why taking prenatal vitamins is an act of faith

Because you’ve been down this road before, when the line turned more and more pink, leaving you without a shadow of a doubt: you’re pregnant.

Because you’re struck by the wildness of it all–nearly a year since the miscarriage…and this??

Because you’d finally settled into contentment, not the restless back and forth of, Should we have another?

Because, ready or not, the decision has been made.

Because it is what it is. Denial and pretending that this can’t really be doesn’t negate that it’s actually happening.

Because loss is where you landed when you took this hopeful step before.

Because insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

Because the vitamins you bought last year, last time, haven’t expired.

Because you can’t bear the weight of knowing that your unwillingness to add another pill to the daily regimen, simply because it says “prenatal” on the label, could negatively affect your…baby.

Because saying the word baby makes it real.

Because simply calling it a fetus won’t let you forget that it’s the name of a developmental stage of a life, an actual life.

Because you’re clear-eyed about it all, no rose-colored glasses. You really have no idea where this road will lead.

Because you really believe God is faithful.

Because you really believe God is good.

Because you really believe God withholds no good thing. No good thing.

Because sometimes you have to work out your belief when it is wavering

by taking the vitamins.

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the act vs. the accolades

🏆 I reached a milestone this week:

1,000 views on my blog.

So cool!

For a very split second when I read the notification, I felt like it wasn’t worth acknowledging. After all, I started this blog 8 years ago.

😳 EIGHT. Years. Ago.

Eight years of writing, sometimes going many months between posts, to other times posting every day. Eight. whole. years of that, and you know what’s funny? Nearly half (half!) of those 1K views occurred *drumroll please* last week! Literally just a few days ago. What triggered it? Beats me. (Analytics aren’t my strong suit.)

Shame from such a slow progression over such a long period and frustration at my own inconsistency tried to peek in, but in a moment of writerly strength, I tossed that thought out just as quickly as it came. In its place I began to ponder… Okay, if I shouldn’t be embarrassed, shouldn’t I feel…excited? Happy, at least?

But you know what, y’all, I didn’t feel especially thrilled. And it’s not like I was bummed either. In the space of about a minute I went from a shame-filled, “Oh this is kinda embarrassing” to a nonchalant, “Oh, cool fact,” and I kept trying to figure out why. Surely it wasn’t that this milestone was unworthy of celebration. But after some contemplation, the fact of the matter became clear:

🤷🏾‍♀️ I simply didn’t care that much.

At some point along the way, I began to share my words (on my blog in particular) for myself. For my own happiness, for my own joy, for my own pleasure, and my Father’s. Olympic sprinter Eric Liddell said, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure,” and I get that! God made me a writer, hard as it is to claim that title, and when I write I feel His pleasure. That’s what spurs me on.

There is, of course, the added bonus of people actually reading what I write, and when they comment? Well, that’s the icing on the cake. But whether or not the readers or commenters come, the real treat is always the satisfaction of pen to page, fingers to keyboard, pouring out my thoughts and deciding which to share. Clicking publish is my act of generosity, because words are still a gift even if no one else reads them.

🎉 So, happy 1000 views to my blog and a pat on a back to me, for finally accepting that the act of writing is significantly more fulfilling than any other accolades.

…….

Forreal forreal though, I am so encouraged by those who’ve read my words, shared my words, and/or taken the time out to tell me that they’ve appreciate my words. I don’t at all take it for granted. 🥰

…….

Closing out with some Honorable Mention milestones:

In addition to the 1K views, I also hit 20 posts on my blog a few days ago. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve gone lonnnggg stretches without posting. I save the microblogging for IG.

And that “Your stats are booming!” notification? That’s when the mysterious influx of readers showed up. 🤔

…….

P.S.: Somebody send this to me next time I have a writing meltdown, mmk? I’m sure future Ashley will need to relearn this lesson at some point.

P.P.S. I found out that a post of mine, “what friends will do,” was shared in a Coffee & Crumbs newsletter! What a fun surprise! It all makes sense now. 😅

embracing the low-risk yes

It often feels like “no” is sitting on the back of my tongue, ready to shut down any and everything that a) takes me outside my comfort zone, b) gets too messy, c) has more moving pieces than I feel like I can handle in this 1 mom to 4 kids ratio.

This may be partly due to how close my kids are in age. Having 4 kids in 4 years was a sweet gift that left my energy (and often my patience) in short supply. I felt limited in my capacity to say yes, and when I did acquiesce, to spur of the moment requests in particular, I usually came away feeling like, I’m so glad I did this, HOWEVER this 100% will not be happening again for another 4-6 months.

