Who Am I? Losing Part of Myself

Hi. Wife, Boymom, Writer, Jr High Confirmation Teacher, Creative Thinker, Outdoor lover here.  

All those things describe me, but lately, most of those have taken a back seat. And that’s left me a little disquieted. 

Two really big things happened in my life. I bet you can guess one because it happened to all of us. 


Yep. Quarantine. 


Quarantine shut down not only our world but parts of ourselves. I know you have felt this. Not always blatantly, but it comes out in conversations I hear from friends and people around our world. We are NOT feeling normal.


My number two big change: 10 days into quarantine, on my middle son’s 8th birthday we found out we were pregnant. 


With our fourth. 

A complete unplanned surprise. 


A year ago at this time we had talked about how 3 was our number and we were going to make it official. But you know how that works right? We know how that works. We just continued to live our life and God blessed us with the fourth I had always wondered about. 


BAM! Not done.


A “shock walk” the evening of my son’s 8th birthday. Even then, God was showing me beauty.

Have any of you had an identity crisis? Sometimes people call it a midlife crisis or maybe more a crisis due to trauma. I don’t know that I am in crisis mode, but I will say I have been in an identity whirlwind for most of this quarantine. I struggled in the beginning with the idea of quarantine, but started to understand the need to flatten the curve as info came out. I’m an extroverted, non-germaphobe, who loves to be spontaneous and march to the beat of her own drum. I’m not opposed to planning, joining the crowd for certain things, time by myself (as if!) or washing hands. All have a place and are needed. But none of these things come natural to me, and I had to come to terms with what I assumed was going to be a lengthy time ahead. 


When God threw new baby in the mix, holy moly, it just stirred my pot even more. My husband and I, on the evening we found out, sat down and wrote out our fears on paper about doing this all over again. I expected his list to be long and heavy. It turns out, mine was longer and I had been the one that was never really sure we were done. His had to do with work and finances and my career on hold again. All things I expected and knew. You know what the first thing I wrote was? 


“Losing my boymom identity.”


I think I even caught my hubby a little off guard with that one. Not because he didn’t expect it but because it was something he saw as manageable. Less scary. 


But let me explain myself a little more deeply. This was something I grew into. I have been known to say, it’s all I never knew I wanted. When we had our first, we did the surprise thing. Ready with a few names for either a boy or girl, we found out his gender when he was born. When we found ourselves pregnant again a year later, we decided to find out at the mid- pregnancy ultrasound. Why? Because I needed to know then I wasn’t having a girl to rid myself of any disappointment before the birth. And when our third came along, we found out again for the same reason. I was hoping for a girl, but would be happy with either. After 3 boys in 4 years, we took a break. A nod of thanks to the one in charge there. 


It took me no time once they were all here, to take on the identity of boymom. Our pediatrician would even come into the patient room and say “I love boyworld,” when he’d see my 2 year old hanging off the sink wearing only a diaper and the 4 year old spinning around on the doctor’s stool while I was nursing the baby. 


Not only does boymom describe me, but it is a group I find comfort with. My mother-in-law is a boymom of 4, and all her boys have boys. That’s right! All boy cousins on that side, one every year for 8 years. I have friends who I bond and commiserate with over disgusting bathrooms, wrestling, constant competition and getting them to SIT for dinner. This has nothing to do with a lack of love for girls. And some of this may even describe your girls. But you just bond so closely with those in similar situations, right? 


As my boys grew, I grew into loving all that it entailed. Busy, rambunctious and full of adventure described them quite well. I think the great part is, some of those things can describe me too. So watching and guiding them through early life became a sort of solidifying of who I was. Some of it I knew about myself already, and some of it brought a whole new side of me to learn and grow through. I was a boymom and have been a proud supporter of the “Boymom” company out there that makes hats and shirts and sweatshirts.


This is why I wrote what I did at the top of my fear sheet that night.  I have grown into a role that I didn’t know existed for me. I knew motherhood was something I wanted, but boymom is a special little niche I took on. I had started to think, if we ever got pregnant again, I’m pretty sure I’d be rooting for a boy, because it’s what I love and am comfortable with. God has brought me so much joy in this identity. 


But much like the quarantine, identity can abruptly change throughout life. Why? Because circumstances change. Maybe you moved away from a town you loved, and you are struggling to find joys around this new place. Maybe you were forced out of a job that was perfect for you and are now facing uncertainty of the next steps and who you are apart from that role.  Maybe you always considered yourself able to roll with the punches but find yourself ready to pull out hair at this time. Maybe all you once trusted and leaned on is shaky at best.


