Dear Abigail | 21 October 2019

Dear Abigail,

There are cliche motherhood quotes that end up plastered on Facebook walls about how a mother’s heart beats outside of her body, and there is a bit of truth to it. In a very real and biological way this DNA that used to be mine, these cells that made up me, are now outside of me in your body. Your heart beats and it is somehow mysteriously all your own and yet somehow still connected to mine. 

You are my DNA, merged and wrapped and formed with your Dad’s. (Despite what all those ladies at church say, you do look like me.) You have my nose, my startling independence, my squinty-eyed smile. For months you grew inside me, cocooned inside my body and safe

But now that you are here, born into the world and navigating it in your own unique way, anywhere can feel unsafe to me at a moment’s notice. The man walking toward us is a knife plunging into my side, a hand ripping the stroller from my grasp. The car coming toward us on the two lane road is a drunk driver about to collide with our car head-on. The air conditioner is a drug addict with a gun, the stove is silently leaking carbon monoxide, the bees buzzing around our porch are an allergic reaction. 

I am told by other moms this is normal, this is motherhood. This alertness which crosses the boundary lines of personality and disposition is to be expected. It finds all of us. As if when the baby growing inside us was birthed, something had to take its place inside our bellies. Something like fear. 

I don’t burden you with these things. But I do wonder if I will always see danger this quickly. For now I have begun acknowledging these thoughts in my head and waving at them hoping they’ll pass me by. I remind myself, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” and I wonder why I think I can take better care of you than our friend Jesus. 

It seems motherhood, at least for me, has been a practice in learning how to let go of myself - my fears, my desire for control, my heart beating outside of my body. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it - you and me and this DNA we share. Thanks be to God. 

With love,

Mom

PC: The incredible  Jenna L. Richman Photography

PC: The incredible Jenna L. Richman Photography

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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A Redemption of Grief

Originally published by Fathom Magazine

I used to call myself a morning person. The feeling of peeling back the covers in the early hours and stepping into a new day thrilled me. 

I’m not sure what I am now, but I’m often awake in the middle of the night—my body either unable or unwilling to sleep through a full night. When I wake, the morning feels harsh, like a bright fluorescent light shining into my eyes. Pain washes over me before my feet have even touched the ground, and grief waits for me in the corner, an unwelcome and intrusive guest who will long overstay his welcome.

When I open my Bible to read, grief stands in front of me. I try to focus on the words, try to take in the passage, but I am distracted. The letters pool on the page.

In my morning fog, I put the water on to boil and look out at the trees in our backyard. A dogwood blooms pink and white amidst the grays and browns of early spring. This specific tree had a number of branches grafted into it so that it flowered the colorful blend every spring. When I see it, I think of my family—a family grafted together with my aunt and uncle’s family. Growing up, my cousins were more like siblings, and their house was as much a home to me as my own. My life grew out of the trunk of both my family and theirs.

In December 2016, my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. Less than a year later, in 2017, we buried her body. It was a few days before Christmas. But the cancer had taken over almost every organ. Grief became a regular visitor in each of our lives. 

My uncle, having just celebrated his twenty-fourth anniversary less than a week before my aunt died, slept in an empty bed for two and a half months. He talked about her, about how he couldn’t sleep, about how much he missed her.

Then, less than three months after my aunt’s death, my mom texted me something about chest pains and come quickly and where is your cousin Emily? When we arrived at the hospital, my uncle was already gone. “A heart attack,” the doctor said, “We did everything we could but weren’t able to save him.”

As the water on the stove boils, these are the memories that flood my mind. I look out at the tree in my yard, its colorful pink and white blossoms defying the lingering winter, and I wonder if my family’s tree will ever stand tall again or if we have been hacked away and left to rot. 

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