Motherhood: Striking a Balance

oregonmem024.jpgFinding the center. Give and take. Sow and reap. Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer. Striking balance.

Easy to think about, but more difficult to execute.

“If I just eat a little less…move my body a little more…”

“If I spend a little less time doing this…I’ll have more time to do that…”

“If I can just be a little less [fill in the blank].”

There is always something that I can do a little more or a little less.  There is always a place where growth can happen.

It takes noticing.

Something has to catch my attention for me to see that I need to start working on that part of me. We become so accustomed to the way things are, the way we are. We even say it to ourselves and others (or about others), “that’s just the way I am”. It is easier to shield our eyes and not look. It takes courage to turn and face the things that feel ugly. It takes even more to decide that there is no ugly too ugly to change, so that we don’t just glance, but rather stare and soften and have compassion toward ourselves and others so growth can happen.

Sometimes it is hard to see change or commit to change, because there are others we have to sacrifice our own “self-improvement” for.

My life right now is motherhood. Three young kids, a small home in a beachside town, a very modest one-income family. And, really, most of the time, I love every bit of it. There is little stress. Summer really feels like a vacation when we stay up late making fires and playing on the beach almost daily and roll out of bed late in the morning, drink coffee and sit around the kitchen table together. What we don’t have in money we make up for in time together. My kids have a pretty incredible childhood home and that makes me happy.

But

there are still the nights where I lay in bed, baby suckling on my milk filled breasts and I dream and list the things I want to do, to change. Projects and trips and desires I don’t dare speak, because maybe if I say them, the dream will die and they won’t happen. So I close my eyes again and save them wrapped up tight in my chest, where my heart is burning with fire and remind myself that this little soft and fleshy version of us – myself and the man I share a bed and family with – won’t always be so little and vulnerable and needy.

And being a mother may be the most important thing I do, because while dreams are meaningful and working with our hands and minds are good for the soul and the world, caring for the humans who will inherit that world should be ranked so much higher on the list of “valuable things to do with your life”than it is.

So, for now, I sacrifice a little for something I know will pass by quickly, and really, I believe I’ll be better for it – not missing out on something.  My husband shared a piece he was reading the other day, and I don’t remember anything about it other than the words, “having kids may be more for our formation than their own.”

These years are precious, because I won’t be who I am going to become one day without them, and the more I lean into it and try to live a graceful life, the more we will all benefit. Motherhood begins to feel less like a sacrifice and more like an investment, where I am choosing each day and moment how much I am willing to give.

-b.e.

 

 

 

An “Unplugged” Summer

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It has been almost two weeks since I posted on my Instagram account.  In fact, I haven’t even scrolled through my feed.  I did log onto Facebook to post something to my business page and check on my notifications, but I didn’t miss much.  I wonder, a little, if anyone has noticed my absence in the vast sea that is social media. I worry if someone thinks I am purposefully distancing myself from them by not engaging with their posts. Funny that this is the reality I live in, people thinking I am angry because I do not respond, our main source of validation coming from a tiny blue icon of a hand gesture.

I haven’t had any very profound moments since I “unplugged” a little, but the margins created in my day-to-day life without checking notifications and mindlessly scrolling feeds have provided much needed space.

Space to sit and listen and think without being prompted by a meme or inspirational quote; to dream and imagine and wonder without comparing myself to the accomplishments of someone else. I have grabbed my “real” camera more in the past two weeks than I have in the past 5 months and have been reading books, rather than stare at a screen.

I am also learning something interesting about myself.  About what it means to do something without the appeal of being able to show it off, without it being a means to an end of praise and approval. Without Instagram on my phone, I can’t simply snap a picture and post with a humble hashtag or two. I know how many times I have raced to finish a product, only because I wanted to be able to post it so my friends could see.

The strange thing about myself is that I crave acknowledgement and admiration (who doesn’t?), but I don’t know what to do with the attention.  I wish I could just stuff it into a little bottle and take a look at it whenever I need it, when I begin to doubt myself and wonder about what I do and why it matters. When I begin to doubt that anyone genuinely likes me.

We want the things that we do to be of importance. We want to share our lives with others.  Yet, what happens after a day or two when we haven’t shared?  We are all but forgotten. The notifications disappear and the images fade from our friend’s daily scroll and that amazing moment or clever post is no longer present in anyone’s mind. We are all too involved in what is happening next.  We are all too concerned with our own search for connection and the next thing to keep our voice in the mix.

So, I’ve committed to going the summer more unplugged.  I deleted my FB and IG apps off of my phone and I have decided to not scroll through my feeds.  I am allowed to log into Facebook to check notifications and perhaps post on my business account when needed, but otherwise, I am checking out.  I find that as more time passes, the less I check or even think to log in.

