Monday, April 28, 2014

My Last Post

GUESS WHAT??
I have moved to a new site! Soon this page will be taken down. To continue following, bookmark my new website, sign up to follow by email, or like my facebook page.

Thank you again for your support!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'm Moving Out

It's time. Time to move on. Something has been stirring in my heart for quite some time, and I can't ignore it any longer. For many reasons, some of which are practical and some that are downright crazy, I have decided to leave this blogging space.

I owe an immense thank you to those who have followed me and encouraged me, especially those who have been hanging on from the beginning and sharing my journey from buying our first home to my struggles with post-partum depression to my renewed walk with the Lord. It means the world to me to be able to share my stories and have them heard by even one person, let alone the many who have joined me along the way. I have dreamed of calling myself a writer for many years and to own that title in my heart means everything to me. I cannot thank you enough.

Though I am sad to say good-bye to this space, I hope it marks just a small beginning to a bigger journey. I believe that we are all called to greatness through some gift or talent and to own it and use it is to serve the Lord to the highest order.

Therefore, I plan to continue my journey in a new space - a space that gives me greater freedom and more control (you know how I love that!) to grow into this calling to write. A space with more user friendly mechanics that will allow for more frequent posting and fewer formatting headaches. And a space where we can continue to ponder big questions, laugh at small moments, walk closer to the Lord, and discover His plan for our lives.

The journey continues. Please join me at lisamhurley.com.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lessons from a Sleepless Night

It’s Blog Hop time! This month’s theme is “Love Your Struggles,” and today the Hearts at Home bloggers are putting some of our own challenges into perspective. I love this topic because in this stage of life I do a lot of struggling. I definitely don’t love the time spent in the midst of it, but it is through my struggles that I learn the most about myself and my faith. Here is the story of one such lesson…

I lie in bed staring at the wall. Seething with anger. Allie’s voice hollers over the monitor. Three short, angry blasts between sobs, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” and then a pause to catch her breath. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Next to me, Matt snores softly. I resent him for being able to sleep through this.

I look at the clock. 2:15am. It’s been 50 minutes, and I’ve been in there three times to offer her comfort. I’m afraid to go in again because I’ve hit the point of frustration where I understand how babies get shaken. Tears begin to fall on my pillow – a mixture of guilt and exhaustion in liquid form. 

I should go get her. 

No I shouldn’t.
 
Either way, I know I will berate myself for it. 

What kind of mother am I?
 
I take a few deep breaths and pray, reflecting on her cuteness and how much I really do love her. Finally I get up and cross the house to her room. She sees me and reaches out. She lets out one more, “Mommy!” but this time it carries a tone of relief.  

I take her to the living room and rock her. She falls asleep on my chest almost instantly. After a few minutes I carry her to her bed and then trudge back to my own. Within minutes I hear it again, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” I’m too tired to put up a fight. I go get her again and bring her to bed with me, but I can’t sleep because I’m afraid she will fall off the edge or be crushed under Matt’s weight. She rolls around next to me. Her foot kicks my chest. That’s it! I grab her from the bed and walk her back to the crib and leave, closing the door. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

The tears start again as I continue to criticize myself for my confusion and inconsistency. 

What kind of mother am I? 

I never do get back to sleep. The back and forth continues until morning. Eventually we go out to the living room and I collapse in the recliner, unable to imagine how I will get through the day with L’s million questions and Reese’s role play games.

I reach in the cabinet for my coffee and push the decaf aside. I reach all the way to the back. Even half-caf won’t cut it today. 

I pray again, seeking reasons to be grateful and asking for strength and patience. Smiles come easier than I expected but still my outward positivity fits my inner condition about as well as my high school jeans would fit my post-children body. Hope carries me through the day as I count the hours until bedtime.
 
Most nights are not this bad. Tonight she might sleep through.

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m not struggling. Or maybe I actually convince myself that I’m fine because it’s not exactly acceptable to walk around complaining, especially about something that might seem so trivial. But I’m writing this today in the midst of it and today it’s difficult to downplay the challenge. Today it’s hard to pretend. Today I can’t hide it. 

Ladies, I’m exhausted. 

