Seeking His Face

It started as a normal day. Friends, fun, the park, adventure, giggles, and monkey bars. Then it became the day that couldn’t end soon enough. Broken trust, pain, panic, fear, tears, and the ER.

My sweet son lying on a gurney in the ER at Wake Med Pediatric ER. His usually tan face pasty white with fear. The initial assessment before x-rays was best case out of joint and worst case broken requiring surgical placement of pens and possibly screws. Enough to make this mama weak in her knees and her baby boy cry rivers of tears.  

Sean hospital

I’ve never felt more helpless and guilty in all of my life. The worst possible emotions ever. I couldn’t fix anything and it was all my fault.

Just before Sean fell, he asked for help. Told me he couldn’t do it. Being the super protective hovering mom, I am trying to let go a little bit this summer. And with that in mind I said, “Sean, you are okay. You are not that high up. If you fall, you will land on your feet.”

Or elbow…

Through his initial screams he said to me in tears, “Mama, I asked you for help and you didn’t help me. I told you I couldn’t do it. Why didn’t you help me? I didn’t want to fall and break my arm like Callie did.”

One look at his elbow and I almost threw up. The guilt and fear and panic consumed me. I swept him up and drove a little more than the speed limit to Raleigh. I prayed and cried and begged God to help my son. To take away his pain…my pain.

I have processed a lot of what happened over the past 10 days. I am constantly brought back to this: I can only imagine what my Father felt like when His son and my Savior hung on a cross 2,000 years ago. He could have yanked His son off that wooden cross and healed all His wounds immediately. But He didn’t. He let His only Son suffer a cruel and painful death.

I have never experienced anything as heart wrenching as seeing my son who shares my facial features, blue eyes, and blonde hair lying in the ER in excruciating pain, tormented by fear of possible surgery and pins in his left arm. I felt my heart breaking in a million tiny little jagged pieces.

Sean smiling

If I could go back, I would wrap my arms around his tiny little waist and help him down from those monkey bars. I would have prevented our life from grinding to a halt. Sean would have been fine and life would have gone on as normal for another day. But, I can’t go back. I can only accept what happened with each day that passes.

Everyone who has heard this chapter in our lives read aloud always says, “But Lizzie, it wasn’t your fault. Accidents happen.”

I know accidents happen. I get that. I know my kids are going to get hurt whether I’m there or not. And I know God is their Protector, not me.

But, there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain that you could have prevented.

Sean cast dandelion

If nothing else, this most recent chapter in our lives has helped me understand the love of God even more. Deeper. More tangible. He watched His Son suffer a wretched death.

And maybe that’s the lesson in this for me. I am so eager to ask for things from His hand. But how often do I seek His face? To gaze upon Him and not covet what He gave me or ask for more when my life is full.

He is healing more than an elbow. He is mending my heart as I am seeking His face. Redeeming what was lost and healing what was broken. Oh how beautiful He is!

 

“Oh, I want to see Him, look upon His face,
There to sing forever of His saving grace.”

RH Cornelius

 

The Gap Filler {Weekend Roundup}

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He’s reminded me again this week. Seems as if I’m a little slow to learn His ways:

“You don’t have to figure it all out. I am the gap filler, you know.”

Yes, Lord, I know, but it is so hard.

“You make it hard when you try to do it yourself. Give it to me. It’s not your battle. It is mine.”

With tears streaming and my heart breaking, I hand it over. Again. Only for the 500th time in the past week alone.

It is in His hands now and I can rest. It is amazing how fast the peace returns. Almost instantly. I feel my jaw tighten, my breath deepen, and my mind clear.

You would think I would have this mastered by now, but I don’t. I am quicker to come to Him and lay it all down, but my first instinct is to do it all by myself. To fix things and people.

It doesn’t matter how much experience or how many degrees you have, matters of the heart are soul matters. And experience and degrees can’t heal the soul.

