It had been building for months, but I swore up and down it wasn’t postpartum depression. I still do, to an extent. Everything about Hadassah Lee fills me with joy. I cherish everything about her, even down to her nighttime antics which give me little sleep and no rest. I swore up and down it wasn’t hormones, either. Nor was it winter. I can handle the cold and the dark. But still I was angry most days. All day. I cried a lot, at the drop of a hat. There was a lot of yelling, slamming, leaving the house. I figured out how to dump quickly and efficiently on my husband, and how to mask everything from the kids. My kids are perceptive. They ask me what’s wrong. They give hugs. In the loud places, I stonewalled. In the quiet places, I crumpled. I tried to think rationally through situations and describe my emotions, to take away their power. The only word I kept coming up with was rage. It was bright and blinding.
And then came the cry for help. The event that set off the alarms. A big blaring sign that read GET HELP, RACH.
It was a typical midweek morning. Chris was still unloading his gear and his thoughts from Sunday’s services while simultaneously preparing for the next one. I’d worked the previous day and stormed through the house, cleaning and fuming with what had become the usual fury. We were trying to get out of the house for some reason, but I can’t remember the plans now. I asked Chris to get the girls’ boots for them while I finished getting dressed. After a few minutes of searching, it was discovered that one pair of boots was missing. We looked in the usual spots, to no avail. Instead of just rolling with it and letting Chris grab another pair of shoes for the forlorn twin, I lost my junk. I refused to the leave the house until the missing boots were found, letting it take me to tears. Tears, over some missing boots. I made the kids sit on the couch while I stomped around, convinced that nobody else could find the missing boots as well as I. And besides, they’d just get in the way. I was on a mission. The muttering below my breath became loud and forceful, words and emotions flying as if this were truly the end of my world. I could feel myself, see myself acting absolutely crazy over something so small and yet… I couldn’t let it go. The boots were eventually found nearly an hour later and we loaded everyone up, late to our destination. Chris hadn’t said a word the entire time, but I could feel it. I had crossed the line. I had become fixated on the something trivial to the detriment of my mood, my day, and my family. And this wasn’t the first time. But I knew it needed to be the last.
Being able to bless our kids with a fun night out is just as important as being able to teach them how to enjoy a boring one in. Living large with a large family is all about planning ahead, setting clear expectations, and keeping conversations going. We talk about money often, even with the little kids. We use numbers and point out those who have more and less than we do.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a date night or new shoes for the kids, I tend to space things out. I might reschedule an outing for an upcoming quiet week, or hide a just-purchased outfit for a grumpy afternoon. I try to roll with the punches. As parents, we’re forever battling a sense of entitlement in our children, right? We must pace ourselves. I laugh and groan when I buckle the kids in and start the car, only to hear them arguing about where we’re going for a TWEAT. I want to take them by surprise on a regular basis. I don’t ever want to withhold, but I want my kids to understand the gravity behind the things we do for them. It’s not about the money. It’s about the memories we’re creating, the character we’re attempting to build in each one of our children.
We recently took the three boys to see the Lego movie. We’d waited for the perfect time, and it had been on the calendar for quite some time. In fact, I started talking to Ames about it back in January. Remember my recent holiday post? I’m all about the hype. As I stepped up to the ticket counter, I received a pitch for some sort of frequent movie-goer discount card. I laughed, as it had taken me over a year to collect these tickets through a program at my hospital. Chris & I just aren’t movie theater folks, so I sat on each one until I had enough to take the family. But that’s not the end of this story. This isn’t about that time the family with too many kids finally took those poor children to a movie. We didn’t roll up there with our free tickets, crackers and fruit snacks and water bottles hidden in my purse. Once we got there, we went for it. We upgraded to the 3D film tickets, and we bought the largest popcorns and drinks they had. When it’s time to do it, we do it up right.
Plan it out. Spread it out. Talk it out. Then… go big or go home!
You could hear my first car (truck?) rumbling from down the street, so it always made an entrance. I took dance for nearly twenty years, complete with fake eyelashes and weekends spent at competitions. I was captain of the cheerleading squad, and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I’m currently the welcome wagon for my unit at the hospital, and I teach classes online and in real life. I guess you could say that I don’t mind being in front of people. But scheduling a coffee date? Getting recognized at the grocery store? Carving out time and getting childcare for a small group through church? I’m a mess. I literally squirm when I’m out with my mom and she recognizes an old friend. It means she’ll catch her up to speed on everyone and then the topic of kids comes up and then the big eyes and how did you carry twins?!
