On Birthdays {And Numbering Our Days}

by Andrea Kolber


Today I turn 34, which feels ridiculous, really. Every year I say to my husband, “I can’t believe it’s my birthday again!” And every year he says with a little smile, “Yep, it really snuck up on us.”

It didn’t actually though, because usually I’ve been talking about it for a bit. Not in a selfish way, I hope. But more in a I can’t believe time is passing kind of way.

It reminds me of this verse:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV).

This is where I suspect my wonder at another birthday comes from—attempting to number my days. It's in doing this that we often experience deep gratitude. It's only when we pause to survey what is right in front of us that we are able to see it clearly.

I haven’t always been great at this practice, if I’m honest. Even now in the midst of some long nights and days, I'm tempted to throw out all I’ve learned. I write these words with my 11 week old strapped to my chest and most days I can connect to the gift he is. And yet in my rush to be productive or to feel significant I can miss out on seeing it too. I can forget, so easily, how we longed to meet him. I can miss out on his tiny full lips and his blossoming personality.

And so I sit with this, and I number my days. I realize that he will only be this little for so long.

I watch my T girl, and I can feel my heart literally hurt as I see her body start to become long and lean, as she begins to throw off the form of her young days and replace it with the touch of the woman she’ll become. Just last night she lost her first tooth, and my mama heart almost wept at the milestones that are coming faster and faster. Now at night when I go in, briefly, to check on her, I make myself memorize her small face so I don’t forget; and I number my days with her.

I see my husband and the type of partner he is, and I feel grateful. What an honor to watch him be the father I ached for. And here he is, giving this deep connectedness to our kiddos. Sometimes I feel frustrated that we don’t get more time to ourselves. After hours of soothing small bodies and crying tinies, I want to just be with him sometimes. And certainly we try for it, but these are the years of interruptions by small people who need us. But this, too, is temporal.

Together, we are learning to number our days. Because I’m confident sometime I’ll sit at the kitchen counter aching to be interrupted by my kiddos, but they'll likely be busy building the life they're meant for. 

When I sit with the reality of 34 years on this earth and the hope for many more (although, we’re never guaranteed anything) the knowledge humbles me. What a tiny drop in the scheme of it all. And still, it’s my drop.

It causes me to ask these kinds of questions:

Am I satisfied with how I’ve lived my life thus far? What would I change? Am I loving my people well? Does my life point to Jesus?

These are the questions that rattle around in my brain, but I say again: teach me to number my days, Lord.

**

Here’s to 34, folks. 

Aundi


Try Softer

by Andrea Kolber


Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
— Goethe

This last week has been hard—like forgot if I brushed my teeth in the morning--kind of hard. And I couldn’t help but feel a bunch of feelings about that. As one who has ached for another baby, it felt wrong and a bit shameful to be in this place. But, as one who is also a consistent advocate for owning our experience, I also realize this is all part of the journey; every single gift has some difficult built in too. 

Lately, my husband and I have been reminiscing about our sweet Tia and some of the not so easy parts of when she was a baby. We remembered how challenging the weight of parenting felt. How we had also longed for her and then we were suddenly struck by the reality that parenting is the toughest, holiest thing we’d ever done.

It got me to thinking about my default, which is to be quite persistent. Once, when I was a high school basketball player, our local reporter called me tenacious. I adore this word. I love the idea of persistence and tenacity and what it embodies. But what I’ve noticed is there can be a shadow side to this gift. Sometimes I need to know when to walk away. Sometimes, as I’ve written about in the past—it’s not about leaning in harder, it’s about trying softer. It’s about recognizing if something isn’t working, we may need to re-assess how we’re doing what we’re doing.

And so I’ve come back to this idea again—partially, because I’m still getting it. I’m still figuring out how to practice presence and mindfulness and connection to my moments and people and Jesus, especially in a new season.

But today on this unseasonably warm February day, things seem crystal clear (for once), especially as it pertains to parenting. As I sit and drink my coffee by myself, for the first time in a long time, it seems to click. There are times to lean in, and there are times to back up. It's like a dance where we read the music and the rhythm. We notice and pay attention and occasionally we push to teach or explain or soothe our kiddo a bit more, and sometimes we say forget about it and go outside and do the silliest thing we can think of.