My kids are older now (ages 9 and under), and while I haven’t suddenly turned into a high-energy extrovert, my capacity has shifted alongside/at that rate of my kids’ ability to do more things on their own. What does that mean for me? I’m more regularly needing to reevaluate my “no’s.” Do I resist saying yes to my kids’ ideas due to a true lack of bandwidth, or is it for self-serving reasons?

The answer varies day by day, week by week, but when possible I’m learning to embrace the low-risk yes, the opportunities to provide joy and celebration to our daily lives that don’t require significant investment. Sometimes I need the yes to be low cost, other times, low energy. Many days, both! What I’ve found is that no matter how simple or basic or cheap the idea is, the value is found in the harvest of happiness from sowing the simple seed of yes.

Recently God has provided opportunities for me to embrace the low-risk yes–multiple times in one day, at that! It took a bit of time, and it took a bit of energy. It also required a few well-placed no’s. But in this case, the small investments paid immediate dividends. I truly don’t regret sprinkling our days with intentional delight.

🍩 Like celebrating a half birthday with singing, half a plain donut, and a birthday sign hastily written on lined notebook paper.

🚲 Like letting the kids “brain break” mid-school day on their bikes last longer than planned, in hopes and knowledge that playing outside is often more fruitful than gritting our teeth and pushing through book learning.

pre-brain break

🥞 Like finding out halfway through the day that it’s National Pancake Day, instantly determining there is zero chance of you going to an IHOP, but deciding that life is too short to not embrace all reasons to celebrate, so you crack open the just-add-water mix and dig in.

🪐 Like getting the kids bathed and ready for bed only to, after 9pm, tell them to grab hoodies and shoes and the puppy, and jump in the car to drive to a nearby park for a (possibly?) once in a lifetime view of Jupiter close to earth.

there she is, usually 600 million miles away, now “only” 367 million, yet still within view. God is amazing!

Low risk.

High value.

Yes.

Every day is not, and I dare say, can’t be, like this. Still, I am prayerful that these small deposits will create a storehouse of memories for us to look back on with gratefulness to our God who, more often than we pause to grasp, says yes to His children’s requests.

Final thought:

🥰 I would be remiss if I didn’t give my husband credit here. I am often the dreamer (enneagram 4, anyone!?), and he is the implementer.

J is so, so supportive and helps me move my (and the kids’) ideas from inspiration to reality. I frequently wouldn’t have the capacity to say yes to the kids, or even to my own plans, without him. We make a great team. 😘

yes, we text each other if we aren’t on the same floor of the house 😅 #marriedlife

what friends will do

they will take the pictures and freeze the memories for you when your own hands are full // they will hold/feed/change/clothe/play with your baby while you steal a few hours of sleep // they will take you shopping for new clothes when you lament your new postpartum body // they will drag you out past your bedtime for a much needed pedicure // they’ll send a pizza over on the nights that are simply too overwhelming to make dinner //

and yes, they will watch the kids, just let them know what time to be there // and yes, they will watch the kids, how long do you think you’ll be out? // they’ll read your long text messages, better fit for a phone call // they’ll let you overstay your welcome as you share your troubles at their house // they will always welcome you at their house, which is practically your house now too-they just might go to bed, no hard feelings //

they will childcare swap with you so you both can have peaceful mornings to look forward to throughout the week // they will braid your daughter’s hair // they will teach you how to thread beads // they’ll be gentle on her edges as only a caring mama can // they’ll call you on whatsapp to walk you through how to curl hair, because you never really cared about it til you had girls of your own //

they will point you to scripture when they don’t have the answers // they will hold up the your arms when burdened with the weight of your grief and trials // they’ll send all the exclamation points as you rejoice over a new baby // they will offer grudging congrats when the “new addition” announcement is not in fact a baby, but a puppy // they’ll pick up where you left off even though you haven’t talked in weeks, no months, no…was it last fall the last time you talked? //

they won’t hold your inconsistency against you // they will believe the best // they’ll commiserate about marriage struggles // they’ll hold you to account — you could lay down your rights a bit more here // they will ask you the hard questions // they will let you vent when you just need to be heard // they will encourage the doctor’s visit/the counseling session/the meeting with the pastor because they don’t expect you to be a martyr or to hold things together on your own //

