Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives October 2013

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Giving Hope, Living Hope

She has become a dear one in my life. A friend that walks beside me with grace and faithfulness despite heartaches and changes that keep us both clinging to God for strength. We have very few things in common, but the things we do share bind us together in enduring friendship–a beautiful, unexpected, deeply meaningful friendship.

For years we have brushed near to each other without really connecting. We lived on the same floor in college, but never really talked then. Our now-husbands were science majors and also lived on the same floor as one another, kindling their own friendship early on. I was at her wedding, as the girlfriend (now wife) of their wedding DJ, and neither of us can figure out how or why she ended up at my bridal shower a year later, because we really didn’t have a relationship to speak of at that time. Because of the guys, we shared a meal or two as couples before we set off for a few years of adventuring in Los Angeles. And that was that. Little blips of contact, and then nothing for several years.

We returned from L.A. three years later with our three kids (at the time) in tow. Eager to find connection in Seattle, I started reaching out to college contacts on Facebook, whether they had previously been close friends or not. Somehow, we found each other and a very unlikely friendship was born that continues to surprise and bless me years later. I think of how we never really know what God has in store for us, despite our past experiences.

http://solacearts.com

Many things about our two lives are very different. Almost comically so. She is outgoing, I’m a little less so. She’s crazy organized. I’m more free-spirited in that department. For over three years, she has prayed and tried and hoped for a baby, with her hopes yet unfulfilled, and here I am, round with child, expecting my fifth. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense that we would, or could, share such a special relationship. Except that when God brings a true friend, sometimes it doesn’t need to make sense to make the tough journey just a little lighter for both.

I am aware of the pain she carries. Every time she comes to my home, she is enveloped in a life that she wants but does not yet have. Yet instead of withdrawing, she presses in, embracing my children, and pouring more into them than any other friend in my life. She has selflessly served me, and encouraged me through my harder days as a mother, even while struggling to accept what God has or doesn’t have for her despite her deep longing for children. It would only make sense for her to distance herself, to manage the pain by keeping away, but she doesn’t. She gives more, draws closer, invites me into her own tough journey, and leaves me feeling astounded and humbled by her constant friendship.

Earlier this year she became pregnant. We cried and laughed when I also had a positive pregnancy test a few days later, meaning we would be due with a child each within a week of each other. We rejoiced and celebrated, and it felt like our years of prayers had been answered with serendipitous beauty.

At 11 weeks, she discovered via ultrasound that her baby no longer had a heartbeat. I didn’t believe it at first, and it took me weeks to accept the loss. I haven’t been able to write a word about it until now, over two months later, because I have been processing and grieving with her in ways that I haven’t been able to give words to. I have been sad for others before…but nothing has hit me quite so personally as this.

I can’t think about my baby’s development without thinking about where hers would have been. I have struggled to think about the birth of my child being a reminder for her of hopes dashed. I am sad for her heartaches, and wish more than anything I could make everything better, that we could rewind and write the story differently. But I know better. So I pray more, for God to hear and to move on her behalf. To fill her with life and goodness, and the fulfillment she longs for. To comfort her in the season of barrenness and lead her into a season of fruitfulness. I give thanks for my every discomfort of pregnancy and continue to believe for miracles and breakthroughs and babies to come.

http://solacearts.com

After the loss, I frantically searched for something I could do. I knew in my heart that nothing could take away the pain. But I had to find a way to validate the experience, to honor the child that was so desperately wanted, and is so desperately missed. I made a necklace with a birthstone to memorialize the expected date of birth. I didn’t know if it would help or hurt, but I wanted to give something that she could hold onto when everything else slipped away.

And in her beautiful gracious way, she accepted it from me, through tears and told me that for her, it symbolizes hope. Gah. What a lovely person. Clinging to hope right in the torrential downpour of grief. It still hurts a lot. For her and for me. But I’m so beyond thankful that she keeps embracing me and inviting me in, so we can cry and journey together.