It's paying attention to the rhythm that matters. 

**

But how will I get anything get done? What if Jude never sleeps? Will Tia ever get a bath? Will I ever actually clean the house? What if? What if?

These are the types of questions that want to pop in my head. Frankly, they’re valid. But here’s where I continue to land: try softer.

We can’t ignore there are tasks to be done. Yes, bills must be paid. Yes, we need food. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But if we spend the best of ourselves on things that matter only a little, what will we have left for those things that matter much? What if, this is the exact space where the Lord meets us? What if this is what he means when he says it's not by power or might, but by (relying on) his spirit (Zechariah 4:6)?

I'm finding--again--in our spaces of surrender we have all the grace we’ll ever need.

Let's lean into that.

**

How about you? Where are you finding you need to try softer? 


Learning to Abide {Guest Post for the Glorious Table}

by Andrea Kolber


“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4 ESV)

I remember lying in bed at night as a teenager, reviewing everything I needed for the next day at school. Were the papers signed? Had I written all my projects down? Was I going to fail my test tomorrow?

My adolescent body felt anxious and tired at the same time, and the pressure would often take its toll. I would wake at 4 or 5 a.m. to ensure I had everything I needed. Then, sheepishly, I would realize my alarm hadn’t gone off and try to go back to sleep.

I spent most of my childhood trying to remain one step ahead of problems. I came by this honestly as I grew up in a loving but significantly dysfunctional home. My mom and dad both struggled with addiction and mental health issues. Based on our family system, one of the main ways I learned to deal with difficulties was to be hyper-aware of what might go wrong so I could try to stop it from happening. Or at least keep the issue from becoming severe.

Click here to keep reading over at the Glorious Table. 


In the Early Hours We Remember {On Gratitude}

by Andrea Kolber


My fingers are itching to write. It feels like it's been forever, although I know it hasn't. I suppose creating has become a form of beauty my soul now needs. 

As I sit and nurse my babe, so many thoughts come to mind. I see how loud the world is lately and angry too. I feel torn between wanting to be a change maker in the world, but knowing I'm called first to do it in my home. Again and again, I feel as though when I become overwhelmed with all the hurt and pain in our culture, God gently asks me to lean into my moments rather than the big picture. What a helpful reminder, as I’m too tired to handle much more than making sure tiny people are alive at the end of the day.

As I sit in the almost dark of early dawn, I hear Jude drinking deeply and I look forward to laying him down. For a moment though, I snuggle his cheeks and breathe in his scent. My eyes are heavy now, but I try to take a moment to remember we’ve been waiting to meet him for years.

As I hold him, I can feel how he needs me, but I remember my fiery daughter does too. Parenting is a weighty calling, certainly. As I supposed before his birth, it feels surreal how our hearts expand. I already miss the solo connection with Tia girl--and yet it feels like God allows our love to multiply too. Still, adding a life is a transition, even with heaps of love added in.

Mostly now, in my quiet moments through the day, I'm pondering how much has happened in such a short time. I’m chewing on the humility it requires to love little people well, and really, anyone well. Even now at 7 weeks postpartum, I’m still amazed at the miracle that took place bringing our little Jude into the world and how much support I need to be the parent I would like. For a personality like me, this is something I constantly need to be reminded of: I don’t have to do it alone.

As with my daughter, I'm confronted with how difficult parenting can be. And I'm faced again with the enormity of my limits and my strength. I don't mean those words with a shred of pity or arrogance. Rather, I feel grateful for the resources God has given me for this time--mostly himself.

But, also a husband who loves me well in the midst of raging postpartum hormones and little sleep. I’ve watched my mom and in-laws with their willingness to love us in this transition, and it has been a balm. We’ve experienced sweet friends who know my story--my vulnerabilities--and they check in with me often.  We’ve had folks love us through meals and gifts and presence. We’re so grateful. 

All these things keep me rooted as we navigate the hard beautiful of parenting. And so tonight, we will do it again. When my body feels weary or my heart is tired; I will call these things to mind. I will remember how I’m loved, how we’re loved.