It’s not often that I get the chance to see a miracle. It’s not often that I get the chance to experience on personally. But on one particular day I did.
Did you know it was supposed to rain on my wedding day? For the ten days prior to the big day, it was forecasted at 100% chance of rain. That means there was ZERO chance of not raining. After having planned an outdoor wedding I was, needless to say, more stressed than I’ve ever been. Not only was it going to rain on my perfect day, but having an April wedding in the mountains meant that we’d most likely be enduring rain AND cold temperatures.
For the first few days of this forecast, I gave it a hearty effort to stay positive and hopeful. But as the days wore on and chance of rain didn’t diminish by even ten percent, my emotions and stress began to wear on the outside as well as the inside. I think I may have cried every day for the last week leading up to the wedding. I would be great in the morning, pleading with the Lord to make it sunny, to keep the rain away, promising that I would trust in His sovereignty because He is good and He loves me. But then by nightfall my natural bent toward worry and stress would explode in full bloom and I would lament the evening away, often– and unfairly– toward my soon-to-be husband.
But one of the many reasons I fell in love with The Professor is that he is absolutely solid. Nothing rocks his boat. He trusted the Lord so absolutely that he was able to hear his near-wife freak out about the incontrollable weather days before the wedding and still not be shaken. A practical man, he took the steps to reserve a tent for the wedding, and prepare whatever he could in case it did still rain… but mostly he just spent his time reminding me that the Lord loves me and is good and will bless us with the perfect day. The Professor was convinced to his very core that, despite the TEN DAYS OF FORECAST, we were going to have a warm and sunny wedding.
Our rehearsal was spent under a blue sky and hot sun. It was perfect. We probably should have just gone and gotten married there and then. But we had agreed early on, and individually, that April 25 was meant to be Our Day. So we rehearsed a couple times under the tent in the driveway of the venue as well, just in case the rain made its scheduled appearance. As I should have embraced from the very beginning, there was nothing I could do to prevent poor weather or guarantee the good stuff. So I finally let go of the weight of attempting to control the uncontrollable through the power of my stress level, and surrendered to whatever was to happen.
We woke up the morning of the wedding to an absolute downpour. There was lightning and thunder and a flood-like wave of heavy rain. But I woke up strangely peaceful. This was my day. I thanked the Lord for His love. I thanked the Lord for my almost-husband. And I went about preparing to head to the venue.
By the time we got there the rain had stopped and was replaced by a quiet mist. The clouds hung low over the mountains, but it was relatively warm and quiet and my heart began to hope we could still get married outside under the trees.
Our bridal party dressed and prepped with us and still the rain held off. The Professor and I decided to have a first look before the wedding, to have a few special moments for just us, and that way we could conquer all the family and bridal party photos before the event, too. We did. And still the rain held off. It even began to warm a little more.
We finished our photos and the guests began to arrive. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the sun appeared. Bright and big and powerful, we watched as the clouds literally began to melt away. By the time the men walked out to take their place and the bridesmaids ushered me to the beginning of the aisle, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
This was my miracle.
God had literally rolled the clouds away to bless His daughter with her dream wedding. And as I began walking down the aisle toward my future, I was filled with a sense of just how much He loves me, and just how perfect this day had become.
Thanks for my miracle. I’ll never be convinced it was anything but.
I really really haven’t been blogging a lot these last few months. Don’t get stressed out- I haven’t been journaling much either. I’m finding that the time I have to pour myself out and onto paper is getting smaller and smaller as my wedding draws nearer and nearer. But I did just want to squeeze in a few minutes to share a little bit about where I am and what I’ve been doing since Christmas.
1. As of today, there are only THIRTY-NINE days til I marry Prince Charming. So close and yet so far away.
2. I have been working at Adventures In Missions for almost two months now. I work in the Interview Department and spend my time pouring over online applications and then calling applicants to follow up with them to see how much health and spiritual/emotional maturity they are truly walking in. I love love love my job, and I’m sad that it will potentially end soon. I took the job under a temporary contract so I wouldn’t have to fundraise before my wedding, and the contract ends 4 days before the Big Event. I’m currently praying about if this is something God has for me in a more long-term position. I’d be agreeing to fundraising if I chose to stay at Adventures, and that’s a lot to think about, especially with my soon-to-be Husband also support raising in his job at Adventures. So maybe that’s something you can pray for me/us about!
3. I also have been teaching a course on Discovering Your Identity for the CGA at Adventures. CGA stands for Center For Global Action and it’s kind of like a graduate program for World Racers returning home who want a little more intentional discipleship before launching into whatever their futures look like. I meet with a group of 12 students weekly and facilitate a class that is utilizing Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (one of my top 3 reads, ever- SO powerful!) to sift through topical occurrences in order to get to and work through root issues. In plainer words, the book is helping us recognize and establish tools that will help us do the hard work of emotionally maturing. It’s heavy stuff, but my class is full of people who want to learn and grow and be challenged. Weekly, they come ready to dive into the material, participate in group discussions, invite vulnerability in their personal reflection time, and throw off old habits that don’t serve them. I honestly believe I get more from those students than they get from me. I’m learning so much about the power of vulnerability and willingness and openness. Watching them have revelations about current behaviors that stem from subconscious lessons learned in their school lives, families of origin, etc. is transformative for me. That coupled with my job in the Interview Department is really reminding me of how deeply I want to go back to school to get a counseling degree. A blog will be coming soon about all the incredible truths I’m learning from these two jobs.