I’ve mentioned in passing that Allie is not a great sleeper. That is an understatement. She is a terrible sleeper. She’s nearly eighteen months old, and I’m STILL waiting for a predictable sleep pattern. I feel guilty and defeated and I’m seriously ashamed of the above account because it makes me look so erratic and inconsistent and I can’t help wondering if it makes people think what I’m already thinking.

What kind of mother am I?
 
There was a time when I was methodical about this whole thing. I tried everything. Absolutely everything. My theories have ranged from over-stimulation to dietary issues to teething (which is an intermittent issue that no remedy has ever helped). There is no evidence that she is in physical pain or has a medical problem, although I have called her doctor in several moments of desperation, which always end with me feeling embarrassed for calling and wondering if the nurse is thinking, what kind of mother are you?

So here I am today – crazy, inconsistent, and tired – and trying to make sense of this struggle that seems so insignificant in the grand scheme of life’s problems. I approach every evening with hope for a good night and dread for a bad one, and I relish the mornings that come with anything less than one or two minor interruptions. Mostly, I just try to take it in stride – one night at a time – without entertaining too many thoughts about when or if she will outgrow this habit.

All I know is that until she outgrows it or I discover a miracle solution, I turn to prayer and gratitude to get me through the worst days. After nearly eighteen months of inadequate sleep (plus the last three months of my pregnancy), I’ve learned a few things that help me remember that no struggle is for naught. 

1. Your thoughts are not always your thoughts. In my darkest moments of guilt-ridden self-criticism, my thoughts often reflect my fears of what the League of Perfect Mothers might think about me and not what I really believe in my heart about the kind of mother I am. The same goes for the other voices that say, “You’re too fat to wear that,” and “You don’t do [fill in the blank] well enough.”

2. There is give and take in everything. Allie is at my very favorite age (sleep habits aside), and the thought that she will not always exist in this precious form makes me want to cry. Maybe when she’s older and I find myself wishing I could return to these days, I will also remember the struggles and take comfort in the reminder that there are beautiful roses and painful thorns in every stage of life.
 
3. Challenges give rise to gratitude. Nothing clears the wreckage of negative emotions faster than a heart seeking thankfulness. On my worst mornings, I sit in the recliner and pray a silent list of thank yous for everything from my coffee pot to a job that allows me to stay in my pajamas on these difficult days. And on the days when Allie goes down easy and sleeps until morning, I experience a level of gratitude that cannot be known when life is too easy.
 
4. You have the right to struggle. Sometimes I berate myself in these moments. A toddler with poor sleep habits is hardly a life-threatening problem. There are people in the world who are dying and starving. What right do you have to complain? Something inside me just loves to kick me when I’m down. Why do we do that to ourselves? We don’t tell ourselves, “I don’t have the right to be happy because some people have it better than I do.” It’s all relative. Just because your struggle isn’t the end of the world, doesn’t make it easy to bear at the time.

5. Vulnerability breeds connection. There’s no greater relief in the midst of a struggle than validation from a friend who’s been there. But it’s hard to make those connections when we walk around pretending that we’ve got it all figured out and don’t need any help. Some of my deepest connections with my closest friends were born out of shared “hot mess” moments and “me too” conversations. 

6. Faith grows in times of need. No experience in my life has been more challenging, humbling, or tiring than motherhood. When I struggled to recover from Reese’s abnormally difficult delivery; when I had to quit nursing Allie at three months; when she cried all night with colic; when I hit a near-suicidal level of post-partum depression; I called on the Lord to walk with me through all of it and each time my relationship with Him deepened and strengthened. The storms passed but the Lord stayed present and now I invite Him to walk with me daily, not just in times of need but also in praise, thanksgiving, and joy so that everything I do may be to the glory of He who saves me in my darkest hours.

What’s your struggle? Maybe you’re physically exhausted from your child’s poor sleep habits. Maybe it’s mental or emotional exhaustion over something else. Battles with picky eating, behavioral issues, medical problems. Maybe it’s something much bigger. The list of things over which moms carry unnecessary guilt is endless. In the toughest moments, it’s easy to lose sight of our perspective, especially when we come up against the League of Perfect Mothers. 

