Tag Archives: reflection

Life Lately

Since we’re approaching four weeks with our new little tenant, I was thinking about how we’re adjusting to all the new. As anticipated, the first week with Asher wasn’t really an accurate gauge of true life. He was still all “what the WHAT is going on?!” shell shocked and didn’t make a whole lot of noise. His temperament is slowly changing, and while he’s definitely not a screamer, he seems to be particular. So far he does not enjoy the swing, bouncer, car seat or bassinet for more than a few minutes at a time. That basically exhausts all of our baby soothing and baby sleeping resources, with the exception of my two arms and two other appendages. Nights are unpleasant for Mama.

We’re already becoming second time parent stereotypes, throwing caution to the wind with things like stomach sleeping (usually only during the day), using a pacifier at two and a half weeks and taking the little guy out and about.

I don’t know if it’s the second baby thing or because my labor was so different this time around (birth story is in the works), but I’m finding recovery much more manageable this go around. With Addison, I didn’t even feel like going for a walk around the block until nearly two weeks after she was born. Before Asher was three weeks old, we’d been to multiple doctor appointments, Target runs and park trips. And we’re getting daily walks, either just the two of us or with the whole fam. If I’m not careful, I may do something absurd like consider having another one of these nuggets.

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Life is only now starting to resume a little normalcy. The week that Clayton went back to work, my mom came to help on the three days that I had both kids. Unless my dad and I plan to share custody of her, I don’t think that plan will work for the long term, unfortunately.

Thankfully, I’m feeling ready for the challenge of finding our new normal. After wallowing in self pity and exhaustion during late pregnancy, I am so excited to have my energy returning and actually feel motivated, rather than obligated, to be awake and active. I love getting down on the floor to play with Addison again, I look forward to running errands as a family on the weekends. I forgot how vastly different it feels to live in a non-pregnant body. Though I have no idea when they will fit into the new schedule, I am also stoked about taking on some new workouts when I get the green light.

Pregnant work out: lift feet on top of cooler, place feet on ground, take out more water from cooler, repeat.

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Basically, I am sort of annoyingly optimistic right now and I ain’t mad about it. We’ll see how long this mood can compete against zero sleep. 

Moving Forward

Today was an emotional day as we said goodbye to our family’s first church home. After several months of feeling uncertain about our place there, we decided it was time to move forward. 

In the three years Clayton and I spent at NBC as members and leaders, we welcomed our first child, celebrated Addison’s dedication and her first two birthdays, and each turned 30 joined by friends from NBC. Clayton found his passion for leading worship, and I found the sometimes hilarious, always exhausting business of baby and toddler ministry. (As it turns out, the same can be said of women’s ministry.)

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NBC became a warm, comfortable and comforting solace on Sundays and during the week at LifeGroups. In varied seasons over the past few years, we have found pastors and friends who have shared their lives openly and honestly and who have made us feel safe enough to do the same. We have hosted and been invited, we have served and been served, we have been both accepted and challenged. As neurotic new parents, we could not be more grateful for the ease with which we drop Addison off into arms of people who sincerely love her every Sunday morning.

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When it doesn’t come naturally to meet new people or develop new friendships, moving on is met with resistance–not questioning the decision but mourning the loss of the comfortable and familiar. NBC was that familiar coffee shop on the corner, walking inside felt like second nature, time there felt refreshing and nurturing. We will always think fondly of NBC, the friendships that it brought us and the spiritual home it provided us. We’ll keep praying for its heath and its mission, but mostly we’ll pray for its people.

P.S. Sorry for being that annoying stage mom who recorded Clayton’s entire worship set this morning. 

Enough

I wrote this post several months ago but found it today and still got smacked in the face by it.

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Last week, up to my elbows in soapy water and covered head to toe in the mess of motherhood, I lost it. Full on tears dripping into the clean dishes lost it.

And the most maddening part of all was that I ruined those clean dishes (not really, I totes put them in the cabinet anyway) for a phantom. For a nothing. For an imagined problem that nags at women and moms with an incessant chirping of you are not doing enough!

I am surrounded by strong, ambitious superwomen. They inspire me continually. But because we have been numbered and categorized since our first breath, my instinct is to begin numbering and categorizing the theirs against the mines. This friend does this job, and this job, and raises this baby, and volunteers there. That friend works there, works out that many days, earned that degree, and takes her baby to the library. That girl wakes up at this time, works those hours, cooks those meals, and always wears mascara.

And, inevitably, what follows is the conclusion that

I am not doing enough.   