4. I have made a habit of cooking dinner for the Professor regularly. I love it. I feel so good about providing for him in a tangible way. And as we spend more time at the Root House preparing it for his moving in, I half expect him to sit on the couch and wait for dinner to arrive. Instead, he is running around the house fixing little things or improving it in any way he can think. I feel like we’re a team, and it’s such a privilege to watch him running around improving our lives and then showing up at the dinner table, hungry for whatever I have cooked that night. I think I could really get into this wife-thing.
5. I have been working out like a mad woman. Every morning I’m up at 6:45 and throwing in a workout dvd: pilates, barre, or a rip-off version of P90x that my old roomie and I used to do. And since our bosses gave us a treadmill desk, everyone in the Admissions, Interview, World Race, and Short Term Missions Department has been signing up for 30 minute slots to get their movement on. It. Is. Awesome. I fall a little short in the dieting portion of wedding preparation, but I am killing it in the workout arena.
6. The Professor and I bought our wedding bands last night. It took us about an hour to choose. He was a little stressed and sad because he loves to take his time and do his research. I loved it because I’m much more of a spontaneous, in-the-moment kind of girl, and the rings we chose we absolutely LOVE.
7. I still have not seen the new Cinderella movie, and I’m dying.
8. Last weekend The Professor and I traveled away to our respective Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties. He dressed up like a cow and ran amuk in the streets of Greenville, South Carolina, and I took my sweet new Georgia friends up to a cabin in the mountains near Blue Ridge, Georgia for a weekend of sugar, hot tubs, and rest. The Prof is convinced his weekend was better, but I’m sure mine was really the best. We both feel like we’ve been released into this season of marriage now that we’ve had a real opportunity to process our single lives and celebrate the beginning of our married life together. Also, he dressed up like a cow.
9. I sent my wedding dress off to get altered today. A sweet Russian lady named Luda regaled me with stories of how she met her husband and what their two-year-old daughter is like while she secretly eased my stress about having all the things altered. I was walking on sunshine when I left that shop.
10. I have made all kinds of sweet friends here in Gainesville! Women I work with, women The Professor works with, women I randomly know because he has known them for years. I felt really sad when most of my friends from back home couldn’t make it to my bachelorette weekend, and even sadder that many of them cannot make it to my wedding. But I also feel really loved and supported here, and if my Kentucky friends were the women who walked me through my single days, these Georgia gems are the women who will walk me through my marriage life. And I’m really good with that.
11. I turned 30. But then you already knew that! Thanks for reading that blog. 😉 #thirtyisthenewtwenty
12. I started taking voice lessons again. It is terrifying. It is invigorating. I feel like I’m slowly beginning to conquer my fear of singing in front of other people, and taking ownership over the sound of my own voice, rather than just hating it in general. My instructor is crazy amazing. I leave every lesson feeling like I’m on top of the world.
13. The sun has started coming out in Georgia and it’s been so warm I’ve worn dresses more days than I haven’t. And while sitting on my pilates ball at work is supes uncomfortable in a dress, and there aren’t windows in the office where I work, it’s still worth it to be walking forward into spring.
14. The Professor completed his season leading the Fellowship at Adventures. A new class of Fellows are moving in this week, but he has moved on to a new job, and we’re both excited for the freedom that will bring him, both with time and with energy. He loved his time with the Fellows, but is eager to move into a new season and a new job, one that will challenge and grow him in new ways.
15. Wedding planning is going great! Mostly because all the major tasks are completed, and the less-major-but-still-more-than-minor ones are delegated to human beings that are not me. Don’t get me wrong- there’s still plenty to do, but it is absolutely getting done. As The Day draws closer, I find myself caring less and less about the event, and more just about marrying my best friend, but that stresses him out because he then feels like he has to carry the weight of caring the most. So I’m trying to be more helpful. But I’m just so ready to be married!
16. The Root House is coming together! In the last month, especially, we have bought tons of furniture and started decorating. I’m more interested in making a home for him to move into, and he’s more interested in planning a wedding everyone will enjoy. But we’ve been doing a good job of meeting in the middle. ❤
17. I became unnaturally obsessed with chicken chili stew. And then frosted mini wheats. My current unhealthy obsession is honey bunches of oats with almonds. The struggle is real, y’all.
18. I had a bridal shower in Kentucky a month and a half ago. We’re having a couple’s shower here in Georgia this weekend. I love celebrating things.
19. My book club is actually a tv show club, and we finished watching the most recent season of Downton Abbey a couple weeks ago. We’re resuming this Thursday with SMASH. You’re all invited.
20. My fingernails have been polished every day for two months. I dig it.
21. We had a terrible ice storm and were without power/heat/jobs for 4 days. It was so cold, but I didn’t worry, because The Professor found places for us to stay that did have heat, and provided for me in every way. He’s going to be an excellent husband.
22. I’m exhausted. I want to sleep much more than my body needs. Preparing for a wedding is emotionally exhausting.
23. I’m so happy. I love my job, I love my house, I love my fiance. I’m making friends whom I love, I’m making memories I cherish, and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m finding my rhythm and can be myself again. It’s a good feeling.
I just had one of the best birthdays of my life. My sweetheart planned up an extravagant day full of things I love in order to celebrate my life.
I woke early, just in time for The Professor to arrive and make me delicious breakfast. He held my hand and prayed over me, and kissed me. He gave me a card filled with words of affirmation (one of my primary love languages!) and a gift he had bought for me last April. He’s so patient! After breakfast he cleaned up the meal and the kitchen to give me time to finish getting ready, and then we sat together and talked until it was time to head out for Birthday Adventure Time!
HE TOOK ME TO THE AQUARIUM.
