Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Redemptive Motherhood

Fractured: The State of My Heart Before Motherhood

Welcome, sweet friends, and thank you for spending a few minutes to check out my 2017 Write 31 Days series: Redemptive Motherhood. I hope this glimpse into my motherhood journey makes you laugh and cry (the good kind of tears). I hope to surprise and delight you with the stories of these tender years, and I hope that if something you find here sparks a question or makes you curious about some part of my journey, that you will send me a personal note to connect. Thanks for reading.
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I don’t blame anyone for the disintegration of my childhood family. There was broken trust, alcohol, infidelity, and a number of other things that colluded together to rip us apart, piece by piece, but I can’t land on a singular target to blame that makes me feel any better about what happened. I’m not mad and I point no fingers, but the sadness I carry is one that never leaves me. It is the melancholy thread that winds through every one of my days–sometimes blending beautifully into the tapestry, sometimes a jagged, off-colored streak across a swath of a different hue.

My brothers, my parents; they were my heart, the whole of it for my first fifteen years. When we fractured, I fractured too, shards and slivers scattered and tossed to the wind. I was left with one thing: a gaping wound that could no longer love or receive love in healthy ways without first slaying the demons that stood between me and a future of good things.

I medicated myself with perfectionism and beat the hell out of every class I took, acing tests and pumping out soul-less, formulaic essays that somehow earned me the gratifying straight-A’s I was awarded for seven solid years. It may have looked like I was excelling, but I was trying to escape the menacing darkness that threatened to consume me from the inside. I was hollowed out and out to prove something, deep in grief and partly in denial that I needed help.

I turned to co-dependent relationships, and a string of internet beaus who propped me up while I tried to sort out the mess around me from the one within me. I made many questionable decisions that could have resulted in catastrophic consequences. I nearly drove off a road at 16, returning home from a four hour drive to meet a guy six years older than me that I met on the internet. I didn’t die in a car accident, and I wasn’t raped or kidnapped, although all of the above could have happened that weekend or during any of several other situations I found myself in during those years.

I was lost, broken and on the brink of total despair.

The summer after I turned sixteen, I encountered Jesus in a way I never had before. Despite my inner-mess and private life, I had a reputation for being a “good girl” and a capable student that I rather enjoyed. It’s always nice when you can cover up the parts of yourself that are more unsightly and let people thing well of you, yes?

But standing in front of a literal cross that towered over my head–rough wood, and resolute promise–the shiny outer-shell around me cracked. If I was going to nail my notecard to the cross–scrawled front and back with all the things I wanted to surrender to God, the things I wanted Him to transform and redeem about my life, the things I needed help to let go of–the shiny outer shell would have to go with it and I’d have to come to terms with the real mess in my heart.

That night, I discovered that broken doesn’t mean worthless, and struggling doesn’t mean failure, though it would take me years to unpack what that really means.

Late into the night, I cried myself out with my youth group circled around; stars above and a quiet voice that said to me, “Emily, if you will journey with Me wherever I ask you to go, I will restore you, heal you, and give you a deep and unshakeable joy in place of your sorrow.” I would have settled for anything close to no-longer-hurting, but this was a pretty sweet deal.

I said a quiet, but critical “yes” in my heart, and thus, the journey began.

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’” Jeremiah 29:11-14

“The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” Psalm 34:17-22

 

 

Redemptive Motherhood

Introduction to Redemptive Motherhood

Welcome, sweet friends, and thank you for spending a few minutes to check out my 2017 Write 31 Days series: Redemptive Motherhood. I hope this glimpse into my motherhood journey makes you laugh and cry (the good kind of tears). I hope to surprise and delight you with the stories of these tender years, and I hope that if something you find here sparks a question or makes you curious about some part of my journey, that you will send me a personal note to connect. Thanks for reading.
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There are many things a mother treasures in her heart; a baby’s hearty giggle, the knuckle and elbow dimples of a chubby toddler, the wonder and wide eyes of a captivated child, and the horrified screams of a seven-year-old’s first ride on a roller coaster. That last one happened a week ago, and I’m still laughing about it.

