November Comes

 

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Here we are. November. While some will celebrate Thanksgiving this month, we have already done that and what remains, for me, is the death of so many good things. Perhaps that is why I shudder every time this month approaches. My favorite season of the year is nearly over, the leaves have all fallen, the beauty of the season is fading, the light is fading and what is left is darkness.

I worry that I don’t have the courage to face that darkness…the darkness of the winter months that lie ahead and the darkness inside of me. God calls me to courage for these days, for strength to let my light burn brightly in the dark places and know he is there holding my hand. Now is the time to gather the ones I love and hold them tighter. Now is the time to always have the kettle on, to linger over meals, to sit snuggled together with our books and favorite movies, to light candles, to write letters, to give thanks for all that has been given and all that we hope to be.

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This month will mark five years since my fathers death. I often go into complete hermit mode, shutting out all friends and good fun. I know that my father would not want this and so this year I have purposely booked up our calendar with things to look forward to. Things that will make me leave the house and stop navel gazing. No matter the sadness, God is still good and there is joy to be had. I am focusing on giving thanks daily for the little gifts each day brings by either writing them down or snapping a quick photo on my phone. This life is busy, this life is full, this life is the one He gave me. I am overwhelmed by the abundance of all of it.

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“November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”

-Clyde Watson

PUPPP Rash

Dear mama with PUPPP rash,

Firstly, I want to tell you that I am so sorry this is happening to you. There is really nothing I can say to make the itching stop but trust me when I say I know how you feel right now. There is nothing worse than being awake half of the night because you cannot stop scratching! No matter how tired you are and you lay there awake thinking.. will I ever sleep through the night again?

Which brings me to the second thing I want to tell you.. You are NOT alone! Before my rash started, I had never heard of Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP), let alone ever met anyone who had it. It was only once I started looking it up online in my desperation that I came across any kind of information, help or support.

My PUPPP rash started when I was about 32 weeks pregnant with our third baby, our first boy. It started across my chest and I thought perhaps it was just a heat rash. This went on and on and suddenly it started to spread. It covered my chest, my arms, my legs, my back, my bum..actually it covered literally my whole body except my belly surprisingly!! I was in agony. There were days I couldn’t even leave the house because honestly? I couldn’t bear to wear clothes. When the fabric touched my skin it was like being lit on fire or being covered in ants. I cannot tell you how many creams, oils, ointments, soaps I tried to no avail. I was desperate and I was exhausted. I cried everyday for weeks on end praying for some sort of miracle to intervene. I prayed for early labor. Nothing. I would go to bed at 9pm and scratch myself raw or until I would bleed and when I couldn’t take it anymore I would get out of bed…at 11pm, 1am. 3,4,5am you name it. I prayed day would come so I could just get on with things and pretend like nights didn’t exist. Those days were really hard. I would get into the tub or shower and look at my body and all I could see was rash. Bright red, raw, angry skin all over me and I felt ugly. I didn’t feel like myself when I looked in the mirror and it was such a cross. All I wanted was to feel beautiful and glowing with my growing belly but I just felt exhausted and shitty to tell the truth. I prayed day and night for our baby to come early, to come on time and then just ..now! anytime now! But our little guy just wasn’t ready and he went nearly a full two weeks past his due date.

I’m not trying to sell you anything. I don’t have a solution because there really isn’t one. Each woman’s body is different. I tried so.many.things. to make the rash go away or at least give me some relief if only for an hour. Here is what worked for me..usually I would have a hot shower or bath once or twice a day and slather myself up with one of the many creams I tried..PUPPP rash prescription cream seemed to help but I found it a little greasy on my skin. The other thing I discovered online and tried because I was desperate was dandelion root capsules. I bought them at a health food store and I took 2 capsules 3 times a day. This wasn’t until nearly the very end of my pregnancy but I will say that within four days of taking them my skin started to heal..it scabbed up which was also itchy but more of a dry itch and withing a week it was started to clear up a little.

There is hope! There is a beautiful baby waiting for you on the other side of this nightmare, I promise. Be encouraged! You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not being punished. God did not give you this rash..but he is allowing it for whatever reason. Although a real cross to me, I can say that I have never grown in patience or empathy quite so much as when I had PUPPP. God has a plan in all of this and thankfully, that sweet baby is going to be so perfectly beautiful that it will wash away the disappointment and hurt you feel now. Our sweet Oliver is such a joy. He is nearly four months old and has blessed our home in so many ways.

