Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Redemptive Motherhood

Colors through the Gray

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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Before I had a twirling wonder of a child, my world was gray. I was mostly-sunk, like a tired swimmer treading water with the waves pulling me under, my upturned face the only thing still above water to gulp in enough air to stay alive. At that time, everything I did was chosen entirely for it’s function, not for beauty, and even now, I struggle to truly delight and savor things because the muscle memory of trauma skips joy for the substance of whatever is feels certain. I hold to things that feel permanent, even if the thing itself is of no value or consequence, because of the comfort that comes with things not changing.

I locked out joy, and could see only what was necessary for the next breath or the next terrifying step toward healing which often involved learning to trust, learning to love, or letting go of stuff, none of which are particularly easy for a sensitive, wounded soul.

In the seven year period I regard as my depression years (age 15-22), I never did see a counselor or therapist to work through my issues. (Please note this is not my recommendation, just my reality). At the time, I honestly didn’t know that counseling was available or that it might be able to help someone like me. I feel dumb acknowledging that now, because it sounds so silly that I would struggle and struggle for years without help, but on this side of it, I know that this happens far more than people realize. I wonder if my healing journey might not have been quite as drawn out, or quite as painful as it was if I had more proactively sought out help. It has only been in the past few years have I read about symptoms of depression and realize, that was me for so many years. Those are the years I lamented, cried, became numb, robotic, developed a serious co-dependency problem that I’m still recovering from, and found it incredibly difficult to find anything at all to smile about. Every ounce of my energy was put toward staying on the rails and not falling apart.

Never really landed in a singular friend group during high school or college because I was preoccupied trying to not die of sorrow and didn’t have it in me to do the fun things all my friends and acquaintances did. It sounds dramatic, but I’m not exaggerating. My cares weighed heavy on me for so long, I forgot how to enjoy anything, I forgot how to notice, or dance or twirl. I forgot how to let my lungs be deeply filled and let out a satisfied sigh. I couldn’t see anything past the fog in my face.

This child twirled her way through the gray and brought with her bright colors I had long forgotten. When she was still in utero, my mother-in-law offered to make some things for the nursery, a crib skirt and blanket, with my choice of fabric. I didn’t think about it long before I chose bright, bold, nearly neon colors. I can’t say why they especially appealed to me (other than I am truly no decorator), but I think something in me was desperate to cut through the gray of my life with the promise of this sweet girl coming. The first year of her life was something akin to a black and white world that slowly turned into color whenever she touched something.

From her earliest days, she wanted to experience the fullness of everything. If we visited a friend’s house with a new playroom full of toys, instead of finding something interesting to play with for a while, she would search out every bin/drawer/basket that could be moved, and would dump out the entire contents of each one, and look over, touch, feel, and love every last thing in them, without exception.

With her there are no barriers, there is no moderation, there is no dainty or cautious or waiting for permission to love or enjoy something. There is only chocolate smeared across her two, seven, and eleven year old face—still the messiest eater in the family to this day because of her delight in the food she consumes. There is a constant smile of possibility on her face when she’s come up with an idea of something she wants to make or something she has imagined to be. There is an undying commitment to stop, smell every flower, and savor it’s heavenly greeting in the form of a satisfied smile. There is close-the-eyes and spill-the-music-from-her-bones in untrained, unrestrained motion along with the sounds from our speakers. There is, “Twirl with me, mama. Let’s dance,” and I let her lead me on the ever-continuing journey to discover beauty and cherish the small things that make life sweet.

For years, life was all gray for me. Then she burst in—all rainbow sun-shiny and wide-eyed—determined to squeeze the very best out of life from her earliest years forward, and determined to help me do the same. When she was three, a friend asked her to come and join in on a complimentary dance class, and we leapt at the chance because at the time, we didn’t have the means to enroll her in an ongoing dance program. We borrowed some little dance shoes and slipped a leotard and tutu on her, and she joined a dozen little girls in a fairly small studio for a half hour of bliss. She followed exactly zero directions from the teacher but she loved the music and the opportunity to twirl around, chubby hands and awkward toddler body with no grace or form, but all the joy in the world. Pure delight.

