Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

There are less than two months left until my due date. Which isn’t to say much of when this baby will decide to come, but it is a fixed point on the calendar, a real and true day that will really and truly exist regardless of my own readiness. It’s also a date that every person - the man behind me in line at Walmart, the lady at church I’ve never met before, strangers on the internet - seem to be obsessed with knowing. So there’s that.

This morning on my drive to work I wondered if anyone has ever felt ready for motherhood. I know there are plenty of women who have dreamed of motherhood since they were little girls being mothered themselves, but I wonder if anyone has ever stood on the precipice of this moment in their lives and felt wholly ready. Fearless. Prepared.

At the same time I wonder if anyone has ever felt as un-ready for motherhood as I do. I’ve grown up with people around me telling me I am an “old soul” but I’ve always felt young, small, insignificant against the largeness of the world. This can be a gift at times - I’ve never felt like I had life all figured out which has made it easier to learn from others and grow - but it also makes these times of transition so tricky.

I feel my own lack of experience and wisdom. I struggle to navigate the “adult” world of healthcare and car insurance and cooking for myself. I am easily overwhelmed by all I don’t know how to do yet, coupled with the realization that a time is fast approaching when it will become even more difficult to learn. Maybe it would be different if I was 25 or 30 or 35, but here I am with my only 22 years of limited experience and less than two months before I am responsible for the life of a fully dependent human being.

I feel overwhelmed by the way time is moving with no regard for my feelings. The days keep flipping by on the calendar. My stomach keeps getting rounder and rounder, somehow managing to defy gravity even though I only just entered the third trimester. The to-do list keeps multiplying, the unfinished tasks looming over my head like ghosts.

This past week I read stories in Luke of the disciples dropping everything and following Jesus, and I longed for the kind of faith it would take to do something like that. Easy faith has never been my gift even though I have longed for it. Instead of a person of courage and brave faith, I’m a habitual second-guesser more prone to paralyzed indecision than confident action.

I keep hoping for the kind of faith it will take to step forward into motherhood - faith that trusts Jesus enough to be bold and confident and courageous. But I don’t feel those things yet, and maybe I never will. Even though I will keep praying for that kind of easy faith because I do think it is a gift to be desired, an author wrote, “Sometimes faith precedes the step. Sometimes it comes after.” and reading that let me breathe a little easier because maybe I don’t have to have everything sorted out before my due date. Maybe it is enough to take the step trusting that the Lord will give me enough of whatever I need for that day.

Maybe it isn’t motherhood for you but something else - a budding relationship, a business idea, a college decision. Maybe you feel excited and overwhelmed at the same time, and maybe you feel guilty and overwhelmed because you don’t feel any of the excitement you think you should. Maybe we don’t have to have everything figured out or feel 100% confident about our decision before we step into it. Maybe we can set our pros and cons list down, stop berating ourselves for not feeling a particular way, and trust that the Lord will give us enough bread - enough faith - for this day, and the next, and the next.

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The Rhythm of Our Advent

This little corner of the internet has been quiet the past few weeks for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve been working on a project for my church that is now in the out-of-my-hands-but-not-yet-into-yours stage. (If you attend Horizons Church, keep an eye out for the Advent guide!) and 2) Josiah and I have been spending most of our spare time preparing to move. I wrote a bit about how our rental home was for sale and it looks like someone is interested in purchasing it, so we’re moving. If you think about it, we’d love your prayers. We love our home and aren’t excited about leaving it, but we’re trusting that this is God’s best for us and trying to walk faithfully in that.  

Now that that’s out of the way, I wanted to share a few ways that I celebrate the season of Advent. Advent is the season on the church calendar that stretches the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and it’s traditionally a season to practice expectant waiting for Jesus’s coming.

There are probably hundreds of lists on the internet about ways to maximize your time this Christmas to attend all the parties and see all the lights and wrap all the presents with picture perfect homemade bows. If that is how you love to celebrate Christmas, then please do those things and enjoy them! I’ve found that a slower pace makes it easier for me to focus my heart on Jesus and enjoy the good gifts of this season without feeling rushed and frantic. Below are some of the traditions I’ve made that help foster that slowness and expectancy.

Before I got married, I celebrated Advent on my own using a few different devotionals/guides over the years. (One of my favorites was The Dawning of Indestructible Joy which I still highly recommend!) Last year, Josiah and I tried the She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth Advent books and loved them so we’re doing the same thing this year. Each day of Advent, there’s a scripture reading and online devotional that we do on our own. Then, each Sunday of Advent, we read the scripture together and light the candles in our Advent wreath. Celebrating Advent this way is one of my favorite traditions.

I’ve already started listening to Christmas music this year and have been loving The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album. The songs/movements are soulful and deep with bouts of joy and celebration mixed in, which feels like the perfect mix for a season where there is much to celebrate but there is also much we are still waiting for expectantly while suffering presses into us. This album balances that in a really unique way.

Last year I perfected the art of the homemade chai tea latte. I use Twinings Chai Tea (which you can find at nearly every grocery store) and heat up about ¼ cup whole milk while the tea is brewing. My younger brother gave me a milk frother (like this) for Christmas a couple years ago and I use it to froth the warm milk before pouring it into my cup of tea. I top it off with a sprinkle of cinnamon and it always makes me feel Christmas-y to drink it in the morning!

