Approaching Advent

Advent: Time of Expectant Waiting and Preparation for the celebration of the Christ child.

As we move into the holiday season, polishing off the last of the turkey and sweet potatoes and start pulling out the storage bins of Christmas decor, I hope we can slow down.

I’ve been busy lately.  Not just on my calendar but in my brain.  Moving 100 miles an hour or more.  Lots of exciting projects at work & at church, a new job for the Beau, a sick toddler who is now on the mend and in the into-everything-not-listening-doesn’t-know-the-meaning-of-no phase.  Oh yeah, and the holidays.

I’ve been thinking and swirling on this for the past week prompted by a friend who posed the question on Facebook about thoughts on Cell Phones.

As I processed my response and wrote back (95% sure from my iPhone), this idea of waiting and preparing came to mind.

Cell phone useage is something I’m constantly trying to improve upon. Not using it when in the presence of another person is my goal but so much easier said than done.
I struggled this year teaching and telling my students not to use it when I was updating attendance and following along with my powerpoints on my phone as I walked around the room.
It’s all about time and place and function. Too often all are abused. (Preaching to the choir here!)

I also think it’s easy when someone brings out their phone to do the same. We’ve lost the art of sitting in the silence. Thinking. Being still. We don’t ALWAYS have to know the latest or what is going on in the lives of others. There’s something to just being single minded and paying attention FULLY to what’s going on right in front of your eyes in your own life. ~My thoughts on cell phones.

How many of us are comfortable with silence? We constantly have TV or music or both going. So when we are really waiting and preparing for something big–say, the coming of the Christ-child–would we really be glued to our phones? Modern society has changed this for sure, but for those of you who have had babies–particularly speaking to the support person–did you have your phone in your hand or were you focused on supporting your wife, daughter, BFF as she labored to bring a child earthside? We don’t want to miss those big moments, but yet every moment we are given on this earth is big and we’re choosing to miss them because we’re more entranced with what’s going on on the other side of that phone.

I know that connections to other humans are important and loneliness can be paralyzing and oh so isolating. I totally get it. Our phones can give so much rich connection, but not at the expense of paying attention to what’s right in front of us–or inside us.  We must be attentive to caring for our souls, connecting with our creator and making space for that silence which can be enlightening (and also terrifying).

As I mentioned, in sharing about my recent car accident that totaled our second vehicle in just as many years, we live distracted lives. Minds buzzing with all those things mentioned above. And now that we’re approaching the holidays, the list continues.  Literally in the past hour, I’ve looked at our calendar and the already scheduled things and then added a post-it to our white board of the “bucket list” things that I hope will happen–Visiting Santa, seeing the lights at the Zoo, our family Christmas date, Christmas shopping for the less fortunate….

But instead of being overwhelmed or look at what might not get checked off the list, I’m going to joyfully add things to our calendar with gratitude–even if it’s just one or two of those things.

I’m not going to be glued to my phone looking at everyone’s gorgeous holiday pics knowing ours have been pushed back a few times due to scheduling conflicts and sick babies.

I’m not going to compare someone else’s decor or meal or girls night out.  JOMO, right?

I’m not going to watch the holiday season pass by by staring at my phone when we are celebrating the arrival and birth of Jesus.

So, how am I gonna do this?

  1. Accountability–sharing these goals with you, my lovely friends whom I hope will join me, or at least call me out if you see me with my nose in my phone.
  2. Purchasing this-going to dock my phone once I come home.  Turn the ringer on (it’s constantly off) and respond to the urgent. Because when the ringer is off, I’m more apt to check it to see what I missed that I didn’t hear a notification for.
  3. Go to bed early. I’ve been feeling ick for a while and I know lots of it has to do with lack of sleep.  I constantly feel like there’s more to be done.  Guess what? There always will be. I get to choose however if I want to take care of me or have an empty sink and clean dishes.  I need to choose me.
  4. Using one of these wall-papers (NSFYM)- Enough said (scroll down to the second set of wallpapers)
  5. Doing more things where I can’t have my phone in hand. Meet up with a friend for coffee and talk to rather than stare at my phone. Be present with June.  Play. Run around the house. Clean. Cook. Do the dishes. Not watch TV. Schedule Zoom catch up with friends. Read a book. Decorate. Work on Holiday cards and gifts.

Advent begins in a week.  I’m desperately wanting a slow December. My body and soul and mind and spirit need it. I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse–it feels that way even writing these days–but this is just where I am and I know I’m not the only one. Think about joining me. Let me know if you wanna meet up for coffee–in real life or virtually. December is busy, sure, but my home is always open for a cup of tea under the twinkle lights….

