Love List, No. One

love list no oneI’ve got lots of love for these mamas. But even more love for the products that have been born out of their creativity! Cross my heart, you’ll love them all too!

MADRE BEADS

I was lucky enough to join Lacy and her venture at Madre Beads as an ambassador. It’s been so fun to get sneak peeks of what is to come and I promise, these eco-friendly mama and kiddo jewelry pieces are totally the best! Jemma and I have the Minimalist Aztec in a mama daughter set and I’ve got my eye on the shop for a re-release of the Phoebe Wahl. Follow Madre Beads on Instagram for coupons and details about shop stockings!

EMA DESIGN

Everything I’ve learned about babywearing, I’ve learned from Abbie, owner of EMA Design. She’s guided me on a number of purchases and recently converted my Pavo Cheetah Noir into a fabulous ring sling. Amazing quality! Like, fabulous! I also have one of her EMA ring slings in the sturdiest linen. So freakin’ toddler worthy. Follow EMA Design on Facebook to stay updated on all the pretties she is converting, dying and sewing and if you’re interested in getting in her queue, just send her a Facebook message!

NO END NATURALS

Hold on to your checkbooks, mamas, you’re going to fall head over heels for all of Kelby’s No End Natural products! No joke. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m switching all of my beauty products over to NEN ones – they’re that good. And organic, natural, safe, healthy … all that jazz. So far, I’m a happy customer of the Deluxe Face Cream (I use this day and night), Refreshing Face Wash (the best clean feeling), Anti-Aging Serum (30 is around the corner and showing!), Compassionate Lips (a constant companion) and Lavender Bellini Body Butter (my preggo cocktail fix). Owie Ointment (for Max) and Beard Conditioning Oil (for my sister’s bf) are next on my list! Like No End Naturals on Facebook for occasional coupon codes! And, if you’re local to Olympia/Tacoma you can find NEN at the coops and the new Whole Foods!

BRAVE LITTLE BUMBLE

I saved the cutest for last :) Brave Little Bumble is the new shop of my friend, Jill. Remember her from Brave Sunday? Each little Bumble is full of personality and their own story. Think small biz Cabbage Patch Kid, but sweeter and prettier. You can bet your britches that new baby will be getting a Bumble of their own. I think I’ll even play copycat with Lacy and do our month by month photos with a Bumble as our growth reference. BLB is alive and well on Instagram, she’s one of my faves over there so definitely follow along all the happenings at The Bumble Factory!

What else do I need to check out? Tell me what you’re loving these days?


The “Lovely” Things No One Tells You About Postpartum Life

the lovely things no one tells you about postpartum life

I’ve been giddy to share today’s post because there is nothing better than sharing the ugly truth and then matching it up with a solution or two. Moms are like that, I suppose. We’re fixers. Got a problem? I’ve got a fix for ya! Dealing with something ugly? Let’s work together to make it lovely!

Here’s the thing. If you haven’t heard yet, motherhood is gross. It’s beautiful too; that’s what we usually like to talk about and highlight. But there is also a lot of behind the scenes yuck. 

As a mom of two with a bun in the oven I’ve been through a lot of the odd, a lot of the weird and a lot of the yuck. I’ve been barfed on, bled on, peed on. By others and myself. It’s just part life and totally normal. Well, for moms at least. Best of all, look at me now, I’m sitting at my desk with a warm cup of coffee in clothing that has no bodily fluids on it. All is well.

Now, let’s break it down … a little dose of yuck in the form of a sweet little story coupled with a practically perfect solution! First up, let’s begin with the joys of birth.

DOWN THERE IS ON FIRE

I’ve had 2 vaginal births. The 8 pound 10 ounce variety followed by the 10 pound 4 ounce jumbo size. It left my nether regions less than comfortable. Swollen. Stitched. Hurting and in need of recovery. Time alone doesn’t do the trick, I promise. To calm the lady bits you need this – a postpartum sitz bath. You can make your own or buy a blend. Whatever you do, get it and get it in bulk. You’ll love having it for the first week or two after baby’s grand exit. 