One of the ways I practice simplicity during the Advent season is in the way I wrap gifts. Every year I buy a big roll of plain butcher paper and use it as wrapping paper. It’s significantly more cost effective than buying rolls of bright glittery wrapping paper, and I personally prefer the understated look of the matching gifts under our tree. To decorate them a bit, sometimes I’ll add a sprig of greenery from outside, some red or dark green yarn, or a hand-lettered word on the package like “merry” or “holly.”

A few years ago I tried my hand at making clay gift tags and I’ve made them every year since. They are a bit more labor-intensive, but I love the way they look on packages, and it’s a fun project to take on while listening to Christmas music. I used to use salt dough, but last year I tried a recipe for cornstarch dough and it’s what I’ll use again this year. It’s whiter than salt dough and smoother to write on. The recipe talks about adding glitter and making different shapes, but I like to keep it simple by making plain white circular tags that I can write on later with a Sharpie.

While not exactly an Advent-specific tradition, I love to make homemade bread this time of year. I follow a simple recipe and the rise time reminds me that Advent is a season of waiting. While it’s baking, our whole house smells wonderful and inviting, and the best part (of course) is eating it warm out of the oven with butter.

During Advent, Josiah and I love to diffuse Young Living’s Christmas Spirit essential oil. I don’t sell essential oils and nearly all of mine are the cheapest brands I could find on Amazon or at Target, but this little bottle is worth the $10. It smells like a Christmas tree and oranges and cinnamon, and it always lasts the entire month of December even though we diffuse it every time we are home and awake. Whenever I smell it now, I think of sweet Christmas memories with my husband and the cozy feeling of our home in the winter.

However you choose to celebrate, I hope this season is full and rich with reminders to you of the Lord’s faithfulness and love.

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Solar Powered Life

The last time I drank this tea I was sitting in a wooden rocking chair on the front porch of the home where I grew up. It was 2016. I had just finished my second year of college and summer stretched before me in endless glory. As I took my first sip, sunlight glinted off of my week-old engagement ring and my heart filled with so much joy I thought I might burst. That was the last time I drank this tea, and when I sip it now, those are the sweet memories that make my life now taste bitter by comparison.

The last time I drank this tea, my family was whole and healthy. We spent the summer gathered around the pool sipping sparkling juice and coconut water, splashing around on pool noodles and watching our skin turn dark in the sunshine. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about those perfect days, wondering if the cancer had already started to form in my aunt’s belly, a covert operative hiding undercover inside her cells.

That summer, I worked with my Uncle Lee, sitting in an office beside him with a laptop and giddy excitement to talk to him about wedding planning and future career moves and the seven habits of highly effective people (naturally.) Now, as I sit in the same office where he worked for seven years, staring at a gray wall that he and my aunt painted together, I find myself subconsciously searching those summer memories for any mention of chest pains or heartburn, any clue of what was to come.

When I was younger I overheard my parents talking about the moments between when a person dies and when that person’s family knows about their death. The moments between the death and the knowing, they decided, were moments of false happiness. Now I think about their hushed conversation, their careful words and broken eye contact, and I feel jaded. If the cancer was there, if it had already started to grow and destroy her body, was the whole summer a false happiness?

It has been seven months since we buried my aunt’s body in the ground, her belly swollen with the cancer that had gained enough strength in less than a year to destroy us all. Shockingly and suddenly my uncle died less than three months later from a heart attack, something none of us imagined or thought possible. We had already experienced so much pain, so much heartbreak, and we were brought low once again. Now, as I sip this tea for the first time since that summer in 2016 when everything was good and right and whole, I taste the bitterness of it.

There’s an old Classic Crime song I listened to that summer, singing along in my car with the windows rolled down and the music turned up loud. She's got a solar powered life / She dies without direct sunlight. Sometimes I think that’s me. The sun is just so hopeful and warm and bright. When spring came this year I thought to myself, “Yes. Everything will be better now.”

If I’m honest, most things have been better. It’s easier to laugh, my chest feels lighter and I can take long walks outside again. We have friends over to sit on our porch and talk, and the daylight stretches long in front of us so that time seems warped into an excuse to sit lazily and talk forever.

Even with the warmth and the longer days, the sunlight and the laughter, life doesn’t feel as easy as it did two years ago. One of the strangest things about grief is the tension that surrounds each moment. When I experience these moments of joy and happiness - sitting on the porch and laughing with friends, eating barbecue with my family, tilting my face toward the sunshine on a warm day - it is difficult to enter into them. Shame is ever ready to remind me of my loss and the moments of joy feel awkward, like empty shells of what they once were. I feel guilty for feeling happy without them, and I feel guilty for not being able to fully experience the happiness in the moment.

Tomorrow, in true summer fashion, my family and I will be leaving for a vacation to Disney World. Disney World is the happiest place on earth, and for us, that has always been true. This trip, though, I think the happiness will be more complex. There will be two people missing and their absence will be tangibly felt like the Florida humidity. We will laugh and ride all the rides and buy Mickey-shaped ice cream and wear mouse ears on our heads, but we will also miss them.  

The presence of conflicting emotions doesn’t mean either is less true. Joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness, pain and elation, these are the complex and oftentimes simultaneous feelings of being human in a broken world. I think I am learning to live in this tension of feeling joy and sorrow together like two notes on a sheet of music, or two flavors mixed together in a familiar cup of tea.

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