they will let you show up in your pjs after school drop off // they will remain unphased when your toddler dumps water every. single. time. you come over // they will mother and auntie and big sis your kids just as though they were their own // they’ll encourage you that maybe it’s not that you’re not a fun mama, just a tired mama, and maybe the fun can come through other people anyway, not just you // they will show up with books because if they love it, they want you to love it too // they will show up with coffee, because they want you to stay awake long enough to read said book //

they will spur you on in your giftings when you’re too insecure to walk in them // they’ll invite you over and you’ll barely talk and you’ll be on your phones and you’ll watch TV and sometimes crack jokes, but mostly you’ll keep to yourselves because they understand true relationships don’t always need to be “on” // they’ll go out to eat with you and you’ll lose track of time and wonder how in four hours you’ve barely caught up //

they will pray over you as you grieve your sin // they will link arms with you so that you can keep persevering and keep persevering and keep persevering // they will grow up with you even though you’ve only known them for a short time, because the thirties are for maturing and neither they nor you truly knew how to be a grown-up until it was time to be a grown-up //

they will call you in the morning to work out even though you hate mornings // they will help you work out your salvation // they will call you out for your sin // they will not be put off by your sin // they will love Jesus more than you // they will send you video messages when you feel forgotten // they will remind you that when you’re lonely and no one is available to talk there is a friend -not them!- that sticks closer than a brother //

they will belly laugh with you over shared pinterest fails // they will jump into the deep end of gentle parenting with you and tread water til you both find footing that fits each of your families // they will walk with you as you reevaluate your convictions // they will affirm you as make your faith your own // they will surprise you on your birthday // they will maybe remember to bring allergy-friendly treats to your hangouts //

they will have regular “pandemic picnics” with you in separate cars // they will drop off homemade sangria // they will keep your words in confidence // they will ask you for advice over brunch // they’ll get used to how longwinded you are // they will value your words // they’ll point out when you’re saying too much // they will let you be weird and goofy and strange // they will be weird and goofy and strange along with you–well, maybe //

they will fall asleep on your couch because they’re comfortable there // they will walk your kids to the ocean so you can rest on the beach // they won’t let you body shame yourself // they will invite you along on their adventures // they will help you prioritize your priorities // they’ll remind you it ain’t that deep // they’ll take the serious things seriously // they will help you loosen up and enjoy the good gifts God gives in this life //

they will live out the “one another” commands // they will apologize when they don’t // they will help you realize you don’t always need a huge crowd of friends, but that just a few good ones will do.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs.

Click here to view the next post in the series “With a Little Help”.

first day, full of faith

My students & my babies

🏠 Today we leaped into a new school year at the Holston Homeschool!

👩🏿‍🏫 This is my 5th year as my kids’ primary educator, and it’s quite possibly the latest we have ever started a school year. (Late according to whom? Unsure. We’re homeschoolers, after all.) I’m far from an expert in homeschooling, but I’ve been at it just long enough to have a decent understanding of the link to life and learning, the homeschooler lingo, the lesson planning, and yes, the shade and side-eyes that are associated with being a home educator.

😵‍💫 But even with this general familiarity with the homeschool world, as the summer days ticked away, the pressure to prepare–Nay! Over-prepare! Max-prepare!–took over me.

▶️ Before I knew it I found myself up at 1:30am watching and re-watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, reviewing that new curriculum someone told me about, and second-guessing all my choices with every new resource I perused.

(True story: I really was up at 1 AM once, researching math curricula for the umpteenth time, full-on crying, in straight up DISTRESS that one of the kids’ current place in math was going to set them back FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE. Spoiler alert: It was truly not that serious. I can laugh about it now! And I didn’t switch curricula.)

I say all that to say this: It was exhausting, y’all, and not the frame of mind in which I wanted to start the school year. Every year of homeschool (just like every year of traditional schooling, hybrid schooling, private schooling, etc) is an act if faith. I can research and plan and prepare my way, but the Lord ultimately directs my steps. I can compare and contrast all the curricula and extracurriculars, roll the dice on what I think is best, but ultimately God decides where it lands.

This does *not* mean I threw up my hands and said, “Jesus, take the wheel! Miraculously fill my Amazon cart (Christianbook? Rainbow Resource?) with what I’m supposed to use and I’ll just sit here at my door waiting for the packages you provide.” I mean….it’d be nice, right? But it’s certainly not normative of how God works, or expects us to work.

What it *does* mean is that we prepare in faith, we begin in faith, and we mark down our futures in pencil, not pen, not out of fear of plans changing, but in anticipation that in someway, they likely will. We can trust that even in the detours, God is there, working it for our kids’ (and our!) ultimate good, educational and otherwise.