“Lord, help us to run to you. To know that we don’t have to have everything figured out or fill in all the gaps that exist in our lives. You are the gap filler. You make all things new. We choose to lay down the weights that burden us and cause us to fall. We want to run. To fly. To soar! Give us soul wings, Father. Trusting you to fill all the gaps in your time.”

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Are you mad at me?

“Mommy, are you mad at me?” she pondered out loud.

“No, baby. Why do you think I’m mad at you?” I asked.

“Earlier when you were talking to daddy, you said you were angry,” she shared from the backseat. It is amazing to me how many conversations take place between the front and back seat of my taxi. I wonder how many of them I miss because I am on the phone.

I had to think for a minute about how to respond. I decided on the truth.

“Well, Callie, I am angry. I feel mad, but I don’t really know what I am angry about. I can’t put my finger on it and earlier I was sharing with daddy about how I was feeling. I really need to take some time and ask God to show me what I am so mad and frustrated about. I need to pray and ask for His help. But, I promise, I’m not mad at you or Sean.”

She was listening intently from the backseat, but wasn’t ready to respond.

I prompted her with, “does that make sense?”

She asked me about a specific situation we have been praying about and if I was mad about it. I told her no.

Then, she floored me with this:

“Mommy, what have you been thinking about lately? You know what you are thinking about can make you happy, sad, and probably angry, too.”

Yes, my 7-year-old therapist daughter said those wisdom filled words to me.

I could feel the tears flood my eyes.

“You’re exactly right. And that’s one thing I want to ask God about. I want to talk to Him about my thoughts and maybe I need to start thinking about different things. Or maybe there is some unforgiveness in my heart or maybe I need to let go of something. But, you hit the nail on the head. I am dwelling on the wrong things.”

And then she said, “I will pray for you, mommy.”

The flood came. And, I thanked God for speaking to me through a very intuitive 7-year-old.

Sometimes wisdom is not gained in years. Youth has its perks and one of them is boldness. I am grateful for my daughter’s bold and loving question recently. She will never know how much God has used her in my life. Iron sharpening iron is not just for old folks.

May I be bold and wise…like my daughter.

 

Sometimes I am a Foggy Mother…

Rainbow infused cichlids swim laps while the algae eater noshes on the side of the tank. The only sound this morning is the gurgling that cheers them on as they do what they do best, swim and eat.

My babies, those who helped me earn the mama badge, are sleeping in my bed this morning, on the eve of Mother’s Day. Daddy’s 4am alarm clock wakes them some mornings and they are a welcome addition to my King size dream machine.

I sit at the kitchen table and type these words on a screen. The 1st cup of coffee is working its magic and I am thinking clearly.

But there have been many times when I haven’t thought so clearly as a mother…

Like when my son wanted to eat every 2 hours for the first 6 months of his life. I was a walking zombie. I don’t remember much of that season other than I was always sleepy, hungry, and irritable. Sleep deprivation is my kryptonite. He finally started sleeping past 6am when he was about 4 years old. It was better than winning the mega-millions.

And when we brought my first-born home from the hospital. We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. But she turned out just fine. Due to a later diagnosed tongue thrust issue, she never latched on securely enough to nurse, so I pumped for 14 months. Wow. So do not even want to think about that. She looks more like her daddy, but she acts just like me. I don’t know how my parents did it at times. But, I am so glad they did.

Or when we decided it was best to bring our daughter home for school. I was desperately clinging to Jesus for answers. And after 3 weeks of desperation, peace washed over me and I knew what He was calling us to do. 7 months later, we are all still alive and Callie hasn’t fired me…yet!

Oh yeah, and the time when Anthony worked night shift for almost 3 years when my littles were really little. I felt like a single mother 2 weeks out of every month. All my dear husband had time for was work and sleep. I couldn’t blame him, but I am sure I did. I know I was mad and he was the reason. My dream machine had 3 riders on the nights he worked. When he finally went back to days and the fog lifted, we were stronger as a couple than we had ever been, but the journey was not blissful.