Community makes me sweaty. Always has, always will. I can’t help that I’m an introvert. I’d rather be at home on the couch with my family than anywhere else, forever and always. This means that when I do show up, when I do put forth the effort, I usually walk away emotionally exhausted. I know people (my husband) who are energized and fueled by a good party, but there are some of us who could hibernate for days afterward.
This is an explanation. It’s why I might retreat to a corner for a few minutes during a get-together, or why I don’t volunteer information that might extend my conversation with the lady checking me out at a store. Community makes me sweaty. It’s an explanation.
But it’s not an excuse. Because y’all, I was called to live in community. I was created for it. It doesn’t matter how much work or sweat it takes, community is vital to living life abundantly, to its fullest. There might be things I’d rather be doing (read above – couch), but it doesn’t matter come Tuesday night. I will show up and do life with a few other couples, couples from all walks of life, couples who are different from me and love me unconditionally. Joining and staying in a small group is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Seriously.
But you know what? These are the people who show up when it hurts. The people who send you on a date night, and figure out how to heat up the milk for the baby without calling you because you forgot to instruct them. The people who actually pray and then follow up on the request lists. The people who cook to your preferences because they listened when you talked. The people who speak the truth in love to you. They’re able to exercise this kind of authority because they’ve invested in you, and you in them.
I might end my Tuesday nights exhausted, but that might not ever change. It doesn’t have to. I was created for it, and called to it. The people in my community are the hands and feet of Jesus, and He shows up when they do. Sweaty or not, here I come.
I read it over and over, and then I saved it and shared it with anyone who would listen. This is some game-changing stuff, you guys. Let it marinate a little bit.
Jessi recently spoke into this idea in the area of ministry on her blog. Chances are, you’ll be seeing it time and again this year from the Influence Network. It’s a theme for our core team and a new anthem for my life. It’s very easy for us to grab hold of the influence message and feel that it involves us doing that new thing or speaking there or working with them. It most certainly involves more people, more popularity, and a more visible platform, right? I’m guilty of it. I recently shared that my goal is to go part-time at the hospital by the end of this year in order to make more time for ministry, and I’ve nearly let it consume me. I should be writing more, networking more, pitching more if this is going to happen. I’ve been planning and striving and it’s easy to forget to look at my feet. My ministry is right here. There are folks right here within arm’s reach whom I tend to ignore or even neglect, when I try to widen my influence elsewhere. These relationships potentially suffer each time I miss the point and misplace the focus.
I don’t want to be about that anymore. I want a Kingdom focus, one that does not consider itself with people’s opinions or definitions of success. After all, even perfection wouldn’t be enough to earn me any more or any less approval from my Heavenly Father. I just want to be a good steward of the opportunities and the people He’s given me, glamorous or not. Whether I’m speaking to grown-ups from a stage or whispering to a toddler on a potty or meeting a nervous new nurse at work, I just want to point to Jesus. Can you imagine the influence found in hundreds of whispers? Thousands of one-on-one coffee shop talks? Millions of life-giving emails? It’s what we Christians call resurrection power. We have the opportunity to see lives changed, through just a little bit of leverage and a whole lot of the Holy Spirit.
This is what it means to make much of Jesus, right where we are. This is literally what our network is about. Hear me say that the grass is not greener. Each of us has a story to tell and a mess in her closet. These days, I’m telling my story from my messy mud room. Care to join me?
Have I preached enough about the Lara Casey Powersheets yet? Have I mentioned the part where they’ve changed my life? I’m seriously considering going two months between new sheets, just to make them last all year. Lara is all about some pep talks. One of the things she has us do each month is to start off with a little one or two-liner, something to help us reflect and get focused at the same time. When it came time for me to get set up for this month, I scrawled IT’S STILL ONLY THE BEGINNING across my sheet. And then on my weekly planner. And in my phone. And on this blog post.
Because you guys, we’re always right at the beginning of whatever it is, if we want it so. We can start over whenever the heck we want. We can change, add, and subtract as needed in order to keep us moving in the right direction. One of my creative goals for January was to make a wreath. That did not happen, but I did find a silver tinsel wreath at a post-Christmas sale, and it looks January enough for me. I ignored my own words about reading an entire book last month. I’m crawling my way through both Girls with Swords and Bread & Wine, stopping to cry and highlight and acknowledge the interruptions. I wanted to master a black cat-eye and a nude lip in March, but I’ve tried it three times already. Ahead of the game in this department, friends, but it might be Thanksgiving before I’m able to leave the house with February’s braided headband.
