If you’re looking around thinking everyone else has got it figured out, it’s because we’ve gotten really good at hiding it. So I’m going to step on over and stand next to you. Now, look at me and hear me tell you -
I’m scared too.
I don’t feel good enough either.
I feel shame from years ago, and from this morning.
I look back and I can’t believe that was me. I look at today and I’m falling short right now (literally as I write this I feel guilty for not playing with my daughter). I look into the future and I think of all the ways I can mess it up.
If you’re like me....
You’re carrying around lies from your childhood, lies your peers have fed with their words, lies you’ve told yourself in the mirror. You’re dragging them around because letting go seems scary and acknowledging them seems impossible. You’re carrying around rejection and expectations. You’re feeling all the pressure and your gripping onto all of it.
But they are unnecessary limbs.
They seem like part of you but I promise… I promise you can leave them on the ground and walk. Away. I know, I know, I “don’t know how bad it is”. I don’t understand how serious the mistake you made was-- but I do. I’ve been there and so has the girl sitting next to you.
What happens when you carry too many things around? Your back breaks, your shoulders are out of socket, you have bags under your eyes- you're falling apart but it's become your "normal". Your heart longs to confess but your mouth says only pretty things. You can probably find a way to carry it all around for the rest of your life, drag them across the finish line… and then what?
Do you subconsciously think you can hustle your way into God’s good grace? - you’re in it honey. Let go of the damn things, you don't need them!
We only get this one chance to care for the body we have and to live an extraordinary life with all it’s ordinary moments.
You will stumble, but you will not fall.
You can’t to do this alone. So when you let go of all the baggage, I want you to grab two things.
Let someone be the shoulder you cry on and the person you confess to. Let her pray for you and care for you. Ask her questions, write her words on your heart, and find healing. Her faith will be strengthened by your willingness to learn, and your confidence will grow by your willingness to trust.
Now look around again. There’s someone that’s walking through things you’ve already seen victory in. She thinks there’s no way out. She thinks her only option is to follow what she’s told she’s “supposed to do”. Ignite her fire to be radical. Inspire her with your ordinary lessons. Care for her, welcome her, listen to her. Your life will be changed by this relationship. Live your life like that younger woman is watching you, waiting to take her cue to be full of integrity, strength, and vulnerability.
If you think you have nothing to teach, please understand that's the lie someone else believed when you needed help.
This has to be a collective “yes”. Because when someone’s on the floor, feeling like there’s nowhere to go, you need to be the hand reaching out to her and the reminder that the sun will rise again. It is written - you will not fall.
And when your marriage is beyond repair and you can’t see how it could be redeemed- there’s resurrection waiting.
When you hate your job but you don’t know where to start- you have gifts to use, and someone needs them.
When you need to confess something but you’re scared- secrets make you sick, you don’t have to do this alone.
When you’re harming yourself in socially acceptable ways or otherwise- let the sun rise on your suffering.
When you’ve started believing this is just “part of you”- you were created to thrive.
When you can’t make that payment but asking for help is worse than debt- vulnerability is beautiful.
When you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say “I’m beautiful” - try, there’s healing on your lips when you speak life.
When everything in your life looks picture perfect but you know somethings just not right- ask, seek, knock.
When you’re questioning and doubting and lost- you will not fall.
When you don’t even know how things are going because you haven’t stopped to notice- you will not fall.
When things are “fine”- you will not fall.
But I don’t need to tell you this … go find someone who will.
Psalm 46:5 God is within her, she will not fall;
Well. We made it through the first month of parenthood (and almost through the second)! This post is a little bit of an update, and a lot of information. Hopefully it's helpful for mommas, support people, marriages, and the community surrounding new moms. I am writing this far enough removed from the first month to see clearly, but close enough that I still remember some of the things your mind blocks out. Skip over whatever you don't need or pass it on to someone that might be able to use it! I settled on skipping my birth story and going straight for postpartum, as this has been the most surprising part of the journey so far.