I don’t think either of us were thinking very clearly during those almost 3 years. We call it the “season of fog”. I am so grateful the fog has ascended and clarity has returned.

Speaking of weather and fog and storms, parenting and being a mother reminds me sometimes of living in the eye of the hurricane. The world and things that happen every day rage on. As a mom, I want to safeguard my megamillions, my kids, from that world. They are worth everything to me. I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t get hurt or feel pain. They most certainly will.

That’s why I believe the most important gift I can give my children this day and everyday is my time. My presence. Myself. It is a precious sacrifice that I pour out everyday.

It reminds me of my sweet Jesus. He doesn’t want anything I can give Him. He wants me. My time. My presence. He just wants to be with me, foggy headed or not!

Everyday at our house is mother’s day. Everyday is spent with the ones I love. Everyday I choose how I spend my time. I never get it perfectly right, but all my kids want is me and I always have that to give them, clearheaded or not!

As I hit the publish button and shut down my laptop, I want to wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day, today and every day.

Much love to you all.

 

Actually, I’m Frightened…

We were riding through downtown Clayton. Clouds were ominously heavy with water. My sweet girl seemed a little weighed down, too. She is never without words, and she had spoken a grand total of 4 words from our home to downtown, about a 10 minute drive.

“How many more minutes?”

“Just a couple more,” I replied

Then silence. No response from my sweet girl dressed for a grand occasion.

Her lack of response prompted me to remember what I felt like when I was preparing for my first recital.

“Callie, baby, are you excited?” I asked.

“FRIGHTENED is MORE like it!” she exclaimed.

And she was serious. Her already wan face was void of color other than her sprinkling of freckles that she likes to call her “God-given sparkles”.

“What are you afraid of, baby?” I questioned.

“What if I mess up? What if I trip? What if I forget my notes?” she pondered as she shared her anxiety with me, dad, and Sean.

I noticed Sean reach over the center console in the backseat and place his hand on her leg. I almost lost it. Sometimes words are a poor substitute for human touch.

“And if you do all of those things, we will still be so very proud of you. We will love you regardless of what happens today. Just don’t stop playing. Keep going if you make a mistake. Most people in the audience will never know.” I shared through glassy eyes.

My super confident oldest child was more than scared. She was frightened of messing up. Messing up would mean that she was a failure, not good, not worthy.

As I pondered this conversation days after the recital, God shared with me that Callie’s fear on that cloudy Sunday afternoon is my fear and your fear.

What if I screw up? What if no one likes me? What if they laugh at me?

Fear is a thief that steals our joy. It was causing Callie’s excitement over her first recital to diminish in the face of messing up big time.

Fear causes us to doubt and doubt convinces us that we’re not good enough or we won’t be loved or accepted if we make a mistake. 

Wow…how many times have I allowed fear to affect my decisions. To delay me or to change my direction in life. The fear was too overwhelming to conquer so I chose something easier or different. I can think of several major times in my life. I regret them immensely.

However, I now know that whatever happens on the other side of a decision has nothing to do with my worth. In the past, I connected success with being worthy or good enough. I pray I can help my children learn from my mistakes.

I pray they know their worth and value is not connected to success or failure. You have value because you are you. Simple to say, hard to live. The key is to keep playing, writing, singing, drawing, cooking, loving, praying, giving, and trying. Don’t let fear paralyze you and prevent you from moving forward.

Callie pushed through her fear and played her piece oh so well last Sunday. I was more nervous than her when she walked up to the piano and sat down. I was nervous for her because I wanted her to succeed. I wanted all of her hard work to pay off.

I know she will not always be successful. Neither will I, but I do know we are loved and worthy regardless.

 

 

Always Do The Right Thing

In my home town of Princeton, NC, a battle is underway. As I am sure you’ve heard or read by now, a soon to graduate Senior at Princeton High School, has been expelled for trying to right a wrong. I won’t go into the details here, but I am sure you can find ample information via the news outlets.

