Woman

I grew up thinking Feminism was a vile word. It was a word that elicited much eye rolling and nauseated groaning noises when mentioned. I grew up thinking it meant lots of leg hair, tons of anger, and deep hatred toward anyone who happened to possess a penis. I shaved, didn’t feel particularly angry (at least back then…oh to be young again), and I certainly did not hate men. For the record, there is nothing wrong with some leg hair and rage, ladies…I just wasn’t sure where I belonged, or if I even wanted to based on the image so generously painted for me. I also had this nagging feeling that told me the world can do better by us. I wasn’t sure how to quite reconcile my ideas about what it looked like to practice feminism with my evolving beliefs about femininity and my place in society.

One day, though, it dawned on me that perhaps those messages I got were actually designed specifically to keep curious outsiders like me just beyond reach for any holy mischief to be made. The smaller the understanding of feminism, the more people would feel excluded and likely leave well enough alone. Much better for the status quo to keep thriving unchecked.

Josh Cody is a good man. An amazing husband and partner this last decade. I would absolutely credit my journey toward feminism to his persistency in holding me to a higher and higher standard for myself. He has sat with me in a lot of self-loathing, a lot of self-doubt, and helped unpack a TON of baggage I carried throughout my 20’s due to the low view I held toward women. “Women are manipulators”, so it was likely that anything bad that happened to me was brought on by my own doing. “Women use their sexuality to coerce men”, therefore any unwanted attention I received was because of something I did or said. “Women aren’t as capable as men”, so why would I even bother finishing my degree? “Women don’t have important things to say”, therefore I should feel shame when I had the urge to express an opinion. I worked as an intern at a Methodist church in college when I heard my first female pastor preach. It honestly sounded…unnatural to me. I didn’t like it. I’m heartbroken to admit that I tuned her out that day. Wrote her off. What could have been a beautiful and important moment for me was stolen by my internalized message that a woman’s value can only be found behind the scenes, not from a stage or pulpit. Something deep within me couldn’t trust a woman who leads, and I could certainly never become a leader myself.

When we dated, Josh would push back on this thought pattern, but it wasn’t until we got married that he began his 10-year-long operation to poke as many holes in the story I told myself as he possibly could. As the holes were made, a space was growing for something else to exist. I began to see myself as good. I began to see other women as good.

My keen sense of intuition that I used to call misleading? Good.

My brain that lives inside my head that can think thoughts that are unique to me? Good.

My desire to achieve things beyond the confines of the home (which I also happen to love)? Good.

The way I get to express myself through the clothes I wear, the words I say, and the things I write? Good.

This was earth-shattering. Nothing has quite changed the landscape of my existence in the world like giving myself the permission to exist. I don’t mean to inhabit a room, but to take up space. To walk confidently toward another human on the sidewalk in our neighborhood without stepping aside and getting my feet muddy in an attempt move out of their way. To have the audacity to think that maybe something that lies inside the people I admire also lives inside of me. This thought alone was a revelation. I started to own this work and practice this skill of existing as much as I could.

As I allowed myself to be discovered for the first time, I looked around and noticed other women around me. I have yet to stop noticing them. I see their resilience and their grit. I see the way they mother tenderly and notice injustices in the world with agonizing empathy. I see them on the journey I am on, learning to trust their gut and their bodies, reclaiming what it means to be female. I see the balancing act they engage in, appearing to hold the entire world together with nothing more than a day-planner and a cup of coffee. We are complicated and beautiful and strong, and I love us.

The women in my life are heroic. My sister started a business, is the hardest working person I know, and still drops everything when I call to make sure the people in her life feel seen and loved.

My friend Becky runs a non-profit feeding some of the most underserved people in her state. She works absolutely grueling hours to make sure that every single person who comes through the doors is treated with dignity, and given a moment to feel beloved. She is a manager, a teacher, an advocate, an ally, and a bridge-builder in her community. She is a wife and an incredible mother. This is women’s work.

My friend Katie is a web developer walking into an office every day full of men. She constantly teaches me what it looks like to choose to believe you belong in a space despite what messages you may receive to try to convince you otherwise. She empowers others without demeaning herself. She unapologetically practices self-care through keeping healthy boundaries. I don’t think I knew what that looked like before I met her, and it’s changed my life.

