We Are All Keeping Secrets

I told Russell today that I felt like I was keeping a secret from my long distance best friend. She’s coming home to stay and live here soon, so this reality of being found out is a hard one to swallow.

It’s not either of our faults. I had a baby, she was making a cross country move. We were both overwhelmed. Because my schedule and routine disappeared once my baby arrived, we weren’t able to have our daily phone calls. The silence and the experiences we are going through alone have felt like the biggest hurdle we’ve ever faced.

I’ve tried my best to be a good communicator despite how much my life has changed. But I can’t help but feel so much fear with having to be honest.

I didn’t tell her how much I’ve been struggling. How I have been crushed by the depression, anxiety and isolation of my life. How many times I’ve lost a grip on what is true. How much I am still in the midst of it.

It’s not actually a secret, but it feels like one. It feels like one I have kept from everyone. How do you honestly and accurately talk about your struggles when you don’t have the luxury of face to face? How do you open your heart to someone who doesn’t know what you’re going through over a text? Even if it is someone in your similar situation, how do you actually ask for help?

I have wrestled with this idea for months now. And the more I think about it, the more I know others must be feeling the same way. This COVID world has put us all in isolated places. Where our experiences are so hard and unique and we don’t have our normal networks of support to lean into. We are all keeping our own secrets.

I know and believe that our God isn’t one of secrets. Mystery, yes, but he has saved us from the prison of secrecy. We don’t have to live in shame and fear of what we are, or have done or have felt. We are free from that.

How do we then live in this reality? How do we do it now? Without being able to hear the tone of someone’s voice accurately, to see their body language, to feel the intention in their words? This is something I want to find. There are so many of us really struggling with the day to day and not being able to have an outlet in any way.

There is a fine line between vulnerability and overexposure. And I don’t think there’s a clear formula to follow with that, but we all know it when we see it. Either side takes kindness. Elevate those who are honest in their interactions. Have grace for those who don’t have the purest of intentions.

If you are struggling, please reach out. I’m not perfect or an expert in anything. But I want to be a part of the solution. If you are not someone struggling, take the time to ask those you don’t see how they are doing. Give space for their honesty if you can take it. And I think above all, let’s all talk to God first. He is our ally and advocate. He cares, he knows, he sees.

Let’s all give space for honesty and vulnerability. Let’s be wise in stepping into those spaces when we see the opening.

Need for Connection

This year has had me question so much. Pregnancy was exhausting, humbling and frustrating. COVID has left little room for taking a breath. Parenthood has taken away my control and restructured my life.

There is one theme I have felt deeply for years that has come to a peak. There has been a lack of depth in my life. I crave it. I can almost feel it on a physical level. I have bandaids and good habits that sustain me for the short term, but this last year has taken all of that away from me. The way I think has changed a lot.

Doubt is a big part of my days. Doubt in my work, my parenting, my relationships, my faith. I second guess almost every piece of my day. I can now see how my isolation has just become an echo chamber for my thoughts. I don’t have a chance to empty my brain and bounce my thoughts and feelings anywhere. It’s not healthy. My heart and mind are very weary.

I think a weird/hard symptom of our technology and social media filled world is the percieved proximity we have to connections and audience we all crave. I have often dreamed thought and dreamed about being an “influencer” to be a successful blogger, to actually commit to writing. Hell, I’ve thought about being a youtuber. I just so deeply desire connection. I keep relying on and believing in the lie that the internet could hold any of the connection I really need.

We can all absolutely agree that there is no replacement for face to face genuine interaction. Especially after this year. But I (and we) still seek to fill those needs with cheapened versions. How do we meet these real and intense needs?

I honestly just don’t know. I don’t know how God fits into this equation either. I know the sunday school answers of “God is always with us” and “He fulfills all of our needs”. I believe these to be fully true, but I don’t know how to make them real for me for in this time of high need. I’m sure I could put new habits into practice, find a new devotional to read, listen to more sermons, drink a better coffee. Whatever.

I know and believe in the never ending depth and connection that God is. I really hope for it to be fully realized in my life. I want to know what a deep, dynamic, loving relationship with the God that is all of those things. To find him in the relationships with other humans in this world. To find and hope to this solid foundation so if and when I land back in this place, I know where to run.

How Becoming a Parent Has Helped Me Appreciate My Flaws

I have a long list of insecurities, as most of us do.