This incident has stirred overwhelming feelings of anger and grief in me. I think it is related to an incident that also happened at Princeton School when I was in 6th grade…

I was a tomboy by all admissions. I was more comfortable on the ball field than I was wearing the latest fads and putting on makeup. So, I was probably one of the last girls in my 6th grade class to be put in In School Suspension (ISS) for wearing shorts that were TOO short. Yes, me. The tomboy who wore t-shirts and jeans. I don’t think I owned a skirt until I was 16.

Let’s go back to 1988. It was early spring and the temperature was finally warm enough for shorts. I pulled out a pair of Jams, yes, Jams, and put them on without much thought.

I arrived at school for a normal 6th grade day. Or so I thought.

Out came the ruler and our teacher was measuring the length of our shorts. No fear, I thought. These are the same shorts I wore last year.

Boy, was I ever wrong. I must have hit a growth spurt because according to her ruler, my shorts were an inch too short. I was immediately sent to the office.

Now, for a moment, think about what must have been going on in my head. I knew my parents were going to KILL me. I was scared to death. I was an A Honor Roll student. I had never been sent to the office for anything other than delivering notes to the principal from my teachers. Messenger turned criminal for wearing short shorts. 

I cried all the way to the office. I sat on the bench in the hallway and waited for my fate. I was sobbing when he called me in and shut the door. I couldn’t even speak. I listened to him as he said that I would be in ISS the rest of the day. He continued by saying someone would bring me my books and that I could be excused.

I didn’t even know where ISS was. I managed to ask him between gasps, snot, and tears, where it was and he told me. Frightened and confused, I made my way downstairs and entered the chambers of ISS.

I sat in a cold brown desk with the other guilty criminals. I thought I was going to throw up. To a soon to be 12-year-old this was the equivalent of prison.

I laid my head on the desk and sobbed until there were no more tears.  I am sure it was only 10 minutes, but it felt like forever. In my daze of confusion, I felt a hand rubbing my hair.

I lifted my head and saw one of my favorite teachers. She was not the one who sent me to the office. I will not share that teacher’s name, because it isn’t important. What’s important is what happened next.

Mrs. Lee didn’t have any books with her, but she did have a pair of khaki shorts. 

Mrs. Lee handed me the shorts and said, “Go to the bathroom and try these on. I don’t know if they will fit, but if they do, you can go back to class.” I could tell that Mrs. Lee had been crying.

“Are you sure?” I asked. I couldn’t believe that I was about to be pardoned. She could have brought me an ankle length hula skirt and I would have worn it proudly.

“Yes, I spoke with the assistant principal. All you need is to have on a pair of shorts that meet the length rule.” she replied. 

I was having a hard time believing what she was saying. On my way out the door, she placed her hand on my back and said, “It’s going to be okay. I am sorry.”

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. She hugged me and I asked her, “Where did you get the shorts?”

“Jill had them in her locker. I asked the class if anybody had any shorts or pants that you could borrow. Now, hurry up. Go change in the bathroom and I will see if they are long enough.” Mrs. Lee said as I quickly darted into the basement bathroom.

Yes, I broke a rule. My shorts were too short. I did not intentionally break the rule. I would have never done anything to earn myself a spot on the bench outside the elementary school office.

But, I had been pardoned. I had been given the amazing gift of grace. 

I can only imagine how Cole feels today. It makes me proud to see the small but mighty community of Princeton, NC rally around him and his family. I pray that my children make the choice that Cole made after he realized he’d made a mistake…the right choice.

I pray that he, too, will receive the gift of grace and be pardoned. One size truly does not fit all, whether it involves shorts or unintentionally leaving your unloaded gun in your locked vehicle. The letter of the law may have been broken, but the intent of Cole’s heart was to do the right thing.

Now it is time for the powers that be to do the same thing.

 

A Finisher’s Medal

When you run a race, you get a medal. Sometimes the medals are cheap replicas of the real deal, but others are pretty awesome! I know runners who enter races just to get the medal that is offered when they cross the finish line. And I am {not} one of them!!

