To My Micah {Family Letters Part III}

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Click on the links to read To My Husband {Family Letters Part I} and To My Abby {Family Letters Part II}.

hasz17_102.jpgMicah,

Mama has been struggling to write your letter. You are the baby that has taught me something fiercer, something gentler, something braver, something more tender than anything that has come before. I have no words. For the love. The fierce love.

Perhaps your birth has something to do with it. My heart will never forget the moments I was afraid you wouldn’t make it. Those moments are frozen in time. The fierceness with which I fought for your life has held fast during the sweet 10 months of your life. hasz17_110.jpg

Can you believe it? You reached your 10 month mark this weekend, and your baby-ways are fading to make room for a curious toddler to emerge. You are all things boy. Noisy. Constantly grunting and often jabbering. You love the sound of the blender and any machine that makes your sister run from the room to find somewhere quieter to play. You, on the other hand, smile and giggle at the mechanical motor whirring away. You bang spoons together, crash your sister’s towers, and noisily demand more food with fists on your high chair. You stopped nursing on August 13th at 8 months old – the same day you began to crawl. You just didn’t have time to fill your belly that way.  hasz17_107.jpg

But, you snuggle your face in my neck when you are tired and stretch your arms wide around my chest in a silent request for cuddles and rest. You have more introverted tendencies than your party-loving sister, and I’m dreaming of mommy-son movie dates in the future with snacks and cozy blankets while your sister galavants about town with friends. If I’m honest, part of me would always like to keep you to myself.

It may already be true that I have a hard time imagining any woman measuring up to my standards for you. So, just deal with that. Plan for it. Arm her with all manner of bribery and flattery. But, seriously… Because, I will always be your greatest champion, but expect me to be your girlfriend’s initial greatest assessor – judge and jury combined. As a former middle school teacher, I know you will grow up and need your space. Your room for sloppy homework and hairstyles. Your time to question and wonder and experiment. But, for now, you are held close to my beating heart. When you walk away, my heart will walk with you.

And, now I weep. hasz17_113.jpg

hasz17_121.jpgI believe your heart will fight for those without voices. I believe your voice will speak words of healing and strength to the brokenhearted. I believe you will love with the same deep loyalty that runs strong through your daddy’s heart. I have prayed these prayers over you with the same mother’s heart that wished you would not know of broken hearts and injustices. But I would also not have you grow up with your head in the sand. We live in a world that needs lionhearted men to make a difference. Be a difference-maker. hasz17_133.jpg

You are a truly happy baby. A contented child. An easily-amused little one. 

You currently sit in front of my computer in your high chair, blond curls askew from a morning nap. You raise your eyes to the kitchen light and giggle as it flickers. Your chubby fingers are coated in chicken stew, and you mirthfully shove handfuls into your smiling mouth. You make contented noises and happy sighs as you grip soft peas, carrots, and potatoes, eating two-fisted in your delight.

You ARE delight. Sunshine. Laughterhasz17_123.jpg

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hasz17_132.jpgMicah, I think you are one of the few people that smile when I dance to my ridiculous Spotify playlists. You have a special relationship with Grammy and Pop’s dog, who is going to miss all of the food you slip him from your high chair once we move away in the coming months. You are extremely frustrated when your sister leaves you in the dust, and you crawl with a purpose toward her new location. She can make you laugh like no one else can. You spent most of our family photo session eating grass and moving with determination away from our blanket in the fall leaves. You hate your face being cleaned, but you love smearing food in your ears, nose, and hair. It’s chaotically adorable.

It’s Perfection.

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hasz17_146.jpgMicah, you appreciate all foods except for mashed potatoes. With great abandon, you consume mass quantities of berries, fish, eggs, ground meat, chicken, spicy dips, crackers, diced veggies, Rediwhip (I know. I know. Not exactly health food.), fuzz balls, anything yucky on the floor, whatever your sister doesn’t eat on her plate, and gulps and gulps of water. You amaze me with your size. After your sister’s premie birth and smaller stature, your growth, hunger, and trajectory shock me. Apparently, I will forever need to shop at Costco. At this last appointment, your head came in at the 99th percentile (that’s down from last appointment’s measurement. LOL.), your height at the 85th percentile, and your weight in the 64th percentile. What. Am. I. Going. To. Feed. You. And your friends.

For the love… hasz17_150.jpg

hasz17_164.jpgBut bring your friends home and make forts in our backyard one day. Climb trees and chase balls. Love your Savior more than you love any Earthly pleasure or person or pursuit. Give generously. Guard your heart. But when you choose to love, never give up. Call your Daddy for advice, and then immediately afterward check with your mom. JK. Call me for comfort,  but learn early to lean on Jesus to hold you tight. I’m counting on that, kiddo, as your adventures have just begun. hasz17_144.jpg

Micah, find other wise men and women in your life and learn everything you can from them. Embrace community even when it’s messy and overwhelming. Serve others and elevate the least in society. Dance often. Laugh even more. And don’t you dare ever forget to hug your mother. I will come after you in your sleep. And hug you. Be warned.

Know that no matter how tall you grow or famous you become, I will always remember the baby I snuggled through the night. The small hands that slipped themselves around my chest. The tiny fingers that intertwined themselves in my hair and held fast. The eyes that blinked big and blue – so much like my own. The dimples in your cheeks – so much like your daddy’s and sister’s. Your dark eyelashes. The single blonde curl that played peek-a-boo with your wild strands at the tippy, tip top of your fair head. hasz17_187.jpg

I love you Micah David Hasz.

Always and forever.

