from a felon

Raising babies is hard. Raising babies who love the Lord, honor their parents, have veins running thick with loyalty, love, patience, self-control, faith, etc. etc. etc., is overwhelming from the bird's eye show. It is one of those things that zooming out to gain perspective towards doesn't aid, but instead gives me all that crazy mom, "I think I'll just keep them inside an 800 square foot radius with constant monitoring, handpicked friends, meal planning, culture controlling atmosphere" type irrationality. [*insert palm to forehead*]

I read a quote on instagram today by Frederick Collins (he is neither here nor there, but was a writer and mail fraud extraordinaire if you care to know) that said:

"There are two types of people. Those who come into the room and say 'well, here I am,' and those who say 'ah, there you are.'"

I don't know which side Frederick Collins' was an advocate for, but there was some kind of immediacy felt when reading it. Immediacy in a liberating, one step at a time, focus on what is in your hands today, and allowance in letting tomorrow breathe when it's existence becomes tangible.

In the motherhood journey, running thoughts of what schools are the best, what dating advice or rules I will place in the lives of my littles, and how to establish normal toddler nap times for my newborn are constant. Constant. They are important in the context of prayer and dialogue with the hubs on how we will raise our kiddos in unity, but joy depleting in the context of the here and now. Hence, the constant waves they flood into my brain are no beuno for a healthy psyche.

Scripture tells us over and over not to stress, not to worry, to focus on today, that there are no guarantees for all our feeble planning, as many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the Lord's will that prospers and prevails (and let's be real, thank God for THAT, am I right!?). 

So today, in the most round-about way, thanks to a little push from the words of a felon, I am sitting present. Present to remember that I want my kids to be the gracious ones, the ones that walk in to a room and highlight the lives of other's as beautiful, and lovely, and purpose ridden. Not from a stance of diminishing their value, or their own sparkle, but one that is indeed hyper-focused on serving, loving, and lifting the heads of others, so much so, that their stream of consciousness flows in this measure. Present to remember that raising them well in this way doesn't have it's winning vantage from a "thousand feet up" perspective, but rather a kisses on the cheek, scripture speaking, couch snuggling, meal nourishing, and character developing lifestyle that comes with ease when I too change my perspective to the "Ah, there you are," stream of consciousness. 

jeans: @jamesjeans / ring: @levysfj / cutie onesie: @gerber

jeans: @jamesjeans / ring: @levysfj / cutie onesie: @gerber

Not in my own effort can I shape a human life to be holy or lovely, but in the effort of elevating their lives to direct them to the One who knows every golden and auburn strand on their brilliant heads.

So be kind to yourselves today mommas, stop swallowing in the pressure, let the Holy Spirit work through you, and in your kids in the timeframe and manner He sees fit, and trust that stewarding that relationship as He calls you to is the work your hands and heart are meant for. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Present to the lives in your hands and home in the moment. 

momma bear

“When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions. This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!"

John 16:21-24 (Message Paraphrase)


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I always say it, I love when I get those good visuals to pull my life deep into the Word of God. A new baby, birth pains still a very real, raw, remembrance for me, a Rocky Mountain stream bubbling over smooth river rocks behind me, one little bean strapped tight to my heart and wrapped up in knitted sweater threads, the other doing his best to do everything in the exact way his Dad does (there's a sweet truth tucked in there, but for another time). A connection back into Creation that makes me want to hole up in a sweet cabin tucked away in her beauty and protection from the world. 

It seems like that is the theme I hear from so many of my momma besties. Courage showing itself out the door because let's be honest, there are a lot of unknowns out there, and holing up with littles, coffee cups, Netflix, and the security of your own four walls settles well in the heart and hibernation season for momma bears. 

Automobiles being pedaled into crowds, guns being misused in the harm of masses, not to mention the international level of terror threats that whisper themselves into our subconscious as they scroll themselves across the bottom of news broadcasts. The threat and thought stream is real, y'all. And yet, somehow, we are called to rise.

In the book of Isaiah there is a prophetic image and beckon given to Jerusalem: "Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned." That beckon resonates with every bit of motherhood written into my DNA. A reminder written thousands of years before any present-day church, city, concert, or crowded street knew the taste of terror, but one that tasted it in it's own culture and time period. A reminder that walking into market streets, today's Target Superstores, didn't, and still don't, have to be a story told in glances back over my shoulder, but in glances that invite the Holy Spirit to deliver a smile or sentence to a stranger that perhaps lifts fear and dissipates darkness inside them as well. Iron sharpening iron of sorts, the simultaneous building of courage in a ripple effect. Shake off the dust of enemy lies, and sit enthroned on the truth that our God is greater. Sit on the truth that light ACTUALLY dispels darkness, that the spiritual element to all of this is perhaps more real that the physical dimensions seen, and to not just nod our heads at all of this, but to BELIEVE the victory already won in them. 