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Distracted Living

Multi-tasking. Full Plates.

“How are you?” she asks.  “Good. Busy, but good.” I reply.

We live in a world with small computers in our back pockets constantly tugging at our souls even if we’ve turned notifications off.

Last week I posted about participating in #OneDayHH–a day of snapshotting the mundane moments of our lives. A week early. Yup–I thought it was every year on November 2nd.  Nope–it’s a Thursday in November at Laura’s discretion. I love documenting the mundane moments but even in that, I’m still tied to my phone.

So after realizing that it was actually yesterday, November 9th, I thought I’d do it again, this time via Instastories and see what came of if.  I kept posting on the 2nd since I had already started, but yesterday was fun posting on stories which to me is more engaging.

And both days my mind kept going back to my phone in the middle of things. The early morning meeting (oh, I should snag a pic), my walk-ins with students (In which I did have one of my students from my class so we did snag a fun pic), my project meeting with co-workers (I walked back down the office corridor to find them for a pic after the meeting was over). I was constantly thinking about seeing my life through the lens of my phone rather than always being in the moment.  Now, clearly, there were lots of missed photos because I was in the moment.  But it was still nagging at me.  Just like that little device tends to do.  In staff meetings. In line at the grocery.  At a stop light.

I’m right there in the thick of it friends. The beau said to me just last night before going to bed as I snagged my phone for one last look, “you and that thing have been inseparable lately.”

Last week when I was on my own unofficial #OneDayHH driving home a little later than normal, I was distracted.  Not necessarily on my phone, but thinking about my day, how things hadn’t turned out as I’d hoped, that I’d “messed up” the #OneDayHH day, what I was going to cook for dinner, what photo I was going to post next, the podcast I was listening to, the pretty fall trees, the busy registration season at work, the email I had hoped to respond to but didn’t, the big project I’ve been working on all term that I’ll soon pitch to my office. Oh yeah, and driving. We all do this, right? I know I’m not alone.

What doesn’t always happen is that when you’re mind is buzzing with all those things and then you’re 1/2 mile from home and someone cuts in front of you and you have your second car accident in just as many years–you think, “what just happened?” Distracted Living.

I was fine. The other driver was fine. My car however is not. And my mental and emotional state is still a little frayed. You see, I struggle with anxiety and have particularly since our last car accident. I’m a very nervous passenger and have used my phone to avoid on car trips. I close my eyes, flinch and thank God my patient husband has learned not to freak out when I have these moments.  And Tuesday, driving to work in the rain after this accident, I noticed I was a very anxious and nervous driver.

So I thought about postponing my girls road trip this weekend to see my friend.  But I also decided I wasn’t going to give in to fear and anxiety and let them win.

So what does this have to do with social media? I want to live life without thinking about my phone. I want to be present. Get back to practicing silence and sabbath. I want to engage with people–connect–rather than just be a silent bystander to people’s lives.

So I’m going to be more silent on Facebook and Instagram (although I am loving the Instastories platform for quick little quips here and there) and more engaged.  Using Voxer and Marco Polo has really transformed my business and personal friendships over the past few weeks and months. I’ve been more apt to say–let’s chat via Google Hangout or Zoom so I can see your face. And let’s not forget about good old fashioned text messaging.

I’ve got a lot mulling around in regards to self-care and this certainly ties into that.  I’d love to hear your thoughts–comment, text or email me. Heck–let’s meet up for coffee to chat if you’re local to me. And if you use any of these apps-let me know!

Here’s some of the snippets of my #OneDayHH from yesterday and you can check out my Instagram for the ones from last week.

 

 

 

This time of year

This time of year, the days get shorter, there are fewer sunrises and sunsets that I see and I often walk into work when it’s still pitch black.

I was having a conversation with a co-worker last week. We both have lovely memories of fall–she having a birthday, me celebrating an anniversary. But life has dealt us each hands that are not so favorable in our favorite month of October.

Not only does this time of year spark so many fun memories–pumpkin patches, hayrides, fall festivals, costumes, pumpkin spice everything, apple crisp–it also holds some very bittersweet memories. Memories that aren’t always documented with a photo.

This time of year, I recall the Saturday morning we spent waiting on breakfast at Josie’s and saw one of the sweetest transactions that renewed my faith in the human spirit.

This time of year, I recall the joy in sharing we were expecting a baby in October 2015.

This time of year, I recall the phone calls to and from the nursing home where my Mom lived her last days on this earth before being admitted to the hospital.