 

Creativity / Life & Faith

Writing Adventures

The leaves are turning and with the season’s change, I’ve decided to embark on a personal writing challenge that I hope will help bring my lost words out of hiding. For years I have wanted to write. And I suppose I have written a little bit here and there. Bits and pieces of my little life for blogging, but at the prospect of writing more purposefully, more extensively about the things that hide away in my heart, I have started, stopped, and frozen up more times than I can count. I’m not sure why now seems like the right time to dig in with more gusto, but I’m at a place of peace, relative calm, and I feel drawn to start in to a more involved writing journey than I have engaged in the past.

http://solacearts.com

I wonder if you’ll join me on the journey? I will not be sharing complete free-writes for the duration of my challenge, only because I think it will make me freeze up again, but I may share excerpts from time to time here on the blog, and will probably proceed with sharing some of the other posts I’ve already been working on. What would be superbly helpful for me is for those who care, to check in with me periodically between now and December 1st to see how it is going, to encourage me in the little ways you can, and to pray for big victories in this area. My goal is to write 60,000 words between today (yes, I started!) and December 1st…and hopefully at least some of those words will be deeply real, worthwhile, and something more substantial than the “I don’t know what to write today” fluff. I’m totally going to need the encouragement and accountability! Also, I’m all ears for tips, writing prompts, and subjects to write about for the days I don’t have a springboard to leap off of. I will be writing creative non-fiction, and mostly about my life, experience, journey with God, motherhood, etc. Thanks in advance for your support.

Family / Motherhood

Life’s Best Surprises

http://solacearts.com

This little man turned four years old today. He’s a giant big love. A quirky, saucy and sweet personality wrapped up in an all-boy package. I’m feeling sentimental about his journey into our family four years ago, and I’m truly grateful for the gift that he is.

Sometimes you don’t know what you need until it arrives, and that is the case with this one. I planned a space. God planned a perfect blessing instead. I was after a sensible and manageable life path. God was after growing me in beautiful and uncomfortable ways. I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for this boy. Like, seriously. Words are failing me. So instead, I’m pasting in some of the writing I did throughout the year I was pregnant with him. Truly, one of my life’s best surprises to date.

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(excerpts written throughout 2009)

I have learned to just say Yes to Jesus when He’s up to something I don’t understand.

One of those times is now. I say Yes to what He has for me. That just happens to be a new baby. In one terrific moment, God leapt out of a 2x4x1 inch box labeled “First Response” to tell me, “Surprise! I have another blessing for you!” 

I think sometimes there are moments in life that you realize how quickly life is moving. How much there is to embrace. How much there is to let go of. I’m surprised, delighted, and overwhelmed. 

……..

I haven’t seen your face yet, unless you count the fuzzy ultrasound photo we first took at 14 weeks. I haven’t felt your fingers wrap around mine, and I haven’t felt your breath on my neck as you sleep, but I know a little about you already. I know approximately how big you are any given week, thanks to a book that tells me about all of your developmental milestones. I know that in 5 short months, you have matured enough to communicate to me in the smallest ways. Just a few days ago, I pressed on you with my fingers and you pressed back. You said, “I’m here, and I’m alive. I am looking forward to seeing your face as much as you’re looking forward to seeing mine.” “All in good time,” I said back in my heart. Sometimes I feel like I can’t wait that long, but the truth is, I can, and the longer I wait, the longer you have to get your best start at life. I know I won’t always be perfect, but it is my heart to give you a healthy start, a happy home, and a hearty dose of love each day. I’ve heard thats how babies grow best.

I don’t yet know if you are boy or girl, but I know you’re special. Your big sister tells me she thinks you are either a horse or a house…I’m not sure why she thinks that, or how either of those would fit in the bump where you live, but she’s imaginative and delightful. I think you’ll love her. Your big brother doesn’t really know you’re coming yet, but when the two of you get a little older, I imagine you’ll be great friends. I feel like it was only yesterday that he was the little person in my womb, having these same conversations with me. And your daddy? You won’t find any other daddy who is more wonderful than he is. He loves you even now, as do I. One week from now, we’ll know your name…well, I guess I should say, one week from now we will know whether you are boy or girl….and we’ve already chosen some names that I think you’ll be pleased with.

So dear one, until I can call you by your name, I will tell you that though you are yet faceless and nameless in our world, I believe your face and name are known by God, and He has great plans for you.

……..

How to begin, my son? All day I’ve been bursting with excitement to learn more about you. We made a visit to the hospital for an ultrasound and learned all kinds of new things about you. You are quite the acrobat, you have all your limbs, and as of now, they think you weigh about 13 ounces. That really blows my mind. Seeing you so active and then thinking about just how tiny you still are. We got to see your big heart beat–and I say big, because I believe you will be a big-hearted guy just like your pops…and the fact that your heart seems to fill a full quarter of your body.