And here’s my expert tip — after you brew your herbal blend, pour a little bit of it into a spritzer bottle and spritz yourself WHILE you pee. I promise, it takes the edge of that awful sting away. postpartum sitz bath

BLOOD AND GORE

Whether it’s your blood or your child’s or your husband’s from when he passes out for the beautiful bloodbath of the birth scene, you need one thing — hydrogen peroxide. Max’s entire surprise home birth was cleaned up to sparkling proportions with this gem. Douse the blood spot with hydrogen peroxide, let it soak and rinse. Repeat until it’s gone or even run an entire load of laundry with a whole bottle of it. Done and Done. hydrogen peroxide

LAUGH, SNEEZE … EEK!

Sometimes it’s right after baby, sometimes it’s in the weeks/months/years following, whatever the time frame, bladder control can become a tricky thing after birthing humans. It’s not necessarily fun to talk about, but since it affects 65 million Americans, it definitely falls into the realm of normal.

We recently had a tell all chat in one of my mom’s groups and bladder leakage topped our list of motherhood realities. After all, bladder leakage happens more to people in their 20s than in their 80s! Whether it’s the mistake of jumping on a trampoline (eek!) with too much charisma, laughing too hard or sneezing, we’ve all been there! 

If you’re lucky enough to have avoided this motherhood misfortune, don’t be too excited. It’s pretty likely it will greet you down the road in your life. So, become familiar with your options and support the women in your life who face a little dribble on occasion. Over the next 3 years Depend is donating 3 million dollars to charity for every social share tagged #underwareness. Retweet my tweet here to increase the giving potential! depend 1

You can also request a free sample of Depend Silhouette ActiveFit – for yourself, your mama or a friend! These are comfortable like underwear, not bulky and best of all, provide peace of mind. depend 3 depend 2

Are you totally grossed out by now – torn body parts, blood, pee? I’m not about to approach the topic of barf because that’s my least favorite and I can’t stand to think about it for more than the moment each day when I pray it never greets our family again. 

Here’s where I offer up a deep breath and call us all to a moment of relaxation. Although it’s all gross and hard to stomach, this really is all normal and just part of the motherhood gig we all love and adore. We survive. In most cases, we thrive. And obviously, in my case, forget, since I’m entering round three of all this loveliness :) But not without my extra supplies. Alongside my herbs, hydrogen peroxide and bladder leakage helper I’ve got two trusty friends. A few drops of Rescue Remedy in my morning orange juice chased with a quiet moment savoring a sweet morsel of chocolate is often a blanket solution for lots of mishaps and hormone explosions. rescue chocolate

Tell me mamas, what “lovely” little secrets have joined you in your postpartum days? Most important, how did you solve them?


Pregnancy Mantra — Think Happy Thoughts

growing as a mother - jody coughlinStatistics say that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. It’s a daunting figure that leads to cautious excitement. I’m thrilled to be expecting, but, what if …

And then the demons enter to manifest my crazy pregnancy hormones into an onslaught of fear and worry. And it’s ugly. And sad. And leaves me almost pushing away from the bond I so desperately want to build with my tiny baby.

Fear plagued me most when I was pregnant with Jemma. Dominic was working away from home 4 days a week and often throughout my first trimester I’d call him crying at night. He could rarely understand my whimpering and incoherent thoughts, but he listened and did his best to calm my worries. With Max, I was more distracted. I didn’t even find out I was pregnant until I was 9 weeks and the rest of those early days flew by since I had Jemma to care for.

This time is different though. Perhaps third time’s a charm. Maybe I’m wiser, smarter. Definitely older. Most likely, given a gift from God to embrace peace and shun fear. This is what I’ve decided — If I’m pregnant for 10 more hours or 100 more days or if my baby is born and grows to live 10 years on earth or 100 on top of that, this little life is precious. In every stage, at every moment. He or she is priceless and a wonderful blessing to our family. No hope or worry, nothing I control, will change the Lord’s plan for this little one. Becoming a mom has taught me to both hold tight and let go. And so, each day, that’s what I aim to do.

Those blasted little demons of fear and worry? They still float about, but they know I don’t want them to be part of my pregnancy memories and so for the most part, they stay away. They haven’t earned their place and they aren’t welcome. I’ve kicked them out, sent them on their way and each moment choose to think only happy thoughts. 


