, but sleep deprivation will make you forget those rules, and you were the magic key to sleep. He grew, and you did not. Time passed from swaddling to teething to superhero cape. And now you are less played with, but no less loved. You have your place of honor on his pillow, ready to snuggle with whenever wanted.

And you’re still wanted.

While he grew in my belly, I slowly grew out of the fear that we would lose him. We lost babies before so my heart was cautious, not wanting to get too attached to him. I chose names with trepidation, and looked at baby clothes like one would look at a beautiful piece of jewelry, seeing that it’s lovely and thinking maybe, maybe someday I could have something that beautiful. Around five months into the pregnancy, my doctor smiled and said “It’s a boy!” I don’t know why, but something about being able to think about my son loosened the grip of fear just a bit. I decided it was okay to relax a little and get excited about being a mother. I went into a store and wandered over to the blanket section.

I can get him a blanket. That’s not assuming too much, right? And if something happens, I can donate it.

So I searched until I found a sweet blue blanket with white puppies on it. You were bought and carefully placed in an empty crib.

When Josiah got old enough to talk, he couldn’t say “blankey”, but he could say “Monkey” so that became your name. It was confusing for more than one babysitter!  Once, a friend called while we were on a date because a toddler Josiah was crying pitifully for “monkey” and the friend had given him every stuffed monkey he could possibly find and Josiah just kept crying for you. When it was decided Josiah would go with his dad on a mission trip to Ethiopia, we talked about whether or not he would take you. Josiah was worried he wouldn’t be able to sleep without you, but he also thought maybe, maybe it was time to start letting you go. We decided to experiment for a night. Josiah lasted twenty minutes before you were back in his bed. I thought you probably sighed in relief too.

But in all the excitement and craziness of the flight, you got left behind on the plane. He discovered it as soon as we got home. I haven’t seen him cry that hard, maybe ever, and I joined right in. We called the airline and they are trying, but so far they can’t find you. This afternoon he wanted to take a nap, and asked hopefully if the airline had called.  I watched that hope trickle out of his eyes when I said they had not found you yet. This boy, the one with who’s almost as tall as me, the one who has to be reminded to stop and kiss his mother, the one who laughs when I can’t figure out the math problems on his homework, the one who flew thousands of miles away to share the gospel with grown men and women, I held this boy as he cried and I cried too. And now I sit here as he naps restlessly next to me, praying and trying to accept that you might be gone forever.

I still hope that someone finds you and realizes how important you must be to someone. But I want this more- I want to learn to hold loosely to the things in this world. It’s easy to say that until you actually lose them. But the truth is, he’s upset about losing you, but I’m upset because you represent something to me- that tiny boy that I longed for, that idea that I mistakenly believed would complete my life and make it mean something. I made being a mother my god, and you might have been a blue with white puppies idol. Not having you is one more step into letting this boy go, and that is gut wrenching. (Today I thought- if I cry this hard over a blanket, you better go ahead and set up my Xanax IV when he goes to college. ) Not having you is one more tiny step towards trusting Jesus to be the source of comfort, the source of joy. To enjoy the things of this world, but not to find life in them. Not having you is a reminder to me that blankets and babies make terrible gods, as blankets fray and get lost and babies grow and leave.

I’d love for you to be returned but I won’t stifle our tears if you’re not, because I want to demonstrate what it looks like to grieve with trust that God loves us. More than a beloved blanket, I want Josiah’s childhood to be remembered as the beginning of his walk with Jesus, where he learned how to take a deep breath and say “I don’t like it or understand why, but I choose to trust You.”


Josiah’s Mom

josiah and monkey josiah and monkey2 josiah sleepng

*This blanket was left on a Lufthansa flight 438 on Sunday, July 28th at around 1:45pm in DFW. If anyone has any information, please email me at or tweet me @brandyb77  PLEASE SHARE!

“Till we know the pain of a broken heart, we can’t walk through the fires we didn’t start, So just hold on to the way it is tonight, learn to love through the darkness and the light, I’m on your side Oh, I’m on your side…”

Turn on any news channel and it won’t take long to hear something about the pro-choice/pro-life debate. Here in Texas, the conflict has been especially tense as our government seeks to regulate abortion clinics. Running alongside this debate is a growing group of people who are raising awareness of the adoption aspect of abortion, and we’ve seen an increase in churches who are choosing to support families who want to adopt in ways they haven’t before. “There is no such thing as an unwanted child!” is the rallying cry, as they seek to send the message that abortion isn’t the only option when an expectant mother does not want to parent.