There are those sentimental sorts of things that are etched into my mind of fleeting moments and seasons that tug at the strings in the center of me, and then there are treasures hidden even deeper where hopelessness and heartache have given way to profound healing, clear purpose, and unshakeable joy that I would shelve in the Miracle category, given where I have journeyed from.

I have set out to write this series because I want to trace the lines of God’s faithfulness to mend my deep personal brokenness in unexpected ways through these tender years, so that my children will one day know these stories, and so I don’t forget them myself. It is easy to forget the graces of early, humble days where a foundation is laid and built upon. It is a risk that our stories might be stripped of their original beauty because we have only logged the blur of years flying by.

This series is a pause and reflection; a bucket drawn up from our deep family well; a tale of our beginnings and the restoration of my heart, which I once thought was irreparably broken. It turns out, healing can happen. Hope can triumph over heartache, and redemption…well…

Redemption can come in the form of a baby. Or six babies, in my case; three boys and three girls who have changed me, a husband who has held and strengthened me, and a true and trustworthy God that whispers close to my heart the promise of purposeful surrender to His plans for me.

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

 

Life & Faith

Growing and Changing

It’s been a while since I’ve written off the cuff; a glimpse into our current everyday. This year has been full of new ideas, new projects, and new challenges. I’ve been surprised at myself, on several fronts.

Kindred Mom has received the lion’s share of my creative attention this year, and with it has come a quiet season for other creative things. I haven’t been taking many photos. I haven’t been sewing or painting or lettering (all things I enjoy), and I haven’t been here on this personal blog capturing bits of our lives as I did for years before. I’m missing this space, and the sweet reflections about life as it happens in real time.

It’s not all bad, though. This year has been one of stretching and growing in unexpected ways. My littlest guy is half a year from his two-year birthday, and I have an eleven year old that is wearing my shoes. Weird stuff, I tell you. The family landscape is changing by the month as everyone grows into their new grades and we’ve experienced some giant developmental shifts into the moody pre-teen zone. My free spirit girl is looking me in the eyes. My nine year old is outsmarting me. My middle boy is learning legit hip hop dance moves (goodbye goofy gangly arm-flinging). My middle girl looks a bit like a miniature fitness instructor; ponytail, spare energy, and bright, overeager face and all. The purple-loving girl is finding her voice among the chaos while she sings Moana’s “standing at the edge of the water” with enough toddler-speak still mixed in to make me feel like she’s still my baby even though she doesn’t look like it. Hank the Tank has graduated out of his crib after learning how to climb (and fall) out of it. That means I have six kids and no one in a crib. Someone hold me.

They’re all growing, and I have been too. The spring brought a wave of grief with the passing of several special women in my life. I have experienced the shift between feeling like life is full of possibilities and wonder, to feeling the sharp pang of loss and the fragility of life. I know its not one or the other–its the tension of both–but it does make me feel a touch more aware that today is a gift, and tomorrow is not a guarantee. It makes me feel like I need to say to you who are reading this–I love you and want you to be well and whole and surrounded by love. I want you to know that whatever you feel about God, He wants you to be well and whole and surrounded by His love, if you’re open to it. That is His heart. Even if Christians or other religious people have made you feel otherwise by their judgmental views and behavior. I’m sorry for the times that has been me, not loving first, but living by fear or guarded because of my own insecurities. We have a finite amount of days, and fear will not rule mine.

