The Biggest Role of Their Life

I was 22 and not even married for a year when we became pregnant with our first.  My husband and I love kids but our "plan" was to be married for 5 to 7 years before bringing some one else into a mess we were trying to figure out.  We learned early in our marriage God's plan is not always our plan but He always wins.

We were excited for this new little person. We knew it would be a girl and we knew what her name would be from the first "Ultimate Baby Name Book" we read.  We felt like we knew her. We knew her little personality ever since we found out about her and we loved her.  Despite the all day nausea, the insane migraines and sleeping in a recliner, we ate up that pregnancy.  

We were realistic about pregnancy and parenting though.  It'll be hard. Labor and delivery will be hard.  Having and infant will be hard but boy did we already love the pieces out of our little Elle Belle.  We didn't really do a birth plan because we knew, all planning goes out the window once that process starts.  We had preferences and things we'd like but we didn't even write it down because, "Why?"

Turns out that was a good thing.  Our dear Elle Belle (or "Ellie Belly" while she was a big belly that existed) was breach.  We ended up having a scheduled c-section which was totally fine.  Aside from that, our pregnancy was easy, fun.  We grew in girth and excitement every day as our scheduled c-section came closer.

The day finally arrived and I was shaking with excitement, and probably some drugs.  My OB was fantastic and we talked about beer while I was having a baby removed from me.  I was so excited to meet her.  While they were cleaning her and sewing me up I felt like I was jumping with excitement in between the dry heaving from the drugs (pregnancy and childbirth is so great guys).  Then, they placed her in my arms and I though, "Yep.  That's a baby."

That was it.

There were no tears of joy to be holding my first born.  No laughter at the fact that our lives were now utterly altered.  No fright at how much responsibility we now had.  It was completely anticlimactic and I felt horrible.

Why wasn't I bursting with joy, pride, love?

This was my first child and I'd been anticipating this moment well beyond my 9 months of pregnancy.  I'd been waiting for this day since I was a kid.  Since I had my first baby doll.  All those years babysitting and volunteering in the nursery.  I'd waited for this moment and here it was and nothing.  

It didn't last long.  By the time we left the hospital we loved cuddling our little bundle and she stole our hearts again, this time postpartum.  We've cried tears of joy over her, laughed at how much our lives have changed and experienced many moments of fright at how we're suppose to be responsible.  Suppose to be.  We've burst with joy, pride, and love over our little girl and all our kids.  

That first meeting with my daughter haunted my motherhood.  I didn't realize until later why this was my initial feeling.  I spent years wondering if I was a horrible mother because this was my first reaction to my first child.  "I'm not a loving mother.  What mother doesn't feel love for their newborn baby?"  But it wasn't a lack of love.

I didn't feel like she was mine.  

After 10 years and 3 more kids, I feel a little more ownership (especially when I see my traits exhibited) but she's still not mine.  She never will be.  From that first baby name book, our Ellianna Evangeline was claimed by Jesus.  Even before that.  We prayed for her together after I prayed as a kid and "my God has answered me" (which incidentally is the meaning for "Ellianna").  She does not belong to me just as I do not belong to my parents.  I thank the Lord for trusting me with this goofy, smart, and beautiful girl but I know she is not for me.  Her purpose in this world is far greater than anything I can raise her for and God was preparing me for this from the first day I saw her face.

As if God was saying, "Do not hold on to her.  You're quiver will be full so that you may shoot the arrows (Psalm 127:5). Not for them to stay."  She is not for me.  She is for God.  I love her and each of my kids with all my heart more and more each day but they are not mine and when he calls them, I cannot hold them back from Him.  

How could I claim that my desire to keep them is more important than whatever mission He has for them.  How can I think that my plan is better than His plan.  How can I think I would win against the one who always wins.  I can't wait to see the part they play for the one who wins it all and know I didn't hold them back from the biggest role of their life.


The "Fitness" Body

Can we just call BS on the "fitness body" please. I just can't anymore.

This weekend I will be participating in the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Walk at the Mall Of America in Bloomington, MN with some amazing people. As inspiring as the event is, it makes me sad to see all the individuals that struggle with body image and those of us in fitness are a huge part of that struggle.  

Let's be honest here. When you search #fitness, #health, #workout, even #workoutmotivation. Does what you see motivate you? Or are they images of unrealistic bodies actually shaming us? After talking with some of my classes most of these gym selfies just seem ridiculous. I'm not talk transformation shots. Those can be incredibly motivating if the individual is still healthy. But that's just it! How many of these images are actually healthy? What looks healthy on one person can be sick for another. So can we just call BS and stop "liking" all the sick healthy images? 