If you have a struggle (or series of struggles as most of us do), love might seem like a bit of a stretch in terms of how you feel about them, especially in the middle of the worst of it. Of course the struggles themselves aren’t quite so lovable, but they do shed light on what’s really important in life. They help us connect with others, urge us to keep our eyes to God, and remind us to give thanks for all that is right in an unpredictable world.   

Allie’s sleep habits are certainly not the end of the world. I know that. I also know that greater struggles surely lie ahead. I can’t predict what those might be or how big of an effect they might have on the life I know today. But I do know that I have a God and a husband and a few special friends who will walk with me to the other side. And I know that I can always rest in them and in Him and in hope for the joy, the peace, and the calm that comes with the passing of the storm and the dawn of each new day.

                     “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
                     – Newsboys, Your Love Never Fails (adapted from Psalm 30:5) 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lessons from a Pool Toy

I sat on the edge of the zero-depth kiddie pool and watched my girls splash near my feet. Reese filled a miniature watering can and poured it into Allie's open palm. Ah, those precious giggles. Matt sat nearby on the floor of the pool fiddling with a rubber squirt toy. Last fall we talked about spending his spring break in Mexico sans children, but instead opted for the far cheaper - and much less relaxing - family fun day in Peoria, Illinois (just 30 minutes from home). Toddler Splash at the Riverplex and Burger Barge 2 for lunch. Upper class all the way.

We really did have a great time at the pool. Reese finally overcame her fear of getting her face and head wet, and she had a blast going down the miniature water slide and perfecting her crab walk. Allie had not been in a pool since last summer, and her elated expression was well worth missing out on the palm trees and Margaritas. 


Sometimes when I see my kids having so much fun in such a simple moment I wonder where I derailed. I can (reluctantly) admit that I am a bit of a no-nonsense person, and the days of carefree child-like fun seem so far lost. My desire to prevent messes and injuries often overrides my ability to let loose and have fun. Routine. Order. Control. Boring. That's me. And if it doesn't seem that way to others (thank God), that's often how I feel. 

Watching the girls continue to play, I caught a glimpse of Matt raising a now full squirt toy out of the water. Before I could react, he sprayed a line of water down my abdomen. I shot him a "don't you dare" look as he submerged the toy again. This time he shot me in the face. In the face! He roared with laughter as I stared back at him. "Hun, c'mon," I always say in that long, drawn out way that shows my level of irritation with just two words.

Only I didn't say that. I didn't say anything. Instead, Reese jumped up and said, "Daddy, Mommy doesn't want you to do that!" This wasn't the first wake-up call to the reality that I am creating a miniature no-nonsense version of myself. Her personality is mine in every way. She is bossy and controlling. She prefers order to chaos. And she is often intolerant of even the most innocent teasing. 

And, boy, did I marry a teaser. He's the type who likes to give me jumper cables while I'm cracking eggs. (That's when you take your index fingers and poke them into both sides of another person's waist). One year when Reese had the flu on New Year's Eve, Matt wanted to bet on which one of us would come down with it first. I was not amused. That night, I got up from the couch and went to the bathroom. As I hung my head over the toilet, he peeked around the corner and said, "You win." And suddenly there I was throwing up and laughing at the same time. He's witty and sarcastic and his humor has thwarted way more arguments than it's caused. In fact, it tops the list of things I love about him. He's hilarious.

Yet here I am today giving him dirty looks because I don't want to go to a dumpy burger joint with frizzy hair. Really?? 

I realized then that I never derailed. I just don't choose to laugh as often anymore, and for some reason it seems that the older I get, the less laughter wins. I blame stress – and not the I-can’t-pay-my-bills stress or someone-I-love-is-dying stress, but the kind of senseless self-induced, anxiety-driven stress that I can’t seem to pin on any single life event (or even series of events). And isn’t life just too damn short for imaginary stress to override moments of laughter, joy, and soaking-wet fun? 

I think so.

As suddenly as it appeared, my angry expression transformed into a sly smile as I reached for a squirt toy of my own. I pointed it at Matt and squeezed the head of a rubber tiger. A pitiful arc of water dribbled from its mouth. Matt laughed even harder and sprayed my face again. I tried to reload, but I couldn't squeeze the tiger hard enough to reach him. After a few more tries, I dropped my weapon in surrender. Water dripped from my face and hair and our laughter echoed off the walls. 

