Thursday, October 8, 2015

This House...

Our house is cluttered with boxes and toys and loads of messes today. We are leaving California and as I move from room to room, my heart is breaking. I've been on the West Coast for 13 years and while I feel like living in this state has really defined so much of who I am, I feel like this house has made Jarred and I who we are in so many ways. It has seen us through a lot. We moved in month nine of marriage.

We've learned each other in this place. We were still in the honeymoon phase when we moved in and let me tell you, this house has seen it all :) I distinctively remember the day we signed the escrow papers and the moment we walked into our first owned home. I remember the late nights debating over paint colors and which room would eventually be our nursery… someday. I remember dreaming about the little "fixes" we wanted to do to our little place and how much better it would be when we sold it. None of that happened, of course. We have laughed and cried and prayed and argued here. We have grown and taken steps backwards and we have solidified who "we want to be" in this house.

We spent many nights on the couch with a glass of wine watching "New Girl" and laughing until our stomachs hurt.

Monday and Tuesday mornings we cook breakfast together and linger around the table while we eat. Our kitchen has been one of our favorite places to spend time together - cooking and talking and laughing.

I will never forget the 5am excited walk from our bathroom to wake him up and tell him "You're going to be a DAD!" I just couldn't wait until he woke up to tell him :) No way!

Every Thursday night this house had a crock pot full of delicious food cooking and 10 college gals filling up our living room talking about Jesus and real life and becoming a little family. I remember those 10 gals FREAKING OUT when we told them we were having a baby. One of my favorite moments in this house…

About six months into my pregnancy, I'll never forget the Thursday night I sat on the bottom of the stairs and wept listening to my dad tell me over the phone that my mom might have cancer. One of my college gals happened to get there early that night and she sat on the bottom of the stairs with me and just let me cry.

I remember the exact corner of the couch where I was sitting when my dad called the next day and told me my mom had pancreatic cancer and I needed to come home. By God's grace, my sweet friend Cheryl was right there with me. I remember feeling numb and then feeling Holland move inside my belly and thinking that I had to be strong and get through this because she was counting on me. I had no choice but to do all I could to protect that little life while we dealt with all of this from miles away.

I remember sitting on the bedroom floor with packing our suitcases and I just sobbed and sobbed knowing full-well that my mom may not make it through this battle. And will never forget Joel walking into our bedroom and just sitting on the floor with me. People's presence means everything in the hardest moments.

On May 26th, 2014 our little girl came into the world and my mom was there - the strongest woman I know looked past her own pain during chemo treatment and came to us for a week when our girl was born. I don't know what I would have done without her. I'll never forget when she and Jarred and I walked in from the hospital with our tiny tiny girl.

My mind is laced with memories of sleepless nights in our bedroom with our newborn daughter and my in-laws tirelessly helping us around the clock for weeks because of my complications from my C-section. This little house became their second home.

Over our 3 years in this neighborhood, some of our friends have moved in and become our neighbors and some of our neighbors have become our friends. We've spent many warm evenings watching all the kiddos fight over toys play outside and have swapped dinners at each others houses.

This house is where our little gal learned to say her first words, where her daddy made her giggle for the first time, where I first heard those tiny feet running down the hallway between our bedrooms, where she first "shared" all of her meals with Maggie the dog, where we spent countless hours watching netflix when sleep didn't come easily, where she learned her first words and came around the corner each morning saying "Ma-Ma" when she saw Maggie sitting downstairs.

I won't soon forget the 3am laughter and fun that ensues on monthly poker night. We've had to move to a location where it won't wake kids up, but i'm so grateful that Jarred has had the chance to be in a community of guys who truly loves to spend time together.

It's a place where we've had the gift of hosting many overnight guests… for one night or for six months. We have loved the people who have lived and stayed with us in our little home and the coffee and wine conversations that come with it.

Walking away is hard; it always is. While there are definite things to look forward to, we know that goodbyes carry a weight that feels heavy. We grew up here and became us here. My heart is grateful.

Friday, April 3, 2015

On Obedience

I took a job with an incredible organization called Students International about a year and a half ago knowing full well that part of my job was to lead mission trips - something I've been hugely passionate about for years and have done with enthusiasm. But then we had a baby. We went to Costa Rica when I was 12 weeks pregnant, but then I got a free pass for the last 16 months because, you know, pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, nursing - all the things. In November, Jarred and I made plans to take a group of college students to Nicaragua with our good friend Joel and we've been so excited about it since then. But as soon as the reality hit that I would be weaning our baby girl and leaving her for a week, I almost bailed about 1000 times, including during our layover in the Houston airport.