And, I am hoping to write more again without the anxiety that comes with sharing a post on Facebook, or the obsessive checking if anyone is “liking” it or wanting to delete it if no one does within a couple of hours.

-b.e.

 

the “lost” years

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Are you familiar with the Chinese Bamboo Tree?

Once planted, it doesn’t break through the ground for 4 years.

During this time, gardeners tend to this seemingly bare spot of earth – water it, fertilize it, nurture it – with no visible display of what difference their care has made.

But then, after 4 years of “nothing”, in the 5th year, the shoot bursts through the ground and grows at an amazing pace.  In just over a month, it will tower over you at 90 feet high.

I feel like this relates to so many areas of life.

It resonates so deep within me right now.

Because some times I give up tending to certain things I believe in.

Sometimes we don’t see the outcomes of our kindness, generosity, patience, grace.

Sometimes the grueling, gritty, every day work just doesn’t seem worth it.

Sometimes we fail and instead of learning from our mistakes, give up prematurely.

Sometimes we look crazy devoting so much time to something that gives us so little in return.

Sometimes I look at everyone else’s bamboo trees and instead of enjoying their beauty and celebrating the hard work it took to grow them, I allow envy to settle in my stomach.

Then there are those moments – days, weeks, years – where incredible growth takes place.  It was happening all along, but you didn’t see it.  You couldn’t.  Maybe it is all timing.  Maybe you just weren’t ready.  Maybe someone else came along who believed in you and even did the hard work and tended to your garden for a time when you neglected it.  Maybe there are a slew of reasons.  Maybe you were so busy tending to that barren ground that it just sort of changed overnight and things are suddenly happening at a dizzying pace.

I feel like I have experienced these stages at different times in life.  Some times I give up and move on.  Some times I wonder and doubt and second-guess why I am even doing the things I am.  Or I am just lost and don’t know what is next or what I should be doing at all. And then there are times when I stand back and see the outcome and feel full and satisfied.

But you can’t skip the seasons and you can’t get the lost years back.

There is so much going on below the surface that we don’t see.

As a mother, this feels poignant.

I sense that many of us with young children feel like we are just getting through these early years with our kids.  We have lost ourselves somewhere along the way and feel like every drop of energy is devoted to their care and nothing is left. We just have to get through these years and things will change. Not that we don’t enjoy it.  Being called “momma” and caring for my children is a great joy.  And it is hard and I have never found myself more than through childbearing and child raising.

It has loosened so many lies I believed about myself and others, about where I actually find my value and what is important in life.

Even those formative years in our children’s lives are like tending to a bamboo tree.  You might not see the outcome of what you pour into their every day, the sacrifices you make for them, for years to come.  And we bear the wrinkles and tired eyes from the laughter and frustration and sleepless nights and dim, early mornings.

But when I think about the bamboo tree, and I think about entering my last year in my 20’s, and hear the stories of others’ lives and the abrupt ending we some times have…I also feel a broader call, an urgency.

Not to see change, but to work toward it.

Because some times the work takes years and years and maybe I don’t even get to enjoy the shade that will one day come from the daily tending.

But,

I can imagine who will.

And I wonder, what have I been tending to beneath the surface all this time?

-b.e.

motherhood: when I just want to give up.

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This morning I posted a picture from last night on my instagram – it describes the magical feeling we had while sitting on our neighborhood beach with our littles watching the fireworks all around the Sound as we nestled into each other in a peaceful spot.

Ah.

We walked back late in the night with tired kids who wanted nothing more than to be home snuggled in their beds.  As I tucked them in and hugged and we smiled content smiles, my son informed me he would most likely sleep in very late.

Then morning came and the sleeping in did not materialize and I have not dealt kindly with any situation that has come up.  I have snapped, shouted, and said things I immediately regretted.

This is not the graceful, peaceful way of being a mama I want.

This is not the tone I want vibrating through my home.

This is not who I have been in the past.

I used to be so. much. more. calm.

So what do you do when everyone is screaming and crying and you are pretty sure you have made things escalate more than necessary and it seems like you can’t come back?

You come back.

You stop.

You breathe.

You keep people safe.

You hug.

You calm your voice.

You start over.

You say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness and start over and come back to love.

You ask for help.

Whether thats from them or someone else or in a prayer.

And you try again.