Reese ran over and sat on the edge of the pool next to me. "Spray me, Daddy! Spray me!" 

Matt squirted her belly. She squealed. "Do it again!"

Then Allie walked over to him and doused him with the watering can, getting revenge for Reese and me. Someday in the future, when I hear a song that prompts a spontaneous mental montage of special moments, this scene at the pool will surely make the cut.

Laughter doesn't always come up against another choice; it just flows naturally from a good happy mood. Other times, it fights tooth and nail just to get you to crack a smile. It’s like the way your response to a messy spill can land anywhere between indifferent shrug and total meltdown depending on anything from hormones to stress levels (real or imagined) to where this spill falls in today’s lineup of mishaps. If I’m in a good mood and Matt gives me jumper cables while I’m cracking eggs, I laugh and turn my head to kiss his cheek. If I’m in a bad mood, or (more often) in a self-induced stress frenzy, I resort to an irritated “grow up” comment and matching eye roll.

What I’ve learned, though, is that – in more circumstances than we may know (or care to admit) – our response is a matter of choice. In the split second that I felt the water from Matt’s squirt toy begin to pelt my face, something inside me wanted to react with anger or annoyance or – at the very least – a pleading, “Hun, please don’t” with forced politeness. At the same time, another part of me urged a different response…

“Laugh. Really, it’s ok. So what if your makeup runs and your hair gets frizzy? So what if you didn’t pack a brush or a hair tie? The annoyance you feel isn’t about Matt or the squirt toy. It’s about other (totally unfounded) fears and worries that have nothing to do with family fun day. What a great chance to let all that go for a while. Now grab that tiger and squirt him back!” 

An hour later, I sat at the Burger Barge 2 with my Moo-Shroom (aka Swiss and mushroom) burger and fries and, seriously, the frizziest hair ever. I took Allie to the bathroom for a diaper change and glanced in the mirror. Cringing at the sight of my, I turned on the sink hoping some moisture would temporarily tame my frizz. From her position on my hip, Allie reached forward and splashed in the water. I gave her a moment of fun (ah, those precious giggles) and then turned the faucet off without touching my hair. I dried my hands and looked in the mirror again, smiling at my wild hairdo and the memory of the moment that created it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This is Now

The Hearts at Home Blog Hop continues today with "Love Your Now." I haven't participated in a Hearts blog hop in 2014, so let me bring you up to speed. The conference theme for 2014 is "Love Your Life" so this year the bloggers will be sharing what we love about various aspects of our lives. Last Monday I woke up to an email containing the topic for March - Love Your Now. I had just spent the whole weekend with 3 close friends in Lake Geneva at a Christian women's retreat (Breakaway). When I came home I felt refreshed, energized, and totally on fire for Jesus. Upon reading the email, I was so excited to write about all that I love about this time in my life - my "now."

Then all Hell broke loose.

First, a little background tidbit. We hired a contractor to replace our patio door with a sliding glass door. He called me while I was at the retreat to ask if they could come out on Monday. I knew that would be inconvenient with the kids, but we had already rescheduled twice (our fault, not theirs), so I said yes thinking I would just take the kids to a friend's house while the carpenter worked. I should also add that five minutes later I completely forgot that I just had that conversation.

On Monday morning L got dropped off at her usual time and we started our normal daily routine. Around mid-morning, the doorbell rang and I looked outside to see the guy with our new door. I had totally forgotten! Not a big deal right? Wrong! I originally thought I would leave with the kids, but I had no car because while I was in Lake Geneva my car was hit and was not drivable. So I welcomed the carpenter and braced for impact because...

Sawdust + power tools + curious toddler = God help me!

For the next nine hours, there was a seven-foot hole in my living room and constant noise from saws, hammers, and drills. Nobody could nap because of the noise so Allie was a crying mess all afternoon.

Around lunchtime, Matt called to see if I could take over with the whole car thing because he had too much going on at work to make all the necessary phone calls. Oh and by the way, he now has to stay late and go to a meeting for someone who can't be there (which means he won't get home until well after bedtime).

I started making phone calls to the other driver's insurance company, the body shop, the tow truck, and the rental car place, and I couldn't really hear over the noise of the tools and the children so everything took longer.

