for those who’ve done everything (or nothing at all): an after-easter prayer for mothers

A prayer

We did everything we could, God.

We read our kids the devotionals each day, placing palm leaves (or oak, from the branches outside) in their little hands on Sunday as an object lesson. As they took their baths on Thursday, we discussed how Jesus humbly washed the feet of his disciples. When we were asked in concerned and curious voices why we were crying on Friday, we wiped our tears and spoke of mingled sorrow for our sin and joy in the only Savior who could be sacrificed for it.

We shared the good news with them, God, in word and in deed. As we apologized for snapping at them and having a terrible attitude (maybe next time we shouldn’t do those devotionals right before bedtime!), we explained that even in our repentance there is hope; Jesus died to cover this sin! And as we walked them through repentance for their own disobedience, we shared the hope here too: see how we both need Jesus?

We prepped our hearts and our homes all week, and the night before. We ironed their Sunday best–appropriately bright to represent the joy of the occasion. We bought the ingredients for the resurrection rolls. And as we refreshed their hair and lined up their shoes, we reminded them, God, as we reminded ourselves, that all of this prep isn’t really what it’s all about. These are just the trimmings around an already, independently sweet celebration.

We brought the kids to church, God. We rejoiced. We worshipped. We held the little ones’ hands as they went to hear more about this risen Savior in children’s church. We leaned over to our bigger kids during the service and whispered in their ears, “Remember when we talked about this? Remember reading this resurrection story that we’re now hearing again?”

We took pictures, lots of pictures, so many pictures. (Surely there’s a good one in there somewhere? to show how much we’re enjoying Easter?) We filled the plastic eggs because…freedom in Christ? They sat on the floor around our feet, cracking the brightly colored orbs they had gleefully hunted. We reminded them that “Jesus is sweeter than any treat,” as we once again (how many times has it been?) read the story of why we were doing all this celebrating at all.

We did everything we could, God, until we could not. Recognizing that You are the only Parent with limitless energy, we let Superbook do some discipleship reinforcement while we slept. It’s a joy to celebrate your Son with our kids, God, but we get so tired. And even our sleep doesn’t always fulfill us the way we expect it to, so even on Easter we wake from naps grumpy and with the dog barking and the kids banging on the door wondering why we haven’t done the resurrection rolls yet (we forgot about the resurrection rolls, God!). We try to remember that Jesus is risen, today and forevermore, so we can put off the resurrection rolls until tomorrow.

We did everything we could, God, to celebrate your Son, with and before our kids. We know our works are themselves insufficient to save them, but would you use our efforts to point them towards you?


An alternative prayer

We did none of it, God, none of the things.

We were too tired, weary, busy, broke, indifferent, disenchanted to engage in Holy Week and its celebrations. And now as we peruse social media, all we see are the pictures of seemingly everyone doing, with and for their kids, that which we did not have the bandwidth for. Is there space for us here, God? Have we negatively impacted our kids? Times like this, we worry that our inability to get caught up in the fanfare will leave our kids disinterested and unengaged in the gospel story.

We could only do the basics, God. We dressed the kids for church-nothing special, nothing new, and we didn’t even make it on time. We fought to pay attention to the Word being preached, to the songs being sung. It’s not that we don’t believe the words, God, but to be honest? In the every day monotony of caring for kids and keeping our home and paying the bills, it’s hard to throw ourselves into celebrating a day that, in reality, feels like just another day.

We need to be reminded, God, that the magic of Easter is no magic at all, but the miracle of resurrection life. When the weightiness of the world and the challenges of our home and the pain from previous hurt (sometimes from your own people!) threaten to steal our hope, would you renew and restore our joy? God, please let our children see that our hope is not in bunnies or baskets, in new clothes or nice pictures, but in a Savior obedient enough to submit to His Father, loving enough to lay down His life, and powerful enough to conquer the grave.

We did none of the things, God, but please help us not to burden ourselves with things you have not required. Help us model before our kids what it truly looks like to know this Jesus who is no less worthy of being celebrated whether our festivities look like everyone else’s or not.

May the love you have poured into us in Christ pour over onto them, so that every day, not just Easter, our children will be able to genuinely say these words:

I know that Jesus is alive, because I see the vibrancy of His life in my mother.


