Can You See Me?

It’s a beautiful February day here in Tennessee. Temperatures are in the 60s, a stark contrast to last week where we had snow, ice and temperatures in the teens. (To all my non-fahrenheit readers, not sure how to help you since Celsius is a mystery to me. 32 degrees F is when ice freezes, a super hot day in summer would be in the 90s.) I returned from taking my kids to school and then collapsed on the couch, not fully awake. My four year old immediately launched into a plea for me to take him to the park. Right away. Let’s get our shoes on right now Mom! Uggh. I managed to put him off until 9am when I finally gave in and got the boys ready to go out. We walked out onto the front porch and I looked around for my double stroller which has been parked on my porch for the past six months. Not there. I called my husband, thinking maybe he had put it in the shed? He said no, it should be on the porch. Still not there. I finally had to come to the conclusion that someone had walked off with it. We haven’t had stuff stolen in a while, especially since our dog does a pretty good job of scaring strangers away. Double uggh.

Ok, fine. We’ll just walk without a stroller. The park is only two and half blocks away, surely the two year old can make it. Well, about half way he decided that, No, he couldn’t make it. We had a showdown in the middle of the sidewalk for about five minutes. I insisted he could walk. He insisted I should carry him. I told him I would hold him, but I wasn’t walking with him, he had to walk to the park. So, he would refuse to walk then hold his hands up for me to pick him up. I would pick him up and then refuse to walk. He would urge me forward and I would tell him that if he wanted to go the playground he had to walk there. He finally figured out I wasn’t moving on this and so he wiggled back down to the sidewalk and proceeded to run the entire rest of the way to the park, which solidified my theory that he wasn’t tired, just lazy. I also knew that by the time he was done playing on the playground he was going to be truly exhausted and then I was going to have to carry him all the way home. I needed to conserve my energy for the return trip.

The entire time on the playground the kids kept turning to me, “Mommy look!” “Mommy come help me with this!” “Mommy! See!” “Mommy!” As I trailed around behind them on the playground I thought about how important it was that I see them. They had an insatiable need to be seen. In fact, all my kids have this need. A big chunk of my parenting is simply giving my kids attention. Listening to their stories. Looking at the things they make. Watching the new tricks they’ve learned. Finding out about their day. When my kids get home from school I sit in my chair or on the couch and I just listen. For a couple hours. It doesn’t look like I’m doing a whole lot. Just sitting there. But, for this introvert, it’s actually the most exhausting time of my day. The time when I see my kids. See who they are. See what interests them. See their hopes and dreams.

I just started rereading a book called Taken by Dee Henderson. It’s about a woman who was kidnapped when she was sixteen. Eleven years later she finally manages to escape. This fictional book is about her return to freedom. It’s about the people who gather around her and help her make the transition, help her get justice, help her start the path of healing. I’ve read the book a couple times and I started wondering what it is about the book that keeps drawing me back. I finally figured it out this morning, while I was watching my boys play on the playground. The book is all about being Seen. It’s about a woman who has undergone trauma and pain and the people who see her and her need and who gather around her to provide her community and friendship and a strong hand to hold on to.

No wonder I keep coming back to this book. The desire to be seen doesn’t seem to go away after we leave childhood. I still have it. I still want to be noticed. I still want someone to have an interest in me and what I like and don’t like. I still want someone to come alongside me and just do life with me. I am happily married and my husband does truly see me. He cares about me and my interests and our life has completely entwined into one single life instead of two separate ones. You would think that was enough “being seen” for anyone. Somehow though, it isn’t. We long, as a couple, as a family, to be seen by others. We long to be part of a larger community. For whatever reason we find it really difficult. I know a lot of it has to do with our culture that is very self-sufficient and private. Everyone has moved off their front porch and now sits in their climate-controlled home being entertained by TV and the internet. While I have a wonderful church family, we go to a commuter church and all the people that I would love to spend more time with all live about a twenty minute drive  or more on the interstate away from me. Honestly, I could sit here and write a giant list of all the reasons it’s difficult to be in community. I’m not going to do that though, because really, I don’t think that’s the root of the problem. I think that I am the root of the problem.