I’ve been sorting some things out in my creative life, and having started up the Kindred Mom adventure in February, it has taken me a while to figure out how to tend both spaces–here and there. I’ve thrown everything I have into that mission for the past 6 months, which I do not regret. It’s been a tremendous experience and I’m hoping it will continue to grow and be an encouragement to mamas in the trenches, but I want to be back here too. I’ve been writing in other online spaces for the purpose of promoting Kindred Mom, and I’ll be adding excerpts of those essays here in the near future, but I also want to be here sharing less-crafted snapshots of my own motherhood journey and our family adventures. I want to do my best to capture the stories I hope my children will read as adults and remember what a precious season of life this is. Last year in October, I did a Write 31 Days series on Soulful Simplicity. It was a terrific experience that I hope to repeat this October with a new topic. I’m tentatively calling my new series 31 Days of Redemptive Motherhood, and will be sharing stories and treasures I’ve collected these past 11 years from giving birth to and mothering these remarkable children. They have changed and challenged me. They have blessed me and ballooned my heart. It seems fitting that I’d spend an extended amount of time chronicling these things.

If there is any part of my journey you would be especially interested to know about in that series, I’d love for you to share with me so I can try and touch on those subjects as I write the series. I’m taking the month of September to plan everything out, and then you’ll (hopefully) hear from me every day in October. Maybe.

Sending love to you, wherever you are right now.

“For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:18-22

1386. a new spiral bound planner to plan out my writing, 1387. unexpected opportunities, 1388. invitation to a silent retreat…yes please, 1389. eclipse viewing with the kids, 1390. recent visits with family, 1391. calendaring out fall’s adventures, 1392. baby’s fascination with my soft belly–that he caused, 1393. football season back again, 1394. backyard time with the VWs, 1395. wednesday night group bbq, 1396. new fall routines around the bend, 1397. mighty m’s cheek healing up, 1398. worship in the kitchen while doing dishes, 1399. warm, mild summer days, 1400. being back on this blog

Poetry

The Beauty of Dust

worm that i am
in the dirt
gulping more of the earth
as i go

do i know what i am?

grit of the ground
thought worthless and wanting
still i eat and writhe, wandering
low against my will

do i know what i am?

i don’t want to see
don’t make me
acknowledge i am
what i am

do i know?

pressed on all sides
in the dirt

a mess of dressing myself with laurel
a lie to try to be more
than i am

do i know what i am?

yes, i know and i tremble
there is no dressing dirt into lovely life
on my own

i know what i am

is not possible without breath, without love
careful to conceal
but i see, yet in slivers
small bites i can handle

what i am is

dirt in the Hand
that regards not the proud
but the humble who see

the beauty of dust

 


“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ” Genesis 1:26-28

1376. blissful Seattle summer temperatures, 1377. beach day and the sunburned feet to prove it, 1378. time with my pops, 1379. healing conversations, 1380. seeing the thread that weaves, 1381. new pegboard visual organization for homeschool, 1382. circling back to simplify, 1383. freedom, 1384. homemade lemonade made by friends (yum), 1385. 12 years in a week

 

Life & Faith / Poetry

The Form of Love

to be young, eager, chase what allures

to be old, wise, long-savor morsels of joy in the bleak

to twirl and sing quiet so nobody hears

to stand, speak strong truth nobody wants

not the achiever, not the laissez-faire

not anyone save the desperate soul

who pines for rescue from boggy mire

 

to be convinced, certain, questions checked outside

to be open, but not wide. well within a boundary

to grip unstable characters ’til sand succumbs to sea

to surrender, to die and not die, surprise gift easily missed

not striving, not despairing

not anyone save the yielded soul

who sees light in the dark, inside itself

 

to be beautiful, slick and debonaire

to be simple, fuss not for temporary promises

to mirror circular pride, the see-more, want-more always

to lift eyes up to hills that rumble value to

not the adequate, not the falsely-humble

not anyone save the honest soul

who reaches wide to take the form of love

*****

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:5-9

1366. writing time, 1367. stories of God’s faithfulness, 1368. finding my way, 1369. a successful zoo day, 1370. sons working together, 1371. the fall-asleep station (mama’s bed) for two toddlers, 1372. a new dish scrubby, 1373. little daisies, 1374. summer fun with friends, 1375. dreaming big

Life & Faith

Finding My Way By Candlelight

I started college, and I was a bit of a wanderer as it related to matters of the heart. I had no established home, and no safe place to set down my cares (which were many), except in the hands of a nice girl who said hello one day, and became my bosom friend the next. We spent our first hours as friends singing worship songs in the stairwell between our dorm rooms, which although “randomly” assigned, were in the same wing of the same dorm, one floor apart from each other.