Something I tell myself very often is that just because I made one (or two or five or twenty) wrong choices in a day, does not mean my day is doomed down a bad path. My next choice does not have to also be a bad one.  You ate two pieces of cake, you don’t have to eat a third (or in Jim Gaffigan’s case, the entire cake). Maybe – OF COURSE – it could have been better if I had made better choices, but the fact that I didn’t does not disqualify me from future better choices.  I can reclaim my day.  I can reclaim the peace and the love and use it to patch up the tears.

Mothering is hard.

It takes a lot of surrender. It takes giving up and trying things and energy and some times you want to just quit, but you can’t really. And I think there will always be gaps, because how can we be so much to so many people in so many different capacities?  Some of us work or are trying to bring in some income to survive, or going to school to make things better but in the meantime, it’s a struggle.  Or we feel stuck at home with young kids and barely know what to do to get through each day, just waiting for our spouse to get home, and each day feels so similar.  And at times it can be hard to see what other families are able to give their kids and we want to be so much more.

And it can just kill our joy, and we in turn can suppress and strangle the joy out of those around us.

But.  I think more important than focusing on what our life situation is or what we have or don’t have is remembering that our kids are watching us.

They are watching the grace with which we live in this world.

And mornings like this, I shake my head, because I have not displayed grace.  I have not displayed an ease in accepting others (their) flaws, I have not been generous with my kindness, I have not shown them that being unselfish is worth the effort and a good thing to do.

I admit it and know it is true – sometimes I am not a pleasant person and my standards are higher for others than what I hold myself to, and my kids and husband see the worst version of me that exists.

And it is very easy to get fixated on the negative moments and forget the many times that as siblings they worked things out between each other, or the times when they do make good choices and show kindness and compassion to others, the times when I know I am doing my best and being a solid and safe place for them to land when they are struggling with something or bubbling with an abundance of happiness.

Today is not my everyday, but I don’t ever want it to become that.  This is just a real and honest struggle, but many times, it is hidden within our home.  Although, I am certain we have all seen struggling moms and dads at parks and stores when we and our kids are at our best, and we are thankful it is not us in that moment, or perhaps a little too judgmental about their lack of grace.  So many times I have been that parent, but many times I have been the other, also. Isn’t that just all part of it?

But, grace. Whether tantrums are being thrown or no major event is happening, displaying and being a person who lives out grace is what I am longing for these days.

I love my kids, I am glad I get to be with them as much as I do, and I want so desperately to continue to grow as a person and a parent.

-b.e.

stuck on repeat.

Days gently melt one into the next.

Some days repeat themselves.

We trip over our own feet again and again, brush off the dirt, kiss the bruises, and forgive and forget again.

Some times it feels so very mundane.  I wonder how a week, even a month, has passed by and when asked details about it, it is seldom I can recall many moments that stand out or what we spent our time doing.

But I know.

I know we cuddled on the couch and read and laughed.

We ran outside through the grass and dug in the dirt.

We went to the library and brought home a much too large pile of books and racked up a small fine after returning them late, even though we had read them the first day.

We ate popcorn and watched a movie, three snuggled deep in a blanket.

We wrote and learned lessons and did simple arithmetic and went to classes and played at parks and made new friends and fought with old ones.

We quarreled and stamped our feet and threw some things and screamed a bit.

I held my head in my hands and wondered what I was doing and if I could ever figure this parenting thing out.

We came back  and looked at each other in our tear stained eyes and all apologized and forgave again.

We allowed the tide to chase us back to the shore and froze our toes in the cold, salty water.

The sun is shining more and we wait for the green new sprouts to spring out of the garden boxes. We sit and revel in the warmth on our faces. We find ourselves continually longing for more of that warmth to come.  Oh summer, my heart is yearning for you.

It is easy to feel that the days must mean nothing since I barely seem to notice one from the other.  I look forward to bedtime beginning at the lunch hour, and wake up feeling tired and not quite ready for the day to arrive.  But oh how I am reminding myself right now, as I type these words and think about what our days have been full of, how important this time is, and how it is merely one season.

Young ones, so full of life, learning so much and sharing so much and needing so much and yet, becoming so independent at the same time.  And here I am, failing and loving hard, and learning about second chances and grace and what it means to become and just be.

Keeping eyes open hard to find the gems tucked throughout.

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– b.e.

embracing what is

DSC_0016DSC_0007DSC_0019bwDSC_0012DSC_0018Her quick steps lightly skip across the pavement, beckoning me to hurry and catch up.  We dash down the gravel path and round the corner to the museum entrance.  Her face is aglow as she realizes that the words I spoke this morning, the promise made of places yet to be seen, really did come true.