I love all zoos and aquariums. They are some of my favorite places. I should probably wish all animals were free and roaming around in nature and wildlife preserves, but I’m so grateful for an opportunity to see them in a somewhat-natural habitat and to learn more about their lives and conservation efforts for their environments. When I was growing up I wanted nothing more than to be a Marine Biologist so I could work with whales in the Pacific Northwest. Seeing them at an aquarium is the closest I’ll ever get to that now. So give me my dang aquarium and teach me how to do a better job of nature conservation.
It turns out that there was some sort of weird ComicCon-esque Super Hero Day going on at the Georgia Aquarium and it was PACKED. You probably don’t know this about me, but I have pretty severe social anxiety. When there’s a large crowd of people wandering around without plan or instruction, and kind of pushing their ways about, I have panic attacks. It feels like swallowing acid. It’s extremely stressful for me, and I have no idea where it came from. But I’ve known for a couple years, and thus have begun avoiding places where it may spring up for the attack: midnight premieres of hugely popular movies, concerts with general admission or stadium seating, and the like. The Professor had no idea it would be so packed. I spent my afternoon feeling torn between absolutely loving every second and enjoying some serious pleasure at watching all the sea creatures float about, and feeling extremely claustrophobic. I kept apologizing for how hard I was taking the crowds, and he kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me I was okay. He is such a champion for me.
We roamed about enjoying various mysteries of the deep. We were fascinated by the Sea Dragons which are apparently an actual thing. I begged The Professor to get me a sea otter for my next birthday present. We stood in front of a huge IMAX-size glass wall and watched enormous whale sharks and back-flipping manta rays swim about. We ooohed and aahhed at the coral reef, and dreamed about our own tropical honeymoon that’s coming up soon, but not soon enough.
And then he took me to THE DOLPHIN SHOW. There was a dolphin show. And it. was. awesome. First of all, it was a musical. A guy actually sang through the entire show, and while the material was campy and clearly made for children, his voice was great, and the visual effects were amazing. BUT THEN THE DOLPHINS.
Can you volunteer as a dolphin trainer? Or maybe someone who comes in and plays with the dolphins to give them enrichment, the same way you can at an animal shelter? Because sign me up for that.
They were seriously amazing. They did such cool things, and every time a trainer would ask them to do something, it looked like they were SO HAPPY to do the thing. Dolphins actually smile. Not the fake emoticon smiley that stingrays have, but actual wide-mouthed, golden-retriever-type smiles. It’s so cool! It was easily my favorite part of the aquarium.
Afterwards we left the huge and stressful crowds behind and went to sit on the grass outside to soak up the last few moments of warm sunshine. We talked about the show and our favorite sights, we laughed at all the kids running around and jumping and screeching and falling down. We dreamed for a minute about our own future kids. We took some selfies. #selfiesaturday
We trounced a few blocks away to the CNN Center and grabbed a bite to eat inside. Delicious and quick, and we got to sit in the center of the building that looks up at all 13 floors and the glass ceiling. He loves architecture and I love food, so we had a pretty good time at dinner. More conversation, more laughter, more handholding. He spent the entire day speaking my love language-physical touch. He held my hand, rubbed my back, kissed my forehead, my hair, my cheek. When I was in the throes of my crowd-induced anxiety attack, he had me rest my head against his chest and listen to his heartbeat. It helped.
The Professor has few days when I can have his total, undivided attention. There is something profound about giving your person complete focus. I could feel my heart filling up to overflowing. I would fill so much that it had to spill out- I would randomly burst out with “I love yous” and “You make me so happy”. I couldn’t help it. Sometimes you’re simply overwhelmed with the emotions of relationship, and the next natural step to alleviate how full you are is to let it out. Which, lovely enough, fills someone else up, too. It’s a beautiful cycle.
But that is definitely one thing I was surprised at- how full I felt, and how loved I felt, and how treasured I felt. He did such an amazing job- he always does- and each day is better than the last.
After dinner we drove back home to attend the birthday party he set up for me. His fabulous sister Kimberly showed up early to decorate and when we got there she and my friend Sarah Anne were finishing up food prep. It was a pretty sweet spread!
So many other new-turning-old friends showed up to mix and mingle and celebrate, and it was so great. I love having people in my home, and the more furniture The Professor and I acquire, the more I love having people to fill up all the spaces. They sang me Happy Birthday, they toasted to my friendship and my future, they gave me chocolate chip cookie cake and the most delicious punch. We played a girls v. boys group game and the girls dominated. Of course we did. We always do. Everyone laughed and talked and mingled and caught up and laughed some more. As I hugged everyone goodbye, I was reminded that this is how our lives are meant to be. We are meant to celebrate each other and walk together through life. So many of the toasts I received contained a little piece about the excitement of knowing they were going to walk through the next 30, 40, 50 years with me. I felt so loved. And so treasured.
Oh, and just so you know, The Professor gave me the biggest birthday surprise of all time.
He listened to me (for weeks) dream about and cast vision for a floor-to-ceiling, Beauty-and-the-Beast style bookshelf for our sitting room. He commissioned it about a month ago. Little did I know he and Ben- our incredible carpenter- worked hard to make sure it was completed and installed secretly while he took me out and about on my birthday. When I came home, it was waiting on me- a perfectly captured vision, perfectly matched to my breakfast table, and ready for me to decorate with books and flowers and candles. Easily the best birthday present of all time. I’m sitting here this morning, just staring at that bookshelf, thinking of all the time and planning and coordinating and love that had to go into it in order to make my dream complete.
That’s what The Professor does. He actively encourages me to cast vision. He listens intently when I do. And then he goes about making it happen.
What a birthday. I’ll write a blog soon about all the things that I feel about actually turning 30, and all the things I’m releasing from my 20’s and all the things I hope to embrace in my 30’s, but for now I’m just going to sit in my favorite seat, feet resting on the perfect ottoman, and enjoy the sight of my beautiful birthday bookshelf, feeling all the things you feel when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are loved and wanted by all the people you hope to live the rest of your life with. Even those that couldn’t make the party last night made their presence known all day.
