The Good Work

Last night I sat hunched in the far corner of my couch, head low, shoulders shaking, tears just flowing. Mind you, I find myself especially emotionally vulnerable when I’m sick, so the head cold I have probably just added to everything. Even so.

Shawn came over and sat gently next to me on the couch while I blubbered about feeling like a subpar mom; about the pressure I feel and to have all green, clean, eco friendly products throughout our home and to serve only organic food, ever, all while maintaining our meager budget; about the shame I feel when I look in the mirror and see my soft overweight body, tired eyes and unstyled hair; about how I miss our nice, big house in Oregon and how our tiny apartment makes me feel claustrophobic; about how I’ll never be able to do anything because I can’t do it all.

I was falling apart because I was convinced I was falling short. Shawn offered hugs and encouragement and listening ears and I just sort of shrugged off my meltdown and went to bed without really giving it much more thought. (I was also in a complete Nyquil daze.)

As Emily P. Freeman says in Simply Tuesday, “Maybe your small house with your small people has somehow convinced you that you are too small to matter.”

Yes, on the nose, Emily. That’s exactly how I was feeling.

Trying to grow and rebrand my blog, along with some other creative projects, has kept me glued to my phone lately. Inviting friends to “like” my page, tweeting, posting snapshots; all in hopes of being acknowledged, of being heard, of being seen, of being someone who matters.

Emily also writes, “We’ve been tricked into believing that higher up and further on equals impact and importance.”

I’ve told Shawn over and over again how I feel like such a failure. He keeps reminding me that as long as I’m trying, I’m not failing. Yes, well, those words tend to go in one ear and out the other with me.

This morning, I woke up before the rest of my family. I made some tea to soothe my sore throat, emptied the dishwasher, started a load of laundry, got Nora up and made her breakfast. The rest of my day didn’t look much different. I worked on a project, put away the clean laundry, started the dishwasher, made lunch for Nora. All seemingly routine tasks; nothing terribly glamorous or sparkly.

It wasn’t until I was on the floor, crawling around and making growly noises at my daughter in exchange for toothy grins and belly laughs, that I realized; she doesn’t think I’m a subpar mom. I matter to her. When my husband kisses me and tells me I’m beautiful and that he loves me, I realize; he’s not ashamed of my soft overweight body, tired eyes and unstyled hair.

My website, writing, creative projects, etc. are important to me, yes. But are they important for the right reasons? I started this blog because I wanted to write about things that people could relate to, with hopes that even one person might feel just a little less isolated in their circumstances, feelings, or situation.

I don’t want to live a life so caught up in being heard and getting ahead that I lose sight of my real treasure, my people.

To quote Simply Tuesday one last time, “Let’s take back moments that are lovely even if they are imperfect, words that are powerful even if only one person hears them.”

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Intentions

I know, I know, everyone is sharing their goals and objectives for the new year. I considered just skipping over this post. But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that while it seems we are inundated with articles and posts about 2016 goals, I still often find myself inspired by the aspirations of others.

So in the spirit of inspiration, I thought I’d briefly share my own.

Intentions for 2016:

  • Finances. Shawn and I are working very hard to pull ourselves out of a very sticky, very discouraging financial situation. Our intention for this year is to have the majority of our debt paid off and at the very least, manageable and under control. We will continue to be purposed and thoughtful with our spending; where we spend, how we spend, what we spend on.
  • Fewer Things, More Adventures! We have already simplified much of our life by purging our home of excess, moving into a smaller living space, etc. We want to use our valuable resources (time, energy, money) to experience new places, new people, new adventures as a family, rather than to accumulate more stuff.
  • Grow Stronger, Be Cleaner. Most people have some version of “healthier me” goal for each new year. And while I definitely agree that the pursuit of health is important, I wanted to give myself targets that are more attainable for my lifestyle. So rather than saying something like “I’M GOING TO LOSE FIFTY POUNDS BY MARCH!”, my intention for my own health is to grow stronger and be cleaner. I will continue to work hard in my yoga practice to build a stronger body and to do my best to fuel my system with foods that will nourish and not harm.
  • Steadfastness. I want to be more steadfast as wife and a mom. I want to be strong for my husband and daughter; gracious, kind, loving and supportive. I want to lengthen my fuse and deepen my patience.
  • Creative Endeavors. I have some really fun and exciting things lined up in my creative life for 2016! I’ll be able to elaborate more on that over the next couple of months. I want my passion to bleed into my projects and inspiration to seep through the cracks (because there will be cracks, no perfection here). I’d also like to become more creative in my kitchen. I cook for my family almost every day, and I tend to get into food ruts. So this year I plan to research fun and healthy recipes, new cooking techniques, and experiment with new ingredients.
  • Eat One Piece of Dark Chocolate Everyday: This one pretty much speaks for itself.

