phoebe’s victory

It was one of the scariest moments of my life, and also one of the most beautiful.

In January, as our Christmas gift to each other, Noah and I went to Florida to attend Overland’s annual conference. I was excited to learn more about the organization (Noah went with them to Zambia last summer), but the trip was primarily so we could see our friends Adam and Kelly before they moved to Cambodia.

During the opening night of the conference, I was suddenly overcome with an immobilizing pain in my groin. Not wanting to be distracted from the speaker’s message, I tried to ignore it. As the meeting came to a close, I realized I had some discharge, enough to leave a huge wet area that covered more than half my chair. Embarrassed, I whispered to Kelly what happened and quickly tied my sweatshirt around my waist to escape to the bathroom.

I was 11 weeks pregnant. The first trimester is the most vulnerable and the most crucial part of pregnancy. It’s when the baby develops all his or her organs. It is when the risk of miscarriage is greatest.

Once in the bathroom, I discovered it wasn’t discharge — it was all blood. I was shocked by the amount. The only time I ever bled this much was when I gave birth to Atlas. I immediately burst into tears.

But God was taking care of me, providing more than what I could have ever asked for in comfort, encouragement, and protection.

If this had happened here in Colorado, where we had few friends in the area, I would have felt utterly lost and alone. At the time, we were living in the basement of another family’s house, where I never truly felt at home.

It was messy and inconvenient to bleed through a chair in public, but I am thankful it occurred while sitting next to my best friend, in a room that felt safe, full of people who unhesitatingly rushed to my side when I needed it most.

I stood in the bathroom stall, soaked in blood from the waist down, weeping uncontrollably, but I was only alone for a moment. I was instantly surrounded by a group of powerful women to whom I was a stranger, but also a sister. There was Jessi, the speaker’s wife, earnestly praying over me. Richelle, who bled throughout her entire first pregnancy and now has a healthy 4-year-old son, proclaiming her testimony over me. Julie, a midwife who witnessed firsthand countless miracles on the mission field, and would continue to send me messages and check up on me in the weeks to come, as if she, herself, were my midwife.

Unbeknownst to me, there were more who covered me with support. Guarding the door, Joe announced the bathroom was closed and instructed everyone to use the one upstairs. In the main room, God revealed to the couple in the row behind me what was going on, and they interceded for me the entire time. Without anyone telling her, our friend Rachel also knew I was pregnant and something was wrong. She and her husband dropped what they were doing and decisively announced they were accompanying us to the ER.

Pregnancy is a holistic experience, and this felt like a spiritual attack on my family — more than just a physical emergency. But fear didn’t have a place while I was shielded by so much love. From the women in the bathroom, to Adam and Kelly taking care of Atlas at our shared Airbnb, to Rachel and Dalton hopping in our car and staying in the ER with us for hours. Driving to Cape Canaveral hospital, we sang worship songs and declared words of life and health. We stood on the truth that God is creator, healer, savior, and life-sustainer. We felt full of hope and courage. We believed everything would be fine.

As we waited for tests to come back, I posed for silly photos. As the bleeding slowed, we shared jokes and laughter. I had my first gurney ride to get to the ultrasound room and it was reminiscent of an amusement park ride. Noah and I watched with anticipation as the technician displayed various images on the screen: my ovaries, uterine lining — and then, just as we had believed — there was our tiny baby: kicking, moving, with a healthy heartbeat.

We were overjoyed to see our little girl was okay. Every test came back normal, but I was put on pelvic rest until the bleeding stopped. This seemed like another spiritual attack, on marital intimacy, but in spite of this, Noah and I felt even more affectionate, unified, and emotionally connected.

We had one more week in Florida, and while some might view it as a vacation ruined, it was a huge blessing. Bed rest is practically impossible with a toddler. If we had been home, Noah would have kept going to school, leaving me home alone with Atlas. But since we were already together, Noah could help me and I could rest. If a crisis were ever welcome, now was the most convenient time.

Five weeks later, shortly after moving into our new home, I stopped bleeding completely. Five is a symbolic number for “grace,” and Noah and I truly felt showered with kindness and strength during that month. Looking back, it represents the end of our most discouraging season and the beginning of a new season, one that is full of peace and the promise of what is to come.

 

versions of me

WHAT IF MY LIFE LOOKED DIFFERENT?

It started in elementary school. My kindergarten teacher recommended I skip 1st grade, but my mom didn’t want my younger sister and I to be farther apart in school. I always wondered, if I were a year ahead, would I be more motivated? If I tried harder, would I have a better work ethic? I graduated valedictorian in high school, but it was something I expected, something to which I felt entitled.

My early 20s were haunted by the “what ifs?” surrounding my college decisions. What if I hadn’t taken two years off to go to Bible school? What if I hadn’t been afraid of failure — if I kept auditioning for women’s choir, even though I didn’t make it the first time, because I love to sing? If I took an English class, even though I was intimidated, because deep down I wanted to be a writer?

And the “what if” that was my greatest struggle, the crossroad that held the most obvious divergence in life direction, the internal conflict that started this blog: what if I had accepted my Fulbright to Bulgaria instead of getting married and moving to Florida to join a church I had never heard of?

HOW DO I DEAL WITH IT?

I don’t regret my decision in the least, but at the time, I couldn’t move on. I tried different strategies to intellectually convince myself to “get over it,” unintentionally ignoring how my heart was still crying, begging to be noticed, validated, embraced without shame. I assumed that by recognizing the reality of my present circumstances, I was fine. I wasn’t aware my heart was filled with pain, bitterness, and anger.

There were so many things from my past I thought I had taken care of that didn’t actually need handling — they needed healing. But I didn’t know how to grieve — solely because I never learned to sit with my emotions. I was taught that my heart was not to be trusted, that being emotional was weak, that logic and reason were the only way to process anything. But my feelings are part of me, and to deny how I felt was to deny my whole self.

WHICH VERSION OF MYSELF IS THE “RIGHT” ONE?

In my mind, there were numerous “potential versions” of myself that could have been and still might be. But even if those versions were legitimate possibilities, they didn’t exist. Sure, I could have been a woman who chose career over family, travel over stability, cynicism over faith. But that isn’t what I chose, so it isn’t who I am. Owning my decisions empowers me to take responsibility for my life and everything it holds.

It was only after I got connected to my heart that I discovered which “version” was the most “me.” I wanted adventure, but more than that, I wanted love. I wanted independence, but more than that, I wanted intimacy. And a decision I recently made: I want my master’s degree, but more than that, I want to spend time with my children. But it’s no longer a battle within myself; it’s a liberated choice in agreement with myself.

Years ago, it was difficult to make decisions because I was so detached from who I was. Knowing myself makes it easier and easier to determine what is best for me. It’s still sad to let go of a dream, but as I sit with my sorrow and let it take its course, after an hour, or an afternoon, it passes. By nurturing my heart — my core, the deepest part of me — I become more and more myself.

I am whole, healthy, and free. And I like this version of me.

//

Inspired after reading Laura Barnett’s Versions of Us. It was disheartening to watch her characters accept lies, betrayal, and turmoil in order to make sense of their lives. I realized I didn’t think that way anymore, that I’m no longer confused about who I am. I chose this version of myself and I’ll keep choosing it.

love letter to my daughter

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