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What is “enough?” How am I supposed to know when I’ve reached it? When I can’t put down the computer until midnight every night? When I have to find someone to watch Addison five days a week? When I have structured, age-appropriate Pinterest activities planned and prepped for her every morning when she wakes up? When my husband comes home to a hot, home cooked, edible (<– key word) meal every night of the week?

Why are we am I in an all-consuming, head-down, relentless pursuit of a goal that is wholly subjective and indefinable? What am I even chasing? If I look up, what is ahead that drives me to justify neglecting the truly valuable in anticipation of some fleeting, self-prescribed merit?

Stop. Look to the left and to the right. That is the goal. Those are the milestones that build a city of memories, a lifetime of timely pauses and spare minutes. The race is not against mothers or friends or women who do things that I can’t or never will. The race is with them, a shared marathon with some paving the way, others coming behind and the  beautiful synchronization of friends striding beside you. Swooping in with home cooked meals that will taste better than any concoction you could dream up. Busting out their own hot glue gun and ribbon when you don’t have any more space in your head for DIY crafts. Walking into your house and scooping up your baby with the warmest familiarity.

Time to enjoy the space between afternoon naps and dinner, with a swing in the yard or wagon ride in the driveway, is not

wasteful

or insignificant.

It is not a consolation for not having more important commitments.

It is

enough

and so much more.

When responsibilities are met, and the must-get-done’s are done,
breathing, deep and slow, for a minute or an afternoon, is okay.

When did it stop being nourishing and start being indulgent to read a novel that wasn’t accompanied by a test that counted toward a degree, to take a nap because you were up three times with an unhappy baby or just because you are tired, to let the laundry pile up one more day because a lunch date with your daughter is way more fun?

I have freelance projects every week.
I am a full-time mother.
I volunteer at my church.
I take care of Addison while Clayton volunteers at our church.
I handle the cooking (or ordering) of our meals, the cleaning of our house, and the organizing of our schedule.
I keep my body healthy.
I go to a small group once a week.
I see friends and family as much as I can.
I write sporadically on a blog.

In what universe would this collection of identities not be enough?  I feel so compelled to fill in the gaps of every hour in order to feel accomplished, to be sure I am making the most of my time. But I know in my head that making the most of my time is defined by what and who gets most of my time. And I don’t what that to be a computer. Or a stranger. Or a brochure or web page that will wither and die.

Making something requires an intent to create, a choice to design a life that has some growing room, some space around the edges to relax for awhile. To allow for minutes that spring up when a cat finds its way into the backyard and needs to be watched through the back door, when the play area at the mall is completely empty for the first time ever, when your kid discovers how to flip over her toy table and climb on top of it but can only get down with a Mama’s hand.

Those seconds will sprint right past you if you are not so very diligent in making time for them.

And I have told myself I do not want to miss them.

I do not want more clients if it means less time with Addison, I do not want more volunteer commitments if the joy of giving is replaced by dread, I do not want quiet moments with my husband at the end of each day to be hijacked by exhaustion.

I want to find enough

laughter surprises spontaneity fulfillment joy confidence beauty

right here in this moment. Because I am certain it is there. I just have to stop and look.

 

Getting Away and Getting Back

Guys, let’s get real. Life’s hard. It can be plain exhausting. And you know what? A few weeks ago I was over it. I was sick of being exhausted, sick of all the pressure I felt to be everything at all times for everybody, and sick of feeling like I was letting everyone down.

It was a slow build up, but as a friend of mine says, the fit hit the shan. Try as I might, I was not shaking the heaviness, and my head and my spirit were wilting.

So I got the heck out. Out of a house that was starting to reek of sadness. Out of a routine that was draining my creativity. Out of engagements that were overwhelming instead of enriching.

Within an hour of online research, I found a resort on the bay that was running a fantastic weekday special. Clayton had commitments Wednesday through Saturday of that week, so Addison and I packed up the car and hit the road. Okay, I packed. Homegirl threw everything out of my duffel at least twice.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and stayed through late Saturday morning. While my intent was to work through a lot of the junk piling up in my head, I wasn’t sure how much actual excavating I could do with Addison in tow. But it ended up being a perfect mix of passions that fed my soul and empty-headed playtime.

We went on a run together Thursday afternoon and finished just before a beautiful sunset. We made a mess of the breakfast buffet. We were up all night because someone practices tai kwon do in her sleep. We scuttled around the beach, plopped down in the water and waved at every single person out Friday morning.

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And when Addison napped or after she fell asleep, I wrote. I prayed. I read. I started and nearly finished Rebekah Lyons’ “Freefall to Fly,” which put to words how imprisoned I felt in the everyday. I dove into 1 Corinthians 13 and realized the futility of the best of my actions when they aren’t motivated from a place of love.