*Disclaimer: this is about my experience after a vaginal delivery and what helped me, it may not be at all what others need. I also want to be clear that I am aware that I'm blessed to even be able to walk through this journey. With that in mind, please know I am carefully walking the line of being honest and being mindful*
Our First Month
The first month was a lot like walking through a pitch black park. Imagine it. You've been in the dark before, but this time, you can't just lay there. You have to navigate, feel around, let your eyes adjust slowly while running across the grass, and keep a human alive. Over time, you learn that the park is just as beautiful as it would be if the sun was shining, but you have to train your eyes to see the beauty in a new way. A friend told me that the sun always rises again, and I held onto those words every day (thank you Lili). I experienced the darkness knowing with full hope that it would not be dark forever, and I always counted on the sun rise to bring light to my heart.
In my lowest moments I would crawl into bed when Lucia was asleep (knowing she would wake up 2 hours later) and I would sob. I would repeat the words, "I can't believe we chose this" ... Then, a minute later Brian would find me crying tears if joy as I scrolled through pictures of her on my phone.
Brian and I kept our expectations to basically survival mode the first four weeks. Babies are a 24/7 job but there's also mom's recovery: medicine, meals, sleep, sitz baths, and mental processing of what is happening. Somewhere in there, we had to check in to make sure we still liked each other.
While I feel like I have experienced 7 lifetimes in just a few weeks, the hardest thing for me was experiencing my own physical recovery WHILE trying to learn everything that comes with the baby. I don't think I could have done it without 3 things:
1. Brian encouraging verbal processing and then being equally as honest with his feelings.
2. Other moms reaching out to share their experiences.
3. PEOPLE. I never felt alone, even if I felt like I was drowning. I adopted a "yes" mentality to needing help from people and I'm better for it.
One by one the days pass, the confidence rises, and the love grows.
Added 5/21 *Brian reminded me today that the thing he heard me say the most after we came home from the hospital was "no one told me about this part". I was completely taken off guard by the process of recovery. I guess I knew in my head that I would be sore, but I didn't really give it a lot of thought. I understand now that no one told me because they didn't want to scare me. So this cushion of words is to give you time to decide to skip to the next paragraph or not... Okay, here we go.
I left the hospital with a low blood count that caused me to faint from standing/walking/sitting on the toilet. This is not the norm, but it's what happened to me. So I knew coming home that I would be limited in movement and wouldn't be able to hold Lucia while standing for a while. Laying down, I felt okay but I leaned on Brian completely for everything (see support person cheatsheet!) Once that started getting better, I started really noticing just HOW sore I was. Recovery would have been hard but okay if I could have slept for weeks and not gotten out of bed until I felt better. I think this is what made it harder, my pre-baby instinct said "stay in bed until you feel better." Thats how it goes when you have the flu or a stomach bug... but THAT'S WHAT WAS SHOCKING. There was a baby. Right there. Needing me. This meant that I needed to sit up for feedings- ouch. Get up to change diapers- ouch. Get water, shower, change clothes, go to the restroom- ouch, ouch, OUCH. The days were long and slow and I was so ready to just be healed. So I reached out to a momma friend and asked about her recovery time thinking she would confirm my two-week expectations. She said, "6-8 weeks" and I cried big tears. But that helped me play the long game. I didn't wake up every morning expecting to feel better, I wasn't surprised by the tears that fell every time I had to go to the bathroom, and I started celebrating small wins instead of expecting instant healing. I told myself that healing is slow for a reason. I searched my heart for meaning and savored the moments where I forgot the pain. I learned to take care of myself in a completely new way and prayed for patience. Take heart, healing comes. Even now, 8 weeks into motherhood, I. am. still. healing. And that's okay.
I had 2 husbands for those first few weeks... Brian and Google. Google can't massage me, but he had all the answers and he stayed up with me through all the late nights. Brian was there at 3 am to make me laugh at the fact that we used to stay up this late FOR FUN. What luxury. And then right before we would fall asleep, we'd whisper to each other:
"I miss you."
"I miss you, too."
This season of life is grace in action. Grace for mistakes, grace for each other, grace through learning, grace for your thoughts, and grace from above. I was so disappointed in myself when I would cry at feeding times, I was humbled when Brian had to change MY diapers, and I was surprised when I couldn't say I was in love with my daughter until week 4.
Even now, I am still reminding myself to own this story. I'm learning that grace is found in honesty with yourself and others. Motherhood has been the hardest thing I have ever done because it's ongoing and can't be mastered through planning. It has challenged everything I believe and has forced me to be present. I pray for one days worth of patience and cling to the smile of the one who has stolen my heart.