And so, today we started. With pages still needing lamination and only a day’s worth of lessons filled in, with more plans in my head than on paper. It was wonderful. Not in a perfect way, but in a good, this is real life sort of way. The day held the fullness of rhythms and routines being revisited and remade, of education and inspiration being linked to daily living.

Home and school. My privilege and my challenge and my joy.

****

I’m going to be revisiting this post on the harder days, y’all. 😅

Yes, we really did leap today!

“imma let you finish but…” | july in review

Famed rapper Kanye West has thrust himself into the public eye on numerous occasions, not the least of which being the moment in 2009 when he interrupted Taylor Swift’s MTV Video award acceptance speech to sing Beyonce’s praises. Think pieces abound Yeezy’s behavior, but I’m not here to add to that. Instead, I’m leaning into the (reading into?) the emotions that influenced such actions.

It’s August 1 today, and I’m already feeling that pressure in my chest, the racing in my mind that tells me to slow down the summer’s pace, get my life in order, savor the final vestiges of the season but gear up for the busy school year ahead. Slow down. Get ahead. These desires war, and rather than the anticipation I’d typically feel, anxiety has taken its place. True, time marches on, being the non-respecter of persons that it is, but June came in like a warm and welcome, steady breeze that whipped into a July whirlwind, and the dust hasn’t settled enough for me to be prepared to move on to another month, the last. full. month. of beloved summer, at that.

So I’m taking a page from Kanye’s book. I’m wresting the mike from August’s unassuming grasp, I’m interrupting her introductory speech. Yeah, I know it’s her moment, having waited 213 days for her month to arrive. But I’ve got unfinished business to tend to. July needs her flowers, her acclaim, her critiques. Imma let you finish, August, but first I’ve got some words about July.

*******

I’ve dubbed my husband The Craigslist King, and he didn’t disappoint when he showed up at home with a new-to-us writing desk that he set up in the guest room for me. I knew I’d be excited to have a spot that was my own, but my delight surpassed even my own expectations. In no time I was arranging a lamp, candles, a stack of books, pens, and notebooks, creating a space that invited me to come, step away, write awhile.

Last night, July 31st, I did just that as I opened my notebook to journal, a years-long dormant practice that I started again in June, and I opened my phone’s calendar as well, its own journal of sorts. Colored lines striped each day of the month, stacked and overlapping, each one spoken for except for the 29th. “Booked and busy” has never been a motto of mine, and while I didn’t relish the fact that the marked days didn’t allow for much stillness, I was excited that the kids, who hadn’t been involved in this level of consistent activity besides school, would have uniquely fun-filled summer days. I penned my way through every day of the month, checking the calendar and periodically cross-referencing dates of events with the gallery of images on my phone.

I don’t plan to rehash July day-by-day again here; that’s what my journal was for. The hardest points, the days of tears and disappointment, the moments of anger and disillusionment, those experiences will stay within those pages, within the phone calls and text threads and email chains and lunch dates in which they’re meant to be processed. Instead, I’d like to focus on what July begs me not to forget, by engaging in some “intentional reflection [as] a way to bear witness to [my] own life.” Inspired by Emily P. Freeman’s newsletter, I’ll share just of few of July’s gifts, but don’t worry, August will get some shine in her time, too. Join me for:

  1. Something new I discovered
  2. Something(s) I made
  3. Something I hope for August

So, *tap*tap*tap* Is this thing on? Let’s jump right in, shall we?