And lastly, my greatest intention for this year:

  • ALL THE GRACE. Have you noticed that I have used the word intention rather than goal in this article? I feel that intentions allow for so much more grace than the strictness often associated with goals. I want my life to overflow with grace. Grace for my friends, grace for my family, grace for acquaintances, grace for Utah drivers, and truthfully, mostly, grace for myself. The only way I will be able to make any progress in any of the intentions listed above is if I approach each one, each day, with an abundance of grace. I will fail at some point. I will lose my cool with Nora. I will skip a yoga practice. I will ignore my responsibilities. I will eat ice cream. This is where grace is strongest, this is where it shines brightest; the days when I am weak, the days when I am discouraged, the days when all I can do is cry, the days when I am just so human. Grace will rescue me.

I want to note that these goals and plans aren’t things I intend to keep confined to the year twenty sixteen. Oh no, these are things I want to implement, beginning in the year twenty sixteen and carry out throughout my life. These aren’t just monthly, weekly or daily goals. These are life ambitions.

Looking Forward and Loving Lately

HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE!

I am so looking forward to this upcoming year and all of the things it will bring with it. 2016 is going to be a year of positive change, in my family, my marriage, my finances, and also in my blog! I have some exciting things on the docket for this blog and I can’t wait to share it with you all. You’ll definitely notice a change in looks and even in some content (still the brutiful stuff, but also some more light hearted and enjoyable stuff as well!), along with some other really fun things! I hope to be updating and writing much more frequently. I thought I’d round out 2015 with something fun; another Loving Lately post! You know how it goes: I share with you some of my most favorite things as of late, and maybe you’ll be inspired to try them out too. (No ads here, just things that have genuinely edified my life or made it easier in one way or another.) Enjoy!

 

IMG_8332Mandy Reid Yoga – My beautiful and gifted friend, Mandy Reid, is a wonderful yoga instructor and provides so many yoga videos FOR FREE on her youtube channel. Her intentions are always spot on and practicing with Mandy’s videos has helped me grow exceptionally in my personal yoga practice.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAcure Organics Yummy Baby 4-in-1 Foamer – I love Acure Organics products for myself and was so excited when I found this for Nora! This foamer acts as shampoo, body wash, hand soap and best of all, bubble bath! It smells so yummy and Nora loves splashing around with the bubbles during bath time. She also loves to eat the bubbles, which is why I continue to use this product – I don’t have to worry about her ingesting icky chemicals when she shoves a fistful of bubbles into her mouth.

Frasier

Frasier – I love Frasier. I love it so much. It’s hilarious and witty and so clever (or droll, as Fras would say). It’s one of my favorite tv shows bar none, and I’m forever grateful to Netflix for making it possible to binge watch my favorite snobby psychiatrists whenever I need a really good laugh.

IMG_8331Hyland’s Homeopathic Baby Teething Tablets – I love Hyland’s products for the same reason I love Acure Organics; I don’t have to worry about Nora getting any unnatural or unsafe ingredients in or on her when we use them. That said, these teething tablets are just plain miraculous. They dissolve quickly, and Nora absolutely loves them because she knows relief is soon on it’s way. They help soothe her achy gums and allow her to rest so much better. And yes, I got a little risky and snuck into her nursery while she was napping to get this photo.

IMG_8329Wei of Chocolate – I was introduced to Wei of Chocolate by my friend Suzi over at Gurl Gone Green (whose blog I’ve also been loving lately). These chocolates are organic, fair trade and oh so dreamy. When you open the chocolate, you are encouraged not to chew it up right away, but to let it just sit and melt in your mouth. I love this because it reminds me to slow down, relax, and just enjoy the moment. Right now I have the Wei Joyful, which is citrus dark chocolate and I adore them. I can’t wait to try Wei Peace next; lavender grey dark chocolate!

Thinking Out Loud

First of all, Happy December! I always love the start of a new month. A clean slate, a blank page. And December is such a hope filled month for me. I am reminded of the King who came down to the darkness and the despair and the dirt to rescue me. I am reminded of my salvation, of my smallness, of my great worth to Him.

My last few posts have been a bit heavy, what with life kind of beating the hell out of me this year. As I thought about what I would write today, I knew I wanted it to be a bit lighter, but I also know I’m still working through some hard things. It’s so easy to feel isolated in the midst of grief or depression or anxiety. I am hoping and praying for some relief soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I feel a lack of a sense of purpose in my life. Most days are spent looking after Nora, never even leaving the apartment. It’s hard being the new kid in town, not knowing anyone. I miss my friends terribly, but am so grateful to know they are just a text away. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out who I am and what I am to do. I have a book in my heart, somewhere in there. But is that where I’ll find purpose? I am continuing to grow in my yoga practice and still desire to become certified. But is that where I’ll find purpose? I’m a mom. And despite what I thought for years…that’s not where I’ve found purpose. At least not a completely fulfilling purpose. Is that okay to say? Is that awful to say? It’s true either way.

