Heavy-handed humanness

It is very important to me (as I assume it is to most moms) that my children LISTEN to me. They will need to be able to submit to authority when they are older so it’s my job to teach them to submit to my authority while they are younger. Which I understand to be one of my roles as a parent based on verses like Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” All good things. Except when I get 100% focused on their submission to my will and marginalize everything else, you know, like their well-being, feelings, opinions, thoughts.

That single-minded pursuit of their submission to my authority had the drivers seat this morning. While we were trying to get out the door no one except the baby was doing what I asked them to do and, so, I lost it. Fully. My voice is actually hoarse from yelling so much. The problem I ended up losing it around? Noah was pretending to be a ninja and hiding in blankets, waiting patiently for me to notice him missing and come searching. He was being extraordinarily stealthy and another day I would have found his imagination funny and engaging.  However, since I was coming fresh from dealing with being smacked by a three-year-old for not “allowing” him to buckle himself into his carseat (which he is not even physically able to do at this point), I was not in the mood to play along. Suffice it to say, no one could have done anything right after I started in on the yelling.

We all eventually got in the car and most of us were crying and my eyeballs were boiling. We made it a couple blocks from the house, the volume of my voice and their voices getting progressively louder, before I whipped the car to the curb with a foot stomp on the brake and barreled out of the door, fully intending on berating Noah in his face for whining so loud. Maybe I’d even spank him. As I rounded the bumper of the car on my way to his door, full of righteous huff, God allowed me to walk into the fullness of shame in my actions. My insides were liquid regret. I was behaving like a child who was a lot bigger than all the other children so EVERYONE SHOULD LISTEN TO ME. I slowed way down as I opened the door and looked in at Noah. I was at a loss for words. Here I am, looking at the tear-filled eyes of my preschooler, and I have nothing to say. I had literally just yelled their ears off before stopping the car so we were all a little in shock I think. I heard myself ask Noah if I could say a prayer. He sniffled and said yeah. So I grabbed his little hand and reached over to touch Micah and I asked God to forgive me. Then I asked Noah to forgive me. He said, “Okay. I forgive you, Mom” (Oh man, to be able to forgive like a four-year-old).

I got back in the car and we went on our way. The intricacies of who had disobeyed and how and what needed to change fell behind us and when I looked into the rearview mirror I saw all of us chewing on grace.

I hate that I treated my children so terribly this morning. I hate that it’s a part of their story now. But I love that we got to talk about how Mommy let anger win in her heart, instead of compassion and patience. How Mommy raised her voice when she shouldn’t have and how Mommy was wrong. I got to see the wheels turning in Noah’s head and knew that the next time he lashed out in anger we would be able to talk about the time I lost it and had to apologize to everyone.

My humanness is so heavy-handed but God’s grace is so miraculous.

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There’s a Cracked Egg on My Living Room Floor

I opened my eyes this morning to the sound of my three year old losing the contents of his stomach onto my bedroom floor. I grabbed him under his arms and rushed him to the toilet but was met mid-hallway by my four year old who took my disheveled jumped-from-deep-sleep-to-panicked-running look as an invitation to tell me how he’s sorry he put an egg under the recliner and that it cracked all over the floor.

This was not at all how I pictured my morning going. But, whatever, “hope springs eternal,” I think as I start to clean up the sick one (who, I later discover, was not sick but had eaten a handful of cheese although he is ALLERGIC to dairy and has a body that violently ejects all dairy contents from both ends until everything is out). After he is taken care of I begin to get things ready for preschool drop off.

After getting the four year old’s backpack together, I discovered the little egg-cracker had shut himself in his room and smashed a mini pumpkin he had smuggled out of the living room. Did you know mini pumpkins actually have a surprising amount of guts and seeds? I didn’t. But the carpet in the boys’ bedroom now knows it. “Yeah, I’m sorry Mom, I just broke it open because I wanted to see inside,” he said with a shrug when he saw the incredible tightness of my face and eyebrows-to-the-sky response. He may be struggling with heart attitude and intention but the boy knows how to check a box (Do the thing I want to do even though I know I’m not supposed to – CHECK; find mom, say sorry – CHECK; get away with the thing – CHECK…he wishes).