{Family photography by Haven: Life & Photo}

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To My Abby {Family Letters Part II}

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{Click here to first read “To My Husband: Family Letters Part I”}

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hasz17_138.jpgSweet Girl,

Today, you turned 3.5 years old. You asked for balloons, a koala to hang Christmas ornaments on (what in the world?!?), and a vanilla bean scone with white icing and your name written on it – in no particular order. You explained to me that “cow’s milk” (in contrast to almond milk) is the kind of milk that cow’s drink, chew up, and then spit back into the glass jar. You’ve asked me recently why I had lines drawn on my forehead, clearly pointing out your astute attention to details…and my wrinkles. I quickly let you know that mama “laughed a lot,” and we wouldn’t want to let those lines become frown lines, now would we?!? Nothing escapes your notice. hasz17_163.jpgView More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection

You love the camera and beg frequently for grandparents to video you smiling, dancing, jumping, biking, etc., so that you can perform for your chosen audience. You delight in laughter and movement and friends. You live in a pretend world of your own making much of the time – a world that constantly changes to fit your fancy. Your three bears always play an integral role, and you build houses, tents, forts, and beds all over the living room to cater to their needs and your particular chosen reality. Anything has possibility in your play to become something grander. You convert electrical cords (I know…I’m not always the most cautious mother) into “leashes” and tie them to various toys, which you pretend are “cats” out for a walk. You cage in your brother by moving furniture and toys around the living room and barely miss his head as you throw balls directly over him. Most of my clothespins disappeared long ago, as did the couch blankets. What girls doesn’t need a rotating set of princess capes clipped to her shoulders while she dances and sings? hasz17_154.jpg

Last night you showed up by my bed around 10 pm with your pretend cell phone in hand. “Dada,” you said, “would you please hold my phone while I go potty? I’m talking to Yaya.” I groaned. Your imagination never rests. And bedtime is a dreaded event you resist with all the force of your 3-year-old self. Thankfully, the darkness cloaked my smile though too. I can’t help but love your endless creativity.

You view nap time with similar distaste, as you turn your room into a play zone during enforced “quiet time.” You hate to miss anything. Popping up the stairs a few days ago during quiet time, you informed Grammy: “My Bear is blue.” True enough, he – and many other bedroom items – were coated in glittery blue toothpaste from a dentist’s office sample. Never again, will I make the mistake of leaving you armed with such a lethal item. After you were properly reprimanded and sent back to bed, I died with laughter.

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hasz17_136.jpgAnd while you are normally boisterous, busy, curious, adventurous, and a non-stop talker, you still have your quiet moments. Your moments of reflection stun me and give me glimpses of the deep, compassionate woman you will become. “I have two sisters in Heaven,” you told me recently. “I’ve met them, and they are with Jesus.” Little did you know, Abby, that your mama’s heart holds tightly to two little ones that came before you. Little ones that I carried but weeks in my body, but always in my heart. Two babies that I am pretty sure were both girls. “Sweet Pea” and “Mira” I call them. Tears flowed from my eyes, as I allowed the impact of your statement and childlike faith to wash over me. Oh, to see as you see. View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection

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View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collectionYou remind me often that you love me, but that you love Jesus the most. May it always be this way. In this world of evil, I’m white-knuckled at the thought of anyone ever doing you harm, but you are Jesus’ first, and He will never leave you or forsake you. I promise. I’ve been down some dark roads, and He has still been there in the darkness. Evil has not left me unscarred, and I’ve bottled anger and guilt and low self-esteem with the best of them. But, I was not left to wallow in my pain alone. His Spirit and some pretty amazing friends have rallied around me. Again and again.

So, I pray NOT that you would never feel pain or experience sorrow. But rather that you would never be alone when storms come. I pray that you would find deep, passionate, lasting love. And, if you must, that you would open yourself up to find it again and again if loss is also in your future. I pray that you would have roots deep down in a community that appreciates and sees the real you, that cheers on the best parts of your character, and that confronts you when you are not true to yourself or to your Savior. I pray that you and I would become lasting friends one day when you are grown. A woman always needs her mama’s strength. I know I do. hasz17_126.jpg

I promise that I will always be here to provide you with haven. My arms are always open. You can’t do anything to change my love for you. That’s not how this relationship works. I held my breathe when you took your first inhales and exhales. I listened to your newborn soft mewing sounds to assure myself that you were still alive and well, swaddled in the bassinet. I memorized the way your dimples flash deep and wide with your pleasure and pucker and pout with your frustration. I’ve watched your brain create and answer its own questions. I’ve fielded “Why?” questions until I’m all out of rational reasons, and you are left to come up with your own answers. For the love.

You are undaunted. You were born into a season of change in our family’s life. And, still, you abide in that season of change with us. While we pray for answers soon, perhaps you will always view life as a grand adventure. Or perhaps we will need to help pay for your counseling in the future. JK. But, for all the ups and downs, you emerge thriving. You make friends. You find a new audience. You cling tightly to relationships with extended family. You grudgingly accept Micah into your pretend play. You come up with wild schemes for the day’s agenda and request “treats” over and over again with your sweetest of smiles. The Hasz sweet tooth is alive and well in you. hasz17_158.jpg

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hasz17_161.jpgAs I look through these Fall images, I want to weep. I remember taking 14 pregnancy tests in my shock that I was actually pregnant with you. I remember holding your Daddy tight in relief, fear, and anticipation. We weathered your high risk pregnancy, birth, and early months. I learned true sleep deprivation by your side.