The Tar Heel Ten Miler was this past weekend. I was going to run it because of my love for all things Chapel Hill, but I had a speaking engagement the day of the race.

I wasn’t so disappointed because I love to speak and share what God puts on my heart with other women, but when I saw a picture of the finisher’s medal floating around on Facebook, I was a little disappointed. Here is a picture of it courtesy of the “Tar Heel Ten Miller” Facebook page:

Now, Carolina fan or not, that is a sweeeeeeeeeet medal! And I will never get the chance to earn one of them either. The medal changes each year. My chance for this amazing bling is gone forever.

As I pondered this, my thoughts landed upon the Boston Marathon and all those racers who never crossed the finish line on that Monday afternoon. The Boston Marathon is not any marathon. It is the world’s oldest annual marathon. Runners have to qualify just to gain entry in the prestigious race. For many runners, just to quality for Boston or to “BQ” is a life long goal and achievement.

The qualifying times are nothing to sneeze at. For example, 18 to 34-year-old men must run a marathon prior to the Boston Marathon in less than 3 hours and 5 mins in order to qualify for Boston. For women in the same age group, the qualifying time must be under 3 hours and 35 minutes. For 35 to 39-year-old men and women, the qualifying times are 3 hours and 10 minutes and 3 hours and 40 minutes, respectively.

As you can tell, these times are fast. Anyone who qualifies for the Boston Marathon has trained for a long time. They have sacrificed much to run from Hopkinton, MA to Boston for 26.2 miles. They deserve their medal.

My runner heart bleeds for those who qualified for Boston, but never crossed the finish line that fateful Monday afternoon due to a horrific tragedy completely out of their control. They deserve their race hardware, their bling.

I read this story in tears. A man who finished about 5 minutes before the explosions and got his medal, was walking back to his hotel with his wife. He encountered a woman who was sitting on the side of the road sobbing. Due to the bombings, she did not finish. She was only about a half a mile from the finish line when she was forced to stop running for her own safety. So close to sweet victory. Even if you have never run in your life, you could slowly jog for a half a mile or 2,640 feet.

This man gave her his medal. Yes. You read correctly. What a sacrifice. I applaud him. I don’t know that I could have given away a coveted Boston Marathon medal.

I hope every person who was still running and in the field to complete the Boston Marathon that day will get a finisher’s medal. It would be my wish. However, I know some of them who didn’t finish may not want a finisher’s medal. They technically didn’t finish. I’ve been running long enough to know runners are a tad quirky. Maybe they could be given the choice to receive a medal or not. Something to chew on.

I know I will never qualify for Boston. I am not a fast runner. I run for many reasons, but the most powerful of all is because I can. I survived a traumatic accident where I was run over as a small child. I should be running on the streets of gold in heaven, not on gravel, sand, asphalt, and the rubber of a treadmill here on earth.

You, too, are running a race. I pray you will receive THE finisher’s medal one day.

You still have a chance to enter this eternal race, unlike my opportunity to earn the medal handed at at the finish line of the Tar Heel Ten Miler this past weekend. Today maybe your Kairos moment. You will receive a medal that will never tarnish. The qualifying time is much easier to attain. Actually, you don’t even need to train. You only need to surrender.

Have you surrendered? Do you know Him? He knows you and has called you by name. You can choose to enter the race of your lifetime today. The only race where a finisher’s medal is guaranteed!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” I Corinthians 9:24-25

 

 

 

 


Living Out Loud

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” Emile Zola

She twirled and turned and danced for no one to see. All alone in the backyard, she moved from one corner of the 1/2 acre to the next in a rhythm all her own. I couldn’t hear the music she was hearing, but I could see it. Her face to the sky and her arms outstretched to welcome all that was available to capture.

With every note and scale and song, she continued to dance for no one, but herself.

I watched from the kitchen. I knew she couldn’t see me, but Broadway had come to town. To my own backyard. I had a front row seat for free. I stood starstruck, gazing by the window with my arms crossed and I heard a whisper.

