dear phoebe

Dear little Phoebe,

You are so loved, so wanted. I have been patiently waiting for you to enter this world at the perfect time. Your name means “bright, shining one.” In a season of hiddenness for our family, you come at a time of transition to hopefulness and light.

It took a lot of work for me to love being a girl. But I don’t want it to be as hard for you to embrace who you are. To love yourself. My heart longs to share with you what I have learned and to walk alongside you as you discover your own way.

Even now, though you are so little and do not yet understand, I speak truth and love over you — truths I never heard from my own mother, truths that took me years to grasp. That it is possible to be both strong and feminine. Both logical and emotional. Both powerful and gentle. Both independent and reliant on others. Both ambitious and content.

I want you to see me look in the mirror and smile at my reflection. To see me comfortable in my skin. I want you to see me put on bright red lipstick and a fancy dress for a date with your dad, but I also want you to see me feeling just as beautiful and confident in chapstick and leggings.

I want you to see me excited about my birthday. I want you to see that life is a blessing and every year is worth celebrating. I want you to see me go back to school. I want you to see that it’s never too late to start something new. I want you to see me practice yoga in our kitchen. I want you to see that it’s important to take care of yourself.

Growing up, I was often reprimanded, “Don’t be too much Bethany.” It hurt me to think that being myself was a bad thing. But oh my darling, it is impossible to be “too much Phoebe!” My hope for you is that you would increasingly become more and more yourself. Being you is the best thing you could ever be.

I want you to be free. Free to be a little girl when you are a little girl and not have to rush your childhood. Free to pursue the dreams in  your heart no matter what stands against you, because I will always stand beside you. Free to explore all the wonderful ways to be a woman. Free to create a path that empowers you.

I want you to see me free in my motherhood. If it is something you choose one day, I want you to know that you can find freedom in it, too. That staying home with your children is a powerful choice when you are already a powerful person.

I place my hand over my belly and feel you move. I am overwhelmed with how proud I am of you. You are my favorite daughter. My bright, shining star. You are full of life, full of radiant brilliance. It is your name, it is who you are. My dear little Phoebe.

<3

one year anniversary of motherhood

It does not matter that Atlas will not remember his first birthday. The decorations, the presents, the photos — they were centered around him, but they were all for me.

Turning one is not a big deal for Atlas. From the womb until now, he is constantly reaching developmental milestones. His “normal” is to grow leaps and bounds every week.

But that’s not my normal. Every year, I clarify beliefs, shift priorities, and gain insight on relationships. I evolve, albeit rather slowly.

But I have never changed so instantly, permanently, drastically, as when I became a mother. The day I become a whole new person by giving birth to a whole new person.

Today marks one year.

One year of hard work and sacrificial love.

One year of surprise at how well I can function with so little sleep.

One year of recognizing the difference between loving your child and loving parenthood.

One year of wearing nursing-friendly clothes, i.e. bras that never properly fit.

One year of traveling with more stuff than I ever thought I would bring on a plane.

One year of telling anyone who will listen how I kept Atlas’ penis intact. He was perfectly made and I want him to love every part of himself.

One year of staring at the sweetest face I have ever seen.

One year of falling so in love with this person who has never spoken an actual word to me.

One year of learning the Father’s heart is just to be with me, to love because it would be impossible for him not to love.

One year of knowing the greatest responsibility for another life, and the greatest freedom for my own.

One year of never feeling insecure about my body. Now that it has carried a child, I could only ever be grateful for it.

One year of experiencing the purest love I have ever known, giving me hope that greater love is always possible.

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Happy first birthday, Atlas. Thank you for being you, making me a mother, and sharing with me the most life-changing year.

living my dream

For several years, Noah and I were in a dreaming season. We asked, “If resources were unlimited, what would our life look like?” At night, we drove to the beach with a cooler of beer & cheese and took turns sharing our heart’s yearnings. We gazed into the starry sky and across the endless horizon, exploring the infinite possibilities of life.

A year and a half ago, we began walking out some of our long-awaited dreams. We left Florida and moved west — closer to Noah’s parents and his two youngest sisters. Noah started his PhD in Neuroscience. I became a mother, completed my yoga teacher training, and launched a business. It has been quite a journey.

Sometimes you dream, and sometimes you work towards that dream. And it is work. I love motherhood, but my days can be long and tedious. I love my direct sales company, but the system can be inefficient and unsupportive. I love Colorado’s mountains and family-friendly culture, but I am still trying to create home, find belonging, and make friends.

I did not anticipate the transition to Denver would be this difficult. Life still feels unsettled, shifting — and maybe rightly so. Dreams unfold as life unfolds. My daily life may look monotonous, for the laborious actualization of one dream and the steady investment into the next is not for the faint of heart.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12) But before that tree is big and beautiful, its roots dig deep and there are little signs of life above the ground. In the beginning, from the outside, it seems that nothing is happening.

On the surface, I do not feel I am making much progress, but I know my roots are digging deep. Being confronted with the difficulties of how to live well in this hidden season has matured me in ways I did not know I needed. And instead of running away, I am more self-aware, receive more wisdom, and feel more free.