  1. Something new I discovered I’m not too old to learn new things. This probably feels like a “duh” statement, right? We’ve probably all seen those lists that recount famous actors, inventors, scientist, artists, and educators who all got a “late” start and went on to great success. But if feels like, Of course they would. They must obviously be brilliant. LIES. (well, not completely, but kinda!) With 33rd birthday resolutions in mind, I kicked that thinking to the curb and… DUN DUN DUNNNNN….signed myself up for swim lessons. Yes, you read that right! I’d registered my kids for lessons at a neighborhood swim club, but the adult classes were full. When I received an email (that came after my birthday!!) that a spot had opened up, I took it as a sign. I braced myself for being the oldest in the class, but I ended up being the second youngest. Several other adults had taken the bold and brave step of learning to swim as an adult. I won’t lie, it was a little jarring seeing the lanes next to us filled with elementary and middle school swim team members practicing all manner of dives and strokes in the deep end while I struggled to take breaths during a freestyle swim in 4.5 feet without my mouth filling with water. I did eventually make it to the deep end, maxing out my ability to tread water at 33 seconds. (A bystander who must have nominated himself Adult Class Encourager said if I’d simply relax and not flail my arms around so much I’d stay afloat more easily. Baby steps, dude. Baby steps. Learning how not to drown here.) I ended the two week, Monday through Thursday class with the instructor saying that I’d made significant progress, but I just need to practice and, get this, work on my endurance. Hebrews 10:36 is definitely a running theme in my life, y’all. Spiritually, physically, emotionally… I was reminded through these swim lessons that endurance is a NEED. As for the new discoveries? The joy, the JOY (!!) of being a beginner, and the pleasure and utter satisfaction of trying to learn something that 1) made me nervous, and 2) I’d relegated as a thing you learn as a kid or you’re otherwise doomed to sit on the sidelines. I’m smiling as I write this. I won’t be joining any swim teams any time soon, and I’m not even close to doing laps, but I started. I started, and I rediscovered joy.
  2. Something(s) I made – several trips to the library // innumerable salami and pita cracker “sandwiches” // a newly-formed mama community committed to praying & doing life together through the upcoming school year // more trips to Starbucks than normal (sorry Nespresso) // memories, so many memories – on a family road trip to Orlando, at Sea World, at the spray ground, at the ice cream shop, at the park, at the back to school fair (Gabe’s in the Washington Post!), at home with a house full of kids, at the pool, on the couch, in the backyard… memories abound! // really yummy tacos that were just regular tacos that happened to really hit the spot // the choice to pour more into my offline life than what’s online // a reacquaintance with fudge PopTarts // the decision to “wear the suit” and join into the kids water play // art via my daughters’ hair #blackgirlmagic // homemade playdoh // time for reading – entire Harry Potter series finally complete, bringing me to 25 books read so far this year! // intentional yes and no decisions with my husband that encourage me about our unity.
  3. Something I hope for August – I hope August finds me intentionally prioritizing my priorities, creating rhythms for myself that will set my family and me up for success for the upcoming school year. I hope August provides refreshment, rediscovery, and clarity of mind as I step away from my personal use of IG (I’ll pop on periodically for work only) and find my own voice and inspiration again, reallocating my time to things I care about more than an algorithm. I hope that in this time full of necessary planning and summer’s end activities, I still end the month energized and with anticipation, not tired and with dread. Maybe that’s a lot to ask of a month? But a girl’s gotta hope.

I’ve said my piece, and as promised I now return the mic to August. She will soon have her say. Will we be on the same page? Time will tell. Time will tell.

is 33 my Jesus year?

I remember telling J on his 33rd birthday 2 years ago, “It’s your Jesus year, babe!” He kinda raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth incredulously, then asked jokingly, “Uhh, why? Is it because I’m going to die?”

We’re not going to talk about how long it took me to make that connection, but once it clicked, I wondered: why was this “Jesus year” a thing?

I wasn’t curious enough to find out or care for long though, until two years later, when I finally came upon my birthday eve (which was yesterday, for the record). Almost 33. My Jesus year? But why?

Off to the engine that has all the answers.

“33 Jesus year meaning.” That’s what I typed in the Google search bar, and here’s a portion of the highly scientific, deeply researched info that came up: “The Jesus Year is the age in which young people decide it is time to get serious about life, time to accomplish something.”

I literally chuckled. What does that even mean!? Who determines what “young” is? “Getting serious” is highly relative, and what counts as an “accomplishment?”

I contemplated this further as I abandoned my Google search to wash my locs, because I figured that no matter what conclusion I came to, I should start my 33rd year with clean hair.

I considered J’s morbid, albeit accurate quip about Jesus’ 33rd year being marked by death. And he’s not wrong. But is that primarily what we remember it by? There had to be death in order for there to be resurrection. And last I read, Jesus didn’t endure the cross, despising it shame, because he finally hit some realization that it was time to “get serious” about his life now that has getting older. It wasn’t because up to that point he’d lived a life of wasted years and “yolo” moments, and now really needed to make something of himself. Year 33 was simply the fulfillment of time of the ultimate plan of the Father for His life. Way more significant than this year representing the beginning of the end, it was the beginning of new beginnings. It was a promise kept. It was hope for a future for all who would believe in Him.

I can’t lie, part of me feels like this whole “Jesus year” idea is pretty man-centered. I mean, how are you going to take this event, this eternity-altering year, and focus on personal fulfillment and individual impact on the world? The other part of me thinks it kinda makes sense though. Birthdays are like New Year’s Day part 2, drawing us into deeper consideration of our lives, our actions, and our futures. (This is one reason that I love that I’m a June baby! Halfway through each year, I can have an intentional reevaluation of how I’m spending my days.) Milestone birthdays are already a thing, so why should 33, unorthodox as it may be, be any different? So that leads me to the next question: how might I live into a God-centered Jesus year?

