Because of RHE

There’s nothing like a death to shake you out of comfort and into the world of existentialism.

Last month I went on a trip to Europe with a friend.  I was standing on the Millennium Bridge in London taking a photo when my phone notified me of the death of Rachel Held Evans. She meant so much to me and so many other women I know, and this loss was shocking beyond belief. I spent this past Saturday afternoon at home live-streaming her funeral (what a weird world we live in) and sobbing into my coffee in bed while my son napped. Being overseas was a weird time to be processing the grief of her death, but I was so grateful to have the mental space at the time to consider what it all means. Each new tribute that flashed across my phone screen throughout the trip restored my hope in the idea that the loudest voices aren’t always the ones that have the biggest impact. Hers was one of the softer voices, somehow always loving, but unwavering in conviction.

I had the privilege of meeting Rachel once at the Evolving Faith conference last Fall that she organized with a fellow author. I got to sit at her feet and listen to the teaching of a woman who had done exactly what I hope to do in life: Tell the truth, practice radical inclusion, and paint a picture of womanhood that I always hoped existed but never could quite find. I felt, as many have, seen and loved by her, even from the pulpit. She held her baby between sessions, then handed her kids off to her husband who stood proudly in the wings. In awe, like I was, of a woman humbly and confidently doing what she was made to do.

The silent subtle exchanges between her and her husband Dan reminded me so much of the role Josh loves to play in my life. He’s championed each endeavor I’ve ever taken on. He always believes I can do more than I think I can. And Rachel’s willingness to embrace her own leadership and preach as she was created to preach told such a powerful story that challenged and moved me.

Her death hit me so much harder than I could have imagined. I mean, she was literally a stranger to me. And yet, not at all. The mother in me can’t imagine my son losing me. I can’t imagine Josh having to navigate the grief of losing his partner while parenting our 2 year old. But mostly I am just sad for the loss of her voice in the world. Her influence helped me be brave in exploring my faith with honesty and integrity. Her books helped inspire me to wrestle with scripture like I had always been afraid to before. The relationships she modeled showed me how critical it is to show up to hard conversations with grace and empathy and bring the voices from the margins up to the microphone where they belong.

Her funeral left me wondering, as funerals do, what my legacy will be. It left me wondering what role I have to play in this story God was writing with Rachel’s life. I wonder how I can build on what her and others modeled to me: A new image of godly womanhood. Unapologetic in her demands for a Christianity that acts like Christ, fierce, and bravely unearthing all the toxic stuff beneath the surface that tends to stay hidden.

Her friend Jeff published a beautiful prayer following her passing that I can’t shake. It has become my prayer, and will be for years to come.

God who calls us to witness through and to the bread of life and the cup of blessing: Embolden your church to testify to love, not fear, and to grace, not judgment. Stir in us repentance for proclaiming bad news. Remind us how to declare the good. Give us holy imagination and divine insight, that we may tend to the human needs that feed negativity and lashing-out. Create in us the courage to open our arms wide in sacred embrace and the humility to be recklessly generous, as our sister Rachel was. Transform us into balm for the wounds we’ve inflicted on others, in the true and right spirit of biblical personhood.
Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers.

As I think back to that day on the bridge when I heard the news, I’m convinced that she is part of why I found myself in London at all. Her willingness to believe in her own worth was a call to action in my life. I said yes to that trip because I can now see my own humanity and value. The journey I’ve been on to learning self-love and care didn’t start or end with Rachel, but she certainly left her mark on me.

So thank you, Rachel. And thank you to all the women cleaning the path ahead of me to allow my dreams to be bigger and my marriage to be healthier and for the lives of the marginalized to be honored and seen. Let’s keep writing this beautiful story together. Let’s keep telling the truth.

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Choosing to Love Me

True story:

Today, on this day of our Lord April the 11th, I was wearing one of my first tank tops of the season. This was also the day when my toddler, who was on my hip, noticed the armpit crease rolls that inhabit my upper boob region. He noticed this part of me in the way only toddlers can, with much ooing and ahhing, pointing, and COUNTING. Yes, he proceeded to count the tiny folds in my armpit rolls. “One two, four, one two, one two.” He isn’t terribly great at counting, to be honest.