My friend Gabby  a mom of 2 and a nurse staying home to raise her babies, who she birthed naturally. Like at her births, she brings her full self to that role every single day, an example for her daughter of the power a woman has when she’s fully alive and her son how to live into his capacity for both tenderness and strength. At this moment she’s probably dreaming of the business she’s going to start, nursing her infant, and whipping up the most incredibly delicious vegan curry you’ve ever tasted for her family.

I am in awe of what women do.

I could go on for days.

I don’t simply esteem the women in my life, I see them as absolutely vital to my well-being every moment of every day. One important spiritual practice for me has been to sit with and meditate on the qualities I see in the women around me. Their strength reminds me that I am also strong. Their gifts remind me that I am gifted. Their patience toward their friends and children reminds me that I am capable of creating peace. Their ambitions remind me that I too am allowed to strive and hustle and accomplish even if it means sacrificing in another area of my life or (gasp) at the expense of Josh sometimes. The sermons they preach remind me how important it is to feel represented, and how valuable a women’s voice is in leading all sorts of communities. I don’t just theoretically value the voice and experience of women. I need them. They are essential. Those voices are also essential to the health and wellbeing of every society which ever existed.

I love claiming feminism because I love proclaiming the freedom I found in owning the magnitude of my own value. I belong to no one. I don’t have to be composed or motherly or attractive or articulate or quiet or anything else to be worth someone’s time. I am created in God’s image. She is for me, not against me. I can exist in this world without apologizing or needing an excuse to be here.

This journey has brought me joy. It has brought me community. It has strengthened my marriage and my relationship with my Creator. I believe I am a better mother when I’m able to bring all of me to that role each day. I am so imperfect and so grateful to get to show up to my place in this story in all my imperfect glory. These days, nothing thrills me more than getting to vote for, listen to, be preached at, read, and study women who are like me in so many ways: Flawed, shedding pounds of cultural expectation, vulnerable, and showing up to do the work anyway. I have so far to go to keep living into that freedom, and we all have so far to go in reversing the damage being done to girls. I would give anything for those years back that I spent in the dark, lonely place of self-suppression.

I recently returned from a faith conference where I had the privilege of hearing from twelve incredible women speaking power and truth into my life. I held to every single word they spoke over my, drinking in their wisdom like a desert wanderer tasting water for the first time in years. I heard my story as they told theirs. I felt so challenged and seen and fortunate to get to learn from their experiences. The men in attendance agreed. Women belong in our pulpits and boards and theology books and supreme courts and public offices not for representation’s sake, but because of the actual value we provide in each of these spaces. I belong. We belong. I will keep fighting to believe that today and every day until it is cemented into my bones and feels as natural to me as breathing.

 

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You made me a mother.

A couple weeks late, but I wrote this on my baby’s birthday May 15th. I cannot believe he is a year old already. What a year.

 

My boy,

One year ago today you made your way into this world. You came barreling into our lives like the force of nature you are, with little warning, and no knowledge of the many transitions you would undergo upon arrival in your first mother’s arms. You were the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on.

Seeing another woman- strong, graceful, a force to be reckoned with- deliver you and give you life, will forever be an experience that changed your dad and I forever.

The pain of delivery could not match the pain of the choices she was forced to make leading up to your arrival and afterward. I imagine the awkward conversations with strangers asking about her due date. I imagine the sickness of the first trimester and constant reminders of what was to come. I imagine the first kick she felt and how many thousands of times she wrestled in her head over how to be able to keep you with her forever. I imagine your siblings yearning for their baby brother to hold and to love.

Your story began with a woman who made the most painful decision imaginable, knowing it would simultaneously destroy her and also serve your need to thrive in this world. She sacrificed her body for you, but also her mind-ever dwelling with you now, imagining what you may be doing in each passing moment. Are you crawling? Are you missing her? Are you happy and fed and thriving? Always wondering. Always.

Your birthday will always be a mixed bag of joy and pain for many. But you, my love, are pure sunshine.

