Picture Books Our Family is Loving Right Now

When I published my list of what I’ve been reading lately, my friend Molly pointed out that there wasn’t enough children’s lit on the list. (Molly works in the industry, so she’s the perfect person to make that observation!)

Of course, with all these kiddos running around, we are constantly reading an awful lot of board books and picture books. I thought I’d share what we’re loving these days!

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Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Mighty, Mighty Construction Site: We started with Goodnight, Goodnight… and then spotted Mighty, Mighty…on the New Arrivals shelf at the library. These books are big hits in our house, and I don’t hate them either. I love the colorful illustrations. And, I’ll admit–once or twice, I’ve gotten a little chocked up at the end. Sometimes, I need the reminder that I’ve done great work today, and it’s time to rest my weary wheels.

The Pigeon Books: We’ve had these books in our library for a long time, but the boys are suddenly obsessed with them. Leo, especially, loves buses and so Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is right up his alley. He kind of reads it to himself, even, by flipping the pages and saying, “Hi! Bus! Please! No! Hmmmph.”  It’s one of my favorite parenting moments. (He also gets quite miffed when he realizes that he’s accidently grabbed on of the other books in the series instead of “bus book!”) Side note: I found that our library offers animated versions of these stories through Hooplah, which is a great rainy day activity!

Digger, Dozer, Dumper: We are slowly working our way through every construction-themed book known to man. 😉 I really enjoy this one. Instead of just one long rhyming story, this is a collection of poems–each about one type of vehicle, and each with their own rhythm and rhyme scheme.

Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams): Because of Evan’s work, we’re big fans of any science books. I love that this story is approachable for preschoolers like Ian. He has become a little fixated on Pierre Curie’s accident (oops), but we enjoy reading this one together, nonetheless. I’m eager to check out some others from this series.

Pig the Pug: This book makes me laugh. My parents and sister all own pugs, and they gave this book to the boys. I get a little chuckle about Pig’s bad attitude towards sharing his toys.

Hug Time: Our neighbor gifted this book to Ruthie when she was born, and I absolutely love it. A great addition to our board book collection, and so apropos for our current cultural climate.

I just put Blue Sky, White Stars on hold at the library, because I love anything Kadir Nelson does. And personally, I’m reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. It reminds me a bit of the Little House books. I’m finding it to be a little slow, but I’m still eager to finish it and see how Calpurnia ends up.

I’d love to know what books your kids are loving these days!

Quick Lit: What I’ve Read in 2017

Today, I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for Quick Lit. I thought I would share what I’ve read so far this year. I didn’t have any concrete writing goals for 2017, but I sort of informally decided that I wanted to read all the unread books on my shelves. I’ve kept within that parameter…sort of. Maybe half-and-half? I just can’t resist the pull of the library holds shelf, guys! (And “What Should I Read Next?” does not help one bit.)

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When my dad was visiting after Ruthie was born, we got to talking about how many books I own that I haven’t read yet. (It’s around 20-25. I recently sold and donated a whole bunch that had been languishing on my shelves for years.) He said, “Oh, you should be able to knock out 20 books in just a couple months!” Ha! I wish I was one of those people. Still, in the middle of this baby and childrearing phase of life, I’m pretty happy with my 20-30 books a year. Moving forward into the second half of the year, I’m hoping to spend more time in the evenings reading (as opposed to aimlessly browsing the internet). We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve read some truly great books so far this year, but Bel Canto takes the cake. It shot right onto my list of all-time favorites. So, we’ll start there.

1. Bel Canto: If someone had just told me the premise–an opera star is invited to sing at a party for a wealthy Japanese businessman, and the party guests are all taken hostage by South American rebels–I might not have read it. But it came so highly recommended, and I was blown away by State of Wonder, so I couldn’t resist. And it was so much better–and different–than I ever expected. The writing is wonderful, the story is compelling, and I just wanted to flip back to page one and begin again.

2. My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible: My friend Melissa finished My Name is Lucy Barton while she was visiting in February and handed it off to me before she left. (I can always count on Melissa for great recommendations, and she’s super generous about passing her used copies on to me.) This was my first experience reading Elizabeth Strout, and she’s no slouch—a Pulitzer winner, after all. And I really did think the writing was excellent. The story is quite sad and melancholy, and even a little disturbing at times. What struck me about it was the sparse writing; there is no extraneous detail.  It’s a phenomenal case study in clear and consistent voice. I got Anything is Possible from the library, and finished it in less than a day. I hesitate to offer a blanket recommendation of it, because I know many won’t care for some of the content. But again, I just could not get over the phenomenal writing. I’ll be coming back to these two books for quite some time.