And so back to the visual in John 16. There is no doubt that the world steals our joy. The prince of darkness prowls like a lion. He seeks to devour. What more can you expect? I'll tell you. You can expect an intervention of justice, a turnover into truth, and a power of peace. You can expect that if you continue to ask, you will receive. Ask for peace in the presence of fear, and knowing and receiving said peace as the winning victor. Ask for joy because John declares that there will be a day in which your joy can no longer be taken from you. What would happen if we literally woke up and the first sentence that our lips tasted was "God, today I choose to live in Heaven's truth, a day closer to joy that can't be stolen, teach my mind to know it to be true." If it is anything close to the visual above, it will be some kind of stunning soul transformation. And that is in essence, the whole point of this crazy thing called faith after all, right?

momma blues

I think there is a breakdown somewhere among most moms. A breakdown in communication, in "me too's", in vulnerability, maybe even in trust. I'm not saying every mom can be counted as a head in this group, I just see a lot of women around me whose red flags risk and hurt fly high when the word "vulnerable" is spoken out, instead of banners of health and healing.

Sometimes I catch myself in conversation apologizing for missing this play date, or having to cancel those coffee plans (I promise I was REALLY looking forward to that flat white with soy too!), because my babies are sick, or I myself am running on empty and one more social activity will completely deplete the energy my kids need from me in between now and bedtime. It's like I am watching a film play on repeat, one whose main character has me shaking my head, and spewing off all my convictions of "that doesn't warrant a sorry!," "why are you apologizing for a sick child!?," "you don't need to feel guilty for knowing your season!" And then I look a bit closer at the starlet and realize it's me, bags under eyes and all.

Maybe it's the hope for a greater capacity, maybe it's a naivety that I am superwoman, regardless it is a position and thought process that when carried out into conversation leaves me speaking as reality untruths about the beauty and hard work of my current season. Worse than that, it is one that leaves me dishonoring the diamonds scattered as significant bits of motherhood that the Lord has TRUSTED me with in this sphere of time. 

The gift of 38 weeks carrying Margaret Shepherd brought with them a literal, throwing up every single day, type sickness. A space of motherhood that was foreign and uncomfortable and depleting to me in so many ways physically and emotionally. Fast forward to having her in our arms for 4.5 weeks, and I am back at square one (only this time my two year old is joining me), throwing up for 72 hours straight because of food poisoning. A physical reaction that feels familiar, but still uncomfortable, and alarming when a new human so new and volatile is only feet away from me. Something scary and above explanation for my two year old, something that I can't do much but through the heaves and exhaustion, love him through. The adult mental steps that know his immune system is being strengthened, that these moments cuddled up in cozy flannels, with all our favorite trains and toys in momma and daddy's bed are actually somehow mined gold in and of themselves, and that in between popsicles and messy clean ups, I am able to teach the foundations for compassion, tenderness, kindness, and a "I'm with you no matter what you're going through" type loyalty for family and friendship. 

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And in between it all, there is revelation. How much more does God do the same in all our momma blues, the simple daily ones, and the once a year, really complex ones? How much more do difficult days bring about with them moments in time and conversation for us to call to light all the empty things we have tight fisted, only so they may be dropped, and He may take their place?

And so I'm back where I began. Mommas! Let's stop the apologizing, and start the vulnerability. But here's the catch. Let's not mistake vulnerability for whining and a spirit of defeat. Instead, let's champion transparency among our sisterhood circles so that God may get the glory of once again showing Himself faithful, once again establishing our steps into victory (whether through a tiny cold, or something as stormy as the current happenings in Las Vegas), and once again shining the Heavenly light that illuminates higher ways, and the deep soul care He has for us that allows us to weather storms, so that He may get the glory, and that we may share it with others. Salvation's grounds.

I recently listened to a message by Louie Giglio that brought to my attention a perspective shift. A thought that perhaps it isn't Satan's plan to hurt us, but instead his plan to hurt God in the hurting of His children - the ones that He loves the most, the ones He gave the ultimate sacrifice for.