I called a friend and colleague and said, "How do you leave your babies? I don't think I can do it. I'm going to back out. Talk me down." And she did. Bless her. Her advice was simple - "The first time is the hardest. I promise it will go by quickly once you get there and get busy. Give yourself permission to come home or to not go if your childcare situation isn't working out or your kid is hysterical." All of these words were helpful, but in my logical mind it just felt so wrong to leave my 10 month old and go to Central America for a week.

Here's what it came down to for me - obedience. All the mommy guilt, positive self-talk, awesome grandparents babysitting, knowledge that there's a 99% chance that it's all going to go down just fine - all of that was great, but the kicker for me was this thing that we often like to ignore called obedience. The bottom line is that God has called me to work for SI to bring people into his story across the globe. I have no doubt about that. Because of that, I am called to be obedient when he asks me to "go" - plain and simple. What I want my daughter to see is that her parents are obedient. I want that more than anything and if I were to back out because I was scared or because of her, it sends the wrong message - to her, my college gals I walk with, my friends, the students on the trip, our church community. Don't get me wrong, not a single person would have faulted me for staying home with my 10 month old baby, but I knew that I knew that I knew that we were called and I was to be obedient to that call.

Jarred and I always want our kids to see our hearts for the nations, for the poor and we want them to know that God is bigger than their little world. As soon as they're big enough to wear bug spray, you bet they'll be coming with us, but for now, our job is to continue to be obedient. That's what we want them to know about their parents and see modeled. And we need to start practicing that now - not when they're 3 or 6 or 10, but now, when they're tiny.

The crazy part is that I unexpectedly got to share this with the women in Nicaragua who thought I was literally nuts for weaning and leaving my baby. The even crazier part is that despite the cultural differences and the fact that it's not something they would ever do, they understood. When I explained to them that it wasn't that I wanted to leave my baby and that my heart was torn in shreds when I put her to bed the night before I left, but that I came because I care about them and because I want my daughter to see me being obedient - somehow, they understood (and I even got baby snuggles while I was there, thanks Jesus).

One of my Nicaraguan colleagues spoke such truth to me the night before we left. She told me how much she respects me as a mom and how much she admires my desire for my kids to know God's heart for the world. She told me I'm a good mom and that God used me in her life last week, just when she needed me. And I knew that I was in the right place for all the right reasons. Obediently saying "yes" was the hardest part… that and getting on the plane.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best of 2014

My friend, Lesley writes a similar post every year and I decided to put my own twist on it but copy her idea. She's also a very gifted writer - you should read her blog.

Here's my opinions about some 2014 things:

10 Things I couldn't have lived without (most of these have to do with pregnancy or being a new mom, sorry…)

- Marika Yoga Pants, just yes
- Johnson & Johnson hands and faces baby wipes
- my little clutch wallet/purse thing that I can wear on my wrist and stick in my diaper bag
- Parenthood (the TV show) - the amount of time spent nursing in the early days is no joke
- our Baby Jogger City Select stroller - it pushes like it's invisible
- Starbucks giftcards - thank you Jesus for the nice people who know I needed coffee
- the Ergo - God bless…
- a video baby monitor - the only reason our kid left our bedroom in August
- Hand-Me-Down baby and Maternity clothes - I love my sisters-in-law
- the Exersaucer - I can pee and cook and not watch my kid

Things that just worked for me:

- Walking to the grocery store - when we had Holland, I resolved that if I needed less than 15 things (and nothing was heavier than a galling of milk) then I was going to walk to the grocery store. Amazingly, this has been a great little mile walk for us and we both LOVE it. And there's a Starbucks in the store, shhhhhh...

- We spent 3 weeks in Texas and we actually didn't go nuts - it wasn't intentional, but Holland and I ended up spending 3 weeks in Texas in December and I'm shocked that the days went by quickly and we survived. Of course, there's no place like home, but I thought it was going to be WAY harder on both of us.

- Nighttime showers - it sounds like a silly thing, but I always loved to shower in the morning to start my day. When I had Holland I couldn't do that because she's a terrible napper, so there was never enough time to leave her to shower & get ready. When she was tiny, I started showering when Jarred would get home from work. It's been grab for me & is my "wind down" time when I know he's in charge of the kid if she wakes up and I can finally relax.

- The CrockPot - my parents got us this All Clad Crockpot when we got engaged and it's from Jesus. There's nothing better when you're cooking for 10 girls or just for two. It's quick and easy and I can put dinner in during her morning nap and know that if my day falls apart at the seams, at least dinner is already done. I just wish I could pull it together enough to use it more often than I did.