This time of year, I think of my best friend who works for The Breeder’s Cup.  I recall her bringing a gorgeous white poinsettia to the hospital after the races that was decorated for fall to cheer my Mom up.

This time of year, the tears come at unexpected moments. Right before bedtime on a Saturday night. Watching a particular movie. Making the apple crisp.

This time of year is not easy. Most of these moments aren’t things we really want to remember, however, they are forever marked in our minds. In our hearts.

But I’m reminded that my Mom is whole. She is no longer suffering. You can’t really capture that.

If you’ve been around me at all, you know that I’m passionate about authenticity, self-care and not just publishing the highlight reel, but the everyday, mundane reel. That’s why I’m going to be honoring a mundane Thursday with #OneDayHH tomorrow.  Laura Tremaine started this a few years ago.  I love seeing the timestamped documented day from dawn to dusk. To be honest–I don’t know if all the usual suspects I follow will be participating. But what I know is that 2 years ago, I participated for the first time.  2 years ago, I looked at the mundane of a Tuesday as I navigated the busiest time of my professional year alongside my mom being in the hospital and what I didn’t know was entering the last 11 days of her life on this side of eternity.

I took a photo that is beautiful yet still haunts me. I didn’t realize it would be one of the last photos I took of my Mom. But I’m forever grateful that I took it. And even shared it. And just like two years ago, I don’t know exactly what tomorrow will hold. I know what’s on my calendar. I know I’ve got some friends with exciting things happening. I know I’ll go to work. Lots of mundane. Will you slow down…take some pics of the boring stuff…and realize that every moment of life is sacred if we take the time to see it as such?

Join me won’t you?

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Who wants to be boring?

I was listening to a podcast recently (sorry, can’t recall which one–ope–actually I think it was Annie Downs again.  That girl has got my number apparently!) and it was talking about being in the middle.  The podcaster was interviewing an author and said something to the effect of “Ya know, it’s great to hear from people writing books who haven’t gotten it all figured out–folks still in the middle.” I nodded emphatically as I drove home all the fellow commuters oblivious to the moment I was having in the car. As I’ve reflected-we’re all in the middle.  None of us have arrived.

Career woes? Most everyone I know is still working with no plans to retire soon.

Parenting concerns? Parenting doesn’t stop when the kids are 18 or out of the house.

Marriage trouble? Working Mama Woes? Loneliness? Finances? Health?

We are all a work in progress friends.  So why is it so hard for some of us to constantly feel like a failure and that we just haven’t arrived?

My concern with picking back up the blog is that folks wouldn’t really care to hear what I have to say. I’m definitely still in the middle–in the thick even–of so much I haven’t gotten figured out. When I am reading books or blogs or hearing someone speak, I like to hear things tied up in a nice pretty bow. Pretty bows? Friends, I don’t even think I have a spool of ribbon in this house.

But ya know what? As someone who greatly values authenticity, hearing from folks who are presenting as if they’ve got it figured out makes me wonder what part of the story we’re not hearing,. Not that I’m skeptical of what they are sharing–but it goes back to seeing the highlight reel on social media.  We are only seeing the good days.  The days when things ARE going off without a hitch. The perfectly filtered instagram. We aren’t privy to so much of the pain. The normal. The boring.

Years ago I was at a family gathering when talking with my uncle about how life is going. I said at that time–“things are good. Nothing too exciting. Pretty boring actually.”

His pensive, slow, thoughtful response still rings in my ears. “Boring is good.” Maybe it’s because my uncle’s jovial, loud, bigger than life personality had quieted down some in the middle of that conversation and I saw part of him that wasn’t always seen. The transparent middle.

We’re in a time where no one wants to be boring. We are all looking for the thing that will set us apart. Get other’s attention. That’s what society is telling us.  Want the promotion? You’ve gotta stand out. Want to have others listen to what you’re trying to advocate for/sell/etc. in your side hustle? You’ve gotta cut through the noise. Want to be noticed? Figure out the most compelling Snap or InstaStory.

Who wants to join me in being ordinary? Of starting to post the pics that are just the everyday messes.  Unfiltered, unedited, normalcy. I’m tired of all the gorgeously coiffed photos and FOMO because of what “looks” great.  Just remember, not only do those folks in the photos have bad days, they may have just experienced deep pain, or an argument or loss.  Or they may be floundering throughout life without purpose. It’s easy for me to have FOMO when I see girlfriends getting together and having fun and what you don’t see is all the sacrifice it took to get together and that this might be the ONE night in 60 they have pealed their child off of them to have a somewhat pulled together girl’s night.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. ~Romans 12:1-2. MSG

The thing is-this boring life is what God is calling us to in Romans 12. It even calls us to take our ordinary life and place it before God as an offering. Take where we are in the middle–continue striving toward our goals but just rest. Take an exhale.