She didn’t know when she extended her hand and warm smile that I was in a million pieces on the inside, but within a few days of friendship, I couldn’t keep my brave face on and instead, I sobbed in her lap for the first of many times, heaving out my desperate sorrows for hours on end.

I curled into the fetal position with my head on her lap and cried and cried. It was the first time I allowed myself the deep grief I’d been carrying for years. She stroked my hair and I kept on crying, my hair a tangled mess, and my life about the same. After my childhood family became fractured by divorce, I went to college far away on purpose, so I might find space enough to gather my broken pieces.

She didn’t totally understand why I was so distraught, but she soothed and prayed for me anyway—over and over—drawing from a well of love I didn’t understand at the time either, not until I became acquainted more with her family, and more specifically, her grandmother.

Sometime that first year of friendship, she coaxed me aboard a ferryboat to cross the Puget Sound over to Vashon Island, where her grandmother, Softa, lived in a quaint home, affectionately named A Wee Bit O’ Ireland. A black gate at the entrance bore a sign declaring the name, and my new friend went on and on about how wonderful this grandmother of hers was. I thought for sure, she was just a normal woman with a nice house and a lot of love for her grandchildren. It didn’t take long to discover that she was no ordinary woman—but rather a force of love and beauty and a true matriarch.

We arrived to her home in the dark, and I have a picture in my mind of her opening the door in her nightgown with lipstick on, lifting a candle in a holder where you slip your finger through a ring to carry it around. She was smiling.

It seemed like she was always smiling.

I didn’t know someone could be as endlessly warm, as endlessly kind as she was. I’m not sure I ever saw even a momentary frown on her face. I literally can’t picture her face without a smile on it.

Every time I set foot inside her house, I was loved from all sides.

She offered me tea, and served me a scone or a slice of pie.

She invited me to sit by her fireplace, where I was surrounded by little items and books collected from her world travels; places I have never been and may never go, but tasted a bit of the adventure through her souvenirs and stories.

She made me a royal guest in a bed with fresh sheets that had been ironed, topped with a voluminous down comforter.

She smiled contentedly when I sat at her piano with my sweet college friend and sang out songs we had written together, pleased about the music we filled her home with.

She set her long dining-room table, and extravagantly filled it with delicious food. In that space, my cavernous soul-hunger was filled for a stretch and my brokenness mended a bit with her attentive care and listening ear.

I was loved from all sides—the inside, outside, and many intangible sides as well.

For many months now, I have been personally reflecting on the spiritual implications of a matriarch within a family, and the role a matriarch plays in passing on a spiritual heritage to her descendants.

Beyond the simple Webster definition of a matriarch, I have pondered, and processed, and prayed about this word, and now consider it with more dimension than I ever did before.

In my view, a matriarch is a strong figure within a family, and one that is called to:

  • Sow the word of Truth in her family.
  • Turn her eyes toward heaven for the manna that sustains her and her descendants.
  • Praise and honor the name of the Lord — not only as her personal act of worship, but also as a beacon of light, showing those that follow her the way of love.
  • Mine the Word of God for riches and wisdom.
  • Model generosity, hospitality, and joy.
  • Be a peacemaker.

A matriarch holds up a banner of love over a family, shows the young ones how to love each other, teaches a family how to forgive and receive forgiveness, and models how to build a life on a firm foundation that won’t topple down when the winds blow.

A matriarch loves from all sides and lights the way.