We have had community before. Right here in Tennessee, despite all the obstacles that exist. We have had community. Looking back, I can tell you that the reason we had community was because we opened our home and invited people over. Regularly. Every week. We invited old friends over, and new friends over. We had big birthday parties and invited all our kids’ friends and their families. We reached out to everyone we saw and said, Hey, come on over. We’d love to have you. Come spend time with us. I would call people on the phone and just talk. Catch up.

I’m not sure what happened. Somewhere along the way I got worn out. I got tired. I got depressed. Overwhelmed. And I retreated.  Into my immediate family. Into myself. For a while there I had a hard time even interacting with my immediate family. I am a lot better now. I am embracing being with my husband and children again, but I find myself longing. Longing to be seen, to be known by a wider circle. And I’ve just figured out that in order to do that, I’ve got to start seeing other people. I’ve got to start noticing them. I’ve got to start reaching out again. It’s hard. I’m a little afraid of being burned. Rejection. But I need it. My family needs it. We need community. We need to see others and be seen by others. So, I will pray for the courage to try again. Put myself out there again. Go look for people that I can see.

Sunrises, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and My New Piano

Sunrises. I love sunrises. For many years I have been too tired to get up and enjoy them. Nowadays, though,  I am driving my kids to school early every morning and during the winter I have been enjoying a lot of sunrises. My kids’ school is only about two miles away. It takes us maybe five minutes to get there. Part of the drive to the school involves going up a big hill and then we crest at the top and suddenly we have a big view of mountains and mist and red orange light peeking through the clouds. It’s amazing. Every morning I can’t stop myself from exclaiming to the kids, “Everybody look at the sunrise! It’s amazing!” And the kids have learned to oooh and aaahh right along with me. Thanking God for the sunrise is part of our morning prayers. I have always imagined God standing at an easel, throwing paint on left and right, painting the sunrise every day. God the Creator. The Creative One.

The other day as I was driving along, enjoying the beautiful colors, I thought about how we are created in the image of God. I’ve always wondered about that, what it means exactly. I thought about God painting the sky every morning, making art and it occurred to me that when we create things, make our own art, we are, in a small sense, being like God. We were made to create because we were made in the Creator’s image.

I thought about music. I love music, but I have struggled with music over the years. As a teenager I used music as an emotional outlet. A way to vent, a way to express emotions, a safe place to feel emotions. As life got more and more complicated, harder, I found myself shying away from music. As I look back, I can see where I struggled to keep depression away, and one of my solutions to not dealing with depression or anger or a bunch of other unresolved feelings, was to shy away from feeling any emotion. Just stay neutral. Calm.

The only problem with this approach is that when you don’t allow yourself to feel bad emotions, the really good emotions go away as well. I don’t think you can fully live in joy if you don’t also allow yourself to mourn. You can’t have peace if you don’t go through the conflict first. You can’t have happiness if you don’t deal with the anger. I think that as I shut myself down emotionally, I also shut down music. I just couldn’t do it. Music was too closely tied to emotions. I could sometimes sit down and play through some Bach or Mozart in an attempt to make my brain feel orderly, but I wasn’t feeling it. And so I mostly avoided it.

Lately, I have been looking at getting back into music. My husband, excited that I was showing an interest again, went out and got me an old 1935 Wurlitzer Baby Grand, for a really good price off Craig’s List. I went with him and helped him move it. It’s a perfect fit for our house.  It’s got some history, apparently it’s original owner was a violinist with the Knoxville Symphony and she died after a long happy life at the age of 103. It’s also a bit dinged up and scratched here and there which means we won’t have to freak out if our kids add another scratch or ding. I rearranged our entire living room so that I now have a Music Room at one end. I have started practicing a bit every day. Scales, warmups, old songs I played in high school. Just easing myself back into it. I have really been enjoying myself, but I’ve wondered about the emotional side of it. Can I relax enough to let myself play with feeling? Can I let myself feel the sadness in the song? Can I let myself feel again? I’ve been a bit worried that maybe I can’t any more. Maybe that part of me is gone. 