Along the same vein, recently there is an increased awareness of the ethical intricacies of international adoption. As many countries have either slowed considerably or completely shut down, we see sad reports of unethical practices, child trafficking, and agency fraud. Those who are blowing the whistles are sometimes labeled as “anti- adoption” and are accused of not caring about the orphans waiting in difficult circumstances. “There is no such thing as an unwanted child!” is stated again as some fight to make adoption overseas easier, faster, and without limitations.

Self confession- sometimes the debate is exhausting. Sometimes in the evenings, once the kids are finally whackamoled into bed, after dishes are done and I finally sit down, I have good intentions of reading and educating myself on all these issues, but then I fall asleep watching The Office reruns. It’s easy for me to boil this down to a simplistic view of being prolife=support adoption in all situations. I am prolife…but I think it’s important that we look at what that means.

I believe life is precious and orchestrated by God. I believe we are charged with protecting life, advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves, and living in a way that places life above other things. So what does this mean for me?

It means that I realize that life isn’t simply brain and heart function. It means that I follow His example of not only protecting life, but protecting abundant life. It means that I put others ahead of myself and my desires…and this may mean I put another person ahead of my desire to parent. I believe this means that adoption isn’t the first or only option we offer to expectant mothers, and we love them enough to support them in emotional and practical ways so that they might be able to choose to parent. It means that when we are matched with an expectant mother, we make a choice to make sure she is counseled about her choice, even if it means she may change her mind. It means that we don’t make promises about open adoption that we aren’t sure we can or don’t intend to keep. It means that if we agree to a certain level of contact, we honor that commitment. It means that after we bring our child home, we are Christ-like in how we talk about birth parents. It means that if a child is removed because of abuse or neglect, our first goal should be that there would be full healing for the birth parents and the family can be reunited.  It means that we don’t see birth parents as a means to an end.

With international adoption, it means that we do not choose an agency that promises to get us a child faster than anyone else and has little to no accountability. It means that we take every measure possible to make sure that the child’s story is accurate. It means that we choose to become educated about the problem of child trafficking, because for some, our families are the face of international adoption. It means we work to increase domestic adoption within countries, because we acknowledge that staying in a country of origin ultimately is less traumatic for a child. It means we ask questions and demand answers. It means that we make a commitment to pray through each step, and trust that one of those steps may be to stop.

Prolife can’t simply mean protecting the unborn. It has to mean a respect and reverence for all life, including birth families.  Prolife can’t just mean that we believe the child in a womb is precious. It has to mean we believe the woman intent on aborting that child is precious. It has to mean we believe the doctor performing the abortion is precious. It has to mean we believe the politician that voted to make it possible is precious. Because while we may mean it when we say there is no such thing as an unwanted child, the truth is that in His eyes, there is no unwanted person, and no person that is less precious to Him. The man over the ocean that sells his child, the woman down the street who abuses drugs and leaves her child hungry, the woman who works tirelessly at the crisis pregnancy center… the caste system is our creation, not His. 

Luke 6:32-33- “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!”

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“There’s no such thing as perfect people, there’s no such thing as a perfect life, so come as you are, broken and scared, so lift up your heart and be amazed, and be changed by a perfect God…”

I saw her yesterday at the grocery store. She was pushing a full cart with even fuller hands. Her little boy, probably around four years old, was loudly protesting the lack of Cocoa Puffs in the cart, while her baby fidgeted and screamed in the car seat. She pushed the cart with one hand and tried to give the baby a paci with the other, while still trying to answer the rapid fire questions about cereal choices. I watched, in a rare and cherished moment of shopping alone, as she paused and said “Fine. Just give me the box!” and I watched her boy, gleeful one minute about the victory and gearing up for the next battle. She passed me, and while normally I like to try to give an encouraging smile to these mamas, she didn’t notice me and I heard her mutter “this is my life??”

I relayed this story to someone whose response was “how selfish. Sometimes moms just don’t understand the gift they have.”