You slept so hard those first few weeks, and then awoke like a sleeping giant, eager to conquer the world around you. You have rocked my world with your zest for life and giant grins. You are the funniest and happiest person I know, and I get way too much credit for this. You are the one who ushers joy into my life, not the other way around. While there is much to be discovered and grappled with around the circumstances of your joining our family, I will take all of the relentless giggling and silliness I can get until those days come. And when they do, I do my best to hold space for you to feel anything you may feel. I will always do my best to be whoever you need me to be. But I will never be her, and I will be grateful for each day she chooses to show up and live in the painful space with all of us for your sake. We need her, and you need her. You always will. We have a lot of work to do to figure this life out with each other, but I am so excited for the adventure we are on.

I celebrate your life today, your first mother’s choice to birth you and to allow me to mother you. It has been the honor of my life.

Thank you for the last 365 days. I have never loved so hard or grown so much. I love you, baby.

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Raising me.

Long time no see!

These days I have found myself tending to hold things a little closer to the chest, so to speak. While it hasn’t been great for my little blogging hobby, it has been a uniquely life-giving season of turning inward to be present in all of the beautiful growth happening around me. I feel a lot more protective of our little family tribe than I expected. But nothing has quite been as expected these past 11 months. Not one thing.

Physically, my boy is growing like a weed. He is so full of life and joy and opinions and desires. He will take his first steps any day now, and his first birthday party is being planned. I am in awe watching his beautiful essence emerge like a bright red poppy flower opening in the sunlight. We cannot get enough of him. He is perfect. He is a dream come true.

Parenting, though…Parenting is imperfect, and I wouldn’t dream of comparing it to things as simple and lovely as sunshine or flowers. Parenting is untidy and confusing and requires more resilience than I ever imagined. This experience has been akin to someone placing an elephant-sized mirror in my home that follows me around and forces me to look into it every moment of the day. Only I’m forced to look inside myself instead of outside. This confrontation is often as unpleasant as it is enlightening.

“Oh boy! Some anger problems you never knew about! Cool!”

“Darn , looks like you still have a huge problem with boundaries!”

“You just did the thing to Ezra that you hated growing up!”

“Insecurity! Insecurity! Insecurity!”

“You thought you had coping skills?? HAHAHAHAH!”

“You’re gonna need more therapy than you anticipated. Better take out a second mortgage”

Everything that was once kept inside is suddenly on the outside. I’m forced to come up against my values and beliefs with such intensity that I question all of it constantly. The mirror also reflects back some pretty amazing strengths that were there all along too, but of course it is so much easier to harp on the bad stuff, especially when I thought I’d already won some of those hard-fought battles over the years.

For me, this mirror is big and obtrusive and unavoidable. It is a constant invitation to receive growth or wither away in defeat at the sight of all my faults. I have to make a deliberate choice daily to persevere through the often humiliating moments so that I can come out of this experience proud of the woman and mother I became along the way. In this way, strangely, I am actually raising myself. As these big questions arise and feelings emerge and faults rear their ugliness, I have to be the one looking after my fragile inner being and making sure she has what she needs to keep going. In a season where most of my day is spent in my own head, I desperately need an advocate in there.

I have to choose each day to raise myself along with raising my son. With tenderness and fierce, protective love. I am mothering us both. And I desperately want to learn to love myself and develop patience for me the way I am with my precious boy. I want to look into the mirror of parenting with courage and tenacity and deep self-love, as I will want Ezra to do when he looks at the person reflected back at him. We both deserve it. Despite what else I may find in myself along the way, good or bad, I’m determined to walk this road showing the same kindness to myself that I want Ezra to have for himself.

I need my love as much as he needs it. That is what I am seeing to be true more each day.

 

2018

Happy New Year,  friends.

What. A. Crazy. Past. 12. Months.

On this day one year ago I would have fallen over laughing had someone told me we would have an almost 8 month old, staying home full time, and Josh would be working remotely for an Atlanta-based company. No sir. Yet, here we are. Life comes at ya fast.

