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I don’t think this summer played out quite like any of us expected. Just as “things” in our nation seemed to be settling down, they’ve begun to ramp back up again. From frightening international and local headlines to endless political and social debates, plus more division than I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, it was not exactly the summer of freedom and healing we all expected or hoped for. My heart breaks a little more with each new development and it’s hard to not feel fearful when so much of what I (we) have taken for granted seems to be dwindling away.

Though circumstances in our nation and the world at large seem dire, life within my own little world has followed the opposite trajectory. For me, this summer HAS been one of freedom, healing, and renewal—quite unexpectedly so. I won’t rehash the darkness of the past handful of seasons for me, but it is no exaggeration to say that this summer I feel as though I have been resurrected. Instead of waking up every morning wondering how I will survive to bedtime, I now meet each day with excited anticipation for all the day might hold. I am finding joy, purpose, fulfillment, and peace within my relationships, my hobbies, and simply engaging in life.

This renewal has led to a season of learning that is more grounded and purposeful, more life-giving and less desperate. The lessons within my personal life are sinking deeper within me, and observations of the outside world—heartbreaking as they have been—have inspired me to action and prayer rather than flinging me into despair. Not all of this season’s lessons have been happy or easy ones, but nearly all have been hopeful.

In the World of Motherhood, I Learned. . .

How to be a mom to three kids.

I’ve been a mom to three for nearly two years now, but this season I learned how to be a mom to three KIDS and not a big kid and two babies. As sad as it was to leave the baby stage behind, I find that parenting three who are in a more similar developmental stage is much easier and more enjoyable for me than the season we just exited. There are new challenges (getting out and about with three walkers rather than using a stroller isn’t easy, and we are starting to encounter more bickering over activity preferences and toys), but getting to enjoy life as a whole family has been immensely rewarding.

I have a unique role as the mother in our family.

This book opened my eyes to the biological differences between boys and girls, and also between mothers and fathers. It helped me to see that as a woman and my kids’ mom, I am able to meet certain needs that Luke as their dad simply can’t, particularly in the realm of emotional intelligence and nurturing. This is freeing me to let go of resentment towards Luke over things he is better at than me (like teaching physical skills or playing) OR his inability to take on responsibilities that he isn’t designed to carry (helping our kids process their thoughts and feelings). Neither of these roles is superior or inferior to the other, they are just different, and our family functions at its best when Luke and I each parent from our strengths.

Our days go most smoothly when we leave the house in the morning.

The twins dropped their morning nap this summer. It was not something I had looked forward to, but it has proven to be a positive development as we are no longer stuck at home for so much of the day. With this shift, though, we have learned that we simply must get out of the house in the mornings if we want to avoid crankiness and chaos. So every day, we get up and dressed and, after breakfast, leave for the gym or church or the library or a playdate or errands. . . the where doesn’t really matter, so much as that it happens. The twins get a catnap in the car that carries them over to the late afternoon nap; Charleston gets something to do; I get a bit of a break from being at home; and Luke gets a quiet house for a few hours so he can work in peace. Oh, and we get to run the Roomba while we are gone, so I always come home to clean floors!

We are a family of readers.

This summer all three of my children have grown in their love of books. The twins will spend hours looking through their picture books and beg for me to read with them at every chance we get. Charleston has become increasingly excited about chapter books and even reading picture books to the twins. Our first grade curriculum relies heavily on literature, and even outside of school time I find that we are using books more than any other resource to learn about . . . well, about everything! As a reader myself this is a dream come true for me and I can only hope that my three mini bibliophiles will grow into adults who cherish books.

About Myself, I Learned . . .

There is a distinct difference between vulnerability and transparency.

I’ve spent years trying to understand the difference between these two qualities, and this conversation offered the best explanation I’ve come across: transparency is when we live our lives within a glass box for others to see (i.e., sharing openly online) but vulnerability is when we shatter the glass and let others join us inside. To bring the message home, transparency is fairly easy for me: I (obviously) have no problem sharing about my life for many to read, and I even talk openly about myself and my struggles in real life. It is harder for me to allow others to step into these struggles, because this invites accountability and likely involves addressing “the hard stuff.” I don’t love this about myself, but it’s good information to have, and gives clarity to an area I need to work on.

My body is not a problem.