I know that on one hand, we make ourselves purposed. Each day we are presented with the decision to make or waste the day ahead. But on the other hand, I know there is more. I know it. I feel it. I carry it. I just haven’t the slightest clue what it could be! Mostly that’s just frustrating and worrisome. What will life look like in five years? Will I be free from this cloud of anxiety and depression? Will I be healthier? Will I know myself and God more? Will Shawn and I have grown closer or further apart? Where will we be living? Where will Nora be in school? Will we be out of debt? (God, I hope so.)

I hope with all my heart that my marriage is stronger, that I am healthier, that I know myself better, that I’m nearer to the Heart of God. I just feel so lost sometimes. This post isn’t really turning out to be quite as light as I’d intended…my bad. I’m mostly just thinking out loud here. I don’t really have anything wise or enlightened to share today. But it helps to get these thoughts out of my head and onto paper…or screen rather. Maybe some of you out there are feeling the same feels and this will help to ease some isolation on both our parts. I’m so ready not to feel this way anymore, you know? I know that life is hard and I’ll have rough seasons throughout my life. I guess I’m just ready to breathe again.

Anyways, here’s hoping your December is filled with light and love and wonderful things. Here’s hoping your hearts are filled with joy and hope. Here’s hoping.

Acknowledging the Pain

“Life is short.”

This is something we’ve all heard a thousand times. We hear it, we say it, we know it. But oftentimes it becomes easy to just lump it in with every other trite phrase that we sort of toss around whenever the moment seems appropriate.

I’m very grateful to have had company in town when I learned of my brother’s passing. One of my oldest friends, Callie, happened to be visiting me this week and she provided the support and distraction I so desperately needed.

But, she flew back this morning and now I’m back home with Shawn and Nora and the Cat and am looking forward to hopefully some semblance of normalcy as this week comes to an end.

I’ve done a lot of quiet, tearful, introspective thinking this week. I still have so much to sort through, and I grieve in a very specific way. I prefer to draw back, become still in my soul. I prefer to cry privately and deal with all of the Feelings on my own.

I don’t like to share my grief; it overwhelms me. I don’t like to dwell on the pain, sometimes to a fault because it never gets acknowledged. So, I guess that’s what I’m doing now. Acknowledging my pain.

People have continued to ask how I’m feeling.

Mostly, I feel very tired. Losing a dearly loved soul is like getting punched in the gut; you get the wind knocked out of you. It’s hard to really breathe for a while.

I feel sad, too. All of this is a little familiar because we went through it when we lost my mom. At the same time, it’s very different losing a parent and losing a sibling. I don’t necessarily feel as though my life might not go on (which is how I felt a lot after my mom passed), but like I told my sister this morning, “one of us” is gone now. (Us being the sibs.)

Truthfully, my brother and I didn’t have much of a relationship toward the end. We hadn’t spoken in a few months, not because of any bad blood, we just lost touch. Because of this, I don’t feel an immediate sense of loss, which feels strange. I almost feel guilty for it.

My brother carried a lot on his back for many, many years. He dealt with a lot of rejection, heartache and loneliness throughout his young life. He somehow always managed to keep on going. I will forever be inspired by his determination, by his love for his daughter and by his passionate spirit.

I loved my brother with my whole heart and I am extremely grieved at his passing. I had so desperately hoped that he would find a way out of the brokenness he was tangled in and be able to live. Really live.

“Life is short.”

As I’ve begun to sort through my thoughts and feelings that have swarmed my heart and piled up in my mind over the course of this week, I feel a sense of desperation. I am desperate to fill my days with my husband and daughter; with love and warmth and smiles and laughter. I am desperate to be nearer to the Heart of God. I am desperate to soak up every minute; to make memories; to bake cookies; to teach Nora how to love the world; to practice the yoga that I love so much; to never take my husband’s love for granted.

But I don’t feel these things because I now feel like “life is short”. I feel these things because I am so very tired and I have been given an opportunity to rest. To rest in Grace, to rest in Family, to rest in Friendships, to rest in Love, to rest in Him. I am grateful for the opportunity to grow closer to my other two siblings, Lizzy and Casey, and to my dad as well. I am grateful for the opportunity to heal. I am grateful for the opportunity to write. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to live.

But is God Good?

I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.

– Charles Spurgeon

I lost my brother this week. He passed in his sleep in Los Angeles on Monday. He would’ve been 26 next month.

My relationship with God has gone through sort of an upheaval over the last two or so years. It’s not that I ever stopped believing in Him, although I’ve had my share of “what the fuck?” moments. I (Shawn also) went through a season of what I like to refer to as a sort of cleansing fire. All of the ultra conservative, black and white, void of grace that had clung to us as we grew up in the church was melted off of our hearts and the ashes blown into oblivion. I questioned everything. Theology, Truth, Love, Justice…I wanted to know what was Right. I wanted to know what was Good. I wanted to be buried in the heart of God, if He was indeed these things.