These are all things I aspire to do as I grow into this role myself.

Grandma Marilynn was this prolific type of matriarch.

I still see her candle, lit in the dark, welcoming strangers and friends in from the cold. Her smiling face may no longer be here, but the light she left remains with us.

We can love each other from all sides. We can welcome hurting hearts into our warm homes, and give them our prayers and attention. We can forgive others and receive forgiveness for ourselves. We can build our lives on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone, and we will not topple down when the winds blow. We can look to the Bible for wisdom. We can be peacemakers in a broken world.

This is how we carry the light that has been shared with us to those who come after us.

Thank you, Grandma Marilynn, for your expert love and care, and for the example of how to live and love, well. In your absence, we will carry the light with courage and boldly live the love you showed us.

“You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.” Psalm 65:9 NASB

1351. the memory of Grandma Marilynn, 1352. the life-saving friendship of Marilynn Song, 1353. new podcast for moms, 1354. the joy of sharing stories, mine and others’, 1355. the new homeschool organization method I’m sorting out, 1356. after-midnight quiet in the midst of sound sleepers, 1357. the fierce hugs of mighty M, 1358. purpose and passion, 1359. sunny seattle days, 1360. backyard time with the VWs, 1361. planned summer adventures, 1362. a little less sugar in my life, 1363. watching Gpa Mac help E make a boat out of wood, 1364. still-blooming orchids, 1365. the last sweet weeks of nursing the baby

Family / Motherhood

Take Notice


One photo a week throughout the year. 7
/52 (a few weeks behind)

I sliced my index finger open tonight. I was carefully cutting up potatoes to roast in the oven. I wasn’t rushing. I wasn’t distracted. Miraculously, there were not three little people circling my legs as I stood at the cutting board, as there often are. Still, somehow the blade met the edge of my finger and took with it a bit of material it would have been nice to have kept to myself.

Ouch.

I didn’t cry, but I did feel a little stunned.

How did that just happen?

All afternoon, I have been thinking about the jumble of thoughts I’ve had in my brain all week. I sometimes feel myself moving about on auto-pilot–as moms are known to do on little sleep–while my brain whirrs away in some other place, but just a few hours ago, the glorious Seattle sun came out and beckoned us to the park for some fresh air and play time.

***

I sit on the park bench where things become clear, sun on my face and the crisp March breeze blowing the straggling hairs across my face that have fallen from my unwashed top-knot mom-‘do. I watch my kids dart to-and-fro about the playground.

Slow down, Em.

Slow. It. Down.

See them running and laughing? Take notice.

The one in yellow leggings and an oversized sweater: She’ll be five next week, even though it was only a few blinks ago that she was swaddled up in a pink blanket, smiling in her sleep between feedings. Her spindly, runner-legs carry her around the park loop and her wild hair follows behind.

Take notice.

The one in a blue athletic jacket and the oversized, awkward teeth of a pre-teen boy. That is your son that came home from the hospital at seven and a half pounds and is now nearly staring you in the eyes. Nine on Saturday. Nine years old. How did that just happen?

Take notice.

I will, I say to myself. I am taking notice.

I notice that for all the irritating moments of the same messes and the same squabbles happening over and over, that we are knit together. These mundane, ordinary days are the ones where the seeds once sown are sprouting and growing…not quite like I imagined, but better. Sweeter. More interesting and challenging. Young hearts eager to squeeze all the fun out of life and a mom who wants to make sure that every day of innocent childhood that can be afforded to them be kept so, carefully guarded with love and sacrifice.

So I watch and cherish the time, fiercely protecting these years from the angst and horror of the outside world. There will be a time when the carefree days are clouded with the complicated issues of humanity, but for now, I revel in the lifeline they are for me. They remind me daily that there is heart-rending beauty in the midst of this broken world.