I read a number of transformative books this season, but none had as much of a lasting impact as this one. Since reading it, I have completely changed the way I talk to myself about my appearance. When I notice new wrinkles or hate my hair, am annoyed by the shape and shade of my teeth or resent the size of my belly, I try to catch myself and remember that my body was created by God, and GOD DOES NOT CREATE BAD THINGS. Of course there are imperfections. Of course my body does not always function as I wish it would. Of course grooming and self care and healthy habits are important. But my body itself is not a problem to be solved, and focusing too much time on my flaws takes my gaze away from the Creator and disparages that which He has said is good. Truthfully, it’s easy for me to say these things, harder to believe them, harder still to live a lifestyle that reflects this belief. But I have taken great strides in this area in recent months and am happy to be on this path.

Life is an incredible gift, one I too often take for granted.

To get totally candid (and morbid) for a minute: in early summer, I began having spiraling thoughts and terrifying premonitions that I was about to die. I have never feared death, but I’ve also never felt like I was on death’s doorstep. However, a combination of factors in late May and early June had me convinced that my life was going to end at any minute. I had moved from a season of not knowing how I would keep going, to being afraid I would not be granted the chance to do so. These fears (possibly unfounded, though I cannot be sure) were a much-needed wakeup call that I needed to start taking this precious life seriously. I am eager to go to Heaven, and the thought of leaving this earth does not scare me. But my children need me here. I believe God still has work for me to do here. So even if my body does begin to fail, I refuse to go down without a fight. I have seen how much I have to live for and I won’t give up on any of it.

On Faith and God, I Learned . . .

Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health go hand in hand.

As I exited the depression that marked much of my past year, I feared that the fierce communion I felt with God at that time would fall away as well. The opposite has been true. The desperate qualities of my faith are no longer present, but in their place is an eagerness to CHOOSE to rely on Him throughout the day. It’s the difference between a newborn needing to be carried by her father and a toddler who desires to be carried for the sake of connection. Mental clarity, improved physical energy, and emotional wholeness have all fostered a healthier spiritual life, which in turn fuels my health in these other areas.

We are God’s mail carriers, not His editors.

I don’t recall where I heard this line a few months ago, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I’ve been pondering what it looks like to be someone who shares God’s messages of love, truth, and hope without feeling the need to be to explicit. How can I inspire others to follow God without attempting to drag them to Him? Closer to home, how can I share my faith with my children, without trying to live their faith for them?

It’s important to be filling my mind and my soul with “good stuff.”

We all know how important it is to guard children’s minds and hearts from negative messages (through music, shows, cultural conversations, etc.). Lately, I’m noticing how important this same filtering is for me as an adult. Without my notice, I have been deeply affected by unsavory elements in books I read and podcasts I consume—whether that’s bad language, or derisive tone or anti-Biblical messaging. On the flip side, when I am reading books, listening to music, watching shows, and following news that is marked by truth and goodness, I am subtly molded more into Christ’s image. This is Philippians 4:8 in action, and it’s something I’ve always known and am just starting to completely understand for myself. To this end, I’m being more intentional with the content I’m choosing to consume and the voices I’m following. I am filling my cup with things that are excellent and praiseworthy so that there is little room left for all the junk.

I need Jesus, desperately.

I have no idea how people get through life without Jesus by their side. . . ever, but especially in 2021. For me, this world would be unnavigable, this life unsustainable, without God’s Word as my standard, His comforting presence in the difficult moments, His wisdom in tough decisions, and His guidance in knowing what to think, where to turn, or who to believe. I am broken without Him. This world is chaos without Him. All of Creation aches for His return. I see so much that is unfixable; He is our only solution. So I listen and I pray and I hope for that which seems hopeless (and likely is) without His intervention.

The rewards that come with saying YES to stepping up in ministry.

To end on a lighter note—our experience of volunteering to host a backyard VBS in our home in July was the high point of our summer. I was terrified to take on this responsibility, but it was fun and fruitful and opened our family (and hopefully our community) to tremendous blessings. We will absolutely be participating in this event again next summer and I’m excited about similar opportunities God brings us before then.

I am not sure what the coming season holds for me, our family, our nation or our world at large. I have no doubt the lessons will once again be abundant. Meanwhile, I will watch and wait and wonder at what I have learned, am learning, and will learn in the months ahead.

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