—-

Days come and go quickly and sometimes, seasons change abruptly.  I can recall some early September mornings when the air grew cold overnight and you wake up and dig in your drawer for the wool socks much sooner than expected.  It can feel a little bit like the earth is betraying you – summer hasn’t lingered quite long enough and suddenly, the cold creeps in and steals your last warm sunsets away.

But after a bit, you relax a little.  Pull your sweater around snug and cup your mug of tea with your hands, feeling the warmth transferring and transforming.

The cold is doing its job.

If we remained stagnant forever, what would life be?  How would we grow and how limited would our perspective be?  In the end, we are thankful for the changing seasons.

—-

January 1st.  Just a day.  It could be any day.  But this day has ushered in a new season for me.  Nothing has really changed around me, but I have chosen to embrace what is.

Being more present to my children, finding time to reflect and plan, and being more intentional and mindful with my time has opened up so many possibilities for this year already.

I am dreaming again.

Today, this meant embracing the odd schedule my son’s classes are and devoting that time to my daughter.  We went to the local children’s museum and played together, and I reveled in watching her role play and problem solve and practice her social skills.

We walked to the art museum and catching a glimpse of the wonder in ehr eyes and hidden pleasure as she listened to the very sweet woman who, with joy, guided her to a whimsical woodland scene. Time at the library together, and before we knew it, time was up and we picked up her brother.

I was starting to feel like the drive and the time “stuck” in the area was a complete inconvenience in my life.

But just a small shift of perspective reveals that truly it was a beautiful opportunity.

b.e.

like the ocean

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Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.  – Edna Jaques

Some days just seem to go wrong.  I don’t respond well, I make things harder than need be, I find myself throwing my hands in the air and saying, “PLEASE can’t we just get along??”, fully knowing that things will resolve better with time if I remain patient and calm.

In moments like these, I feel defeated.

As a mother, I want to be a compassionate role model, as a person, I want to show respect and kindness to others.  Many times I need to do the very thing I tell my children:

be still. breathe. calm down. reset. try again.

And I long for the ocean.

A wave.

There I would stand, waist deep, looking out into the horizon and waiting for a glorious, tall wave to rush in and sweep over me. Strong and terrifying, it would knock me over and I would see how truly small I am.

I might stop acting so big.

The water would be cold and salty and my skin would have that beachy freshness to it.  I might be upset for a moment.  But, as my clothes cling tight to my body, I would smile, thank the ocean, and walk back up along the shore.

There are some things in life powerful like the ocean.

Big moments that hit us and pull us down below the sea and push us up again, so we can regain our footing in less certain ground, where we don’t think we know so much.

And small moments, too.  The kind that you don’t even notice, they slowly creep up and splash around your feet, but still, they impact you.

Today we put our books down and allowed ourselves to become intoxicated with sunshine and fresh air. We ran and laughed, marveled at a partially frozen lake, found enjoyment in throwing sticks onto the icy layer and watching to see the outcome.

And like a gentle wave, the wrong words and deeds were swept away and we all stood up feeling refreshed. And my heart feels so very ready to welcome more days like this.

-b.e.

new and beautiful

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Every year for as long as I can remember, has always been better than the proceeding one.

I have a feeling this has a lot more to do with an increasingly positive outlook on life and simply being a year older (and hopefully, wiser) than anything actually more spectacular happening during the course of the year.

LIFE IS GOOD and I feel eager to embrace it and find the beauty in each moment now, rather than whenever the next goal or item on my checklist arrives.  Some times those things don’t come, and when they do, it doesn’t necessarily mean my life will be any better.

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So without getting really all that philosophical or “deep”, I am entering the new year feeling energized, ready to tackle new projects and be more present and accessible to my children, family, friends, and others I encounter.  Some simple goals include reading and writing much more, creating when I feel inspired, and getting my business defined clearly enough to really resemble me and what I have to offer.

I am ready to dream big, give big, simplify and get re-organized in order to make time for the things that really matter.

Part of this has included stepping back from social media and trying to focus more on what is in front of me.  When you disconnect it seems like you will become isolated, but I have already found that it opens up more connection with those closest to me.

Because moments like this one are what I want to be present for:

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This year, I want to live each day as if it were truly the best day and as if a new opportunity could be around every corner.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and hope you are inspired to be the best YOU have ever been.

b.e.

all images created by becca ellis of b.e.

 

when do they see this in me?