The spurring of a shift from victim mentality to righteous anger. A shift that calls upon the glory of an Almighty God in the midst of attacks of darkness, in the midst of the momma blues: the patience wearing thin in the Target line, the reprimand that was a little too harsh and gives you the all too familiar mom guilt, the seasons where sickness, maybe even disease wears you down, the months of trying to mother well in the midst of loved ones dying, job losses, and the uncertainty of being able to make it into the next month financially. 

A shift that takes momma blues, and uses them as open conversation with friends to declare the voice and act of overcoming into things that have yet to be seen. 

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. -Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)

What does this look like practically? Well, for me, it means not letting something as trivial and common as a stomach bug steal my joy. It means laughing at the defeat of something that will only last 48 hours, because I know that it is this attitude and posture that gives God the glory that satan is trying desperately to steal. It means simmering soups, and flower bouquets for friends in the future whose homes are invaded with sickness, because comfort in physical provision and words of, "I know this stinks, hang in there just a day or two longer!" are swings of our Spirit swords. Swings that are steady in faith handling, and accurate in their aim and taking out of darkness.

Whatever defines your momma blues this month, I pray Hebrews 11:1-2 directly into the enemy's voice of lie and defeat within them. I pray that you too may rise up in faith, distinguished, and set above the average of the world. Let's be a sisterhood that champions vulnerability, but doesn't let it lead to defeat. Let's teach our kids what victory, even in the unseen, truly means, and above all, let's call the voice of God into each and every minute of it all. We surely need Him beyond measure.

cookie monster heirlooms

I am a sucker for a good heirloom. Seriously, y'all. Generations passing down tea pots, sterling silver serving sets, pocket watches, family cabins filled when the "when I was young..." stories. Something about sits dreamy in thoughts of my newborn's teeny fingers one day wrapped in the ring her daddy picked out for me, intentioned by him for a life of love and forever side by side on his mind. Something practical in legacy, a visual that helps give measure in smiles and gratitude to the spiritual design of how a legacy can change a life (add a little faith and let's call it in the thousands of lives).

 
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The first few days of our new girl's life have been gloriously spent munching on fresh batches of peanut butter m&m + walnut oatmeal cookies. Buttery, salty, creamy, and almost (but really not even close) as sweet as our new little bean. A recipe to make at midnight when I should be catching up on lost sleep, to dunk in my coffee in the early morning in place of lactation cookies, and one to pass down to my girl as an heirloom that will always recall newborn snuggles, days of recovery after the laborious miracle of childbirth, and the ridiculous love for a life so new and fresh, but somehow so familiar as if it had always been a part of ours. A recipe simple from mom to daughter, but full of the wonder and my earliest hours and memories of the motherhood shift from one baby to two.

We adapted @SmittenKitchen's chewy oatmeal recipe ( because if you know Smitten Kitchen, then you know) and made it our own. You should do the same! I have plans to stuff them with dried fruit and dunk them in local, steamy cider as fall makes his entrance even more pronounced. 

pb m&m + walnut oatmeal cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c salted butter (8 tbsp) - room temperature
  • 2/3 c dark brown sugar packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 3/4 c peanut butter m&m's (sweet of choice)
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts (we like these loosely chopped in big chunks)

directions

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. cream together butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract by hand with whisk in large mixing bowl
  3. combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, sea salt, oats, m&m's, and walnuts in small mixing bowl and stir until evenly combined and the m&m's and walnuts have a loose coating of flour mixture on them
  4. dump dry mixture into wet and stir until combined
  5. line baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop large, rounded tablespoon scoops of dough onto the sheet evenly spaced (you should be able to JUST fit all the cookie dough onto on large sheet)
  6. Bake 10-13 minutes, or until bottoms and tops are a golden brown (make sure it is a true golden brown, as the insides stay soft)
  7. Let rest of baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  8. Eat! 
 
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To make things extra sweet, serve on heirloom china, or pack up and take to a special park day with your momma. 

 

something uttered

"The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:"

Proverbs 31:1 ESV

 
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Motherhood. The all encompassing role and assignment. It has been delicately, constantly, on my mind, in my prayers, and deeply admired in the way others present it, recently. Last night I washed and folded the smocked, cotton, and linen details that our baby girl will be wrapped up in for her first few days in the world. Every detail of packing a hospital bag, praying into our labor experience, and the words we are speaking over her life, feel purposed and intentional from the most basic human needs, to the greatest joys of partnering with God as He reveals her to us a bit more day by day. Motherhood. Dynamic, delicate, wonderful.