Photo Source


Yes, I’m a Pregnant Runner


These days I do three things. Try to find something appetizing to eat – the plague of my first trimesters. Sleep – lots. And run – as fast and as long as I can a few times each week. You see, before I found out I was pregnant I committed to a race. I even recruited a running buddy to help motivate me and keep me on track. We’re all registered for a step up from my normal 5K … we’ve got a 5-miler next Sunday! And let me tell you, 5 miles feels much longer than 3.1. Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

I haven’t shared much about the race for fear that I’ll call it quits. There is nothing worse to a Type A mama than putting a lovely goal out into the universe and then a few weeks later stuttering, “Um, yeah, well that just didn’t work out.” I’m just so tired, like, I want to hibernate through this trimester kind of tired. Seriously all I can do most days is keep up with Jemma and Max. I’ll even confess that I weaseled Jemma into putting herself to bed last night saying I was too sleepy to make it upstairs with her. She was totally a good sport about it thankfully! 

Back to the race though. Lest I catch the flu or break my ankle – I’m doing it! It’s only 4 days away and I’m on track with my training. Not excelling like I had hoped, but tracking as best I can and I can honestly say I have full faith that I’ll finish.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I’ve been asked more than once why I’m not quitting my race plans. I mean, I’m pregnant, after all, everyone will understand. But I just can’t emotionally commit to letting go of this goal. And I already have my outfit so that would just be a shame to let it go to waste! It takes so much effort to train. Especially for me. The non-athlete girl who dislikes sweat. I’d say it’s stubbornness that is keeping me going, but it’s more than that. Running gets into your blood. Something about it just feels good. Feels right. 

Pause there for a moment … because, race outfits! You all know me pretty well, so you can guess that shopping for athletic wear (and all shopping in general) adds an itsy bitsy ounce of motivation to my efforts. I adore Zappos.com for shoes, clothing, accessories and more. Seriously they’ve got it all … even things I may need for baby #3! And, with free shipping and returns, you can’t go wrong! I’ve had a few outfits in the running (get it?), but I think this may be the race day winner. I went for comfort while taking potential weather fluctuation into account. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

More than anything (even more than awesome running clothes), I’m proud of myself for sticking with this goal. And I’ll say that forever when it comes to exercise. Because it’s just not like me to run or compete. Which mean if you think you can’t, you probably can! Never ever ever in 100 years did I think I’d be able to run 5 miles. But I can. I look tired at the end, but not near death. It’s been a stepping stone of practice; first intervals – running 1 minute at a time, then 3 and 5 and 10. Now I aim more for distance and pace, lengthening my stride and slowing my breathing. It’s been a work of diligence that clears my mind and strengthens my body. Both things I need as a mom.

Toss in the pregnancy factor and none of that really changes. If anything, I need a clear mind and a strong body more. This will by far be my healthiest pregnancy and that makes me so happy. I didn’t exercise at all before Jemma or during my pregnancy with her. And my only exercise pre-Max and during that pregnancy was chasing after Jem. This race is just a small part of my commitment to personal health. At some point I’ll slow my running to less jostling exercise like weights, swim and yoga. But I still plan to be active. It’s my commitment to my family and myself; to take care of my body so I can better take care of each of them. 


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


7 Weeks

It’s the beginning of pregnancy number three! 

I don’t think I’ve ever started journaling this early. With Jemma we didn’t announce until the end of the first trimester. Because of THE RULES that aren’t really rulesAnd with Max we didn’t find out until I was 9 weeks along. It’s funny to me, because you think once you’ve been through pregnancy twice before that something will be similar, and yet, this pregnancy is already very different. 
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 How far along: 7 weeks

Gender guess: Girl. I’ve never felt confident about guessing gender, but for some reason I do this time. My cravings are very similar to Jemma and I had a super vivid dream that I gave birth to a chubby baby girl at home in the dark a few weeks ago. I can’t wait to find out! I wrote a little bit about boys and girls and numbers on mom.me last week too :)

Weight gain: No idea! We don’t have a scale and I’m not really that concerned about it. I gained 40 pounds or so with both Jemma and Max and although, I’d love to stay more in the 30 range this time, I’m much more focused on eating healthy and exercising often. Better yet, I’m starting this pregnancy healthier than I’ve ever been. My 5 miler race is next Sunday and I never would have thought I could run 5 miles, let alone during a first trimester of pregnancy!