In the past when working with youth and talking about identity, I have found it can be exciting to help them grasp and understand parts of themselves and learn about what really makes them tick. It’s like discovering the work of art God made in each of us. But because we are human, even we must grow and change. So if we can’t even trust that to stay put then what are we to do?


 Identity isn’t just about who we are, it’s about whose we are.


When I get to know myself and then circumstance or feelings change, I can head very quickly into a pool of anxiety, wondering what in the world is happening.


When I understand that I belong to Jesus and am his dearly loved and forgiven child, that…THAT lasts forever. The world and even my feelings can go through ebbs and flows that threaten to take away things I’ve always known and loved, but STILL– I am a dearly loved and forgiven child of God. To know something doesn’t change in this ever-changing world, and right now, ever-changing minute–it brings me a lot of peace. 


Knowing this also helps me worry less about losing parts of myself, and see that growing sometimes necessitates this very action. In the Bible the prophet John the Baptist says this simply as he shares about Jesus “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)


I appreciate the time God gave me to hide out during this first trimester (when things are not so good for me anyway) even if it felt quite rotten to be holed in at times. I don’t love all the shifting in this world, nor do my kids. It’s hard to live in a time where we can’t make plans or simply be around people we love. My husband and I prayed that night over our fears and gave them to God. An attempt to make Him greater and give our future-blind eyes peace. Within the week after that prayer, my fear turned to wondering about what it might be like to have a girl for these 3 crazy and sweet boys. 


Until we find out about our little one, until the day I can again roam the earth and walk up to someone without worrying about 6ft of distance,  and until the day I’m with Jesus in eternity, I can rest my heart and mind knowing I’m His no matter what might change. 


*Boymom is just one part of my identity that I’ve struggled with as part of being pregnant. Bringing a baby into the world at any time is an exciting and nail-biting event. As one prepares, the body changes, and the mind reels, we have to remember how very precious this child is to the Creator. And he, in his infinite wisdom, chose me at this time to be a caretaker for his special child. As I look at the changes ahead for our family, I try to keep this at the helm. Not only am I God’s child, but the little one I carry is his child. Encourage the scared pregnant mamas out there with this news because it can be an especially challenging time to bring life into the world.


Thoughts on moving, again

I have been around for 23 years and have made a significant location change only four times, one of which doesn’t count because I was too young to remember it. Based on the three moves I remember, I have determined that moving is hard, emotionally, physically, and logistically, and I don’t love it, but it is often worth the trouble in the long run.

My most recent location change was almost two years ago, in August, to Muncie, Indiana. This was because I had enrolled in a graduate program at the university there. It was a business move, for professional purposes. I feel the need to clarify this point when I tell people about moving to Muncie, because I don’t want to be held personally responsible for the decision to move to Muncie. (That’s all I’ll say about that; I’ll leave you and Google to draw your own conclusions.)

When I moved, my mom came with me, and we did all of the things that you do when you’re moving to college. We drove from my parents’ house in Missouri separately, because both of our cars were stuffed with my belongings, and we called each other to coordinate rest area and snack breaks. My boyfriend at the time was moving to Muncie, too, and he had dinner ready for my mom and I when we rolled into his apartment parking lot in the evening. We ate, and then the three of us drove to the other side of town, to the house I had never actually seen in person but was moving into for the year. We dislodged boxes and miscellaneous un-boxable items from the two cars and heaved them into my new room until I was at the stage of moving where all your things are technically all inside of your new space, but everything’s in boxes and you don’t know where any of it is. The only unpacked items were a twin mattress laid directly on the carpet for me and a blow up mattress for my mom.

What I remember about the first night is this: the blinds on my one window were no match for my next-door neighbor’s blinding fluorescent house light, and I was laying directly facing the window. Also, the blinds were no match for my next door neighbor’s late night house party noise.

I should interrupt this story to let you know that I was not thrilled about moving. I was decidedly thrilled to live in the same town as my boyfriend (it worked out; we’re married now). I had overall positive feelings about the graduate program I had moved for (remember: professional purposes). I was optimistic about making my way in a new place (in particular, trying food from new restaurants.) I was not thrilled about getting used to new neighbor noises and lights and sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor amongst unpacked boxes in a room with bare walls; namely, moving.

What necessarily followed from such a night was my mom and I going to Meijer to buy a very thick black out curtain and a small but noisy fan, which I could blow directly into my ears to drown out the neighbor noise. One problem solved, we proceeded with more moving to college activities, which are things you do to stall for time before the parent has to leave and you have to stare at your empty bedroom walls and unpacked boxes and do something about it. We had breakfast at a local restaurant, my mom bought me a sweatshirt from the campus bookstore and took a photo of me in front of a sign for the university, which I appreciated because that’s one more shred of evidence supporting the fact that the move to Muncie was for professional, not personal, purposes.