PS. For those who are worried about the cut, I am fine. It’s not serious, but not awesome either. I’m here typing awkwardly with all the wrong fingers while my bandaged digit points at the screen so I don’t accidentally tap it against the keys. I guess one could call this adventures in writing.
…………

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17-18

1341. the purple dress, 1342. big brother doing dishes of his own accord, 1343. gentle reminders, 1344. seeing a friend’s heart awaken to the love of God, 1345. growing Kindred Mom community, 1346. healing conversations, 1347. podcast plans, 1348. husband to the rescue (re: finger), 1349. growing into vision, 1350. a sweet gift from a new friend in the mail

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Processing Pain

One photo a week throughout the year. 6/52

My phone vibrates in my pocket and I want to dig it out to see who has sent me a text message. I’m puttering around my over-stuffed kitchen. There is hardly any counter space and there is food and mess and dishes for eight people, which means it pretty much always feels like a disaster, even if I diligently scrape and rinse and stow dishes away after every meal. On one level, I’ve made my peace with it. On another level, it feels like an irritant; a constant reminder of all that I’m not good at. I reason there is not much that can be done. The space is small and there isn’t much storage space.

It’s a problem in more than one area of my life. There are a lot of things floating around that don’t have a permanent place to land. I’m not especially attached to any of it, but dealing with clutter takes a special brand of focus and energy that seems to run in short supply for me. I care far more about connection and creativity to stress about which papers go in the recycle bin and which should be filed away, so all the papers live in piles wherever they might be least likely to be disturbed. I would like to say I know where most of the important things are. I used to be able to keep those kind of details close at hand in my brain until I started having kids. Now, it is possible that I might be holding a pen in one hand while I look around for the location of that same pen on the surfaces around me, frustrated that I can’t find something to write with. I joke with my husband that I sacrificed most of my brain cells to give birth to six beautiful children, and we both laugh because its partly true.

The sink water runs while I dry one hand on the towel near me to retrieve my phone. I read the words.

“I miscarried last week. It has been rough for me. Trying to reach out.”

I flick the faucet handle down and feel instantly powerless to comfort, powerless to help in any meaningful way. My chest tightens up and tears scratch at my eyes and I suddenly forget how to pick up dishes, rinse them and set them in the dishwasher. This isn’t the first pregnancy loss. Or the second, or the third even. With each one, I watch the hope drain out from afar, and it breaks my heart. Truthfully, I don’t know the pain in any first-person way, but I imagine it and feel whatever it is that one feels when wanting to absorb the shock that someone else is feeling in the midst of their sudden emptiness.

What do I say? What can I say?

I can’t land on anything solid.

One of my children dashes through the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement with a younger sibling in hot pursuit of some stolen treasured item that went down the stairs with the former. My guess would be it is a bouncy ball or a flip-open magnifying-glass toy, but I don’t care enough to ask or intervene.

I keep looking at the text and wish I could be instantly there, holding her head in my lap, stroking her hair gently, and praying for God’s comfort to meet her in the sorrowful moments—in this sorrow-filled season of uncertainty—while we both cry about it.

It seems unfair to encounter sorrow after sorrow when the desire of the heart is great. Maybe it is unfair, or maybe it is part of what is knitting us closer together. I have never miscarried, but I have seen other hopes die. I know the pain of loss in other ways and these reminders of it are what keep me tender-hearted and compassionate to others in their own seasons of struggle.

With all my heart, I wish I could find a way to help her around the pain instead of having to watch her go through it, but I’m aware that I don’t have that kind of power.

I fumble with my phone while I dry the other hand and manage a lame text in response. Lame because it accomplishes nothing, fixes nothing, and doesn’t make me feel any better either.

I sit down on the floor of my kitchen, my back against the cupboards under the kitchen sink. The only comfort I have ever found in these moments when my heart is deeply grieved comes from Jesus. It feels simplistic to put it like that, but it is true. When I discovered for myself that He shows up and enters into the wounded, hurting space to set a weeping woman free from lifelong fear, freeing her—or rather me—from the heavy responsibility to hold every last thing together, from the grip of despair, from the anger that drains all the beauty out of life…when I discovered that every last ache will one day be redeemed by the power of His all-consuming love; that was a day that changed everything for me.

