A Love Letter

You are constantly analyzed and found lacking. No matter how much you give, you always come up short. Too think and too squishy. Too flat and too wide. Too pale and too rough. Too wide and too round. You are my body, and these are all the lies I tell about you.

You are my body that carried three babies. My body that birthed, nursed, and rocked them. My body that climbs, lifts, and catches. My body that is a safe space for my babies' tears. You are my body, and you are so much more than the sum of your parts.

You wake early each morning and work long into the night. You rise to make snacks and play games. You stretch and bend. You sweat and grow stronger. You hug, cry, and speak. You connect me to the other souls around me. You are my body, and you are beautiful.

Your beauty isn't found in how you look in the eyes of the world, but in the work you do. It is hard work. It is holy work. It is work that is deserving of my thanks and my admiration. You are my body, and I will fight to love you.

on gratitude

It's New Year's Eve again. Everyone is reflecting, setting goals, and excited for what the year ahead holds—simultaneously thankful and excited. It’s all so bright and shiny. With every post I read I feel a little more guilt that I’m not on the same page. 2015 had a lot of great moments, but overall it was a year marked by sadness. After walking through a year like that it’s hard to be excited for the one to come. It’s December 31st, and I’m exhausted. My heart is weary, and I’m nervous for what the coming year holds. Tomorrow marks the beginning of a whole new year, but I’ve lived through January 1st enough times to know that it doesn’t magically erase who and what I was the day before. And today I’m tired and nervous.

2015 was hard. I struggled to live up to my own expectations, watched people that I love hurt, and walked through the greatest heartbreak of my life. There were, of course, good moments. New friendships, quality time with people I love, and watching my daughter grow into the funniest, sweetest little human. It's important for me to acknowledge both sides of the year I just walked through. I would never want to diminish all the blessings God lavished on my life. I also don't want to pretend that the hard parts didn't happen, because as I walk into 2016 it's those parts that feel like they've left the deepest marks on my soul. 

In 2015 I found out that I was expecting my second child. Then just a few days later I found out that child was one I would never get to hold or kiss. I would never get to watch them grow, because their little life only lasted five short weeks. In the weeks and months that followed, I experienced God's protection in an incredibly tangible way. He saved my heart from the anger that I was so afraid would consume me if I ever had to walk through such a loss. I was devastated, but in a way that didn't tear me from Him. It was a deep and profound sadness, one I didn't know was possible, and it still is. But in that sadness God brought forth gratitude. He reminded me daily of all the ways I'd been blessed by my second baby. He showed me that knowing that life, even if only for a few short days, was worth the sadness I'll always carry. 

That little life cracked me open and dumped out everything I'd been clinging so tightly to. In that loss I saw just how little my plans mean. I saw just how little my hopes mean. I saw that my life isn't about being safe and comfortable. If that was God's plan, I would never have been forced to give up my littlest baby. He's not working things together for my comfort. He's working them together for His glory. If I believe that then that means losing my baby must somehow bring glory to the God I say is sovereign. In His sovereignty He saw fit to bless me with a second child and then take that little life away after just a few days together. Where is His glory in that? It's in how I walk forward. Will I move forward still singing His praises? Or am I going to be crippled by fear, doubt, hurt, and anger? Only the first option acknowledges the truth that His glory, not my comfort, is ultimate. So that's what He enabled me to do. He took the anger and doubt before it ever had the chance to scar my heart, and He filled my mouth with His praises. Yes, the loss still weighed, and continues to weigh, on me. My heart breaks for all the baby giggles I'll never hear, for all the firsts I'll never bear witness to. I wake up every morning knowing I'll have to walk through another day missing one of my children. But through that all, God remains unchanged. My loss doesn't take away from His faithfulness. 

It's a lesson that I'm grateful to have learned: to be grateful. Not just to accept the hard parts of life, but to be grateful for them. To do more than say "I'm doing OK." To stand up and share my pain, but in the same moment breath out God's grace. I lost my baby after only knowing them for five days, but those five days were full of such joy. I spent weeks walking through a darkness that could have suffocated me, but my community stepped in and lifted the weight from my shoulders. They celebrated my baby's life and pointed me toward God's faithfulness. I won't ever get to rock my baby to sleep, but I have a God who created that baby's short life and loves them even more fiercely than I ever could. I lost my baby after just one week together, but that life gave me an eternity of perspective on who my God is, how He loves me and the fact that He is always fighting to make me someone who glorifies Him more completely. 

As I walk forward into 2016 that's the truth I pray I carry close to my heart. That God is faithful, His glory is ultimate, and those truths mean that gratitude can live in my heart and on my lips no matter what circumstance I'm walking through. My heart is weary and nervous, but it’s that gratitude that carries me forward. I don’t have a lot of grand goals for 2016. All I have is the quiet, desperate prayer than God would continue to cultivate the gratitude that He’s planted in my heart this year. 

my story pt. 1

I don't write about, or even think about, my past very much. It's filled with a lot of pain that instead of processing I just got very good at repressing. Early on in life I figured out that detaching from my emotions was easier than dealing with them. I learned a lot of ways to cope with turmoil and stress, and none of them were healthy. Sometimes I completely turned off my emotions, sometimes I avoided necessary conversations by throwing myself into friendships, and in the darkest moments I relied on the burn of a sharp blade against my skin. I controlled things like calorie intake because I couldn't control the brokenness around me. I binged and purged because I felt like I deserved it. I stayed up all night and couldn't get out of bed all day, because I was consumed by a depression and anxiety so deep that I was certain there would never be relief. What started as simply detaching my emotions from a painful situation spiraled into a cycle of self-punishment that I wrapped around myself like a warm and welcome blanket. The contrast of dark red against my smooth white skin became my proudest accomplishment. The sharp angles of skin pulled tightly across my bones became my ultimate goal. I was consumed by self-destruction, and I loved it.