Sleep: The night time bathroom breaks have already started. Uh. A friend gave me her pregnancy pillow and I’m already putting that to use and probably will forever! I’ve always loved lots of pillows tucked everywhere and this one monster does it all! 

Best moment this month: So many wonderful moments … finding out, announcing to our friends and family, celebrating my first Mother’s Day as a mama of three and interviewing a potential midwife. 

Worst moment this month: I’m already feeling the major lack of energy. And it’s hard with Jemma and Max, I feel like I’m not their full mama anymore since I’m just so darn tired. 

Miss anything: Yes. Cocktails. I don’t even drink very often, but with Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day I felt the lack of celebratory beverages. For now lemonade and kombucha are doing their best to fill the bubbly void.

Movement: None yet.

Cravings: Steak and burgers and all things crunchy like cucumbers, pickles and chips. Nothing much sounds good. I’ve been forcing myself to eat and get my protein, but meat and crunch are the most appetizing of all.

Queasy or sick? If I don’t eat, I get a little nauseous. It was the same with Jem and Max. A vicious circle or not wanting to eat, but doing to avoid the yuckies.

Looking forward to: Deciding on a midwife and then anticipating an appointment where we can hear our baby’s heart beat! I LOVE the one I interviewed last week, but am battling some insurance stuff. She’s in-network, but our insurance won’t cover any births outside of a birthing facility. Insurance will contribute towards my prenatal and postpartum care, but $0 for the actual home birth. Now I’m working with the biller to see how those three sections of care breakdown before we make a final decision. Unless something later in my pregnancy warrants extra care, I won’t go to a hospital. To me, having a calm and peaceful birth atmosphere with a provider I choose and have a relationship with far outweighs the bit that insurance would contribute to an expensive hospital birth.

What Jemma thinks: “I think I really like the baby and am really excited for it to be born! And I’m really excited to hold the baby!”

What Max thinks: “No, Jemma! I hold the baby. And play with the baby. All. By. My. Self.”


Pregnancy questions inspired by Little Baby Garvin.

 


2nd Annual Mother’s Day Interview

I really love these little interviews and should probably do them more often. At least, I’ve managed to do them two Mother’s Days in a row now! Read Jemma’s interview from last year. Can you believe that I’m decreasing in age as the years go by?

This is Max’s inaugural year and he was a super little participator – no growling at all during our twenty questions game! So unlike our normal days together where he functions in a sway of craziness and collapsing into my arms … Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

First up, Jemma and her 4 1/2 year old thoughts on her mama …

What is your mom’s name? Gretchen and Mom. We call her Mom.

How old is she? 38

What is her favorite color? Um, green? I think.

What does she like to do? Do projects with me.

What is her favorite food? Pancakes with strawberries and “whooped” cream.

What books does your mommy like to read?  Just One DaySo odd that she remembers the title of this one … I think she liked the cover.

What time does she go to bed? 28, I think.

What is your favorite thing about her? Going to ballets with her.

I love my mom because … I love to spend time with her and she stays home with me.

My mom is good at … taking pictures of me.

If I could give my mom any present I would give her … that necklace we have matching. I did get us matching as our mother daughter gift for Mother’s Day so I guess that means we both have good taste :)

What do you want to tell your mom on Mother’s Day? Secrets.

And now Max! He’s 2 3/4 or so and is chattering up a storm most days. And almost everything he says is full of exclamation points. Such is the life on the verge of 3 :)

What is your mom’s name? MOM!

How old is she? 2!

What is her favorite color? Pink!

What does she like to do? Play big balls with me!

What is her favorite food? Eggs!

What books does your mommy like to read? A knight book!

What time does she go to bed? Number two.

What is your favorite thing about her? D-I-O. He spells this for everything these days. Jem is constantly reading letters out loud and I think this is Max’s way of playing along.

I love my mom because … buys Max pajamas!

My mom is good at … brush my teeth!