We’ve already established that there’s no true life without death, so in honor of my new age of double 3s, I’ve considered 3 things that need to die (or be put to death once more–and sorry for saying die/death so often on my BIRTHday), and 3 things that I hope and pray will flourish with new life and energy.

so long, goodbye, farewell, and good riddance to:

  1. over-absorbtion with self, or put another way, navel-gazing. – This will be a lifelong endeavor, I’m sure, but being overly consumed with all the details about my own life often contributes to increased anxiety, fear, and a lack of awareness of the needs of those around me. Letting things build up inside to the point the point of bursting and having truly regrettable vulnerability hangovers is so age 32 and under. Enough of that! I need more healthy processing patterns in my life that allow me to be more outwardly focused and not unhealthily introspective. Getting out of my own head (and keeping my head more frequently in the Word) is bound to help with this. (to that end, I should probably stop canceling therapy appointments, huh…)
  2. fear of man. – again, we’re talking about a goal I’ll likely be working toward til I make it to heaven, but year by year I hope and pray that this so called “imposter syndrome” is medicated with a sense of belonging to God that’s so potent that seeking the approval of strangers and peers loses the placebo effect that its had on my life thus far.
  3. (insert artsy and poetic way of saying a complete lack of self-discipline). – Okay, maybe not a complete lack, but enough that I’m kept from pursuing personal goals, ideas, and dreams; enough that I’m kept in a perpetual loop of rushing rushing rushing to get essential things done; enough that I feel too mentally frazzled to have a fighting chance in the battle against self-absorption and fear of man. IT’S ALL CONNECTED! (cue meme of the frenzied-looking dude who is pointing at a board covered with papers connected by yarn and thumbtacks) I hear Hebrews 10 echoing in my mind as I write: you have need of endurance. I pray for more endurance like Jesus this Jesus year, being evidenced by, in Paul’s words, disciplining my body and bringing it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

hello, welcome back, and stay a while to:

  1. freedom. I’ve never fit cleanly into any category. I inevitably burst through the boxes I try to cram myself into, and the song of my life has been a genre all its own. This past year or so I’ve begun to experience I freedom I didn’t know I was available to me. It’s been like deep breaths to my soul to discover and rediscover aspects of myself that I’ve squelched and silenced for so long. While it’s yet another ongoing pursuit that won’t be unique to my “Jesus year,” I hope to find freedom, joy, and contentment in being my best and most authentic Christ-like self. On the flip side of this freedom coin, I’ve been in an ongoing battle to unbind myself from deeply ingrained negative ways of thinking of myself physically. From the bone disorder that affects my facial features, to my perpetually postpartum body further changed in the pandemic, I have plenty of opportunities to retrain my mind to embrace the simple, glorious, inherent freedom to exist in this temporary, flawed frame, and to stop being surprised or ashamed that I won’t have a glorified body here on earth. (I look forward to having it in eternity though!) In the meantime, this Jesus year and every year ahead, I want to both mentally and physically regard myself as a free woman, bound only by Christ, who fully and wholly accepts me, and loves me enough to help me change.
  2. solitude. – I went from a house of multiple siblings, to having roommates in college, to being married, so I haven’t truly experienced what it is like to live alone. I’m not looking part ways with people though (take a deep breath, J; I’m sticking around!). What I need and desire is contentment doing and experiencing things on my own. By myself. Just me and God. I am so used to living life with others, out of both desire and necessity, that I realized I was actually uncomfortable being present with just…me. At the risk of sounding incredibly selfish, I want to better learn how to enjoy moments of solitude without rushing to be in the presence of others, even people I dearly love. Before you raise an eyebrow at me, I’m taking this Jesus year desire straight from the Good Book itself. How many times in the gospels do we read about how Jesus went away to pray alone and spend time with the Father? If Jesus the God-man needed solitude, how much more so finite, easily exhausted, needy lil me? I often resist and avoid intentional time alone, rarely getting over the hump of restlessness to the stillness of being present with the Father. That’s been changing, and Lord willing will continue. So hello, Sabbath, and welcome, Solitude! We’re not well-acquainted, but I hope that with time we will get to know one another well.
  3. community. – I know, I know. I just word dumped about needing to learn solitude; now I’m saying that I hope community stays awhile. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I need both to thrive, both to walk in the freedom of a fully-engaged life (again, see Jesus example above). I spent a season of feeling fairly isolated and spiritually dry, but by God’s grace in recent days I’ve been experiencing the joy of building new relationships, digging deeper into old ones, and relearning what it means to be a healthy and integrated member of the local church. I want to be more intentional in becoming a better friend, a better listener, a better giver, and a better receiver. I want to live transparently, allowing myself to be fully seen and known by others, as I actually am (read: sans fear of man & walking in freedom!). I don’t seek community for approval or acceptance. Jesus in me is what I want to be seen by the community I welcome in.