I have always hated my brown eyes. In my life long pursuit of being unique, my brown eyes have always kept me solidly in the “common” category.

My mixture of Polynesian and European creates this lovely phenomenon of hair. I have an insanely thick head of hair, but it comes at the expense of lots of dark, thick body hair.

I’m emotional and deep, and that can be my downfall in many a relationship. Depression and anxiety have torn me apart and still keep me from being okay with myself.

I grew up so skinny. I would say scrawny. I used to long for the day that I could have curves, to not get so many comments on how I was so tiny. Then around 23, boom. I gained a lot of weight and I haven’t been able to keep it off since. I still wasn’t happy with how I looked.

I come on strong nine times out of ten. I present as a friendly person but tend to come off as sarcastic and mean after the first impression.

I have cried many tears over my body’s and soul’s “failures”. I regret wasting my time on it, but that is the reality. I feel such a weight of inadequacy. I’m sure you feel that too.

Change in Perspective

But since my daughter has entered this world, my view of myself is changing. It’s not an overnight deal, it’s a real process.

As she gets older and I look at her, I’m seeing more and more little reflections of myself in her. Her eyes, though not set in color, look at me with a dark brown warmth. She feels all of her little feelings with intensity. She was born tiny and skinny and covered with hair. She now is smooth and has rolls. She’s selective with her smiles and often looks at the world with a stern face. All of these things I have hated in myself I love in her.

It’s been humbling to deny myself the pity party of hating things in myself in order to love them in my daughter. It’s not worth my energy to obsess over myself and not give love to this sweet little person who is half me.

God’s Design

I never expected to learn to love myself more as I became a parent. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s design in it. And to learn how God looks on us as his daughters and sons. Even in our human brokenness, God’s goodness can be seen.

Aspen Leaves

I did one of my favorite things a few weeks ago. I went up to the mountains to look at the aspen leaves that have changed to yellow. It’s a big event for us here in Colorado and I have always relished the beauty that fall brings here.

Now this year we had a cranky baby in the car and COVID had made the small mountain towns even more like ghost towns, but I wasn’t able to go last year and I was pretty determined to go this year.

Even though I’ve driven this road almost every year of my life, this year held a special kind of magic. We were driving through a beautiful stretch of the pass with high peaks and low valleys and I caught myself feeling in awe of what I was seeing. My husband makes fun of me every year for how I react to the leaves. I make weird noises and just keep saying over and over, “It’s so pretty!” I didn’t make much noise this year because of how daunting it felt to be in the midst of things so much grander than myself.

For better and worse, 2020 had been such an insular year. We were quarantined, still maintain a small social circle, there’s been no travel at all. It’s been a unique year in that sense. On top of the world changing, my own personal world changed. I navigated through pregnancy and now am in the midst of motherhood. I don’t have groups of moms to meet and hang out with regularly. I don’t have a normal church service to attend. I have seen family and a few friends. I have been so much in my own small world for a very long time.

Taking a trip to the mountains usually is something my husband and I do every few months. Living right next to America’s Mountain still is a thrill for me. But this trip to see the leaves was eye-opening. For the first time in months, I was reminded of how small I am in this world. I had been so big in my mind and the Holy Spirit was kind to remind me of my smallness.

We are all small pieces in the world around us. Small, but still so significant. There is so much peace in knowing that we are seen and loved by God even when we get lost in the crowd to others. We are like each aspen leaf, unique and significant. When put together and viewed from a higher perspective, we can inspire awe.
What are the ways you find and embrace your smallness?

What are ways you find and embrace your smallness?

Becoming a Parent in a Pandemic

I have a 5 week old. What a weird amount of time that is. It feels like it flew by, but it also feels like it’s taken forever to get here. I know that 5 weeks is nothing in the grand scheme of my daughter’s life, but it still has held so much in that short time.

She was born. We stayed in the hospital and experienced our first days of being parents. We introduced her to our family and friends. We navigated sharing tasks. I struggled through pumping for 2 weeks and the journey of breastfeeding. We adjusted to less sleep. We learned how to graciously accept help. We learned how to buck up and do somethings on our own. We went to coffee shops to have little 30 minute chunks of normal life. We went on one successful walk. We learned she laughs in her sleep. We are still learning all the time.

It’s a really unique and intense time.