Now, you blossom out of toddlerhood into the beauty of a little girl. You are silly, emotional, unpredictable, charming, persuasive, and well-spoken. You would like to be an engineer, doctor or pilot when you grow up. But, you are vacillating between a kitty cat costume or a princess Elsa costume for Halloween. At least you keep your options open.

I love you, Precious Girl. Love you deep and wide. Love you with hands open in surrender to who you are called to become. Love you with a heart that first learned the joys of motherhood with you on my chest. Love you as you spin and dance and sing your way into this next season. View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collectionView More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection

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{Photography credit Haven: Life & Photo}

To My Husband {Family Letters Part I}

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hasz17_120.jpgDavid,

My soul has waited in silence for months now. And that’s unusual for me, as you well know. I have always had words. Even if they aren’t the right words. Or the finished words. There has always still been wordshasz17_162.jpg

To process the joys. To whisper together in my dormitory lobby in the wake of our new love. To vow forever at the marriage alter almost 11 years ago. To plan a move to Colorado. Jobs as teachers. A first townhouse. Financial needs. More schooling for both of us. Church ministry. Words breathed in our mid-20s to begin toying with the idea of children. Words to fill the void when pregnancy didn’t occur. Words to wash away the heartache of loss. Words to surround each other after miscarriages. Words to hope when we saw Abby’s heart fluttering for the first time. Words to decide to leave teaching. Begin my doula business. Go through IVF again and dream of our Lion Baby. Survive a trimester of near hospitalization. Become the Baby+Co birth center manager. Words to process the beauty and trauma of Micah’s birth. Words to love our life, but hate the hours we both worked and the fact that we rarely saw each other or our kids.

And then this summer…words to decide to give-up our dream home contract because of our uneasiness with our job situation. Words to choose our family over my career goals in this season. Words to prioritize an essential oil business for me and a more permanent and sustainable job for you. Words to choose to make time for our community and for serving. Words to choose our family. US. hasz17_165.jpg

View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collectionView More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collectionAnd those are the words that have led us here. This place of stillness. This place of knowing that an out-of-state move is likely for your career to progress. This place of silence. 

I feel my roots pulled up. 

And I search. 

For a place to call home. 

For who we are and will become. hasz17_151.jpg

hasz17_153.jpgIt’s October, and I don’t know where we will spend the holidays. But, I know that I will spend it with my most important people: YOU, Abby, and Micah. We may be in a hotel room somewhere or a new house or a family’s living room. We may be with friends or just us, but there will be sacred communion. And I treasure that. YOU. US. Our two miracle babies. hasz17_157.jpg

My heart aches with the unknown. My eyes have cried their tears. My dearest friends hold these unknowns with me, and we wait. We linger a bit longer with goodbyes. We sip our coffee more slowly together. We hash out life. We have our fights. We pray for one another in the shower when we find a few moments of solitude. We make plans for cross country road trips. And then we pretend that the move won’t happen. hasz17_175.jpg

hasz17_173.jpgSometimes, there really aren’t words. 

Until now, I didn’t know. Truly, I didn’t. Who could have explained to this former journalist that sometimes your soul refuses to verbalize the deluge, and you can’t craft a headline to save your life? But, sit in quiet? Now that’s healing. It’s strength. Hope. In the being.     

In these moments and through these days, I have never been more committed to stand by your side as your wife. You have held my anger and been a buffer for my disappointment. You have prayed for an open door, but continued to steadfastly apply yourself in a job that requires hour-long commutes and monotonous assignments. You let me rail. Given me space for my silence. You send me on coffee dates with friends when there ain’t no way you should be the recipient of my verbal processing a precious second longer. hasz17_125.jpg

Most nights we simply collapse in bed together and hope that my stretches will last at least several hours before needing to feed/soothe Micah again. I give you the “look” if you dare to mention how tired you are, and you ignore what I spend on drive-thru coffee. Thank you. We will chalk that up to the “Little Years.” hasz17_109.jpg

And, so this Autumn while the leaves change colors and festoon still-green lawns, I’m believing with you that we are choosing what is good, eternal, and life-giving. I’m learning to love you all over again. 

And, for the record, I want one heck of a vacation when this is all over. 😉

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{Family photography by Haven: Life & Photo}

Of a Slightly Different Flavor {But a rainbow of colors}

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IMG_5280.JPGMy fingers and cuticles are stained a deep pink from hours of manipulating beets. Washing. Scrubbing. Cooking. Peeling. Chopping. Pureeing. Testing. There may be spinach and/or fennel fronds in my teeth, and I’ll be sure to check before heading out the door for an afternoon meeting. But my skin is clearing, my snacking includes a medley of nuts, seeds and jerky, and my motivation to incorporate more of the Whole 30 principals into our family’s eating rhythm increases as the challenge days pass. David may be even more committed than I am. While our health needed these changes, I think our souls craved the fresh page even more.   IMG_5242.JPG

Ironic though it may sound, the Whole 30 challenge has been good for our marriage. (Leave it to NOT indulging to bring us closer together! LOL!) We spend long periods of time prepping meals together. We cheer each other on to stay strong in our resolutions, as one of us craves berry pie and the other one craves dark chocolate. Mmhh. I can taste it now…

But, I digress. We needed something in this season of our lives – this season of transition, unknowns, financial insecurity, and the relearning of faith – to bring us together. Who knew a food elimination challenge would do the trick? (If you want to learn more about Whole 30, this click on this link.) I think the food challenge, though, was just the conduit for conversations in which we needed to and still need to engage. “How do we want to eat for the next 30 years?” is just the tip of the iceberg. The deeper questions include: “What do we want to prioritize with our finances?” “How do we want the next 30 years to be characterized?” “Who is our family, and what are our individual roles?” IMG_5110.JPGIMG_5217.JPG