Today I was working on getting my piano music moved to a different bookcase and I found a piece of music that I didn’t even know I owned, “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s REQUIEM. My copy was a vocal duet with piano accompaniment. It’s a beautiful, simple song written in latin. The English translation that is written on the music gives the words as this:

Merciful Jesus, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.

Oh Lamb of God, who takest away the sin of the world, grant them eternal rest.

I sat down and started to sing it and play along. Alas. I am not a talented soprano and there was no way I could sing that high. My voice couldn’t bring justice to the beauty of the song. I stopped playing for a minute. And then I remembered my piano teacher, Ms. Wong, telling me to make the notes sing, make the melody sing. And I realized, I can’t sing the song, but I can make the piano sing it. And I did. And my fingers made the melody sing and it was beautiful. When I finally finished I sat there, feeling fidgety, like I needed to get up and do something. I stood up and went over the other side of my living room where I was still rearranging other books onto a shelf. (Moving my living room around created a couple projects I hadn’t been anticipating.) I was putting books back onto an empty shelf and I picked up my old Bible from years ago. I flipped it open and found myself in the book of Job, and I suddenly just wanted to read this chapter. Job 9. In this chapter Job talks about how powerful God is and how unworthy he, Job, is. In verse 33-35 he says,

“If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.”

I stopped reading and thought about how horrible that would be to have the full burden of your sins on your shoulders and no way to approach God because He is too Holy. And I suddenly realized that the song I had just played was an answer to Job’s predicament. Jesus takes away the sin of the world, and grants us rest. He removed God’s rod of punishment from us.

I went back to the piano, stared at the music again, and with fresh wonder, played the song again. And while I played, some tears fell, and I felt just a bit like my ice wall around my emotions started to crack a bit more. And I felt hopeful. Excited. I have missed music and I hadn’t even realized how much I missed it.

Here is a link to a recording of “Pie Jesu” if you’d like to hear it.

“Pie Jesu”

Fat Fridays: Week 4 First Things First

This year January first came and went and I never started up on a new diet. You know that saying that goes something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..” . Well, that’s how I feel about diets. Years of starting diets have done me very little good over the long term. I have decided this year that instead of jumping on the latest dietary fad wagon, I wanted to get to the root of why I am overweight. Why do I overeat? Why do I turn to food? Why do I constantly fail at adopting a healthier lifestyle? Perhaps if I can understand these things, I can change the base behavior that has brought me to this state. Writing the Fat Fridays blog has been a good step in this direction as far as starting to analyze why I do what I do, but I still have felt like I needed a plan, something to actively be working on.

This past Sunday in church we had several different people give words of encouragement, words of counsel, words of wisdom, and the theme I kept hearing over and over again was, you need to get off your devices (phone, internet, kindle) and give more time to God instead of submerging yourself in entertainment.

This has been nagging my conscience for a while. I have definitely developed a really bad phone addiction. I would see all these memes trying to show people just how bad their phone addiction is and I would cringe because I knew that was me. How did this addiction develop? Well, I would say that I had a real desire to not be “present” in my surroundings. It was a way I coped with depression…don’t think, just read books…don’t think, just get on Facebook…don’t think, just read some mindless articles on the internet.. It has become a full-blown addiction. Subconsciously I knew this, but I didn’t want to deal with it so I tried not to think about it.

So, this was the message I felt like God was telling me, the path he was leading me down…You want to lose weight? Ok, disconnect from your phone.. Deal with that addiction first and then you’ll be in a better place to deal with your weight loss issues.

On Tuesday I laid down the law. No more than one hour a day on the internet. Only get on my kindle when I’m exercising on my elliptical or when I have to wait in a doctor’s office or some such place as that.