There are so many moments of really hard moments and moments of pure bliss in my life right now. Even though I am on a parenting journey, I do feel like our whole world is in a state of liquid time and extreme feelings. This pandemic has framed the world in such a different way for all of us. I feel like becoming a mom in the midst of this has given such depth to this weird experience. I can see my world experience this from my unique spot in the middle.

It’s a really unique and intense time.

I will admit these past few days have been hard. It’s my heart’s desire to meet all of the needs for my little baby, but I can’t communicate with her. I’m not able to meet every need at the right moment she needs it. I know that logically that’s expected, but my heart can’t take it. It’s a weird thing God does to change you once you transition in to parenthood. My already tender heart has become so much more tender. With this new heartache, I am finding myself longing for the future. The days when I can talk to my daughter, the days when sleep will be easier to get, the days where she can do things for herself. While I think it’s a good thing to look ahead with anticipation, I am trying not to miss out on the moments of life and joy right now.

It’s a hard thing to live in the present when things aren’t comfortable or just down-right really hard. I have found that in a COVID world and in my first season of parenting this is really true.

So, how are you staying present? What struggles do you have with staying present?

We all know seasons come and change. This current season has felt so long, but it will change. I need to rejoice in the moments that God has laid out for me in it.

Day 5 as a Mother

I have really dreaded being a mother. To have a little being that I’m responsible for, that needs ME all day long. It made all of my selfishness shine. But here I am. Day 5 of it, and it’s not even like I made a choice. I just became what I am. My sweet baby makes this so easy. I feel comfortable, I feel empowered to be what I am. She’s let’s me be this new person I’ve been all along.

Sitting down now, rocking my daughter her laying peaceful on my chest, I am overwhelmed by how much I adore this. The lead up to this birth was so hard. I was a very un gracious pregnant person. I hope to be a more gracious mother.

I know I’m in the honeymoon phase with parenting, but oh man I’m basking in it. My body is sore, I’m sleepy, but I am SO full of joy.

God’s goodness is fully seen here. He knew me as a mother, he knit together this child, he enabled me to get to this place. He truly knows what we need so much better than we know.

When Did I Become So Socially Awkward?

I think I am out of practice in socializing.

It’s become increasingly clear to me how uncomfortable I am with things that I would’ve loved months ago. In my state, we’ve lightened up on some COVID restrictions. Our work office is kind of open, we’ve had groups of people over, we eat out at restaurants occasionally. Life is looking more normal than it did in the height of quarantine.

Usually, I would be ecstatic about this. I am borderline introvert/extrovert, but I love entertaining and connecting. What I’ve seen happen in myself is not what I would usually expect. I think there is a lot of reasons for this.

Quarantine didn’t bring about a lot of time for self reflection that I had hoped for.

I had really wanted to use the time to reflect, become more aware, become enlightened. I instead usually shied away from it and was just in survival mode. Self reflection (especially without community) is really hard. I don’t like to admit how much I need people around to truly know myself, but it’s true. I need others to bounce ideas off, to process with. Quarantine stripped a lot of that away.

Pregnancy is the opposite of a social lubricant.

At nine months pregnant, I pretty much dread going out. It’s not because I’m so physically uncomfortable (most of the time, sharing a body is no joke) it’s usually because I hate how much attention I get. Pregnancy, at this stage in the game, is just about the only thing that I talk about with people. It’s the most obvious thing about me. I get asked my due date at least 3 times a day. I’m asked the name and gender and if I’m excited. I don’t blame anyone for asking those questions, I’m sure I’ve asked a lot of pregnant people the same ones. I am seeing myself shrink away from other because of how uncomfortable it makes me feel to only be seen as a baby vessel.

Connection is a struggle.

I have learned through the years that my extroversion is picky. For me to be filled up by others I need depth. I need to connect in a real way and to talk about real problems, feelings, and laugh real laughs. Sometimes that is a hard thing to come by. So when you are asked to stay and home, only connect to others virtually and you are pregnant, connection and depth is truly a rare luxury. My tank has been running on E for a long time now and I am afraid that having a baby won’t make it any easier.

Where do I turn to now?

The Coronavirus world that we live in isn’t looking to leave any time soon, so where are we supposed to turn to now? I know and trust that God is doing something beyond our imaginings, but where can I be intentional now to find the things that I need? How do I practice social skills again in this new reality?