Here's what I'm asking us to do. Before liking that photo on whatever social media platform, take a look at the majority of the content of the individual or group. Does it reflect a healthy, balanced lifestyle? Or is it bikini selfies? Yeah I just outed a large portion of the "fitness professionals." Sorry guys but we have to step up. Bikini selfies posed just perfectly in just the right lighting does not a healthy lifestyle make. Am I right?

Fitness agencies and professionals: stop feeding into the image. We see ALL body types and images at the gym. Stop supporting ONLY the people that look the way YOU want them to look. Stop feeding into the lie that tall, thin or tall, ripped individuals are the only way healthy looks. I’m just saying, we all know who LOOKS like they belong there but can we maybe support the people that need the support to be there.

The gym is about becoming the best you. Stop making society one image. We’re all different and our healthy looks different on each of us. Stop following the individual that sets unrealistic expectations for society and follow the one that encourages and inspires. Or maybe follow both of you can but the superheroes are the ones doing the good even when we don’t see. They are the ones doing it because it’s the right thing to do, not because they get likes or follows for it. Be healthy: mind, body, soul because that’s the best way to live and that’s what these individuals this weekend are trying to do disputes the messed up view the majority of society has. I’m proud to stand with real people.

Join real people to support more real people this weekend for a healthy future for everyone.


In the Trenches

You know how you can see the same thing on social media and the first time you see it maybe you scroll by it, depending on how appealing it looks to you.  Like, "I don't like that font so I'm not going to read it."  Maybe the second time it looks the same but some one slightly more credible to you posts it so you "like" it but then it just keeps popping up and you want to be like, "yeah, I got it. Can we move on now?" 

Well Jim Rohn's quote was like that for me.  Don't get me wrong I still think its good but I'm over it and I kind of feel like it puts me at a disadvantage.  Rohn's quote says, "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with." It's good right? It inspires one of those, "ooooo," moments in us.

So, if you were to take an inventory of the people in your life the most who would you see?

The last time this quote came up I was at a woman's night and experienced the same hesitation you are likely experiencing.  You see the majority of the people I spend most of my time with call me, "mom." So you could understand how I would have hesitations about being the average of these four since they are 11, 9, 5, and 4.  Don't get me wrong I can throw a fit like a pro when I don't get my favorite cup too but, it's just really hard for me to believe that these four make up most of who I am.

But I think this is a great perspective because most people have friends they acquire through their stage of life right? You have your work buddies, your soccer mom friends, your college pals, your neighborhood crew. Most of our friends we find through convenience.  We start this as kids.  Our best friends are often the ones just down the street or around the corner.  They go to our school maybe they are even in our class so we see them every day.

That same thing happens as we grow.  Dorm mates, college friends with the same major, co-workers in our same department. I'm not saying this is always the case or these are our only friends but typically our five contain the people we spend our every day with and for most of us that is co-workers.  

If/When we get married our focus changes more toward our spouse but the general concept remains.  Then we have kid or kids and goodness gracious the whole word changes.  

Now I have spent time as wife, mom, and full time outside the house job while also juggling full time school and other part time jobs.  I will not lie and say I dreamt of being a stay at home mom because I didn't. When my first two kids were 3 and 4 I had the brilliant idea of taking a staycation with my kids and my mom even came for the fun.  Monday through Friday. I was ready to go back by Wednesday. Even after the birth of my first; I was ready to go back to work after 4 weeks.  If you had told me to take a year to bond with my baby I probably would have slapped you and thought you were crazy.  

Well, December 31, 2014 was my last office day.  Not only did I quit my nice office job with built-in friends (yes I did have that person in the office I tried to avoid), I decided it would be perfect for us to homeschool. Some one should have slapped me! Okay if we're being honest I decided none of this right. God said, "stay home," so I did.  God said, "thou shalt homeschool," so I did.  Now we're only on year three and I still think he's crazy but I'm doing a mix of it and this is what I've gleaned so far.

I have lost most contact with the outside world even though we leave the house every. day. Maybe one day we don't but we are out there.  My crazy coworkers are my kids. They are ALL that person in the office I try to avoid. My oldest son asked me once, "mom, when are we (the kids) not at the house and you are?" 

"Never. We are always. together."

I feel bad for any adult that engages in conversation with me because I just get so excited to have an adult conversation. My kid's social skills are fine, it's mine I worry about.  And this isn't about homeschooling.  I think all moms have felt this.  We call it, "being in the trenches."  

