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.

take hold

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Extended hand,
uncurled fingers,
exposed palm –

my eyes freeze for a moment
and slowly lift,
tracing the lines from wrist to forearm to elbow,
stopping once more at the shoulder,
and then,
taking a bounding leap to those eyes.

Fierce and full,
they reveal a depth I am afraid to know
and yet, also a love I long for.

And so, the moment lingers.

What do you want to save me from?
What happens if I place my hand in yours
or, is it much more than just that?
What do I lose? What do I gain?
Where will you take me?

Passion, faith, dreams,
creativity, ambition, love –
What reaches out now
and how long will it extend it’s arm
before the moment has passed
and all is as before.

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

capturing childhood

Some times as a mom of young children, I begin to feel a little restless and unsure of myself and the direction we are heading.  As I watch my children grow and see them reaching new stages and ready for different experiences and to learn new things, I lose my footing in the transition. I find myself not sure what to do.  Perhaps I am grieving a little, as we are leaving one fun and beautiful stage of their childhood and moving onto the next.

I love to see them grow and do new things, but it can be bittersweet.

I remember when Shea was a baby and every new development was exciting and we were always cheering him on to the next thing.  But once I had Hailey, I wanted everything to linger just a little longer.

And here we are.  I will have a three year old and a boy entering Kindergarten in the fall and am I beside myself.  I am finding it hard to find a balance for our day.

The last few days have felt hard.  I have felt very fatigued, not certain how to fill our days, and feeling unable to give them all that they need or finish all that I want to accomplish.  I think this is partly because I stopped drinking coffee, as I found I was drinking it so much it was making irritable and had me stuck in an awful cycle.  I have quit it before and has never really had a physical effect on me, but this time it seems to.  I am coming out of the funk now (and feel so much better!).  The best therapy was drinking a glass of wine with my husband as we watched a silly movie and laughed and talked late into the night.

Today I decided to just slow down and let my body adjust and be with my kids. Play and read and cuddle and not worry about all the chores.  Most of the time, I try to not take my camera out at home, because I don’t want our time together to be about getting a good picture, but I am glad I shot a few moments of their childhood today.  These are the things that I want to remember: their little expressions, creativity, joy, playfulness, morning faces. Snippets of our home and life right now.

I am reminding myself that there is time to plan and do and rest and play and it doesn’t have to happen on some specific timeline or the way someone else does it, but in the right time and gracefully.

– b.e.
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blessing the blessed

 

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I have been reading the book Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway, and although I am only a few chapters into it, I am already moved by the harsh realities of this culture so removed from my own.

It is the story of a Peace Corp volunteer who lived in a village in Mali for 2 years, working alongside her host who was a young midwife.

I came across the book as I recently began to read more about midwifery in order to become more informed on the subject before my formal schooling begins. This year I am taking the first steps toward reaching this goal by completing prerequisites, but it will be several years, no doubt, before I actually become licensed, and at least a few years before I can begin my actual midwifery training.

Part of my passion for maternity care is out of the extremely positive experience of the two births of my own children. I have come to believe that the act of giving birth and our birth stories are a vital part of who we are as mothers.

The thing about the US, is that even though it is true that our maternal morbidity and mortality rates are some of the highest in the developing world (despite how much we spend on maternity care in our country) we at least have access to so much life saving modern medicine and treatments which are not available in many other parts of the world.

Even though I do hope that our rising maternity mortality rates will drop and actions will be made to reverse this trend, we are still blessed beyond measure when compared to places like the village of Namposella in Mali, where 2 out of every 5 children die before their fifth birthday, and maternal mortality rates are some of the highest in the world.

I have been excited about the possibility of taking my training somewhere like this in order to help these people have access to something that is such a basic human need. I don’t know when or where or how this will happen, but there is such a deep stir in my heart as I have begun to seriously pursue this calling.

As I was considering this, a simple thought came to mind: as long as I live in America, I will always be blessing the blessed.

No matter if you are richer or poorer than me, all of us still have more than so many people in the world.