I also made the difficult decision to get a sitter for Addison one morning, in addition to the two days she is with my mom. I wrestled with this for weeks and had been attempting–and failing–to get my work done, the house un-messed, the errands ran, half marathon training completed and volunteer projects managed in the small window I had. Some or all of these things suffered on any given week, but I refused to acknowledge both the impossibility of handling every task on my list within my current schedule or the toll trying to handle it all was taking on me. So I finally pulled the text trigger that Thursday.

In the preceding weeks, a recording played in my head that said:
I have it so good. I can’t possibly complain about my life.

I am stronger than this. Why am I being so weak?

That girl and that girl and that girl have it all together and they do more than I do. I must be able to get it under control. I should wake up earlier.

These were the lies  I told myself for a good two months before even mentioning how I was feeling to another person. WOMEN, ESPECIALLY MOMS: The rest of us get it. We all feel completely inadequate, too. Even if we managed to put on mascara that day or wear the cute jeans instead of the yoga pants, we are simply staying afloat. Talk to someone!

By Friday night, just 36 hours into this little girls getaway, smack dab in the middle of the crowded waterfront patio of the resort’s restaurant, I ached with missing my husband.

Saturday morning I felt cautiously drawn back to the place I’d escaped. I knew that anyone can feel refreshed and awakened with the smell of saltwater in the air and a fiery Florida sunset within view. I had to go back. And while the scenery set the change in motion, the true shift had to be deeper than a camera angle, more personal than a standard double hotel room.

It’s been a few weeks since that mini retreat, and I cannot believe the difference in my perspective. Very little has changed within the confines of our weekly schedule. We still have must-do’s most nights of the week. My work is not slowing down. Addison continues to be very good at being 15 months old. But I can breathe. I can make it through a day (a week!) without tears.

I can face the pace, routine and impossibility of my to-do list with a shrug, with sleeves rolled up and a smile. I don’t believe my value, my daughter’s development, or the strength of my marriage depends on the check marks–or lack thereof–next to those tasks.

And that is freedom. That is the power and inconceivable compassion of God moving in a life you said was too insignificant, in a problem you said was too small, in a hidden darkness you said you could transform on your own.

That is hope. A sun setting and a dawn rising. A life that you didn’t recognize for shame and fear breathing again with the promise of all those things you’d dreamed it could be.

I cannot share this without saying how grateful I am for this life I’ve been given undeservedly. For the health of my beautiful baby girl. The love and devotion of an unwavering man. The unconditional support of family and friends others must covet. I recognize the great luxury and incredible overflow of prosperity that I enjoy in every sense. I know I have it so, so good. But a lesson that I am learning in this season is that I do not want to trade “good” for what may be best. I am after best in this life. I hope that you are, too.

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On Being Back

Last month was the year anniversary of our very first home purchase. Coincidentally, it also marked the first time my carpal tunnel eased up from all the paperwork we had to sign. Since our family became a trio, I am constantly looking back and comparing where we were a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, to where we are now.

It feels like we lived a lifetime in the past two years. Our time in Virginia seems hazy now, and we honestly don’t keep in touch with anyone we met except for Clayton’s former boss. And that’s only because Sean likes to continually remind Clayton that he has a standing job offer if we ever move back. (Which we will not, Sean.)

What I do remember about working and playing in Virginia is the wide openness of the future. We had never lived outside of Florida, and then all of a sudden, we’d done it. We had all of our sad, college-quality belongings in a tiny apartment with snow piling up right outside our door the first weekend we were there. At least at the beginning, we were hypnotized by the romantic ideas of adventure, escape and newness.

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The short list of perks of Newport News included easy access to a whole smorgasbord of intriguing cities and small towns. What I miss about that life is deciding on a Thursday to go away that weekend. I miss planning trips simply because we stumbled on an incredible deal on Priceline. Of course we can still do that here, but there is little that is unknown to me about this place. I know Tampa like an old pair of shoes I can’t bring myself to throw away, the way the soles are worn in deepest under the ball of my foot, where the shoelaces are fraying. We go way back, and while sometimes that comfort is exactly what I love about living here, it’s also the piece that the eternal wanderer in me rebels against.

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Something tugged at Clayton and me, both separately and together, that pulled us away from being safe and expected. That something has stirred at the base of my heart since I was 15 years old, and it still rustles when the scent of adventure wafts across my path. When friends without children plan vacations to Africa. When single girls mention kickball games and staying up way past Conan on a weeknight. When advocates introduce a cause that ignites my hunger to do something that matters. These are the adventures that I see just out of reach for a new mom, a housewife, a work-at-home part-timer.

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I can’t predict what this life will look like five years from now. Will we have one five-year-old or three kids under school-age? Actually, I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be the latter. Maybe I’ll have jetted over the ocean to soak in a Mediterranean sea or to sleep in a tent serving food to starving kids. Or maybe I’ll have joined up to fight a battle against some worldwide monstrous foe like sex trafficking. Or, most likely, I’ll be right here penning taglines during naptime and jetting to the park in the afternoon to elicit some seriously important giggles on a rusty swing.

What I am so, so grateful for today is that any of those scenarios makes me smile. And proud. I know there were some sacrifices we had to make to grow roots in Florida. The Noa’s will probably never make another trip to D.C., despite my love affair with its grayness set against its significance. I may never live within day trip distance of a mountain hike. And my relatives can show up at my door totally unannounced.

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But here is home. Maybe not forever. But for our little family right now, this is where our heart is.    

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To the runners

I first started running consistently in 2011. I’d completed a handful of 5k’s in college, but once we moved to Virginia I had a lot of time on my hands while Clayton worked 490 hours a week. I had the distant goal of running a half marathon, provided I could actually wheeze through the three miles on my initial training schedule.

Distance running is not always fun. It’s physically demanding, yes, but more than anything it’s a mental battle within yourself to simply keep moving. On every long run, whether 5 minutes or 45 minutes in, I’d face that voice that tried to justify stopping. Quitting. Giving in and going home.

Becoming a runner, to me, was the development of a basic but profound ability to shut that voice up and run anyway. 

With a lot of sports under my belt, I can say that runners channel a competitive drive in the healthiest way I’ve seen in athletics: to push yourself to do more than you thought possible. “Beating” someone is not the endgame; doing your best is the ultimate goal. Running longer than you thought you could, running farther than you thought you could, running at all when you didn’t think you could. Your opponents are your last run, the clock and your head.

During the six months I spent going from 3 mile runs to 10 mile mornings, I incorporated several races into my training, culminating with the lone half marathon I completed in September 2011. 

What did I learn? Runners run because they love it. They want everyone else to love it, too. They are warm, welcoming and supportive to anyone who shows up with a pair of Nike tempo shorts. They are not exclusive or judgmental if you are newer or slower, stick thin or pleasantly round, wearing the latest Brooks or the Reeboks you use for gardening. They give you a ride to the start line when you are walking from a mile away. They get giddy upon learning it’s your first half. That same person, who you just met, waves and encourages you when you pass along the course. And then that person, who you’ve known for mere minutes, is waiting to cheer you on at the finish line.

My stint into running is still new, anything but elite, and far from marathon-capable. But I’ve spent enough time around runners to know that they are a community of decent, dedicated individuals.

Runners just want to run. And they are immediately inspiring to those who show interest in their passion. 

When I saw what took place on Monday in Boston, during one the most iconic races that celebrates runners on an international stage, I was heartsick. For the lives lost, for the people injured, for the city. But mostly for runners. There and everywhere. In a group that’s run together for a decade or strangers waiting for the starting gun next to each other, it is a true community. People who are unthinkably tough inside and out, who also use their coveted breaths to motivate someone who has stopped to walk in the middle of a race.

This ugly, darkened shadow has been cast over one of the most wholesome groups of people. Runners who have been working tirelessly to push past the point where their mind said they must stop, for the first time or for the 40th time. Families and friends lit up with pride, the people who facilitated this momentous accomplishment by babysitting, succumbing to pasta four nights a week and hiding water bottles along an 18-mile training route. A city opening its arms and streets and cheers to thousands of strangers.

These are the faces that form my sadness. This was the celebration meant to be incinerated.

Of course—unquestionably–if you have met a runner you know that quote floating around couldn’t be more accurate:

“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”

Runners are solid and strong. Marathoners most of all. They ran 26.2 miles (still inconceivable to me) and kept running to help.

Those are runners. Those are the people who will prove there are 27,000 more reasons to hope and rejoice in the good of others instead of the one reason that leads us to doubt it. Though for a moment, one act grew louder and threw the dust of evil on this one day, in the seconds, the days and the weeks following I have no doubt the steady rhythm of feet on pavement will deafen the roar of terror. The melodic miles underfoot on roads in Boston, pastures in England, sandy streets in Africa and the sidewalk in my own neighborhood will drown the blasts of hate.

We’ll run. Even when it’s hard. That’s what runners do.

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