I feel like the fog of new parenthood has started to lift, and the last 8 months have started to come into focus. I can see myself changing, our world changing, and our marriage changing. Though in the thick of it, all I could see was one foot in front of my face. My awareness was so primal. Getting through the next bottle, the next diaper change, the next crisis, the next sleep regression…And on and on it went. With plenty of joyful moment in between, of course. But overall, nothing but a blur.

I have learned so much about myself since becoming a mom. I see my control issues, my insecurities, and my shortcomings clearer than ever before. There were months where I felt like the absolute worst version of myself. I say all this because I know I’m not alone, and hindsight, while not 20/20 just yet, is at least coming into view. These little people unearth the best and the worst there is in all of us, and there is no denying both sides of that coin.

While my favorite thing to do in January is spend time reflecting on the year past, I have never been one for big New Years resolutions or “word for the year” commitments.  But this year feels different. I sense my locus of control shifting from outside of me to inside. I sense myself missing the routine and the leadership and structure of being employed. For years, I had the luxury of someone else directing my focus, guiding me toward growth, and providing endless opportunities for me to learn. It is time for me to learn to meet that need for myself.

I chose 2 words I want to embody in 2018. The first is participation. Now that I can see straight and feel a little less in survival mode, I feel so ready to do things again. It is shocking how quickly my desire for a full calendar went from zero to ten thousand. I had a moment of panic when my new 2018 planner arrived, and how little I had to fill in. I was so surprised at how disappointed I felt, when just a few months earlier I wanted so strongly to pull back from anything and everything in our already pared-down lives.

Here’s a healthy reminder to myself and everyone else: seasons are seasons. Embrace them, and know that they change. Sometimes faster than ever think possible.

To me, participation means putting myself out there again. Trying new things. Volunteering, Blogging. Doing things that make me feel alive and a part of something bigger than my little family unit. One of the hardest parts for me about bringing a baby home was feeling like it came with the cost of being side-lined. What I offer the world now consisted entirely of what I could offer my baby. I’m ready and excited to transition to a season where I can feel both personally fulfilled and also fulfilled in my role as Ezra’s mom. Both are so precision and important to me.

My other word for this year is gentleness. Other than the fact that “gentle” is the word I repeat more than any other with my super-strong and wild 7 month old who is obsessed with our dog’s ears, it is actually something I have not been great at this last year. The insecurities motherhood has brought out in me have, at times, created a monster. There have been shame-spirals like you wouldn’t believe, unnecessary arguments with my husband related to my own feelings of unworthiness, and certainly more than a few times where I have lost patience with the people around me. I want this year to be grounded in a sense of innate worthiness and self-love. I want to be overly-gentle with myself so that I’m able to be that toward everyone around me.

I saw a quote recently from a woman from the Humans of New York Instagram feed that has really stuck with me. She said, “people who love themselves love others. People who love themselves don’t hurt others, I think.” So simple, and so profoundly true. Loving myself is the best thing I can possibly do for my family in this season where every new stage presents new opportunities for me to either fixate on what I am lacking or embrace all the ways I have been equipped to take on the challenge.

2018, despite the fact that as I write this my entire family has the flu, I really do believe you are going to bring so much growth and goodness into our lives.

Happy New Year!

Parenthood ramblings

**Warning: Melodramatic reflections on parenthood ahead.**

Parenthood is everything, and nothing like what I expected.

It is a great contradiction.

It is lonely, with more human contact than you feel like you can handle.

It is ridiculous and hilarious, and so gravely serious and heavy.

It feels like a piece of you has been found, but other parts of you are now missing or forgotten.

I am both the heroine and the person needing saving each day.

The future is exploding with hope and anticipation, and also mourning for the sweet stages that had to be left behind to get there.

It is…in a few words…a hot mess.

 

There are so many things I have yet to figure out. Like how are these internet people wearing make up AND niceish looking clothes AND managing to take perfect photographs while doing (I assume) the same every day activities I am up to my neck in. Who is holding their children while they blow dry their perfect wavy hair?? How do they complete tasks that require two hands?? No ma’am, in my house there’s poop on our laundry room floor (I stepped in it barefoot this morning, thank you very much), I change outfits MANY times per day (shorts and t-shirts only) because of the waterfall of baby spit up that flows like Niagra, and of course exercise and balanced meals are out of the picture at the moment.