Hopefully I’m not the only one struggling with people and when we can all meet face to face again, we will all be out of practice together.

Reflecting

I have had such a hard time wrestling with the thoughts and feelings of the state of things. I want to help, I want to speak, but I have never felt my voice is one to be heard. I am a person of mixed color and culture. I am half white and half Polynesian, but I just don’t feel like I have room in this conversation. This is something I’ve struggled with for the whole time I’ve been watching the Black Lives Matter movement.

My experience is different

The racism and privilege I’ve experienced isn’t to any degree that many others have experienced. I know that I have experienced privilege in my life, but I’m not convinced its only from my white side of the family. I am also not convinced the hardship I’ve faced is from the Poly side either.

I work at a mission agency. We send US Christians into the world. Some places with such hardship, such pain, and the reality of genocide. The governments around the world are so corrupt and evil; the value of human life doesn’t exist. In this battle we face here in the States, I want to maintain a global perspective and heart.

No person’s suffering negates another’s suffering.

I am so incredibly heartbroken over the loss of lives that were based solely on the color of skin. I am outraged to see authority treat human beings in such horrible ways. Our country is dealing with tragedy upon tragedy. I am so sad to see the level of hate and rage on both sides. I am so sad to see that in this horrible time of COVID-19, there is more suffering that is being put on so many people. I am so disheartened to see the defensiveness of people I know, extreme actions and statements from people I love.

Other people’s suffering doesn’t negate your suffering. Humanity is suffering. We can all mourn and be sad with all of the world. Jesus wept for the suffering of others too.

What we need to guard ourselves from is letting guilt and shame and anger rule over our lives. White friends and family, mourn with those who mourn, but don’t succumb to the shame the world is throwing at you. There is nothing good that is built out of shame. Be humble, be listeners. Friends and family of color, there is a need for justice and I pray we can all fight together. Let your fight be purposeful and fueled by righteous zeal for justice. Justice for you and those like you. Be an advocate for change.

Love in Action

God is at work! I don’t think there is any doubt about that. I don’t think we have the full picture of what it is he is doing. I am choosing to ask God each day for what I should be doing. How can I be his hands and feet while my arm span is cut so short?

Let’s all take time to reflect on what we are seeing, praying into and for the injustices we are witnessing and move forward in love and faith of the authority of Christ Jesus. There is freedom in what he calls you to. May we respond in obedience.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
    I will pay them back,”
    says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Romans 12:9-21

New Year’s Resolution

I’ve always felt like the start of the New Year was a very arbitrary time to start new habits, kick old ones, lose weight, etc. I also never feel like mid-winter is the best time to try and motivate yourself. I usually use my birthday as my “new year” to have some new goals.

I had my birthday this last weekend and it was, as I’m sure you can imagine VERY low key. I turned 26 so I wasn’t planning on a big birthday bash, but it is interesting to see how much events like birthdays have such loss attached to them during our current world situation.

In keeping with my low key birthday celebrations, I tried to keep my resolutions pretty low key. The reality of my next year is up in the air with COVID and with a baby coming. It would be pretty pointless to make grand goals that could never realistically be met.

Here are my New Years Resolutions for 26:

1. To live this year with open hands

I have learned already with all the plans that have changed in my life and with the uncertainty of what’s ahead to keep my hands open. God is teaching many of us this right now and I don’t want the lesson to go to waste in my next year.

2. To take any chance I have to interact with the Word

Even before COVID changed the reality of what “church” or “bible study” has traditionally looked like, I have known that my normals of interacting with the Word will look different once the baby comes. I don’t know what “quiet time” will be like with this little one. I’m pretty resolved to take each opportunity that’s presented to me to interact with the Word.

3. To invest in people and friendships

I don’t want to let parenthood put a divide between me and my relationships. I want to make sure that in the changes of my life, I don’t make anyone feel left behind. I also will need to allow myself a lot of room for grace. Grace for when I mess up, grace for when others aren’t understanding, grace for all that’s in between those points. It’s all a learning process.

4. To take risks in making good relationships, learning to be vulnerable again

Between COVID and pregnancy, I have really felt isolated. It’s been a slow shift in reality for me, between job changes, life changes, just normal life changes. The groups of people I could call on to talk to are spread out and not the same anymore. In this next chapter of life, I don’t want to doubt myself and the appointments God has set up for me. I know I will need a community to raise this child. I need to be intentional to build that for me and my family. I don’t want to be passive and miss out on what can be there. I know it will take trial and error, but I want to walk forward to whatever God has for me.