I’m not saying that we should not be giving generously and lovingly to the people around us where we live. No. We are called to be a real part of the community we have been given and the place in which God has us. And I am not discrediting those who are considered to be living in poverty in our country.  Suffering resides everywhere in our world.  These people have real needs which we can meet in order to give hope and administer grace and peace.

Following the example of Jesus, he extended the love of God to people by meeting their practical needs and showing them how much they mattered in his sight. From what is recorded of his ministry in the new testament, it seems to be more focused on meeting the needs of the sick and poor.

We give not because we place a high value on the actual material things or experiencing a certain lifestyle or even obtaining a level of prosperity in life.

We give in order to meet people in a tangible way that demonstrates the values we have been taught by Jesus: loving others as ourselves and blessing and praying for our enemies, putting others before ourselves and treasuring the things that have eternal value.

It is easy to give to those who we like and have similar interests in and want to have like us back. It is much harder to give to those who do not understand us or have their own opinions about our motives and lifestyle.

I am writing this to myself more than to anyone else.

I want to be someone who reaches beyond the social lines we draw, even if it is uncomfortable and hard and I am unable to defend myself in any way, and give from the deep grace that has been offered to me.

I am tired of simply blessing those who bless me and who already have so very much.

It is good and I love these people and am so thankful for their friendship and none of us can truly give without having these people around us to help encourage and energize us and share our struggles and joys with. I am not saying to cut off these relationships or stop giving to each other in a way that edifies and strengthens and hopefully, challenges one another.

But I do hope that more of us can look at our lives and realize how much we have and how much those around us have, and consider more deeply the time and energy we are putting into being a blessing to those around us.

I wonder what the world would look like if we all took a much closer look at what it means to truly and practically and really bless those who are poor?

For who is poor and what is making them poor and how can we give to them what will actually make their lives rich?

Heavy thoughts with few answers are on my heart as I sit here drinking my coffee in my warm home with clean clothes on my back and two healthy children.

How do I teach them how very much they have and how temporal the many things we seek to accumulate are and how our life is so very short and there is so much to enjoy and take in and give and be, if only we can get past ourselves and the lifestyle we have been sold on belonging to us since we were young?

– b.e.

notes and further reading:

Image source

UNICEF statistics for Mali

Huffington Post: Fact Of The Day #26: Maternal Mortality Rate Rising Despite Expensive Care (INFOGRAPHIC)

 

experiencing true freedom

"release" by David Hayward @ NakedPastor.com
“release” by David Hayward @ NakedPastor.com

Do you ever experience a thought that comes seemingly out of nowhere that brings you a new perspective for the way you are living your life?

Today, a fresh and good and deep word came to me.

While I write much about the empowerment that comes through giving things up and shifting our focus to do things that many will not argue against as being “good” in nature, there is so much more to this all.  

And I feel the need to begin to convey the stronger and more compelling reason I feel so much freedom and joy in attempting to live in a mindful and small way.

It is Christ.

This morning I sat in the service at our small church and heard words from my father in-law for the first time in a while.

He spoke about how we are all in some sort of bondage and must serve something.  Whether it be God or man or money or powers or a certain list of rules or material possessions or an obsession with a certain lifestyle (good or bad), we all are serving something or someone.

Why are we told in the scriptures to not place idols above our God if humans didn’t have a problem with creating them and allowing them to rule our lives?

And so, I began to think about bondage.

"entangled" by David Hayward @ NakedPastor.com
“entangled” by David Hayward @ NakedPastor.com

Images came to mind of the poorest of the poor, poverty stricken with no way out,

the faces of young girls forced into the sex trade,

and even those who are mastered by their materials and money, who are missing out on so much by chasing after something that in the end will not last or bring about true happiness or joy.

And what about those who feel called to drastically simplify?  To intentionally living more lightly in order to give more generously, to being a good neighbor and living in a way that is attempting to steward the earth and bring about justice to those who live in it?

For idols are not always something corruptive.

Perhaps even at times they are beautiful and good,

but when not in the proper place in our lives they can enslave us just as much, if not more than, that which easily entices and traps us into bondage.