3. Essentialism: I started reading Essentialism a long time ago, right before we moved to Michigan; I’ve wanted to pick it up and finish ever since. I found the first few chapters to be challenging and even paradigm-shifting, but the second half of the book really dropped off. Most of the examples and ideas focus on the business world, and I found it difficult to make connections to my own life as a stay-at-home mom. I also think it could be a whole lot shorter, ironically. Still, a worthwhile read, especially at the beginning of the year or anytime you’re looking for a reset.

4. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A delightful book about the unexpected relationships that come into our lives and how they change us. A good mix of happy and sad. Books and a bookstore play a prominent role in this story, so it’s ideal for book lovers (and, frankly, literary snobs). It’s a quick read that I really enjoyed.

5. The One-in-a-Million Boy: I loved this story. It reminded me of A Man Called Ove: I cried and I laughed out loud, and a lot of the story is about how meaningful connections and friendships can develop among people from different generations. I love exploring how those friendships enrich our lives and communities in meaningful ways. (Side note: I’m wondering if stories about people with special needs and their quirky behaviors is a new subgenre of fiction. I’m thinking about The Rosie Project, Mockingbird, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and now this as well. Do you know of others? Please share them!) The writing isn’t sappy or overtly romantic; it’s straightforward, but beautiful. Several phrases and sentences really struck me, and I’ve come back to them many times.

6. At Home in the World: I’ve been reading Tsh’s blog for years but somehow, this is the first of her books that I’ve read. It’s a memoir of the year her family (including 3 young children) spent traversing the globe. Because of our budget, Evan’s work schedule, and three small children, we aren’t doing much traveling these days. I picked up this book for some armchair traveling, but it was about much more than living vicariously through someone else’s adventure. It’s more about reconciling a love of home with a love for travel, and how our restless feet can be a blessing whether we’re stuck in one place or not. (If you read The Art of Simple, I think you’ll find her writing here familiar, but also better than what you’d encounter in a run of the mill blog post.)

7. The Road Back to You: Well, I finally did it. I read a book about the Enneagram. I haven’t been able to pin down my type just from taking online exams, so I have been eager to read this. This book is surprisingly funny and enjoyable. I was shocked—shocked!—to discover that I’m actually a Type 9. I feel like my whole perspective on my life has been shifted.

8. Shalom Sistas: I loved, loved, loved this book. It is one I will probably come back to again and again, because it’s making me rethink the practical ways I engage with the world and my relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t release until October, but I’m telling you—if you’re a woman and a follower of Jesus, you’ll want a copy.

9. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novella before. This is heartwarming and sad. Because we are currently watching a family member succumb to dementia, this was was particularly meaningful to me. I loved A Man Called Ove and have wanted to pick up another Backman book. I’m glad I did.

Other books I’ve read this year: Gift from the SeaA Family Shaped by Grace, Bossypants, El Deafo, The Little Book of HyggeYoung House Love, Styled, Design*Sponge at Home, The Inspired Room, Domino: The Book of Decorating. (Obviously, buying a house directly influenced my reading for a little while there!)

I’m always up for more book recommendations, so please send them my way!!

28 Things I Did at 28

Today is my birthday. Just like I do around the New Year, I get very introspective around my birthday. As I reflect on the year past and begin to anticipate the year ahead, it always helps me to write things down. (I know, I know. You’re shocked.)

I made a list of things I did this year, and in so doing, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for this past year. It was a hard year for me, but a very full year. There are big things, like postpartum depression, a third baby, and a new house. There are also so many other smaller moments, and though they seem less significant, they tell quite a story when they are added up together.

Here’s some of my story from my 28th year:

1. Watched the Olympics entirely online, and shared the fun and excitement with Ian (who seemed to especially love Aly Raisman). (Side note: This feels like decades ago! ha!)

2. Saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes at Meijer Gardens, and sang “Home” aloud with the crowd after they had turned off the sound system. Later, saw The Head and the Heart at 20 Monroe live, and then listened to them almost exclusively for months.

3. Flew by myself from Florida to Michigan with Ian and Leo (while pregnant with Ruthie). This was the worst day of my parenting life thus far. Never again.

4. Launched The Drafting Desk.

5. Went to a college football game at The Big House.

6. Started volunteering in children’s ministry again. (Then stopped when Ruthie was born.)

7. Joined a new small group at church.

8. Said good-bye to Nanny.

9. Went for a sleigh ride in the snow.

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10. Voted in the 2016 election.

11. Drove to Traverse City to binge the Gilmore Girls revival with Meaghan.

12. Bought a minivan.

13. Gave birth to a third baby (a girl!), and this time without being induced.

14. Met Sarah Bessey and heard her speak and preach in-person, and did it with my dear friend, Melissa.

15. Bought a house.

16. Came to terms with my postpartum depression.

17. Started drinking hot coffee.

18. Participated in 6 book launch teams. (I think it’s 6? I’ve kinda lost count.)

19. Learned that I actually enjoy yard work.

20. Ziplined in Jamaica, and swam with dolphins in Grand Cayman.

21. Read a lot of books.

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22. Joined a few writing-focused Voxer groups.

23. Helped chaperone a field trip and plan preschool class parties. (I still can’t believe I’m old enough for this sort of thing. But…I do have 3 kids. So, there’s that.)

24. Learned about the spiritual discipline of anticipation.

25. Had my first pieces of writing published on the Internet (at Coffee + Crumbs, (in)Courage, and Kindred Mom).

26. Called my senators and representatives to make my voice heard.

27. Figured out that I am an Enneagram Type 9, and wondered whether I might be an INFP instead of an INFJ.

28. Struggled. Questioned everything. Still felt Jesus with me. Didn’t quit. Found joy again.

Not bad for a year, huh? Life seems so abundantly full when I look at it like this, all numbered and listed out in front of me. I see so much reflected here: experiences and dreams, faith and creativity, technology and current events, family and friends, things acquired and things let-go. Here’s to 29!

I’m Learning to Dwell

I’ve been choosing a word of the year since 2011 (I think), and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that my word often surprises me. When I chose dwell as my word for 2017, how could I have known then that we’d be purchasing a house? How could I have known that I’d have a clean slate on which to create the home in which I really wanted to dwell?

At first, I began planning a million Pinterest projects. Evan and I talked about paint colors and new rugs, replacing lighting and building shelves. I scrolled and scrolled (and scrolled) through every home decor picture I’d ever pinned. We read DIY tutorials and talked about which projects would get top priority.

But then I remembered something: to dwell well requires transforming and renovating the interior of my heart, rather than my home. Colorful pillows, large pieces of art, mid-century furniture, and fiddle leaf figs are merely decoration; they are not the foundation. The home I want to create is one defined by peace, grace, joy, laughter, music, reading, and conversation.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” —1 Peter 3:3-4

What if I learned to view all my life—not just my physical appearance—in light of that verse?

“Your home’s beauty should not come from outward decoration, such as trendy wall hangings and the arrangement of furniture or paint colors. Rather, it should be that of your family’s values, the unfading beauty of a kind and Kingdom-focused community, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

“Your marriage’s beauty should not come from outward appearances, such as date night and cute Instagram selfies. Rather, it should be that of your mutual submission to one another, the unfading beauty of two people committed to serving one another like Jesus, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

“Your motherhood’s beauty should not come from outward actions, such as craft projects and fun adventures. Rather, it should be for your own sanctification, like a calling from God, offered to him as a daily sacrifice, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

In The Nesting Place, Myquillin Smith writes about visiting the home of Topiwo, a boy she and her family sponsor through Compassion International. She writes, “I had braced myself for shock and sadness and guilt and hopelessness over Topiwo’s house. I knew his family had struggled to survive through drought until Compassion stepped in to help. But after visiting that beautiful dirt home, I didn’t feel sad about where Topiwo lives. Unlike most of the homes we had visited, Topiwo’s home was rich with love and community and joy and gracefulness. Richer than a lot of homes I see in our country. Rich with the contentment I want to have. It was, in a word, breathtaking. I had been welcomed into a true home. Topiwo knew. He knew what I so easily forget.”

We’ve lived in our house for a few months now, and on some days, I feel frustrated by the apparent lack of progress and the growing (rather than shrinking) to-do list. I so easily forget!

To dwell —to find the containment, peace, and freedom I hope the word will usher in this year—I need to pin less and pray more. I need to focus less on the outward appearance of my home and more on how I want people to feel when they are sitting on our couch or playing in our basement or gathered around our table. (Or, most often, driving Hot Wheels across the floor.)

These aren’t the lessons I was expecting to learn when I started thinking about what it would mean for me to dwell this year, but they’re the lessons I’m learning.

 

Did you choose a word of the year? I’d love to hear about what it’s teaching you (or not), and how you’re approaching it moving into the second half of the year.

On the doorman, and the power of a kind word

Earlier this week, I took Ian to his 6-month ear tube check-up. The ENT (whose name I can never remember) is housed in this large medical office building with a doorman. (Sometimes a doorwoman, but usually a man.) To have a doorman seems like an antiquated practice, but I think it’s because this building is full of different offices, and it keeps people from getting lost. Not to mention, it’s become pretty clear (during my limited observations) that most people entering and exiting the building are elderly; the doorman helps a lot of people to their cars in the snowy winter. One time, I was leaving an appointment right as a snow storm was beginning, and the guy stood with the boys in the doorway while I pulled up the car. So, I had filed the doorman under “a little unusual but very helpful.”

The kids and I are quite a spectacle these days, when I’m brave enough to venture out with all three in tow. Everywhere we go, we elicit comments like, “Wow! You are a busy lady!” and of course, “You sure have your hands full.” At the mall a few weeks ago, I actually overheard someone say, “I feel a little bit sorry for her. My boss only has 2 kids, and his life is miserable.”

I am not the type to give a snarky reply, though I usually think one silently in my head. (I’m nothing if not passive-aggressive.) What bothers me most is that none of these comments is ever offered as an impartial observation; they are always tinged with a hint of pity or even condescension. Sometimes, I really want to say, “Yes, my hands are full, so how about you handle this grocery shopping trip for me? I’ll sit here on this bench.” But of course, I don’t say that.

I walked into the doctor’s office lobby on Tuesday, Leo and Ruthie in the double stroller and Ian tagging along beside us. The diaper bag was slipping off my shoulder, overflowing with everything we might need to survive this outing. As we squeezed through the entrance, the doorman looked at me and said, “Wow! How old are your kids?”

I continued walking towards the elevator as I rattled off their ages and braced myself for the coming critique of my life choices.

But instead, as I glanced back over my shoulder, the doorman looked me in the eye and said, “Wow. You are so lucky.”

I was so caught off-guard by this. Not once–in the entire period of time since I was obviously pregnant with a third kid–has a stranger said something like this to me. I just smiled, and tried not to cry, and squeaked out a “Thank you.” And then the elevator door opened, and we were off to the most miserable doctor’s appointment I have ever endured.

We ended up waiting over an hour to see the doctor, and the actual appointment lasted less than 10 minutes. It fell in the middle of naptime, so all the kids were tired and cranky. In approximately 2 minutes, Leo ate through the snacks I had packed, and no one was interested in the toys I brought. I chased Leo through the office and carried him screaming back to the lobby. I kept straightening the magazine pile they were destroying and rocked the stroller back and forth to console whimpering Ruthie. I tried singing “Wheels on the Bus” loud enough to entertain them, but not loud enough to bother any of the other waiting patients. When we finally arrived into the exam room, Leo threw up everywhere (because, apparently, he had not actually chewed the fruit snacks I had given him 20 minutes before).  I actually considered ditching the appointment entirely and heading home, but we had already endured 50+ minutes of waiting.

I held Leo, trying to get the wet clothes off of him without getting covered myself, and I kept telling Ian not to step in the puddle of vomit he was dangerously close to. As I cleaned Leo with baby wipes, I heard the doorman’s voice in my head, and I prayed. I’m so lucky. Thank you. Jesus, for the privilege of being their mother. And I meant it.

I know me, and let me just tell you: I don’t handle situations like this well. Most days, I avoid going anywhere with all three kids because the chaos of it is too much for me. This was not at all my normal response to a moment like that, but the doorman’s words had changed the course of my morning.

I know we hear it all the time, but our words really are powerful.

When I’m out and about lately, I usually have tunnel vision, focused on the complicated logistics of bringing three needy children out in public. I’m hardly noticing the people around me. I don’t feel bad about it, exactly, because, you know, my hands are full and all that. But now, I’m determined to serve others the way that doorman served me. Even when offered in a quick, fleeting exchange, a kind word is a special kind of generosity.

So, to the parents: “You have a beautiful family.”

To the kids: “You have wonderful manners!”

To the cashiers: “Thank you for the good service.”

To the customer service person on the phone: “I appreciate your time.”And to the mothers with double strollers and heavy diaper bags and sleepy toddlers: “Aren’t we so lucky?”

And to the mothers with double strollers and heavy diaper bags and sleepy toddlers: “Aren’t we so lucky?”

 

What I’ve Read in 2017 (January-June)

Yikes! We’re already halfway through the year. I’m sure you don’t need me to say, “Where is the time going?” I know you feel it too.

I didn’t set any big reading goals this year, but I sort of informally decided to try to read what was already on my shelves. I’ve done that so far, with the exception of a few advanced reader copies.

When my dad was here a few months ago, we got to talking about how many unread books were on my shelf. (I counted about 20-30.) He said, “Oh! You could finish those in a month.” I wish. He grossly overestimated how many books I read. Usually, I read about 30 books/year, but 2017 has been a slow year. I’m at 12 books in about 6 months. But you know what? That’s ok. No matter how many books I read in a year, I always wish it was more. So I’m satisfied with this list so far.

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Today, I’m sharing quick reviews of what I’ve read this year and linking up with Anne Bogel’s Quick Lit.

1. My Name is Lucy Barton: My friend Melissa finished reading this book while she was here visiting, and she handed it off to me before she left. (I can always count on Melissa for great recommendations, and she’s super generous about passing her used copies on to me.) This was my first experience reading Elizabeth Strout, and she’s no slouch; a Pulitzer winner, after all. And I really did think the writing was excellent. The story is quite sad and melancholy, and even a little disturbing at times. What struck me about it was that the writing is very sparse; there is no extraneous detail. As Lucy Barton recalls events from her life, she often shares the bare minimum and leaves you wondering what actually happened. But that allows Strout to include a lot of stories, each interwoven just slightly. It left me wanting more. At the same time, it’s a phenomenal case study in clear and consistent voice. (I’m so curious to read more of Strout’s novels and see how the writing and voice compare.)

2. Essentialism: I started reading Essentialism a long time ago, right before we moved to Michigan. I’ve wanted to pick it up and finish ever since, and I finally made that a priority. It’s a good book to read at the beginning of the year or any time you’re looking for a reset. I found the few few chapters to be really challenging and even paradigm-shifting, but the second half of the book really dropped off for me. Most of the examples and ideas focus on the business world, and I found it difficult to make connections to my own life as a stay-at-home mom. I also think that the book could be a whole lot shorter, ironically. Still, a worthwhile read.

3. Bel Canto: I’m only on the third chapter, but I’m hooked. Ann Patchett is a phenomenal writer, and there are sentences and phrases that are sticking with me. And the concept is so interesting: a Japanese business man travels to Brazil to hear a private concert from an opera star, and they are all taken hostage by a group of rebels. With the hostage situation, I was a little nervous this would be too intense or violent for my taste, but not so thus far. Can’t wait to dig in more.

4. The Storied Life of A.J. Firky: This was another delightful book with a good mix of happy and sad. I’d say it’s about the unexpected relationships that come into our lives and how they change us over time. Not to mention, books and a bookstore play a prominent role in this story, so it’s ideal for book lovers (and, frankly, literary snobs). It’s a quick and easy read that I really enjoyed.

5. The One-in-a-Million Boy: I loved this story. It’s a wonderful mix of happy and sad. It reminded me of A Man Called Ove, in that it made me both laugh out loud and cry, and that a lot of the story is about how meaningful connections and friendships can develop among people from different generations. And indeed, those friendships are essential to understanding other human beings, and they enrich our lives and communities in meaningful ways. I also feel like this is a new genre of books: stories about people with special needs (usually the Autism spectrum) and their quirky behaviors, and how those turn out to be enriching. I’m thinking about The Rosie Project, Mockingbird, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and now this one as well. (Do you know of others? Please share them!) But what I loved most about this book, perhaps, was the writing. It is not overly poetic or romantic; it’s straightforward, but it’s still beautiful. It’s concise, but packs a punch. There were several phrases and sentences that I highlighted and came back to just because they struck me. Phenomenal.

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6. At Home in the World: I’ve been reading Tsh’s blog for years—long before she published her first book! But somehow, this is the first of her books that I’ve read. (I’ve checked both of the others out from the library but always had to return them before I got to them.) This is a wonderful memoir. Because of our budget, Evan’s work schedule, and three small children, we aren’t doing much traveling these days. I picked up this book thinking, “Great! I’ll live vicariously through Tsh and her family.” But this book was about much more than living vicariously through someone as they travel the globe. It is about how we reconcile a love of home with a love for travel, and how our restless feet can be a blessing whether we’re stuck in one place or not. Tsh touches on the truth revealed by seeing the world and by putting down roots. (If you read The Art of Simple, I think you’ll find her writing here familiar, but also better than what you’d encounter in a run of the mill blog post.)