Memorable Moments of 2014

- The birth of Miss Holland Mae Minefee on May 26th - and the crazy 2 weeks that led up to it - and the crazy 2 weeks that followed it… what a whirlwind birth experience that was, but our girl is here.

- Sitting on the bottom of the staircase when my dad called to tell me that my mom had pancreatic cancer. I will never forget it, nor the fearful yet peaceful few weeks that followed. Flying to Texas to see her the day after her diagnosis was like being in a bad movie. Some of the worst days of my life.

- Getting the text with my mom ringing the "Cancer-free" treatment bell at MD Anderson. I'm so grateful that God chose to heal my mom.

- Hanging out with my in-laws in October while we got the phone call that our friend Chuck had passed away from his battle with cancer and left sweet Holly and the twin babies behind - why was God healing my mom, but taking our friend?

- Hearing Holland laugh at her daddy for the first time in September - melted my heart into pieces.

- My first (and only to date) overnight away from my sweet girl to play with one of my besties for my birthday. So thankful to my hubby for the break and for time with Erin.

- The excruciating pain of having to let my daughter "cry it out" from time to time - I was not prepared for the torture that is for me - that and the sleep deprivation - absolute torture.

- Decorating our little house for Christmas with our college gals - including some inappropriateness, wine drinking and a baby photography session.

- Having lots of mama friends close by to do this raising kids thing with. I'm so so grateful for my gal pals.

- Seeing my mom back to "herself" when I got there in December - the best gift anyone could give me. Ever. I didn't know if we'd ever have "her" back and thank the Lord we do.

2014 Inventory - Highest Highs and the Lowest Lows

Clearly I don't have much blog time at this point in my life - this whole mom thing throws all used-to-be priorities right out the window. There are things I really miss and I would say sitting down to read and write are among the top two. So just for the next few days I'm taking back a few moments because I made a commitment to myself to write this post every year - to remember and reflect. As I think about writing this for 2014 I'm a little freaked out because the highs were really high and the lows were really low - it was a bizarre year.

- joy: Holland Mae entering our lives was the most life-altering, joy-inducing thing, second only to our wedding day in my book. Also, the tears of joy that flowed when my mom finished her treatment CANCER FREE was one of the best moments of my life.

- peace: from the moment my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to the day she was declared "cancer free", though we were sad and it was a nasty road, we experienced such peace. To be able to still laugh and so enjoy being together while she was in the most intense, scary surgery is a peace that can't be explained without Jesus. I'm also still trying to find the balance with peace and parenting. I know that my job is to trust Jesus with my kids, but I've never had someone that I'm responsible for 24/7 and it's hard to have peace with that big of a job. If you're reading this and you have any advice, let me know ;)

- grace: being a mom and messing it up - every single day. Holy smokes I can't tell you how many times in just 7 months that I've already messed up royally. Thankfully kids don't have memories until they're 4 or 5 - ha! The grace that God has shown me, that my daughter shows me and that my incredible husband shows me everyday is astounding. I don't deserve it, especially from Jarred - his life and our marriage have changed tremendously this year and I'm so grateful that he over and over again chooses grace with me.

- mercy: We cried "mercy" over and over again this year with health issues - last year I wrote about our friend Chuck being cancer free - this year we cried mercy and continue to do so as he passed away in October and left behind his sweet wife and 18 month old twins - Mercy, Lord. We cried "mercy" over my mom as she suffered tremendous pain following one of the most intense surgeries any human could have, as she bravely entered chemo every week followed by radiation everyday - he has shown such mercy to us this year. I am crazy grateful to have my mom back.

- discipline: I don't know what this is anymore because my days are so unpredictable… I need more of it? I feel like that's all I can say about discipline this year - waking up early, that's taken so much discipline… or a crying infant, you choose.

- growth: In the past I've measured growth mostly by spiritual growth, but this year I think my personal growth trumped that and bled into my spiritual life. Becoming a mom has grown me and stretched my faith, my patience, my love more than anything. On the other hand, the fear of losing my mom while pregnant with my first child grew me leaps and bounds - it forced me to put my trust in Jesus, to ask for help from others, to know that even if that happened, I would be okay, Holland would be okay and my God is still good. My journey will always be marked by 2014's crazy season that now feels more like a bad dream than reality. Thank God it's over.