She has changed me in ways that are hard to describe, because I’m still not able to find all the words to tell our private mother-daughter story in all it’s layers. It has been a slow, beautiful process of learning from my sweet daughter that soul survival is not primarily about guarding against pain, but whole-heartedly inviting beauty into the gray places to do the healing.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3

 

Redemptive Motherhood

First Brush with Precipitous Birth

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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For weeks, Daddy had been randomly asking me why I wasn’t in labor yet. He was excited to meet the baby, but with him, excitement rarely looks like excitement. He bumps the heckling banter-factor, and impatiently but playfully pokes fun at whatever it is he is excited about. He watched me closely at our anniversary dinner on the Seattle Waterfront, enjoying his meal and hoping that I would tell him we needed to head to the hospital to have a baby. Heavily pregnant and more than ready to get things started, I can say it was also my wish to have a first anniversary dinner-turned-baby’s-birthday, but it came and went with no labor action.

I waited two more days before the pop and gush happened. I bolted up from my bed, where I had been stretched out in the late afternoon, waiting for something resembling labor to rustle up, calling various friends on the brick cell phone I used all through college to pass the time. I called to the other room that my water had broken and it was baby time. He sprang up and I waddled my way out of the room. None of the fluid got on the bed (miraculously), but there was a puddle on the floor, and I left a bit of a trail as I inched to the bathroom, fluid leaking and both of our eyes big. It was finally happening. I was enthralled that the day had arrived, and blissfully naive about what the next few hours would look like.

I called my doctor, and she said to get straight to the hospital, don’t wait. I don’t know if she knew something I didn’t, but I was surprised she was so insistent. I mean, I knew I was going into labor, but I hadn’t had any contractions yet, and I didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. We flurried around, exchanged nervous smiles, and snapped up the bag that had been waiting by the door for weeks, pre-packed with all the things I thought we might need at the hospital, of course extracted from every checklist I could find in the weeks prior.

We zoomed across town in our little car to the largest hospital in the area. Twenty minutes into the ride, I was not smiling anymore. I stared at the clock on the dashboard and breathed hard. Really hard.

7:35pm

We shuffled through the doors of the hospital and a nice man with badges around his neck whipped a wheelchair around and sat me in it. We arrived in L&D triage a few minutes later. The room was white, several alcoves around a circular nurses’ station, separated by curtains but not all that private. I was connected to a monitor and the nurse tried in vain to collect a sample of the amniotic fluid on a pH paper.

“You’re 3cm dilated,” she says. I had actually been 3cm for week, so I wasn’t terribly excited to hear that through the contractions that were furrowing my brow and making me more irritated by the minute that they wouldn’t just admit me. They were still trying to decide if I was in labor, because if you are a 23-year-old first time mom, apparently you don’t know anything.

Ready to swear if I had to, I wanted them to get me to a room, pronto.

When they finally directed us out of triage around 8pm, I couln’t walk to the room (steps away) on my own. They wanted us to sign papers and put on a gown and settle in, but all I could think was to get myself to the toilet, where I found comfort through the contractions by relaxing my pelvis and rocking back and forth.

For months, I had primed Daddy with all the different techniques I’d read about for labor support measures so he could jump in, but when I was in the thick of things, I couldn’t handle anyone talking to me, touching me, or being too close. I drew intensely inward and had to do this part of it by myself. It was not really a voluntary choice, but the pain and intensity were so consuming that I couldn’t communicate or respond to much, and just waved everyone off.

Later he told me it hurt his feelings that I didn’t involve him more. It was a sorry/not sorry situation. I did feel bad that he felt hurt, but I literally couldn’t do any other thing than what I did at the time. A woman in labor cannot be concerned about other people’s feelings, even if she wants to be. Sorry, dads.

Labor was furiously intense. I spent an hour in that bathroom groaning and swaying with an unsnapped hospital gown (I couldn’t get it all the way on), before they coaxed me out to a birth ball at the end of the hospital bed. I wasn’t totally happy to be on he ball, but I couldn’t move myself anywhere, so I dealt with it.