5. To survive to 27

I’ve been waiting to make this joke for. so. long.

Hellos and Goodbyes

Being pregnant is such a hard time of transition. I wasn’t planning on having a baby and I think that adds to the complexity of this time. I’m in my sixth month now and I think I have moved through all of the emotions you possibly could. It’s hard to let go of things when you weren’t planning on having a baby, and it’s an odd thing to say hello to so many new things as well. I had to say goodbye to something I truly loved today and it’s really hard. I wanted to make a list of the hellos and goodbyes to help me chart all that God is doing in this season of transition.

Goodbyes:

  • My timelines. It’s not like Russell and I had planned on traveling the world or really doing anything out of our ordinary lives, but I still wasn’t planning on being a parent yet.
  • My dream of doing foster adoption. I know this isn’t off the table. It’s still my hope, but I was hoping to work towards it and to build our family that way. I know God’s plan is so worthy of me trusting.
  • My ministries. I had honestly been feeling some growing pains in a lot of way in the things I had been doing with youth ministry for a year or so. I knew something new was around the corner. There are pieces I was happy to give up, but there was still one piece in particular that’s hit me hard to give up. I’m still needed in that place, I still love serving in that place, but the timing of the baby just won’t let that be an option for now.
  • The question, “When are you guys wanting to have kids?” Honestly good riddance.
  • My career. I’m still planning to work after the baby comes. (There’s not much choice in it.) When I found out that I was pregnant, I had settled into my dream job. I love my job. I feel like I have to say goodbye to letting it be something that I still love. I’ll be a mom, then a working woman.
  • Friendships. I have good friends that I know will stick through all that life has. I’m not thinking that parenthood will leave us friendless. I do really worry about how it will affect our friendships with our single friends. Marriage already can make things different and hard, a kid will add to that. Pregnancy has felt so isolated at times (COVID aside). I am afraid of what having a baby will mean.
  • My body. My body is a life factory now. I am SO very aware of it all the time. Once my baby is born, my body is still going to be the one-stop-shop for the baby to get what she needs. I am excited to be a source of life, instead of a commodity, but it will definitely come at a price.
  • Body image insecurities. I have always struggled with my self image. I don’t want to be so self obsessed, but I have always succumbed to the pressure of being young and hot and desirable. In a way, pregnancy has freed me of this. I can’t come to terms with my body because where it’s at is so temporary. It won’t make a difference if I hold to this.

Hellos:

  • A sweet little baby. It’s so nuts to me to think I’ll have a little person to hang out with and that will want (at least for a few years) to hang out with me too. I’ve had so much experience in nannying and being a caregiver, but I’ve never been the one that they cry over or want to spend their time with.
  • A new way to look at family. Russell and I have been a “family” since we were married, but this is so much more real. We are planning for our own rules and philosophies and it’s not just us playing house. It’s us doing a ministry in new and unique ways.
  • Seeing Russell as a dad. Oh man. Even before we started officially dating, Russell had always said that he wanted to be a good husband and father. This guy has always been the most baby crazy, fun-loving, goofy guy. He’s always been perfect dad material.
  • A new set of friends. Relationships with the friends I have will change a lot. I also know that because we are entering this new phase, different people who are in similar situations are going to start popping up. I have been and am praying for good families and women and men to connect to in ways I haven’t connected with before.
  • Body insecurities. Female bodies are amazing, but they don’t go back to be exactly like they were after birthing a person. I know that and I’m expecting that. But it is hard to deal with body changes. I know that there will be new things that pop up.
  • A complicated sex life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been and will be complicated. But now learning how to feel sexy while breastfeeding and being pooped on will definitely be a big learning curve.
  • A better understanding of God’s love for me as a daughter. I’ve heard my whole life that I’m a child of God, but now I will be able to know what it feels like to have a child of my own. I’m looking forward to understanding God’s love for me in a new way.
  • Baby giggles. I mean, who wouldn’t want to say hello to that?

This whole journey has been so hard, and good, and deep. While it’s so tough to say hello and goodbye to so many things, I’m so confident in God’s hand in all of it.