“JUST. JUST please put some pants on!” This was all I could spit out without coming completely unglued. It took him twenty minutes to put pants on and I was like I’M LOSING IT GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW I DONT CARE IF YOU DON’T HAVE SHOES ON.

We may or may not have been late to preschool.

So, let’s talk about control.

I want it. I want control over my house. I want control over the cleanliness of my floors, the contents of my refrigerator, the amount of sleep I get, the amount of sleep my children get, the laundry, the toys all over the yard, the food that actually goes into my children’s mouths, their behavior, and the fact that they are suddenly tall enough to crawl onto the kitchen counters. I WANT CONTROL.

When sin entered this world in the garden all that was perfect became tainted with sin, including myself, my children, my house, my marriage. The devil came bearing down on all of us and whispered “control” into our ears.

“You can control this. You are enough to control this little thing.”

That expectation of control pressed me into a flat hopeless pancake this morning. Because I couldn’t. I couldn’t control my children and I couldn’t control my time.

But, thank goodness, I don’t need to be in control. All of the above, as well as the souls and well-being of my family, are in the hands of Christ and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

So instead of remaining a flat hopeless pancake, I’m going to drink another cup of coffee, read another chapter of Romans, clean up the cracked egg, and mentally prepare myself as I pray over preschool pick up. Maybe I’ll listen to a gospel-centered podcast or audio book while I clean because what fills the heart is what pops out of the mouth in those moments of complete loss of self-control. So I’ll try to fill my mind and heart with goodness and grace and pray they bring me clarity in those “eyebrows to the sky” mornings.

Moral of the story: Never let your children go to bed without bells on, lest they wake up at 100% and rearing to go, without your knowledge.

 
 

These Days

It’s definitely about time for a personal update around here. While Micah has been a newborn I have been very busy trying to figure him out. He’s a tricky one. And then there’s Noah, a 1 1/2 year old who spend his days trying to convince me he is actually in his “terrible twos.” I haven’t had a lot of spare time to sit down and think about writing.

I loooove my boys. Love them. But I will always be one of the first to throw up her hands and admit motherhood is tough. It’s killing me, ya’ll.

But it’s killing me in the way that it should. I have little to no time for “me things.” (Let’s just not talk about how neglected my eyebrows have become.) I feel incredibly awesome when I get to take a shower, and when I get a shower TWO days in a row, I want to write it on my calendar (it’s that momentous).

I am dying a slowww painful death to “me.” Not by choice, mind you. If it were up to me, I would be painting my nails the perfect winter shade, sipping my Starbucks, and watching Parenthood right now. What I’m actually doing is  sitting on the floor next to an almost three month old who is trying to roll over, typing with one hand around the toddler in my lap, and watching Curious George. And my nail color is two weeks old and chipped to high heaven.

But it’s good, guys. It is SO good. Lately, the phrase “taste and see that the Lord is good” has been floating through my head. It’s just so true. Parenting is a “taste.” It’s hard and I honestly don’t know how people without Jesus can do it. When everyone is screaming, pooping, and spitting up all together and I feel like crying, I look at my ceiling and plead with my Father. Helllllllppp mee pleeeeeese.

And he always does. Whether he extends my patience, gives my heart a refresher, or soothes the crying babies. Sometimes I feel no help and so I put my head down and do what needs to be done. I focus and hustle. And probably still feel discouraged and overwhelmed. But later that day I will get a text or a phone call from a friend that lifts me up and puts me back where I should be. Yep, God is GOOD. I’m tasting and seeing.

In other family news, Connor and I are good. We are loving Colorado and our sweet little townhouse. It is perfect in every way….except for how the fireplace’s chimney is apparently blocked. So when we lit a cozy fire this weekend our whole downstairs filled with smoke. That was STRESSFUL. HA. The scent of camping is now gone and someone is coming to clean the flue out on Friday. Thank goodness.

I am much better at doing updates on instagram, so please follow me there if you want to know more! ;)

We are failing at marriage

I have failed my husband. My husband has failed me.

And we are not alone. It is happening in every. single. marriage.

Failure.