Living my dream is not a dream life. But I look at the snow-capped mountains and see grandeur. I look at my marriage and see a wonderful friendship. I look at my 10-month old and see joy. Hearing Atlas laugh and teaching him to walk — all of this is treasure. It is not always shiny, but it is still beautiful.

{Photo Credit: Jonathan Sharpe}

 

finding my purpose

Dear younger self,

I know you are obsessed with finding your purpose. You say you don’t care about making friends, getting married, having kids — I admire your focus and conviction, but you don’t have to sacrifice relationships in order to be successful.

In fact, there is one relationship in particular you need more than anything, and you have ignored it your whole life: your relationship with yourself.

Before you can find your purpose, you will need to find yourself. 

You will discover self-connection is your first purpose. That giving your life away before you know its value rejects your worth and the worth of anyone you want to impact. That the most powerful knowledge you could possess just might be the knowledge of who you are.

One day, you will believe God loves you, personally and intimately. That he sees you and speaks to you and just wants to be with you. That there may be accidental parents but there are never accidental children. That with his love, anything is possible.

You will learn to process pain, to forgive, to release. As you become whole and free, you will start to dream. You haven’t really dreamed before, but you will uncover so much of your heart in the process. You will realize relationships are what makes life worth living.

One day, you will have a husband. He will choose you again and again. He will show you that you don’t have to be strong all the time, that you can let your walls down and still be safe. He will love you so well that you will learn to love yourself.

You will fall in love with yourself. You will be content that you are enough, so you won’t need to prove yourself to anyone. You will want to take care of yourself, so you will learn to say ‘yes’ to what is helpful and ‘no’ to what is harmful.

One day, you will have a child. You will be fulfilled as a mother not because of anything your child does, but because his existence creates in you the purest love you have ever known. This love will inspire you to lead a life worth imitating, a life worth celebrating.

You will watch your child grow and change so quickly that you will want to grow and change as well. You will want to be brave. You will take risks to live more authentically, more intentionally, more passionately.

Pursue love, and you’ll find freedom. Pursue your dreams, and you’ll find your calling.

Getting there won’t be easy. You will sacrifice ambition for the sake of love. You will decline your dreams and wait for the right timing. Some nights you will cry yourself to sleep and wonder if it will ever be your turn. You will whisper your dreams into the darkness and hope beyond hope that one day they will become your reality.

Your calling will come as you go. When your purpose calls you, it will be a call you can’t ignore. Your spirit will taste eternity and know it is just the beginning. Your heart will confirm it as you sing a prayer, as you feed your squishy baby, as excitement wells up inside at the prospect of a new opportunity. Your days will be full of life and possibility.

I know you are afraid you have missed your prime, that it’s too late for you, but that is a lie. You are not behind. You are exactly where you need to be. Your best days will come as you become more and more yourself.

You have yet to find your purpose because you have yet to find yourself, but once you do, you will understand that finding your purpose happens through living on purpose. Through embracing each season, owning your choices, listening and trusting and trying.

You will find your way as you find yourself, and I’ll be here every step of the journey.

With love,

Your older self

living wealthy

My husband is a full-time student and we live off of his stipend, while I stay home to raise our three-month-old son. We made much more money at the beginning of our marriage when both of us earned full-time salaries, but we are wealthier now than ever before.

Although wealth is about money, it is not just about money. Money beliefs are strongly connected with identity and worldview. Anxiety, insecurity, and close-mindedness are all reflected through a poverty mentality, regardless of much money one actually has.

Growing up with a poverty mindset, I lived a life of a victim:

  • I focused on what I didn’t have
  • I was attached to possessions and had difficulty letting go
  • I overate because I wanted to indulge and I couldn’t be satisfied
  • I spent money on what I didn’t really like, just because it was a great bargain
  • I viewed money to be the greatest expense
  • I dwelt in the past and was consumed with my memories
  • I unknowingly gave up on my dreams because they were “unnecessary”

It takes practice to replace thoughts of limitation, lack, and inadequacy with thoughts of sufficiency and expansion. My wealth mentality gradually evolved as a result of learning to heal from pain, love myself, and dream again.

I am confident in who I am, so I don’t need things or status to validate myself. I value intangibles more than objects, so I truly have acquired great riches. I have more than enough, and more importantly, I am enough.

With a wealth mindset, I live a powerful life:

  • I practice gratitude for my abundance
  • I am not weighed down by possessions
  • I grow increasingly emotionally and physically healthy
  • I invest in what I really love
  • I view time, energy, health, and relationships to be the greatest expense
  • I live in the present and for the next generation
  • I find a way to make my dreams come true

Although our income may be small compared with our peers, Noah and I are debt-free and thriving. It isn’t easy when neither of us has a “real” job, but we are purposefully investing in our family, our education, and our future.

We spend according to our bank account, but we live in agreement with our values.

The cost of being miserable is not worth sacrificing every luxury to save every penny. The cost of a beer is worth the value of having a date to invest in our marriage. The cost of a plane flight is worth the value of visiting family to invest in relationships.