And this is all the reality WITH the most supportive friends and husband in the world.

Hot. Mess.

I’m just hoping I’m getting it right with the big things and trying to have grace for myself for everything else. An hour of peekaboo is slowly starting to feel like a productive use of my time, which seems like a win to me. So what have I learned so far? Gosh where do I even begin? Here’s a few…

  1. People find the most hilarious ways to creatively ask nosy questions about our family. Sorry strangers, you’ll have to leave the grocery store with more questions than answers about why I’m carrying around a child whose skin is twelve shades darker than mine. It’s nunya businezzz bye.
  2. Feelings of isolation and inadequacy come in waves. I ride it, feel it, acknowledge it, take a deep breath as it passes. Then I gear up for the next one.
  3. Asking for help is harder for me than I ever realized. Unfortunately, the saying about it taking a village is actually true, so I’ve had to confront this issue more than ever these last few months.
  4. So much of my insecurity and feelings of inadequacy about parenthood center around the transracial aspect of our adoption. Will I have the words to empower my son to see the innate beauty of his brown skin? Have I built enough awareness of the racism in our world to constantly confront it and allow our son to have confidence that his parents will fight for him for the rest of their lives? Will he resent us one day for participating in his placement into a family that doesn’t look like him? Will he care? Am I overthinking this? Focusing too much on race? Am I under thinking it? Not reading enough, doing enough, surrounding myself with enough people of color? There is hardly an hour that goes by these days without such questions racing through my head like one of those LED highway signs.
  5. I have not “arrived”. This was actually a confirmed theory I already held, as I was previously sensitive to people implying that moms have a higher value than other women. I certainly don’t have a higher worth or achieved any sort of ultimate enlightenment. This journey certainly is an invitation for constant growth, though. If anything, I have been exposed to how much further I have to go on this path to being the person I want to be, and there is a deep sense that the stakes are so much higher.

 

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This little person is changing me, day by day. I love every single thing about him, and couldn’t be more grateful that his life intersected mine. I’m grateful for all the things I get to learn because of him, and how the love I have for him challenges me to grow in ways I never would have otherwise.

It is highly likely that I will never be one of the put-together-looking moms who make it all look like a breeze, and I guess that’s okay. My boy is thriving, (albeit covered in spit-up) and we’re learning together how to do this thing.

 

Welcome home, baby boy

On May 15th, our son Ezra was born.

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He entered  our family through adoption 3 days later on May 18th.

The last month has been a beautiful blur, with all its sleep deprivation and captivating little smiles and hustling to make another bottle before all hell breaks loose…Parenthood is all the good and scary and endlessly exhausting things in life rolled into one tiny adorable package. It has been the wildest adventure of my life to date.

In pursuing adoption, you hear of all the many scenarios that may play out. You could wait weeks or you could wait many, many months. Some receive a call one day that a woman they’d never met just gave birth unexpectedly and she wants them to be the baby’s parents. Some spend almost the entire duration of a pregnancy developing a relationship with a birth family, struggling to find common ground and connection, trying to navigate the uncomfortable space created by all the factors at play. I tried for months to brace myself for a likely painful, arduous road leading up to meeting the child God had for us. I imagined our relationship with this other imaginary family to feel awkward and unnatural, but I couldn’t have been further from our future reality.

Miraculously, our journey to meeting our son felt more like finding a piece of myself I had been missing than trying to force a square peg into a round hole. While we only had about 2 weeks to get to know our son’s biological parents, after meeting them the first time it felt like they were kindred spirits. I marvel thinking back on the trust we were able to build in this 2 weeks, and the joy I still have when I think about this beautiful family we get to journey with in this open adoption story unfolding.

Other than the obvious gift of getting to be Ezra’s mama, the second most significant gift given to us by our son’s birth mom was getting to watch him enter the world. Prior to that day, I never wanted to let myself believe we would get that type of opportunity. I felt strongly that her labor and his birth was hers to control, and that sacred space was hers to own. I’m still in awe that she allowed us to take part in those moments, and that the first birth I’ve witnessed was Ezra’s-a perfect picture of the selfless, fierce, sacrificial love of a women one million times stronger than I’ll ever be as she brought forth life from her own body. It moved me to my core and puts tears in my eyes to this day.