No longer do we have the naivety to believe that all of our expectations will come true. Quite the opposite. Bitterness has threatened to snuff out our hope and has stolen our joy for weeks on end, as we fail to see our dreams come to fruition. We are approaching the ages of 30 and 32 without having “attained” or “achieved.” We often feel powerless. So, instead, we work on “accepting,” “adjusting,” and “acclimating.” I realize our initial goals all involved financial stability, and, honestly guys, we thought that was a given. We had no idea how difficult David’s career path would be nor what the cost of living in Colorado would do to us. But, now we re-assess and give thanks that we are doing life together – as husband and wife – for richer and for poorer. I have been given the greatest gift in David, the greatest gifts in our children and in the responsibility to love and shape them, the greatest gifts in family members who are rallying to make an adventure out of what could be a very scary situation, and the greatest gift in a vibrant community of friends who hold us accountable, keep us laughing, and continue to remind us of our faith.

I’ve been angry, but I’m choosing something much sweeter now. A perspective that allows me to see the precious value in those things I just listed: marriage, children, a supportive family, the best friends a girl could have. I am rich.

Now, I am also set adrift. I have no idea where we will be living in 3 months. I don’t know what job is right for me in the coming season. I don’t know how to raise children. And, I don’t know how to be the kind of friend I envision. I’m relearning a lot of basic skills. How to prioritize. How to rest. How to say “No.” How to say “Yes.” How to eat well. How to love my husband. How to love my Jesus.

But, I am rich. 

Let that truth sink in. Close your eyes and say it over and over to yourself.

We are rich. Each one of us. We may not have the marriage or the kids or the family or the job or the house or life we expected. But, we can have something deeper. We can choose gratitude, allow joy to bubble up in rocky ground, stand in Love, accept that Love, be changed by simple, small things, and be overwhelmed by the magnitude of Eternal things.

I think beet hummus and roasted veggies are just vibrant symbols of an overarching rainbow of promise I’ve been glimpsing and yet shying away from.

I wanted the mythical rainbow with the pot of gold at the end. The rainbow that makes life magically easy. I didn’t want the rainbow that comes after destruction and storm and rain and heartache. But, yet, that rainbow shines just as brightly – perhaps more so. All is still. All is calm. All is NOT restored. The broken branches and ruined roads still must be repaired. But, all is at peace for those still standing – drenched with purifying rain. hasz_16_130.jpg

So, I will be sweetening my coffee in September. But, our family is not returning to our haphazard eating or activity style.

And, if you follow me on social media or have talked with me recently, you know that I’m reading business books, using children’s nap times to make plans, and currently launching my essential oil wellness consulting business along side my doula business. Truly, I’ve been given a new passion for seeing other family’s empowered by the chemical-free living model I’m embracing. (Please, if you have any compassion, let me take you to coffee and give you a glimpse of what I’m dreaming up 😉 It’s big!).

But, at the end of the day, this new business, these current dreams, and this haven we have found with family are still only small parts of the new rainbow I’m allowing myself to see. A rainbow I wanted to ignore until we had the house and the jobs and the security. But, I’ve not been given those.

Instead, I’ve been given a rainbow of riches of a different sort. Tokens of promise. And, tonight, I’m grateful. hasz_16_190.jpg

Apparently We Are All Really, Really Tired {And it is a tired that goes deeper than our next Venti latte}

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My brain didn’t quite emerge from its fog, as Abby appeared in our upstairs bedroom for the umpteenth time last night. My voice had lost its gracious “I’m-the-model-Mama” tone and taken on the “next-person-who-wakes-me-is-going-to-suffer-my-wrath” edge. Micah had already been awake to nurse twice, and my body groaned with the sheer effort of focusing on Abby’s small face, cloaked in the shadows, her lips moving in their next request.

“I need to go potty.”

“My room smells funny.”

“I need my ‘confuser’ {essential oil diffuser} turned back on.”

“Daddy didn’t put the right pajamas on me.”

“My tummy hurts.”

“My toe hurts.” 

“My Teddy Bear won’t let me sleep.”

“I need more warm milk.” 

The list goes on for why Abby doesn’t nap or sleep through the night. And these are just the excuses I’ve heard in the last 24 hours. I could have you rolling on the floor with some of the stories she crafts to explain her midnight wanderings. One of my favorites included the outlandish claim that her “bears were singing too loud to let her sleep.” Oh, for Pete’s sake. Those bears are about to earn spankings.

Some days the juxtaposition of simply surviving motherhood and the soul-searching process of repentance, prayer, receiving of grace, and transformation seems wildly opposed. This morning, I really just wanted a latte. And not the unsweetened, coconut milk variety that has been coming out of my Whole 30 kitchen this week. No, the real deal. The “I-know-your-children-don’t-sleep,-but-there-is-rest-for-the-weary” kind of extra-large, extra-hot creation that warms your hands and thaws your heart. But, not today. Today, I was left to muddle through without my preferred brew.

(And, I’ll have you know that I’m currently snacking on celery and almond butter while writing, so not exactly splurging in the comfort food department yet. I’m led to believe that I’m building character.)

But back to my thoughts (if they can even be lassoed and committed to the published page at this point), when I began blogging earlier this week, I had no idea the responses that would greet my confessions in Not in Our Early 20s Anymore. My heartfelt brokenness and questioning drove my words, and they tumbled out in haphazard abandon to be read by – apparently – many other very, very tired individuals. Friends who empathize. Women who have already reached this breaking point, said “ENOUGH,” and chosen something better. People who are praying for me. People who need prayer. Mamas who are at the ends of their ropes and want to run away. Women in ministry who don’t know where their responsibilities end and boundaries begin. Brave individuals who are committing to stop the frenzied drive to “taste and experience absolutely everything”  and to “be perceived as wildly competent” all in the very same moment (Niequest, p. 19).

