Tonight I arrived home from a two-day work trip in Massachusetts after this sweet baby had already gone to bed.

I’m exhausted but I find myself craving her sleepy dead weight on my chest. So much so that I will tiptoe into her room, slide around the creaky spots in the floor, and peer over her crib rail to imagine it a little better.

That steady, slow breathing. The unconscious shifting of weight.

Until tomorrow morning, I’ll let the sleeping beauty be and appreciate her from her afar but not without a sneak and a peek and a #TBT.

Strolling past Santa

Santa and I had a date that we were running late for. 

Emma had screamed the entire ride home and was now refusing to eat and, with equal fervor, refusing to let me clean her up. Her daycare clothes needed to be changed and her pigtails had been pulled out throughout the day, leaving a tangled and creased nest scattered about her head. 

Fred had asked for dinner and taken off with the dog as the microwave announced its meal. From downstairs, I heard enough to know he had stepped in the dog’s business outside and trailed it across the floor.

With microwave beeping, disgust proclaiming, and tiny hands clutching the side of a high chair, I looked desperately at the clock and then at my red-faced toddler. The tears spilling over those rosy cheeks mocked my building anxiety. 

“This will make for wonderful photographs.” I sneered to myself. 

Basement mess now clean, Fred joined me upstairs, commenting that Emma did not appear to be having a good day. It wasn’t my favorite observation though I knew he was right. Will I push us to misery trying to capture perfection? Would this be happening if I hadn’t waited until the very last session with Santa? Could this perfect picture I imagine replace my guilt over skipping family portraits and Christmas cards this year?

I can’t say what prompted Fred to push forward with my overreaching plan but he quickly cleaned off Emma and changed her into the outfit I had carefully laid out while I hid in the kitchen, eating my feelings. Perhaps he could feel the wave of angst threatening against my internal breakwalls. 

I drove while Fred talked on the phone and just a moment before he would’ve told me to turn, I realized that the sippy cup he had given her was not meant to be leak proof.

“Are you kidding me?!” I snarled.

As he reached back to grab the cup, he pointed to our turn. 

One violent parking lot turnaround and a few extra minutes later, we pulled up to the Gardens. 

The line for Santa was out the door. 

Panic and anger found their hold before resolution as we drove from the first parking area to the second to the third. 

“Do you want to just walk around?” I asked in what may have been my first rational thought of the evening. 

“Yeah!” Fred replied.  

After one more flare of anxiousness was settled, we wheeled toward the overcrowded entryway where the lungs of an angry newborn warned of expectations ruined. 

I looked, half longingly and half incredulously at the bearded man in the sleigh as we passed him but he paid me no mind. He did not care that I had missed our date.


   Emma did not care either, nor Fred. And in the end, I have decided that I don’t care as well. 

This year, I traded in the card-worthy photo for some grainy shots from an iPhone on the move, the uninhibited joy of a toddler surrounded by lights, and a walk in the crisp, cool air with my husband.

Lord, thank you for refocusing me in this moment. Thank you for calling me to appreciate family during the very season in which you came to us in human form, an infant King. And thank you for calling me daughter and heir. Amen. 

Travel Blues

Tonight I miss my husband so much that I actually hurt.

That’s crazy.

We’ve been ships passing in the night for over a month now. Flying in for a restless night, partner’s bags packed for the morning. Heading off to tackle the next show, the next training, the next, the next, the next. Planning, scheduling, and traveling. Keeping up through shared itineraries and orchestrated hand-offs.

All day today it’s been pulling at my seams, threatening to unravel me. One unexpected struggle. One missed beat and suddenly I’ll be mere thread and buttons on the floor, waiting to be swept up by the next calendar event.

It’s nice, in a way, to realize that if you boil down the rushed schedules and unfinished chores, the “your turns” and sleepless nights, the different love languages and “can’t you share my hobbies?” over night after night of work trips, you are left with the sticky sweet, simplified truth:

I love that man. I crave time with him. His hand over mine. His arm over my shoulder, pulling me in. I love the crinkle of his eyes when he’s teasing me about something. And I miss him.