Proverbs 31 outlines a momma (and wife, community benefactor, friend, etc. etc.) who leaves those richly touched around her. Words that call to life holy fire and authentic living for the female spirit when meditated and acted upon. Words that have been twisted as lies, removed from their original context to sew deep disdain within one type of female leadership sphere, or to surface as insecurity and inadequacy in the homes of another.

And yet something is so often overlooked here. These words weren't scripted out in ink by a woman intent to develop a blueprint in steps towards female powerhous-ing, they were written by a man.  A king's recording of a remembered oracle taught to him by his mother. The word "oracle" when spoken in Hebrew defined as "something uttered, specifically something uttered by God."

Stunning. Entire ministries, countless (literally) small groups, and most likely millions of women have stared at these words and allowed them to shape their efforts, words, demeanors, strengths, weaknesses, relationships, and spaces that define femininity and duty. Words uttered by God through a mother's voice and imprinted on the mind of a child king. This is the holy ground we are given in conversation's manner with our children. Ground that can be set apart as heavenly conversing, ground that can be retained and recorded for generations to come, ground that can impact the lives of the one or the thousands. Real, raw, honest, Heavenly spaces with our seemingly ordinary boundaries of words and time alongside our babies as we do our best to raise them well. 

For all my girls on this motherhood journey alongside me, those to come, and those who have done the bulk of their raising through seeds sewn in the past, our words matter. Let's cultivate a spirit that is bent on drinking in scripture's revealing truths. A spirit romanced and challenged with the daily, honest time in the company of our King, so that when the time for those divine utterances present themselves, we are simply overflowing with ease and ability to step out of God's way as He speaks to our babies. Perhaps here, in these simple, profound day to say conversations with our children we will find one of our greatest entrustments this side of His return and renewal.

 

wild child

 

"For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made]..." Romans 1:20 AMP

 

 

Wilderness is forever my favorite long, deep exhale. The intentionality of a Creator to form a created world in rocky peaks, golden sun specks, horned and hoofed creatures, life rooted in petaled blooms and towering timber. All this, breathed into existence so that humanity had a place to land when formed from the very dust that carpets it all. Stunning down to the last complex cell. Insert the aforementioned long, deep exhale. 

There is a quote on the wall of the Jackson, WY visitor center by Edward Abbey that reads, "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit..." I am not sure the origin of the quote, or even the context, but I can't help but see creation written deeply into the bends and edges of Edward's words.

With a "can't help myself" type focus on the extreme generosity of the God who gives us beauty and wild spaces for mankind to enter into both in existence and in present day spirit deep refreshing, it is my aim to raise babies with a sense of freedom and confidence built into their lifestyle. The kinds that can only be defined in them by the spaces of nature the Lord Himself brought about alongside the splendor of the Heavens.

And so with a little bit of a crazy in us, we recently zipped stuffed bags, packed coolers with pretzels, peanut butter, and gummy bears for a trip aimed in a continued allowance and experience of those lessons to take root in our two year old. Seven hours to Jackson, WY, 2 days of magic and bear sightings in Grand Teton National Park, two days of color-scales, bison, and steamy wonder in Yellowstone, and a cherry on top with slow mornings of quiche and creamy coffee drinks at an elevation fit for moose and wolf sightings in Big Sky, MT.

Hours marked in hunting waterfalls and two year old meltdowns. I hope as mommas we can continue to encourage our little ones to live a life full of all that God has to offer them, starting with the very spaces He designed in preparation for our landing. Glimpses into creation, and perhaps even more important in their glimpses into the renewal of all things to come.

With that thought, I pray that you find time for a little wild in your week, month, or year. With some gummy bears, plenty of pitstops for flaky cinnamon rolls, and adventures that end with nights cuddled up with your people, pizza, and the pillowy mattresses of charming inns, the potential tantrums and unforeseen hiccups of road-tripping last but in the moment. Wild child moments in all their glory. Oh yeah, and that deep exhale, it is well worth it all and then some, I promise.