It’s a courageous challenge. To stop. Frankly, Scarlett, our society doesn’t stop, doesn’t pause, and doesn’t give a d***. Neither does the Church as a whole. We build more buildings, add more groups, require more service. And for some, they are in perfect seasons of their lives to build, lead, and serve in those ways. It is a gift for them and they are filled with joy to give in those ways. For others, it becomes a burden too heavy. I have no idea where I fall on that spectrum right now, but I’m open to finding out.

But here is the question that has me catching my breath and hanging on for dear life as the force of it rocks my world: “If Christ came with the promise to make His children’s burdens light, carrying the weight of those burdens for them, then what worth does the power of the Gospel have in me in my current, exhausted state?”

“What makes me any different from anyone who holds to any other theology?

And, let me pause here and say that if you do not espouse Christianity, then I would invite you to read here the processing of a woman who is determined to understand truth, live in truth, shape her decisions around the impact of that truth come what may. I believe in the power of Christ’s life and death to provide forgiveness and comfort to all who come to Him. I’ve staked my claim there. I’m just not sure that my foundation has truly been built on that power lately, but rather on my own self-competency. I was taken aback when David recently commented, “If they were to see our family’s life, then they wouldn’t want it.”

And, here I had always prided myself upon our family’s drive to accomplish goals, and, sure, there was room for joy on the outskirts. But, who really has time to stop and smell the roses? I mean, Abby does, and it can be incredibly frustrating to go on a family walk around the neighborhood. We. Move. So. SLOWLY.

At the end of the day, I don’t rest. I’m not sure I quite know how, but I AM SURE that I don’t prioritize it. Even late at night while watching TV, I’m also meal planning, answering emails, and pondering all of the laundry I didn’t fold – or even wash. And, I’m not saying – at least not yet – that those things shouldn’t be somewhere on our lists of mental priorities.

But, not ahead of the sleep that our bodies need to heal. 

Not ahead of the sex and emotional intimacy that our relationships need to thrive (and simply for the sheer pleasure of it too, I might add. “Become one” was one of the greatest gifts of Creation.). 

Not ahead of the satisfaction of eating sustaining, wholesome meals that our systems need to flourish. 

Not ahead of times of quiet and meditation for our spirits to be restored and re-focused. 

I think many of us have our hierarchy of needs tipped on its head, as we strive to excel at the “to-dos” versus the “to-bes.”

To be loved.

To be known. 

To be a giver.

To be a vibrant human being who loves his or her life. 

That would be something worth marveling over. That would be something worth spending a lifetime in that pursuit. And, I promise it will look different for each one of us. My “rest” won’t resemble your “rest.” My limit between healthy community involvement and over-commitment won’t look like yours. My relationship with my Savior will probably always be more turbulent than many, as I tend to take the hard road and fight my way to stand in truth.

But, gosh, let’s stand in that truth. Let’s muddle our way through sleepless nights, latte-less days, endless work weeks, and daily commitments to actually enjoy what is beautiful and lasting. IMG_4824.JPG

In 26 days, that will include dark chocolate and a Honey Lavender Almond Milk Latte from Two Rivers, the BEST coffee shop in Denver. (That specific drink isn’t on their chalkboard menu, but they will gladly froth your milk and add their homemade syrups to that specification. Amazing.)

But for the next 30 years or more, I want it to involve a lot more of this. This Community. This Questioning. This Relating. This Living. This Building. This Giving. This Loving. This Forgiving.

Gentle intake. Softly out. Resting.

Eyelashes drenched with purifying rain.

I’ve fought with hell.

I’ve lain prostrate, broken on the shore.

Wind-whipped hair. Chapped hands –

I’ve been through a hurricane.

 

Slowly, circling, a seagull swoops down.

I notice him.

A crab struggles across my toes.

I feel him.

Grit in my mouth. Scars on my body –

Salvation soaking this day’s brim.

~Excerpt from my poem Hurricane, written in 2010

Not In Our Early 20s Anymore {Brutally Honest Confessions}

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One of the newest hashtags that David and I bandy about on a regular basis these days is “#notinourearly20sanymore.” This could be used to aptly describe how exhausted we are by 8:30 pm. Or how we have both needed sudden and extensive (and expensive) dental work this summer. Or perhaps how my annual exam revealed that I have borderline high cholesterol (and with a history of heart disease in the family that’s no laughing matter).

“We aren’t in our early 20s anymore, Dear,” David will ruefully remind me, standing in the kitchen, staring in our fridge, and admitting that our waistlines can no longer handle frozen pizzas and bowls of cereal for weeknight dinners. The fruit and veggie drawers beckon with their promises of health, while glaring with reproach at how many sad summer squash and slimy spinach leaves have met their demises over the years.

Well, we are turning over a new leaf. 

(Go ahead and laugh. That was a painfully obvious, senile attempt at a humorous pun #notinourearly20sanymore.)

In “Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living,” Shauna Niequest references Rohr: “The skills that take you through the first half of your life,” she notes, “are entirely unhelpful for the second half…those skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half, as I inspect them a little more closely, didn’t actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable and really, really tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further and further from the warm, whimsical person I used to be…and I missed her” (p. 18-9).