Each element of these lists is both unique and intertwined with the others. Every hello needs a goodbye, and some goodbyes won’t leave unless I kick its unwelcome friend out along with it (see self-discipline point). The good thing is that my growth is not dependent on orderly and linear success. (not possible anyway!) I’ve technically already been pursuing these goals, and this is just the continuation of work put in, but doing so with fresh energy and effort.

So hurray! I’m 33! Happy Jesus year to me. But since Jesus is alive, Jesus year is every year that I make it around the sun in this life.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. –2 Corinthians 9:8

frozen in motion

Motherhood is marked by movement.

Little feet padding across the floor as the morning light streams in // high-pitched “hi-yahs!” as they scramble around on the wood floor in a faux battle (well, faux for now) // bounce-bounce-bouncing on the trampoline after reminding them, The living room couch isn’t where we jump, guys! (at least not while I’m in plain sight!) // pushing off the pavement to give the bikes and scooters momentum // pencil and marker and crayons in small hands to paper as they create their latest comic-Pokémon character-family drawing-monster (the littlest’s M.O.) // jerky arms and jumpy bodies as they move themselves and their fingers in sync with the video game characters on the screen// Sing 2 soundtrack being simultaneously belted at full volume and vivaciously reenacted. Pushes and hugs // cheers and tantrums // freeze tag and fights // If the house is motionless and quiet, they’re either sleep or not home.

When I hastily pull out my earbuds to minimize the noise, or shut the door and sit on the toilet for a moment of isolation and silence, I’m not wishing them away. (If anything I’m wishing for a bit of their energy!) It’s just that this grown-up body often forgets what it’s like to be so full of life, curiosity, and enthusiasm that slowing down seems like a ridiculous consideration. It sometimes feels the time is unaccounted for. How are you spending your days, little ones? Is it all just wasted time? The gallery of images on my phone–which I inevitably peruse when their 4 growing bodies are tucked away in bed–those pictures tell a different story.

Imagination bubbling over in blocks scattered over the floor. Books that take them to worlds they simply cannot find here. Costumes that mirror how they see themselves: strong, agile…a ninja, of course. Halloween decoration preparations–yes, in the middle of May. A kitchen that closely mirrors my own, and a kid all tied up in knots. Books read by Daddy are sure to draw a crowd, and it’s the volunteered sister poses the garner the most genuine smiles.

Frozen in time, these moments. The click of a camera shutter removes the sound, the motion, the movement, but captures other details I am so prone to miss. Motherhood may never be still, not truly. And quite possibly, taking photos may not be the time for me to ask them to try. Maybe the stillness isn’t for them, but for me, the mama-photographer and memory-capturer, to pause, to consider, and to encapsulate in pictures, for both their sake and mine, what it looks like for them, for us, in this fleeting season, to live.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs.

Click here to view the next post in the series “Still Motherhood”.

an outfit I love

It isn’t so much this outfit, specifically the hoodie, that I love, but the One who the hoodie reminds me of–El Roi, the God who sees.

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September 6, 2021– that’s the day I placed my order from @phyliciamasonheimer’s @everywomanatheologian shop, mere weeks before I’d find myself sitting on the toilet, staring down at a pregnancy test as two pink lines appeared before my eyes.

November 1, 2021–that’s the day, nearly two months later, the package arrived. We were about to move, and our house was filled with boxes everywhere you turned, so many that I didn’t even notice the package at first. I opened it early the next morning to find this hoodie and a matching sticker.

November 5, 2021–that’s the day, just a few days after receiving my package, that I began to miscarry.

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To this day I’m struck by the timing of it all.

I’d been anxious about the package arriving late.  I didn’t want to move and it to show up after we’d left. Shipping delays were out of my control though, so I resigned myself to trusting that the USPS wouldn’t leave me hanging much longer.

What I had attributed to supply chain issues turned out to be evidence of the very presence of El Roi–the God who sees. By the day I received my package, I’d already learned about my missed miscarriage, and for days I’d been dragging myself through the mire and mental anguish of figuring out next steps.