This post is a part of the blog tour for The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. With scripture, stories, prayers, and practices, The Beauty of Motherhood provides mothers with refreshment and the reminder that they are not alone as they mother. Order your copy at Amazon, Target or Bookshop. The Beauty of Motherhood is available now wherever books are sold!


worth it: sunday morning edition

Sundays are spiritual warfare, and today was no exception.

It went beyond the exhaustion that always feels heavier on Sundays, and past the slightly slept-over alarms. Even though we had prepped the night before, we couldn’t anticipate the too-long meltdown from one child. (About what, you inquire? Because we gave them what they requested for breakfast–pancakes.)

We had no idea that at 10am (the time when church starts, by the way), we would “misplace” the keys for over 20 minutes. (Where were they, you ask? In my purse. The purse we both looked in multiple times, and both still managed to miss).

We certainly didn’t suspect that a certain someone (pictured below) would leave the house with one shoe and not say anything, even when she was hopping on one foot outside the van after we finally arrived at church. (Why, you wonder? No reason given. She’s 5.)

The 5yo after church, completely unaware and thus unfazed by how frazzled the shoe escapade left her parents. The joys of childhood!

Even after resisting the temptation to call the morning an “L” and head back home, we again hit a wall when we repeatedly tried to get into the wrong building. (How, you ask? Tired parents? Must be that, because there was clearly no sign indicating services meeting in that location. In our defense, though, we did meet in that building the week prior.)⁣

Tired parents after church. Pic requested and taken by the eldest kid of Team Holston.

I walked into church feeling lowkey embarrassed, partially convinced that the distraction we’d likely cause entering service nearly an hour late wasn’t worth coming in at all. It’s not like it’s just me and J, after all. Picture it: J leading a whole crew of 4 big kids, squeezing past people’s legs at the end of the row to the open seats in the middle, with me and my and my ever-growing pregnant belly apologetically bringing up the rear. Sense my discomfort?⁣⁣ That’s exactly what happened.

Just so you’ve got a visual of the bump! This is post-church lounging last week at 26 weeks.

As we entered and scoped out our seats, a sister was reading the Scripture passage for the day: 3 chapters of Leviticus in preparation for a sermon on the holiness of God and how it’s reflected in his people. As each point of the preached Word was broken down, I felt the truth confirmed in me: I needed to be there, inconveniences and all. I needed to be reminded that worship on Sunday was never centered on me and my desire for a smooth morning to begin with. I needed to be taught, once again, that attending corporate worship was not a perfunctory task to be checked off, but an act of obedience to a holy and worthy God who had completed the work of my salvation, called me to himself, claimed me as his own, and consecrated me for his purposes–for his glory.

Suddenly the chaos of the morning felt incredibly insignificant in light of the honor of hearing God’s Word with His people, my eternal family.⁣⁣ I looked around the congregation and saw fellow members, many of whom I know are going through various joys and trials, sicknesses and griefs, answered prayers and persevering petitions. So many different seasons for each person, so many reasons to potentially not put forth the effort to attend. Yet here they were, gathered under the Word, singing in unison, praying together. What a wonder! I asked myself afterwards: would my heart have been similarly pricked to marvel and rejoice had I not be present myself? In what ways would I have missed out from experiencing the grace and joy of being present with God’s people if I’d allowed the morning’s stressors to take precedence?⁣

Just to be clear: service didn’t suddenly go smoothly when we arrived. The shoeless youngest needed some additional attention and direction that required me to step out for a bit. Pregnancy hot flashes and hunger pangs struck the whole time I was there. By that point though, I had been sufficiently reminded and convinced that even these distractions and interruptions didn’t make attending corporate worship any less worthwhile.⁣

I’m certain I won’t handle mornings like this perfectly in the future, but I trust that the Spirit will gently remind me of this moment, and of the spiritual abundance that flows from obedience to Him. My encouragement to anyone else with Sunday morning church struggles is this:⁣⁣

It’s worth it for the Word.⁣

It’s worth it for it for the worship.⁣

It’s worth it for the people.

It’s worth it for the obedience.

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.

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.


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”.