When Connor and I were married three years ago, we included in our ceremony one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

“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.” 1 Corinthians 14:4-7

I could not wait to share that kind of love with my sweet and wonderful husband for the rest of my life.

In the months following our wedding, we did everything we could to build a fortress around our marriage to keep evil out. We prayed together – over our marriage and each other. I felt so safe in our relationship.

Not to say our first year wasn’t rough. It was. Learning to respond with love and grace, regardless of our emotional state, was an incredible challenge.  But we really loved each other so, when those lessons of humility kept coming, we did our best to welcome them with open arms. Because, after all, love is not self-seeking. We made real progress. It was precious and beautiful progress towards maturity in our love and the ways we related to each other.

The scary thing, friends, is that all marriages are at risk of Satan’s influences. Even (and especially) the strong ones.

See, while we were “building” our marriage, I was still feeling “failed.” Things would happen between us that hurt me. Every time I would say, “I forgive you,” and would really want to mean it, but the hurt lingered in my heart and refused to go away. So I became passive in my love towards my husband. Eventually, I did not feel loved and I did not want to forgive my husband anymore. The trust we had on our marriage day had been dismantled.

I knew I wanted to repair our marriage to what it had been before the broken trust, but I kept getting lost. I willed my heart to forgive him. I prayed desperately for God to help me and heal our marriage. I thought I was making little steps of progress. However, there was still hurt and anger brewing inside me that quietly bided its time and built up potency – until one day, when it burst like an ugly pus-filled wound.

While driving myself to a meeting for work, I was overwhelmed with what had happened to my once beautiful love-filled life. I was MAD. I could not accept that my marriage was flawed and always would be. I could not believe that I had “chosen” to forgive my husband.  He needed to know my wrath, my disappointment, and my hurt in full force. He did not deserve to be forgiven. He deserved to know EXACTLY how he’d hurt me and to be punished. I had let him off too easy. Guys, these kind of thoughts are not unique to me. This is the human condition. Human nature longs, with an ugly bitterness, for retribution when we are wronged. So when all of these thoughts attacked my heart, Satan won a battle in those moments. I was seething and it was ugly. I was failing my husband. I had been offering him conditional love. “Mmm, I’m only going to love you completely if you do right by me, all the time. Otherwise, forget it.”

Drowning, I cried out to God with an utterly broken soul. And when I was done, he spoke to me very clearly. Very. He said, “Dearest, this is not your burden. I am the one who deals out judgments in righteousness. It is not your job to make sure your husband ‘learns his lesson.’ I have you in my hand, sweet one, and you are loved. I have your husband in my hand and he is loved. Do not despair – all will be well. You do not know what Connor and I are working through right now. I am with him. This anger is not for your own hands. You can release it to me.”

Finally, I was able to unclench the fist I had been choking my heart with. I began to realize that my husband is and will forever be a human. All humans are broken and imperfect vessels. That is where the true beauty of marriage in Christ begins. I did not marry a perfect man – he will never be a perfect man. He did not marry a perfect woman – I will never be a perfect woman. Spouses will fail each other. It is unavoidable.

From that point on, forgiving him for the things I had held on to was something I chose to do over and over again, every day. You see, sometimes, true forgiveness is a commitment you must choose to act on with every thought in your head and word in your mouth. Forgiveness is WORK. One step forward, two steps back, rinse, repeat.

As Christians we are told to love each other like Christ loves us. Christ loved ME so much that he died for me. Regardless of the fact I have sinned against him and spit on that gift in more ways than I can name. That he loves me, regardless of anything, is a truth that I know to be infallible. I have found only love and grace from Christ, so shouldn’t that be what my spouse receives from me? No matter what wrong has been committed. The “big” or “small” of the wrong does not matter. Our choice to forgive though – that matters.

There is a blood that covers over all of our offenses and imperfections. Both of our slates have been wiped clean. Our marriage has been wiped clean. While we are imperfect – GOD IS PERFECT!!! When we look to our spouses to complete us, we fail. When we look to Christ to complete us and choose daily to love each other with grace and forgiveness because God loved us – then, our marriage is daily renewed, deepened, and made into something more beautiful than you can imagine.