Dear Emma,

I know how it must seem… I’m your mom and here I am leaning into my career and picking up travel days. I know your days at daycare aren’t perfect, as made evident by today’s bite mark on your cheek (although you could’ve fooled me with those smiling eyes when you ran to greet me – you’re so sweet!). I know that our weekly routine feels rushed sometimes and that it can be tiring for both us… That’s why I need to write you this letter. I need you to know why when the opportunity to add one more plate to my juggling act came around, I just couldn’t say “no.”

To be honest, my heart told me what my answer would be before the question was asked but that doesn’t mean I didn’t consider every minute I would have to spend away from you and what that might look like for us, for our family. We’re told that there’s a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  Well, I asked around and it seems that this time, these early months and years of your life, were given to me to give to you, Emma Jo. This is the time, while you’re so young and inquisitive and you soak up information like a sponge, that I need to pour into you.

So why would I agree to pour into a group of 9th grader girls I had yet to meet?

Because I had to.

I don’t know that there is any way to write this without sounding like a total quack to you but God put this on my heart. I think He planted this desire in me when I was in high school and He has been tending to me every year since, waiting for me to bloom.

You would think that I would’ve recognized it earlier. That I would know that my God, a God of grace and freedom, would be able to cultivate a desire in me to be the type of presence in these girls’ lives that I wished for myself when I was their age without actually forcing me into it. Would He let me make excuses year after year if it was so important? Would He let my desire to please others lead me into false service if He had called me somewhere else? Where is my whale?

He’s much more patient than some people would have you believe, Emma. Each year that I’ve made excuses or felt that someone else’s calling must be my own, He has waited. And each year He has asked, “Are you willing this time?”

So you see, I had to say “yes.” Because once you see the question laid bare for what it really is: “Will  you respond to my call?” (“Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8a)), I hope you see that’s it’s so much more than another plate to juggle. It’s about obedience.

Em, if this time away is too much, I am yours.

But we are His.

I’ve thought a lot about it. My delay in answering His call may mean that this year will simply be a lesson in obedience… but I have a feeling He has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11). You don’t have to trust me in this; you can trust Him.

I love you, Emma Josephine.



I love cool, Fall weather

We’re in the middle of August and should be experiencing the heat of the summer. And yet, I awoke this morning enveloped in a cool breeze. Caressed in the perfect balance of blanket and cold.

As if the key which activates an old machine, the cool air comes through and begins to turn the cogs of my best self. I felt rested this morning. Never do I ever feel rested but with a cold nose and cracked window, I felt rested. And perhaps it doesn’t only affect me.

Emma greeted me this morning with a warm arm draped around my neck. Cheek to cheek she stayed for a perfect moment in time, smiling at her mother. Can she feel the turning cogs too?

Miss Rumphius

“In the meantime Alice got up and washed her face and ate porridge for breakfast. She went to school and came home and did her homework.

And pretty soon she was grown up.” – Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

The Skeleton in the Closet I’ve Asked Someone Else to Clean for Me

A few months ago, I asked about our marriages. How are they? How are they holding up under the early months of parenthood?

I’m making a list of all the things to say to new parents when I meet their new bundles, you know. I’ve said it before but in my list you won’t find a single “Isn’t it the best?” or “Cherish these moments.” because it wasn’t and I didn’t. Instead, you will find “It gets better.” and “It’s okay if you don’t love it right now.” and “How’s your marriage?” because those are the things that I needed to hear. The things that shed some light under the crack of the closet door I tried to lock my skeletons in over this past year.

Our marriage.

This was a hard year on our marriage. It was hard on us as individuals and I suppose that’s what made it hard on our marriage. No taking turns. We were both depleted… And people do different things when they’re depleted.

I, for instance, need every little thing entered into my calendar. No surprises. Not an impromptu grocery trip. Not a spur-of-the-moment house project. Nothing that I can’t see coming well in advance. Spontaneity derails me.

Fred, on the other hand, needs everything in its physical place. Spotless. Not an article of clothing misplaced. Not a sock unmatched. Not a floor unswept. It unnerves him to have clutter, laundry, or dishes out.