The cost of this hard season is worth the value of sowing into the life we are creating. Jobs and paychecks will come and go, but prosperity begins as an internal treasure. A full life starts with a full heart <3

 

and what do you do?

It’s a question that many people loathe, yet ask anyway. But what if we changed how we answered it? What if, instead of responding with a title, we responded with our actions and impact?

We all have sticky titles, ones we aren’t too eager to claim, ones we preface with clarifications. I want to be proud of my decision to be a stay at home mom, even when society doesn’t think much of it.

As the eldest daughter of a single mom, I was raised to be an “independent career woman,” but independent women can also choose to give up their careers. Lisa Miller writes:

If feminism is not only about creating an equitable society but also a means to fulfillment for individual women, and if the rewards of working are insufficient and uncertain, while the tug of motherhood is inexorable, then a new calculus can take hold: For some women, the solution to resolving the long-running tensions between work and life is not more parent-friendly offices or savvier career moves but the full embrace of domesticity.

But the “new calculus” is still measured by a professional metric. Women who exchange a full-time career with full-time childrearing often pursue part-time work as a means of identity and social affirmation. And while there’s nothing wrong with multi-level marketing, motherhood is invalidated when women are pressured to have a job in order to feel competent and skilled.

I say I am a freelance writer because it sounds worthwhile and intelligent. It doesn’t matter that I don’t get paid much and haven’t had a commission in months. The title implies I am “more” than “just” a mom.

But I shouldn’t have to legitimize my work as a mother by also working a “real” job.

So here’s the exercise: Title. Actions. Impact.

What do I do? “I’m a stay at home mom.” The title doesn’t sound prestigious or impressive. To qualify, all I did was give birth and quit my job. But there’s more to the story.

What do I do? I could list my routine actions of every three hours: feed, burp, diaper change. Or I could say: “I devote my days and nights to raising a child who can receive love, love himself, and love others. I attend to his needs to teach him trust, stability, safety. I play with him to teach him joy. I travel with him to teach him the world is bigger than himself.” 

The hardest answer to give is my impact. It might sound unrealistic to you, or even presumptuous:

What do I do? “I create a safe space for love to flow freely and I empower the next generation to change the world.” That is the influence I want to have. That is the story I want to share.

This paradigm isn’t restricted to stay at home moms. It’s for all of us who have the option to complain or celebrate. We can limit ourselves to labels or we can expand our everyday to something greater.

You probably have a title that doesn’t sit comfortably with you. So instead, lead with your actions and impact, and tell me, what do you do?

//

Inspired by a recent yoga class with Ellen Kaye at Kindness Yoga

a grace for this season

“I don’t have a grace for it anymore.”

I used to think of this statement as a Christian euphemism for quitting. I heard it in the context of people leaving jobs and breaking promises. Or simply complaining about things that require effort.

And I was critical.

Life can be challenging. Just follow through on your commitment, I thought. Admit you don’t want to feel obligated, that you would rather give up — instead of playing a victim to your lack of dedication.

But now I’m sorry I was so judgmental.

Grace: favor, mercy, and empowerment to do what needs to be done

  • I’m an extrovert. I get energy from being around people. My husband usually wakes up at 5:30a to leave for school. We share a car, and he has it during the week. He often has long days and gets home late. (Apparently it’s tough, this PhD stuff.) I don’t have many friends, and it is more complicated to connect with people without my own transportation. Still, I try to schedule at least one playdate a week (for myself — Atlas doesn’t care yet) and that keeps my people-tank adequately full. I would have thought I would feel isolated, just the baby and me all day most days, but I feel loved.
  • I adore sunshine, especially paired with a cold beer on the beach. I used to live in South Florida and I miss it so much! A daily dose of vitamin D is so healthy: increases bone density, reduces cancer risk, improves sleep, and enhances mood and brain function. Colorado is pretty sunny, but I live in a garden-level apartment, i.e., basement. I could spend more time on the main floor or outside if I chose to, but for now it is easier to stay in my own little space. Days are darker down here, but my heart is light.
  • I receive fulfillment from professional accomplishments. I am motivated by public recognition and opportunity for advancement. I’m competitive. I love winning, no matter how small a prize. In the right timing, I will pursue a career again. Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job, but there is little praise and no promotion in sight. I may not be earning any rewards, but snuggling with my smiling baby is priceless, and spending my days with him is a treasure. The routine can be monotonous, but I am surprisingly content.

This season is hard — relationally, financially, logistically. It takes time to make new friends, to build mutual trust, to feel at home. It takes sacrifice and investment to stay at home with a baby, to go back to school, to follow my dreams.

This is a season of hiddenness, generally feeling unknown, misunderstood, and unappreciated. But I am confident I am where I need to be, that there is a wealth of growth in store for me. I imagine I could have felt lonely and frustrated, perhaps even discouraged. But I am full of hope. It’s a hard season, but it’s a good season.

There’s a grace for it.

>>>

Photo credit: Reagan Denine Photography