The trench starts just after the birth of your first child. We get in and the baby is just so gosh darn cute we usually don't take notice of the fact that we can't see the end of the trench. We just stare at those adorable fingers and watch them sleep. "Did you see that? She just sighed. I've never seen anyone so young sigh so wonderfully before. She's the best sigher. She can out-sigh any baby." It's a fun and pretty trench at this point. It probably looks more like a garden maze. Those seem fun.

At some point, usually with "solid" foods and attempts at communicating with our child as well as any friends we use to see regularly, we are in an ugly, muddy, probably smelly trench.  We feel alone. We cannot see the end of the trench. All we see is brown. All we smell is yuck. All we feel is sticky and gooey. Everything we hear seems to be amplified like we're in a tunnel (loud and echoing).  And everything we taste is garbage (hot dogs and tater-tots anyone). The people we come in contact with is our own troop trying to get through the trench safely.  Occasionally we'll come upon another troop but they looks just as crazed and disheveled as us and the most we can manage is, "we got this."

If you're a mom who works outside the home as well, I want to applaud you.  I don't remember how I got things done and you're probably doing better than I did at home management but you are rock stars for juggling family and career.  Maybe you feel stressed trying to do it all, maybe you don't but you're not alone. Look around.  Many times though, you guys have something the stay at home mom's don't. You have each other. You have your 5 people that can have an adult conversation with.  Now if for some reason you don't, please look at who your co-workers are and ask God to put on your heart one of them that should be part of your 5. You women are in the trenches too but Monday-Friday from 9-5 a rope is extended down to you.

For those who do not work outside the home...I'd like to tell you to look at the women around you and tell you there is potential here for your 5.  The reality is when we get in this trench we are rarely able to look around outside our troop.  Maybe I'm the only one struggling with this but I have a suspicion I'm not. So here is what I'm suggesting.

If you are not in the trench, reach out to some one that is. They aren't hard to identify. Cereal stuck somewhere.  Looks exhausted. Possibly has a child hanging off them.  If you are pre-trench or post-trench, it doesn't matter.  Here is what you do: when you're on your way home from work to catch up on your favorite show and you're stopping to grab a coffee (I can't be the only one that drinks coffee at 5 pm) text her. Find out what she wants, not what she needs. Get her a coffee or smoothie (or water she may be dehydrated) and stop by her house.  For 5 minutes, see her. Hear her. It might take 10 minutes because the kids will interrupt every 30 seconds. 

This is what I love about my 5, honestly I don't have 5 I think I have 2, maybe 3. They stop by. No expectations except to see me.  They will hang out at my house with me no matter what it looks like. No matter who is there. No matter what they sat on or what they have to move to find a place to sit.  They let me mom and friend at the same time.  They continue my conversation with them while I'm also directing my kids because if we don't we never get to have a conversation. If you're waiting for the chaos to stop, it won't. I have 4 kids.  There is a reason we are the circus. They don't get upset if I ask them to repeat something. They'll stay late. They give me their time even if mine is split.

It is hard to be in the trenches. If you're not there, we can still pour in to you.  We do have a lot to offer.  If you're through yours, remember what it was like. We have a compassion for those that will go through the trench. We have a respect and desire to learn from those that went through it. The trenches are tough but we can help each other prepare for them and get through them.


1 Year

It has been just over a year.  I'd like to say lots has changed. Maybe it has and I just don't see it, living in it. In fact, I'm sure lots has changed but I don't see it.

In either case I'd like to write more. I know I'm not a writer but I know I enjoy writing so I'm going to. I'm going to do it for me and because God told me to. In my experience its best to do what he asks. I don't like journaling. My hand hurts writing. Maybe this is my way of journaling.

But what is going on now? What has happened in the last year?

Elle is now at a charter school 45 minutes from our house but it s such a good fit for her.  Classical education and lots of reading.  This girl is smarter than me but don't tell her I said that.

We are still homeschooling Gabe. He has been seeing a therapist to help with his explosiveness. He's such a sweet kid. Over the past year he has started to discover his voice. It's been so amazing to see and hear him process. This kid is absolutely amazing in the way he thinks and we encourage him to continue thinking the way he does because he will change the world.

Reese has been doing kindergarten work at home. She will be joining Elle at the charter school next year. I can't believe she will actually be in kindergarten. Look out world!

Ty just turned 4. He is and will always be the baby. We love him dearly and are thoroughly enjoying watching him grow and his little personality explode.

We were so incredibly blessed for Kyle to get a teaching contract for the year. He's working at a residential treatment facility for teen boys as a middle school/high school teacher.  It's not where he thought he'd be but he's definitely doing what he knew he was called to do: make a difference in the life of troubled teens. It is a constant reminder to us that what God calls us to may look different than what we perceive, that we should remain patient and trust in our provider.