And then, eventually, we were out of getting-dropped-off-at-college activities, and it was time for my mom to leave and  for me to stare down the boxes. We hugged, and cried, and I was sad about moving and I like my mom so I walked out to the front porch so I could wave while she drove away. I remember what I was wearing: bare feet and a dress. When I couldn’t see the car anymore, I went back up the steps and across the porch and jiggled the doorknob of the locked front door.

You guys. The locked front door. And I was on the side that I didn’t want to be on, wearing just bare feet and a dress, and I could tell you exactly where inside the house my phone, wallet, and house key were located.

There is more to the story. I will spoil it: I get back in. I used a neighbor’s phone to call our landlord, who unlocked the door for me (and wasn’t even that begrudging about it). But the important part of the story, and the reason I think it’s burned into my brain two years later, is that if being locked out of your new house in a new town with no keys and no phone and no shoes and no wallet doesn’t exactly portray what moving to a new place feels like, at least right at first, I don’t know what does. You don’t even know which direction to start walking, even if you have shoes on. You don’t know who to ask for when you need to help, or where to find them. You feel somewhat stuck, and you’re unsure if you meant to be stuck there. Pretty much all you have going for you is the kindness of strangers.

I’d hate to leave it off there, because that was only the first hour. So I’ll tell about today, almost two years after the lockout that has apparently really tainted my view of moving. Today I woke up and sat with my husband on the couch in a different house, one that we picked after driving all around Muncie, touring rentals and competently navigating streets that used to be foreign to us. I made myself a cup of coffee with beans from the local coffee shop that’s become my favorite. I grocery shopped, and I knew which grocery store to go to first and which would carry the weird, random item on my list. On my way home, I dropped off groceries for a couple from our small group who’s staying at home because of the pandemic, and I got to their house by memory. In the afternoon, I met a friend to lift weights in a tree-shaded grassy area on our university’s campus that we discovered and claimed as our outdoor gym last summer. We’ve met there at least two dozen times, and we’ve run or lifted weights together multiple times a week for the last 18 months, with few exceptions.

There’s more to the story. I will spoil it: I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but sometime during the last two years I learned which way to walk to get to the coffee shop, and to the park with the farmers market, and to campus. I learned the roads with street signs and the ones where the signs have been stolen and you just have to guess. I joined a small group, and made friends with the people, and as of today, I know that I can get to their house from memory. I started regularly exercising with a friend. I committed to a coffee bean subscription from the local coffee shop.

My parents moved recently, too, and when they did someone told them that the third year is when you really start to not feel new, when it no longer feels at all like you’ve moved. I’ll be moving again at the end of the summer; I won’t get to test his theory on Muncie. But with the trajectory I seem to be on, I believe it. Now that you know I’m moving, you might have realized that I couldn’t leave off at being locked out of the house on the first day in a new place; I had to remind myself of what today was like, too. And then when my parents are following me and my husband to Colorado this summer, with stuffed cars, I can read this and remember that moving feels like being locked out of the house, barefoot, with no idea who to call an no way to call them, but there’s more to the story and I’ll spoil it: I get back in.  


Note: This devotion first appeared in the Adult Leader Rest Area devotions at the 2019 LCMS Youth Gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It has been edited to reflect the Campfires and Marshmallows audience in the time of COVID-19. I pray these words are an encouragement to all who read them.

Emmanuel. A beautiful name of God that often gets packed up in a little box on December 26th and set up on a basement shelf, waiting again to be opened on the first Sunday of Advent. We are so eager to welcome God With Us into our homes and churches as a cute little baby about whom we sing on candlelit evenings while soft snow falls in the background. Perhaps the promise of a fresh start in January gives us the freedom to welcome Christ into our lives. “I may not have it all together now, but you should see my New Year’s Resolutions this year…” And isn’t there just something so precious and innocent about gazing at a brand-spankin-new human that calms performance anxiety and the need to impress?

But where is He now in the middle of a worldwide shut-down? When the reality of our failings bring to mind God With Us in the cleansing of the temple. Filled with righteous anger and zest for purity to be restored, God With Us clears His Father’s House with a less-than-gentle approach. Is this the image that we fear? Our unholiness faced with His perfect presence?

David tackles this fear in Psalm 139, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (verse 7). He wrestles with the fact that no matter where he goes or how much darkness surrounds him, he cannot escape the presence of God. While terrifying, David exclaims, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (verse 6). David embraced the fear and knowledge of God With Us because he understood the attributes of God’s behavior.