If I could give my mom any present what would you give her … a monster birthday! RAWR!!!

What do you want to tell your mom on Mother’s Day? I’m thinking … and then blows me a kiss.

mothers day trio collage


Chicken Pot Pie

Tracking PixelWhen I partnered with Foster Farms® to share a favorite recipe I knew exactly what I was going to whip up for ya’ll. Something down home. Something cozy and warm. The perfect meal for these still rainy Spring days. My friends, today is Chicken Pot Pie day on the blog all thanks to Foster Farms®!

More often than not chicken is our protein source at dinner time. From baked chicken parm to grilled and chilled for salads to shredded in the slow cooker, we’re chicken folk. Up until a few weeks ago I had never tried my hand at chicken pot pie. So odd seeing that it’s pretty all American. I think the crust overwhelmed me. So, instead of letting the thought of crust ruin my aspirations, I opted for store bought crust and focused my efforts on the creamy chicken and veggie filling, the real heart of this meal. 

I created this meal using Foster Farms’ new Simply Raised fresh chicken. This product line is raised without antibiotics, grown locally in the West Coast and produced by a family-owned company that has been around for 76 years!

chicken pot pie

CHICKEN POT PIE

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless Foster Farms® Simply Raised chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2, 9 inch unbaked pie crusts foster farms foster farms ingredients

DIRECTIONS

Before beginning, set out your pie crusts. You want them chilled, but not refrigerator cold. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. By the time it beeps, unroll one pie crust and gently press into the bottom of your pie pan. Pierce with a fork a few times and pre-bake for 5 minutes. 

To begin preparing the filling, combine cubed chicken, carrots, peas, beans, corn and celery in a saucepan. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and drain in a colander.

In your hot saucepan melt butter. Add chopped onions. Saute for 5 minutes or until soft. Whisk in flour to create a thick paste. Slowly add in the chicken brother and milk, constantly stirring until a roux forms. Add salt and pepper and simmer until it thickens.

Your pre-baked bottom pie crust is ready for it’s filling now! Pour in the chicken and veggie combo and evenly spread. Pour the roux over the top and gently toss to blend. Unroll your second pie crust and lay on top. Gently press the edges together to seal. Cut some vents … any design you choose, and bake for 30 minutes or until your pie crust says “I’m perfectly golden!”

Cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving. It ain’t pretty, but it’s delicious! chicken pot pie 2

A few little things you probably didn’t know about Foster Farms® … I didn’t and I thought I knew tons about chicken!

The new Foster Farms® has a trio of fresh chicken products that include: Foster Farms® Fresh & Natural, Foster Farms® Simply Raised (without antibiotics) and Foster Farms® Organic.  The  Simply Raised version without antibiotics by Foster Farms® is already in stores throughout CA, OR, WA, (that’s what I found at my local Walmart) and even better news, the Organic chicken is now in Costco and select grocery stores in the the West Coast. Yay! You can read more about each product here.


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Foster Farms®.


Baby #3 — The Day We Found Out


Let’s all be super in awe of my equality and fairness as a mom for a quick moment.

Today’s post is dedicated to baby number three’s official debut. Also known as “the day I peed on a stick”. I posted about the same event for itsy bits Jemma back in 2010 and then tiny little Max in early 2012.  If I can keep up with some photos here and there this baby won’t feel like the third to arrive at all!

First on the agenda … bump photo #1! Check! IMG_8223

So, how our little one came to be.

Dominic and I took a Creighton training course about a year ago. I won’t go into the details of charting cervical mucous as a means to avoid or achieve pregnancy, but know, it’s fascinating and a really cool, natural method of family planning. 

For a number of reasons, I hadn’t anticipated a positive pregnancy test on Thursday, April 23rd, and thus, took said test on a whim before nap time with Max whining at the door. If that’s isn’t the quintessential picture of a third born, I don’t know what is. Pretty much, I wanted to know that I wasn’t pregnant so I could slump a bit, nap it off and proceed with my day. 

But, then A POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST! Really, truly positive. No questions about it.

I opened the door and told Max he was going to be a big brother! He growled. So him. Next up, Dominic. I prayed for something happier than a growl :) I texted him the cleverest thing I could think of in a 5 second brainstorm. 