The point is, it’s important to make goals and it’s important to stay flexible with them. We should not shy away from dreaming big and taking steps towards things just because we might not reach them in our timeframe. And when we don’t get to check things off at the end of the week or month or year, we aren’t failing at anything. Let me pound that into my own heart for a minute. What a breath of fresh air it is, to hold myself accountable and give myself grace at the same time. I’m going to keep at this thing while reminding myself that IT’S STILL ONLY THE BEGINNING… all year long.
Hadassah Lee has been the easiest, happiest baby I’ve ever known. It’s become a running joke in our family, that she’s everyone’s favorite Kincaid kid. When I look at her, I literally feel as if I’m floating. When I hold her, I feel grounded and sure. She was the bright spot in a difficult year, but she did not overcome the darkness entirely. This little chubby smiling thing is not enough to restore the joy that’s been threatened, as I’ve muscled and fought through difficulties in nearly every other area of my life. And she shouldn’t be enough. I accept that nothing here on earth can seep into all of those cracks, enough to heal wounds and frustration and anxiety. But what happens when you know the One who is enough, but you still feel sad and angry most of the time? What happens when you know the Truth and can’t seem to get it to sink in?
Over the last several weeks, I’ve felt my resolve slipping and my heart sinking into a depression. In the past, I’ve written about these postpartum seasons after emerging from them, but I feel a little differently about it right now. Maybe sharing thoughts and feelings and realizations during this process will bring a little more life to my heart and to a few of my readers. As I mentioned last week, I started seeing a counselor for the first time ever. I already feel myself thawing a bit after just one session. I’m looking forward to feeling like myself again, but I’m also taking the time to soak a bit in this pain and see what the Lord has for me here. I hope that makes sense. You guys are incredible. Thanks for taking this journey with me. And thanks, Joules, for this amazing sweater. I wear it too often. For real.
A seventy-degree day meets seven-day-old snow. Sweater c/o Joules.
This week, Influence Conference tickets went on sale. There is lots of goodness on the network blog in honor of conference season, so be sure to check it out. We’ve been running fun giveaways all week and if you buy yours today, you’ll be entered to win an iPad mini. Ummm, get on that!
This week, an 84 year-old man on my street died in a house fire… after saving his wife. I think that might be the sweetest, saddest love story ever. Apparently they shared that home for more than fifty years, and he even kept a cherry tree in the yard so he could make her pies?!
This week, I fell in love with gold glitter nail polish and there’s a chance I’ll never take it off as long as I live. I also pulled an all-nighter, saw a counselor for the first time ever, and beat my grocery budget by three dollars. It was a pretty wild few days.
This week, Andy Stanley got himself into some hot water with this article. I can say what I want here because this is my space, right? I couldn’t be prouder. The gospel is dripping with grace, but that can leave it messy. I wasn’t always okay with the tension, but I am now, and I’m proud to serve under a leader who feels the same.
My son Ames has an incredible memory. He’ll recall the last time we visited a spot when we pull into its parking lot, down to what we were wearing and what color the walls were. Like most preschoolers, he loves routine and structure. He wants ideas he can put his hands and his brain around. He repeats himself a lot, and I spend a lot of time delivering assurances on promises given.
Over the few years we’ve been together, I’ve learned that one of the best gifts I can give my son is my word. For us to thrive together, I have to mean what I say and follow through with certainty. Even if it’s easier to pacify him in a public place, I must make the hard choice to leave a place when things deteriorate, especially when I’ve warned him. Even if I’m exhausted, I must read him that book or sing him that song before bedtime, especially when I’ve told him I would. My word is my bond with this kid, and I cannot treat our conversations lightly. This relationship is a gift, a treasure, and one that challenges me daily.
I’ve found it goes both ways, though. I tend to ask Jesus the same things over and over, trying to grab hold of His ideas and His affections and His will. I want so badly to wrap them up and secure them tightly, in my grubby little earthly hands. In reality, the most assured gift I can give my soul is to fully receive the grace and goodness He has for me. Jesus meant what He said when He claimed to be the way to life. He meant what He did when He died for me. He delivers on His promises, every single time. He doesn’t take our conversations lightly, and He’s never too exhausted to sing me that song before bedtime. His gospel message is mine for the taking. His word is His bond.