I am a happy girl.
I am a blessed girl.
I am a girl who drones on and on.
And that’s okay.
Because birthdays are meant for celebrating, for talking (a lot), for reminiscing, and for casting vision.
Thanks for taking the time to enjoy these things with me.
I am a hoarder. I know I don’t look like it, and maybe you couldn’t tell from the way I keep my home or my work space, but I am.
I am a hoarder.
There are good things that I hoard, like sentimental notions and every wedding invitation or Christmas card I receive.
And then there are the bad things that I hoard: china, the “good” coffee mugs, my single box of frosted mini wheats, my favorite dress. A good friend of mine gave me a spectacular bottle of champagne when I moved to Georgia two months ago and it’s still sitting in my refrigerator, untouched.
When I went on the World Race we were encouraged to bring little koolaid packets to throw in our waters to make the water taste less like soil. I hoarded those, too. I kept telling myself I could just push through and that I needed to save them for a reeeaally bad cup of water. What happened was that I choked down yucky water on a regular basis and ended up “free-tabling” a whole sandwich bag full of koolaid packets at our final debrief during the last week because I hadn’t wanted to use them yet.
What is wrong with me?
I am a celebrator. I love to celebrate all things- birthdays and promotions and anniversaries and that time you crushed a presentation even though you were throwing up just prior because of your nervousness about public speaking. I love to celebrate when your crush called you for the first time, and when The Professor surprises me by visiting me at work in the middle of the day. I love to celebrate college acceptances and winning a trivia tournament at a local pub. I love to celebrate your new hair style and how you lost those 10 lbs when you told yourself you wanted to eat healthier and live healthier (me too, girl… me, too).
But there’s something in me that is still holding back.
I don’t have china yet, but if I did, I would only use it for suuuuper special occassions… like Christmas. And only when the (soon-to-be) in-laws are coming over. I don’t let girlfriends borrow my favorite dress- I don’t even wear it, because it’s waiting for just the right occasion… which will probably never come. I don’t share my frosted mini wheats at breakfast, and 6 out of 10 times I buy the discounted version of cheese or crackers for a party.
Why do I feel the need to “save” things?
I was listening to a Graham Cooke soaking this morning, and at one point he said “I want to think of my life as a treasure that I’m spending, not hoarding.” I felt like I’d been hit in the chest with a ton of bricks. This particular soaking was full of really incredible truths about The Father that I needed, but this one hit me like a freight train. I felt the Lord asking me how I was really spending my life. As Mary Oliver once asked, “What are you planning to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I have to start spending my life, my time, my resources, and my energy rather than hoarding them for a rainy day.
Or a special day.
Or just in case.
I’ve been given one wild and precious life. I’ve been given one chance to live well, love hard, and celebrate what God is doing in people’s lives- the big things and the little ones. He has given me a special ability to feel out the little things in someone’s heart and I have been wasting it.
It’s time to bust out the china. Even on a Tuesday. It’s time to toss in the koolaid packets and give some away, too. No more waiting, no more hoarding. Life is meant to be celebrated! People are meant to be celebrated! God, the Ultimate Celebrator, proves this in everything he does! He celebrated his awesome creation by topping it off with mankind. Jesus celebrated a wedding in his community by creating wine from water. He even celebrated his imminent death (and the freedom and glory that it would bring soon after) by providing a dinner theatre of sorts for his best friends. Even the Old Testament, full of all its laws and demands, is fraught with feasting and celebrating.
Why can my life not reflect the same celebratory attitude of the Father’s?
Well, it’s gonna.
This is my prayer- that God would bless me with His heart for celebrating and spending, rather than saving or hoarding.
So let’s bust out the china! It’s time for a party!
One thing I know I’ve always wanted to experiment with is making my own clothes. Not weird she-definitely-knitted-a-romper-and-then-wore-it type things, but nice things… like knitting some socks. Crocheting a hat. Sewing an apron.
And over the last few weeks I checked a major one off the list: I made my first dress!
I was invited to a fancy, ritzy, fabulous wedding in Florida in November, but started panicking when they told us it was “black tie optional.” What does that mean?? Floor length? Cocktail? Why do all these dresses look like they’re for prom? Is it prom season?? Why do the only other dresses look like mother-of-the-bride gowns? What do I do???
See, I only have summer dresses in my closet. Definitely not appropriate for a fancy wedding. And since I really don’t love to shop, I clearly don’t know the places to go for nice dresses (in a non-prom, non-grandma fashion).
So I took a breath and, with some extra encouragement from my seamstress roomie, decided to just stinking make my own dang dress.
I scrounged the internets (mostly pinterest) for ideas of what I wanted the silhouette/neckline/waist area/length to be, and found a couple great ideas:
I looooove boat necklines, especially the super-high ones. I haven’t been nazi enough on my arms this fall to warrant a strapless or sleeveless dress, so I found a nice balance between not wanting sleeves and actually needing them. And I knew I wanted to do something with the back, and found a really daring deep-vee plunge (that I made a bit less daring so I wouldn’t shock myself or others with a surprise meeting of the small of my back.
I then proceeded to panic over color, fabric, drape, embellishments, and any number of other cool sewing terms until the roomie calmed me down with her sweet wisdom: “Whatever you choose, it’s going to be fabulous. Also, I like option B.”
Option B! The winner! When down to a deep purple-y wine color and a rich navy blue, the navy one. And it was definitely the right choice.
I loosely followed this tutorial for the dress, and added a deep-vee plunge in the back via a loose form of this tutuorial.