Road Trip Melt-Down Remedies:

  1. Allllll the easy clean-up snacks packed in zip-lock baggies, easy to grab, and no fuss if spilled (all natural gummy bears are a win for our crew).
  2. Download your little's favorite Netflix series for long hours in a car seat, no cell service required.
  3. Interact with your littles. Ask them to spot waterfalls, bears, moose, the things that aren't common, but will excited them when their little eyes spot them first.
  4. Stops. Stops. Stops. We do rest-stop PB&J picnics, coffee shop stops to hunt down the best pastries and cold brews, stops at visitor centers or dorky "points of interest" (hello giant copper dinosaurs and the like), anything that will get imaginations and conversations going in our little man so that we have something to continue on with once buckled back in the dreaded car seat.
  5. Always have: diapers, wipes, shoes (open and close toed), blankets, snacks, sippies, and fun entertainment ready and available so they are an easy grab and quick fix to help restless little ones.
  6. Have a good attitude. Road trips are hard. I can get bored on them, how much more must little ones feel that? Remember that in everything we do, we are TEACHING them, even if it is the lessons of grace, patience, and understanding that do number on both them and us, these are welcomed and needed in character formation. Take them with open hands and a determined spirit.

Also, if you happen to find yourself in Jackson, WY check out:

  • Cowboy Coffee Co. (@Cowboycoffeeco)
  • Pinky G's Pizzeria (@Pinkygsjh)
  • Anvil Hotel (@Anvilhotel)
  • Moo's Gourmet Icecream
  • Local Restaurant and Bar (Localjh)

Or in Big Sky, MT, Check out:

  • Blue Moon Bakery
  • Pizza Works
  • Andiamo Italian Grill
  • Big Sky Resort (@BigSkyResort)

heritage

Heritage: valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions, unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been passed down from previous generations.

I have southern blood strong in my veins. A line of great grandparents, and grandparents who were born or lived a significant piece of their lives in the deep South. On the best days, lace doilies and beautiful tea sets are scattered among monkey taters, homemade pies, and belly laughs.

Both of my Dad's parents have passed away, his Dad within the past two months, and my Mom's Dad has been given weeks to live. There is a terrible, persistent sting that has lingered around with this heartbreak. A friend who knows the sorrow attached to the natural progression of life and death, recently helped pick me up and dust me off in conversation ending in beautiful prayer for my Grandmother whose role as complete caregiver is soon to shift into the worldview and life of a widow. The last thing she prayed was for "Sally (my Gram) to continue on her husband's story, so that his legacy may carry on beautifully." 

The words were stunning. Something about conversing with the author of all life, asking Him to somehow carry on life through death in my Grandma so that her husband's story doesn't end with his last breath. We hugged, wiped tears, and I quickly fumbled with my notes app, typing out this sentence that seemed to resonate in some way deeper than beautiful composition.

Today, two weeks later, munching on leftover fourth of July peach pie with my two year old, a recipe made famous in our family by none other than Gram herself, the connection is whispered into my thoughts.

The prayer that hit me so deeply, so profoundly is the same breath of God that hovers throughout the Gospel. The death of Jesus bringing deep heartbreak to His inner circle, His bloodline, His people, Creator God Himself, and yet out of it we were given His Spirit to speak and guide the story of our lives so that His story may continue on in us, so that His legacy may be known and told.

I can't help but wonder if part of the sting of death and joy of lives well lived comes from the "in His image" detail we are all composed with. Made in His image, to create, to love, to work, to rest, to understand the hope of Heaven through the death and life continued on in our own bloodlines.  

I love the blur of theology and Heaven's mysteries. I also love that God speaks, even on a miserably hot, 103 degree afternoon, where you're just trying turn lemons to lemonade by eating cold, leftover peach pie with your toddler. I love that heritage and legacy are written into things like family recipes, and dish towels that remind you of those beautiful lace doilies miles and miles away, steamed and tucked away neatly in the cabinets of the people you love the most.

So here is my hope for us as moms, may we gladly open our ovens to recipes rich of those who snuck us the first bites of pie when our moms weren't looking. May we break out Grandma's china every once in awhile because we believed we were royalty every holiday we got to dine from it, a thrill of imagination perhaps lost in us, but ever alive in our babies. May we learn the art of story telling now, so that the family tales of hope and triumph we are uniquely written into, live on to inspire, challenge, grow, shape, teach, and direct all the little hands we have reaching up for that first bite of pie next to us.

But most of all, may we always, always, always, show any kid who finds their way into our home the love and heritage that we all have access to by the blood of Jesus. He made it simple, because truly, sometimes that means nothing more than sitting down for some leftover pie and belly laughs on a hot, Colorado summer day. May it be so in all our homes, to all those we mother, and to all our legacies lived on long after we are gone.