Most days, especially since the birth of my beautiful daughter, I have next to nothing to give. I feel like a shell. I want to converse with Jesus, but can never seem to form any words outside of the occasional “help me, please”. I am weary from this cleansing season, but I know in the deepest parts of my being that I will be so incredibly grateful for it on the other side. I don’t pray fervently as I was taught to in church and school growing up. I don’t read my Bible every day or invest in scripture journals. What I do is make constantly sure that my heart is as open as it can possibly be to the Truth and to Love and to Good. Because those are the traits of the heart of God. Right?

I have learned so much about God during this season. I have learned about His Compassion, His Justice, His Mercy, His Greatness, His Redemption and His Truth.

When I shared the news of my brother’s death on social media, I received a bevy of texts, facebook messages, instagram comments, etc, from people in all walks of life. Some who walk closely with God, others who’ve decided to keep some distance. Some offered genuine condolences, some offered helping hands and prayers.

Death makes us all question so many things, doesn’t it? Why do these things happen? Why did I lose my mom six years ago? Why did I lose my brother two days ago? Why are people mean? Why is there so much pain still in this world? Why aren’t the orphans cared for and the water crisis solved? If God is Good, why is this all so bad?

I obviously don’t have these answers, none of us really do. But what I do know for certain, is that at the end of the shittiest fucking day in the middle of the shittiest fucking season, when I am empty and broken with nothing to offer, if nothing else, God is with me. And to me, that is so Good.

Life Starts Over

Happy Fall everyone!

IMG_7124Oh sure, I know the first day of fall was actually weeks ago, but the weather just got the memo and is finally starting to catch up! The air is cool and crisp, and the leaves are flying off the trees in a colorful frenzy. This is my time. This is my season. F. Scott Fitzgerald said that life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. Truer words have never been spoken.

Things got bad, you guys. Things got real bad. I found myself drowning in this pit of despair and depression and hopelessness. I hated myself, I hated my life. I didn’t want it anymore. I was sloughing Nora off onto Shawn each weekend and completely withdrawing myself. I was angry and moody and sad. Shawn and I were talking about separating. I seriously considered leaving my family and my life. I was so done. I was so exhausted. I was so ready to give it all up. And then suddenly, something changed.
treeI can’t say for sure, but I’m almost certain my little family was being fought for. Not by me! Heavens. Seriously, you could’ve stuck a fork in me. I think the Holy Spirit must’ve been awfully busy that nearly fateful night. Suddenly, I was listening to my husband. I quieted the darkness in my head and in my heart and I began to hear what he was actually saying. “I love you.” “Please trust me.” “Let me be strong for you.” “I don’t want you to go.”

I stopped barreling over his vulnerability with my justified frustration. (Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Having a baby is hard. Moving to a new place is hard.) Truly, I don’t know how it happened. It was like something took over my thoughts. Like a dementor, but the complete opposite. So okay, my Patronus charm showed up. Anyways, I’m beginning to ramble. Let me reign this in.

I saw my completely broken and vulnerable husband sitting across from me with the fate of my marriage and my family sitting in my shaking hands. I saw the pain in his eyes and I felt it in mine. And in that moment, a decision in my soul was made. A decision to be vulnerable again. A decision to be considerate, loving, and kind. We went to bed that night still weary from the hours of tears and talk and pounding headaches.

But the next morning, I woke up with something stirring in me that I nearly didn’t recognize. A sense of renewed hope. I felt the cool autumn air floating through our windows and the warm and enveloping love of the Almighty. My Saviour was rescuing me, my family, my marriage. He sent me the autumn breezes that heal my soul. He showed me unfailing love and unwavering forgiveness through Shawn. He reminded me through Nora of the joy that was to come and usher out the deep grief I’d been housing  for so long. 

After months and weeks of feeling like it was completely over, my life began again last Saturday morning. My friends stood up and offered encouragement and prayer. Our little family came together in adventure and romance and grace and peace. We went for drives and explored our beautiful new city. We watched movies and ate good food. We go on evening walks together.

I’ve made it a priority to take better care of myself mentally, spiritually and physically. I get up before the sun every day to exercise and breathe in the new day. I listen to Shawn when he talks with me and I consider his feelings and needs. I actually enjoy Nora and we have so much more fun together now. I’m still exhausted, yes, but it’s the good kind. You know the kind I mean; it’s almost exhilarating.

fallThings feel new and hopeful once again. God cares about us. Truly. He cares about even the smallest of things that carry so much weight and mean so much to us. This is why He uses the crisp Fall air to renew my heart. This is why He uses the colors of the leaves to restore my soul.

My life is starting all over again.