It’s Thursday night and I can tell you that this has been extremely difficult. That one hour seems to disappear really quickly. I’ve done twice as much exercise because my book got really good and I didn’t want to stop reading. I went over my internet time a bit yesterday and felt guilty about that. Disconnected from the world-wide-web, I find myself just thinking, pondering things instead of automatically trying to find something to read or look at. I find myself talking to my children more, being a bit more present. I find myself getting more projects done as I have a restless energy to keep myself occupied. This has been difficult and necessary and exciting. Difficult because breaking any kind of addiction is hard. Necessary because it’s hard to assess your life and habits and make changes when you’re completely tuned out of your life. And exciting because I feel like I turned off the background noise and suddenly I’m hearing the birds singing again, and the wind blowing in the trees and I find myself thinking about the future and dreaming and imagining and feeling hopeful again.

I don’t know why, but getting space from my device is making me happy. And I find it a lot easier to tackle weight loss problems and challenges from a place of happiness than from a place of depression.

I don’t know what the next step is going to look like in this weight loss journey, but I’m feeling optimistic.

Elliptical Machines and the Kindle App

About two years ago our family got a membership at the YMCA. It was during a time when I was really struggling with depression. The gym became a life-saver for me. It was only a five minute drive away. I would tell my older kids they were babysitting, drive down to the gym, get on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes then quickly come back home, usually only being gone for 45 minutes. I felt better from the exercise and from having a short break from the house. I went as much as six times a week, usually no less than four.

Well, after we decided to stop homeschooling and my kids started going to public school, I no longer had a “big kid” to babysit, which meant I had to load up my little ones (there were three at home at the time) and take them to the gym with me and leave them at the daycare room. My trips to the gym now became long, drawn-out hassles that involved dressing little children, finding missing shoes, loading kids in and out of car seats, and then abandoning screaming children to a daycare worker. Just so I could get a 30 minutes workout. My trips to the gym quickly decreased. We were also still getting accustomed to everyone being gone all day at school and by the time the kids got home and I had a babysitter available again, I did not want to leave them to go do my own thing. I started only going on weekends. This past summer I finally pointed out to my husband that we simply were not using the gym to its full potential anymore and should probably cancel our membership. He asked me when I was going to exercise and I said something like, I’ll take a walk, or get a video workout or something.

So, around the time of my birthday, this fall, my husband informed me that he was going to buy me an elliptical machine with his bonus he had received. WOW! I was surprised, excited, and a little nervous. Elliptical machines have been my go-to because they have been the only form of exercise that has worked consistently with my various back problems. Having my very own at home would be a dream come true. Having my husband fork out a chunk of money so that I can exercise at home felt a little more dangerous. Especially when he calculated the cost of the machine (we found one on sale!) versus the cost of a gym membership and said I would need to exercise diligently for two years before having a machine at home could be considered cheaper than the gym. Yikes. To say I felt a bit of pressure to use my new machine would be putting it lightly.  

I am proud to say that I have, until Christmas time, been very faithful with using my machine. Christmas really threw me off, but I started back yesterday and I feel a renewed desire to keep exercising. Since I am not a particularly athletic or disciplined person, you may be surprised at this. So, here’s my little secret. I read when I exercise. I have a kindle app on my phone and I have a book at the ready, put it on the little shelf and just incorporate finger swipes to turn the page as part of my exercise routine. This is proof that if I am reading I can endure almost anything. The nice part about reading is if you get to a particularly intense part of the story, you automatically speed up and get an even better workout! 🙂 I guess this probably points to the fact that I am a bookworm, have been since second grade, and probably will be all my life. I average 4 books a week. Sometimes more. Rarely less. The library and I are good friends. All this to say, it is very exciting to find out I can make exercise (which can be boring!) into a time when I can read a book without any guilt. Long live elliptical machines, and long live the kindle app!