I LOVE my husband more than when we got married. I have more compassion for my husband than I ever thought possible. We work harder at our marriage than most. We refuse to fail. Having been to a fragile place in our relationship, we know we never want to be there again. We are strong, in Christ. We are imperfect, but we are willing and eager to love each other unconditionally.

This is why failure is happening in every marriage: because we are human. We are selfish. If you feel that failure in your marriage, my heart aches for you. I want you to know that you can have your marriage back. I want you to know you can find healing. It is not easy and it is not quick, but you can get there. It starts with forgiveness. Long-term whole-hearted forgiveness, that only Christ can give you the strength to follow through with.

Do you have a story about forgiveness and marriage? Questions? I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below or send me an email at thegracefilledhome@gmail.com

Your husband deserves

Your husband deserves to be loved by you.

He might be cranky, he might be sweet, he might be overwhelmed, you might feel like he’s overlooking you. It doesn’t matter.

As wives, we are called to serve, help, give grace to, and believe in our husband.

And here’s the deal, our love should be consistent. It should supersede our circumstance (bad day, good day, weird day).

Ugh. So hard for me. I absolutely love my husband, but I also have ALL the feelings and they get in the way of expressing that love. I get mad, tired, irritated, overwhelmed, etc on the DAILY. Usually, Connor gets the brunt of my negative emotions. Enough said about that, hm?

Yesterday, I remembered that. I remembered that on the day I chose to marry Connor I had committed to choosing EVERY day to love him. So last night I left a fresh package of candy canes (his fave) and a short love letter on his pillow to let him know that I remembered. Then I dropped my phone in the pumpkin latte scented candle I lit for ambiance. Oops.

I encourage you to do the same. Love on your spouse for no reason (but maybe don’t drop your phone in hot wax…). Because when we married our wonderful, hard-working, human and flawed husbands we chose them for the rest of our lives.

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Micah’s birth story

I have two kids. That just throws me for a loop. A wonderful, terrifying, very real loop.

Noah and Micah’s birth story are so different.

You can read Noah’s, here.

Being pregnant with Micah was a breeze. I was constantly surprised at how easy the whole pregnancy was, and yet I was READY to for him to arrive right at the 37 week mark. I could not wait to see this precious little boy I would get to love and nurture. But Micah, was not as eager as his mommy.

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At our 40 week appointment I laughed with the receptionist about how this would definitely be the last time I would see her and how I would most certainly cry if I had to show up to my 41 week appointment.

It wasn’t the last time I saw her. Hello, 41 weeks. And, while the receptionist and I laughed about it, I certainly did feel like crying.

My appointment went very smoothly. My body was progressing very well and it looked like labor could be later that day or later next week (hah). My midwife asked if we had thought about being induced. I had been induced with Noah and knew that I DEFINITELY did not want to be induced with baby #2. My labor with Noah had been awful.

You will imagine my surprise then, when I walked out of that appointment with an induction scheduled for the next day. After my midwife and I had talked through the process and the pros and cons, I had decided to move forward with induction again. I fought all day with my emotions of whether it was the right thing to do or not. There are so many valid opinions out there for and against induction.

I wasn’t even going to include the fact that I was induced on this post because I feel a little ashamed of the fact that neither of my babies came on their own time. All the birth stories I’ve read have been about beautiful natural births. So many mothers are proud of their natural births, while I chose induction for my children. It’s not like I intended on making those choices beforehand, but during my conversations with the medical professionals I dealt with during both pregnancies, I was encouraged to view induction as a viable option each time. I do not regret being induced with Micah or Noah but I am afraid of being judged harshly for my choices. However, that is what happened and it would be silly for me to hide it, although I’d totally rather hide it and not deal with people having opinions about it.

So at 5:00 AM, on Thursday September 11 Connor and I woke up, knowing we would meet our second son that day (although I still wasn’t 100% convinced he wasn’t a girl – ultrasounds can totally be wrong, right?!).

We left Noah with my parents and made our way to the hospital. I had a granola bar for breakfast. Which was a terrible idea. When you are preparing for labor, you should eat filling and protein-rich food to fuel your body. I SHOULD know that, considering this is my second time, but, you know, I just must be a total air head. I think I drove the nurses crazy because I told them at least once an hour that I was starving and could NOT wait to eat.