I’ve recently learned about JOMO (on another podcast-go figure) and when doing a little googling–there are LOTS of articles and books since 2013 about JOMO.  Oh my..the JOY of missing out.  Reminding yourself of what you are gaining when you’re being boring. Ordinary. Spending time with family vs. being out with a bunch of friends out on the town one Friday night.

Here’s to the ordinary’s.  Leaning into JOMO. Practicing solitude. Putting down the phone. Being boring. In the middle.

And here are some boring photos for ya!

 

Nothing Worth Doing is Easy

I stepped out onto my porch –cup of hot coffee in hand–in a stupor. Although the alarm had gone off and I had plenty of time before having to leave the house this am, Gracie Lou wasn’t about to let me lie in bed.  Her little four legs ran to the end of the bed, pacing back and forth looking for the perfect dismount for her little miniature poodle frame to land easy.  Once she did, the “chuh, chuh, chuh” of her paws wouldn’t let me continue my rest.

Once the cup was full and a fleece jacket was on, we stepped out into the cool, brisk air of our front porch. Downtown living even in our small town is quite loud even at 5am. I’m always amazed at the number of cars passing by.  I may be up at 5am but I’m certainly not out and about. Gracie trots into the wet grass and I not so gracefully gulp the black coffee down–partially for warmth, partially for the energy I’m hoping it will bring.  One too many episodes of  Call the Midwife had me up far too late.

Standing in the brisk fall air, I was struck with a reminder that hit me this summer as I worked through Shauna’s Present Over Perfect Study. One of the most spiritual practices I can do is to go stand on my porch in the early morning and late evening and breathe in and out the day. Even with cars whizzing by, there is something calming about that. My mind drifts to each of the women who gathered at my house this summer for that study. Our lives so randomly interconnected for this season of the study, but not really sure what else. We live in four different towns here in Central Kentucky–each one making a major sacrifice to be present. But that is the gift–presence. Striving to live into the day-to-day in the most authentic and intentional ways. And I think of each of them standing on their own front porch with me in spirit on this cool October morning.

My mind is brought back to reality as something glimmers in the streetlight. A spider web in the streetlight. So common this time of year. Even if the temperatures are not fall-like, the spiders still do their thing, trapping  (what is hopefully!) the last of the mosquitos and flies of the summer. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, they are still there doing their job at the same time of year.

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Photo by Rúben Marques on Unsplash

Yesterday, the beau and I celebrated our eighth year of marriage. In the midst of busy seasons at work, a busy toddler, pending job transitions, a very full September, it was still our anniversary yesterday.  Thanks to busy lives and cancelled plans, we had a impromptu date night Friday to celebrate and will squeeze in breakfast today during 3 days straight of 12-hour shifts for the beau.

Even when we don’t feel like it, we commit to our marriage.

And “feeling like it” in this season doesn’t mean that we’re not committed to marriage or that we don’t want to celebrate. It just means that we’re tired. The to-do list is long. There are dishes always waiting to be washed or put away. Same with clothes. The list of friends I want to connect with always has one that’s not checked off at the end of each month. Our lives are so full.

What we have made the decision to do however, is put our marriage at the top of our priority list. That means date nights. Often at home. Time together with the TV off.  Walks out of the house so we can have a conversation and not be distracted by dishes and laundry. And regular time away a few times a year.

I know that last one is a kicker for most. Childcare. Disconnection from the kid over the weekend when the weekend is the only time you have to see your child as working parents. Money. Cost. And for us–getting out of our comfort zone.

Pre-kids, we did a lot of travel and it was common to do a few overnights a year to local spots–cabin in the mountains, nearby city, you name it. Now–that just isn’t feasible. And when we have done that, often, we find that we are so tired, we zone out, fall asleep way to quickly on a bed we’ve paid too much for, eat way too much and don’t have near the time we had hoped for intentional conversation.

Enter Couples Camp.

Campsite 12: Sponsored by Cabellas and Maxwell House

2 days. Not too hard on the budget. Hiking in 1.5 miles with all your gear on your back. Sleeping together in a tent. Camp coffee. Time alone without a cell phone or a watch. Time to focus on your spouse and your marriage. Getting to know other couples in similar or not similar at all stages of life and marriage. Seeing the commonalities we all have regardless.  Being reminded of the goodness of God even in hard times.