Forgive me while I share more of Niequest’s conclusions. Her words have left me realing, crying, inspecting, questioning, and – hopefully – healing. “The two sins at play here,” she writes, “are gluttony and pride – the desire to escape and the desire to prove, respectively. I want to taste and experience absolutely everything, and I want to be perceived as wildly competent” (p. 19).

Well, I’m responsible and capable and simultaneously lonely. I’m productive and practical and simultaneously lacking the time to pour into relationships the way that I desire. I’m really, really tired. So tired that I have been falling asleep driving. So tired that I can’t put two coherent words together and the thought of being with friends who require conversation (you know, the usual way that friendships work) makes me want to curl up in a ball with an IV of coffee.

Bottom line: I miss what I have allowed the productivity of my 20s to steal. My joy. My deep-seated belief in dreams. My ache for the spiritual mysteries of the Heavens. My love for the brokenhearted and the orphans.

But, it gets worse. I have actually enjoyed – like some crazed-fiend – the ability to wrap myself up in careers that require so much that I have a “legitimate” escape for what is slowly killing me. I have craved the excuse of over commitment. When I was going through years of infertility, painful hormone treatments, and miscarriage after miscarriage, I ALSO taught full time while earning my teaching license and master’s. With a 4.0. I HAD NO LIFE. I was awarded the “2013 Outstanding Graduate Student from the Division of Curriculum & Instruction Education in the College of Adult and Graduate Studies” from my program and then promptly fell asleep on the front row after the president of the university handed me the plaque because I was so bone-weary.

In 2014 after a high-risk pregnancy, Abby was born, David was back in school full-time, the terms of my teaching contract were called into question, and I found myself home with Abby. What did I do? Pick a career as a birth doula that required me to spend up to 60 hours awake at once, supporting families through some of the most intense moments of their lives. Often choosing to work with high risk families. All while pumping every couple of hours for Abby, trying to also build an essential oil business, and volunteering regularly with a church launch team.

And just as Micah’s pregnancy began to really set in during the summer of 2016, I jumped into a more than full-time position as a practice manager of a birth center with hours that often had me home after 8 pm. And I loved every minute of it. Okay, almost every minute. There were some third trimester days when I wanted to glare at every glowing pregnant mama who walked through our doors without “even a single symptom” while my feet were so swollen that my ankles were non-existent. My body didn’t exactly do pregnancy gracefully.

All that to say that at my core, I am a relator. An empathizer. A seeker of glitter and fairy dust. I believe in excellence and lifelong learning. I value servant leadership and introspection and long walks with good friends holding coffee mugs. I love to watch Netflix with David into the wee hours of the morning and play games with friends over whiskey and snacks.

And, this year I have hit a breaking point. I can’t have it all. I can’t trust God through season after season of challenge when I don’t have time to even talk to Him. I can’t keep my anger in check when there is no longer cushion. I can’t really learn how to mother well when I don’t allow myself to be mothered. I hate asking for help. I can’t sustain deep friendships when I don’t even have the stamina to wash my face at night.

This life – these lives – they aren’t the ones that we are meant to live. Frantic. Unsteady. Exhausting. 

And, let me be clear that for me personally, THIS IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE CAREERS THAT I HAVE CHOSEN. No, I believe that somehow I’ve gotten caught up in the need to do everything and prove my competency. My skillsets tend to help me excel in roles that drain me emotionally and physically each day. I think most of us could say that was true of ourselves in one way or another. And then I’ve also needed to prove my own ability. As a woman. A business woman. A mother.

Well, I have a tired family, body and heart to take care of now. Apparently, I’m starting the journey to abundance with a dose of brutal confession. Cleansing, the monastics would say. Transparent, if nothing else.

So, hence August. Lovely, hot, humid, August. Named for a Roman Caesar who claimed Divinity. Claimed he could do it all, be it all, conquer it all. I believe his bones lie with the rest of the ancients – no different than the lowly servant in his court.

I don’t have the answers, but I’m beyond grateful for a community of friends who have rallied – many without even knowing the significance. Women who have encouraged me to do a Whole 30 dietary challenge and cleanse my physical body. Women who have humbled me by their own resolutions to pray for their marriages and serve their spouses. Individuals who have bravely decided to walk away from positions of power into the unknown because their families needed them. Friends who have been present for my family. Friends who have challenged me and confronted me and hugged me and reminded me of who I am called to be.

So, perhaps this blog post gives more context to the road our family is walking down and the personal goals I am setting before I throw myself fully into the next career.

Let me be present.

Let me be a gift.

Let me see with new eyes.

Let me hold my babies close and treasure the moments I have with them. 

Let me allow repentance and grace to do their perfect works. 

Darlings, let’s do August. Let’s do the next 30 years differently. Let’s stand for something different than our generation has stood for, as we stop trying to prove our own competencies. hasz_16_185.jpg

 

The Valley {Beside Still Waters}

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Darkness cloaked the world outside my in-law’s house, as I rose to make a cup of coffee, rock Micah back to sleep, and open my journal for one of the first times in a year. The fans in my upstairs bedroom added a new level of white noise, as we combat the heat of July in Denver.

Those same fans fill my senses now with their whirring. Whooshing. Spinning. Enveloping me with a sense of companionship in this journey. It is dark outside the glass panes once again.

The intensity of the last week of moving out of our rental house and moving in with my incredible in-laws wanes. The boxes are mostly stored. The laundry primarily sorted. The toys strewn hither and thither in regular Abby-fashion. I’ve been welcomed home by our family – a rare gift in this generation. IMG_5084.JPG

And, now, we wait.

An exhausted pause. 