Still, my heartbeat's words remain the same: "march on my soul, march on."
I asked moms to share and give suggestions from their month-one experience, I have compiled them below with some of my suggestions. There's a little bit for everyone.
hey there mama, you just had a baby... here are some things you may feel
-You might feel trapped. Once you do the feedings every 2 hours a few times, it sets in... this is EVERY TWO HOURS. It feels a little daunting, but have some grace for yourself. It DOES get easier, and eventually is a good time to bond with baby.
- You might not feel totally connected to your baby, remember love grows
-Breastfeeding- you might feel afraid for the next feeding
- You might mourn the time you used to have doing things you love
- You might not realize how one tiny human's smile will change your life
- physical healing is real and taking care of yourself takes time
- You might feel like you want to go back in time, or fast forward ... but trust me, you don't want to miss this
- Physical romance might be the farthest thing from your mind
- Some nurses are just the worst, and some are angels from heaven
- You might walk around the house without clothes on for a solid 5 weeks
- You might long for connection, but not want any visitors. Boundaries are super helpful for everyone. We took the first month to step out of church, work, and social settings. It was a hard, sacred time for us to learn to be a family.
- You never knew every private part of yours could hurt at the same time for so long. You might want your physical pain to go away. Healing is slow, but you WILL heal.
- Hearing about people waking up every 120 minutes and doing it yourself are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
- You might need connection with your spouse. We vowed to make out everyday for a month, it helped!
- Mental health is something to be chased down hour by hour. Make yourself a mental health menu with things that help you keep your head above water, and pick three a day no matter what. Here's mine:
Mental Health Menu
Take a hot shower
Pray on the ground
Put makeup on
Change clothes (even if it's into a new set of PJs)
Spend time in the Word
Eat a chocolate
Write in journal
husband, mom, friend, anyone directly helping the new mom
- know that momma is not herself
- be a listening ear
- remind her she's doing great!
- the better she is cared for, the better she can care for baby
- Brian found it daunting to anticipate needs, so we made a cheatsheet for him:
CHEATSHEET FOR SUPPORT PEOPLE:
Has momma taken her medicine?
Does she have water in front of her?
Are there snacks ready for her next feeding?
Is the bed made?
Has the trash been taken out?
Does she have clean clothes- specifically underwear, bras, nursing pads.
Does she have an ice pack ready? (you know, for her lady parts)
Have you spoken words of encouragement to momma?
Have you written letters to leave around?
Is the living room picked up?
Has she done a Sitz bath today? Can you get it ready for her?
How you've asked her what she's thinking / feeling?
close friends who want to help without getting in the way
We had our meal train done through Favor, and we loved it. While we wanted to see our friends, we could never anticipate how the day would go. Friends, momma can't even walk. She is scared and bruised, and she's learning. She needs some grace. She's not herself, but she will be again. Every message is a message she holds close to her heart. Don't forget her, I promise she hasn't forgotten you.
How you can help:
Meals!!!!!!!!! I can't say this enough. We didn't need groceries for a full moth because our people rallied and it was a game changer
Send care packages (ideas below)
But by far the greatest act of love to my heart in this season... when friends regularly asked me how the day went. My days was consumed by number of poops, feeding times, burps, my own pain level, little wins... things that no one would be interested in. So when people asked, and I got to share the "boring" things, I felt immediately connected to that person.
Recovery must-haves my suggestions (all linked!):
Briefs underwear- size large. wear them proud.
Breast shell - these change everything! when your nipples feel like they could fall off these make sure nothing can irritate them.
Witch hazel pads - just yes
Pads - and lots of them!
Nursing tanks - I thought I only needed one... I'd go with 4 or more!
Real body expectations - really. celebrities are liars.
Target pjs - short sleeve shirts with buttons AND soft?!
The Bible App - for late night feedings when you are desperate for patience.
Baby Tracker App - (for feedings, naps, pumping...shareable with support people!)
Suggestions from other moms:
(email me or comment if I missed something!)
Lucia was born on March 25th, 2018 after 26 hours of labor and a lot of prayer.
She has come home to two parents who are learning a little at a time, and to a village who claims her as their own. We are eager to watch her story unfold, and to witness the miracles in the mundane and in the grand.
We made her a video, and thought we'd share it as it was meant to represent our emotions throughout this experience.