It is written in the gospels that “man cannot serve both God and money”, but what good is it if we throw away all our money and desert our possessions and yet, still do not have the love of Christ in our hearts and lives?

Humanity may receive something positive, no doubt, but we are not experiencing the full measure of freedom and grace in our lives.

Whether it was the pastor’s words this morning, or the fact that I was sitting still without interruption or both, something stirred in my heart.

A short and simple sentence: “be a prophet for me”.

I am not here to simply spread a message of simplicity and how awesome and amazing I think my life is because of it.  I am here in part to show others what freedom is promised by learning to love and live and give and walk like Christ did.

I started writing as a way for me to pursue more deeply this process of change in my life and perhaps, encourage others down a similar path.

"metamorphosis" by David Hayward @ NakedPastor.com
“metamorphosis” by David Hayward @ NakedPastor.com

Today I am reminded of the boldness that is required, which I have been called to, in order to bring about the peace and freedom and transformation I long for in my life and the life of those close to me and across the globe.

I am broken and imperfect and small and lovely and deeply cared for and everyday I am finding myself as part of something bigger and greater than I could imagine.

– b.e.

Simplicity is not a sacrifice

My husband and I started reading the book, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, and while we are only one chapter into the book there is so much to digest and think about and evaluate in our own life even in the few words we have read so far.  

Being in the season of lent, I thought it was appropriate to focus on sacrifice.  Many people view Lent simply to the extent of it being a time to give up some sort of vice or habit.  We have found it to be a rhythm we deeply appreciate during the year to break up bad habits and regain focus in different areas of our lives.

In terms of simplicity, it may feel like a sacrifice looking from the outside.

However, I am not talking about the sacrifices you must make when adopting a more simple lifestyle, but rather the idea that not embracing a simple life is the real sacrifice.

In his book, Elgin demonstrates this by listing the positive outcomes of conscious simplicity such as promoting fairness and equity among people, finding balance in all realms of life, stripping the unnecessary clutter, distraction, and busywork from our lives, connecting with those who really matter and staying focused on what is really important in life, and living in a way that looks ahead to the future and cares about the generations who follow.  (p. 4-5)

In contrast, he goes on to list the ways in which we make huge sacrifices every day by choosing to continue in a stressful and materialistic lifestyle.

How we are really sacrificing when we are sitting for long hours in traffic away from our homes and those we care about so we can make a living, when we are giving away hours of our lives for a job that is nothing more than just that, and when we lose the feeling of community as we are more cut off from our neighbors.  Not to mention the natural outcomes such as extinction of animals and plants due to our carelessness toward the earth.  (p.6)

Many people will look at some of the choices we make and think (or even say to us), “I would rather die than live without (fill in the blank)”

I thought like this (perhaps not so dramatically) at one point, too.

And there are still things that are hard to “give up”, but perhaps that is because I still retain the viewpoint that I will be missing out on something if I exchange it for a simpler counterpart.

This isn’t about legalism or doing something just for the sake of being different or radical.

This about living life in a holistic way that blesses others and gives us a greater meaning and depth in life.  As I trade in one way of living for something different, I have found greater freedom and time and a feeling of wholeness I didn’t know was possible to have.

My actions may not contribute a great deal to the environment or greater community in the grand scheme of things.  But, for me and hopefully the people around me, life can be richer, more meaningful, and less rushed.  As I tread lighter on the earth, perhaps I am able to leave a little bit more for someone else.

We need to shift our thinking from viewing  a simple lifestyle (not involuntary poverty) as a sacrifice or detrimental to growth, and realize what we are missing out on if we continue to focus on acquiring more and placing value on things that will not last or which may even contribute to human suffering (whether in generations to come, countries around the globe, or even in the places we ourselves live right now).

We are pretty good at turning a blind eye to many of the things we support silently and habitually every day in our western lifestyle, because we are so removed from them.

That is sacrifice.

But is it ours to make?

-b.e.

Further Reading:

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin