Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Get Off Your Porch

Mid-September in North Carolina is a perfect time for porch sitting- a favorite Southern pastime. A glass of sweet tea and a good rocking chair and there you will find bliss.

I was nearing my third trimester and we had just moved to our new(est) rental house. It was a 1970s Ranch style house with "gorgeous" dark wood paneling and "stunning" wallpaper. For us it was an oasis, wood paneling and all, after a wild ride of life in West Africa.

On a sun soaked fall day we took to the yard to wash our car and trim up the low lying trees- a bit of American normalcy. I waddled myself around the front yard pruning as our new neighbors across the street sat and stared at me.

They sat and stared.

They didn't get up and come over to introduce themselves. They just sat and stared as I hauled my burgeoning belly and a  pair of clippers from limb to limb uncomfortably aware of their gaze.

We lived in that house for eighteen months and our only interaction with those neighbors was at our mailbox which was next to their own and on their side of the street. Even then it was always from across a chain link fence.

We were wearied by life right down to the bone and that little house on Blacksnake road held us through an uncertain time of life. God held us and He used people to carry us along through new parenthood and all our questions about calling and place.

We were in desperate need of community that got off the porch and moved toward us.

I'm getting up off my porch to share a bit of my story and you can read the rest of the story over at (in)courage today.  

Maybe you've heard me or other folks talking about the (in)RL conference. The women's conference that comes to you. There is still time to find out more and join in on April 25-26th. I'm getting up off my porch to share my story with you as one of the conference speakers (GULP) and it would be almost like sipping a mason jar of sweet iced tea with you if you were on the other side of the screen.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Paint and Hope

I'd almost decided to pass on today's five minutes and the words floating around over in The Grove at Velvet Ashes, but then I got the urge to write.

My 5 minutes on "Hope" and "Paint"

I walked out of the room for 2 minutes. What amounts to a small lifetime for a toddler. Enough time to paint the world, her world, a half dozen shades.

She's painted my world and on a Friday morning we lay nose to nose and she scrunches her's into a toothy grin and I feel that lurch in my stomach. The one that tells me that I have to hold onto these days. These days are fleeting and they are the hardest thing that I've ever done and some days I wish they would all be over and other days I feel like I am trying to catch the wind, to capture it and keep it forever right here.

I meet with a friend on a rare day wee person free and she is expecting her first any day. We walk and we talk and I want to tell her all the real honest things about motherhood.

I want to let her know that she isn't alone and that motherhood is really hard but it is also so so so good. In a world that takes offense at motherhood I wanted to fill her with real hope that it is a good thing. I want to tell her not to miss what God is doing in her. That motherhood is God's means of caring for little people, but it is also God's way of making us like Jesus.

It's the kind of good that burrows it's way into your soul and let's you know that somehow in all the constant chaos you will find your way. It is the hope that pulls you along when you are wrung dry from a day with the needs of a little person on the front burner and your own not even on the radar.

Motherhood is at it's best the most optimistic of endeavors, full of hope, and ever reaching forward.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How to See Hope

It was my first year as a varsity cheerleader. We had a tea for all the moms and daughters on the squad and my aunt came along to fill in the gap. The one left a couple years earlier when a man crossed the center line and ran my mama's van off the road.

We played a game to break the ice. Maybe you've played it before. You put a card with a fictional character on your head and asking only "Yes" or "No" questions you have to guess who it is. My coach began to mildly freak out when she realized that my card read, "Little Orphan Annie"

Yes, the redheaded girl who really was an orphan had it plastered right across her forehead. 

When I realized it I laughed. Really, truly I did. I mean...of course that is what I got. Story of my life.

But let's back up a bit because that isn't really where the story begins.  
The story begins where it seemed to end. 

I'm sharing some of my story over in the Velvet Ashes Community today. Come along and read!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Your Story Isn't Over {Surprised by Motherhood Launch Day!}

I've been a birth doula for 5 years now and in that time I have held hands and hair through the wilds of labor, but today I'm calling myself a book doula because there is no book that I have cheered on more than this piece of beauty from Lisa-Jo Baker.

Mama friends, this book is for us. It is for all of us who share the story of having our hearts and lives wrung dry and filled full from raising littles. It is the gift you should put in every baby shower bag from here to eternity.

Here is a snapshot of my own motherhood journey and why I think Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom is a life-line of truth and hope to every woman who has ever mama-ed.           
When another car crossed the center line and slammed head on into my mother on a humid Carolina June evening I thought the story was over. I thought that my days of being a daughter had ended as abruptly as her life.

A little over three years before that night my father's heart had given up it's lifelong fight. I'd clung to my mother for the tether a child's heart needs. She had been my anchor when the storm had tossed all of us hard on the rocks. When my Dad's heart gave up my Mom's heart beat stronger and it found her on her knees in the wee small hours prayers, on beyond early morning drives to work to put food on the table, her journals full of Scripture and hope that kept us afloat when the world wanted to drown us.

There I was un-anchored and uncertain in the worst sort of way at the age of twelve. 

My untethered teen years found me wondering what it was like to be normal, to be like all the other girls butting hormones with their own mothers. I wish that someone would have warned me about how the grief would find it's way out through the cracks of a broken life in the most unexpected of places.