For the first time in a long while, I enjoyed some days off in a row last week. Right smack dab in the middle, too. Perfect. I made plans to clean and shop and write and create and relax. Things have been going going going since before Christmas, and I knew I needed some time to recharge. So on Tuesday morning, when the snow began to fall, I was filled with hope. We had a lot of food and no plans, and a snowstorm might be just the thing needed to keep me still. Over the next three days, we were covered in a blanket of snow as deep as eight inches. That’s a big deal for this Carolina girl! I snapped this photo from the end of our driveway on the last day of the storm.
My week was full of community and yet – no school, no work, no errands. Just a lot of folks hanging around in my home. For an introvert, this serves as both a blessing and a challenge. There was very little quiet and a whole lot of peace. There were sleepovers and video games and superhero reenactments. There were soups and pizza deliveries and baked goods and fireside chats. There were sibling squabbles and sibling snuggles and hot chocolate mustaches.
One afternoon, my husband and my dad took the boys to a golf course to sled. I stayed behind with my mom and the girls, settling in on the couch with a cup of chili while she read to the girls. She wore her token snow day outfit, a thick red sweater dress with a giant classic Tweety Bird on it. Vintage, right? But it’s the cutest.
That sweater takes me back to my snow days of yore, when my mom helped me put on my gloves and waited behind with hot chocolate and warm towels. When she dried my clothes between outside adventures and hosted my friends and made snow cream and let me take baths in the middle of day. This year, I didn’t do any sledding or snowman-building. I didn’t go outside much at all, which felt super different. But I did get to host friends for meals and assist a teenager into his boots because he couldn’t bend down in all of his layers. I did get to machine-dry wet clothes and arrange for midday baths and teach my kids about snow cream. To experience a few snow days through my kids’ eyes, to attempt to love them well despite their cabin fever, to introduce traditions to the next generation… these moments made the week one of my most memorable to date.
I never knew how good it could be for the mom left behind. Now I get it. I’ve gotten a taste of the other side, y’all, and the view from here is good.
As a recovering grinch, I thought I’d share some of the things that have made holidays all the more light for me in recent months. I use Valentine’s Day as an example because it can be one of the most polarizing… and it’s today?
4. Start early and finish late. As soon as I took down Christmas decorations last year, I started thinking about the month of love. Just getting into a holiday mindset does wonders for daily drudgery. Two of my planned adventures got canceled due to snow, so we’re rescheduling for next week. There are no rules, no starting or finish lines! Don’t get caught up in the commercialism discussions or the calendar dates. Just stick it to the winter blues with some extra cheer this month.
3. Get out of the house. These trips don’t have to be expensive or over the top, just deliberate. Our February adventures? I brought Ames grocery shopping with me, but not before we celebrated his first-ever diner breakfast. Avery and I signed up for a cooking class together, and I’m taking Lucas thrift-shopping per his request. I keep a ongoing list on my phone, of things my kids mention or ask questions about. It makes the gift-giving and the adventure-planning much easier during holidays.
2. Bring the season into your home. I might not be the craftiest person in the world, but I can throw some pink and red into the mix. I bought Valentine’s candy and set it out in our kitchen. I even replaced it after the three little pigs sneaked down to raid it in the middle of the night. I cut a few paper hearts and hung them from the ceiling in our den. The scraps went into a vase, which now sits on our dining room table as a super chic Valentine’s centerpiece. Celebrating can also be as simple as using the language more often. Guess what’s in a week? Guess what Valentine’s Day is about? One of my favorite things to do is search for holiday-themed content on Netflix.
1. Be clear with your expectations. My husband doesn’t care much for Valentine’s stuff, which has caused a bit of tension in the past. This year, though, I just spelled it out for him. No guessing, no games. I don’t need a wild date or an extravagant gift, but I would like you to show me thoughtfulness throughout the day. Hadassah and I did not sleep well last night, so I went out on a limb. Typically, I’d just complain about being tired all day. Instead, I asked my husband to take her out of our room and give me a half-hour to sleep before the sun came up and the rest of the house woke. The man took her out of our room alright, and right on out the door. He picked up some breakfast and some flowers. We both won.
Cheers! These ideas will work for even the most random (or made-up) occasions. Happy Holidays, every single one of them!