Suddenly, Reese was tugging my arm and urgently yelling, "Mommy! Mommy!" Finally, I turned to her with a highly inappropriate "WHAT!?" And she said, "L threw up!"

I peeked around the corner and there was L sitting on my couch covered in vomit.

That was one of those moments where I stop and think, I could deal with this OR I could just get in the car and head for Mexico... Oh wait, I have no car. Now what??

So I did the most intelligent I could think of and called L's dad at work, like he can teleport here and fix it. I should add that L's parents are some of the most flexible and laid back people I've ever met, and I'm fairly certain that they think (or I should say know) that I am a neurotic mess. Well, if they didn't before, they do now.

So now I have the right side of my living room covered in tools and sawdust, the left side covered in vomit, a child who needs a shower, and a 16-month-old who I can barely handle in a hazard-free environment.

I sent Reese and N (L's older brother who comes to my house after kindergarten) into Reese's room with Allie. I told them to watch her, closed the door, and hoped for the best while I helped L shower.

By the time I got L out of the shower, her dad was there and he was kind enough to help me start the clean up process. He was super apologetic and they offered to pay for the cleaning, but I felt pretty responsible because I was on the phone all afternoon and not being very attentive.

Shortly after the kids got picked up, the guy finished the door and left. I proceeded to make a sorry excuse for a dinner for two super tired and crabby kids. Then I tried to put them to bed early, which in keeping with the spirit of my day, did not happen.

Finally, with both kids in bed, I took a shower, poured a (really big) glass of wine, and sat down with my computer. But I wasn't excited. I was defeated. What could I possibly say that I love about my "now" after a day like that??

I almost closed my computer thinking I would just sit this one out (again), but then I looked around. The house was quiet, and I was sitting in the living room in my super-comfy bathrobe with a glass of wine. The Christian radio station played softly in the background and I was ready to engage in my very favorite hobby.

At that moment, my "now" was awesome, but I didn't see that because I was still holding on to the negativity from the rest of my day. The sawdust, the car, the crabby kids, the vomit - that was then. It was over. It doesn't have to be a part of my now.

I sat there thinking about how often I let feelings from times that were "then" affect my enjoyment of now. We all have times when our now is not so great, but when we carry the emotional aftermath into the future, a bad morning can ruin a whole day or a bad day can ruin a whole week.

So I took a few deep breaths and tried to clear my head. Yes, it was a pretty awful day. Yes, it brought me to tears. And, yes, there was a series of moments that day that had me down about my now.

But that was then.

As I finished writing this post a few days later, I looked around my living room. My patio door is beautiful, and my couch is freshly shampooed for the first time in 5 years. Reese and L were playing with Allie in the other room after a very peaceful morning. We shared laughs, smiles, and hugs, and I am thankful every day for the blessing of my children and for my ability to stay home and be with them all day, every day - even if it means bearing days like last Monday. Today, I am smiling. Today, all is well in my home and in my heart. I love my kids. I love my house. I love my life.

This is now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Trust, Wait, and Believe

Uncertainty is my enemy. Any time I have a piece of my life up in the air, I can focus on nothing else until an outcome is reached - even when that outcome is beyond my control. Right now it seems we have a lot of unanswered questions. Some involve decisions we need to make; some involve waiting on the decisions of others. All of them have me pacing the floors all day and sitting up at night in anticipation.

Fortunately for us, none of the potential outcomes is inherently bad. There will be challenges and rewards either way. I'm not worried. I'm unsettled. Uncertain. I can handle big disasters pretty well, but give me a minor uncertainty with an answer any further away than right now, and I go bananas.

Usually, I respond to weeks like this with activity. Constant activity. The faster I can pass the time, the quicker the answers will come. But now that I have two kids of my own and two more that I watch, it's not as easy to numb myself with busyness (and not the kind of mundane taking care of kids busyness, but productive re-tile the bathroom busyness).

Just a few years ago, on a week like this, I would be a tough person to live with. (Just ask my husband). I would be flustered and snappy and overwhelmed by little things. I would talk through the same things over and over and analyze every possible outcome to death.