I turn my heart inside out and beg for His sweet mercies to land close to the broken heart on the other end of this text thread. I ask Him with fervor to gather up her brokenness and comfort her the way He has comforted me in the lowest moments of my life. Tenderly. In the protective way of a good Father. Lord, in Your mercy, let it be so.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV

1331. new shoes for all the kids — at 70% off, 1332. the beauty and mystery of transformation, 1333. late night dreaming-while-awake, 1334. seeing a vision coming to life, 1335. fabric for a new baby banner for a friend, 1336. engagement party for a girl I knew when she was less than 10 years old, 1337. a lasagna gift, 1338. roozy boozy showing me where her feelings live, 1339. hubba-la-bubba-la baby babble, 1340. purple birthday plans in the works

Family / Motherhood

Flourishing in Motherhood

One photo a week throughout the year. 5/52

We arrived to our weekly homeschool group a few minutes late, as usual. No matter how highly I personally value punctuality, I have not been able to reliably get myself and six kids to destinations on time since my youngest was born nearly a year ago. With all my heart, I want to arrive on time, but I’m only one woman and there are quite a few personalities in my family that frequently prevent me from finding success in that quest.

Still, every time I arrive somewhere late, I feel defeated.

The other moms are huddled in a circle, sharing pertinent announcements and prayer requests with the group. I’m late, but my friends open the circle and draw us in with warm smiles. I have one hand on the stroller where my little guy is squirming around, attempting to escape the clutches of his 5-point harness. My other hand pats the head of his 3-year old sister who is sitting on my foot with her arms wrapped around my leg while she warms to the new environment. The other kids have dispersed to look for their friends who are in the adjacent gym space, bouncing balls and running about with energy to spare.

I’m here. Whew. I’m here.

One sweet newcomer to our group begins sharing about the tumultuous journey of watching her elderly father approach death. His health has been steadily declining, and everyone expects him to pass at any time, but whenever the family makes peace with his passing, he rebounds back from the brink of death for a few days.

She tells us how it is hard to be caught between savoring the last days/weeks with him and mourning the life that is slipping away before her eyes.

Tears are streaming ferociously down my face. I genuinely feel for her, but there is also a moment where I realize that her vulnerability to share with our group has poked a hole in my brave-mom facade, revealing the raw and tender part of me that I’ve been hiding all week.

We comfort her and pray for her, and then I find the courage to say out loud:

I feel like a constant disappointment these days…

The rest of this essay appears on Kindred Mom…head over there to read the rest!

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.” Psalm 40:4-5 NASB

1321. essays received for Kindred Mom, 1322. a smoother week than last week, 1323. baby walking everywhere, 1324. valentine-making with friends, 1325. kid wonder’s night out with friends, 1326. small amounts of seattle snow, 1327. invitations, 1328. the growth I see in myself over time, 1329. compliments regarding my sons, 1330. jill briscoe talk – the importance of living our mission

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Finding My Voice

One photo a week throughout the year. 4/52

From a young age, they tell me I have natural talent. It’s nice for them to say, but I’m a quiet, reserved child, so I’m not sure about that. I like to sing but I don’t like drawing attention to myself, which means I never sing very loud. I wait until the music is turned up a bit or until I’m in my room where I can close the door. I listen to my mother sing harmonies and quietly try to imitate her, tuning my ear to the nuances of the music.

In the middle years, my life is tumultuous. My dad doesn’t live at my house anymore. He took my youngest brother with him, and nothing feels stable or normal. I cope by muscling out perfect grades in every class, unable (or unwilling) to accept less. Anything less than an “A” would expose the reality that I am crumbling on the inside. I am fractured—just like my family—and I sing to keep myself afloat. It is the only art I can make, partly because I don’t really have to work at it that hard, and I am fighting deep depression. Maybe they were right about the natural talent. I like to think it was God’s lifeline to me. He gave me a voice to explore so that I might learn how to explore other things that bring life and joy—little by little, inch by inch.