It’s not easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. And our marriage is all the better for it. Every time we get out of our comfort zone and come back to reality, we are a little sharper. A little more attuned to our spouse. A tad more aware of what God might be speaking and growing and doing in our own lives and how that impacts our marriage. And a little more awakened to the fact that our society does not build up and support marriage. And being committed to make our marriage a priority in spite of that.

We’re going back in the spring. We want other married couples to experience this. We believe in this. We know it’s going to have hard moments again. But we’ve seen the fruit of what doing difficult things together can do for our relationship.

Life is about real moments. Camping for 2 nights in 90 degree weather gives you a photo like this when you’re leaving. I’ll be honest–I’m not a fan of this pic–but it’s real life.  It’s hot and sweaty; grimy and bug-bitten; sunburned and sore. But there is joy in my face and a sparkle in my beau’s eye that I can’t deny.

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Nothing worth doing is easy. If I’m honest, posting a very unflattering photo of us isn’t easy, but it’s our present being WAY over anything resembling perfect in this season. And that level of authenticity is always valued in my book.

I step back inside to refill my coffee. A busy, full day awaits me. But I know that I get to start across the table from my beau. And a week later of being back into the swing of reality, and after a long night of work for him, I’m pretty sure I’ll get a hint of that sparkle.

PS-we’d LOVE to have you join us for camp in April. I promise–you and your marriage won’t be the same!

Working Mama Diaries: Soul-Care

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I by no means have all the answers in my 19 months of motherhood.  But what I do have is my experience of 19 months of motherhood. I’m not here to compare, raise up or put down any type of mama–let’s be honest–we are ALL rockstars doin’ our thang.  But what I know is being a mama who works outside the home 40 hours a week with a commute. And a partner who works outside the home.  Stepping back into reality after my Family Leave experience was shell shocking. 6 weeks of NICU life. 2 weeks of going back to work and trotting to the NICU three times a day to see June, pump, change diapers and then back to answer emails and hopefully I remembered how to do my job. 6 weeks being home with June.  Then back to work full time!

I’m not here to discuss the difference in leave policies or benefits, although that’s a subject I’m quite passionate about. What I want to share is what I did to take care of myself.  And still do to take care of myself as a working mama.

  1. Figure out what my options were.  When I realized that I was only going to have 6 weeks with June once she came home rather than the 12 I had expected, my brain and fingers got to working.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have the option for Reduced Seasonal Hours in the summers.  That meant I went back to work 4 days a week for the first three months.  That was a huge blessing with all the doctor’s appts and follow-ups JP had. We could easily schedule everything for Mondays and I could adjust to being back to work with a three day weekend every week. If you’re in a rough season–see what options you have! Maybe it’s not going back after a baby but just going through a different season of parenting. Or mental health.
  2. Take care of my body. Yes, I had follow ups with my OB, but I also followed up with my primary care doc who was amazing.  We shed tears together, she’s given hugs on almost every visit and helped remind me that I have to take care of me physically to be the best mama, wife, employee, friend and human.
  3. Not feel guilty taking care of my body. That meant more than the doctor’s office. It meant continuing my regular chiropractic care and implementing monthly massages. Does it take us looking intentionally at our budget and prioritizing certain things? Absolutely! But I also know that I’m helping out my massage therapist friend by giving her some extra income.
  4. Taking medication. Not for everyone, but I have increased anxiety since our car accident and am on a low-dose anxiety medication. I wanted to think that I could be okay without meds. Eat well. Take vitamins. Get sunshine. Use essential oils.  And while all those things help immensely, so does my medication.
  5. Is there anything that could be outsourced? Lawncare. Done. Check. Honestly, this was more in the beau’s wheelhouse, but once he started working nights we had to figure something out and it’s been a lifesaver and helping someone else in their business. Win-win. I’m trying to figure out if there are other things that might be outsourced that could help us and help my anxiety.
  6. Seeing a therapist. Another huge benefit through my employer is work-life counseling sessions.  Each employee is given 5 per calendar year and I use mine up! I’m grateful to have a third party to share my journey with, to share perspective and share tissues.
  7. Schedule regular family days, date nights and girls nights.  Now when I say “regular” I just mean, be intentional, not necessarily every week or two weeks.   Surprise, surprise coming from me, right? I just make a list of the people I want to see/invest in, things we want to do each month as a family and any fun event that we want to do as a couple. Having some things and people’s names written down helps me not go three months without seeing folks.  Sometimes it’s a phone call to a mentor out of state, or a google hangout with a long-time friend or coffee or a target run with a soul friend. Regardless, it’s time that fills my heart and up.
  8. Spend time outdoors and disconnected. There’s something magical about the fresh air, smell of the leaves, grass and water. We’ve been so fortunate to go to Couples Camp last spring and this fall to get away from the noise of life, leaving our cell phones, watches and all reality in our cars, hiking in and building our marriages and our relationship with God. The reminder that Nothing Worth Doing is Easy is a constant and great for us to prioritize our marriage but also incredible just to be disconnected and have some space in my head.
  9. Water my own grass.  Remember this is a season where I’m going to be home more and that’s where I’m meant to be.
  10. Give myself grace. Again, and again, and again. Dishes will pile up. The house will be a mess. Hosting friends for dinner will mean picking something up and putting it on fancy plates.  It’s okay.  You’ve kept yourself and another human alive.  Kudos.