I struggled a bit with the elastic (the fabric was too heavy and the elastic too thin), so I ended up adding a double layer of elastic at the waist. This is the one area of the dress I really didn’t love, so I added a belt and a do-it-yourself bow at the bottom of the vee plunge in the back. It could have been a bit larger, but I still liked the outcome. All-in-all, from the cutting of the fabric, to the finishing of the bow, (without taking into account the entire week I put off doing the belt), the dress took me about an hour. Maybe a bit longer. But it was SO SIMPLE and turned out SO ELEGANTLY. I loved it.
Bonus? The dresses at the top ranged in the couple-hundred dollar category. I made my entire dress for less than $20. Suck it, Saks.
And THEN, checking off yet another bucket list item, I got to dress super fancy and do something awesome. I added a sweet pair of heels, some great nail polish, and a killer necklace and hit the ground running. My good-lookin’ date helped a bit, too.
We went to this fabulous wedding (of which he was The Best Man) (also the best man), and ate, drank, and danced the night away at the best reception I’ve ever been to. I laughed a lot, I made new friends, I stuffed my face, I laughed some more, and in general I felt stunning. I felt prettier and more glamorous than I have all year long. I’ve deeply longed for a real reason to get dressed up and do something fabulous, and this was a better excuse than I could have imagined.
Let me just begin with this: No. I am not pregnant. No, I have not had children yet. No, I am not expecting.
Some girlfriends and I were discussing pregnancy and birth plans and what have you this past Sunday. As we do. One of the major topics of discussion became the area of postpartum care. I recently read this article about the lack of postpartum care for new mothers in America and how detrimental it can be to go from just you and your spousey-poo to you and your spouse and lots of new baby poo. And crying. And diaper rash. Oh, and learning the art of breastfeeding. And the art of Never Sleeping Again. Ever.
I feel like it could be the next Harry Potter series:
Harry Potter and the 24 Hour Labor
Harry Potter And the Colicky Baby
Harry Potter and the Neverending Poo Stream
Harry Potter And 18-Year-Long Night
You get my point.
But, seriously, how are we supposedly at the top of our game as a country, and yet we are the only country without paid maternal leave, and one of the few countries without normal practices of postpartum care? Rather than being a community of women-helping-women, we’ve become a society in which the moment a baby leaves a mother’s body, the mother is expected almost solely to care for her brand new human being, and forever deny her own needs. If she attempts to put her health or needs above baby’s, she’s considered lazy, selfish or, at worst, neglectful. In the article I recently referenced, an Argentine woman compares post-birth to a plane crash. We’re all told that in a crash, you must place an oxygen mask on yourself first, and then your children. Yet, milliseconds after birth, women are expected to hold their breath for the next 18 years, attending first and nearly-only to the needs of her child. Especially during infancy and early years. Rather than take care of herself so that she is physically and mentally able to take care of her children, she is expected to undergo major physical trauma and then immediately recover in order to focus solely on the infant.
And we wonder why postpartum depression is on the rise.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your mother will show up to help for a week or two. Maybe, also, your mother-in-law. Or a sister if you’re suuuper lucky. But for those without extended families, or with poor familial ties, what’s the alternative? To suck it up and get on with it.
Are you judging me quite yet? Perhaps you’ve been through it all and you’re thinking to yourself, By God if I had to do it, and I made it through alive, everyone else should quit complaining and just deal, too. Or maybe, It’s not normal to need or expect someone else’s help. You brought a baby into the world, you decided for yourself you wanted children, so you brought this on yourself. Again- deal with it.
Or maybe you’re a mom went through the exhaustion of a new baby for the first, second, third, fourth time… and you know how desperately you needed someone to talk to, help change the baby, give you 15 minutes so you could shower for the first time in a week.
I’ve seen repeatedly on facebook, posts like such:
“Eat, sleep, or shower? I can only do one.”
“Baby finally went to sleep. I’m too exhausted to sleep so I guess I’ll just sit here on facebook.”
“I haven’t showered in a week. Can someone please come watch baby so I can clean myself?”
And the list goes on. Perhaps instead of spending our time judging each other, why don’t we just help a family out? We were always meant to be a small town, no matter where we choose to live. In moments of tragedy, people line up all the way around the corner with meals for the grief-stricken family. What about for the sleep-stricken new parents? Where is the meal train for them?
And let me also just say that I’m not condemning the world. There are a LOT of people, friends, family, community, churches out there who respond to the needs of new families with clothes, diapers, meals. But what I’m saying is that, for the most part, the idea of a culturally-accepted postpartum support system is nil, and I think it should change.
So do my girlfriends.
As we stood around the island in the kitchen dreaming of one day when we’d all have our own babies, we began planning a pact, per se. A promise to be there for each other, post-birth.
“Oh, you need someone to come in and help when your mom has to get back home? You can count on me. Sign me up for a week.” “Two weeks for me!” “You pay for food, I’ll buy it and cook it. And clean your house so you can rest.” These are the things we promised to each other. And not without weight.
Just as in major surgery, a woman needs to recover physically. It takes time and it takes sleep, two things a new mother has ZERO of. But what if our community of friends gathered around us to give us just a little extra time to adjust and recuperate? What if, like a million years ago when neighbors came to help bring in your crop under the promise that you would help when their crop came in, we (especially as women) gave a week of our time post-birth to help a new mom? And she would lovingly and gratefully return the favor when your babies came?
I can just imagine what it would be like to have a newborn baby and sleep. In the same breath. A husband who is able to work and also sleep. Food that is prepared, and friends to help keep up with laundry. Just long enough to recover physically and learn the basics of caring for a brand new human.
I don’t think it sounds selfish. I don’t think it sounds lazy or neglectful. I think it’s what we’re meant to do for each other as a basic community of love. We are supportive of those around us when grief abounds. Let’s be supportive of each other when major life changes go down, too.
This past weekend I had the real pleasure of spending time with some amazing women at their awesome farmhouse in the middle of the rolling hills of Autumnal Kentucky. Poetic much? Yes.
It’s been on my list for ages now to learn how to can something. I’m learning more and more about sustainable living and some of the Appalachian folk skills that are kind of dying out. Less and less people know how to grow vegetables, make their own bread, preserve their own harvest. And while leagues upon leagues of produce are to be found at places like Kroger, Meijer, and Walmart- UGH- the produce has to travel quite a ways and has been modified to look uniform and last much longer than produce should. It’s great for when you’re in a crunch, or when you don’t have access to rich soil or great weather, but really it would be nice to grow and preserve things locally.
Since I have yet to plant my own vegetable garden/fruit tree Eden, I asked some of the loveliest women in my life to teach me to preserve something through a canning process. Jill and Jessica kindly agreed. They prepared for the weekend by purchasing a couple bushels of locally grown apples and some locally processed cider, got out their surplus mason jars, and made some hot tea to enjoy while the conversation and work grew.
I arrived to cheers and smiles and warm hugs all around and Jill whipped up a delicious sweet potato soup (seriously, though, to die for) so we could eat before we boiled, and when the lunch mess was cleared we headed back to the kitchen to check some things off the bucket list.
First thing’s first.
a recipe for APPLE SAUCE
Clean and sanitize the jars.
Peel and slice the apples.
Boil the apples down with a little water (the amount of water depending on how juicy the apples are).
While in the pot, add cinnamon and raw can sugar (again, amount depending on how many apples are being boiled).
Prepare jars for impending hot water bath by placing into a couple inches of boiled water.
Pour applesauce into jars, clean lip, add boiled lids, and seal with cap.
Place jars into boiling water for hot water “bath”, return to boil. If using pint jars, boil for 20-25 minutes. If using quarts, boil 35 minutes.
Take from hot water bath, place on drying racks, and wait for that sweet sound of the lid popping into a perfect seal.
Place jars somewhere special and take out to enjoy when ready.
What a fun afternoon! It took longer than I was expecting, but the warm conversation, the laughter, and the smell of cooked apple and cinnamon made my time there so rich, so full. I’m convinced that this is the kind of life and the kind of community we’re all meant to have. We chatted about updates, we talked about plans, we shared sorrows, we gushed about boys, and we filled our time with a sweet productivity that will soon bring smiles and delight to people that we love. I feel so full from my weekend spent in the company of precious women. This is what abundant life is. It must be. Not only the conversation, but the work of making something magical in the kitchen that will last. At least for awhile. It brought me such pleasure to learn a craft much older than I am that will carry on into my own parenting.
We also made delicious apple butter.
And bonus! I got to milk their sweet dairy cow, Queenie, and feed her precious little boy with a bottle.
Happiest Girl Ever.
(ps. you can find the original 30 before 30 list here)
It’s been a minute since I’ve done any real blogging, so here’s a toast to beginning again the process of publicly journaling my life.
This past weekend I traveled a few hours north of where I reside to have a wedding reunion with O Squad- the loud, colorful, joyous, hilarious, indescribable group of people with whom I journeyed the world round last year. Two of our own- Betsy and Josh- were officially tying the knot. It was a quick but lovely ceremony, followed by a reception dinner that was basically an excuse to continue catching up on what everyone is doing these days, who is dating whom, where everyone is living, and which of our numerous memories from our year together are our favorite.
It was an awesome day and a half.
Know something else that was awesome?
The log cabin some of us got to stay in for the weekend. Betsy’s family put the whole squad up in various locations, and I was one of the suuuuper lucky few to bag the cabin (thanks for your logisticing skills, Emma!) (#racebestie)
This place is a glimpse of my personal heaven.
I woke up each morning early…not even that early… but I had about an hour each morning totally to myself. “Not a creature was stirring” kind of quiet. It was incredibly life-giving.
I have to start at the beginning. You see, my version of heaven includes lots of trees and wilderness, and a house resembling, well, a sweet-looking log cabin. Lots of natural hardwood flooring, big windows, open ceilings with visible rafters. There’s an old-timey front porch with handmade rocking chairs, for sure, and definitely a back porch. A big kitchen with a table for everyone, and a warm feeling you get as soon as you walk in, that spreads from your head all the way down to your toes.
THIS WAS THAT PLACE.
From the front porch- wildflowers and weeds and tall grasses as far as you can see. From the back porch, nothing but woodland and underbrush. Then to the side of the cabin was a small pergola opening into a garden. The house was surrounded by a picket fence that looked as old as the ages (and yet also well-maintained).
That first morning I woke with the idea to grab my bible and journal and head to the front porch to spend time with Jesus in a rocking chair. But I was so overwhelmed with the aesthetics of the place that all I could do was walk around and around and try to drink in every sight. I picked some wildflowers from along the “road” (an extremely long gravel-and-dirt driveway), place them in a piece of pottery from the cabinet, and start the morning coffee. I walked all over the side garden, and across the “driveway”, where a little pond was surrounded by a grassy path that led through a tunnel of small trees. I did rock on a chair on the front porch, but only for a minute, because there was so much else to see. There were little walking paths all over the place, made of flat rocks, with pieces of weed and grass growing between them. The sun was still rising above the trees behind the house, so only the tops of the trees and flowers at the top of the hill in the front was illuminated. Everything was still and quiet and covered in dew and my feet got wet and grassy pretty quickly.