…now here is the part I don’t want to add. My rash came back. I know you want to click away now but please don’t. My rash did clear up after Oliver was born but it recently has come back. I have one decent sized patch across my chest and under my breasts again but it’s not all over my body and it isn’t nearly as painful, raw or angry as it was last time. The marks on my legs are starting to fade and I might even wear shorts this summer! haha!

In the end, I just had to take it one day at a time. One hour at a time sometimes. Surround yourself with people who love you, will listen to you and just take care of yourself. Keeping busy helped me a lot..I found the itching was much worse at night and I think it was because I was so tired by the end of the day and I would put my guard down and scratch way more making it then harder to stop. Just know that you really are not alone and that I pray for you all the time, mama. Keep focusing on that sweet baby coming..and don’t feel you have to keep up appearances for anyone. Sometimes pregnancy just sucks and it’s hard, even if the growing baby is loved and wanted and an answer to prayers. What you feel right now matters and I hear you.

The only other thing that truly helped me during that time was truth. Having my husband pray with me and reading scripture. Here are some that helped me..I pray you are able to find some comfort in them, too.

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Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Desperate

I am enjoying a rare quiet moment in our household. All three of my children are asleep in their beds and it is 1pm. I know it is a blessing, and oh wow, am I grateful! This Easter I decided to buy myself a new book I have been wanting to read since I first heard it was coming out. Written by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae, Desperate is like a big, deep breath of fresh air for a mama’s heart. I was so happy when Easter finally came and I could crack open my new book.

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I really feel like this book can help you whether you have one child or ten.

We, as moms, are all doing our very best to love our kids and give them the best start we can at life. My greatest desire is that my kids would someday grow to have a relationship with Christ. My hope is that they would know his undying love for them, his mercy and the amazing plans He has in store for them.

As their mother, I am the first Bible they are ever going to read. If Ben and I are loving, patient, kind and merciful with them then they will likely grow up believing that God is all of those things as well. If I am always cranky, nagging and grumbling through our days than how are they supposed to know that the God we serve is good and worthy of the many sacrifices we must make in motherhood.

I cannot give what I don’t have and if I don’t make time for myself, for my marriage and for my relationship with Christ then my tank is always running on empty.

That is why I am desperate. I am desperate for more of Jesus and His truth in my life. I am desperate for babysitters so I can enjoy the company of the amazing man who chose me and moved clear across the world to be with me and raise a family. I am desperate for mama’s night every month when it rolls around, to hear hilarious and wild stories of what is happening under other mama’s roofs and the antics their kids get up to. I am desperate for a latte and a good book or magazine in the quiet of Chapters all by myself every now and again.

I was supposed to go out the other night by myself to get a little head break and I just didn’t want to..which is not like me. I said to Ben, “Why don’t I want to go out tonight?” and he said, “Because at the end of the day it feels like you are just one more person YOU have to take care of. You are taking care of everyone else and you’re exhausted.” BINGO. It’s true. When I put myself last, I have no energy left to take care of anyone. When I make time for a bit of prayer, a shower, a coffee…everything looks different. Less stressful. More enjoyable. More peaceful. And don’t my husband and kids deserve that woman?

God is not a tyrant. He doesn’t want you burning yourself out and being a martyr, taking care of everyone else but yourself. God loves you! and me! Ridiculous, terrible at housekeeping, ungrateful, taking my crazy day out on my husband, bad cook, ME! and YOU! (insert all of your stuff here) YOU! He made us and He wants us to take care of ourselves because seriously? When we don’t take care of our mama selves, we are truly taking care of no one.

All of this to say…I am really enjoying my new book and I think you should read it too! oh, and I’m knitting Oliver some little mittens for next winter. I’m no longer behind on this year’s knitting. I’m on top of next years!

 

Holy Week and Thoughts on Motherhood

We’re almost there!! The links on our Lenten chain have all been broken, we dropped off a big bag of canned goods to our parish food bank box and our hearts are ready to shout Alleluia The A word from the rooftops.

After a really hectic day with the kids, Ben sent me off to Holy Thursday mass all by myself while he put the kids to bed and I had some time to exhale. It was perfect. We are so blessed with a friendly, brotherly, humble priest who washed twelve of our parishioners feet. Among them were two sweet little boys and I couldn’t help but see how precious they are in the sight of God and yes, we should wash even their little feet. Isn’t that what I do every day? I am the first one to beat up on myself if the day is not going smoothly or I have lost my cool with the kids. But even on those days and in those moments, I am still choosing to care for our children. Dressing them, wiping bottoms, making lunches, filling cups, nursing, changing diapers, reading a million books, answering questions and on and on it goes.