I’ve heard three different sources and podcasts this week alone discuss self-care. Many of them mentioned some of what I experienced.  Others mentioned yoga, baths and reading. It’s a buzz word these days.  For me, self-care is actually soul care. I love Emily P. Freeman’s tag line –“creating space for your soul to breathe.” That’s what I crave these days. And I hope by taking care of my own soul and it’s ability to take some deep breaths, I’m creating space for others to do the same.

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

 

Finding Self

When I first started running, I was a mess.  My breathing was off, I couldn’t really find a good pace that was more than fast walk where I wasn’t entirely short of breath, I could never figure out proper fueling–before, during and after a run.  And man, my legs hurt.

But the more I ran, the more I found my own stride. My own rhythm.

The same has been true in these last two years.  Coming back to “real life” after experiencing some traumatic losses and extreme highs is really hard to do.  The pendulum has been swinging back and forth emotionally for months.

Losing Granny. Finding out we’re pregnant. My mom getting sick. Sharing publicly our news. Mom’s hospitalization. Hearing a heartbeat. Advocating for mom with doctor’s when it was apparent she was deteriorating.  Feeling kicks. ICU. Being surrounded by loving friends. Making the hard decision to let mom be at peace. Feeling incredibly supported by visitors to the hospital the night she passed. Walking through navigating her arrangements from KY to VA. Feeling support from friends near and far during that season. Dealing with increased blood pressure from all the stress. Plans for baby showers. Holidays. Amazingly supportive co-workers and friends continuing to be there as I grieved. Singing at the Christmas Eve-eve service. Head on collision on Christmas Day. No major issues. Postponing baby showers. Facetime with family. Visit to UK Triage. Lots of sleep. Incredible bruising. Grateful. Lunch dates with friends. More blood pressure issues. Babymoon in the mountains. Stress about the blood pressure issues. Rescheduled baby showers. Fear. Baby classes. Anxiety. Date nights. Tests to rule out preeclampsia. Good test results. More high blood pressure reads. Confidence in my doctor. Overnight stay in hospital. 48 hours later…..June Parker Cracraft.

Life is full of these nuances that make it brutiful. This is a snapshot of the brutiful pendulum that happened from July 2015-February 2016. 7 months. I could go on to share how that pendulum continued for the next 11, and maybe I will, but needless to say, the past two years have been fraught with a back and forth. One of the biggest back and forths was going back to work for 2 weeks when June was still in the NICU.  Another came when I went back to work 6 weeks after we brought her home. And then first full fall semester as a working, pumping mama whose brain was still in the postpartum fog but also still grieving losing my Mom less than a year prior and sad about what might have been and all  of “what if’s” with our daughter.

What I hope to share is that through these past 19 months, I’m finally finding myself. To all the working mamas out there-I see you. To those with children who may not have or had a typical entry into this thing called life-I see you too. To those navigating opposite work schedules with your partner-I got you. Wondering if you’ll ever feel normal in your job-Yup, been there too. Wondering if you even want to continue working because you feel as if someone else is raising your child? Amen.

But I can also share that I feel like the fog is finally lifting. It took 18 months, but the grief and hurt and emotional pain is starting to rise where I feel like me. Not making oversights and forgetting things that were oh-so-common before at work on a daily basis. But actually feeling energized by the work I’m fortunate to do. Having some perspective about the life I get to lead and share with JP about being a strong working woman who has multiple roles and identities other than “mama.”