- answered prayer: Where do I start with this one?!?!?! Remember that time my mom got diagnosed with the most deadly form of cancer and totally beat it? - hello, answered prayer. And that time my best friend dealt with infertility and had healthy TWINS? - hello, answered prayer. And that time I got a gnarly infection after my c-section and I'm just fine now? - hello, answered prayer. And that time my brother-in-law had some REALLY crazy health issues happening that doctors couldn't' figure out and now he's perfectly healthy? - hello, answered prayer. And that time we prayed for a healthy baby girl? HELLO, ANSWERED PRAYER. I could keep writing but holy smokes God is good.

- beauty: One of the most beautiful things I've witnessed this year was watching my husband become a dad. He's incredible with our little gal and my I melt when I hear them laughing, watch him dance with her in the kitchen or see her light up when he gets home from work. And a shout out to my college gals growing up and become real life women contributing to the real life world - really a beautiful thing. I LOVE those gals and I can't talk about not seeing them almost everyday. I can't.

- rest: what's that? 2015, can we get some more of that, please?

- perseverance: A newborn requires the most intense amount of perseverance - sleepless nights, c-section recovery with sleepless nights, pressing on with all of that while my mom was going through chemo and trusting that all the details would work out for her to be here when Holland was born - of course they did, because Jesus.

- pura vida (true, full life): My daughter's laugh, my whole family together at Christmas with a whole, healed mom & two more nieces/nephews on the way (not mine, don't worry), hiking and beach days with my little family in SLO, the community of women my college gals have become, friendships that have deepened as the result of a tough year - such good life.

- love: Love took on a whole new meaning when we became parents, I couldn't have imagined how I would literally think about a tiny human almost 24 hours a day, but I do. When I look at her, I can't help but be overwhelmed with love and thankfulness for her little life. She's incredible. Also, my love for my mom is changing - when you almost lose your mom and become a mom during the same year, something in you shifts. I love her differently, appreciate her more and want so badly for her to know my daughter intimately.

- the Gospel: There was much solace this year in knowing that God was good and nothing about Him changed even if my mom didn't survive this year with pancreatic cancer. We knew that if she went to be with Jesus, she would win - even more so than if she had to live her life on earth with a terrible form of cancer. I'm crazy grateful that didn't happen, but the assurance that Jesus gives is worth it all.

I can honestly say there's never been a year where I've experienced more joy or more sorrow than 2014. Cancer and your first born child… but I have a richer, deeper soul because of it all and for that, I'm grateful.

2015, let's be REALLY boring and relaxing, ok?

Friday, August 29, 2014

On Being a Working Mom

Confession (always a great way to begin): I haven't written since I became a mom. The days are long and the nights are short and my brain is foggy, so I haven't been able to pull it together enough to write. Incase you haven't seen her, God's given us the cutest, sweetest baby on the planet - I kid you not. But here I am… at the end of my maternity leave, needing some think space.

You see, the idea of going back to work has been exciting for me from weeks 8-13 of maternity leave. The first 8 weeks, I was hardly physically functional and had no desire to return to work, but these last 5 weeks, it's seemed more doable. I've seen a few friends brave the work world again and I've been anticipating that day for myself. Well this past week was week 14, my last week of leave and I now feel differently about going back to work.

I'm guessing this is normal, but to me it feels so unnatural to be leaving my kid with someone else. I didn't think I would have this problem because I'm not a "homebody" kind of a person. Not at all. I LOVE people, love being out of the house and I'm a big fan of contributing to society and the Kingdom of God. Big fan. Because of this, I thought I'd be excited to go back to my part time job that I really enjoy. But I have this sadness in my heart and a fear in my mind as I prepare to leave my girl next week.

It's not that her daddy and our amazing friend Julia aren't going to love her and care for her well. That's not it at all. I completely trust them and I know she'll have delightful days ahead, but I just have this gut wrenching feeling of "They won't love her in the ways I love her." And they won't. They will love her in their own ways and it will be just great for her… and for them. But as her primary care taker for the 14 weeks of her life, I feel like somehow I'm neglecting her and she's going to struggle when I'm gone. And it just feels wrong for her mama to walk away from her twice a week to go and work.

But I've also hit a wall and am beginning to dislike being in my own house (even though we get out pretty often). So I know it's time. I know the hours I spend away from sweet Holland will make me a better mama when I get home and I've had time to miss her. I know that having purpose in my job and making a difference in the world will make me feel more human and less crazy. And I know the time that my husband and our friend Julia spend with our girl will be awesome for them and for her. But this mama may cry on Monday morning when I walk out the door… and that's okay.

I think this is just the beginning of the motherhood tension of letting go but wanting to hang on at the same time.