We’re different. Our differences are what help us fall in love but they’re also what drive us apart. During periods of this past year, our differences made our marriage cantankerous. We’ve been working on it, of course (as clashing clans, brothers on opposite sides of battle lines), but it hasn’t been easy. Each unable or unwilling to give in first.

My version of the story is that Fred is highly OCD and has unrealistc standards for new parents with a house and a shedding dog. I don’t believe my house is unkept (in fact, a girlfriend of mine just voted it in the top tier of homes in our friend rotation), but our routine – or lack thereof – was driving my husband insane. Bitterly insane.

I couldn’t keep up. With two of us working full time and dinner and trying to read as many books to Emma as we can before she passes out and bath time, we ran out of options. We had tried to keep during the week when Emma went to bed but were exhausted. We tried to scrub and organize everything during the weekend but we desperately wanted to engage with Emma, to encourage her steps and exploration and babbles.

So a few weeks ago, Fred hired a cleaning service to come in every so often and press the reset button. It feels like a shameful thing to spend money on to me. To ask someone to come into my home with a duster and clean the cobwebs off the skeleton in my closet – to expose my inability to keep up.

After the first cleaning, I asked Fred if it gave him the peace he needed and he said it did. If logic trumped feeling, it would be the end of this story. Our version of marriage counseling. If we were in the context of the workplace, I would praise us both for coming up with a great solution to an impasse. But logic doesn’t always trump feeling and although I know it was the right thing, it doesn’t feel very satisfying to me.

Scheduling the first visit was a cease fire, in a way. Since then, the pressure of not keeping up has eased. It’s out in the open – good, bad, or indifferent. Fred has asked me to share my calendar with him. We even had a dinner date, the three of us, where we laughed and shared across the table in a way that felt comfortable and familiar.

I’m starting to wonder if God isn’t using this time to encourage me to seek help more often. To allow others to use their gifts to lift me up. Here I am trying to forge ahead and encourage others and God is asking me to be vulnerable and let someone else help me clean the skeleton in my closet.

If so, it’s been a hard lesson to learn… But no doubt a valuable one.

A House Peppered with Laughter

Emma Josephine,

You have peppered this house with laughter. I choose “peppered” over “filled” because pepper is the best seasoning you can add to any dish, hands down. And because I’m hungry.

The point is, I watch you with curiosity as you learn, move, act, react, eat, sleep, play, and I always catch myself smiling, chuckling, or head-back-laughing at your antics. Right now, you’re banging on the window with a teether hanging out of your mouth. I’m not quite sure what you’re banging at or where you found that thing, if I’m being completely honest, but your eyes are smiling as you swing your body around to look at me. You have joy. You look insane, by the way. You often do. Maybe that’s because you’re so carefree. And that’s worth laughing about too.

I guess all I’m saying is, thank you. Allow me to show my gratitude by pulling the tennis ball and your tiny hands away from the dog’s water dish. And please don’t eat his food.

Love always,


What about our marriages?

Can I be honest?

I mean completely, nakedly honest?

I think we need to talk about something. Something that has fallen between the cracks as the march against Mommy Wars and the parade of BuzzFeed truths has taken over our lives as new moms.

I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground lately, searching for rumblings that this heaviness on my heart is a common thread among us, even if it’s just a few. It’s hard to pick out, but I think it’s there – that quiet hum of fearful acknowledgement.

Can we talk about our marriages?

When I pictured becoming a parent, I pictured long nights. Stressful cries. Loads of laundry and dirty diapers. An isolation of sorts, or was it superiority, over becoming “mom” – the one who nourishes in a way that no one else can. I pictured myself in a role that only I could fill, but in the same way, I also pictured my husband right by my side. I pictured us as this daring duo of exhaustion and love. Tired smiles shared across the room. My hands-on hubby and me.

Us against the world.