Maybe it’ll take 6 months for you. Or maybe it’ll take 6 years. Or maybe it’ll take longer. I don’t know your story or your timeline. What I do know is that you aren’t meant to do it alone.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

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You are good

There’s a time in which you can look back at your life and feel you can finally take a deep breath. Life is somewhat relaxed and at peace and you have grown in wisdom that you can’t even really put your finger on.

As I’ve thought about the last two years of my life, there has been extreme pain and sadness right in the midst of some of the most indescribable joy I’ve ever experienced. And I’m just now finally processing and absorbing some of that. Go figure, I’ve just recently re-read Bittersweet so my fingers are finding their way back to the keyboard.

With that, I’m going to do what people today just aren’t known for doing.  I’m going to start blogging more consistently. That’s right. Just like my friends Annie and Sophie said last week, “who blogs anymore?” Ha–it’s true. I don’t even read blogs like I used to. I listen to podcasts and scroll Instagram and that has replaced reading blogs. There are a few people and voices that make it to my inbox weekly, but with the passing of Google Reader went the passing of my eyes to most of the blogs I used to frequent.

So here I am intending on blogging regularly. Even if no one reads it. And that’s kinda the point. There are things that have come to the surface over the past few weeks and I can’t deny it any longer.  I’m being pulled to share my story. If for nothing else, as part of my own healing journey.

Most of you who might venture to actually read these words know most of my journey. If you happen to be new around these parts, welcome.  This may or may not make sense, but I know this is the next step to allow for continued healing and growth. And my prayer above all else is that this would point you to the one who can make all things new–Jesus.

And with that….

It’s coming up on two years ago that I was newly pregnant  and leading worship fairly consistently at our church’s downtown campus. I’d been leading worship for years at another campus and been singing most of my life, but I was having some growing pains in this new community.  It was the normal stuff–nothing major, just adjusting.  Adjusting to the worship leader. The campus pastor. Being in a traditional church venue. Becoming more pliable if you will.

So when I was asked to lead this new song, “King of My Heart”, there were lots of feelings.

Side note–I re-took my MBTI this past year for work for those of you who are familiar with that. I was literally as strong a “feeler” as one could be.  Carry on…

I was just out of the first trimester and just honestly didn’t know how I could physically sing such a song that demanded so much of me vocally. Beyond that, this was right in the midst of when my mom had been hospitalized. More feelings. Little did I know she would never leave that hospital alive. Little did I know still two years later that song would be my anthem.

I remember tentatively accepting the request to lead and listening to the words over and over and over. I pulled out a blank journal gifted to me by a friend and wrote and wrote and wrote the lyrics out. As a visual learner, I needed to not just read the words but see them, feel the ink pour them out to truly absorb them. Tears fell to the pages as I let the words penetrate my sad, confused and scared heart. Being a caregiver for an ailing parent is always tough for anyone. Being the sole person making decisions, being far away from family and being pregnant? Oh, and did I mention a feeler? Yeeaaaah. Lots of emotions happening.

When the night is holding on to me, God is holding on.

Still to this day, I cannot sing that line without completely tearing up and being overcome with emotion.

Little did I know that I was about to walk into one of the most challenging seasons of my life. My mom’s death, the car accident that lead to our daughter being born 9 weeks prematurely and her 58 day NICU stay. were ahead of me.  I won’t lie-it wasn’t easy. I certainly felt as if the night was hold on and was not about to let go.

But God’s hold on me was stronger.

The Front Seat

One of the things that drew me to Lew when we first met and were dating was this love of adventure. Travel. Camping. Road Trips. When I thought about the potential for adventures and travels we had together, my futuristic self was geeking out.

Almost 10 years later we have been on a lot of adventures and I’m so grateful as I look through our past photos, recall memories of when we decided to live in the moment and leave the camera behind. And I think forward to some of our long-term goals that include more travel with our family and I get really excited.

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One of my favorite authors, storytellers and podcasters, Tsh Oxenrider’s new book At Home in the World released this week and I’m SOOOO excited to dive in this weekend. She has asked her readers to think about where we each feel most at home in the world. As I started thinking about this, my place isn’t anywhere we’ve traveled to or is super exciting. While I would love to be able to share an exotic location, I have to say, I feel most at home in the front seat of a car.

The front seat was how we entered married life as we navigated highways and curvy roads on our honeymoon through the south.  We wound our way through Savannah and Charleston and Asheville and came back to Kentucky as one.

The front seat was the place for spontaneous road trips that led us to Toronto for long weekends and Tennessee to visit college friends and across the state of North Carolina the summer before we got married visiting friends and family going from mountains to beaches and back again.