There was a time in my life I was thankful for the negative thoughts I had about my body. They were motivating, they helped me set goals. I thought if I ever let myself be happy with my body, that would lead to me “letting myself go”.
I know I’m not alone here, and that is both incredibly scary and comforting. I’ve battled these negative thoughts for 10 years, 5 of those have included some intentional work to find a healthy space of loving my body to health.
When I thought of starting a family, my changing body was one of the things I was most anxious about. In my first trimester, I struggled a bit. I had fearful thoughts that I hadn’t had in so long. I shared these thoughts and fears with women in my life and prayed against this familiar desire to manage my weight or my new desire to dread the ninth month.
As the pregnancy progressed, I started the process of reframing the way I spoke to myself, and reframing the meaning of celebration. Never in my life had I experienced genuine joy and celebration for looking bigger in the morning than the day before. And yet, here I was, tearing up as I watched myself grow day after day. What I have loved about this journey is that the growth happening physically was a picture to me of the renewal happening in my heart. A healing that could only come from letting go… letting myself go. Funny isn’t it?
When my biggest fear was brought to life, my biggest fear BROUGHT LIFE.
By letting myself go, and accepting that this was not about me, I found a new wave of freedom. This season has offered me a new lens through which to see myself and my body. Letting myself go didn’t mean what fear had told me it would all those years.
Letting yourself go means reframing the self-focus to others focus- you can’t celebrate others if you can’t celebrate yourself.
Letting yourself go means releasing the negative thoughts (the ones you wrote for yourself) and accepting the ones God wrote for you.
Letting yourself go means letting yourself GROW.
I know this is not everyone’s story, and this is not an all-call for pregnancy. There is growth ready to happen in all of us, in every season.
Those of us who struggle here tend to think that there’s a finish line. I’ll tell you right now, your negative self views will NOT go away with the right job, the right weight, the right house, the right man, or the right friends. That thought of : “once I reach ____, I will start speaking kind words to myself”... that’s a tomorrow mentality. It’s dangerous, and it is a roadblock in accepting love and pursuing true health. If you’re eating clean and exercising, but you’re saying ugly things to yourself in the mirror… there may be some space for a more holistic view of health.
If you can’t hear loving words about your body from your own mouth, I promise you, you’re not accepting them when they come from the One who created you.
So TODAY, how are you loving yourself in a way that reflects how God loves you?
Are you afraid to let yourself go?
Who are you telling when your self-talk crosses the line into self-hate?
What are to doing to catalyze internal growth?
How are you loving yourself to life?
At some point in the next 30 days, I will be giving birth. It's easy to be consumed by those thoughts and fears, but I wanted to spend this transition time focused on the people around me who have been there for me as I've grown (literally) and who have made it possible for me to be confident. With our little girl coming soon, I’ve reflected a lot on the kind of woman I want her to see me be. Something that has become increasingly important to me is celebrating women around me. I want to practice a daily intentionality with the women around me that makes them light up. I believe this is a large part of the reason I was put on earth. I want to make sure women around me feel seen and known.
So here is the challenge: nothing assumed, nothing left unsaid, everything called out and celebrated. Let the women around us flourish, let there be no comparison, let there be light.
For the next 30 days, join me in the #iseeyou challenge and celebrate the women around you.
Every day, there is a prompting for what we are looking for. As you think about women in your life, settle on one for the day who is perfectly described in the list. Write them a note, send them a text, say a prayer, or post a picture of them and call it out. We have the opportunity to make 30 women in our lives feel extra special.
Go to Downloadable Tools for a PDF version of the challenge!
How in the world can a baby shower turn into one of the greatest days of your life? - PEOPLE. We had 60 people walk through our doors to celebrate where we are today before we experience all that comes with parenthood. We have no idea what to expect, but we know that for the rest of our lives, our thoughts and priorities will not begin with our own needs - so why not party our way out of this season! Brian and I got to be surrounded by our people before our tiny little person makes her entrance.
It's harder than you'd think it would be to go against the traditional baby shower, even for someone who has no ties to "normal" or what you're "supposed to do". But there were a few things that drove our decision to go for it. Some are deep and intentional, and some are just hilarious.