(Ok, I’m aware that people often watch TV or listen to podcasts while working out. I have found that I really don’t enjoy TV much, it doesn’t hold my attention, and I am not an auditory kind of person, so listening to someone speak into my ears through headphones is kind of stressful for me.) (Yes. I’m weird.)(Maybe there are more weird people out there like me though, so I’m sharing this amazing discovery with them!) (Ok, I also understand this is not exercise-guru type advice, I know, I need to do some other types of exercise as well, but, hey, something is better than nothing!)(I love parenthesis, they are so handy!) (And fun.) (I might just possibly over-use them.) (Maybe.) (Perhaps I should take a poll.)

Enemies

It’s the New Years and I feel like I should be writing thankful glimpses back at the past year or hopeful goals and plans for the upcoming year. Honestly, right now I’m struggling with the never-ending monster of depression that still hasn’t got the memo that I am completely over it and have moved on. It continues to linger and pop up right when I don’t need it. So, I am not ready to write about endings and beginnings. Maybe later.

Instead I’m going to tell you about this memory that popped up out of nowhere today. I suddenly remembered when I was in high school in Bethel, Alaska, at Bethel Regional High School. I was nominally a part of the band, (I didn’t actually play in the band, but I accompanied their various ensembles and solo pieces on the piano). Some of the ensembles I was accompanying had managed to qualify for the state-level band competition and so a group of us had flown to Anchorage to take part in the competition. We were staying at a hotel where the room doors opened onto an outside walkway. For some reason we had our room door open, and for some reason I had left my wallet on a table close to the door. Yes. My wallet got stolen. Normally for my teen self that wouldn’t have been too big a deal since I rarely had any money, but this time I actually had several hundred dollars with me. Part of our trip included a visit to the mall in the big city and I had been planning on buying some much needed new clothing. Major devastation, guilt, anger etc… I remembered this occasion and then realized, Oh, I haven’t prayed for that thief in a long time…

You see, on another occasion, several years later, when I was 20, I had a similar thing happen and it changed my perspective greatly on people and crime and how to think when bad things happen. I had been out by myself on some back roads in San Bernadino in Chile. I had gone out running and had my discman with me. Suddenly a scrawny teen pulled up next to me on his bike, pulled out a gun, pointed it at me and gestured for me to give him my discman. I was in shock and didn’t know what else to do except hand it to him. He road off and I ran home, completely shaken. As the shock wore off, I started to get angry, I wanted revenge. And suddenly, God downloaded to me what the best revenge I could get was…he told me very clearly, Pray for him. Pray for this teen. And it all clicked.

There is a bible verse, Ephesians 6:12 which says,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

My enemy was not this kid, my enemy was the devil. If I wanted to get revenge against my true enemy, what better way than to pray that this kid be saved, that his ownership transfer from the devil to God. What better way to get revenge than to take something that the devil meant as a curse for me and instead turn it into a blessing? What if, one day, I got to heaven and this kid walked up to me and said, you know, part of why I’m here is because you prayed for me? I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than that. And so I started praying for him. It’s been 20 years since the incident, and I still occasionally remember him and send off some more prayers. As other incidents happened, I realized I could take the same approach and so I added more people to this prayer list. I remembered the theft from high school and added that unknown person. There are the two guys that attempted to mug my husband when we first moved into this neighborhood. The unknown persons that broke into our shed and stole my husbands’ tools…

Here’s the thought process. What if any time the devil tries to “curse” me I instead turn it into a concentrated prayer and intercession for the person who was used to harm me? Jesus said to pray for your enemies. Who are our enemies? Well, nowadays that term is kind of ambiguous. People who have hurt us? Communists? People of a different religion? Terrorists? How about, when we watch the news and we feel ourselves emotionally reacting to some criminal we just learned about? We feel intense anger towards that person…Maybe that person just made it onto your enemy list. Those are the people that Jesus is telling you to pray for. Because, remember, these people who are trapped in sin and do horrible things, they are lost, captives to death and sin. They can’t free themselves of these sin natures, only Jesus can. And so we pray for them, pray that they would, like us, be set free, pledge their allegiance to a different master, experience that amazing grace that we walk in every day. They are our enemies, but Jesus wants them to be our brothers.