I will go to bat for that woman until the end of my days, because no one will ever be able to match the level of strength and love I witnessed during that hospital stay and beyond.

Perhaps more than anything, I’m grateful that my son gets to grow up with tangible evidence that his journey into our family began in a place filled to the brim with love, respect, and mutual trust. He will see pictures of the smiles on his birth parents faces as they snapped photos of him, passed him around the room, fed him, burped him, changed him, and soaked in every last drop of his goodness possible. He will see his birth grandparents’ pride on their faces when they came to see him in the hospital. He will laugh at how uninterested his biological sister was in him, sitting on the bed eating her chips and pretending her mommy wasn’t holding another baby. He will see Josh and I, overwhelmed with hope and anticipation at the thought of getting to bring this baby home. With US! How on earth did we get so lucky?

So here we are, one month later. Still full of hope and anticipation for what’s to come for this new life who exists in our home. Filled with even more love than I thought possible. Still in awe of what took place that warm sunny day in May. We are just beginning this parenting road, with all of its bumps and turns, but I can already sense how this experience is changing me.

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Welcome home, baby. You are a precious, priceless, and beloved gift to our family. We will cherish you forever, and can’t wait to see all the gifts you bring to this world to make it a better place. You’ve already made ours so much brighter.

Insufficient Words Regarding Adoption

My go-to method of therapeutic processing (WordPress) has been totally insufficient for what these past few months have been like. I never would have thought that the adoption process would render me useless in putting words to thought. I have been in a constant state of shock and awe for months, and keep telling myself I’ll find the ability to muster up a blog post when the rawness subsides.

I think it’s here to stay, though.  So this post is my attempt to push through the wall of “I’m still so in it” in hopes of ever being able to ever use this platform to share my thoughts and experiences on this particular subject.

Many of you have expressed interest in hearing about our process, and I absolutely love how God has already used this experience to help inform and encourage the people around us. More than anyone, though, we ourselves have been taken to school.

Newsflash: Being married to an adopted person does not make one the expert on adoption. I think I can speak for Josh in also expressing that being an adopted person doesn’t even prepare you for this journey. It rips you open and challenges you in the best and worst ways, and there’s no getting around the mirror it holds up, exposing any and all inadequacies begging to be acknowledged.

Adoption is a beautiful rollercoaster of pain, loss, hope, excitement, fear, and anticipation. It is an exercise in relinquishing all perceived perceptions of control. It is a practice of choosing hope over doubt. It has been a stunning and transformative journey so far, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

One of the hardest parts of this season for me has been coming to grips with the reality that my joy, the fulfillment of my longing and heart’s desire, comes at the ultimate price. My rejoicing is matched with equal sorrow for the mother who will carry our child and bring him/her into this world. Her sacrifice and selflessness, a gift to our family, feels undeserved and beyond fathomable at times.

What I have realized is that women who place children in adoptive families do so out of the deepest love for that little life. They do so when every cell in their body tells them to go ahead and parent, despite the circumstances or potentially harmful outcome. What better picture of God’s love is there than the thought of a mother going against every ounce of her ingrained nature to part ways with her own flesh in order to possibly provide him with a better life? I can think of none. It brings me to tears to imagine myself in her shoes, because I truly don’t know if I would ever have the ability to exercise that level of selflessness. What strength…what bravery…what love.

I will never be able to adequately thank our birth mother, whoever she may be. I just pray that the joy and peace within our home will be abundant, so as to honor her and choice she made.

To birth mommies and daddies everywhere, you all are my heroes forever. I will celebrate you and be in awe of you until I breath my last breath.

Right now, we are on a waiting list of families anticipating a child. Our paperwork is finished, our home study is complete, our car-seat is installed. If you are the praying type, please include us in those prayers. I’ll tell you one thing, adoption is not for the faint of heart. And to those who have been through it, bless you.