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childhood wonder // museum light // new plush brother // window // day at the park // comfort food // the big jump // summer melons // shades // disc // wood // this beauty // skate girl // evening longboarding //

Time speeds by, I cannot believe that August is only two weeks away from ending and we will begin to settle into the swing of a new school year.  My big boy entering Kindergarten and myself entering a new season of guiding young ones and no longer having a baby and a preschooler.  My heart is beginning to yearn for fall, although I am also already feeling sad for the loss of late warm evenings and outdoor adventures the summer brought. Every turn brings newness and the sameness in a new way and I am trying to embrace it.  Letting go of the mistakes and making better choices.  Working for my dreams and working my way there even when self-defeating voices squirm their way into my head. Listening to those who love and support me and trying so hard to find the balance between it all.

I love to write and share images and thoughts and passions.  I love reading others who share their heart and knowledge, also. But there is an inner struggle I have been battling between sharing and simply being.  Social media has a way of killing the joy for me.  Every time I post something on my facebook, I feel remorse and anxiety.  I begin to actually worry about who “likes” me (both literally and based off of the click of a button), and if I am too much for some people.  All of us will always be “too much” of something to someone, though.  Is this normal?  If it is, it is a strange thing to put myself through. I have come close to deleting my social media accounts several times, but there is always a practical reason for not doing it – a conversation with someone not finished, my phone contacts needing to be switched over manually, my photography page and networking sources. Deleting it may not be the answer, but it is difficult to find the balance.  I find nothing added to my life when I log on other than too many opinions and articles, so I haven’t been as much, and I have weeded out many of the people I follow.

I have almost finished a book by Jo Piazza titled, If Nuns Ran the World. The author found modern day nuns living in America and shared their stories, dedicating a chapter each to 10 different radical ladies.  It has profoundly impacted me.  Not in a way that I wish I were a nun, but that I wish I could have that dedication to make a difference in lives without needing any fanfare.  That I would be willing to give the loving embraces these women offer strangers and fight for the marginalized. Of course, I have chosen a family and with that come my first responsibilities, but I have a heavy burden on my heart that my children begin to see compassion and selflessness and the gospel that we believe in lived out.  As their mother, I question….when do they see this in me? There are so many things I long to teach them that I have not yet learned.

The beginning of the school year always seems like a more appropriate time for resolutions than January 1st to me.  Preparing for homeschooling, I have spent plenty of time thinking about academic curriculum and envisioning how our school day will be carried out and what our weeks will look like. But there is another greater, deeper element I want to turn my focus to. This year, I want to find ways to be a part of the lives of those who are hurting. I want my children to look at others and feel the same compassion Jesus felt when he looked out at the crowds gathering at his feet.

Because if there is one thing that this hurting world needs more of, it is compassion and love and mercy.

-b.e.

before they fade away

It was quiet in the house.  Son in the office listening to an audio book. Myself taking a moment to sit and rest in the living room. Daughter upstairs being unusually still.  She doesn’t actually sleep much during our sacred still space in the middle of the day, so I was curious to see if she was indeed asleep.

I crept up the stairs and found her lying flat on her stomach at the top of the stairs, breathing and sleeping deep.

There was something about the way she was laying there, as the sun filtered through the window and warmed her little spot, golden curls highlighted in the bright rays and softly falling across her face.
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I lingered a moment and watched.  Watched her breath. Looked at her small features and rosy skin. Things I couldn’t stop myself from doing when she had hardly been outside the womb a few days, but now it was harder to slow and just look.DSC_0006_01

Life speeds by so fast. There are so many things we can think about wanting to do or places we want to go, and so often, those things just end up passing us by.  Or we can become so consumed in achieving our goals that what is already around us fades into the background and we forget what we already have.

I find myself wanting to be more present and more realistic. As mothers, we can feel pressed to prove our worth and the value of what we are accomplishing on a daily basis.  It is so easy to look at our friends without children or those who continued with their careers or developing other hobbies and talents into something that seems so much more exciting than what we are doing. Or perhaps you are on the other side, waiting for those precious little ones to call your own, to nurture and care for and fulfill a deep longing in your own heart.

It is good to pursue your callings.

But oh dear mothers, how I wish I could look you in the eye and tell you that you are doing so much.

If there is a calling on your heart and it is the season, pursue it.  But also,

soak in these warm sunshine filled moments.

Maybe right now they feel few and far apart,

but when they are there, grasp them for just a little while longer before they fade.

I remember reading in a gardening book about waiting a full season in a new house before planting your garden. During this time, record how the sun falls, the water drains, the vegetation grows so you can be the most prepared when you finally begin to lay seed into the ground.

Maybe we need to do this more with our children. Watching and paying attention to who they are and then carefully considering what seeds we will plant in their lives.

Some times we simply have to linger longer and wait, faithfully, consistently, lovingly.

stop our feet for a moment or two

breath

and just watch.
DSC_0012_01– b.e.