I will be honest. I don’t think I have any “real” enemies. I haven’t been subject to persecution; no one has killed one of my family members; I don’t walk around in fear of attack. I hope and pray that I will never be in those situations, knowing full well that for millions of people that is their reality. But perhaps I can cultivate the habit of praying for those who make me angry, who harm me in smaller ways, who go completely against my moral code. And perhaps if that habit is so well-ingrained in me, it will be easier if I do ever face worse circumstances, great heartbreak inflicted by another human being. Perhaps it will be easier to remember that my true enemy is the devil, and I’ll be able to be obedient to Jesus’ calling: Pray for your Enemies.

Post Christmas Blues

Holidays are strange things. The more you get hyped up about them, the lower you feel when they’re all over. Some article I read about emotional cycles said it was normal, if you have a big emotional high your emotions are going to swing low afterwards before they eventually even out again.

Christmas is a big high for me, an entire month of celebrating. Then Christmas night I feel that low feeling creeping in on me. What’s next? New Year. ugh. New Years for me is an odd mixture of disappointment as I look back at the past year and realize I didn’t accomplish half the goals I set out to accomplish, and then hope…maybe this next year will be better and I will finally make those positive changes to my life that I’ve been dreaming of for years.

Christmas night is also a good time to realize once again that: stuff doesn’t make us happy (as evidence, the kids still found something to fuss about); it’s really the people in our life that bring us joy (Christmas was fun because I was with my family); it’s more blessed to give than to receive (I think I had a lot more fun than my kids, just watching everyone open all the presents we got them); and in the end, we all need Jesus (as I felt the low encroaching on me, it was Jesus, not my new stuff or even my family that could calm my spirit and bring me peace again).

So, I”m going to end this with my cure for lowness. I’m going to be thankful. I am thankful that my husband and I had the resources to get our children gifts this year. I am thankful that my children put out effort on their own to get presents for each other. I am thankful my parents were able to come and spend time with us. I am thankful for my warm cozy house that has enough room for 10 kids. I am thankful for sparkly lights and candles and bright cheerful ornaments. I am thankful for my husband who worked alongside me Christmas Eve on all the last minute preparations even though he was burning up from a fever. And I am thankful for a grand big celebration of Jesus coming to earth. Thankful that he is Emmanuel, God with us. Thankful that Jesus is enough for my highs and my lows. Happy Post Christmas Everyone.

Morning Sickness and the Presence of God

Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  This is the official term for really bad morning sickness or “excessive vomiting during pregnancy”. I have 10 children (plus 2 miscarriages, equal a grand total of 12 children). Every single one of my pregnancies found me throwing up for several months. The first pregnancy the nausea didn’t stop till I was 20 weeks. Through each pregnancy that time period got a little bit shorter, but the shortest duration was still 15 weeks. Each pregnancy I averaged about a 20 pound weight loss at the beginning and usually had at least 2 trips to the ER for severe dehydration. I took a variety of medicine, but through trial and error, discovered that all but one gave me the wonderful side effects of severe panic attacks. My intense dislike of panic attacks meant I would choose vomiting over anxiety. I finally settled on taking Zofran which was very expensive and really just kept the edge off enough that I could stay alive. I know that sounds melodramatic, but that’s what it felt like.

This is what severe morning sickness is like. It’s your body saying to you, if you drink something, I’m going to make you throw up, if you eat something, I’m going to make you throw up, if you walk around at all, I’m going to make you throw up. So what do you do?  Well, I eventually worked out a strategy. Get up, go throw up, quickly take a Zofran with a tiny bit of water, sit very still. Eat something high starch and very salty (the last several pregnancies I settled on Velveeta mac and cheese), take another sip of water, and then lay very very still. Don’t move. No interactions with people. My goal was to not throw up for at least 3 hours so that my body could at least digest some of the food. About 3 hours later, I would repeat the process, except maybe this time eat a little bit of melon or eat some frozen pomegranate juice. (I had a really weird diet, only a handful of things sounded doable, and it was always random. Later when I would start to feel a bit better and get some appetite back, I would always crave green beans and boiled potatoes. Weird.) I counted up the my daily calories once and I averaged somewhere between 600-900 calories a day, depending on what kind of day I was having. The hardest part was being constantly dehydrated. I kept a glass of ice water by my bed but could only manage a sip here and there, anything more made me throw up. I would lay in my bed and dream about water. I usually day dreamed about being up in the mountains at the river, jumping into the icy coldness, hearing the sound of bubbling water. I would think about waterfalls, and picturesque lakes. I craved water. Sometimes I would go and get a little stool and just sit in the shower, letting the water rush over me, hoping that my skin would absorb some of the water and make me feel better.