1. WE LOVE OUR PEOPLE- At our wedding, we narrowed the guest list down to people who we both knew and people we wanted to influence our children. As this new season approached, we couldn't help but think that this celebration should celebrate those very people who cheered us on three and a half years ago. When we pray for who our daughter will be, we look around at the people we love and speak out the gifts they have that we want our daughter to know and learn ... not from us, from them!
2. I AM TERRIBLE AT OPENING GIFTS IN FRONT OF PEOPLE- I have anxiety about gifts. I never feel like I have the right reaction and it stresses me out to have everyone's eyes on me. So, we asked our friends and family to not wrap their gifts, and we displayed them instead. This ended up being so fun and took pressure off of me to think of other things to say rather than "cute!", "thank you so much!" and "awe". We saved paper, reclaimed some years of my life, and we took the focus off of the presents, and redirected it to our guests.
3. MEN & WOMEN CELEBRATING TOGETHER - I absolutely love the women in my life. ADORE. But Brian and I are both excited and scared and freaking out about having a baby, and we wanted the opportunity to celebrate together! That means surrounding ourselves with women, men, families, kids, and giving Brian the chance to be celebrated. I mean, I didn't do this alone...
4. TIME WITH PEOPLE WHERE TIME IS LIMITED- We've got 7 weeks or so before baby, and something we think about a lot is how to get time with everyone before the big day. I never thought a baby shower could be the answer, but it WAS. We got to hug on everyone and catch up, show them around our house, and welcome them into the chaos.
5. SUPPORTING LOCAL VENDORS-
FOOD: We love food, we love happy hour, we LOVE local everything, and this was a great chance to share some of our favorites with our friends. One of our favorite date night spots (for the sweat pants and no makeup days) is Phil's Ice House. We used to go get burgers and dream of getting a housewarming party catered by them if we were ever able to buy a house. Naturally, when we had to decide on food, we knew exactly who to call. While they could have declined my request 18 hours before the party, asking for 70 mini "78704" burgers on their busiest day of the week.... they was gracious and kind and the food was a hit!
CAKE: Goodness gracious this was the best cake I have EVER HAD. Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, you outdid yourself. Chocolate cake with heaps of frosting from heaven, glitter icing... I mean come on. I came home from work on Monday and our house smelled like cake, so I grabbed a fork, opened the box, and relived the experience all over again.
THE KEG: Couldn't have a kegger without a keg! Maybe I couldn't enjoy it, but we wanted our friends to have a great beer to enjoy. Thank you Hops and Grain Brewing for our party centerpiece, it looked great in the crib, and people raved about the beer.
6. LIFE: Life is too beautiful to be serious all the time. I have life growing inside me and I want life around me! I went to the corner of our backyard and watched people laugh and talk. I memorized faces and sounds, whispered "thank yous" to the sky, giggled as our pastor's family wrestled in the grass, and my heart... my heart was alive.
7. ACCOUNTABILITY: This is 100% true. I thought if we had the party at our house, I would be less likely to procrastinate putting the nursery together. The night before the party, I finished putting up the art and shelving... and the crib arrived 15 minutes AFTER the last guest left the party. The planner in me and the procrastinator in me are always fighting for my attention. To both of them I say ... get over yourself!
8. BECAUSE WHY NOT: Run with your ideas, step outside the box, put yourself in the way of beautiful moments. Stress does NOT have to be a part of the equation- but fun can be.
MONDAY | We woke up in Italy- basking in the light. We plan to get lost and eat pasta, watch the sunrise, and kiss on street corners. But we also plan to reflect on our marriage so far, revisit our family culture, have hard conversations we saved to have over gelato, and acknowledge people who have impacted our family. This trip is intentional. It's about prayer, reflection, unity, and friendship. We will dream together about the partners, parents, and people we want to be as we step into the next season. Most of all, we're just going to be friends enjoying new places together. We are walking with a camera and a journal, practicing a week of being present and unplugged. See you soon, Texas.
TUESDAY | We started the day early, walking through the ruins at the forum... practically alone. Rome was not awake yet, the sun was creeping over the Arch of Titus, it was quiet, it was magic, and Brian whispered ... “I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life.”