I was comforted by the monitor, and Daddy took to letting me know when a contraction had peaked and was on the descent. Finally, a job I would let him do. We kept at that for a little bit. Around 9:30, two and a half hours into labor with my first baby, I was deep in my own world, eyes squeezed shut, shoulders up to my ears to get through the contractions that were coming every 2 minutes with barely a breath in between.

Everyone in the room (my mom had arrived, a nurse was there) spoke in hushed whispers. I heard the nurse say, “She probably has 4-6 more hours of this,” and my spirit broke at that moment. I could NOT do this for four more hours, I knew it. I blurted out that I needed an epidural. NOW. The anesthesiologist came soon after, stuck me a few different times while I hunkered over during unbearable contractions, and I was blissfully free of pain within minutes after that.

I lay on my back, oxygen mask over my nose and mouth, free of the excruciating pain I’d been in knots about only minutes ago. Within ten minutes of the epidural, I started grunting and involuntarily pushing the baby out. I couldn’t stop it. They urged me to try and wait for the doctor (who whipped into the room about that time), but it was go-time.

With a full-bore epidural on board, I did not feel the pain (or the tearing I had so desperately feared). The doc said I could do it. I could push my baby out. Put my legs here. Tuck my chin. Bear down with the counting. Twenty minutes and there she was; my sweet wonder child with a little nose smashed to the side, born in a wild 3.5 hours from the spontaneous rupture.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17

Redemptive Motherhood

The Power of Yes: Embracing New Life

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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We had a deal. I would keep the calendar, and he would always ask if we were in the fertile window. I have a deep-in-my-bones aversion to taking anything, be it birth control, Tylenol, or ironically, prenatal vitamins, so that left us with natural family planning as the most appealing option for sorting out our reproductive lives. Is anyone really surprised that there was an afternoon that he didn’t ask, I didn’t speak up, and biology happened?

Afterward, standing in the shower, I casually mentioned that maybe we might be a little bit close to the fertile window. There was an incredulous, “WHAT?!” followed by a shrug of the shoulders, which is also par for the course in our marriage. We roll with things. It’s the Allen Way. It has served us well and spared a whole lot of unnecessary grief about a great many things.

We still tease each other about the fact that he didn’t ask, I didn’t say a word, and that is why we’re now up to our ears in children.

I know we chose natural family planning and all, but the idea of becoming a mother did not seriously cross my mind until the lines blinked at me. Or I blinked at them with a thrill and gasp and a resounding yes within me. I embrace you, little one, I wrote in my journal that day. I let my usually-heavy heart soar in those first weeks, daydreaming my way through the evening grad-school classes I was taking at the time (and could barely stay awake for because of first trimester exhaustion). When the semester ended, I bounced from school to turn my full attention to preparing for motherhood. There was much I had to learn; as in everything.

I was nervous, but not really afraid. I take that back, I was afraid of one thing: tearing during birth. The sheer thought of skin tearing—down there—oh dear. I couldn’t handle the thought of it, even though I knew it was pretty likely to happen. When I wasn’t fixated on that, the knowledge that I was going to be a mother and the swell of my belly filled me with a sense of purpose and a will to flourish like nothing else ever had. I pondered how great it might be to be a mom, but I didn’t anticipate the way this growing child would be deeply healing for me; a triumphant declaration that the hollowness I had felt in my soul for years would be filled with the teeming life of a little girl who would win my heart with a nose that was smashed to one side upon her arrival and a personality that still can’t be pinned or pegged into a category. I didn’t realize that what was broken would become life-giving, life-bearing…that what felt fractured in me would prove to be productive, fruitful—a meaningful realization that embracing the new life of a child might also mean embracing a new kind of life for myself. I would not be like the person who counts up all the things they’ve lost or given up in the course of parenthood, but instead be someone who keeps a tally of what has been gained in the full surrender of saying yes to God, yes to adventure, yes to motherhood. There are now a host of tally-marks on my slate.

Saying yes—and living into that yes—was the start of a beautiful, unexpected new season for me.

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word.’” Luke 1:38

“God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing…” Psalm 68:6a

Redemptive Motherhood

The Start of Us

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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He made his very serious intentions clear early on. I was the girl he wanted to love forever. I was not as certain as he was, mostly because my heart came with some hefty baggage dragging along behind, and I was convinced that if he discovered just how messy it was, he’d want out. It’s not that I didn’t recognize at the beginning that he was quite the catch. I did, and that’s what terrified me. I knew this could be it.