 

“This is what it’s all about. She gets it. Dancing to the music that I composed for her. Living out loud.”  

 

She gets it and I’ve lost it. I hear static and she hears music. She dances and I don’t. She twirls and I run. She performs because she can’t help herself. I perform for an audience because of what they can give me. Ouch.

I hear the whisper again:

 

“Do what I’ve called you to do. For me. For an audience of one. It doesn’t matter who else is watching. Let me take care of that detail. Just dance. Live out loud.” 

 

And I can’t help myself. The tears find their way down my cheeks as I continue to watch my backyard dancer. All I can do is offer my Composer a prayer:

“Lord, help me hear Your music. The music You have composed just for my symphony, my life. Help me to live out loud even when the critics are louder than your voice. When the critics say things that create dissonance in my vision. Help me hear You and You alone. Lord, I want to dance with my face toward the sky and my arms outstretched ready to receive all that You have to offer. I am ready to live out loud…”

 

When you Feel Like Dancing in the Rain

It trickles down my cheek and lands on my shoulder. Finding its way down as I lift my hands high.

The heavens open up and it continues to fall down like rain, gentle, yet refreshing. I stand still. Soaking it all in. I look down and it is puddling at my feet. It found its way down my back between my shoulder blades. Tickling me even though I was fully aware I was being swept away by grace.

 

It’s different this time.

Palpable.

Maybe it’s because I am different this time.

The tempest washed away the chaff, the excess. Through it all, He remained. Steady. Present. Patient.

His faithfulness wooed me. Astonished me. Captivated me.

Even in all my questioning, I was not running away. Just the opposite. I was clinging to bare threads. Clinging to the simple Truth I did know but didn’t believe. He loves me. He really, really loves me. And even when I chose to abandon Him, He remained.

This one simple truth sustained me. Like manna, it nourished me.

And today, I am dancing. Praising. Singing in the rain. His mercy rains down. It cleanses me. Invigorates me. Renews me.

He never abandoned me in my misery. He was by my side the entire time even when I refused to look at Him. His grace beckoned to me every single time.

He remained good when life was bad. He wept with me.

He chose me. He pursued me. I alternated between anger and apathy as I held him at a distance. He never stopped loving me. I said yes after many, many rejections. It was not instantaneous. It was a slow and painful process. I would say yes and then slam the door in His face. Broken and frustrated, I lifted my hands in anger towards Him, not praise. I wanted to know why, when, how, who. He whispered to me “be patient, be still, you will know what you need to know when you need to know it”. This angered me at first, but in time I pondered, talked to Him, journaled a lot, and just sat still.

Slowly, the ice around my heart began to melt. He never forced me, never threatened me, and never left me. Ever. Not even on my darkest nights when I wanted nothing to do with Him. As I sat with Him, I got to know Him. The more I got to know Him, the more I could see His hand at work in my life. God is for me. He wants the absolute best for me. And you. I don’t know where you are on your journey, but I do know that He loves you right where you are.

I know there will be more storms, but I also know that He will never stop loving me. People used to tell me that He loved me, just like I am telling you right now. But I didn’t believe them.

I challenge you to sit with Him. Rest in His presence. Ask Him questions, listen to Him. Don’t listen to me. Listen to God.

I am praying for you, even now as I am dancing in the rain, with hands lifted high in praise. He is my dance partner and I am enjoying the dance…because of the rain.

For when you don’t feel like loving…

I had heard all the love stories. They began with: “you will feel love for her the instant they place her on your chest”. Well, I didn’t. And I felt guilty {for a long time} for not feeling love for her the instant she was placed in my arms.

Who can you talk to about such things without them thinking you need to be committed? How can a new mother not be madly in love with her first-born baby? It is hard enough to share it almost 8 years later. With you. With strangers who stumble upon my website through random search engines.

But, today, I choose to share my love story because I have a feeling I was not alone in my confusion and guilt.

More than anything in my life, becoming a mother changed me. Forever.