I went back inside to unpack some of the groceries Emma had picked up for the house, and to stand in the middle of that silent kitchen and just dream. What an amazing place to be able to live! A big island in the kitchen to prepare food on while your family sits or runs around. A huge table with lots of seating. There was even one of those old metal hangy-things that had peppers and garlic drying from it. And also old pans and skillets.
I felt so clean and de-cluttered. I felt in that moment, standing with my coffee, listening to the sounds of the early morning, that I could do anything, be anyone. I dreamed of my own future house with my own future family, and how I hoped it could be like this- big and open and lived in. As my squadmates woke up and filed in and life began, I kept thinking what a wonderful place it would be to even simply live in community- just have a big cabin and fill it with my best girlfriends- women who would sharpen and encourage and challenge each other to live closer to Christ.
It was simply a breath of fresh air.
Sunday morning was similar, except instead of running around marveling at how creative God is, and how creative His children are (to make such a perfect building), I just sat in the nook with my coffee and my bible and read about how awesome and faithful and loving He is. I sat in the again-quiet kitchen and drank in the goodness of the Lord. After spending all afternoon and evening with my squad, laughing and sharing and storytelling and bonfiring, I still woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I felt like I had been at a retreat. That’s the power of finding your place– those spaces that make you feel new. For me, it’s a cabin in the woods, far from internet or cell phone service (SERIOUSLY, OHIO), full of hardwood floors and walls, big windows, and some history. A place to escape life and responsibility and tasks for just a little bit. A place to take a walk and meet God in nature- to see His beauty in His magnificent handiwork.
I’ve recently discovered a love of flowers (wildflowers in particular), and a love of lacy things, and a love of feeling feminine in the most old fashioned ways. This weekend was all of those things.
I consider myself an introvert and really need a pretty good amount of time alone to recharge. And yet, God plopped me down in the middle of more than half my squad to celebrate a momentous occasion. And even with all of those things, He gave me just the tiniest amount of alone time in the perfect space, and I feel new. I feel so refreshed. Such a full, busy, travel-y weekend, and still I am fully ready for another 50-hour work week.
The power of the perfect place. Thanks, Ramser family, for allowing us to live in your cabin. Thanks, Jesus, for knowing and blessing my heart. You’re so good, and I’m so full.
Last week I was bitten by a spider. Suuuper high up on my hamstring. It wasn’t a poisonous spider, it turns out, but it has caused some serious problems.
I noticed that my left leg was hurting on Thursday of last week and (because I’m a yoga teacher- hollllllaaaa) when I twisted, arched, and folded to see what the issue was, there was a swollen, raised circle about the size of a half dollar.
Whatevs. It’s probably nothing. Remember last year in Albania? When one of my squad mates was bitten on her leg by something and had a huge red welt? They said it was no big deal and to just leave it alone, and in fact it did go away all by itself.
So ME TOO. I figured I would just leave it alone and it would go away. PLEASE GOD, LET IT GO AWAY.
Friday morning arrived and brought with it a serious amount of swelling, pain, and tripling in size of the redness. It was starting to look really yucky and it hurt quite a bit, so of course I reached out to the wide world of social media to see if we could all, collectively, figure out what was happening to me. At this point I didn’t know it was a spider bite, and there was a teensy weensy part of me that thought I legitimately could be housing an alien baby. I didn’t know. Social Media, help!!
The amount of people that reached out to me, that asked about my symptoms, that put me in touch with other people who were nurses or doctors or pretty much anyone in the medical profession, was astounding. Everyone was immediately concerned for me and a few people went waaaayyy out of their way to make sure I got taken care of. It was so overwhelming and so encouraging and I felt so loved and supported.
[I ended up having an infected spider bite and was on the receiving end of not-super-expensive antibiotics. Oh, and also MRSA. Which is kind of a big deal.]
By Sunday morning, though, even with the meds and ointment, it was so deeply infected and so very swollen that I couldn’t sleep, sit, stand, or walk without excruciating pain. It was unreal. That afternoon I lay on the couch trying not to cry, experiencing for the first time pain so intense I was nauseated. Within two hours I was visited by a highly-qualified medical professional who was also a member of my church who checked it out, diagnosed it, and launched into minor surgery on it. Without numbing medication.
It was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through.
And yet I didn’t care, because the pain from the bite alone (and it’s infection) was enough to make me beg for my leg to be amputated. …I didn’t really want that, but in my hysteria I sure thought I did.
A little over an hour later and 95% of the infection had been pricked, sliced, squeezed, pressed, and otherwise tortured out of me. SHEW. I would never wish that on anyone. A.N.Y.O.N.E.
And now, two days later, the wound is still draining, the meds are working like a dream, and I’m finally starting to feel better. Still quite painful (because it’s black and blue from the procedure…still totally worth it), but I am well on my way to healing.
I tell you all of this for two reasons: (a) So you can all know what a Champion I am for enduring such torture, and (b) so I can share with you the biggest thing I learned this weekend.
It is vital.
It’s honestly what keeps us going.
Receiving messages from people who were genuinely concerned for me and my health was so boosting for me. I didn’t really think I would receive any feedback when I reached out to the wide world of social media, but I was seriously reminded of the gift that it can be when used properly. The whole body of Christ, from all over the country, reached out to me in order to help me find some healing through all kinds of giftings, whether by connecting me with nurses or doctors, or sympathizing with me, or sharing words of encouragement and prayer.
That is what we are meant to bring to this world, and to each other.