It’s hard to articulate the feelings of that moment: opening the package and seeing “DEATH WHERE IS YOUR STING” boldly emblazoned across a hoodie that I personally selected before I ever could have known that I’d be pregnant….and then not pregnant. It was simply too much for me to wrap my mind around, this declaration of victory when I all felt was defeat. I’d known all along that I was not alone, but honestly, I was forgetting. In His sovereign timing God reminded me, “Daughter, this hurts, but I see you. I am with you. And through my Son the sting of death is and will be done away with forever.”

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I wore this hoodie to my very last ultrasound appointment, the one to confirm that the clock had been safely reset to 0.0 weeks pregnant. As I walked up to the hospital where the office was located, I watched a pregnant woman get out of her car, hand supporting the weight of her burgeoning belly. I sat surrounded by vivid renderings of the stages of life in utero. I saw with startling clarity the black and white images on the screen that confirmed my womb was empty; the process was complete.

For a brief moment, it felt a little odd to be wearing something with the word “death” in a place women came in hopes and preparation for life. But what was more life-giving than remembering that the resurrected Christ had fully and finally conquered death?

I looked down at my hoodie so many times during that appointment. DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? It was a question. It was a hope. It was a prayer. And honestly, crazy as it sounds when you consider the circumstances, it was a JOY. I loved God *more* because of the way He providentially reminded me of His presence through this hoodie. I knew I was in His view and in His care. So while I may not–scratch that!–DO NOT love the circumstances that this hoodie remind me of, I truly do love the One of whom it speaks.

@exhale.creativity #exhalephotochallenge #fortheloveofcreativity #day3

a routine I love

I didn’t have much room on my counter at the old house for the milk frother. It’s not like I couldn’t squeeze the shiny, cylindrical appliance in somewhere, but I knew it’d just become one more thing I’d have to work around, figure out where to plug in, and something I’d have to reach past other dishes and utensils to access. A hassle, is what it was. And so, I tucked it away after two or three fairly unimpressive attempts,  chalking it up to not being my thing. Milk froth is for the fancy coffee drinkers who have time and energy to care about fluff on top of their caffeine.

Moving to our new home gave us more counterspace, and as I unpacked the frother, unused for a year and a half, yet somehow spared from the multiple trips to the thrift store, I debated what to do with it next. This small appliance now intimidated me. How do I use this thing again? And what is even the point of adding frothy milk to coffee that I’d been enjoying just fine all this time?

Slowly I pushed it acrossed the counter to join “the essentials” : Nespresso machine, coffee pods, sugar bowl filled with monkfruit sweetener, and sugar-free vanilla syrup (yes, it has to be sugar free, and just plain ole vanilla flavor. It took lots of experimentation to figure that out.) Add a splash of oat milk from the fridge, and boom. With exactly zero deviations, that was my daily brew. (Coffee connoisseurs, don’t come for me!)

I couldn’t decide where the milk frother fit into this equation, but I know it’d make my husband, the one who’d gifted me the Nespresso machine, and the companion piece in question, happy to see I was at least trying to put the present to use before abandoning it to Goodwill.

At first, it was frustrating. Turns out not all oat milk is created equal, and frothing it seemed nearly impossible. It was maddening to peek under the lid and see liquid where I’d hoped to see foam. I nearly gave up, but then, it happened. Thick, foamy, and perfectly fluffy froth settled comfortably on top of my steaming cup of coffee. I pursed my lips and carefully tipped the mug, allowing a small stream of coffee to hit my tongue, topped off by my finally successful milk foam. Bitter, but nothing an addition of vanilla syrup couldn’t fix. And just like that, my daily cup of coffee got an upgrade.

I thought adding frothed milk to my coffee was excessive before, but now I see it as a simple pleasure. Just because something is “unnecessary” doesnt mean it isn’t worthwhile (a lesson I feel like I am just beginning to grasp).

I can’t think of a single morning in recent months that I’ve gone without my new frothy coffee concoction. Even when I’m running late and I’m debating whether or not I should skip that final, foamy step, I realize that I will have more joy for taking the two minutes to add it than if I didn’t.

I need to change the size of my mugs because of this frothy addition. While most days I add precisely the amount of milk to the frother to keep my cup from spilling over, there are times when I simply guess wrong. This picture is an accurate representation of how I feel since starting this tasty routine: My cup overflows. With milk froth, yes. But also with joy.

@exhale.creativity #exhalephotochallenge #fortheloveofcreativity #day2