We sat on a bench overlooking the ruins and the city and took out the journal. We had listed out conversations we wanted to have on the trip. The idea was that we would go to historically significant places and add our own historical significance to them through these conversations. This day, we reflected on our marriage starting from our wedding day. We talked through who we were then, and how we've grown. We talked about some big wins, and where we've failed. I asked Brian how I was doing at loving him well, and he asked me the same. The answers humbled us both. We sat a little taller at times, and hung out heads at others. But when we got up to continue walking, there was more life between us- our laughs were louder, our kisses longer, and our steps more in sync. Planned conversations are awkward, but sometimes a little intentionality goes a long way.
SEE REFLECTION QUESTIONS: LOOKING BACK ON YOUR MARRIAGE
WEDNESDAY | I'll start with my favorite moment of this day. In the cathedral, there was a prayer room where we sat in total silence, in awe, praying together for baby as people from all over the world lifted their own prayers around us. My feet were hurting and my body was beyond exhausted, and in that room I thanked God for being a resting place for us all as we are weary and long for a safe place. Wednesday was the day we realized we needed to slow our pace a bit. Our planned 2 hours at the Vatican museum and St Peters Basilica turned into 7 hours and I was fading. We were determined to get to a restaurant Anthony Bourdain had gone to even though I was limping and holding up my belly. But y'all I made it....(our 8th hour of walking) And we quickly found out the place didn't open for another 2 1/2 hours. Brian started to explain how tired he was and how much his legs hurt, to which I replied with my loudest silent glare- you know the one. We found a cafe where we sat and ate cake and drank tea and felt life enter into us again. It was at that table we asked two hard questions: what about me is not worthy of respect, and where do I lack integrity. It was not a light conversation, but it was so good. It brought out things we needed to verbalize and (because we had no place else to go) it forced us to confront some realities about ourselves and how our own laziness impacts our partner. By the time we ate dinner, we were walked out, talked out, starving, and Brian realized I'm very pregnant and may need some of the trip to... I don't know... Rest? And that's exactly where Florence comes in.
THURSDAY | It was date night. We rode the train into Florence, and went straight to our @airbnb balcony ... Breathtaking. The sun went down, and we ventured out into this new city. This night was one I will never forget. We fell in love immediately. It was beautiful, strung with lights, magic around every corner. We were laughing and practically skipping around corners. We kept saying "this is our city".
We had the best meal of our lives in a small restaurant recommended by some locals. We ordered slow and ate slower. We complimented each other and made decisions about how to engage in community after the baby, how long we would be away from church and bible study, how to keep date nights, and how to set the right expectations.
Then, dove into the questions we prepared about how we were doing - today. The scariest of the questions, taking the temperature of our marriage as it is right now.
SEE QUESTIONS FOR TAKING
THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR MARRIAGE
FRIDAY | Friday morning, Brian scheduled a private car to take us through Tuscany to Siena (love him). The night before, we had the best meal of our lives and then talked through our plans for engaging in community after baby and who we would ask to hold us accountable to these decisions. As we walked through narrow streets of Siena, we revisited our conversation. We watched neighbors laugh together, we followed the church bells, and ate chocolate pastries. On the car ride back, we listed out people in our lives who have impacted our marriage. We talked about the gifts and characteristics of our friends, things we long for our baby girl to know and follow. When we got back to Florence, I couldn't help but miss our community. It was this part of the trip that started getting us excited to step forward into parenthood- knowing we aren't alone, knowing we have people, and knowing we will soon get to kiss some sweet tiny cheeks.
SEE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTING ON YOUR PEOPLE
SATURDAY | We were sad to get on the train back to Rome after falling in love with Florence. Our time on the train was spent on this topic: what do we NOT want our family to be? ... We spend so much time talking about our family culture, but we both wanted to understand why we were willing to work so hard to live out certain values. Basically, what's the alternative? When we got into Rome, I was a walking stereotype- ask me if I cared. I walked with my suitcase and gelato. The city center was bustling as we passed the ruins one more time and planned our last night in the city.
SEE QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTING ON THE DIRECTION
YOU DON'T WANT TO LEAD YOUR FAIMLY
SUNDAY | Our last day in Italy. We'd probably describe it as real. At one point I would have described it as one of the most romantic days of my life... But we also learned a difficult and important lesson. We stayed in a 1700s apartment, where the owners told us the story of going through their first pregnancy (and labor, WOAH) right where we were standing, and all the memories they made in this neighborhood. We walked the neighborhood a few last times and ate some delicious meals... And slowly throughout the night as we entered deeper and deeper conversations, we started to notice that all of those things we left back home- everything hard, everything unresolved, everything we may very well be working on in ourselves until the day we die... It didn't go away just because we got away for a week. They're still there, they still hurt, they still trigger bitterness, they still need tending to. In all truthfulness, we fell asleep tearfully apologizing to one another for the fact that this was how we spent our last night in Italy, and for not tending to these wounds more back home. This trip was magic on so many levels, but I couldn't let the pretty pictures cover reality. The only way to "escape" the difficult parts of marriage is to face them, call them out, talk through them, cry if you need to, and hold each other tight when you want to run away.