Fast forward a decade...It was early fall and I was piecing together handmade decorations for our tighter than tight wedding budget. I remember telling my sister-in-law over the phone, a motherless daughter herself, that I felt lost. That was one of the first times that grief snuck up on me. It blindsided me with the force of how much I missed her and the way it found me floundering and gasping for air.

Six years later and an ocean away from home in West Africa I found myself stretched body and soul and pregnant with our daughter. I was in total denial. Not here. Not now. I was the epitome of "surprised by motherhood".

It wasn't that I didn't want to have children. No, I never quite felt that way. I was convinced that I had been disqualified. By the time my first daughter was born I had been twenty years an orphan. Twenty years of being an outsider to the parent-child relationship.

Every question I ever had about my mom and mothering flooded my mind. I knew the mechanics of pregnancy and birth. I'd labored with women through the night as a birth doula holding hands, rubbing feet and nodding "Yes, you can!" to mamas exhausted and nearing the finish. It was everything after which terrified me. It was the knowing that birth is never the end and only just the beginning of the weary-wonderful ride of motherhood.

In the wee smalls of a January morning I bared down and my girl entered the world superwoman style with one hand over her head- a certain prophecy over this girl.This time I didn't pack my doula bag and get back in the car to make the drive home and collapse in my bed. This girl was my own flesh woven with DNA as thick as the Southern accents that run back a dozen generations in my family. She is a part of me and has rarely been a part from me since that day.

The surprises of motherhood began in a cement room where roosters crowed outside of our lappa curtained slat windows and nuns sang across the yard every morning, and they have continued every single day since.

Millie was born wide-eyed and got sent back from the nursery her first night for "disturbing the peace". She never slept. All the books and methods ever preached fell flat when tried out on Miss Millie. Her disregard for schedules and sleep brought me near the edge of lunacy. I've still not recovered entirely.

All the while God was breaking me and remaking me, teaching me what I had forgotten because I was so long an orphan. He places the orphans in families. We're programmed to think that means we get one as a child, but for me I've been placed in a family that is my own and I am the mother. Mine is a life come full circle.

Millie has dirty blond hair with a hint of curl at the back and brown eyes that take up half her head. At first glance she looks nothing like my mother. My mama had a mop of dark brown unbelievably tight curls and light blue eyes. But some days when Millie twirls and whirls around the room the light refracts and I catch a glimpse of my mama. I see her there and I know that eternity really is forever and that my mama's life and her story didn't end on the side of a road on a summer evening.

Whatever it is you think disqualifies you from motherhood- be it a failure, a loss, a shame, a grief so big it has seeped into every corner of life- let me say with your beautiful face cupped in my hands and with eyes locked, "Your story isn't over."

I'm so blessed to share bits of my story with you and my friend Lisa-Jo has written a book that is her story and battle cry of truth over the harder than hard moments of motherhood. I love this book like I love chocolate. <------{Click to tweet} Seriously ya'll, that means a whole lot coming from me. Says the girl that just polished off some brownies while writing this.

She wrote it for herself. She wrote it for us.

She wrote it to be the one to say our stories make us into mothers and even if motherhood doesn't initially fit like our favorite pair of jeans (even worse makes our favorite jeans obsolete) we can find our way to better, fuller, realer versions of ourselves.

Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom is a gem and that is why I want to invite you all to cheer Lisa-Jo on today by grabbing a copy of her book as it launches. She has labored long over this new baby of a book and today we all get to join with her in the joy of it all.

If you want a book that will wrap you in a superhero cape of courage to keep going in this motherhood journey then this is the one. It is filled with the Word and her own story from a woman who has such a gift with words and weaves stories like a cherished blanket. If you're like me your leisurely days of reading are gone, but I promise this book is not to be missed.

You can download a few chapters by going here, but I promise you'll want to read the whole thing

Watch the trailer with a box of tissues. Seriously, get the tissues.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Wonder of It All {Five Minute Friday + Some}

I'm all kinds of behind in blogging and life. All kinds. But I couldn't miss the opportunity to combine two of my favorite words "Mighty" and "Ordinary" for a bit of writing. There is so much amazingness going on in my two favorite online communities right now! Let me tell you a smidge of it!

First, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom officially launches on Tuesday. Lisa-Jo our fearless Five Minute Friday leader just happens to be the author. Her words are a gift to all of us who have ever mama-ed. She is a cheerleader and champion and believes that we are all on the same team mothering our hearts out in the everyday wonder-filled ordinary. In short I adore her.

This is our chance to cheer her on. Let's show Amazon what we already know, "there is no such thing as just a mom". If you haven't already pre-ordered Surprised by Motherhood then go do it! Now!

Now for the other amazingness! Velvet Ashes is a place for women serving overseas to connect. Today we're opening up registration for our first ever Connection Groups. These groups are meant to provide a way for women serving on the field to find weekly face to face connection with others living their callings in similar areas. Read more and register! 

It's time to write. Finally. Thanks for sticking that out. But really? The amazingness? Here goes...
There is a sound that rises. A chorus of the broken. The sisters who can't carry a tune in a bucket carrying one another toward the Cross.