This moment sent me spinning into quite a mental process, which started with a gut-reacting, “GIVE ME SOME HAND WEIGHTS IMMEDIATELY!” and ended with a deep, unexpected joy and gratitude. Parenting is such a mind game…

What happened in that moment, and what led to the ultimate overwhelming sense of gratitude was this thought: I have come so far. I can’t believe it.

Some of my most vivid memories of adolescence are shopping with my mom in middle school. I distinctly remember her always encouraging me to show a little more skin. Perhaps she could tell that in my middle school mind, covering up was becoming my only option. It was probably her way of affirming how I look and who I am, hoping I could gain a little confidence and comfort with my body as it changed and grew. Mine is the story of almost every woman I know, rejecting the idea that there is goodness in the body we inhabit. The body existed to be subdued, starved, belittled, and hated. Basically, abused. (In what other context can we starve, belittle, and hate with so much celebration) I felt expected to treat my body as separate from myself, as a sort of enemy. I was learning to love as Christ loved, but extending that to myself was always the exception.

It’s funny how completely unrelated self-love and my actual appearance are. Divorcing my size and my skin clarity and my muscle tone from my worthiness of love has been some of the most profound and life-changing work of my adult life. Choosing to pursue love for myself has deepened my capacity to love the people around me. And it is a choice I have to consciously choose again and again and again. It still has never felt easy, but tasting freedom has changed me.

In the moment with Ezra, the smallest most mundane moment, I got the chance to step into his world with him and laugh and count together. It was a moment that would have been lost a few years ago, when my focus surely would have been on the actual existence of fat deposits on my body. Instead, it was just another sweet moment shared between the two of us. He won’t remember it, and I don’t need him. But it served as a beautiful reminder of how far I have come.

In that moment I felt the weight of what might have been. How easy it would be for me to pass down that same message to him I have had to fight against. And I’m sure in so many ways I am passing down my traumas, as I fumble through life navigating who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming. But I am convinced that if I am ever going to expect Ezra to see himself as lovable, I have to embody that toward myself. If I want to live in a world where people of every size can love themselves, I need to also love every inch of me.

There are people in my life who have modeled this for me, and it’s changed my life. They’ve taught me that self-love doesn’t happen over night. That it is a choice to practice each and every moment. It is available to me always, no matter what mistakes I make or how many armpit rolls show when I am wearing a tank top. And they have also shown me that when I choose to love myself, I am participating in the transformative work of Christ. I am seeking justice, in the most intimate way. I am embodying God’s divine work in the world.

So, friends, may you choose to love yourselves today. And choose it again and again. The next time my toddler triggers a gut-reaction of shame in me, I may not find the strength to stay present in that innocent moment with him. But grace keeps me showing up and thankful I get to be on this journey, surrounded by people who call me toward a better way.

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Black History month

I realize it’s already 15 days into February and I am writing a post about Black History Month. I blame exhaustion from having a toddler. And also procrastination.

Let me first be frank and say that I feel really uncomfortable offering anything toward this conversation as a white person. Unfortunately, though, I have been told that sometimes it takes a white voice to get white people to start listening.

So since I have this platform, I feel like I want and need to use it to push an agenda sometimes 🙂 Sorry not sorry.

Understatement of the year: I am not the expert. (Re: Having a Child of Color¹ and being white does not make you an expert on anything regarding the experiences of non-white folks in America. It only alerts you quickly to what you don’t know and how far you have go in educating yourself). One of many things that’s surprised me has been how under-celebrated Black History Month is among white people. This is so disappointing, and I really do feel like throwing our time, energy, and support behind the Black community for the month of February can create an environment where some healing can maybe happen. And if nothing else, we can all stand to learn a few things. Every month operating with such intentionality would be great and warranted, but, ya know…February can be the starting point.

So, if you’re interested in spending the rest of the month honoring Black History Month, here are some ideas of how to engage as a white person.