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360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada

The front seat was the support we needed to have great conversations when we made trips to Virginia when my mom was still living there and dealing with lots of health issues, hospital stays and eventually time in a nursing home. I cherish those days and conversations with the soundrack of the Beau’s iPod getting us through those curvy West Virginia roads.

The front seat was where my mom made her way from Virginia to Kentucky in the summer of 2013 so that we would be closer to her to help with her care.

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The front seat afforded us a lot of amazing views on our road trip out west in the summer of 2015. Most memorable was driving into Canyonlands at sunset and being so overwhelmed with the beauty of creation the beau and I both teared up.

On that same trip, I experienced incredible stomach cramps and had to lay the seat down as we wound our way through Washington and Oregon.  Little did I know those stomach cramps were a precursor to something big.  We came home to a positive pregnancy test.

In November of 2015, the front seat was once again the support needed as we made our way back to Virginia to lay my mom to rest.

Christmas Day of 2015 at 24 weeks pregnant my love for the front seat was wrecked. Literally. We were hit head on and ever since then me and the front seat have been at odds. But I’m coming around.

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The front seat supported me and held my tears when I left the hospital empty handed after 6 days in the hospital and our daughter stayed in the NICU for 8 more weeks when she rocked our world 9 weeks early on February 13th, 2016.

The front seat held my secrets as I figured out my new body and how to feed my girl who was thriving on my breast milk. It was my companion as I pumped daily in the car as we drove to see our girl every day.

The front seat was empty that day the beau drove home ever so slowly with JP and me in the backseat embarking on this new journey of parenthood.

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June Parker leaving the NICU

I’m learning to love the front seat again.  The past 16 months have seen lots of flinches, grabbing of the door handle and closed eyes when in the front seat.  Being hit head on and knowing that impacted the premature birth of your daughter will do that to you. I’ve used my phone more as a distraction when traffic is bad in a big city or on those curvy roads.

But I’m trying to live in the moment and change that.  Even if it means facing my fears without my head in my phone. I don’t want to miss the view. We are planning more long term travels. And I know that I’ll be in the front seat again.  Releasing control.  Trusting. Living.  All things I want to lean into.  The front seat isn’t a destination but a place that gets you to your destination.

For me and these past 18 months, the front seat has gotten me THROUGH.

When we are driving around town, through the Red River Gorge and on the backroads to and from Lexington, I reach over and grab the beau’s hand and look back at our beautiful, healthy and perfect 14 month old and am full of gratitude.  The front seat longs to be my protector and comforter and adventurer seeker. I’m slowing learning to let it be so and let go of the fear.  Letting go has gotten me through this difficult season but is gently calling me TO more adventure, TO more road trips, TO less fear and TO courage.

Thank you Tsh for helping me remember that I am at home in the world in the front seat.

 

 

Pace

redd-angelo-14423We’re closing in toward the end of the first quarter of the year.

Seriously? Where has time gone?

I’m looking back at my last post truly wondering. But here we are.  Smack in the middle of Lent. Still looking back at the remnants of a 1st Birthday party held in early February that still make their presence known in our dining room. I’m right in the middle of my busy time at work. And JP is just busy–into everything.

And what I’m craving is slow.

I’ve been paying attention to my pace.  I’m not as in shape as I’d like to be so when I walk fast, I’m short of breath. But also when I walk fast, my mind is also tracking at that same pace. When I slow down my walk, I’m able to catch my breath, pay more attention to it and I’m more aware of my surroundings.  The flowers starting to bud. The shape of the clouds.

We’ve had a few conversations lately about being connected and what that really means.  To be honest, many of my connections are online and through the apps on my phone.  But I want to be most connected with my people–the ones who live in my house and I see every single day. I don’t want to be distracted by an Instagram post and miss staring into my daughter’s blue eyes.

So I’ve cleaned up my phone.  Deleted some apps.  Installed a few others that I hope to be my primary focus.  Found that some of my goals and Lenten observances were too far reaching or ill-willed in their motives so I’m adjusting.  And giving myself grace in that adjustment.

I want to pay attention. I want to be focused on others words and stories. I want to leave space for my soul and heart to breathe, to not feel overwhelmed and to be connected with things and people that matter and willing to walk away from that that brings stress and overwhelm and comparison.

I want to invite people into our home for a meal again.  Sit across the table at coffee and be able to give people a warm hug rather than scroll, scroll, scroll on my phone.

I’ve got some ideas on how to put this into practice but I’d love to hear yours.

And don’t be surprised if things are a little quieter on the scrolling place but you’re hearing more from me here.