Motherhood continues to burst upon me in fulfilling – overwhelming – breathtakingly beautiful terms. I became a mama of two and a full-time practice manager in the span of a mere 12 months. The ache of not being home with my babies and the joy in serving my colleagues war with each other. For this season, my babies and my husband and my own health take precedence. But, I haven’t lost my passion for empowering women and midwives in the birth center setting. I’m simply resting in the PAUSE to see how those dreams take new shape. I’m actively healing. I’m seeking to empower. I’m reasoning with Abby and cuddling with Micah. I’m cooking with David and making coffee dates with friends. I’m serving as a birth doula and setting my own business goals. I want to see and love the world beyond my world. And, I want to find financial freedom to bless my family and bless my community. I want to hear other’s dreams and sit in the power of others’ goals and visions and desires. I want to hold the space for YOU as you launch into new adventures or take solace from the old ones. IMG_4910.JPG

~~~

One of the little boys that I just about claim as my own since the time he could barely crawl is embarking upon first grade in a few short weeks. His curiosity and brilliance leave me in awe of our Creator and His specific design with this  little-boy-turning-man. I love his mama, and I love his family, and this young man is always a reminder to me that God gives good gifts. That time is precious. That we are always caring for and equipping the next generation. Always.

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In this pregnant pause, I wait to see what will be birthed. I wait to see how I am supposed to equip the next generation in this new season. How am I to serve? How can I love? How can I heal and be healed? My focus has honed to an energetic three-year-old who needs her mama and an almost-mobile baby who needs my time. But, I pray my vision grows wider. To what could be if I look beyond the circumstances and glimpsed eternity. I sit in curiosity.  IMG_4937.JPG

For the next several months, our family is resting with family while we re-evaluate, apply for new opportunities, and test the limits of our faith. I’ve dealt with much anger already at what is, and I’m sure I will continue to have my days. Be patient with me. And, in the meantime, let’s get coffee. Let’s do dinner. Let’s go to the zoo and make Abby’s heart immensely happy.

Darkness continues to shade the future. Distant cliffs loom large. The path ahead appears to have a dead-end. Yet, I believe in the gentle whispers of my Savior. I believe in the power of community. I also believe in the strength of dreams.

So, dream on tonight with me. Dream of strength and peace and patience and joy and provision and health and light. Stand strong in your truth. Drink your coffee strong. (Join me for a Whole 30 challenge if you dare and think of many yiddish ways to ruefully regret that decision while banning chocolate and bread for 30 days…Oy Vey.) Join me in a journey to improve your health, your family’s health, and your community’s health.

Join me in the darkness. Walk with me in the light. Listen to the fans whirring. Heed the chorus of questions that clamor for answers, but have none. And let us learn to live in the power of “not knowing.” In the power of the valley between mountains in the stillness and in the storm. Grow with me in this pregnant pause. IMG_4629.JPG

A Story To Tell {Of Deepening Lines}

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Micah snuggles into my neck, leaving a sticky residue of pureed bananas and crumbling graham crackers on my tired shoulder. His chubby fingers intertwine themselves in my hair, and he giggles at the sensation.

Abby twirls in her latest costume get-up, talking non-stop with every waking breathe. Talking and talking back. Smiling sweetly and stomping her foot angrily. She reminds me so much of myself, and the ache of my own inadequacy in knowing how to raise her grows stronger with each passing day.

David looks up wearily from his computer screen, where the job hunt is in full swing. The months of working long hours and commuting several hours a day in an uncertain contract position have taken their toll on both of us. He is my best friend, my lover, my steady force in the storm. Most days lately that means that we are both lonely.  I do the early morning shift with the kids, and he does the late. If we are lucky, we occasionally meet in the middle. I touch his arm in bed and simply comfort myself with the knowledge that we are committed to this journey together.

I see myself in the mirror, and a woman with deepening lines stares back. Her lids are heavy with sleepless nights, and her forehead creases with the telltale signs of years of smiling, years of pressing through, years of pressing in. Her body still needs to heal from her last pregnancy and birth, and her soul craves answers – house, jobs, goals. She drinks coffee before water in the morning, and sips whiskey before tea in the evening. She hasn’t journaled or blogged in months, but most thoughts are accompanied by prayers. And, yet, there is no naive trust. But she wields the power of truth – and even from ugly truths – she doesn’t shy away. She has grown braver in the last year. More confident in her ability to lead, to work full time as a mother, to creatively find solutions for business problems. And, yet, in the crush of what 50+ hour work weeks have produced in her personal life, a new resolve has formulated. The resolve to choose a different – a harder – path: come what may.

We aren’t buying the house. We aren’t saving for our kids’ college. We aren’t saving at all. We don’t know where we will be living at the end of this year. But we know we will be together. We know we will learn to pray together again. Learn to sit once again in situations that, frankly, make me angry. When it feels like we are professionally moving backwards, I’m tenaciously hanging onto the beauty and power of the choices that we are making. To leave a job that has filled me with so much fulfillment to treasure more of the moments with my favorite people in the whole wide world.

Micah’s slobbery kisses.

Abby’s princess dresses. 

David’s touch as sleep claims us both.

So, in August, when our boxes have been moved into storage and friends’ basements, and our lives have slowed down a bit, I’m embarking upon a personal journey to stare deeply at the lines of that woman in the mirror. Stare at the lines on her face and smile even more. Stare at the lines in her soul and find her new equilibrium in God’s grace and His sufficiency. Stare at the lines of the budget and figure out what it is going to take to make ends meet. I long to find the woman who trusts God and trusts in daily sweet communion with him. I have some harsh lines now that are unbecoming. Lines that make me cringe when they speak out in frustration.

But, one day those lines will also hopefully speak of wisdom gleaned and hope found. Of dreams realized and children received in thankfulness.

My Miracle {On the Eve of Having Not Enough}

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Micah laid in front of me on the bed, feet kicking, fists clenched, crying. I sobbed too. Waiting for my milk to letdown. Waiting for the tingle to know that Micah wouldn’t have to work very hard to latch and drink. Despite several tongue and lip tie procedures, his latch has never been good. He tires easily. Nurses often. Has often returned to a pattern of eating every 2 hours even through the night. And while his head and height measurements remain steady and strong, his weight constantly teeters on the dangerously low.

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Perhaps my blog has remained silent because I didn’t want to put these struggles into words…

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After too many tears had been shed, I spent all of Saturday giving Micah my precious pumped small supply of milk by bottle while simultaneously…endlessly…trying to pump more. My crying continued.

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Ever since returning to work in February after maternity leave ended, I dubbed the first day of the weekend “Crying Saturday.” It all hits. The exhaustion. The messy house. The laundry that barely gets washed. The constant need for even more groceries. And now this. The challenge of feeding a long and lean baby in the 4th percentile when I can’t be for sure on any given day if my milk supply will be up for the challenge. 

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Tomorrow, Micah will officially be four months old. He is waking up to the world around him in an entirely new way. Rolling himself into positions that leave him upset with himself and fussing for rescue. Cooing when it is just the two of us. Grinning with that one dimple. He has my heart. My precious boy. And, I have chosen to feed him no matter what it takes. Nursing. Pumping. Breast milk. Formula. Gifted donor milk. To him, it is all nutrition. And for me – just that simple permission to divert from exclusive breast milk if needed – is grace. It is a gift. A gift that I have given other mamas with words of affirmation, but never extended to myself.

And, with that decision, have come miracles. First, in the form of 60 bottles worth of formula in my pantry. (For those interested, after quite a bit of research, I ordered Pure Bliss off of Amazon. It is made in Europe, sold by Similac, and – most importantly – from grassfed dairy.) Then, a traveling doula offered to bring me all of the milk she was pumping while traveling before boarding a plane to go back home. She estimated that she would have 50 ounces. She brought me 100 ounces. And, despite having the flu this week, my own milk supply has been sufficient each day so far.

All miracles. The formula. The incredible gift of milk. The opportunity to nurse and pump for Micah myself this week.  

Thank you to the mamas that have reached out. Thank you, Jesus, for grace. Thank you that I live in a world of plenty where I have options. These are all gifts.