I did this 10 times. (The 2 pregnancies where I miscarried, I had no morning sickness. Which made me change my perspective as I started recognizing morning sickness as a sign of a healthy pregnancy.) I am sure you are wondering why I did this so many times. Well, very early in our marriage my husband and I decided that we wanted God to determine our family size. I was willing to commit to this method one child at a time. After each pregnancy, I would think there was No Way in Hell I would ever do that to myself again, but when it came time to discuss birth control, I never felt comfortable. I still felt like this was something I was supposed to do. I loved my children. I loved having a large family. Really, my only problem with lots of pregnancies was the morning sickness. I do think that we have the exact right number of children for us. I am going to base this on the fact that when we finally decided that we were done, I had no regrets, no second thoughts, no ambiguity. I knew we were done. I hadn’t felt that peace beforehand.

During my times of morning sickness I would worry about my family. I think for the first couple pregnancies I felt guilty, like I was somehow failing my husband and children because I wasn’t up and taking care of things. After a while, common sense kicked in and I stopped feeling guilty. It takes two to get pregnant and my husband knew that I was going to get sick, so he could now deal with the consequences and take care of the family while I laid in bed for a couple months. And, he rose to the occasion. No children were lost, no one starved to death, the house didn’t burn down. Everyone learned to appreciate mom a bit more.

Being in bed for months on end does something to you though. I usually had one of two responses when I got sick. I either got really depressed or I got really angry. Depressed because there was no end in sight. I knew I wanted more children which meant I would have to go through this again. Anger because why on earth would God give me the kind of body that hates pregnancy, but at the same time give me a desire to have lots of children? Each time I had to do a lot of soul searching, a lot of talks with God, and as I started feeling better, I had to give myself a lot of grace to just recover from the whole thing.

My last pregnancy was different. I found myself just feeling resigned. Ok. I’ve got to do this. I’m going to read a bunch of good books, I’m going to watch TV shows, I’m going to distract myself as much as possible and endure.

During this time God gave me the most interesting gift I’ve ever had. The nausea had reached the point of no return and I ran to the bathroom, knelt in front of the toilet and started throwing up. Suddenly God spoke to me. Very clearly. He said, “Am I still worthy of praise?” My first response was, “What? Now? You’re talking to me now?” and then, as I continued to throw up, I thought back to him, since talking was not an option, “Yes, you are worthy of praise. Even now. I give you praise.” And suddenly I felt God’s presence heavy on me and now I was crying and sobbing. The sickness finally passed. I got up, cleaned up, staggered back to my bed. I lay there feeling a bit confused.  I had just gone through a holy moment. A very unexpected, out of the box holy moment. I must say I did not expect God’s presence to show up while I was kneeling in front of a toilet. God had just let me participate in that thing called “a sacrifice of praise”. Praising God when things aren’t going well, when you’re not feeling blessed, when life kind of sucks. I call this a gift from God because I can tell you that in my own strength I never would have thought about praising God while I was throwing up. Never. It was a gift because he got my attention, he gave me an opportunity to offer him a sacrifice of praise, and I think it’s one of the most holy moments I have ever had in my life. Because He is Worthy. He is Worthy of our Praise. No matter what is happening in your life, he is Worthy. And when we praise him it actually strengthens us, because we step into his presence for a moment.  We experience his Love and Peace and Goodness, and in my experience, that’s what I need to make it through this life.