Today, I will admit that I still do a lot of those things. I still get restless, and I still can't seem to pass the time fast enough. But I have one thing now that I didn't have then - God. As much as I still struggle in times of uncertainty, there is a peace underneath that everything is in His hands and all will be well.

I never thought prayer could have such a large impact on my anxiety, but it does. I don't ask Him to fix it. I ask Him to walk with me through it. I will probably never get over my dislike for uncertainty. It's a part of who I am. But today I am a much easier person to live with through these times. I don't know what will come of our current uncertainties, but I offer all of the restless feelings up to He who walks with me. Until the answers come...

 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If I Didn't Have Children...


If I didn’t have children, my life would be grand.
I’d fly off to Hawaii, dig my toes in the sand.

No more need to take care of everyone else.
No more, “I didn’t touch it. It broke by itself.”

No monsters in closets or “I need a drink.”
No wishing and hoping for one full night’s sleep.

No more silly questions, “Are we almost there yet?
“Where does snow go in summer?"
"Why’s water so wet?”

No sending my skinny clothes off to Good Will.
No, “Mommy, come in here and see what I spilled.”

If I didn’t have children, my life would be swell.
I could travel the world, sleep in five-star hotels.

I could have peace and quiet, spend time all alone.
Without a trail of destruction all over my home.

I could go back to school, get another degree,
Have a life and career that is all about me.

No more tantrums over broken crayons;
Or touching my stuff with chocolaty hands.

No more, “Tell her not to look at me!”
Or, “Mommy, I’m about to pee!”

No more changing poopy pants.
No Mickey’s Clubhouse Hot Dog Dance.



Yes, that is how my life could be                                                
Without these kids all over me.

BUT…

If I didn’t have children, there’s a lot I would miss.
Like the soft little “pip” of a sweet baby kiss.


No more first little smiles or sweet baby giggles.
No, “I love you, Mommy;” no tummies to tickle.

No more, “This Little Piggy” on those teeny toes.
No rocking, no singing,
No “Where’s mommy’s nose?”

No more pictures of all the cute things that they do.
No, “what a cute baby! She looks just like you!”

Not as much to celebrate, no more “firsts” to share.
No more little pigtail sprouts sticking in the air.

No more special bedtime prayers;
No more evening cuddles.
No more, “Good night, Daddy;”
No more morning snuggles.

I wouldn’t know the deepest love anyone can know.
I wouldn't see the miracle of watching as they grow.

I wouldn’t know the joy of holding little hands.
Sacrifice and selflessness - I couldn’t understand.

I wouldn’t be as tired and I wouldn’t be as bored.
But because of all my struggles,
I walk closer with the Lord.

And so as hard as it can be,
I’d rather have them here with me.

Because I have children, my life is complete;
And I am blessed beyond belief.


I’m proud and I’m grateful. I’m faithful and strong.
Because I have children; because I’m a mom.




Thursday, January 23, 2014

He is With You

Sometimes I get swallowed up in the busyness of life. From birthdays and family outings to paying bills and calling repair guys, I rarely have time to sit and relax without those nagging "shoulds."

Sometimes I complain about minor inconveniences. I get all the way home from the grocery store and realize I forgot laundry detergent. And we live so far from town and gas is so expensive.

Sometimes nothing makes sense. In a world of so much pain and suffering, so much anger and violence, so much illness and death, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. It's easy to wonder if there even is a bigger picture to see.

Sometimes I forget about God. I don't take enough time to pray and I take my blessings for granted. I'm too busy going here and there and doing this and that. Too busy to feel His presence in the moments when I need Him the most.

But sometimes I wake up to this...


And for one simple moment, I do stop. And I do listen. And I am grateful. Because life is busy and loud and inconvenient, but it's all part of a journey that is cloaked in a deeper meaning, a greater beauty, a higher purpose.

Those are the moments that bring me back to the heart of what really matters. Those are the moments that reset my compass and point me back toward inner peace and toward He who provides it. Those are the moments that drown out the sound of life rushing by, silencing the roar just long enough to hear the Lord's calming whisper, "I am with you."

Stop in those moments. Forget the rush. Forget the roar. Forget the shoulds. Just stop. And breathe. And listen. And remember - you never walk alone. He is with you.