~~~

So, Micah, on the eve of your four month birthday, know that your mama loves you so very much. She would do anything to help you thrive. She also knows that you and your sister and your daddy need a happy mama. A mama who can see beyond the next pumping session. Beyond the bottles of milk in the fridge. Beyond a number to a family. That craves laughter and joy and fun. Welcome, Sweet Boy, to the world of grace and to seasons of finding the balance between expectations and reality. IMG_0160IMG_0161.JPG

Dear Abby {On the Day You Turn Three}

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IMG_0093.JPGMy Sweet Abby,

You have been counting down the days until your birthday. Talking about all of the sweets and pink sparkly things that you wanted. And, today, you finally turned three. Donned your pink sparkly birthday hat. Prepared to greet the world with the same enthusiasm that you have for all of life. You are My gift. My lens into what is fun, lighthearted, social, important, out-of-my-control, wild, crazy, messy, emotional, and tender-hearted. IMG_0090.JPGIMG_0091

It snowed today. Thick, wet flakes after a run of warm Spring days. It snowed on your Birth day too. I remember the swirling white magic around the car, as your Daddy and I drove to the hospital. The world was coated in newness in expectation of you.

You bring a freshness to our days that can’t be rivaled. You are ready to go and do. Always active. Always entertaining or being entertained. Always talking. Always using your imagination. Rarely still. IMG_0101.jpg

Today, instead of a traditional birthday party, I took a day off of work to treat you to an over-the-top Mommy-Daughter date. (That day off work couldn’t have come at a better time, since I have been very sick the past several days.) Despite my fever and respiratory challenges, we braved the cold to go do “Big Girl” things. Ride the carousel at the mall (they let you ride free, dressed as you were in your birthday outfit). Ride the train (once again, you rode free and were even given money by other passengers?!?). Be serenaded by the train driver. Eat a scone at Starbucks. Shop for a bathing suit. Have your first haircut. Enjoy a pedicure and manicure with me. It was grand. And my heart will always treasure the look of pure delight on your face today. The feeling of your hand in mine as we walked through the mall. Your profile as you ran ahead of me. Your warmth as you snuggled in my arms. IMG_0113.jpg

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Family came over in the evening to celebrate with you, and I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter time of gift-opening, playing in the snow, riding your new bike from Grammy and Pop, and watching you sample more sweets than we normally see in a month. Your Grammy even made you a Thomas the Train cake and cupcakes. I think you will sleep well tonight, Little Girl.  IMG_0134.jpg

IMG_0138.jpgIMG_0148.jpgToday reminded me of why I love being a mother. Why all the long days and sleepless nights are worth it. Why the recent weekends of crying because I haven’t been able to produce enough milk for Micah will fade into distant memories as you both grow and thrive. Life looks different in each season. When you were little, you and I spent endless hours doing nothing but playing together and going on adventures. In this season, our routine barely allows for clean laundry much less exploration. But, what matters most to you is that you know that you are loved. You are seen. You are special.

You are my most amazing birthday girl. I fear time will fly too fast in the coming years. But, today…today was perfect.

I love you,

Mama