But “us against the world” easily becomes “us against each other.” It happens when it’s not my turn to get up in the night and there’s no way I’m doing any favors. Or when he expected that I’d do X while he was doing Y. Or when I realize that I’m not even sure how to press the reset button anymore… because it used to be at that corner table at that delicious restaurant over a bottle of red and a few hours of shared plates and laughs but it moved… and I’m not sure exactly where it is right now but I know that it’s not there because hours away from home and a fat bill at the end of the night just doesn’t sound right.

I’ve started reaching out over the past few weeks. Tentatively searching for some sort of sanctuary among friends. For accountability, having spoken a fear out loud and been challenged to conquer it.

I worry about my marriage.

I worry that we’re losing sight of our friendship as we focus so singularly on our beautiful daughter. We made an honest vow that we would not put her above our relationship. God first. Spouse second. Children third. It was honest not because we’ve honored it but because we meant it with such earnest belief that it could be done.

I’ve read article after article about the things they should’ve warned me about before having a baby but feel as though I’m suddenly met with this echoing abyss when I ask about our marriages. Are our marriages okay? Will we begin to perform this double juggling act by muscle memory? And how do I push reset when our favorite places don’t hold the same appeal?

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s one of those off-days in marriage that can be fixed with an overpriced bottle of wine. I don’t have one definitive answer except to say that I’ve been praying for my marriage. And so has Freddy. And we’ve been asking our small groups to do the same. And some of our friends. Because I think our marriages are worth it. They’re worth giving over to God and asking that he would make his presence known in our lives and use this period of new parenthood to strengthen the bond that he himself has blessed.

New moms, I pray that God would use our marriages as a testimony of faith. Use our marriages to bless others. And I hope that even if you haven’t experienced any stress in your marriage – in that husband and wife portion of your life – I hope that you can join me in my prayer or say one for me and mine.

I’d love to do the same for you.

Meijer Runs and Grass Grown Green

I was in Meijer this week.

I’ve had several days off over the holidays so after several illnesses ravaged our house and left the place ransacked, I decided to finally make the most out of being at home with Emma. I bundled her up for some grocery shopping and made the decision to slow down. To focus on making her laugh through the aisles instead of shushing and pacifier-passing as I hurried through my list.

It sounds terrible, but it’s become very hard for me to slow down and enjoy the moment. To take myself off of cruise control. To stop going through the motions. When I’m in my weekly routine, I feel like time is constantly nipping at my heels. I focus on getting to the next thing, to the next thing, to the next thing. And I really don’t want Emma to grow up thinking she’s a calendar task, even if I use them to keep some of her routine straight.

So I went into Meijer and I forced big smiles on my exhausted face. I played peek-a-boo through aisles and I tickled toes. I swooped in again and again for kisses. And it felt good to hear Emma giggle for such an extended period of time but it also felt a little like being a phony. I fully believe in the saying “Fake it ’til you make it!” but I was acutely aware that the image I was portraying on the outside did not match my desperate desire for a nap or a really, really long shower. It didn’t show the lack of sleep, the cold turned flu that stole some of the days I had set aside for storing up energy. The pile of laundry waiting for me after I returned from the store or time at my heels.

I was waiting in line, kissing and tickling and babbling back, when a woman in her 50s turned around and said “You probably aren’t that cheery at 2am, are you? This must be your first.”

Where I thought I might get a response like “Good for you! They’re a blessing, aren’t they?” I was met with either annoyance over my perceived naivety or the envy that I know I’ve felt in the past toward other moms who have it all together. I wanted to tell her that I was pretending. That I was forcing it. But I smiled and shared some small talk before swooping in again and again for kisses.

We’ve got to start celebrating each other as moms. Not just NOT JUDGING. We have to take it a step further. The next time a mom tells me her child is sleeping through the night, I hope I can say “Good for you!” without following it up with my own sob story to make them feel guilted for the good days (or nights). I hope the next time I see a child opening wide for bite after bite, I can clap my hands for them without talking about what a struggle it is to get a spoon in my daughter’s mouth.

And I hope the next time someone calls me out in one of my good days, I can remind them that we’ve got to celebrate the good days because sometimes they feel so far apart. Is the grass really greener? It depends at what time you look. We all have different seasons.