Following weeks of conversations and “chance” meetings in the cafeteria and other places around campus, we went out on our first date. We sat on a bench at the top of a hill overlooking the Seattle skyline, me nestled in the flap of his jacket to shield me from the stinging November wind. By that point, I had learned enough to know that I was sitting next to a remarkable individual. Unfortunately, I was also sitting in a war zone—caught between a desire to respond to his kindness and attention, and the slightly-more-convincing desire to run. One moment, I hoped he would kiss me, and the next, I stuffed down these frightening feelings and slammed a lid on that in a flash.

The prospect of loving and being loved wasn’t something I was ready for, so I made a valiant effort at maintaining walls around my heart. I kept a tight reign on the love coming in, keeping at a slow drip what would otherwise have been a tidal wave. Too scared and too sensitive to take things any faster, I made him stand in the figurative mud with me for three years before I agreed to marry him.

It seems like it should be easy to receive and bask in simple, uncomplicated love, but that is not so for the broken-hearted. The cracks in my soul sucked in and leaked out what my husband-to-be poured in. There was no reliable reservoir where trust could pool up and show me a consistent waterline, and because I was fixated on proving that I was truly too broken to love, I tried everything I could to sabotage our blossoming relationship so he might give up, and thus validate my fears. Except he didn’t give up (although he does admit that there were times he wanted to, which I don’t blame him for).

People that knew him wondered why he continued to pursue me. I wondered the same thing. He tells me there was something in him that wouldn’t let him quit; the whisper of a voice urging him to not give up on me. I attribute that voice to God, who already knew His plans for us—that we were a good match and that together, we would heal from broken homes, broken hearts, and find a flourishing way forward.

It was slow progress at first because I was not only running from love, I was running from God too. I didn’t yet trust that this man, or the God who had whispered hope to me, would love me (or could love me) no matter what. I thought love was earned, kept by doing all the right things, and was something that hinged on me holding myself together (which I was unable do at this point). I also thought that— stats against us and confidence shot through—the likelihood of a marriage “making it” was slim, so I wan’t exactly eager to jump in. Somehow, this incredible guy won me over anyhow. When he asked me to be his wife, I didn’t answer, started crying, and crumpled over his shoulder (while he was still on his knee) and answered with uncontrollable sobs. Does this mean yes? he timidly asked. Oh yes. Yes, through tears. That pretty much sums up most of our marriage, I guess.

At the risk of giving you details you never wanted to know, I’ll tell you about the wonderful wedding gift given to me by years of 90’s purity culture. When I was finally made a wife, I spent my first weeks (and honesty, first years) as a married woman trying to face and overcome the deep shame I had come to associate with my sexuality, a pursuit emphatically marked by me literally throwing up after sex on our honeymoon. It was traumatizing for us both. He was as patient and loving as a freaked-out new husband could be, but for me, that event was an indicator that not only was I an emotional wreck, I was, in fact, actually broken.

This is right about when motherhood came into view. Three months after our wedding, I took a test that gave me back two pink lines. Surprise!

Before we met, I did not desire or plan to have any children. (Insert irony into this all-too-serious-story). I had reasoned that there was just too much risk and pain to bring a child into the world, and at the time, I was all about risk-management. After we met but before we married, I decided that maybe we could have some kids after we had been married a while. I knew this guy would make a really great dad. I was right. We had a five year plan that turned into first anniversary baby instead. Best laid plans.

In the years since our humble beginning, I have learned that while there are no guarantees, our marriage will be whatever we make it. The point is not certainty or even a sense of control. The point is daily, faithful commitment to see the good in each other, surrender the offenses we shoulder, ask for forgiveness, and laugh ourselves silly when the opportunities arise.

We are individuals; each regarded with dignity and respected for who we are, as we are…and together we are us, the Allens, on a grand adventure—trusting God to work in us and through us as we forge a legacy that is worth facing our fears to achieve.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Psalm 127:1

 

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