I go to college and find myself thoroughly deconstructed. I can’t keep up the perfection I managed to muscle in earlier years. Instead I crack open the rawest place and scribble lyrics of my deep brokenness, squeaking out desperate prayers and pleas for God to come and help me find a way out of the dark place, proclaiming a desire to heal long before the healing comes.

God brings me a man that takes me by the hand right out of that mire. We make love and babies and very, very slowly, light begins pouring into me. He disarms me with his humility and opens up the spaces I’ve curled in around. The fears that hold me with fury start losing their grip. Simple times, little faces, and rearranged perspective starts me looking for beauty in new places: the ordinary moments of every day; the miracle I am living.

I find a camera in my hands and start freezing everything beautiful I see. At first I think I’m going to be somebody bigger or better, but I quickly learn that seeing deeply is far more important than the constant pressure to prove myself…to myself. Behind vanity, sometimes there are worthy pursuits. Vanity, however, can set the less mature person in a compromised direction. My subjects smile into my lens and I see the vulnerable moment just before I click when they are asking themselves, do I look ok? Do my faults and fears show? Does my nice outfit and carefully groomed appearance hide my insecurity? No, it doesn’t. It does help me see for myself that I am not the only one that constantly wonders if I am (fill in the blank) enough, and I see a new beauty in humanity that only comes in a shared vulnerable moment.

My sweet neighbor teaches me how to sew. I never wanted to learn, especially when my grandmother wanted to teach me as a child. It took too much time and effort to make things look perfect. I just knew it, even though I never really tried. She shows me the way to embrace things that take time; the value in one step at a time. Now I experience a calm purpose as I wash, dry, iron the fabric, tear the cut edges to square up, measure, cut, align, pin, sew, and turn. The process is beauty to me.

For many years, I carry a cavernous hunger. I am desperate to be filled, even though all the food I devour doesn’t touch it. I eat my feelings, as they say, and love the starch, the carbohydrate, and convenience of things in packages. I don’t want to cook, because I’m terrified of being locked up in a chauvinist marriage. I tell my good man from the beginning, I am not your house maid. I am not your cook. He loves me anyway, and does all those things until I learn on my own that filling the hearts and bellies of the ones I love is one of the greatest joys, and that chopping stuff with a good knife is therapeutic.

I write words in every different place over all the years from the early to the present. Journals, spiral notebooks, and one blog after the next. I don’t call myself a writer because it is scary to own my voice. I avoid. I hide. I agonize. I stretch. I try to write again and again until the dam is compromised enough to fall down completely and bring the rushing water all the way through the previously dry channel. My voice is found, and while I am trepidatious about the power it wields, I know that I can’t rest until I help others find theirs as well.

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Friends – I am eager to share a new venture with you. It is a project that is very dear to my heart, and I am believing it will be an encouragement to many. I invite you to check out Kindred Mom, a collaborative blog where many different women will be sharing about their motherhood experiences through story-driven essays. I would love your support as Kindred Mom is getting established. You can do any of the following:

> Follow us on Instagram and Twitter
> Join our Kindred Mom Facebook Group
> Submit an essay to Kindred Mom
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> Read along as we begin sharing essays and let your mama friends know about the blog

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

1311. my husband’s constant (and sacrificial) support of all my crazy ideas, 1312. roozy boozy’s new haircut, 1313. hank starting to find his confidence with walking, 1314. big buddy’s constant hugs, 1315. riding together as a family (still new and quite exciting), 1316. seeing threads come together, 1317. making some new banners, 1318. met new neighbors, 1319. sermon on the vastness of God’s redemptive power, 1320. friends on the Kindred Mom journey with me