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

 

birth story

I gave birth at home after six hours of active labor, which is relatively short for a first-time mom. I lost a lot of blood, but not enough to warrant hospital transfer. I needed stitches, but I’ve healed well. For the first couple days postpartum, I couldn’t stand up without fainting, but I peed squatting in a bedpan and I love to squat-pee.

As far as births go, it was wonderful — intimate, peaceful, and free of complications. But as far as Friday afternoon activities go, it was absolutely awful. 

My original due date was December 12th, but that was based on the predictive method using a regular 28-day cycle. My periods were irregular, so I made my own calculations. I decided December 4th was a more accurate due date. My midwife agreed and updated my file.

I didn’t have any particular expectations about giving birth. I didn’t give much thought to labor positions, breathing techniques, or other strategies. I didn’t attend classes or prepare candles or music. I assumed I would listen to my body, eat my snacks, and do whatever my midwife told me.

I never thought twice about a natural birth. I wasn’t afraid of pain simply because I didn’t see the point in fearing what I couldn’t control. I believed in my body and what it was made to do.

But optimistic beliefs and the power of positive thinking only go so far. In retrospect, I completely understand why women choose epidurals, schedule c-sections, and stop after one child. Natural birth is a commitment, and easier kept at home.

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My water broke punctually at 12:45a on December 4th. I leaked for over 7 hours — not a sudden flood like in the movies. Since I tested positive for Group B Strep, I needed to go into labor within 12 hours to avoid hospital transfer. I was relieved and excited when mild contractions began at 3:00a. I knew I would be having a baby that day.

At first it was all joy and anticipation. Getting tattoos taught me to channel uncomfortable physical sensations into pleasurable experiences. I applied this to contractions in early labor and it worked successfully for several hours. I ate a hearty meal. I put on lip gloss and posed for photos. I texted friends. I instagrammed.

And then it wasn’t fun anymore.

My midwife arrived at 2:30p and I promptly ripped my clothes off. I moved around from floor to birthing tub to toilet to birthing stool to bed. I bellowed until my throat was sore. I felt frustrated and helpless. My body inexplicably and repeatedly attacked itself and nothing I did could mitigate the pain.

I felt better when it came time to push because it was active effort instead of passive endurance. Maren and Kelly encouraged me to reach in and feel his head, but I wasn’t interested. Reaching in felt counterproductive. I wanted to focus my energy on getting him out of my body.

Soon enough, I felt the pressure of his head, then shoulders — and my baby was born. He was immediately wrapped in a towel and placed on my chest. I was laying down and didn’t have the strength to lift myself up to properly see him, but I held his warm little body close against mine and it was all I needed.

I lost track of time in those first few hours, and continued to live in a daze as subsequent days and sleep-deprived nights blurred into weeks. My world instantly became very small, but it’s also expanded as my heart overflows with the purest love I’ve ever known.

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It was one year ago that I decided I was ready to be a mom.

I had dealt with personal issues, healed from childhood hurts, and processed my perspective on future generations. I was at an emotionally healthy place in my relationship with my self and with my husband. I knew I had more to learn and more to give. And I kept getting the sense that my next step was woven within the journey of motherhood.

Several months ago, Julie, a dear friend and mother-figure in my life, told me: “The world was not ready for the gift of Atlas until now.” Those words strongly resonate with me. I believe he could not have been born at a more fitting time.

Atlas will grow up knowing the story of his birth — that from the beginning, he was so wanted, so loved, so treasured. That even in the womb, he made his parents incredibly happy just being himself. That he was born in his bedroom on a quiet, cold winter evening. As far as births go, it was wonderful. And as far as babies go, he is perfect.

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Photos by Reagan Denine Photography

things you can totally say to me while i’m pregnant

There are lots of things people say that offend pregnant women. Then again, there are lots of things people say that offend people in general. Personally, I love any question that is asked in an honest effort to understand or show me I am cared for.

Pregnancy is mysterious and fascinating and everyone experiences it differently. I happen to be an expert on my experience, and I love to share my expertise. Here are some things I don’t mind hearing in the least:

“Was it planned?”

It’s kind of a strange question because you’re asking about my sex life, but there’s more to it than that. With so many birth control options and perspectives on making babies, I am happy to tell you my story and how my thinking has changed over the past several years.

“How many kids do you want?”

I have no idea, but I like when people ask this because then I can reply with my charm and wit: “One at a time!” Baby brain is real, so when I have a prepared answer, I can’t wait to remember what I want to say and actually say it.

“You’re huge!”

OMG thank you! I would much rather hear that I’m large than small. I’ve gained almost 35 lbs and that weight is not hiding – I feel it every time I stand up, roll over, laugh, or basically try to do anything. My body has put a lot of effort and hormones into growing so big and beautiful (and emotional) and it doesn’t want to be ignored.

“Any news?”

Towards the end of pregnancy, I see how it could get annoying to be bombarded with constant inquiries of “Did you have the baby yet?” However, I choose to interpret it as: “I am so excited about the birth of your baby! Here is a conversation starter for you to talk about yourself and update me on whatever you’d like!”

Have any questions for me? Come over for some homemade kombucha (I’m GBS positive, so loving the probiotics) or say whatever you’d like in the comments below.