Even in writing that paragraph I have to stop myself from remembering those moments too clearly. Not because they are too painful, but because they're too appealing. My heart races when I think about the tingling of a fresh cut or the comforting burning at the back of my throat after a trip to the bathroom. It seems impossible to love something so harmful, but that's the only way to describe it. I loved it, and in my most honest moments I know that I have the capacity to love it again. The fact that it's been almost five years since I last caved to the urge to run a fresh blade across my arm is a miracle. And I do not use that word lightly.

I was so caught up in and content with my way of living, that it honestly did not matter to me if I ever stopped. I didn't see the need. I couldn't think of one reason compelling enough to give up the one thing I was good at, the one thing I loved. Then God stopped me in my tracks. I do not say that to be dramatic. I say it that way because it's true. Through a series of events one summer, God grabbed my attention and pulled me out of relationships and situations that encouraged my behaviors. He placed people in my life that were living a version of Christianity I'd never seen. It wasn't the kind that paid lip service to morality while living unchanged. It wasn't the kind motivated by comfort and self-promotion. It was a quiet, humble, bold kind of living that stood unwavering in the storm. I'd been in church all my life, but when I looked around I didn't see anything different or desirable. I saw ruined marriages, hateful attitudes, lives consumed by pride. I saw good people walk through life broken, and nobody could tell me why. These people seemed to have the answer. Their lives were not perfect, but they weren't defined by their pain. They were loving, funny, positive, and selfless. There was a sense of weightlessness around them.

It was the exact opposite of everything I knew myself to be. It was the first thing that ever seemed worth putting down my blade for. That summer God transformed me. He used those people to teach my about love--loving others, but also loving myself. Their lives taught my about redemption and finding worth in who God says I am. They drew me in and accepted me, and in doing so showed me that God was trying to do the same. I did have to make sacrifices. I had to walk away from friendships, retrain how I handled my emotions, and protect myself from triggers. Those loses were just that--loses. They were hard, and I still have days where I struggle with them. What matters more though is what I gained. I was walking steadily down a path of darkness, pain, and willful self-destruction. God graciously reached down, scooped me into His arms, sealed all the cracks in my soul, and gave me a life worth so much more.

It seems almost impossible when I look back and see the contrast between that May and August. I can't believe how quickly and completely my life changed. Where I saw nothing but devastation and a life beyond repair, God grew hope. Where there had been a hardened and crumbling heart, God allowed life to be revived. I was saved in more than a philosophical sense. My life was in very real danger, and seeing the reality of who God is literally saved me.

summer book report

I know there are a ton of "Must Read" books lists out there. I also know that I read every single one of them hoping I'll find something new or get a different perspective on a book I've seen mentioned before. I hate starting a book and not liking it, because I'm incapable of not finishing. It's something I'm working on, but it means I try to do my due diligence before jumping in. You'll see from this list, that's not always full proof.

Here are the books I've read this summer. Hopefully this list will save you from drudging through some duds and inspire you to finally pick up that one everyone tells you about but you're concerned won't live up to the hype.

Geek Love: I do not recommend this book. I went in (not having done proper research) expecting a quirky tale of unexpected love. What I got was a gruesome story about a family of "sideshow freaks" engineered by their ringmaster father and geek mother (geek meaning someone who bites the heads off live chickens in a circus act).

Fringe Hours: Blog world/Instagram were freaking out over this book so I decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did. It's full of practical ideas on how to take control of your time and maximize it so that you feel fulfilled and your responsibilities are not neglected.

The Age of Innocence: Set in 1870s New York's upper class, this book was mostly full of rich people whining. I actually skipped about 100 pages toward the end, and I'm pretty sure I didn't miss a single thing.

Lolita: Another one I went into blindly. (Honestly, I only picked it up because it's discussed in Pretty Little Liars.) When I realized it was about a man having an intimate relationship with his twelve year old step-daughter I was just a little surprised. All in all though, I liked it. The subject matter is heavy, but the narration is very well done and the characters are engaging.

The Royal We: This was described to me as "Kate Middleton fan fiction" and it lived up to every bit of that hype. A fluffy read, but so well done and just mostly perfect.

All the Light We Cannot See: Told from the perspective of two characters whose lives seem entirely separate but are intertwined by the tragedies of war, this book spans decades and draws you completely into the character's worlds. It takes the familiar story of World War II and offers new perspective. It's beautiful and perfect. Go read it right now.

We Are Called to Rise: I loved this one for so many reasons. It tells the story of four individuals living in Las Vegas, and explores what happens when tragedy changes the course of a life. I felt all the feels and yet somehow felt light and hopeful by the time I reached the end.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: This was a totally weird, guilty pleasure read. It's the story of two sisters living in a town where everyone seems to hate them and their just fine with that. It's darkly humorous and a super fast read. If you're looking for something out of the norm, this is a good choice.