I told him last night as the evening dwindled that I knew I was weak- maybe the weakest I'd ever felt. He looked at me out of those brown eyes that have held me tight for nearly a decade and he told me the weakness was making me strong.

And I'm trying to get through each day's ordinary right now because our faith isn't giving us long range answers. It's only mounting and mounting with questions about place and calling and where the heck are we going to live in a month? Where? WHERE? Just someone tell me...please.

Tell me that all this ordinary faith that looks like so much weakness to me is leading us somewhere.

I sing it long and clear. That chorus, Paul's words, my mama always wanted to do in a round when we were riding in the car. "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, REJOICE!" Because weakness is mighty in the upside down Kingdom of joy choosing and hope clinging.

The song rises and rises and I sing it over my sister who is battling a body broken by cancer. I sing it over my sister who just doesn't know where they're headed either. I sing it in my ordinary as the spin cycle of life tosses me.

Because the greatest thing we can tell each other in our ordinary is that we are not forgotten. Our ordinary which seems so forgettable is beauty to behold. Grace soaked, dripping, and getting us all sloppy wet with the wonder of it all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More Than Words on a Screen

I remember looking hungry hearted through Ann Voskamp's blog about five years ago. I suspect some of you have done the same over at Ann's place or maybe in Lisa Jo's corner or Holley's space. I was drawn to women living life and sharing words with such honesty and openness. I was drawn to their stories.

I knew immediately that I wanted in and moreover I wanted to make sure that I made the same community come to life in my everyday. It couldn't just stop with words typed on a screen and I'm so thankful that it didn't.

It didn't stop with words on a screen, but it certainly did start there. 

I had always been a writer. I knew it from the time my high school English teacher read my words in front of the whole class as I slid red faced, but slightly grinning down in my desk. I've written on the backs of receipts in volumes of journals and in hidden folders on every computer I've ever owned.

Five years ago I began secretly hitting publish on a long gone blog because I was too afraid for anyone to read. Three years ago I started sharing my words with a select few and finding that my words resonated with some in deep ways. Today I'm blessed to have the opportunity to encourage more folks than I ever realized through this space.

I never thought that the words I scribbled through shaking fear would connect me with so many amazing women and even more surprising that those women would end up in my everyday as real life sisters.

{Click to tweet this}

What I love is that the (in)courage community gets this. They get that the words we say online need to be applied off line right where we live in the nitty gritty cracks and crannies of our broken beautiful everyday.

That's why (in)RL exists. (in)RL is the women's conference that comes to you right where you are and offers you an opportunity to nurture and grow the community you do life with.

We've all got a story to tell, to share, to live right beside one another. Our stories intersect and they weave away and through one another in unexpected ways. This year we're talking about those stories and we hope that your local meetups will find you sharing your story in a way you never have before. 

I'm officially hosting for the first time this year. You can read about my solo (in)RL last year. I'm also humbled right down the to the ground to be one of the speakers. Say what?! Gulp. Double gulp. Yeah, I'm putting on my big girl panties and I'm sharing some of my story.

You can meet all the speakers and check out the agenda here.

It isn't too late register and either host or find a meetup in your area. Did I mention it's free? Yeah, thought that might change your mind. It's free, but you also have an amazing opportunity to rally behind some amazing projects with your financial resources in partnership with (in)RL.

Because we're all about swinging the beach house doors as wide open as possible we will also be having a twitter par-tay and a couple of Spreecasts in the next couple of weeks to get us prepared!

I'm a twitter gal and so I encourage you to come hang for a bit tonight (March 26th!) at 9:00pm EST using hashtag #inRL I hear there will be prizes.

  • Tuesday, April 8 @ Noon EST - Vision casting Spreecast, open for anyone.
  • Tuesday, April 15 @ Noon EST - Exclusive for hosts Spreecast. A time for hosts to be encouraged and have any specific questions answered.
If you haven't seen the trailer take a couple minutes. I'm the woman on the verge of tears about half way through. I'm a crier, what can I say?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Let it Go...Or Don't {Weekend Link Love}

Yes, that tween anthem has been stuck in my head too + the snowman's song which is infinitely better if you ask me and my two year old.

There are somethings that we need to let go of and I'm learning more and more things that are worth hanging on to with a fierce might. Here are a few posts that made me stand between letting it go and hanging on this week. 

{Maybe we need to let this way of thinking go? Over at by Rachel Pieh Jones}
{A post on letting go of shame over in the Velvet Ashes community}
{A story of women in Cambodia on the Samaritan's Purse blog #RestoredMotherhood}
{A radio interview with Jennifer Dukes Lee}
{From Heirloom Home and Studio on etsy}

Dear Future Mom {Happy World Down Syndrome Day (it was yesterday)} This is for my sweet niece who is a ball of joy that was so unexpected to all of us, but for which we are humbly, incredibly, deeply grateful to God for. 

Spoken word with Amena Brown Owen and Ann Voskamp- YES! YES!

WWII Widow's Journey for Reconciliation- this will move and inspire you. Don't skip.
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