………

Born on Wednesday, October 14th at 9:13am weighing 8lbs 12oz and measuring 21in long.

………..

Our little man is now eight days old, and as with most newborns, it is hard to imagine that just more than a week ago we had never seen his face, and that even one year ago, there is was not even the inkling of him in our minds. It amazes me how quickly things change and how immediately the heart embraces new life…so fiercely that it seems as if this child has always been with us.

………..

I’m compelled to shout my gratitude aloud…over and over…To God: for helping me find my voice in the quietness and solitude of motherhood, for fulfilling the promise to heal the brokenness of my heart and restore me, for growing me in more areas than is ever comfortable, and for giving me clear vision about His very best for my life. 

four3 http://solacearts.com

Family / Motherhood

For the New Mom

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So many friends have welcomed first babies this year, or are about to in the next 6 months. I am so delighted that more parents are being ‘born’, and even more delighted by the babies they hold (or will be holding soon).

I’m leery of heaping on advice of any kind, because if parenthood has taught me anything, it has taught me how little I know, and how little control I have of many details of life, and that we all have to find our own way through the journey. But just the same, for quite a few months now I’ve been wanting to put words to all the things I wish I could say to new moms…the things I wish someone might have said to me when I started down this path. So take them with a grain of salt, but if they speak to you, let them sit in your heart awhile.

When you’re not sure what to do, take a deep breath. Ask for help or advice if you need it, but chances are, if you take a moment to gather your thoughts, your intuition will guide you well. You might not have cared for a baby before (around the clock, I mean), but your attentiveness is what a baby needs most. When you listen and look for clues, baby will give them. The more you learn to understand your baby’s language, the more confidence you will have in your parenting choices, and before long you will find yourself overcoming obstacles that seemed completely impossible at first glance. Starting with surviving pregnancy. Am I right, mamas?

Lots of people will have lots of advice for you. Most people genuinely mean well and want to help, but one of the first lessons of parenting is that there are zillions of opinions on every topic, and only a fraction of those opinions will be actually valuable to you. Your new job as a parent is to sort through all the information that comes flying at you to determine what is helpful and valuable for you. All the rest of it is noise. Even if your friends or family swear by the method or decision, don’t be afraid to funnel those things into a “for later” or “no thanks” category in your mind and move on with making the best choices you can for your baby.

Remember that every parent starts out with no experience as a parent. Some have prior experience caring for babies or have observed lots of other parents, but it is not the same. There is a steep learning curve when the ball is in your court for the first time, but you will probably learn that you are more capable, more creative, and more fit for your new job than you feel. Don’t let anything chip away at your confidence in your ability to be a good parent. Every one of us bumbles through parts of parenting, learning by trial and error, adapting to changes as they come, and seeking understanding about our child’s needs at every new stage. Experienced parents often have great insights into new stages, but even then, they do not know your child the way you do, and their ‘experience’ will likely be very different from yours.

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You probably wonder if you will ever sleep again. I actually can’t promise you that you will, but most likely, you will find a groove that will work. There are stages that feel like they will never ever end, but every one of them does eventually. Your baby grows and changes, and so do you. You learn all kinds of things about what they like and don’t like. What they need and don’t need. What works and what doesn’t. I think the few months that follow the birth of your child is an important time to be really kind to yourself. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Let someone else care about anything that falls outside the immediate care of your baby or yourself. Don’t feel obligated to show up for events, or take on responsibilities outside the home until you feel ready for them, which could be after two months, or might not be for two years. Give yourself time, space, and grace to adjust to the new things around you.

Just like it is important to choose your friends wisely, its important to choose your mom-friends wisely as well. Some will support, encourage, and cheer you on with love, and those friends make the journey rich and full with goodness. Some are more interested in judging your choices, making you feel insecure, and comparing your differences as parents. Not at all helpful, and as a new mom, you have no time for that negativity.

When you’re staring into the unknown, the uncharted territory, resist the urge to feel inadequate for the job. Motherhood is a deeply humbling experience, in all the best ways. It’s not really fair to look at other people who are a few steps down the road and compare how they’re managing…I guarantee every one of them has come face-to-face with plenty of things they had no idea how to tackle, nights of sleeplessness and tears (baby’s and their own), and I’d be willing to bet they still constantly second-guess their choices. Most likely, the ones who look the most together still have their own big challenges and plenty of hard days. Breathe in grace, and take in every moment you can, because they do pass. Expect to be challenged, exhausted, overwhelmed, and completely smitten with the little person you welcome into your family. Welcome to the mother’s journey.