1. Celebrate Blackness. This is literally the whole point. Throw on a Coltrane album and have a dance party (or Missy or 2Pac or Whitney or all of the above). Watch one of the many incredible movies out right now with Black leads. Read a novel or a poem written by People of Color. Basically, do with intention what the Black community has always done: Appreciate and enjoy the beautiful cultural and artistic gifts they’ve given the world. We white people are horrible at this. I truly believe opening our eyes to the astounding beauty around us is an act of justice. I’m not talking colonizing and appropriating art and culture, but acknowledging and appreciating it and centering it without exploiting. Seek to understand the history and struggle behind it. Let it wash over us in all its glory and power, penetrating deep within our hearts to allow the stories to move and change us. We can learn so much. This beauty does not exist for white people and our benefit, but we can certainly learn to engage without exploiting or taking ownership of something that doesn’t belong to us.

*One quick side note on this point before I continue: Please remove “I don’t see race” or any version of that phrase from your vocabulary permanently. It is such a harmful sentiment that I still hear way too often.

2. Center the voices of Black people in your life/newsfeed/podcast feed this month. (Ahem, and every month thereafter.) What does it mean to center their voices? It means to resist the urge to make things about you. This takes practice and humility, and I fall short constantly. But I hope and pray and beg of you, dear reader, to please hear this if you hear anything in this post: Don’t stop with this blog post. There are incredible Men and Women of Color generously sharing their wisdom and knowledge in the world. Listen, and don’t ask follow up questions. Practice being quiet. Like, seriously, just don’t talk. Listen. If you have a question, use Google. Then go back and listen some more. Make February a month you intentionally practice active, engaged, humble, curious listening.

3. Involve your kids if you have them! Check out books from the library featuring more diversity. Start conversations with your kids about Black History Month, and include them in your journey to invite Black authors, artists, singers, and teachers into your daily lives as a family. Read this book together. Look up what events are happening around you to celebrate and take your kids. Make Frederick Douglass a birthday cake. Stock their own bookshelves (and yours for that matter) with Black characters and authors. Help them internalize the message that Black is beautiful and worth celebrating and honoring. As Ezra’s parents, we seek to do a lot of that affirming around here. It will take a lot of effort to counteract the false negative messages he’ll get in the world about who he is. Help your kids learn the truth, often hidden from us, that race is not something to be ignored, but something to be celebrated in all its beauty. We get to help shape the narrative our kids will live out in their lives. Don’t take that lightly or sitting down.

Mashable wrote an excellent piece this week called “Black History Month is a Chance For White Parents to Learn How to Talk About Racism” that I highly recommend reading for more details and ideas if you are a parent.

4. Support the African American community with your dollars. Research Black-owned businesses in your area and make a point to shop, eat, or visit those places. If you’re making a purchase, consider whether there’s someone of Color you could support with those dollars, whether it’s artwork, fashion, furniture, if you give to non-profits on a regular basis, consider either a one-time or recurring donation for the month of February to organizations like the NAACP or the King Center or Black Lives Matter.

5. Educate yourself on race. Seek to understand why racial tensions are so high right now. Read books and articles that challenge you and make you uncomfortable, sit in that discomfort, and then keep pressing in. Push past the impulse to disengage or become defensive when ideas or statements reflect poorly on you. Keep showing up, using each experience coming up against your own biases as a chance to do better next time. Download and read the Me and White Supremacy Workbook. Read Austin Channing Brown’s book “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” (The best book I read in 2017) or Between the World and Me or So You Want to Talk About Race or The New Jim Crow. We should be so incredibly grateful for the emotional labor these men and women have done to produce these works, and so grateful they’re available for us to glean from. Even Kevin Hart has a fun Black History Month show on Netflix right now. The options are endless.

There are so many more books, artists, podcasts, articles, and movies than I could ever list. I’m thankful for the volume of resources available to me to continue my life-long journey wrestling with what it means to seek racial justice for my son and the people I love.

Although I frequently grieve how far our nation has to go for true equality to exist, I am grateful for a month to uplift this incredibly special part of my son and celebrate the legacy, accomplishment, and power that comes with it. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating it too.

[1] Interested in the capitalization used here, like my husband was? Columbia Journalism Review had a great overview of when and what to capitalize when talking about race.

To myself.

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Dear me,

I see you there. Tired eyes, dirty hair. There’s spit up next to you on the sheets and spit up on your pajamas and spit up on every last unseen surfaces as well come to think of it. You’re trying so hard. You worry so much.