Is it easy to choose joy every day? No. Was it easy for Christ to accomplish his mission during His time here on earth? No. Why should I expect my journey to be any different than His was? All I can do is my very best and leave the rest to God. I am not perfect but by His grace I am enough for my family. I know He will give grace and make up for the many ways that I am lacking. So for any other parents out there struggling today with the thought that you are going to scar your children for life, let me say this: You are going to scar your children for life. You are not perfect and neither am I and our kids will figure that out eventually and when they do? We just point them in the direction of a perfect God and Father who loves them and will never mess it up. He died to make sure of it. Can I get an Amen?

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A Wintery Baptism

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I’ve been meaning to share so many pictures of Oliver these past few months but we’ve only just replaced the hard drive on our new to us laptop we traded for our computer and now I can finally upload all of the pictures we’ve been taking.

We were so pleased to have Oliver baptized before Lent began this year! Unfortunately the weather did not co-operate and made for a last minute “can we even get out of our street?” conversation. We did in the end and had a wonderful day celebrating with our baby boy. Some friends joined us at home after mass and it was lovely.

Our parish priest was stuck in an airport in Montreal and couldn’t be there so one of our Deacons baptized Oliver. When he had finished doing so, Lucy blurted out to him, “You know, The Holy Spirit used to be The Holy Ghost!” Priceless. Welcome to the Church, little boy..You are so very loved!

Lost and Found

I lost one of the girls at the library today. I was sitting on the floor looking through books with one and when I looked up and couldn’t see the other anywhere nearby my heart went into my throat. I quickly started walking up and down aisles searching for her when I thought I could hear her saying, “Mama” and I went straight for the voice. I found her in the foyer of the library with another mom and her little boy. She stood there with big tears in her eyes and I, so relieved, picked her up and held her just as tightly as I did the day she was born.

God reminded me today that He is in control. As much as I walk around thinking and acting as though I have control over my kids and their well being…He is really the one. Our children don’t belong to us, but to their Father in Heaven who loves them and has far bigger and better plans and purpose for their lives than we could ever imagine.

We had our 20 week ultrasound a few weeks ago now and it was beautiful. Baby was sucking it’s thumb and floating around without a care in the world. This pregnancy started out rough for me but now I am feeling mostly like myself and getting things slowly organized for the fall. I picked up one of those giant “Mom Calendars” that goes on the fridge and also a dry erase board for our kitchen and am feeling great about the organization I hope will ensue. Baby’s room will hopefully be painted in the next month. The big news around here though is that we bought ourselves a van this week! It is surreal to look outside our living room window and see it just sitting there, waiting for another little car seat. I am so grateful that God led us to a good reliable vehicle and didn’t keep us hanging until the last minute like He tends to! We are very blessed to have all that we need and I have found with this being our third baby, everything just seems less stressful. We have a crib, we have a car seat and all the other odds and ends we might need. All there is to do is enjoy it and look forward to it! It’s amazing. God is good!

 

Divine Mercy Sunday

“I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.

I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy.

Many souls … are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul.

If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy” (1317).

Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday.  This brings me great joy for two reasons. The first because of the sweet gift of mercy Jesus has offered us in his death and resurrection. The call not only to receive his mercy but to share that mercy with others, and in that way bring people to Christ. The second reason I treasure this day so much is because it marks the second anniversary of Abigail’s baptism into the Church. This afternoon we will also be seeing the priest who baptized her.

Mercy is something I suck at, quite frankly. Receiving mercy has not come easily to me. I still shrink at the thought of going to reconciliation and so I find giving mercy just as difficult. It is something I need to work on and am being blessed with the opportunities to work on each day being a wife and mother. Mercy can be something as simple as forgiving my husband for being late before he even gets home and not chewing him out. It can be drawing my girls in for a hug when they are being crazy and I just want to yell at them until steam comes out of my ears. I take incredible comfort and strength from praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy. The words, “Jesus, I trust in You” repeated again and again become my armour and my hope that all is well and all will be well when it is in His hands. I was reminded this morning in prayer that there is no detail of my life too tiny for His concern. With that truth, I give it all to Him. The good, the bad and the ugly. Knowing He can take it, because He already has…to the cross and back again.