Nothing about this season of life has been what we thought it would be. We planned, and we over-planned, we fell flat on our faces, and we're still here. Now that the dust has settled, all of these changes are starting to hit me. I wake up and realize we own a home. I reflect on the summer and feel the weight of mercy over all of the job search details. I am overwhelmed realizing we are now halfway through this pregnancy- halfway to meeting our baby girl.
I am not going act like I know what I'm doing. I have no idea. I get scared, I panic, and I feel unworthy to be her mom. As I find my bearings after all the change, I've been hesitant to take my fears to the Lord. I don't feel angry or even disconnected with God, I just feel shellshocked. Almost nothing around me looks familiar- as if I have moved to another country, with a new body... and lots of trips to the bathroom.
So finally a few nights ago, I said something to Him. Simply : "What do I do?"
I knew the answer. I knew the answer because I have been here before... asking questions... and I have already received the answer a few times over.
About a year ago, I was deeply in love with my daily rhythm of contemplation and prayer, but I wanted more. I had this burning question inside me. I had to know. So I asked the question everyday, "What is my purpose?" For weeks I found myself living out of this hunger. I was excited about everything because of course, this could be the answer I've been looking for. I would go into the dark room, light a candle, and ask about my purpose, and then go back out into the world and try to figure out what is was.
One day, in that room, I had a vision of purpose (yes, I said the "v" word) ... I saw myself in that dark room with that candle, on my face in prayer. That was it.
At first I was honored and a little relieved, but my thoughts began to shift.
... that's it... that's my purpose...
Wait.... That's it?
That was not enough for me. How was I supposed to change the world with a purpose like that?
So, I started asking a different question. I thought maybe God could benefit from me being more clear about what I was looking for.
"What do you want people to say about me at the end of my life?"
Here are the acceptable answers: The title of a book I will write, the name of a company to start, an address for someone that I need to help, a mission statement, some sort of prize/ medal / honor to strive for. Really I would have accepted any version of these. I was determined to hear, and pressed on in asking daily.
One day in that room with that candle ... "what will people say about me... what do you want people to say about me..."
" s h e p r a y s "
I broke wide open.
I am reminded today of the significance of that moment. My big dreams and desires, not eclipsed by this revelation but made whole. It's a perfect gift for a recovering people pleaser to have been instructed not to do first but to seek first. To change my lens from a worldly one to an eternal one.
I am fulfilling my purpose when I allow my dreams be informed and catalyzed first in the dark room, in total surrender.
Of course I still don't know what I'm doing. It's easy to be anxious over what kind of mom I will be, what pictures should be on the nursery wall, and everything in between. I don't know how I am going to keep her safe at all times. I don't know how I'll find a work-life balance. I don't know how I will prioritize my marriage or fight for the dreams that have been put on my heart. But I am freed from drowning in the questions and fears about being a mom to this little girl growing inside me. My purpose is simple, and I have been given my first stepping stone for any question I have. As I dream of who baby Boitmann will be, there is one thing I hope more than anything else.
I hope she prays.
Lets just recap this summer for a second...
May 1st: We close on a house.
May 28th: God challenges us to live a life of no fear.
May 29th : Brian loses his job.
June 1st: We consider putting the house on the market.
June 15th: We remember we to not be afraid.
June 20: We move into our house.
July 5th: I get sick, with no insurance.
July 22nd: We almost move to Oklahoma- we don't.
August 15th: Brian has his first day at the job we've prayed for all summer.
Between the big highlights, our summer is littered with impossible hope, unspeakable joy, and abundant peace. God has spoken so clearly, so many times. It has been the most unexpected and life giving time of our lives. We don't wish away any moment of the last few months, we are stronger for it, and better for it.