More than leaving home for college. More than getting married. More than my parent’s divorce. More than losing our first home and all of our belongings to tragedy.

Becoming a mother created imprints on my heart that nothing can ever wash away. Becoming a mother changed the way I think about everything and everybody. I will never think the same about my days, choices, actions, and relationships. Every choice I make impacts the lives of two precious and completely dependent little people.

When we found out we were pregnant with our first-born, I was ecstatic. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to hold and nurse and cuddle with a mini-Lizzie or mini-Anthony. My entire pregnancy was filled with beautiful reminders of what was about to happen. A new little life was going to call us mama and daddy. Our then one bedroom apartment was busting at the seams with baby paraphernalia!

When we found out we were having a little princess, she already had a name. The one we had picked out when we were dating in college and talking about our “what if” future together. Her name means most beautiful oath of God. We were beyond excited.

Callie would keep us waiting longer than the normal 40 weeks of gestation. She was already displaying her stubborn personality. 10 days beyond her July due date, I started having labor pains in my lower back that were almost unbearable. And for 24 hours straight, it felt like an elephant was dancing on my lower back.

2 failed epidurals later, Callie was determined to stay in my womb just a little longer. After pushing for 3 hours and 15 minutes, we discovered the problem. Callie was positioned face up and her sweet head was getting caught on my pelvis. After my OB tried to manually turn Callie {ouch} with no success, out came the vacuum extractor, and so did Callie. Her very loud cry was the best thing I had heard all night and all day. I collapsed on the bed, bruised and torn from the birth of my first-born.

The nurses checked her out, cleaned her up, and swaddled her tight. The very moment they swaddled her, she stopped crying. She was warm again.

I, on the other hand, was exhausted and traumatized. None of those people who told me that I would “feel love for her the instant they placed her on my chest” prepared me for reality. Remember, excruciating pain for 24 hours. 2 failed epidurals. Pitocin induced contractions. Manual maneuvering in an attempt to turn Callie and all sorts of other physical ramifications left me completely worn out. More so than after completing my first marathon.

The last thing I wanted to do was nurse a baby. I wanted to go to bed for the next 24 hours.

I managed to roll over onto my back as they brought her to me. I held her. And I really wanted to make myself feel love for her. To cry tears of joy. But they didn’t come while I held her the first time. Or while we snuggled together after nursing marathons at the hospital. I KNEW I loved her. I knew I loved her more than I knew anything. But, I didn’t feel it. At all. The guilt from not feeling love for your child is something you never want to feel.

The feelings still didn’t come as we left the hospital and headed home. And for weeks to come, I didn’t have a distinct moment when the love feeling switch came on. I knew I loved her. But, I wanted to feel it. I wanted something replace the guilt I was feeling.

I wish someone had told me the truth instead of fantasy filled expectations of instantaneous love and bliss. I wish I had known the love feelings would eventually come if I kept choosing to love. 

Out of desperation or ignorance or just plain not knowing what else to do, I chose to love my daughter even when I didn’t feel it, just like I had chosen to forever love my husband on our wedding day in 1999. For better or worse. In all things. Through all things. In spite of all things.

I learned love is a choice. And as a young mother, I chose to love when I didn’t know what else to do about how I was feeling. I acted in love even when I didn’t feel like it. Who feels like waking up every 2 hours to feed a screaming baby? Who feels like changing poopy diapers more often than I can count in 24 hours?

And the feelings eventually came. The guilt was slowly replaced with feelings of love that I had never felt before for anyone. A mother’s love. And almost 8 years later, it is stronger than ever.

Love is a choice. Feelings come after choosing to love.

Who are you choosing to love today even if you don’t feel like it?

 

“Lord, help us to love you more than anyone or anything. Give us courage to choose to love others even when we don’t feel like doing so. Thank you, Father, for choosing to love us and for sending your Son to die in our place. Love requires sacrifice. Every time. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to make a choice that led to your death. A choice to love that required the ultimate sacrifice. May we love like you. Undaunted, unafraid, and unashamed.”

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8)