I see you holding that tiny 8 pound frame, wondering how on earth you got here and who exactly decided you could manage another life other than your own. I hear your thoughts, cloudy from the alarmingly low amount of sleep you’re operating on, while this new life life still requiring the most thoughtful and attentive decisions you’ve ever had to make. Each moment a battle between fear and hope. Between adoration and resentment. Between what your gut says and what the everyone else may say. How do you raise a baby? You didn’t think you had a clue.

The transition to motherhood feels like your house burned down with all your belongings inside, but no one notices. They talk about your new house, how perfect you must feel in it. They gush at beautiful this space is, and yes it is so very beautiful. You will settle in. But right now, though, you feel deeply displaced and forgotten and have no earthly clue where the light switches are or how to work the new appliances. You wonder, “where am I?” and “does anyone see what’s been lost?”

You’re going to look for answers. Like to why he cries from 5-8 every night. When should you start solids? What bottle is best? What kind of formula makes his brain develop? Are we doing enough tummy time? Is he happy? Is he healthy? Is he okay? Are we okay?

You ask and ask. You click around parenting sites and turn each page with desperation, trusting anyone or everyone else to have the key to unlock the secrets to mastery over this great new challenge and allow you to shine as a perfect mother. You convince yourself the answer exists everywhere except for inside yourself. You are not to be trusted. You’re just a freshman. A rookie. Learning the ropes that seasoned mothers and fathers are obviously navigating with ease. The difficulty you feel is nothing more than a sign that something is off. Something must be wrong. You feel like you need all the information in the world, but know deep down it won’t be enough to settle the deep pangs of self-doubt.

But dear self, things are as they should be. It’s meant to be hard and feel awkward. These moments of pain mixed with joy are but bricks laid in your beautiful path you’re carving for you and your son. The people who told you Motherhood changes you in an instant were wrong. It changes you over moments and hours spent gazing into the eyes of a baby you’re learning to adore and finding your new identity amidst a chaotic shift in your foundation. It changes you as you approach hurdle after hurdle, sleep-regression after effing sleep-regression, and come out the other side still alive somehow. You feel powerless, and you are supposed to be powerless. There is a slow death of self, and a rising of new self happening. It is powerful, and empowering if you allow it to be.

Maybe hearing parenthood is an endless struggle doesn’t help much right now. But I want so badly to be able to tell you, in your weariest state, to find what you need within yourself. You will be tempted day in and day out to look elsewhere for every answer. Trust me when I say that many of them don’t exist outside of you. No one else will offer you the level of reassurance you crave that you and Ezra are securely attached. No one will understand why or how his witching hour happens. No one will know better than you when Ezra needs to see a doctor, when he needs to switch formulas, or when his bed time should be. Practice listening to your inner voice. She has a lot to say.

Trusting yourself has always been a struggle, but now is the time to practice. Hone it. Listen to yourself. Believe you are equipped. Dare to exercise your intuition, allowing your gut to guide you. The decisions you will make based on someone else’s advice will leave you so anxious so often. They mean well, and advice can sometimes be so useful. But they never know the whole picture of your family. How can they? But you do.

It’s a cruel joke that the world plays on women. We are conditioned to believe our intuition is toxic and then left to navigate parenthood without such a powerful tool at our disposal.

That feeling of mastery, at least over the next 2 years, won’t come. The learning and unlearning never ends, and with each new week comes new challenges. The constant, though, is you. Your ability to rise to the occasion, to bring your strength and knowledge to the table, to show up with love and dignity and belief in yourself. You are cut out for this. Believe this now, and save yourself months of anxious toiling. Stop asking of others what they will never be able to do: to validate your ability to be a mother to that baby. That is your work to do, not theirs. And the validation does not come through perfection, but through acknowledging and accepting your deep imperfection.

I am proud of the work you are doing. My eyes fill with tears when I imagine the vulnerability you live in right now. It is so painfully beautiful. I don’t miss it, but I am so grateful for that time of having my entire heart ripped open and life turned sideways as we made room for our Ezra. He is doing fine. You are doing fine. You will all be fine. Trust me.

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.

 

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.