I didn’t go on to tell them that this year, I asked Wes to give me 48 hours away as my mother’s day gift.  I already felt the biting sting of guilt over asking for this.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” was a stab in the heart to me for so many years. Every year as I watched all the other moms being taken out to lunch, carrying their little flowers and crayoned cards, I wanted to shrink away and hide until the day was over. I built up what being a mother would be like, and imagined those Cocoa Puff arguments as softer, with more whimsy. The light in those dreams was fuzzy, and while I knew motherhood would be difficult, I still thought- this is it. Being a mother is the highest calling, and I am missing out on so much. Motherhood happened, and not all of the lighting is flattering. It’s harsh and stark and relentless. It’s not a Facebook version of life. And full disclosure- I’ve been in a season of feeling wrung out by my children. Feeling like the demand is constant and the supply is dwindling. Feeling like I want to be honest about it, but also knowing that if I am, I may be judged as selfish and not appreciative of the gifts I have. But also…I know I can’t be alone…because I see you.

I see you, Mama. I see you put your kids in their car seats and then pause outside your door, just to have a few seconds to catch your breath before you dive back in to crying and bickering and why why why.

I see you. You sit on the outside of the circle of moms, quiet with downcast eyes because nothing about “sleep training” is amusing and you’d gladly hire someone to get up with the baby if you could, because you can’t smile when you get out of bed for the fourth time that night. Instead, you grit your teeth and plead, “please just go to sleep!”

I see you, Mama. I see you who just adopted this perfect little baby and instead of feeling bliss and joy, you smile wanly at this stranger baby. I see you as you wonder if you made a mistake. I see you as you feed and change this baby, but don’t really want to hold him.

I see you. I see you when you look longingly at your book/piano/garden/sewing machine because you haven’t touched it in months. I see you when you put aside time to do these things and then I see your face when you are interrupted five times in the first ten minutes. I see you when you decide it’s not worth it and you put it away. I see you as you wonder if you’ll ever be anything else besides the mommy.

I see you with the look of shame because you shared these feelings with someone who then suggested that maybe you just weren’t surrendering to Him enough, or maybe you needed to choose more joy, or…all those easy answers.

I see you, Mama. I see you staring in the mirror, the panic flitting on your face as you see the lines and dark circles. I see you sigh and search the cosmetics aisle, looking for something that makes you look more woman and less mommy. I see you, trying to fit into those jeans, and seeing the C-section scar that will make those jeans impossible. I see you glancing at the younger single girls around you, wondering if your husband wishes you looked like that.

I see you. I see you with slumped shoulders after you yelled at him for the fifth time today. I see you as you clench your fists and tell yourself to calm down, it’s just clothes on the floor, but that thought doesn’t help.

I see you, Mama. I see you when your family asks what you want for Mother’s day and you want to whisper that you just want to be left alone. You aren’t depressed. You aren’t angry. You just want silence. I see the guilt in your eyes over wanting that.

I see you.  I see you at those church events where we talk about being a mom. I see the defeat in your eyes because you feel like a failure. I see the fear when you begin the mental checklist of all the ways you are screwing up your kids. I see you read the books and blogs, the ones that say being a mother is your highest calling and that if you don’t feel joy at being a mother, it’s not that the job is hard, it’s that you haven’t surrendered to what God wants for you. I see you when you think your kids deserve a better mother.

In the “war on women”, women are the most aggressive offense. I’ve been so guilty of this. So let me lay down the weapons and tell you what I also see…

I see a Mama who walked into this deep end of the ocean without a job description. I see a woman who loves imperfectly. I see a woman who is real. I see a woman who is being humbled, which is a much more attractive quality than size four jeans. I see a woman who will develop compassion, and start to recognize these looks in others. I see a mom who won’t be as quick to judge, because it’s much harder to judge when you’ve dressed the wounds of unmet expectations. I see a mom who will maybe be more apt to listening, because we learn to listen as soon as we learn that we don’t have the answers.

I see a mom who needs a friend to tell her that it’s going to be okay and that she isn’t forgotten. To tell her that the Lord is bigger than her mistakes. To encourage her with the fact that her worth is not wrapped up in her performance- including her performance as a mother. To not give her easy answers, but shared tears. To remind her that motherhood can be an idol, and being a mother isn’t our highest calling, being a disciple is. To encourage her to not live life alone, because it’s only when we speak out that we realize we aren’t the only ones who feel this weight. Someone to tell her husband that giving her 48 hours alone is probably one of the kindest things he could do for her. A friend who will speak a gentle Happy Mother’s Day to her, and understand if her eyes fill with tears because being a mom is much much harder than she ever thought it would be.

If this is your life Mama, let’s live it together.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my friends who are finding great joy in being a mom, and for those who are fighting to find it.

Exhausted Mom with Baby

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