David understood “The Lord of Hosts is With Us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11). No matter what, God is With Us. Think back on this week. Is there anything that causes you to cringe? Moments you think, “this would have been perfect if she hadn’t…” or “everything has gone smoothly except that I forgot to…” or even, “I can’t wait to get away from my family and rest from all the craziness we’ve endured.” Guess what? God is With You through it. And if everything is smooth sailing right now? God is With You through that, too. As an adult, we often feel the pressure to have it all together “for the sake of the young.” We need to have the right words to say when approached with a big question, and we certainly can’t be seen snapping at anyone else out of exhaustion. The pressure is enormous. But what happens when we are late to the dinner that we emphasized needed to be timely? What happens when we are caught crying from exhaustion or emotion? What happens when we don’t have the words to say? God With Us. We run to Him, we run to our fortress.

David spoke to God because he knew God’s presence was near. And thousands of years later we can rejoice that we live in the time of God With Us – God Made Flesh – who “dwelt among us…full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and who has sent his Holy Spirit to remain with us.

David pleads, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23) David trusted that God’s knowledge of him was not a scary prospect, but rather one of peace. God knows us intimately, and yet he still chooses to be God With Us.

Sometimes this is difficult to accept, which is why we are given a community of believers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks to this, “Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.” We need community because God’s presence is in community. God With Us presents through the kind, encouraging word, or needed correction from a trusted voice. While the world may look different, and human interaction has changed, I pray that you experience this deepest sense of community despite social distance. I pray you can be this community to others. Above all, I hope you know as David did that you are deeply known and deeply loved by God With Us, who is present with you at all times, through his Word, through his Sacraments, and through his people, no matter what.

Are you still trying to use Training Wheels?

Tonight, my youngest son rode his bike without training wheels for the first time.

It was the plan, all along, for him to take them off on his 5th birthday. I knew he was ready, but he wasn’t so sure—he needed to wait until he was five. Today is one week before that little joy of a boy turns five. As I replaced a tube on my 7-year-old’s bike in the garage, my almost-10-year-old boy helped take the training wheels off of the bike for the almost-5-year-old boy. And just like that, before I could even look up from what I was doing, Simon was cruising up and down the street, free of hindrances, smile as wide as the sky.

I finished putting the fixed wheel back on the bike I was working on, and bolted inside to grab my phone, feeling a twinge of failure that I hadn’t captured my little boy’s first attempt at riding solo. When I got back outside, Simon was in high heaven. He was so pleased with himself, and so empowered by his new skill; he was giddy.

no training wheels

When it was finally time to come inside, Simon walked his bike up to the garage. He took off his helmet while I was putting away all the wrenches. He was expressing his joy at his new skills, and I was letting him know how proud of him I was. I took a picture of his old training wheels, then threw them in the garbage. That’s when he said to me, “And we’ll get new training wheels for the bikes I get after this one so I can get used to them.”

I love the way little kids think.

I assured him that something amazing happened that day: that once you have ridden without training wheels, you would never need them ever again.

bye bye training wheels

It was a sweet moment that reminded me… again… that my children are growing up before my very eyes. That moment has lingered with me throughout the evening, and I can’t help but think there are some gems of wisdom in there for us.

I hope I remember Simon’s joy as he turned sharp corners and went up and down slants on the sidewalk without a problem. I hope I remember how useless the training wheels looked there on the floor of my garage. I hope I remember the silly question Simon had about getting training wheels again for his next bike.

As I seek wisdom and think about applying this to my own life, I wonder what “training wheels” God is waiting to remove in my life. I wonder if I am trying to hold on to training wheels in areas where I already am capable—old aids for new things. I wonder if my actions sometimes look as ridiculous to God as the image of Simon putting training wheels on his future bikes. I wonder how often I miss out on the joy and exhilaration of riding freely the way God knows I can, only because I prefer the safety of keeping my training wheels on.

Three times today, I have heard the story of Gideon. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an easy read in the Bible—Judges chapters 6 & 7.) Gideon was absolutely one of those individuals who did not feel ready for the task God gave to him. He was comfortable with his “training wheels,” if you will. But God spoke amazing things to Gideon, giving Gideon a glimpse into the way that God saw him. And even in the midst of uncertainty from Gideon, God took those training wheels off of him (and the Isrealite army), so that they could experience the joy of freely following the God who loved them and provided for them like nothing else.

I’m still working through the above questions for myself, although based on the stories of Gideon and others like him, I know there are areas in my life where God desires to remove training wheels I no longer need. How about you? Are trying to keep your “training wheels” on? Or have you learned to trust God’s timing as he encourages you to ride freely?

I’d love to hear your “training wheels” story around the fire today!