Think you can handle 3 at Take Your Child To Work Day in 2016?!? Thursday, April 23, 2015 was Take Your Child To Work Day so it was randomly in the forefront of my mind and Dom knew too because we had joked about him taking Max to the lumberyard that morning.

Max was begging for mama snuggles and rest, but of course I couldn’t fall asleep,  so Dominic and I texted back and forth while I simultaneously shared the news with a few friends. I invited my mom and sister over for dinner to surprise them in person and their reactions that evening were along the lines of these shrieks of happiness …

Jemma and Max are pretty pleased with their promotions too :) Moments after Jemma found out she quietly came up to my side and placed her hand on my stomach. She whispered, “I’m just going to try and feel the baby move a little.” Oh yes, she is the sweetest thing. Especially when she followed with, “I hope it’s a baby girl. But I think if it is a boy, I will really love it too.”

We commemorated the special day with impromptu family photos. Our first snapshots as a family of FIVE! family of 5

Dominic’s parents found out a few days later. We surprised him mama with an early Mother’s Day gift with a hidden clue. Her pendant necklace had an extra grandchild birthstone making an appearance! After our family knew all the rest of the big wide world got looped in on our little secret with this announcementIMG_8247

We’re pleased as punch and can’t wait to celebrate the Christmas season, or New Year I suppose, with a little one in our arms. We may have announced a bit early, but we can’t contain our excitement! 

Spill the beans! How did you announce your pregnancy?


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Other Mothers

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This pregnancy is turning me into a sap. A super sentimental, thankful sap. 

With Mother’s Day around the corner I can’t help but stop to think about my role as a mom, my mom’s role in my life and all the other mothers around me. I just love these women – my mom, my sisters, my friends. I admire them more than words can say. These other mothers are my inspiration. They’re fighting the good fight and coming out victorious day after day.

But victory looks so different than you’d expect. There are no parades or lavish rewards. Victory looks like sacrifice and vulnerability; honest confessions and raw truth. It’s saying, “I yell sometimes and need tools to manage my emotions” and “This is harder than I expected, I need help keeping perspective”. 

Who are the other mothers in your life? The ones walking beside you, doing what you’re doing, understanding all the feelings you feel?

I, of course, have my mama. The one who has always walked that fine balance of sharing her heart while carrying herself with strength. There is my best friend, the one who has created a beautiful, brave life in a new city. And my older sister who parents her boys with conscientiousness and grace. My other sister too, the one who isn’t a mother to biological children yet, but who acts as “mom” to my children often. She has even said to me before, “Will I love my kids as much as I love yours?” I have assured her, that yes, she will love them very, very much, as will I. 

My Bible Study table, mom’s group, babywearing friends, high school and college gals who have become mothers, women I’ve met online and subsequently fallen into friendship with – all these other mothers, I salute you. I love you. I’m proud to call you an ally in motherhood and wish you a calm peace and extra dose of rejuvenation this Mother’s Day. XOXO!


I was honored to partner with ProFlowers to send some gorgeous bouquets this Mother’s Day, thank you ProFlowers for helping me honor some of the other mothers in my life! If you’re curious, these are the beauties I chose … one /// two /// three /// four.

 


Guest Post — Fear Not

Today I’m sharing a wonderful essay from a writer friend, JJ Pritchett … I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Fear is one of those things that can grip us, tightly; especially on this adventure of motherhood. Remembering that fear has no place in our success is a timely reminder as we celebrate our role as mamas this coming Sunday.


Last night, I received a firm shove from a dark blob standing to the right of my bed.  It was ten year-old Conner.  Even though he is a familiar sight in those wee hours of the morning, his pay–attention–to-me shove startled me into a small yelp and sudden jolt.  I shouldn’t have been so shocked. Before his nightly visits, six-year-old Bailey Joy and I had much the same routine. It’s been years since I have said “Goodnight” and gone on to actually have one. My husband, Phil, hates being awakened in the middle of the night. It startles him so much that his adrenaline keeps him up for hours. Me? I don’t mind so much. I can empathize with nightmares. Everything from monsters to naked teacher dreams spook me on a regular basis. In them, I run from the monster; I am the teacher. Much of the time when first- born, Bailey was waking me up to be comforted, she was doing me a favor. I was having a nightmare all my own and her hushed entrance into my bedroom helped to snap me out of it.