7. A Family Shaped by Grace: I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy of this book. It was different than I expected, in both good and bad ways. I knew tiny bits of Gary’s story—how he was an alcoholic from a long line of alcoholics, but has been sober for decades and changed his family’s legacy. I found I wanted a bit more of that story; I think it would have made the book more compelling. That said, I found the book to be convicting, and full of practical, straightforward advice. There’s one thing, in particular, I can’t stop thinking about, and it’s bringing a lot of healing to my motherhood journey. But that’s a whole other blog post.

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8. Chasing Slow: I really enjoyed this book. I love Erin’s blog; the way she writes about family, creativity, and life at home really resonated with me. This book was no exception. I especially appreciated her honesty and vulnerability in this book: she talks about her husband’s brain tumor, their bankruptcy, and more with candor. My word of the year is “dwell,” and this book was a perfect fit.

I also read a slew of home decor books while we waited to get into our new house. (Frankly, they skew my reading total a bit, because they were super image-heavy!) My favorite was Design Sponge at Home.

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What I’m Reading Now: Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.

I’d love to hear what you’ve read so far this year and what you’ve got on the docket!

Motherhood, Shaped by Grace

One of the greatest challenges of motherhood is the way is forces me to let go of my control freak tendencies. The mess. The unpredictable behavior. The demands on my time and energy. All of these things are out of my control.  I know you don’t need me to tell you all the ways toddlers and newborns can thwart our attempts at order, cleanliness, and calm; I’m sure you’ve seen all your mama-friends’ Instagram stories.

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But I don’t only like to control my environment. I really like feel in control of myself—my time, my emotions, my personal growth. I like to have it all together, and though I hate to admit it, I like for other people to think I have it all together. And if not, I at least want to have the choice. Dirty dishes in the sink? I decided to leave them there; I’ll deal with them tomorrow. Going out of the house with spit-up stains on my shirt? I chose not to check the mirror one last time before I left; I decided no one would notice or care; I decided I didn’t want to make the effort to find a clean shirt again. It’s all my choice. I am in control.

Until I’m not.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to keep it together, but postpartum depression was the thing that finally brought me to my knees.

I often describe my postpartum depression as something like an out-of-body experience. I was watching my anxiety attack from far away, trying to get through to that girl. I’d think, “There’s no reason to feel this way. Everything is ok. Take a deep breath. Calm down.” But those thoughts couldn’t reach whatever part of my mind was reeling. I was no longer in control of my emotions, my responses, my mind. It’s a scary feeling, to be honest.

Before this, I was white-knuckling my way through motherhood like a nervous new driver grips their steering wheel. The result was that I was often overwhelmed, because I was living like it was all up to me while believing I wasn’t up to the task.

I’ve heard it said that while we need not be grateful for every moment, there is something in every moment to be grateful for. This is how I’m thinking about my PPD; I wish I had never experienced it, but I’m on the hunt for things to be grateful for within the experience. And one of those things is the recognition that I need to cede control of my motherhood journey to Jesus.

In A Family Shaped by Grace, Gary Morland writes that even after we’ve eliminated bad habits and disharmony from our families and even after we’ve adopted more peaceful practices, we still need to hand over our families to Jesus. He writes that I need to release my family, my role, my limits, and the results. Releasing my role and my limits is what really got me thinking. Gary suggests this prayer: “Thank you that my limits are the beginning of your life being revealed in my mortal body.”

I have spent my entire motherhood journey trying to compensate for my limits, but postpartum depression taught me that I just need to release them to Jesus and trust him to fill in the gaps. Gary goes on to pray, “I act as if releasing control is a sacrifice that I have to do as n act of faith out of obedience. In reality, releasing is a relief. It’s a gift.”

This has been true for me. I’m grateful for my postpartum depression because somehow, miraculously, in its aftermath, I’m feeling a sense of sweet relief. Maybe this is how God is redeeming that hard, painful season. I feel as though God is healing not just the depression. He’s also redeeming the mothering I did before that point. I’m not merely returning to how I mothered before the PPD set in. Instead, I’m moving forward in an entirely new sort of freedom and grace.

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“You have been specifically wired and gifted to cover your specific assignment, your course on the river. Your family is your course on the river. But you were made to do this in union with God, not on your own.”

A Family Shaped by Grace releases today. It’s an easy read and very straightforward. As I read, I found myself wanting more Gary’s story of transformation, but maybe that will be his next book. 😉 In the meantime, A Family Shaped by Grace was a gentle, kind reminder about how living like Jesus really can transform our families for the better.

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