Every moment of anxiety, every tear, every butterfly in our stomach, has been completely eclipsed by these moments:
When I took Brian by the water to our secret spot to tell him that I was not sick, I was pregnant.
"what... really... but I don't have a job... my God, this is a blessing..."
When we stayed up through the night in awe- laughing and holding each other realizing there were 3 of us in the room.
When we heard the most perfect song that ever existed- sweet baby's heartbeat.
When baby danced for us on the sonogram, hands flailing and legs kicking.
We really don't know what to expect, God's call to us to "not live a life of fear" is our anthem. Every day. Every hour. We are undeserving of every drop of grace we have received, and yet here beneath my hand, in my belly is an angel. Our summer's joy.
Amongst the excitement has been a revival in our faith, and an immense appreciation for our community. We consider ourselves a small part of a grand "we". For the people we see every day, who celebrate with us and cry with us, for those who raise hands with us and call us family ... it is the greatest honor to bring a baby into this crazy village we have gathered.
So here we go sweet baby Boitmann. Mommy, daddy, and our entire tribe can't wait to meet you in March!
I'm writing this exactly 17 1/2 hours after I wrote these words: "The doors are open, the shackles broken, we need only to listen for what's next" ... The words haunted me. All night I poured over them- repeating them, dissecting them, tossing and turning.
The last few months we've been committed to realigning our hearts and dreaming of having hearts that beat for the right reasons. Some of our date nights have been centered around questions like:
If your heart was where you wanted it to be...
"How would you want your kids to see you react to someone that made you angry?"
"How would you change the way you talk about money?"
"What changes do we need to make to be people of no fear?"
... And one date night, two weeks ago, entirely centered around this one:
And "What would you want your heart reaction to be if you lost your job today?
Well, today came.
I got the call at the office, that 20 days before moving into a new house, after all the big questions and conversations and excitement...
... Brian was let go.
So I left work and rushed home to meet Brian at the door and hold each other. To cry a little and laugh a little. And say with all the certainty- "I'm honored to be married to you."
We prayed and worshipped and grounded our hearts, we were stirred by the words of psalm 91, stood up in praise-empowered by the glory in our midst!
We decided to not plan "next steps", but to spend the day listening, reflecting, mourning, and thanking.
The security and relief that could follow sending out a resume was not quite the security we needed today.
We went in search of a place to listen.
As we walked down a hill on the trail, there was a little boy stuck on a rock - scared. He was kind of slipping on the slick rock and his eyes were full of fear. His dad stood in front of him, arms stretched towards him... "You're okay, you can do it. You're okay." As we passed the family, we smirked at each other, knowing the parents were fully in control and that someday that could be us. So we made our way down and heard it suddenly, the slip and fall of the little boy, a thud, and silence.
He wasn't bleeding, nothing was broken... He was angry. He felt betrayed. And following a long silence, we heard at the bottom of the hill- a shriek. A painful shriek with unexpected words clear as day.
"YOU DIDNT EVEN HELP ME DAD! YOU DIDNT EVEN HELP ME DAD!..."
He said it again and again. The biggest sting hitting us all- he always included the "dad" at the end. There was so much weight in the word, as if he was reminding the dad what his role was supposed to be.
We we do that don't we? We remind God that he didn't even help us. But just like the dad on the rock, it's not that he wasn't helping. It's that he didn't meet the child's expectation of what help looked like in that moment.
That moment sent us into rejoicing in the care and attention, the love, grace, and provision of our DAD.
I can say we will never forget the month of May 2017... It's been full of lessons, and disappointed hopes... But I am going to say what I've said the whole month because it is SO TRUE.
Theres nothing more powerful than a grateful heart.
You can only do one thing when your heart yearns for the story of redemption: give thanks and take communion.
We sat in the middle of the moving water, daring and rebellious, thanking God for his mercy. Reminded of the one who gives and takes. We felt relief that we were never in control, and we will never be asked to be. We reflected on all the places we've questioned recently about our own intentions, we challenged each other about where we find security, and celebrated the heart change we were already seeing.
So the big question is:
What's next? What's the plan? What's in the works?
No idea. Not a clue.
Our big question in the midst of dreams that die:
Oh death, where is your sting?
Boitmanns, march on.
Happy stories, sad stories, dramatic, sorrowful, and joyous stories- every story is a love story... and here are some of mine.