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Life & Faith / Motherhood

Little One

I’m overwhelmed by the goodness in my life, and the joy that is my sweet family. Just look at these faces. My heart in a picture, absolutely bursting. I snapped this photo the night before our ultrasound, my crazy crew with a question mark, “Who is this little person that will be joining our family?”

http://solacearts.com

http://solacearts.com

Last week we learned our coming baby is of the girl variety. I knew in my heart that it was, and while I do admit to doubting a smidge the week leading up to the appointment, I still somehow knew. Friends know I’m a name fanatic, and love researching names, their meanings, and I have kept lists of names I love for years. Occasionally I curate lists of names for friends who have asked me to. Fanatic. No exaggeration.

Names mean so much. They are something that stay with you for your whole life (whether or not people call you by it) through every stage and season. My name means “Diligent, or Industrious One.” When I was younger, I didn’t love the meaning of my name. It wasn’t especially flowery or beautiful. It seemed so practical and boring, and I think I was afraid of claiming it for fear that I would always be nothing but practical and boring. In more recent years, I’ve grown to see the truth of those traits in my life, and self-identify with the blessing found in a diligent life even if it is not glamorous to others.

Anyway, I chose my favorite names for a boy or a girl when I was about 5 weeks pregnant. My awesome husband nearly always likes my name choices, so there was little resistance there. A+ for husband. The name I chose for a girl included the meanings “Life of Joy” and “God has favored me.” I truly see this life I live as a mama as one completely full of joy, and the blessings God continues to bring to me as generous and undeserved on my part. The name just seemed so fitting. Sometime around 12 weeks, a friend (who knew nothing of my chosen names) was praying with me for my coming babe and made a prophetic declaration that this child would have an anointing to call life out of others in barren seasons and bring joy to many. It resonated through me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, largely because of the names we had already settled on. And for the next several weeks, I sat with this secret knowing but not knowing that the little one inside is a girl, now confirmed by ultrasound.

I am so thankful, and so excited for this new little love to join us…at the right time, of course. I’m certain it will be a challenge to adjust to five children, but I’ve never been so eager to accept a mission as this.

http://solacearts.com

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Quietness

I’ve been wanting to write, but the words have eluded me. I have about ten million thoughts that have come and gone without making an appearance on the blog this past month, and while I hope some of them make it here soon, I keep coming back to the theme of quietness.

Quietness is hard for me. Always has been. To be left alone with my thoughts…my fears…not a happy thing. In former seasons, I would have described myself as terrified of quietness. In my first months as a mother, as a new resident of Southern CA (at the time) with almost zero personal contacts, I had hours upon days upon weeks of solitude with my first wee babe. The days felt unbearably quiet and I tried to fill them with as much noise as I could find. It was then that my interest in photography started to pick up speed, probably because I was so uncomfortable with the quiet, I had to distract myself with something. I cared for my baby’s physical needs, but I really had no idea how fast the early days would go, so I kind of tuned out the rest and busied myself with calling friends, searching the internet for photography tips and tutorials, and keeping every empty space filled with something because the emptiness hurt too much.

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Over the years, as I have grown as a mother and found the emptiness filled by more purposeful things (as opposed to haphazard ones I just stuck there to just take up space), I have grown more comfortable with the idea that quietness isn’t just some cruel thing to remind me of my loneliness, but instead an open space for God to speak His mysteries and loveliness to me, if I will listen. I still don’t love everything about it…it is a vulnerable place, and motherhood can for-sure be a lonely journey even with a handful of amazing friends who check in, but I’m finding myself more willing to go there. To stay there. To sit there and listen the best I can.

In the quietness, I notice more. How beautifully He crafts a story. How His wisdom blows my mind. How His gentleness massages my cold and selfish heart into something beating. Giving. Alive. How I can see the bleakness of the world and still feel hope under me, holding me up over the abyss that calls and taunts. How each of my tears count for something, purging my heart of ugliness and heartache. How peace and purpose can come to even the most anxious, fearful, hurting person, which truthfully was once me.

So even though I hope for more of my words to return soon, I am thankful for the quietness of my heart in this season.