God has been good in allowing me to continue my job as a group fitness instructor at multiple location teaching Zumba® and STRONG by Zumba®. I've been blessed to hold several master classes for both formats and continue to pray about expanding my portfolio.

He has been good. He is good. He will continue to be good. Through the last year his steadiness is a blessing. He provides daily. Just like the manna. A daily miracle God provided which the Israelites lost sight of as a miracle (Numbers 11). How many little miracles do we lose sight of when he is so faithful in providing them every day?

Lord help me to be continually thankful in the midst of my hardships and your continued faithfulness. Help me crave only you and resist complaining. Help me bring forth praise in your hearing for all you have allowed in my life. Your will is great. Your plan is greater. Your way is better than any I could ask or imagine. I trust you Lord.


The Little Engine That Can't

This book sits on my sons' nightstand among LEGOS and matchbox cars. Actually, as you can see, two copies of this book sit on my sons' nightstand.  If you have only ever read the abridged version, good for you. If you have the full version, I'm sorry. It goes on forever doesn't it.  I cry a little when he picks the long version.

We're all familiar with the story even if we haven't read it. A train can't make it over the mountain and the contents of the train (toys, stuffed animals, a toy clown) try to find an alternate ride.  If only Uber worked for trains.  In the end a little blue engine comes along that thinks she can so she does. YAY! Happy ending right? It totally is. Don't worry, I'm not going to ruin it.

But have you ever read the story from the first engine's perspective? Or do you read it from the little blue engine's?  The focus is usually on the Little Blue Engine. "I think I can." The phrase, "If you think you can you can," is one used in our house all the time.  We want to be the one that saves the day. We want to be the one that overcomes. We all want to be the Little Blue Engine but sometimes we are undoubtedly the first engine in the story.

I was so exhausted one night but by the grace of God was obedient to reading to my son (please don't pick the long version).  Reading through the story for the millionth time, suddenly God gave me different eyes. 

The first train was carrying wonderful things to the kids on the other side of the mountain: food, toys, stuffed animals.  That's a lot of stuff it has to pull behind. The mission is a good one but it can get heavy.  I have an amazing journey, we each do, but there are a lot of things we pull with us.

No matter what stage of life we're in we have a mission and there are things we must bring with us for these missions.  And these things can get heavy.  I think we've all been in that place.  The place where we just need someone. Maybe we don't want the train to take our load but to just come along side us.  We want to keep going but we have stopped with a jerk and simply cannot go another inch.

Three different trains come along right.  We could dissect and analyze these trains forever but just go with me here.  Each train is at it's own stage and we're not gonna blame them for not helping.  We don't know their story.  We each have our own journey and that night, in my journey I was that first, tired engine.

Most days I feel like the last engine (the tired, rusty, old engine) but this night, I hadn't even completed my trip. I couldn't get through my day. I couldn't even muster, "I like I can." I was Phoebe in FRIENDS.  I didn't even have a pla- (Do you have a plan?). I couldn't even ask for help. The funny little clown had to do it for me.

Finally along came this little engine who didn't have a load to carry. She had a job. She had an important job. She switched trains in the yard. But she saw a need and she tried.  She knew she could do more than what other trains expected of her and so she pushed herself.

Now I don't want "Little Blue" to take my load. I love my load. Maybe she could just go in front of me chug, chugging and puff, puffing, "I think we can. I think WE can."  These "Little Blue" friends are amazing and I'm insanely grateful for my "Little Blues" but lets look back at the first engine.

Am I alone in this? Am I the only one who read "The Little Engine That Could" and cried feeling like the first engine and so happy "Little Blue" came along? I mean usually I'm all, "Yay Little Blue. I think I can too! Let's do this!" But what am I suppose to do when I am that first engine?

Those magical words, "self care," are ringing in your ears aren't they.  If you're like me when you hear "self care" you visualize a day at the spa being completely pampered but for most of us that's just not realistic.  We can relate to the scene in "Bad Moms" when the "fantasize" about a minor car accident so they get to be "pampered" in the hospital (just to be clear we don't really want that to happen). So what are some practical ways to take care of yourself?

My favorite is a book and a cup of coffee. Even that doesn't happen very often.  A coffee date with a friend maybe. The one that lets you out from the inside. Some days we might be able to treat yourself to a shopping spree or a spa day but be content in the warm cup of coffee now too.

When we are in the circus, finding time for self care requires more sacrifice than wrangling the lion.  But if we don't find that time we will sacrifice something much greater.