We arrived at the hospital at 8:00AM and were checked into THE SAME ROOM I delivered Noah in. It was one of those things that calms and fills up your heart. All of our surroundings were familiar and we had the best of memories there. They have like 30 labor and delivery rooms at this hospital. What are the odds?

They got me hooked up to a low drip of Pitocin right away and Connor and I settled in to watch a few episodes of Chuck (available on Netflix and absolutely my favorite TV series that my husband and I have watched together. Love love love.).  It was really nice to have a quiet morning for the two of us to talk and dream about what our family was about to become.

Around noon my contractions were coming more regularly and I was dilated to a 4. I wasn’t having any pain with my contractions, just feeling super excited to meet my baby!

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I believe the midwife came back around 2pm and broke my water. A super comfortable and non-painful procedure. Not.

The pain started coming almost immediately afterwards. My contractions picked up big time and it wasn’t an hour later I was enthusiastically flagging down the anesthesiologist. I tried really hard to have Noah without an epidural and ended up exhausting myself mentally and physically which made pushing absolutely miserable. This time around, I was all for relief as soon as that pain started getting real. I am not about that “all natural” life. Nope. But seriously, I am in absolute awe of the women who can and do this process without pain relievers.

I had the best anesthesiologist in the entire hospital. I am absolutely sure of it. I had no pain whatsoever and I could even move my legs freely. Epidurals are usually much more restrictive than that. The nurses couldn’t believe I had as much mobility as I did. I felt completely relaxed and ready to have this baby. It was totally different from before Noah’s arrival and I am so thankful it was.

At 9:00PM I started feeling the “pressure.” My midwife checked me again and, sure enough, I was 10 cm dilated and 100% effaced. She said Micah’s head was slightly turned and not completely lined up with the birth canal so we would wait a little while before pushing so that the Micah could “labor down” on his own. Which was completely genius. I loved my midwife SO MUCH. Every call she made during labor was exactly right.

At 10:15pm it was go-time. Connor and I high-fived and got focused. I was mentally prepared for over an hour of pushing so after only a few pushes (6?) my mouth hit the floor when my midwife said, “Okay, we’re going to have this baby with the next contraction.” Whaat?! She was totally right, and Micah was born at 10:36 PM and placed right on my chest (and I was finally convinced that he was, definitely, a boy).

Having Micah Nolan Boyce was the easiest thing I have ever done (not really, but you get the picture).  As he was getting checked over by the nurses, I looked at Connor and exclaimed, “We should have AT LEAST six kids if it’s going to be that easy!” I was obviously high on endorphins and completely crazed, but maybe not.

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Micah was 8 lbs. 15 oz. One ounce away from nine pounds. The midwives had all told me he was sure to be a seven pound baby. Instead, I had this whopping almost nine-pounder. Every single nurse we came in contact with commented on how big he was. Really. All of them. Because he was so “big” he had difficulty controlling his blood sugar and because he came so quickly he still had fluid in his lungs. Those two factors led to a couple night stay in the NICU. I did not feel anxiety about it because I knew my son was healthy and in the most capable hands he could be.

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Needless to say, when Connor and I finally got to take Micah home on Sunday and hug both of our boys, our hearts were totally and completely full.

 

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting

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This cool weather and the beginning of fall has had me craving pumpkin for dayyys. Yesterday, when I came across this relatively simple melt-in-your-mouth soft cookie recipe I knew what I would be doing during nap time. And oh my, was it worth it. They are soft and yummy on their own, but when you add the frosting it’s like you died and went to heaven. UGH. SO GOOD.

So obviously, I had to share it with you, in case you have been on the hunt for the perfect pumpkin recipe too. ;)

Original Recipe from Better Homes and Garden

Ingredients:

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (add until you get desired consistency/firmness)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the 2 cups of butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder,baking soda,salt,the cinnamon,and the nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in flour.

2. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set.

3. For frosting, in a small saucepan heat the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cooled cookies. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

Better Homes and Gardens