I wonder how much better life would be if we as Christians really stepped up into our role as friend. If we are truly called to love our neighbors as ourselves, why is this not how we react to all things? A friend recently shared with me about an online group whose sole purpose was to bless others by giving their things away. You could get online and offer something, or ask for something and if someone had it, it would be sent to you, no questions asked (except for “what’s your address?”). It wasn’t a Christian group. Just a group of people who wanted to bless someone else. People came and went from the group, tons of stuff changed hands, people got rid of stuff, and people received stuff. And much more deeply, I think some lives were changed in the balance.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really see this kind of stuff happening too often, even in the Christian circle. It makes me frustrated, and a little more than sad, that this isn’t simply the natural way we all live our lives, that it isn’t the way I live my life.
I realize that the changes I want to see in the world begin with myself making a change. But I’m also left wondering, if we all lived with such a Community- and Kingdom-minded perspective, how many lives could change for the better? How many people could be affected in a positive way if I simply started reaching out to people when they ask for something?
I asked for a little help and received a HUGE response of love. It filled me up. And in the end it helped me avoid an ungodly amount of medical expenses and an even more serious infection. The Body surrounded me just as I reached a breaking point and saved me from what I felt sure I was headed for- an inevitable pit of physical pain and financial/emotional despair.
So I’m going to make myself a challenge. You can join me, or encourage me along the journey, or maybe even scoff at my (perhaps a little-too-big) intentions. When someone asks for something, when someone reaches out for a hand in the darkness, instead of skimming over or pretending like I don’t see it or reminding myself I’m too busy/tired/whatever, I’m going to reach out and grab hold. I don’t know what it is I can offer, but I do know I can offer something. Maybe I don’t have all the knowledge in the world, but I can network, and encourage, and listen, and pray. And sometimes those are the most powerful catalysts for hope.
So here goes, and here’s hoping you join me in a world-wide campaign to spread hope, love, and a few less spider bite infections.
Ever had one of those conversations that makes you feel like deja vu is just a reminder that it’s all going to work out and all the stars have aligned and God has heard you and is answering in a blinding and butterfly-inducing way??
I had one a couple nights ago.
There were some things weighing on my heart and my mind as I drove home from a recent trip to Georgia, and I was going to be couch crashing my friend Caroline’s parents home. I arrived overly tired from driving (a decently rare phenomenon), and Caroline and I decided to hang out on the couches in the living room with her dad. He put a movie in, I popped out my crocheting (I know you’re all very surprised by this), and we began what I figured to be a relatively chill evening.
Then Caroline’s stepmom came home.
And my soul leapt for joy. Kathy is just one of those women who does not meet a stranger. Full of joy and a way of communicating that totally disarms her listeners, I felt right at home in a conversation that got super serious super fast. She opened it up by asking about yoga. Which totally disarms me anyway, because I love it so much and am so passionate about what it can do for your body and mind. But the conversation quickly turned to other things, the things that had been pressing on my heart. I won’t share a lot of information about it because it’s all still working itself out, but one thing that really stood out to me was the frequency of crazy coincidences. I would share something or ask a question, and it was exactly what they had experienced personally. Or it was a specific facet of their education. Or an actual question they had asked one another. The longer we talked, the more peace I felt about all those crazy things running around in my mind and keeping me from sleep.
Not to be cryptic, but I am so thankful God puts people in our paths that so deliberately and intentionally remind us that He is listening, that He does hear us, and that He uses people, places, and circumstances to answer our questions and put our hearts at ease, if we just listen.
I’m so grateful for this evening and all the incredible things I learned, and the sweet new friend I made in Kathy. I will not soon forget this night, for this was the night I heard God answer me.
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I have been so blessed to participate in numerous different ministries over the last month and a half. Minstries like teaching English to kids in a bilingual school; bringing food to families who have lost their homes in a hurricane and now live in shanties and lean-to’s; preaching the Word in the yard of a house in a poor village; praying for the sick in a hospital; taking care of orphans from a mission to rescue young women who have been incestuously sexually abused; playing soccer with kids in a Compassion International center. There have been so many. But by far…so far… my favorite ministry has been one focused on my team. I have most enjoyed….so far…COOKING.
I blame Janice Wood.
I only really began learning to cook last year, having grown up in a house where my grandmother thought it nearly offensive if you wanted to cook for yourself, so much was her love of caring for people by providing for them in the kitchen. A lot of people- my Mom, my dear Ellice, my sweet Casey- have poured into my cooking repertoire, but it has been Janice who has made the most impact on me.
Janice Wood is the wife of my pastor (and practically my adopted papa) Joe Wood. Joe and Janice host a meal for college kids every Sunday of the fall and spring semesters after church. It’s called “Mooching Off The Pastor. I mean, who doesn’t want a home-cooked meal? But in order to prepare enough food for 60+ people, Janice hosts a “Mooching Prep” session for college girls who want to learn to cook, or who want to be a blessing to the 60-some-odd college students who will be partaking of their time and effort, consumption-wise.
I started attending Janice’s Mooching Prep, I guess, a year and a half ago and, MAN, have I learned a lot. Not just about cooking, but about intimacy with friends and family, about how to do life with people, about how to love on people and draw them into your home and your life. There’s something really special about preparing a meal for people, or preparing a meal together, and then eating together, that you can’t really get from many other activities.
And- suprise, surprise- the second I leave the country to go be God’s hands and feet all over the world, the moment I get the opportunity to do crazy miraculous things I could never have even thought about in the states…I discover that I find more joy in washing and peeling vegetables, in grating cheese, in rolling pupusas than anything else.
Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE the ministries that we are getting to do. I LOVE experiencing cultures and crowds that challenge me, that stretch me, that cause me to look at my life from a new perspective- but, again, there’s just something really beautiful about caring for my team(s) and my hosts in preparing food. There’s something really cool about learning how other people in other cultures prepare meals. There’s something really…satisfying… about sacrificing my own personal time to serve the people around me whom I love so much.