Fear is something I shoo into the background music of my life during daylight hours. It is smushed into the clutter of my overactive brain between paying bills and making dinner. It whispers to me when I hear a police car siren, and when I read the local news… but, like organizing my closet and filing my insurance paperwork, there is not much time for it.

That is, until (now 16 year-old) Bailey got her driver’s license and drove off without me for the first time. Sure, life was still a symphony of cleaning, cooking, exercising, working with students, and returning phone calls, but instead of relegating it to the background, I set up a little picnic table and made Fear and its cousins Worry and Angst my guests of honor. I talked about them, dreamt about them, and tried to convince others to take a seat and spend valuable time with these joy robbers as well.

When my niece began taking driver’s ed, I cautioned my sister to count the cost of having a child who drives. She wouldn’t take the bait. Undeterred, I persisted, “So much can happen to them, Barbie,”  I warned.  When I heard the silence on the other end of the phone line, I continued by itemizing the potential pitfalls of this teenage rite of passage. I could hear myself trying to pass the fear along like a hot potato. I was saying, “Here. Take this. It is burning me. It’s your turn now.” But she wasn’t having any of it. She was actually excited for her daughter’s new-found freedom. Crazy.

In saner times of life, I am able to remember and even implement verses like Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”

But when Bailey and her two younger siblings pile into the 1996 Buick Cierra she nicknamed, SISTER MARY FRANCIS I can’t help but wince. I watch and wave for far too long as that old Buick rounds the corner and carries my three babies into the distance, out of my reach. Out of my control. I stand alone in the driveway, silently praying for their safety, and my sanity. A faint voice reminds me of a scripture that I memorized when I was a kid, long before I became the expert in worry that I am now.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…” but I do. I do.

And, truth be told, it’s not just the kids I worry about.  There’s also that silent question that follows many of my friends and me around, with its familiar, accusing tone. It asks, “Am I good enough?”  Oh, and by good I do not mean morally right. I mean fit, funny, smart, nice, helpful, hard working, and loved. We get invited to other people’s houses, and go home wondering if we are good decorators. Someone makes us a wonderful meal, and we ask ourselves if we, too, are good cooks. We linger on Pinterest, and before we finally click off, we silently gasp, “Oh my gosh! I forgot to reupholster the seats in my van!” And ever so subtly we believe that, sure enough, there’s a whole other level to human existence that has eluded us. A small belief wanders into our thinking,and accuses, “Girl, you missed the memo.” Since most of us have been believing sneaky lies about our worth since we were kids, we have a hard time recognizing that, without consciously agreeing to, we believe lies about ourselves several times a day. We worry that we don’t own enough, our kids aren’t getting what they need, the food we are eating is contaminated, our husbands don’t love us, or we are, in some way, unsafe. Worry-fear- anxiety-panic … We don’t even realize how often they knock on the door of our minds in some way, trying to gain entry. And if you aren’t thinking about it, it’s easy to just let them in. But then, there’s that steady reminder:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…and all these things will be added unto you.”

If I stop to listen, I can I hear the Spirit saying, “Make way. Clean out a space, do some weeding. Fear and love don’t grow together. Since only one of them can thrive at time, choose love. Always choose love.” choose love

When I hear about about almost any tragedy  I swat away a voice that murmurs, “You are next. You have to be next.” But even louder I hear God’s voice saying,

Be not fear.

Act not fear.

Speak not fear.

Show not fear.

Preach not fear.

Time consuming task, that one. Don’t just seek it, go on a hunt for the kingdom of God. Seek peace. Wear yourself out in the pursuit of it.

The truth is, the things that hurt us are not made less powerful by our constant worry. We can’t predict what will happen next. The furrowed brow of anxiety and the restless nights of strategizing against harm, are simply stealing the joy that’s right under our noses — ready to be snatched up, if we just say yes to the steadfast counsel of the angels all around us. Life is waiting. SISTER MARY FRANCIS is gassed up and ready to go.